This is the first of a four part series of interviews with female performance artists about creative process, feminism and how the two intertwine.

Interviewee A.

Vicky Kapo (Healer, Sha-woman, Performer, Nurse, Holder of Space, Disrupter, Mover, Mana Wahine, Mediator of Many Realms, Friend)

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When you think about your own processes for making a ‘performance work’ do you have a formula you follow or is every piece a different process?  

My performance process relies a lot on 3 things.

  1. How complicated the application process is, for the show /festival/residency. Read what is my level of energy.
  2. What I’m figuratively working on or with, or thinking through at the time of the application process.
  3. And what the actual physical /performance space, location, feeling is AT THE TIME OF PERFORMANCE.- which can completely undermine what I said I was going to do in the application process.

and how do you think process informs the end artwork?

hmm.. So I largely work within an improvisation framework;- which can scare a lot of programmers so I tend not to share this aspect of my performance process.

However, the way you feel is influenced by the architecture, surrounding you, by what you’ve eaten recently, who you’ve hung out with, what literature you’ve been reading,  etc, etc… Just like a child right? So how you feel although in a way isn’t what you want to necessarily perform, nor do you want to watch it becomes apart of the work.

A really good improviser has the ability to summon up Context and Content, that is relevant to the place, the time and the people/audience, whether the audience know it or not.

I often like to walk through or near the performance space, before hand, alongside going last in the program, theres a lot of stuff sitting in the atmosphere, and its nice to make magic with the seen and unseen, the heard and unheard..

Also there is a lot of letting go that has to occur, and;- on the spot crafting.  There’s a weird split that happens in self, – like your channeling and at the same time watching yourself channel – this is so you can use semi -familiar theatrical structures and aspects of stagecraft,  that helps you connect with the audience. It is necessary to know and be aware of, say the use of timing, pacing, narrative, scenography remembering what you started with.. the relevance being so you can recognise the ending when it approaches. Mostly there is a lot of praying that goes on.

But seriously;

I have an ongoing  process /practise, that requires going into a studio and staying there for a length of time – each week. In a good week I go in twice, I’ve done this for the last 4yrs. This works if alongside I also add a residency of 4 days or more like every 3 months or so.. this is necessary, because during the day, I work as a nurse,  and it is full on. In many, many ways the nursing gig can deeply deplete in every way. This practise is sustenance.

The performances are the pot at the end of the rainbow.. So there has to be place to study and transition the work and or the ideas otherwise it falls into indulgence. There is a need to work with others. Within this practise Ive had the privilege of working with a small group of other movers/ performers, weekly for most of a 4yr period.

This year the journey has been very much a solo one and its really really hard- to get a sense of what is building and or what is present.  Also most of the performing I’ve been doing this year has been in other artist’s work, which I have loved because it gives an opportunity to explore creativity and vision in a different way, Im looking forward to doing more of this. but there is a balance that needs to be maintained, which requires discipline, if I don’t all sorts of mental health stuff happenings occur and I unravel into an angry fiesta of a beast…. 

Im over giving myself a beating for  the way I need to exist, Im here and this is what I need, to be community spirited and able.

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In your past projects I have noticed a spiritual element to the work? Do you have your own spiritual practise in your life, that informs your creative processes?

Ok yes.. if I think about what pulls creatively and the recent traits or theme commonalities, Ive been working  through in the performance pieces then yes there is a questioning of these elements; Ritual and performance, rituals in performance, intimacy, light, community, concerns, what will help us connect, pull down the walls, lift us out of our fears.

My spiritual practise has been and is based hugely on my relationship to nature, and on my own inherent nature, which is very animal in quality. I live in the country, 2hrs outside of  Melbourne metropolitan (although I have just recently moved back into the nearest town). A lot of my physical practise has been (up until 2 months ago) outside in the woodlands. Here I find a stillness that really calms and restores. This resonation has a pulse and a sound that seems to provide, a large large sense of space, that lets one energetically spread up, out and down. In fact I think a lot of the search for a spiritual frame comes from a knowing and a desiring of this exquisite state which I think we as energetic beings are completely familiar with pre-fetal pre-birth. Im indigenous thou, Maori- so my whole life has been governed by the many prayers to the many gods.. so in the forest in-between doing a practise of fake kung fu, and jumping jacks there is a lot of gratefulness, mediation / play and prayer going on.

Do you see your artistic process as a feminist practise? And if so how or how not?

Yes, I guess so, if I qualify feminism as an uncompromising,  reaching toward, and for a conscious conscientious harmonious interdependence, state of flux, one that is ruthlessly community minded, and working with  an enquiry of constant renewal of embodiment and experience.

  • This type of learning daily human experience is presently outside of normal narratives or social constructs.
  • so yes my work and my ideologies embodies feminism, as I hope my work does. I don’t think though Ive had much choice, about this as Im in a body and mind that holds a lot of diversity within. I think I became a feminist at 4/5 yrs old  when I decided I didn’t want to get married, or live like my mother and or her friends, easy to be a critic at that age, but what I saw with my very young eyes were roles and behaviours that seemed very narrow, undernourished, and repressive. I didn’t want any part of that.

What do you think the relationship is between feminine spirituality and creative process?

All 3 are advocates of nourishing life, even if it means also killing/ or being witness to death. In my culture Hine Nui Te- Po is an experience of all 3- an embodiment of virgin, wife, crone.

My culture is very yin and yang, and there isn’t one without the other,…

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Anything else you want to share around these topics, my own questions feel limiting, as I feel there maybe also something in here related to views around the process of dying?

I think I explained a little in the process question about my interpretation of improvisation, and how theres a lot of praying  that goes on,- Well as a nurse, who works only with the dying, theres a lot of praying that goes on here too.

I often wonder about the components of my job, and why I am in some ways a perfect fit for this role.

It challenges me in some many ways, the way other nurses work is challenging, the way management governs challenges, the lack of pay for the work load which is heavy in all ways is challenging.  But in some ways I’m a shepherd, holding the body, as it crumples, nurturing the soul as it once again readies to leave, soothing the mind, calming the fears..

All the while, Im singing, joking, laughing, amongst the toiling.

Theres a proverb, in my culture what is the greatest gift of life, it ends by explaining it is people people people.

Well I think the greatest gift in life is life.. and us the ones with bi-polar, asperges the people with anxieties, the ones that can’t, and don’t fit in with the narrow version of what life is suppose to look like or talk like because of whatever, we without prompting naturally push against the repressive cults that want to brand us. But we are life…

I might be a strange friend to have around, at the end of your papered citizenship, but hell, if we are going to feel like this whole journey was worth the ride, then its definitely someone like me – you ‘l need whispering into your ear,

you’re ready, …

its fine,  

it was totally worth wasn’t it..

you might even want to come back..

ok..

let go now..

your more than your body, more than your mind, more than a collection of ..

remember..

oh you forgot..

no worries..

your doing a great job..

let go..

let go..

 


Curated by Sara Cowdell

Return to the void is the seventh in our Cross-pollination series, where writers respond creatively to performance. Jack Foster studies sociology and likes communism. Prior to PAWA Jack had never seen performance art before. Here he responses to “Opened and Examined” by Virtual Ritualist Collective.


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Again,

A choice.

Grinding terror;

Pathological ecstasy.

But soon confused,

The superhighway stretches out.

A sheer cliff, a drugged haze.

All this

Will soon end.

Grinding terror;

Pathological ecstasy.

(more…)

Emblazoned with ‘the Spirit’ is the sixth in our Cross-pollination series which invites writers to respond to performances during PAWA. Zoe Crook is an artist and writer based between NZ and Berlin. She responds here to Please Explain Sacred, a performance invitation by Jess Holly Bates and Jazmine Rose Phillips.


Is not an invitation for explanation. Silence is sacred when chosen. Women’s voices are sacred. Women are a nebulous gang of self identifiers. This performance will cultivate a deep sacred feminine energy…bring others into sacred connection with their bodies.

Everyone invited to take shoes off, two naked bodies, with pieces of gauzy fabric over their faces. Washing feet. Sitting on the ground. Audience invited to sit in two opposite facing seats. Dried with tea towels. Sitting on a fitted sheet. A plastic bucket.

Once washed allowed into the space. The space itself presented as a string cave, pixelated into facets. Limiting the audiences height. The object within appears to be littered with various objects, a shrine, candles, salt, chalk, herbal essences. As time goes on the audience gets braver. Thought the level of noise once inside the space remains limited. One figure departs the duo of washing, takes off her veil and begins to do something involving a syringe like object in the back space.

(more…)

The thread of tension is the fifth in our Cross-pollination series, where writers respond creatively to performance. Here Henrietta Bollinger, poet, educator, playwright and ability activist speaks to her experience of Kyah Dove’s “Death. Birth. Death. Dance.”


On reflection, given the title repeats ‘death’ I should have been expecting something dark. I arrive at Playstaion with enough time to orient myself. I’m not sure what to expect from the peak of white – is it salt or sand – and the softly whirring projector. Kyah Dove enters naked and kneels on the hard floor near the pile of sand. As the the audience gradually drift in, whispering/orienting, I watch Kyah. Another woman enters, over a quiet exchange the other woman applies some kind of lotion to the slope of Kyah’s back. This is preparation, like peering backstage. As the performance unfolds I will become more and more grateful for seeing this intimate and gentle moment. It becomes a touchstone for me in a performance full of unexpectedly sharp edges hidden beneath soft exteriors. We are intent as the performance begins, our collective gaze on the performer feels half invited, half voyeurism. The first moments are meditative, a slow pull in. Our attention is drawn to a now to a small pile of flowers on the stage. For a long while we watch the performer select and pin these to her legs. This starts the thread of tension that will run through the rest of the performance. Tension I feel in my body, my legs, the pit of my stomach. Tension that holds the other audience members and I in its thrall. Later shards of mirror will be pulled from that soft pile of grains. On the wall behind the performer a film will soon appear. Playing in parallel. Beneath this an urgent and disorientating soundscape builds progressively as the action peaks and recedes like waves. I remind myself to breathe until the performer stands and smiles to applause.

Written by Henrietta Bollinger

Edited by Jess Holly Bates

 

it’s not uncivilised” is the fourth in our CrossPollination series where writers respond creatively to the performances during PAWA. Claire O’Loughlin is a theatre-maker and producer based in Wellington, who co-founded contemporary performance collective “Binge Culture.” She is an artistic octopus, with an infectious drive to increase compassion and awareness both through, for and from the arts. Her most recent creative work is a memoir of her childhood growing up on a boat, written for her MA at Victoria University’s IIML. She responds here to Louis Bretana’s performance dinner “Eat My Rice.”

 

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Eat my rice it’s nice
With chicken and aubergine
But wash your hands first.

I never knew how
To eat cleanly with my hands
It’s all in the thumb.

The Spanish were wrong
But shame is an easy way
To kill a culture.

(more…)

No/i/se(lf): an inventory is the third in our CrossPollination series of creative response writings to performances during Performance Art Week Aotearoa. Henrietta Bollinger is a Wellington playwright and poet. She writes a regular column for Salient on disability issues “Token Cripple.” Here she responds to No/I/Self by Thomas Press and Virginia Frankovich as a part of PAWA.

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An inventory of things I collected at No/i/se(lf):

  1. earplugs –  the first gift.  they were needed to mute the willing roars of the earthling audience as they took up the the invitation of two aliens to let out all their deepest frustrations.
  2. silver pipe-cleaner –  quietly stowed away in my handbag, sure of what it was
    meant for, though I think it may have been intended as a pair of antennae.
  3. metallic green balloon – stowed away once more; blowing balloons being oddly,  at twenty-four, a skill i still lack. Several were blown up, burst or let loose to run of off air and drift pathetically to the ground.
  4. yellow balloon – (see above)
  5. A bell –  reserved for a particular moment of orchestral cacophony but
    clanged in my hands at a few unexpected moments, when something else made
    me jump or laugh. I eventually set it down with a dull clink on the floor content to
    watch my fellow audience members lose themselves to the permission the space
    offered.

(more…)

PLEASE! EXPLAIN! is the first in our CrossPollination series of creative response writings from the performances during PAWA. Mia Gaudin a writer/lawyer living in Wellington, recently having completed her first novel as part of her Masters in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters.  As well as reading, writing and appearing in the Waitangi Tribunal, Mia spends her time eating vietnamese sandwiches and pretending to bike up hills. Here she responds to Please Explain Sacred, a durational performance by Jazmine Rose Phillips and Jess Holly Bates. 

Photo Credit: Essi Airisneimi

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I

 

Please, explain. You smelt like a spa and the music was lovely, calming. Sacred. There was citronella or something more complex in the air. The light was coming from low on the ground and I waited my turn. Please. It was cold, the water, and I didn’t expect that.

Explain.

I wanted to be wrapped up warm because the north wind was coming in a tunnel down the street and everything was concrete around us. I am curious about other women’s bodies. Sacred. When the veil fell from your face eyesnoselips cut into the space and you became real. Explain, please.

Not just a body there. Explain.

My friend washed my feet and I didn’t think too hard about how wrong that really was because I knew my friend had chosen it and I couldn’t stand back and see my friend as subservient even though that’s what my friend was playing at. Explain.

(more…)

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Thomas Press & Virginia Frankovich

Virginia is a live artist and director who most recently made and performed a thing called THE PLASTIC ORGASM.  She likes to make shows in cars and studied at clown school in Paris. She is one half of the collaboration for NO/I/SELF, made with Thomas Press, a work which takes place from 8pm at Play_station gallery on Friday 10th November. Here she tells us about how a suburb can witness your failures, feeling glued by the theatre world and the charm of a performer who doesn’t want to be watched.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

I want to say something inspiring like ‘the drive I have to make the world a better place’ but honestly – at the moment it is probably:

  • The smell of Coffee

  • The lure of freshly fried Pancakes made by Thomas on a Sunday

  • The terrifying sound of my parents knocking on my front door because I have slept through all alarms and phone calls

11
Vanessa Crofskey

VCrof is a Chinese/European artist based in Auckland, whose practice spans the boundaries of installation, poetry and performance. She self-identifies and is identified by others as “introspective” and “on fire” and lately she has risen to local glory winning Best Storytelling/Spoken Word and the ATC Here and Now Award (Ak Fringe 2017). Her work Fortune 500 takes place on Wednesday 8th November, in the opening night of PAWA performances at Play_Station gallery from 6pm. Here she critiques our nationalist pohutukawa aesthetic, offers eight adjectives to describe performance art and the safety of a counter-top herb population.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

The pressure to be productive. Coffee with someone I care about.

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Robyn Jordaan

Robyn is an Auckland-based performance artist and film-maker born in South Africa who is driven by contemporary literature to make horror-comedy or unstructured narratives in her work. She has a trail of exhibitions in her wake, and returns to performance for PAWA after a string of film works. Her work Every Knot Has Memory will be performed at Island Bay on Sunday 12 November at 4pm. Here she speaks to us about an activist core in the art scene, how performance art prints onto your retina and getting out of bed like a bird (or not).

What will get you out of bed in the morning?

Everyday is different. Some mornings I genuinely can’t get out of bed, but other mornings its like a bird in flight. I think it’s people and exchange. It’s also knowing that I may accomplish something exciting that day – or absolutely nothing – and that’s okay.