Cris Cucerzan on An Artist Relay: Lunchtime Discussion #1

Cris Cucerzan

The cross-pollination series continues in 2018, with a number of creative and written responses to festival performances. Cris Cucerzan is of Romanian descent and taught high school English in Auckland for five years prior to moving to Wellington. He’s into writing, particularly creative non-fiction and texts that play with form. He writes regularly for a blog on Facebook called Intersection: Books and Life.  In this piece, he offers reflections on the first Lunchtime Discussion held Thursday 15th of November.

Lunchtime Discussion #1

Two red chairs, A and B, facing fifteen or so other red chairs: this is the stage for a performance of a Relay-Interview, a game adopted from Jacob Wren’s model. The person in chair B speaks an answer to a question that the person in chair A asks, then rejoins the audience. The answering baton is passed to the questioner who, becoming the answerer, waits for someone in the audience to join them in Chair A . 

If it is not already clear, this quickly poses a risk. Should I do it? Will someone else get there first? Sitting in chair A gives you a chance to steer the conversation towards something particular; you are given no guarantee of a response, though; the person in chair B gets to answer however, and there is a sense that asking a question is asking on behalf of the audience, for the answer will be given to them all. 

Does it matter who a question is directed to, if they can answer it? Does the answer matter then, or the question? Does it matter in a different way? Does the answerer trust the audience implicitly even if they feel uncomfortable? Does the set-up permit a postponement of some social rules to leave room for responses brushed by vulnerability? Does the game make responding to discomfort part of the performance? 

While waiting for someone to occupy chair A: pauses, quiet, eye contact and not, different socks, tapping hands on quads in a rhythm, sweating palms, trembling fingers, hands held between the thighs, laughter, cool, yeah, sweet, cheers, looking above the heads of the audience, silences, readjusting skirts and shirts, biting the inside of lips, swallowing, looking at the black and white video performance on the TV. 

While answering in chair B: pauses, looking at the ceiling, ummm, aaahmmm, laughter, waiting, thinking that there is thinking going on, discomfort, stop-start, the audience watching you think, nodding, looking at the person in chair A briefly, eye contact and not, the self-consciousness about taking space and the privilege of speaking, awareness thrumming, awareness of the open air, awareness of the deep end. 

At the game’s end, clapping. The rushing clouds of public social norms rejoin the spaces between the people who don’t know each other and those who do. Chairs are put away, the audience dissolving into conversations at a volume publicising their privacy, and those who loaf, introduce themselves, admire the art, say thanks or squirm or both, then put sunglasses on and walk out the door into the sunshine on Cuba Street. 

A selection of latent thoughts that simmered: 

  • Making art as a woman is feminist.  
  • You can have an academic response; you can have a heartfelt response. 
  • Pushing on the edges of discomfort is healthy. 
  • I never create from a place of wanting to shock or disturb. That’s dangerous and feels empty. I try to think more about what I need other people to hear or what other people need other people to hear. 
  • If I were to tell my kids about being a white man, I would say empathy. It’s hard to tell people they are lucky when they experience their life to be normal. 
  • When performances tell people what to think, that’s bullshit. 
  • Art asks questions of people. 
  • I care to do my work because I’ve done it; I know that world. It is my living so I do it because of that. I don’t know if I need to do it because I haven’t experienced not doing it. 
  • Once something is no longer scary I must leave it behind; if there is no longer an edge, it does not nourish. 
  • It is necessary to trust the audience. 
  • I allow my true self to engage with the true selves of the audience. I try to make myself so vulnerable they know I’m a real person rather than an idea of a person. A real person is someone stripped of cultural layers. 
  • Trying to invite people to be part of your audience who are not normally interested or invested in your work is hard, but you need to consider the barriers: cost, subject matter, ease of access. But you also don’t want to force something on someone. 
  • I am addicted to feeling uncomfortable. 
  • The culture of the audience creates a different energy in each space.

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Saoirse Chapman on Caitlyn Cook: Visual response
Cris Cucerzan and Sasha Francis on Binge Culture Collective: Two responses in poetry and prose

Sasha Francis on Victoria Abbott: Sea-change

Sasha Francis

The cross-pollination series continues in 2018, with a number of creative and written responses to festival performances.   Sasha Francis is the writing curator for PAWA 2018.  Sasha recently completed her Master’s thesis in Sociology.  Her work weaves together relationality, radical everyday practice, political activism and speculative materialism. In this piece, she responds to Victoria Abbott’s performance on Friday 16th November. 

Sea change

Your head rests, a single earbud calls out, 

a note to draw us in, a stone to keep us grounded,

she releases her bags tentatively, draped over arms of anticipation, a sliding waiting for a sign of invitation, intrigue, trying to find her own permission for the approach. In the middle of the floor of this public space, your note reaches out from underneath, invites us in:

then, two chests begin to move together.

This is a lament for the drowning of women’s voices.  Eyes open, eyes close.

Do you remember the sounds beneath us?  The calm gurgle of a shared moment of things forgotten that were built over, on top off, forgot, denied. The things we drank from and the labour that sustained us: our bodies are made from thick rivers that run for generations, spaces carved by the rush of movement. But you and I are accustomed to remaining unmarked, unfamiliar, untethered like the rain drop: 

and just like that, we forget our shared movement from the sky towards the sea. 

This disruption of place, time and patriarchy glides over me. What water is this, that we now know of together? Whose histories wash over us, untranslatable, as non-human song?  “She’s not blocking the way, people can get around her” as bureaucracy forcefully relocates the waterways.

Cold stone tile on my back; fresh reflective breeze whips at your waist, a fluid curl of the lips.

Can you recall the songs the ocean shared? The movement up-stream of soft breath lost in time, that was stolen, given a new name, settled upon and slowly poisoned. He wants to talk but the ocean has no mouth, just riverbeds and the beauty of sea-changes; her voice is the echo of a rising chest and a nascent invitation that has been so often spoken over, so today a hand beckons beyond.  

In this moment, the ocean on the East Cape stretches before me.  I am walking along the edge of this water-locked land, everything is beautiful, still, powerful.  Pine hills cascade upwards. Time is different. This is a deep memory, a dream, a spiritual touch that compelled song from my throat as it tangled against and with the sounds of the breaking waves in their approach and pull back, approach and pull back. A rhythm of the moon, an invitation, a warning, a strength, a resistance. In this moment, I lose and find my own feminine voice – an inexplicable hum escapes anxious lips. The sounds of the ocean wraps around me like the warm comfort of skin,     home,           the land I am from. 

Then we are reminded of the water melting as ice splits, warms, runs hot like the last remaining natural resistance caving in on itself as a double site of giving in: ice melts as a grief that grows without any capacity to help itself, offers up an accidental pathways for boats to cross leaving in their wake the destruction of landscape life practice. An alienated experience by those who inhabit and inherit the land, left with only an industrial call to rely on the capitalist modes of production and food shipped in over thousands of miles of watered bodies now becoming roads and rising costs that reflect the decreasing volume of knowledge passed from generation to generation.  This is the forceful creation of sedimentary bodies separated from the life that is water itself. The accessibility of extraction increases as the volume of ice in the way melts from heating felt three times faster than anywhere else.  Some things are so big that you can actually see them: the Arctic is an exception, is not an exception. Ice too is now dominated just as agrarian domination of the land split water from its bodies, just as patriarchal domination of bodies split subject from voice.  This is the operationalisation of the tears rolling down my cheek. 

Would you sense the river if you saw her, laying full bodied, in front of you? Maybe we are learning.  You told me that the water sounded like everything around us that wasn’t, though all you wanted was to hear her. The bustle of this life overtook the gentle calm, captured in its net the time it takes to lay and listen, then rendered it a productive catch. But we were born with the earth, the vestigial gills of an embryo in the mother’s womb:

a memory and fertility carried in the water

all looking for some sort of recovery,

your chest lifts, and            your breath breaks the surface.

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Saoirse Chapman on Caitlyn Cook: Visual response
Cris Cucerzan and Sasha Francis on Binge Culture Collective: Two responses in poetry and prose

Kate Aschoff on Alexa Wilson: Call it Art

Kate Aschoff

The cross-pollination series continues in 2018, with a number of creative and written responses to festival performances. Kate Aschoff is a Pōneke based artist and social advocate. You can find more of them online @kate_aschoff.  In this piece, they respond to Alexa Wilson’s ‘999: Alchemist Trauma Centre / Power Centre’ performed Friday 16th at Play_station Gallery.

Call it Art

“Write down a foundational core belief about your life that doesn’t serve you.”

– Alexa Wilson

If you used a can opener on my Heart (sharp) I think you would find the corner piece of some green tea cheesecake, all the way from Auckland. There’d be a poem about love sewn into its sides and one about pain painted underneath

Stop trying to create MEANINGFUL ART and just create
It can mean nothing and nothing and nothing and be something
What do you need to be told to feel good about yourself and your life? TELL ME. Record it and send it to me in a mp3 file. Sing it like a song or shout it like a prayer. Get it tattooed on ur back. Tell someone you don’t know. Tell someone you do.

You can’t taste the sweetness unless you are sitting still
Are you
Sitting still
I am moving like fire
Burning it all to the ground

we just wanna take the pain away just

I dont know what i want
(to take the pain away)

I MISS YOU like when you stop eating cheese for a while cause ur trying to be a vegan like everyone else and you miss it, and she’s in my dreams
she has been for months
Play on the playground with me? It was wet but we went down the slide anyway That’s why i like you

Can you be in LIMBO without dying?
Can u die without living? (that sounds fake Deep and i hate it, i always worry about being fake deep and if what i have to say is actually deep and profound or if it sounds like a line from a soundcloud rapper or a tumblr post)

Grief is a bit shit aye, i listened to a podcast on it and this guy tells a story about an elephant grieving her elephant friend who died giving birth to a stillborn baby, she died soon after that, standing still in the corner of the enclosure, she’d stopped eating
I didn’t shower for a week after she left and my bellybutton went gross
(clean ur belly button fyi)
I remember trying to eat the week she died and hugs from people i hadn’t been talking to and dry plain toast (my go-to anxious food)

Trust me i love you. Trust me i Love you. TRUST me i love you. ok. ??? SEEN

What kind of artistic integrity is that?
KATE i know ur not doing okay
has anything ever happened to you? My cat died

Feeling sad feeling sad feeling sad sad sad HOW ARE YOU? :):):)

Ur a waste of space baby, a baby in outerspace

Everything in my dreams was covered in velvet, inc my heart and all the butterflies

I don’t know if you really can “love ur self”
Either we’re all awful or it’s just me
I’m listening for something

Cool ok we get it ur a poet
A gay poet

“Sorry that I had so many emotions”
Please, stop
Please keep feeling
Please don’t ever stop crying (just go do it in private)

The past doesn’t have to be real if you don’t want it to be
Just isolate everyone and move to texas
Shoot guns like in a western movie

Thank for you listening

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Saoirse Chapman on Caitlyn Cook: Visual response
Cris Cucerzan and Sasha Francis on Binge Culture Collective: Two responses in poetry and prose

Frances Pavletich on X:NNN

Frances Pavletich

The cross-pollination series continues in 2018, with a number of creative and written responses to festival performances. Frances Pavletich teaches and writes in Auckland. She wrote this piece as an offering and as an exploration of the connection between trauma, intimacy, sex and violence.  Frances responds here to ‘X:NNN’, the first of two performances by duo INOPPORTUNE on Saturday 17th November at Play_station gallery.

what does it mean to hurt yourself to hurt somebody else to be hurt to hurt. when a child wants to disappear they put their hands in front of their eyes but what if as an adult i blind myself. and what if i tie my hands up only as much as i can hurt you and you can hurt me. what if i put on my own chains and what if i let you hurt me.

what if i kiss you or try to kiss you or you try and kiss me but our lips dont touch. we just breathe into each others space. If i cannot talk can i kiss can i consent to kiss can i kiss to talk. but instead you spit in my face. and i yours. and it feels good. it feels right. what is the difference between right and wrong. and who gets to decide. i pull your hair.

what is the difference between pleasuring humiliation and humiliating pleasure. hateful love and lovely hate. there is so much pain in the world that is not sought. so how do we comprehend the pain that we do seek. the eroticism found in needles and whips and blades. lest repression feed on the entrails of desire never allowed its first breath.

am i sadistic? are you. i hug you. your back is sweaty and my mouth tastes metallic. stealing swallowing silently screaming. you dont talk. i have nothing to say. crying comforting choking confessing. violence is its own language. a way to make you feel a way to punish myself a way to say i love you i way to say i hate myself. i dig my nails into your arm.

Recent Posts

A poetic response to Anna Berndtson’s workshop “Art needs time and we need art.”
Sasha Francis and Tom Danby on Mark Harvey: My own resistance / An Afternoon in the Sun
Jazmine Phillips/Him on Zahra: When the soft yells.
Saoirse Chapman on Caitlyn Cook: Visual response
Cris Cucerzan and Sasha Francis on Binge Culture Collective: Two responses in poetry and prose

Sasha Francis on RV Sanchez: decomposition in PARADISE

Sasha Francis

The cross-pollination series continues in 2018, with a number of creative and written responses to festival performances.  Our second piece is written by Sasha Francis, writing curator for PAWA 2018.  Sasha recently completed her Master’s thesis in Sociology.  Her work weaves together relationality, political activism and speculative materialism. In this piece, she responds to RV Sanchez’s PARADISE, performed during Opening Night on Wednesday 14th November via Skype connection.

decomposition in PARA DISE

A desked body
offers itself as a wager that breathing will always find its way through the things that never decompose.

This is a difficult conversation across borders because sovereign laws keep us territorialised,
close around us like a fleshy boundary that refracts as information, the husky glimmer of possibility.

Bunkered together underground, we watch fingers grasp through time and space at those ubiquitous fast foodstuffs that have deterritorialised themselves:
french fries, burger bun, take away food, doughnut, tomato sauce, plastic bag, human face.

The liquidity of a rendered body, for the things we carry are no longer heavy in our pockets,
the stupidity of a plastic fork, dulled as a weapon, a thing to be thrown away.

These frozen images are an accidental commentary our own foreclosed inability to move beyond, our trying, our passive waiting for reconnection because of the circumstance;
this inbetween is a two-way dependency, the tenacious familiarity of a humorous mouth.

The break down of food outside of the body is everything we do not want to see,
‘Oh my god’ as lips catch on our own revulsion – the violent, offensive denigration of decomposition made grotesque.

What we know are consumption cycles that refuse compostability, remove themselves at the very start from the possibility of an inside,
our epistemology is secularised repetition.

In between hands, a glazed carbohydrate: those things to be cut from our diet, a beacon of dreams turned sour, police platitudes and state sanctioned violence: you grab scissors, snip at your pubic hairs, you are wearing no pants,
XXX at its most violated, at its most corporeal.

These are things reminiscent of a world we’d rather not see so you walk away, move again,
and here there is no food: just the consumption of our own waste, of our own body, smashed up shit gaining its own complexity.

The profanity of the violation of the human mouth;
The profanity of the violation of our mother earth whose name we have forgotten.

Chew, spit, chew, spit, chew, spit.
And then you chew and do not spit.  Is the beginning of the process the most violent step of all?

A glass window, a frame, your face, a heaving, the insanity of these/our rhythmic movements,
You offer us a baptism in tomato sauce:


Recent Posts

A poetic response to Anna Berndtson’s workshop “Art needs time and we need art.”
Sasha Francis and Tom Danby on Mark Harvey: My own resistance / An Afternoon in the Sun
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Saoirse Chapman on Caitlyn Cook: Visual response
Cris Cucerzan and Sasha Francis on Binge Culture Collective: Two responses in poetry and prose

PAWA Opening Night 2018

The cross-pollination series continues in 2018, with a number of creative and written responses to festival performances. As the first of this series, Opening Night begins us with two accounts of the performances and experiences that opened the 2018 PAWA festival. 

Samuel Denby is Wellington born, currently working in I.T., and speaks of his first impressions of PAWA and performance art at the opening night.

Ethan Morse is currently studying theatre at Victoria University while also working on theatre projects independently. He is interested in finding a convergence and marrying the worlds of performance art and theatre together, creating pieces of art for a stage.

The 7th of November, I receive a facebook message from a close friend, “if you are free next Wed I’m opening performance art week Aotearoa”. It was the first I’d ever heard of such a thing. Two days later I checked may roster, it seemed I would be able to make it. 

The 14th of November, work as usual. Play_station gallery? Not familiar, ah that side street off Dixon. As I arrive, people have already gathered, the night air is cool and still. I don’t recognise any of these faces except for one, a relative of the friend I was here to see. A brief catch up, how have you been and such before the doors opened. 

Down a set of stairs now into a new world. Approaching the threshold, the sound of electric violin wanders up to greet us. I glance into the corner to greet my friend, she’s lost in the sound, i’ll say hey a bit later then. I continue onwards, a woman facing a corner speaking to it. I almost feel as if i’m eavesdropping on a private conversation. Next to her a painter working with a canvas duality, one static, one human. Color and form manifestisting from imagination before my eyes. 

I break the enchantment and move further onwards, my curiosity has taken over now. Refreshments, “yes please i’ll try the red”. There are quite a few people here. I turn to see a woman placing objects on four square wooden boards adjacent to each other. These objects are familiar, I notice that I have become transfixed on her actions, how is this so relatable? Behind me a man wearing an elaborate, flowing headdress moves slowly, elegantly, purposefully through the crowd. 

I step into an empty space away from everyone, I need a moment to let this all soak in. I feel like such a stranger, yet so comfortable. It was decided, I would see as much as I could. Over the next few days I did just that. From the early morning activities, the breakfasts, the people I met, the thoughts they shared and the other performances I attended I realised I would never be the same. It was to become so much of what I did not know I had been looking for. 

So here’s to you, the creative, the dreamers, the makers, the performers and all the rest. You may never know how much you have influenced me for the better and for that, I thank you. 

Contributed by Samuel Denby

After the opening night of PAWA 2018 I felt pleasantly full. Satiated in every sense of the word. The 3 performances by RV Sanchez, Kosta Robert Bogoievski, and Helene Lefebvre had an undeniable impact on me and left me with an overwhelming sense of artistic pride and fervour. Being able to watch extremely talented artists do their thing was an inspiration, an honour, and recharged my love for all thing’s performance art.  

RV Sanchez – A regularly dropped, low-quality skype call of him consuming and playing with a litany of foodstuffs, all with a trash bag covering his head. The piece was the most jarring of the 3 for me, leaving me feel queasy and violated. The video edged on some sort of voyeuristic terrorist hostage plea, leaving us the audience unwitting accomplices and observers of this grotesque and unnerving piece. Disconnected. Alienated. Dirty. Watching ourselves watch RV on the big screen as we ate alongside the frozen performer. A dichotomy of sorts. Online and offline. Clean and dirty. Beautiful and foul. While the use of online means to communicate the performance was a last-minute decision, and the less than reliable wi-fi reception meant the performance was interrupted I couldn’t help but feel as though this added to the take-away. Being able to watch from a safe distance, both literally and figuratively, pulled into question the place that the internet and online communication has. There’s a real and tangible disconnect between what happens on screen, in real-time or not, and the realisation that that is indeed a real person on the other side of the camera, screen, or keyboard. How much do we let that affect our interactions in the digital space? How much are we willing to consume before we become the judge, jury and executioner.  

Helene – Connection. Obstruction. Restraint. The ties that bind us to the past and the present. You, me & us. Bestiality. Rugged. A return to original form. Original conception. Immaculate in a way. Dirty in another. The beginning and the end. An elemental connection with the convergences of time, space, and the audience. Genuine connection. Connected through touch. Through energies. Physical and metaphysical. Pained. Contained. Disdain. Plain. Rain. Tainted and painted cave walls. Sensational vibrations through the heart and mind. Art is forever and now; performance art is the truest testament to that. A primordial feeling that extends beyond language, beyond movement, beyond sound. A primal truth. A prime number divisible only by itself and one. This performance was my prime number. Where does one thing start and the other end? When does the impervious become pervious? Ephemeral interconnection & the totality of meaning consolidate in the performer, the performance & the observer. We see what we want to see. We think what we want to think. We feel the shared understanding of a present performing artist. When does one meaning end and the other begin? When does the human become the artist, the artist the performer, and when does the performance truly begin? I see the sea. I see. I see. I see meaning in feeling. I see it in words spoken to walls. I see it in words not spoken at all. I see it in bespoke aestheticism. In moments caught between worlds known and undiscovered. In living truths and dying lies. In the ways of the world. In worldly women. In womanly words woven and weaved in waking way lines, while I lay wasting away. Walking when I want water-logged and woeful wishes to come true. Dreams. Woken up. Wistfully wonderful.

Kosta – Truth. Toasts. Why do we toast/drink to things? To bring to light an unspoken but universally understood and shared belief. Everyone is listening & watching the speaker with a stream of flowing consciousness. A raging wall of water and wondering wishes. What connects this to that? Plumbing the depth of human understanding, human function. We do thing because they are. They are what they are. Movement + Meaning. 3rd person. How one sees themselves and the world. The understanding and explanation of one’s own physiology and psychology & how that then relates and interacts with the outside world. The self-standing stoic. Slowly starting a sequence of stipulating statements. Cyclical and satirical. The true self. The universal self. The remembered self, the cultural self. The self that is bound by space and time & the self that can go beyond. When and where is a better place to air out our anxieties of our place in the wider understanding of what is, was and could be than on the stage.

Cheers, I’ll drink to that.

Contributed by Ethan Morse

Recent Posts

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Sasha Francis and Tom Danby on Mark Harvey: My own resistance / An Afternoon in the Sun
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Saoirse Chapman on Caitlyn Cook: Visual response
Cris Cucerzan and Sasha Francis on Binge Culture Collective: Two responses in poetry and prose

Queerness // Performance: Ivan Lupi, Louie Neale

Curated by Sasha Francis

This is the first of two series of interviews held with artists in the lead up to Performance Art Week Aotearoa 2018. Reflecting on their performance art and experiences of everyday life, Ivan Lupi and Louie Neale’s words below capture the weaving, cris-crossing intersections of queerness, performance and the fluidity of gender and identity. 

Ivan Lupi is an internationally renowned artist and will be performing X for 12 hours with no breaks, from 10am on Thursday 15th at Play_station Gallery.  In this work, Ivan’s invites audience members to participate, to mark the back of his hands, to tattoo an X into his skin with a tattoo machine. Inspired by the 125th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in Aotearoa New Zealand, the mark of the X is reminder of the power contained in the casting of a vote.

Louie Neale is a queer artist whose work has been shown through Aotearoa New Zealand and Europe; in Jellyfish do return, Louie toys with costume and the absurd to cut space for dressing beyond clothing.  Jellyfish do return is a playfully breaking out and beyond the binaries of the existing world: catch this performance on opening night, Wednesday at 6pm at Play_station Gallery, as well as Friday 2pm, Saturday 10:30am and 2pm at Thistle Hall.

Ivan Lupi

What does queerness mean to you?

I find my very personal meaning of queerness when I look closely to others: I see a kaleidoscopic uniqueness that never ceases to surprise me. From that look I inevitably develop a positive sense of displacement: I am myself and at the same time I see myself in others. An ‘otherself’ which I care for. Nothing more than that really. I am not interested in venturing further in academic discourses firstly because I prefer to leave that task to expert writers, second because I think they don’t really speak to a broad audience.

I am to a point in which I am much more interested in sharing other people’s ideas about queerness than my own one: like for example now I am sitting at a cafe’ and I forwarded your question to a 21 years old person who defines themselves as a centennial queer ‘pro’, a person who was born in the internet age, and lives their live fully in being as faithful as they can to themselves supporting others members of the ‘queer’ community instead of judging. That says everything to me.

How do gender, queerness and performance emerge and intersect in your work?

I often concern myself with gender, its essence and fluidity. It is a crucial part of self-definition, the truest truth of our identity. A truth no-one should have the right to argue against, especially by law. And since my actions are founded on an honest and true core, the topic of gender easily emerges and intersects in them. It’s a biological need. It’s impossible to suppress.

You describe a movement that begins by gaining a sense of the ‘kaleidoscopic uniqueness’ of the world and others and then moves to a ‘positive sense of displacement,’ and you note that this movement is related to a sense of care.   How does this movement and care connect for you to the essence, fluidity and self-definition of gender?  How does this connect to your term ‘otherself’? 

‘OTHERSELF’ is in fact a made-up word that I created when I was struggling to write my essays. It does not have a dash, it’s one word. It’s like a brushstroke in letters that allows me to acknowledge multiple selves at the same time: someone else’s self, our own self and our own in the other. That is the sense of positive displacement I am talking about. A simultaneous multiple perception/awareness that enriches me giving shape to a sense of care for the ‘OTHERSELF’. Not empathy, not tolerance. Proper care.

This is why I personally translate queer into a kaleidoscopic uniqueness to care for. And since we all are unique on the fluid scale of gender and sexual orientation and more, on the vast asset of our ethical, religious and biological background, then we all are queer and no one is. We fail in still talking about a ‘norm’ where a norm does not exist really.

Ivan performs X for 12 hours, from 10am on Thursday 15th of November, at Play_Station Gallery.

Louie Neale

What does queerness mean to you?

My understanding of queerness changes every time I think about it, and that’s the nature of it. From the outside it might look like it’s about challenging the gendered conventions of life, but looking into it myself, the prompt is something inside me. Sure I am living and acting in a queer way, but it’s more than that, I am queer. It’s something that’s fluid and for some reason only built in to some of us.

How do gender, queerness and performance emerge and intersect in your work?

Costume has been a major interest for me lately, which is really a performance of clothing, and is inherently gendered in the social contexts we live in. For queers like myself, dressing ourselves is a balancing act of layering or exposing our bodies to create something that looks and feels right, while inevitably altering this expression so that the outside world (that is not built for us) will hopefully treat us in the way that feels okay. This power of self determination is one of the most important parts of my queerness, though because it’s often socially punished, it’s a challenge to truly feel comfortable. My performances exaggerate this situation and make it an elevated spectacle where binaries are trangressed and exposed as absurd.

In your work, how does costume and the absurd offer an empowering means to explore the difficulties, and the joys, of presenting ourselves in the world, particularly in ways that look at feel and right?

As I see it, all works of art are hypothetical versions of reality that the artist manipulates (to whichever degree) to freely explore a situation. Unlike some other art forms however, performances and clothing or costume designs are physically embodied and therefore very much real. As much as this presents it to the audience, it’s also largely a chance for the performer to play with and delve in to other ways of being that are not confined by social limitations.

Absurdity is a frame that let’s us understand these limitations as arbitrary, and then build our worlds and our futures beyond the limits. Queerness does the same: by transgressing boundaries, we can grasp the infinite potential of crafting our own realities.

You describe queerness as fluid and ever-changing, though you note too that there is something fixed about this fluid experience from its origins in the body. Does this fluid yet fixed sense enter into and influence your everyday experience of the world? If so, how?

These aspects of queerness are absolutely a part of my everyday experience, intertwined with everything I do. I’m always aware of my body’s relations to the world around me and how my actions feed in and out of it. The act of dressing myself is a good example. When I see people around me whose clothing style disrupts conventions, there is a feedback loop of being visible to each other and therefore becoming more and more trusting that we can freely express ourselves through clothing in this society.

Louie performs ‘Jellyfish do return’ with Aliyah Winter, Maddi Walker and Polly Wiseman on Wednesday at 6:00pm at Play_Station Gallery, and Friday 2:00pm, Saturday 10:30am and Saturday 2:00pm at Thistle Hall. 

Curated by Sasha Francis

Recent Posts

A poetic response to Anna Berndtson’s workshop “Art needs time and we need art.”
Sasha Francis and Tom Danby on Mark Harvey: My own resistance / An Afternoon in the Sun
Jazmine Phillips/Him on Zahra: When the soft yells.
Saoirse Chapman on Caitlyn Cook: Visual response
Cris Cucerzan and Sasha Francis on Binge Culture Collective: Two responses in poetry and prose

Space between // land beneath: Six responses

Curated by Sasha Francis

This is the second of two series of interviews held with artists in the lead up to Performance Art Week Aotearoa 2018. Alexa Wilson, Ivan Lupi, Rewa Fowles, Victoria Abbott, Mark Harvey, and Hélène Lefebvre offer their thoughts below on two sets of questions, toying with the space between and exploring the land beneath.

The questions:

Spaces in between: How does your performance seek to create, make/unmake, disrupt, interrupt, strengthen the spaces between? Are there specific between-spaces that are centred in your performance work? Do you feel a clear delineation between audience and performer, or are they murky boundaries for you? In your work, how do you navigate these between spaces? Does your work deal explicitly with relationality (as in, relational connection between people), and if so, how and in what ways?

Land beneath: How does performing in different places affect your work? What does it mean to you to perform in Te Whanangui-a-tara (Wellington)? Are there particular places that you feel most connected to when you perform? Is your performance spatially rooted, or is it able to move from place to place? Does your work seek to honour or centre the land, and if so, how and in what ways?

Responses from Alexa WilsonIvan Lupi, Rewa Fowles, Victoria AbbottMark Harvey and Hélène Lefebvre can be read below. Information about each performer with details of their performance are included!

Alexa Wilson – 999: Alchemist Trauma Centre / Power Centre
Friday 16th, 7pm, $10, Play_station Gallery
More information here.

Spaces in between:

This project was created out of an arts residency I curated in the Indian Himalayas a year ago navigating many different cultures (global artists and locally), and one of the most radical “spaces between” are cultural spaces. These are very precarious and fragile spaces to create work about as I am questioning some of foundations of thought between cultures, especially East/West, specifically India and Europe (where I live, Germany, also NZ as a Nzer).

Yes I work at moments relationally, more in previous solos than this, but it has moments which offer a lot of existential and pointed questions to audiences this time. There are chances for reflection about clashes between cultures politically, which at this time of intersectionality can be generative to address, as questions to our perceived foundations. Audience is always addressed and implied within the work I make, somehow complicit and how they engage becomes part of the work as well. In this work there are moments for literal interaction, some playful, some confrontational, some offering connection or sharing. The work is always aiming to generate emotional intimacy and political reflections.

Land beneath

I just performed this work in the Indian Himalayas at night last week on the residency I curated in Morni Hills from where the work came and was inspired, so it was very much born in and was returned to that land. It has also been developed out of Berlin throughout the year, where I live, so in conversation with the ‘West’ and performed there multiple times as well as in London. These are all very dense energies culturally/historically and highly populated places littered with the questions the work is asking about whether our conditioned foundations really support us and how cultural clashes are generative in this vast “space between”. It works with ‘darkness’ as a foundation also, metaphorically, inspired by India and Kali, “Dark Woman/Wise Woman” (in Europe), what the feminine “space between” or “nothing space”, which can be seen as potential, creation and destruction, rebirth, realness can offer at this time of confusion and chaos on the planet inter-culturally, including projections about ‘darkness’.

I will find out why I am in Wellington when I perform the work there, and what Wellington as a land and or people will activate in the work or feel activated by inside it. I’ve performed solos and relational work in many parts of the world and it’s one of the most fascinating elements, how each place has its own culture and creates the work with me, even energetically. Different people, cultures, rooms of people activate a work completely uniquely in my experience. I have had great experiences of presenting work in Wellington in recent years so I am curious.

Ivan Lupi – X
Thursday 15th, 10am-10pm, Free, Play_Station Gallery
More information here.

Spaces in between:

How many lives I have to talk about this? To keep it short firstly I would say, in my work everything comes naturally, biologically. I do not have ideas. For me it all comes from the circumstances. The past, the present and what I think could be the future ones. All these circumstances give me stimuli to make me do something. So each action is triggered by a stimuli. And it’s biological. It’s a sense. Like hunger. Or arousal. It has to be satisfied.

If you see someone drowning you just want to go and help. It is straight forward. You just do it. It’s more of an instinct. And it’s raw. I do not write things down for my works either. You wouldn’t write down that you need to take a leak. The emergency will be present until the performance is over. It is only looking back to previous pieces that someone might be able to connect some emerging threads among the whole. Not my task.

Surely I never consider the audience to be just an audience. We often perform together so our spaces of action merge beautifully. I like interaction that is not just visual and I would not feel very comfortable in performing a piece while people stand against the wall or sit just watching until the work is over. I guess this is why I tend to create long, durational, interactive inputs: you enter the space and you are invited to participate in a very brief moment of the whole work. It is totally up to you how long you want to carry on for.

Lastly there is my own in between space: my skin. That is a threshold I am also exploring in depth and I have a couple of pieces in which I invite people to explore it too. One time, a person said: ‘now I almost feel I own part of your face’.

Land beneath:

So much philosophy could come from this question. In general I would say that my work can move around with no problems. I un-rooted myself from my homeland on purpose, to be able to absorb other cultures and I guess is in my nature to create pieces that can be performed anywhere in the world.

But let me tell you a story: I met a person who stumbled across two of my performances by coincidence in two different countries. At the time they saw me first I didn’t even know I would have moved to New Zealand – that person was Māori. Now I am here, an immigrant in Aotearoa and chatting with that person who is sharing with me the way I triggered their senses on those two occasions. We are talking about tattoos and tapu. This was to me is a total mind-blowing learning. It teaches me all I need in terms of focus and passion and gifting our work to others. Sometimes we might be concerned about a scarce attendance to our performances but you see, it is the single individual that matters.

Rewa Fowles – Home?
Friday 16th, 7pm, $10, Play_station Gallery
More information here.

Space between:

My work seeks to create awareness and conversation. To promote a balance of questioning and understanding, to strengthen the world’s spaces and what’s in between them. The between-spaces in my performance is the between belonging to different cultures, which I think a lot more young people can relate to as we become more globalised. But even more specific there is the between-spaces of being a Third Culture Kid and New Zealand Born. I don’t feel a clear connection or delineation [between audience and performer] – as I feel I don’t have enough experience in order to create that connection constantly. Also still learning what that connection is. Though I do focus on giving a new perspective or to create a conversation through my works.

I navigate through my own experiences and those I have seen and heard from people around me. To be observant and question everything. Then concentrate it on paper or through movement in order to create clarity. [My work] does [deal explicitly with relationality], as it focuses on the how many people start to create relationships, no matter how surfaced or in-depth they become, with people that are different from themselves. In this case what people, I have met and grew up in New Zealand, have said to me in our first couple of conversations. Reacting to how I sound, look, and my upbringing being an Adult Third Culture Kid.

Land beneath:

Performing in new places gives me a rush of excitement and anxiety. As my body and mind does not know what the place is like or how it will react. Though I am use to adapting quickly to places and always reminding myself to keep an open mind. Thus I find my performances are usually quite adaptable as well, depending how much technology is involved. [Performing in Wellington] means a new adventure and new opportunity to learn, as I have never been to Wellington before.

No, [there are not particular places that I feel most connected to when I perform]. As being an Adult Third Culture Kid, we learn from a young age to adapt and feel comfortable in almost every environment or place we are put into. So when I perform I connect within myself, in what experiences, emotions, and whatever else my body and mind is holding. Though I sometimes wish I had a special place I could connect to that would make me feel at home.

My performance is spatially rooted to the land of New Zealand and links to my experiences I have had in this country. Though most of them were in Auckland, as it is where I have lived most of my time in New Zealand. Though my work can be performed anywhere, as I believe it can cause at least one person to relate to it or start a conversation. I would say my work does not seek to honour the land, but create a healthy conversation for the people of the land.

Victoria Abbott
Pop up performances throughout the week
More information here.

Spaces in between

The long answer is the form I’m working with will be very much in the middle of public spaces used to uphold upright orders of space claiming. While I won’t be completely upending those unspoken hierarchies, in the body I am in I will be pushing them about as they jostle back against me. Like a big stone in a stream or perhaps in other versions a rock pool. I’ll be investigating occupying these spaces… perhaps it may develop into a stretching of space? Maybe the audience will shift their bodily relationship to these spaces after. I’ll be drawing a big loop back to a particular humming gorgeous moment in 2006.

The connection between myself and audience is not known yet. I’ll be working in public and social spaces with anyone who also happen to be in them. I have a strong draw towards consensual encounters, as opposed to thrusting encounters upon people which re-enforces a (patriarchal) encounter trope that I’m performatively exhausted and irritated by — I’ll be playing a gentler game… I’m interested by the subtler rhythms available, even if the texture or rhythm is rough.

The short answer is, I’ll lie down in different spaces and think about water.

Land beneath

I’ll be setting down the first few layers of this particular piece on Wellington soil. I feel a pull in Wellington towards the water below, with all the bodies of water, streams, rivers, creeks and sea shore that got tunnelled and piped and stacked over. My herstory with Wellington folds back to a time closer to 2006, so that’ll inform things. I’ll be getting as close as I can to both the water and the moment. This piece is thirsty. I can’t wait.

Mark Harvey – Interloper
Thursday 4:00pm, Friday 4:00pm, Saturday 11:00am, Sunday 11:00am
More information here.

Space between

I’m really interested in what happens between people and what gets said and unsaid, how we are influenced and influence others, and why might we resist each other. I like to set up situations where by these things can be played with reflected on. I aim to offer questions that offer a fluid range of reflections, while not attempting to dictate to spectators. I often like to select public situations where I intend to fold my work in relation to the contexts of locations, physically, formalist-ly, culturally and politically.

While I intend to guide an audience, either via my own actions and voice or via a person working with me, I welcome the audience to respond and help to create the work with their voices, literally and metaphorically. I attempt to do this via live and mediatised formats, via endurance and duration based actions and in relation to often to me performing physical labour as a play on service-centered capitalist dynamics. Notions of relationality are a definite intent in a lot of my work as it’s something that I find really important to me personally (but definitely not what can be seen as the outmoded art canons of relational aesthetics, and social practice as they often suffer from conforming with colonising discourses).

Land beneath:

Presenting practice in Te Whanangui-a-tara is significant for me due to the colonial and inter Iwi and Pākehā histories, relations and tensions. Feeling this for me is my own whakapapa through the region, from Methodist missionaries and NZ Company settler-farmers to iwi (Ngāti Toa).

I feel most connected to locations where I can have exchanges and interactions with people from various cross-sections of the public. The potential reciprocal learning that can happen from engaging with a wide range of people who hold various ideologies really excites me.

Helen Lefebvre – Forever growing up
Opening night, Wednesday 14th, 6-8pm, Play_station Gallery
More information here.

Space between, land beneath

My process is about “making space” in order to find clarity while presenting that which appears unfamiliar. The strangeness I find during my travels awakens my need to discover, take hold of your difference and my sameness, discovering, making sense communicating while relating to you.

Thank you so much to our performers for their contributions, time and thought in answering these questions!

Curated by Sasha Francis

Recent Posts

A poetic response to Anna Berndtson’s workshop “Art needs time and we need art.”
Sasha Francis and Tom Danby on Mark Harvey: My own resistance / An Afternoon in the Sun
Jazmine Phillips/Him on Zahra: When the soft yells.
Saoirse Chapman on Caitlyn Cook: Visual response
Cris Cucerzan and Sasha Francis on Binge Culture Collective: Two responses in poetry and prose

FEMINIZE ((Process-ing)) Interview D.

By Sara Codwell

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

Interviewee D.

Caitlyn Cook (Artist, Multi-Disciplinary Geek, Shamanic Sexual Healer, Magic Maker, Kid/Queen, Seeker, Cat)

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?

There’s no ‘formula’ for each work, but there are recurrent methods and processes that inform the work. I’ve geeked out a lot on embodied geographies, self-reflexivity, pyschodrama, meditation, academics, embodied healing and spirituality, shamanism, acting. Each of these fields have different ways to experience and unlock the body. I put them all in a blender and mix it with my idea, along with some magic and mystery… the result is my performance piece. I have a background in Experience Design too which has taught me to prototype. To test, test, test. So that’s an important part of the way I make work too.

How does your process inform the end artwork?

I’m always in process—pretty much constantly in research and development. I’m always ingesting new ways to experience and understand the body, intimacy, authenticity, expression. The process doesn’t begin and end with one art work; it’s all one continuous experience with particular ‘products’ (performances) emerging when the magic happens. Because of this, it feels like the process has a heartbeat. It’s a living thing. It breathes daily.

I guess in that way, my works feel very intimate because I’ve felt them all in my body in some way. Sometimes this testing can be quite painful or vulnerable. Other times healing or orgasmic.

The process produces alive and intimate products.

You also work in the fields of mindfulness, sexuality and shamanism. I imagine you have a lot of juicy thoughts on the importance of process rather the end product whether thats a performance piece or having an orgasm?

I love this question! Well, from a Tantric or mindful sexuality perspective, expectation and predefined goals are your worst enemy. Treating sex and intimacy as a scripted game of end goals is like going to an orchestra and only bring satisfied by the final cymbal at the end of the concerto. The landscape of the music, the peaks and troughs of sound and notes, the surprises and heightened senses, the expressions of the musicians, the feelings the music evokes… that’s the reason we listen. Not just to get to the end. The process is actually the pleasure and the crashing cymbals are part of it, not all of it.

And for me, it’s the same with art.

When a make a piece, I love when the process of participating (myself, audience, collaborators) includes the themes and concepts of the broader work. The experience of making is as potent as the product at the end.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about art as a product of my desire and creativity as desire, what do you think the relationship is between desire and creative process?

I see Desire as a statement of I WANT. This statement—when acknowledged and acted on—calls things, people, experiences into being. It’s the switch that flips yin into yang—activity, making, construction. Desire is creative. To avoid our authentic desire in our lives and art practice more broadly, we crush our creativity, Life-force and emergence of the new. Desire is a sacred thing.

How do you think (if at all) feminism relates to creative process?

Yes! I think feminism is written into the creative process and it’s impossible to separate them.

Feminism includes in its field wider things typically associated with ‘the Feminine’; things that have also been hegemonically disempowered and devalued. This includes things like the body, matter, chaos, curves, sexuality, fertility (eg menstruation), the multiple/community, feelings, intuition, magic, darkness, water/nature, among others.

The inverse of these are typically associated with the Masculine and have long been privileged…

So, this is how I see feminism and creation are inextricably and inherently linked:

Creation is about bringing things into matter. It is a form-based practice and can be gritty, chaotic and messy. It can be hard fucking work and you might sweat.

Creation is about engaging the body to make. It is not just a thinking, it is a doing.

Creation is emotional. It involves desire: I WANT. The journey of creation is filled with all sorts of feelings: excitement, confusion, frustration, satisfaction, peace, thrill… you might even cry.

Creation is a curvy, topsy-turvy process. There is no straight line in the development of an idea. It’s more like flowing water: twists, turns, upside downs, gentle passages, trickles and torrents.

Creation feels sexual and fertile in it’s way of ideas coming together, combining, breaking apart and forming something new within us (much like gametes during fertilisation). It feels alive. The mind becomes a womb that births.

I’m wary of essentialism, but i think it’s worth remembering our human species (and many others) are created through sex. While gametes come from males and females, the place of creation (gestating and birthing) is a female power. Feminism is neither sex- nor gender-based, but it is worth seeing how the female form contains within it the ultimate creative potency.

Creation is about feeling and following an intuitive sense, beyond just the rational. While creation certainly uses rationality to execute the idea, the supra-rational is highly engaged (if not fundamental and central).

Creation sometimes feels like magic. Something just comes to you. A beautiful accident happened. Synchronicity. The majority of religious and many spiritual traditions include Creation Myths—myths of magic.

Creation is inherently about other people (not just the singular I), the network, the multiple. You simply cannot create alone. Either it’s tools, materials, collaborators, editors, professionals, mentors, muses, transportation, spaces—you need others. It is a communal process.

Curated by Sara Cowdell 

Recent Posts

A poetic response to Anna Berndtson’s workshop “Art needs time and we need art.”
Sasha Francis and Tom Danby on Mark Harvey: My own resistance / An Afternoon in the Sun
Jazmine Phillips/Him on Zahra: When the soft yells.
Saoirse Chapman on Caitlyn Cook: Visual response
Cris Cucerzan and Sasha Francis on Binge Culture Collective: Two responses in poetry and prose

FEMINIZE ((Process-ing)) Interview C.

Interview by Sara Cowdell

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

Interviewee’s C.

Virginia Frankovich (Creator of the Plastic Orgasm)

Victoria Abbott and Kayleigh Haworth (Ladies of the Plastic Orgasm)

This interview is specifically about the performance piece ‘The Plastic Orgasm’ performed by a cast of 21 woman in the Auckland fringe festival 2018, created and devised by Virgina Frankovich and Julia Croft.

he plastic orgasm has been a 3 year collaboration right? What has that process been like? When does a process become apart of the work and when does it get left behind?

Virginia Frankovich (VF): Yup it’s been a nice long collaboration, which is always a luxury. For this work in particular, process has always been a huge part of the work. In 2015 when Julia and I started working on the project, we had a strong instinct that the process would become part of the work. This was reflected in our original 3 night performance work consisting of: a public discussion; an immersive ritual and a theatrical interlude – all taking place within our workspace which was littered with our thoughts and ramblings all over the wall – an ode to the process that never stops. 

You decided to invite LOTS of women to participate in this year’s edition of the plastic orgasm, why?

VF: It was really important that in the third iteration of this project, that we incorporated the voices and bodies of other women in our work.  Now more than ever we need as many female voices and bodies in theatre and by accepting anyone who responded to our online call-outs, meant that we were able to honour the need for more bodies on stage than our own. We intend to continue to instigate projects that focus on socially engaged practices, embracing more diverse collaborative relationships on a larger scale – watch this space. 

What did you most enjoy about the process of making this work with 20 other women? and what are the challenges of such a large scale collaboration?

VF: My favourite thing about the process was the way we all worked together. Most of the participants didn’t know each other prior to the project, but somehow, everyone seemed to manage to work really well together. And it felt very communal. Whilst we were doing a re-adaptation of the original Plastic Orgasm show, it felt like the new cast really managed to bring parts of themselves into the piece and take ownership over it. It was truly magical to watch and most definitely one of the projects I am most proud of. 

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?

VF: Every process is different, depending on what it is about and who I am collaborating with. For me the trick is to keep it as malleable as possible so that it can bend and stretch depending what feels right in the moment. In general it consists of a long period of research prior to any practical rehearsals. Working on a variety of professional and independent rehearsal processes, I have come to find that deviating from the standard 9-5 works best for the type of work I create. For me, the process is more important than the product so ensuring that this time is well thought out and suits the needs of the project is key. 

Do you see your artistic process as a feminist practise? And if so how?

VF: Yes – I think so. I like to think that as often as I can, I am removing the patriarchal structures that seem to be ingrained in theatrical processes. Rather than the idea of this “one voice of god” who dictates how a piece should be, I like my work to feel like an open forum where everyone is on a level playing field. To me, that is a feminist practise. 

So Victoria and Kayleigh, why did want to be involved with the plastic orgasm?

Victoria Abbott (VA): A chance to work with that many women is rare and I also wanted to get my ass out of my house. 

Kayleigh Haworth (KH): I’d known both Virginia and Julia for a while, I sort of missed out on forming a collaborative relationship with either of them. There was something so fascinating to me about the intricate mania they dabbled in, and I sort of fell in love. ‘No dancing’ felt so in line with the internal journey I was taking at that point, and assuaged a lot of the anxieties I was having about creating my own work. When the open call went out for TPO 2.0, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to come play.

What was your experience of the process of rehearsing/co-creating/being to create the latest version of the ‘plastic orgasm’?

VA: Really gentle, embodied sharing of space. The show itself is a beautifully aggressive and manic rhythm that then becomes more syrupy but the making process was really ‘give what you are able’ and then received generously and the editing happened off site and was clear. People had very different tastes and ideas and we were able to explore off in different directions then come and show each other. 

KH: For me, the entire experience was incredibly restorative – My year had already taken shape as one that asked more questions than it answered, and I’d felt a bit lost in the inertia of myself. Even in the very first rehearsal I had this sort of intense experience of being scooped up and cradled by some of the most incredible women – many of whom I wouldn’t ordinarily cross paths with. That alone would have been more than enough, but to then be given ultimate permission – to just be allowed to exist in an unlimited context – in the gentlest and most meaningful of ways TPO 2.0 handed me back to myself.   

How do you think your individual creative process differs from a collective process like this one?

KH: A lot of my work has been created for very specific contexts, often alone and usually as part of an insane juggling act between carving out time to create and the reality of having to hold down a full time job. Alone, my process tends to be drawn out, created in fits and spurts, then left to sort of percolate til there’s another window to continue. There’s typically a hefty dose of agonizing introspection, anxiety around ‘perfection’ and a fuck tonne of procrastinating.

In contrast, it felt entirely liberating to not have to be the sole power source for TPO 2.0 – to be able to fluidly switch between making offers and taking offers, and shed any sense of right or wrong. It’s a lot less confronting to be vulnerable nestled in a murmuration of women you love.

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

VA: The way the space is shared is very telling. It’s immediately apparent if this is just a dominant hierarchy structure in disguise by even just the shapes people sit in on that first meet. Then it’s the space to speak and be heard and hold difference without having to order that into things like ‘useful/not useful’, ‘good idea/bad idea’ etc. It means a larger spectrum of ideas are present, and often in a make what is useful becomes clear next to the rest of the things you’re working with, rather than on first offer. That space sharing and holding of many views and tastes and experiences and preferences is a feminist way of working to me. 

I’m interested in feminist practise in all aspects of life, and I’m wondering if you found this project “feminist” in process?

KH: I think any action that creates/holds space for lots of different types of women to come together, to speak and be heard and seen, to uphold one another, to mend, to feel a sense of meaning, to ask questions and make statements without any fear of rejection or retribution is inherently attempting to be feminist. For me personally this project aligned well with my needs, but I also have to acknowledge that as a white cis woman, my needs are not necessarily representative of all women, all the time, everywhere. I don’t think I have any right to declare the whole process ‘feminist’, plonk my full stop on it and act like the conversation ends there. 

How do you think process informs the end artwork?

VA: We didn’t lose the individual performers to a mob, or clumping in the same way that can happen in that other way of making. There was flocking, but people came in and out of flocking rhythms based on individual preference rather than a fixed rule. Because there wasn’t a ‘spotlight’ to claim, there was more active coming forward and backward into the front so I think the piece took a more organic and moveable shape from night to night. It was messy in the best way. You got to observe as well as be in it. There was space for that.

Do you have anything else you want to say ?

KH: In no particular order (because it’s 2:15am and I’m not even sure I’m making sense anymore) these are some things that I learnt whilst doing TPO, creating alone and from spending lots of time figuring out how and why feminism is really important:

– Be open to the idea that that you might sometimes be wrong. It’s good to get really comfortable with being wrong, so you can get over it quickly and not waste precious time and energy being wrong and doing nothing about it.

– Red wine, mayonnaise and cantaloupe all sting the same when they’re in your eye.

– Trust that sometimes you might just be right. Have the grace to not be a jerk about it.

– It might seem virtuous/logical/powerful to ‘dismantle the masters house with the masters tools’, but using his tools upholds his way of working. Burn the house down.   

– Be aware of your privileges. Being aware is good. Looking for ways you can leverage those things to create space for others to speak for themselves is better.

– Intersectionality is more important than your occasional discomfort. Always and forever.

– The egg doesn’t swim to the sperm. Never ever let a cis-het man make you doubt your work, your word or your worth.

Curated by Sara Cowdell 
Photography by Peter Jennings

Recent Posts

A poetic response to Anna Berndtson’s workshop “Art needs time and we need art.”
Sasha Francis and Tom Danby on Mark Harvey: My own resistance / An Afternoon in the Sun
Jazmine Phillips/Him on Zahra: When the soft yells.
Saoirse Chapman on Caitlyn Cook: Visual response
Cris Cucerzan and Sasha Francis on Binge Culture Collective: Two responses in poetry and prose