FEMINIZE ((Process-ing)) Interview B.

Interview by Sara Cowdell

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

Interviewee B.

Alexa Wilson (Oracle, Dancer, Mentor, Anarchist, Memorising Performer, Empath, Writer, Wild Woman, Film Maker, Believer, Boss, Badass, Friend)

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?

Most processes are different from each other, though I definitely have patterns with the modes I create (solo, collaboration, group works, video, writing). My processes generally are organic in creation, with a clear concept coming from contemporary questions, which is usually an embodied musing around the generative tensions within paradoxes of an often political/philosophical theme to explore the complexity therein. More recently live work allows for the extra liminal space or wild card of audience interaction to fully activate ideas; which is exciting (understatement). I think some of the most radical spaces in art are in the interstitial spaces and conversations between different perceptions, experiences, places and people. Audiences are part of this process, bringing their own perceptions/reflected.

The mystery of how I have the ideas I do and how I implement them is the magic you might really be asking about, and these things are fairly ephemeral. I think relatively multi-dimensionally so ideas come in from many directions, also I have a strong connection to myself, and the ability to reflect the complexity that I do comes from these things inherently. I am definitely no minimalist, I see the connections between things and I run with that across all modes of art making that I do. I give myself permission to break rules, also my own rules, and to continue challenging myself to be present and vulnerable, in ideas and processes, which I think accesses powerful spaces – in myself and others, as well as throwing in the odd joke.

And how do you think process informs the end artwork?

Solo processes because they are easiest for me and show or reflect my ideas most accurately because I have total agency and am sole performer to focus on. They are the most worked through, and deepest somehow. Solos are very existential, they are honest and brave, vulnerable. Intimate. I have to have a break from their intensity lol.

Collaborations usually show a generative tension in the outcome, the tension of the dynamics between artists/relations and this can be interesting, but not always comfortable, which doesn’t mean collaborations aren’t as valuable, they’re just different.

Group works show the power dynamics of the hierarchical process of choreography, in which dancers embody a director’s ideas also as collaborators. I try my best to enable performers to find their own voice within the ideas and be themselves, but it’s always a tension again – they are collaborators, and whose work is it? I don’t feel that performers are acknowledged enough for being collaborators, and generously so. Group work doesn’t come naturally to me, I have learned to lead – often by example, and being able to stand outside it means it has a different dynamic, one which can be more formed, I would never say my work is tidy because that is never it’s aim – I don’t think formed is the word either, as I often manifest a rawness, or unformedness, but ironically I am a formalist and very into structure, as who else could create ordered chaos (with layers/density/roughness) if not someone very aware of structure and form? Sometimes I think people just think I’m an idiot and can’t craft, but it’s kind of the opposite. It’s painstaking making anarchist choreography lol.

Some works more than others tend to bring out trauma in the performers or audiences, which is where healing comes in to the performance process and product for me. People can be very resistant to this – which is also totally understandable – but naturally I have become more skilled at finding ways to transform these issues more gently so that trauma is addressed but it is moving, and doesn’t remain stuck. Which is only responsible. Although you can never be completely responsible for how people receive or experience something, and it’s their choice how they respond to questions or provocations, and individuals will always choose to behave and feel how they want to, which to me is actually more empowering to acknowledge than infantilising people. It’s obviously a balance, because you have to be able to stand strong if things unravel. Which is very rare, but it does sometimes happen. There’s always the humility of more learning, it’s life.

our current project ‘999: Alchemist Trauma Centre / Power Centre’ is being performed multiple times at different locations around the globe, what was your initial process to devise this work? and are you constantly in process with this work or is it more like a show you tour?

It’s definitely been a work in progress, it’s been constantly changing and added to, although the beginning is pretty much the same, which was birthed on the roof of the residency in India in the Himalayas. It’s one of the most existential pieces I’ve ever made, and having it CNZ funded, also to write alongside has contributed to that as I can go deeper, and take longer. But also it came out of a lot of questions around foundations/beliefs (of my own) from being in India so that’s already philosophical, then back in the West and having it reflected back to me in different contexts has meant it is always a conversation and people seem to have completely different readings of it, which is so interesting.

It began on the roof of the residency during one of the “improvisation in radical practice” weekly workshops I initiated, in which some ideas or processes just came out of my unconscious during that time in response to questions. As I was obviously so focused on facilitating and organising 20 artists in the Indian Himalayas, which was rather a big job, and that activated many insights and experiences for me about foundations in and across cultures, the little time I had to actually be creative myself felt explosive and meaningful.

I had profound insights in India about foundations on a personal level, and the work just became like performative poetry in and around that. I feel constantly on edge with this piece, like it’s asking fragile questions at a fragile time, which as a friend said is a “good sign that you’re probably doing something interesting” (thanks Zoe Crook). I call it a “poetic meditation, a poetic activist activation”. It’s a feminist meditation, so of course it’s changing continuously. It gets very serious at times, a bit too intense, that I have to remind myself to also find some lightness and humour. Then you can go too much the other way and lose the point. There is also something meditative about repetition with aspects of the work, doing them many times. A man in the recent London show who was also an artist in the exhibition described it as “hectic and beautiful”. He said it “awoke the angst, and battered the man in me”. (AJ LAAS) To read more about Alexa Wilson’s new work, click here: 999, Alchemist Trauma Centre / Power Centre’ 

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

I am talking a lot about “agency” in regard to this work, particularly in a feminist sense. It’s a contemporary jargon word for “freedom” or “liberation” but it’s used a lot in regard to class politics as well, people having “agency”. When asked how this work was “feminist” – which I state facetiously at the beginning of the piece, in an audition for postgraduate study in Berlin  – I used the word “agency”. Agency to be a wide range or “plethora” of states, emotions, thoughts, expressions of humanness, as a woman, who is a human. This multiplicity is idealistic and comes from post-modern discourse, also it could be argued – from life. I noticed immediately in my first years out of dance school that embodying such multiplicity as a woman was hard to digest for some people and I had projections of “dangerous woman” (a femme fatale cliche).

We have really been in a battle the last 50-100 years of women’s liberation to be “allowed” or even seen/heard/read with the complexity of men in literature, in film, in tv, in all representation, going beyond patriarchal fantasies or societal projections. This time has been about women writing their own stories, representing themselves in entirety and being afforded the subjectivity of existential questions in art that men have been entitled to for a very long time. So I see the creative process as totally feminist in this sense.

As a performer, also one with work on the internet – the process of feminism and patriarchy is present regardless of whether you like it or not. Your body is on the internet, it is in public, you and your subjective experience as a woman is a political process, and it still feels absolutely like a battle to be respected as women on many levels. If you deal with among many issues, the power issues of gender representation, sexuality, power, these conversations in a very patriarchal and old school traditional form of control can easily be manipulated back into “body shaming” or “slut shaming” or not taken seriously, even within my own arts communities/peers. It is a very subtle and implicit thing, but its real.

These are also not the only conversations in feminism, the first part and second half of our lives is bound up with completely different and equally as important issues to being overly sexualised within patriarchy confines. I believe the patriarchy, like the colonial, like the heteronormative, like the capitalist is in all of us regardless of gender, race, class or sexuality– and work we all need to do to unlearn behaviours and modes of thinking deeply embedded for such a long time, about ourselves and others. We can uphold self-oppression and or oppress others without realising. Women can be patriarchal to other women. Rather than always blaming, the work and healing needs to be also internal – extending also to the collective. It’s also not like ageing makes feminist conversations easier, it actually becomes more activated, because young bodies are normalised as “ok”, more controllable somehow within a specific frame. Your body ages, lol. You are a wising identity/body, our power doesn’t decrease with age. This is FEMINIST.  Everyone needs to be valued at all ages.

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

Yes. Good question, I’ve never been asked this question. Creativity and feminism disrupt both capitalism and patriarchy. Performance directly faces the subjectivity and objectification of the female body. Tactics of underminement are great and many, a consistent bombardment.   

I’ve observed and read a lot of backlash to the #metoo movement, so with this backlash climate very much present as we experience one of the biggest global social uprisings since the 60s in the last 5-7 years (intersectionally) – art as a way to deal with patriarchy and with capitalism, is to be in direct conversation with these movements and backlash, also every day underminement, in an empowered way. In intelligent, subjective, rational and embodied ways.

Live work is really powerful, I see internet hacktivism as vital, the presence of women’s bodies and voices by and for themselves, but also the presence of the live – to counter conversations which are essentially cyber projections. To tread carefully or boldly there (in cyber space) is one battle, and continue allowing the live body to “hack” the virtual climate by doing live work, impressing live ideologies and realities in real time and space, which is accountable, is also another.

Anything else you want to say about creative process/feminist processes?

It’s a complex and tenuous process, but I find it overall very exciting as a time to live and make art in as a (female) artist. Things are changing very fast, which we all know. I have read and feel it’s true that feminism needs to be intersectional and inclusive otherwise it will be as ineffectual and destructive as patriarchy.

Continuing to find ways to support each other and voices not heard or valued, including the planet itself, at this time is vital. A combination of empathy and fierceness is my creative feminist process. ‘Fierce sensitivity’ has sometimes been used as a catch phrase to describe what I do. Like a mother (which I am not) – we women are supposedly hard wired to fight for what we love. This makes feminist art at this time of overwhelming climate change extra super duper powerful. The stakes are high my friends, the empathy felt means that the work is ferocious . <3

 


Curated by Sara Cowdell 

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FEMINIZE ((Process-ing)) Interview A.

Interview by Sara Cowdell

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)

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 but 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, there’s a lot of stuff sitting in the atmosphere, and it’s 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 you’re 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 4 years. I also add a residency of 4 days or more about 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 me 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 I’ve had the privilege of working with a small group of other movers/ performers, weekly for most of a 4 year period.

This year the journey has been very much a solo one and it’s 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, I’m 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…. 

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

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 theme commonalities, I’ve 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 and lifts 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, 2 hours 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. I’m indigenous Maori though, 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.
  • Yes my work and my ideologies embodies feminism, as I hope my work does. I don’t think I’ve had much choice about this, as I’m 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, it’s 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…

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 explained a little in the process question, about my interpretation of improvisation and how there’s 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 so many ways, the way other nurses work, the way management governs and the lack of pay for the work load which is heavy in all ways. 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, I’m 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, aspergers the people with anxieties, the ones that can’t, and don’t fit in with the narrow version of what life is supposed 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 it’s definitely someone like me – you ‘ll 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..

you’re doing a great job..

let go..

let go..

 


Curated by Sara Cowdell

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‘Kinetic Orality’ held by Vicky Kapo

A workshop hosted by Performance Art Week Aotearoa in Auckland, over the weekend of 28th/29th April.

It was said;

 “A new sense of connection between my own body/self and artistic practice. A deeper connection to the other creatives in the workshop. A sense that all is right with the world if we listen and return to ourselves and the collective energy, that everything that needs to be said can be presented and spoken as it needs to be.”

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Return to the Void

Written Jack Foster 

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.

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.

The first piece to be performed in PAWA 2017 was billed as a trip into the void. But it seems the void in late capitalism is precisely its inverse—absolute excess, excremental imagery; layer piled on top of layer; confusion, disorientation, broken pieces, broken images, broken people. A journey into the void is a journey into excess, a journey into fear. But I’ve always felt a strange pull toward the aesthetic of late capitalism and its fractured psycho-sphere. The aesthetic of the contemporary metropolis—who isn’t fascinated in some sickly way by Los Angeles? Neon lighting, reflective skyscrapers—the dystopian city. They are alluring places: grotesque and mechanical, but with a perverse appeal; in them I desire something I know I shouldn’t.

In one way, the aesthetics of late capitalism make visible everything that’s wrong with the world; in another, they carry with them the promise of so many illicit desires, things that will distract and anesthetize. It is undeniable that capitalism has many treats to hand out. I think we traverse the edge of wanting a life delivered from the alienation and monotony of contemporary capitalism and wanting to sink deeper into the pleasures it has to offer, knowing all the while that these very pursuits carry within them the seeds of our own destruction, a destruction that is spiritual if not physical. The immiseration of life under capitalism leads us to pursue the very things that will destroy us spiritually and politically, that will keep us trapped forever in this world: impotent subjects unmoored from each other. We vibrate outward and away, only to return; locked in a pattern of circular shifts, we return to the void.

Writer: Jack Foster 

Editor: Sara Cowdell 

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The Thread of Tension

Written by Henrietta Bollinger
Edited by Jess Holly Bates

The thread of tension is the fifth in our Cross-pollination series, where writers respond creatively to performance. HerHenrietta 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

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Emblazoned with ‘The Spirit’

Written by Zoe Crook
Edited by Jess Holly Bates

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.

When all the washing is completed, the other figure leaves the washing and also enters the space…

Here the initial moment jars as a PowerPoint begins with infomercial like music, the two quiet figures suddenly come to life in an effort to educate, inform and sell the sacred. They wear blazers over their naked bodies and gold painted nipples. With high heels. As if suddenly emblazoned with ‘the spirit’ they dance energetically to the music and explain the points of the PowerPoint.

Just as abruptly, when this ends, the figures return to their quiet selves. There is conversation between the two figures, each using the other as their amplifier. There are various tropes of siphoning, removing information from the audience. There are whispers, there are stares, long held eye contact. They read words from scripts. They hand out paper and red pens. The audience is getting braver. They have taken on roles of their own. There is ambient electronica, there are vocals.The cake comes out.

Written by Zoe Crook

Edited by Jess Holly Bates

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It’s Not Uncivilised!

Writer: Claire O’Loughlin
Editor: 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.”

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.


 

On the second level up on Tory Street, thirty people sat on the floor around a flax mat covered in food, sharing a traditional Filipino meal of rice, vegetables, egg and chicken. The food was laid out on long banana leaves and we each eat off a small square of banana leaf as a plate. Before sitting down to eat we had each removed our shoes, washed our hands and given thanks and a donation to the small deity statues that stood on a pedestal presiding over the meal. The entire point of the exercise was to introduce us, the eaters and the audience, to the food and meal etiquette of the Philippines.

Our host, Louis, sat at one end of the mat and talked us through how to eat – with just one hand so the other is left to hold the drink or lean back on, scooping rice with just the tips of the fingers and pushing the rice into the mouth by sliding the thumb along the fingers to avoid putting the fingers in the mouth. He told us of the Spanish invasion and how these traditional eating practices were deemed by the Spanish to be uncivilised and unclean, and as such, through that shaming process, had been phased out. We learnt about his own personal journey, growing up as a kid eating at a table with a knife and fork and only now, as an adult, reclaiming the traditional ways as part of his own reclamation of self and identity.

Louis wanted to show us and prove to us that such ways of eating are not uncivilised. He kept insisting on this as we ate – “you see, it’s not uncivilised! It’s not uncivilised!” I didn’t need to be convinced of anything. But I did think about how uncivilised I would have felt had I not known how to slide the rice into my mouth or had I used my floor-hand by accident. It was Louis’ warmth and generosity in sharing his culture and knowledge that made this particular meal civilised. Peace is civilised, kindness is civilised, community is civilised, gifts are civilised and honesty is civilised. How terrible for the Spanish to have shamed the Filipino people about their way of eating, something so quintessential to their culture. Although it looked like a casual, friendly meal, Eat My Rice was a protest piece, a simple and utterly dignified action from Louis Bretana to reclaim the traditions and say no to any shame. And the food was flipping delicious.

 

Writer: Claire O’Loughlin

Editor: Jess Holly Bates

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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

NO/I/SE(LF): An Inventory.

Written by Henrietta Bollinger
Edited by Jess Holly Bates

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.

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.

 

This eclectic list offers a window into No/i/se(lf)
a  weird and irreverent wander

One

the audience was very willing to take with their hosts, who

silver-
robed and speaking in an unintelligible tongue  between a child’s dress up box and Mars.

SOME FORM OF OFF-THE-WALL FUN

a series of tonal shifts

– rock concert/disco/voice/telecast/orchestra pit.

noise built-faded-BUILT

crescendoes into screams and bursting balloons mixed on stage responsive to some of the soundscape to the audience appeared to be their strangest to stay responsive to their strangest to the audience being mixed and built again this soundscape to stay responsive to the some. Ultimately.
No/i/se(lf) was also

an invitation. As one.  struck on this fractured title my brain

perpetually stuck in a puzzle

there is no ‘I’ in team. there is no ‘I’ in self. there is no ‘I’ in no. there is no ‘I’ in yes.

no/i/self

the noise will erase the individual. the noise is a concerted effort. the noise is not an intentional echo. the noise will focus on drawing. the noise will breath. move. speak/scream

a void. is one organism. which we (joyfully) did.

 

Written by Henrietta Bollinger

Edited by Jess Holly Bates

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PLEASE! EXPLAIN!

Writer: Mia Gaudin 
Editor: Jess Holly Bates

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

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.

II

 

Congratulations, winner, you created a threshold. We went through it, all of us, and into a space with cold feet and cold floor and we crouched under the woolen red web. There were objects with no rules around them.   Please. Explain. You tore a needle from a packet and dipped it in a bottle marked ink. Took to your wrist. Explain. A blue hand. I couldn’t watch. Scared. Scarred. Please. Please. Move

position.

People kept coming and you kept washing and the rest of us waited and didn’t know what was happening; if we should leave. Explain. Sacred? The room was waning. I smoked a cigarette. A man uploaded your ass to Instagram. Rolled a rubber boob across the ground. Talked about pizza.

 

III

 

You is plural. Two bodies. The same skin, muscle, hair, breasts. The flatness of your stomachs was astounding. Jess. Jazmine. We didn’t talk about your perfection, the comfort you (that’s plural), had with yourselves. I don’t even feel I can comment because to do so, would I be disrespecting the Safer Space Policy? Would I be oppressing you to tell you that in the performance I compared my body to yours? Both of you. Do I have too much power in writing this? Am I asserting it over you? Am I being fat-phobic just by looking at your body and seeing you have less cellulite than I do?

PLEASE!

EXPLAIN!

So much seems sacred. Too much? Not

enough?

 

IV

 

Break. Power points. Jackets. Heels. Still naked. Full office sex presenting a slide show on tapu. The conversation had already started and we were entering at the end without context.

How and why do Pākehā adopt Māori tikanga and tapu?

The communication plain but still elusive; the arguments weren’t evident. This isn’t a debate, I know, but I wanted to understand what was being said. I was cringing. Maybe this was the point.

Right?   You were aware of this effect. The irony in binary.

Right?    The contrast with the sacred so stark. Intentional.

Right? Perhaps I am too willingly offended? Making it too sacred?

Right?         I’m a pākehā woman too and so easily

Wrong.

 

V

 

Salt. Chalk. Drawing our souls. We are moving and fully immersed. This is magic. Sacred. We are bodies and we are everywhere.  A poem like an incantation. The woman next to me scrapes a bone across the concrete. Another one is winding the red wool into a ball. You are washed and we are back in the spa but it’s cold. Did I mention it’s cold? Explain? But then the singing starts and it’s like three ohms 1 2 3 at the end of yoga but over and over 3 2 1 1 2 3 and it’s impossible not to join. Sacred. Sacred.  And of course, cake. A ritual with

no need to explain. 

 

 

Writer: Mia Gaudin. Editor: Jess Holly Bates

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It Can Get Bloody Claustrophobic

Interview with Holly Bates

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



What are you, professionally? How do you define that?

If you asked me what I was on Monday I might have said defiantly that I was a Director. On Tuesday maybe I was a “shitty maker of things for things”. On Wednesday perhaps I shyly muttered it was ‘complicated’. On Thursday I could’ve lazily said “I work in the arts”.  Probably the most relevant definition at the moment is a ‘Multidisciplinary Artist’. In the past few years my work has definitely morphed into a Performance / Live Art zone as I delve further away from the world of theatre. In the construction of ‘NO/I/SE(LF)’ Thomas and I were pretty fluid with what our “artistic roles” were. One day in the process we got bored and decided that we should swap what our ordinary roles were. So currently for this project I am the official synth player and sound operator and Thomas (usually a sound designer) is performing for the first time. He is an incredible performer because he doesn’t want to be one. You can’t learn that charm at Drama school I don’t think. What makes performance art? Hmmm a body or bodies (or representations of a body or bodies) in space in relation to time.

 

Where do you call home, and why is that place meaningful for you?

Grey Lynn. I was born and bred in our old bungalow on Baildon Rd and lived there for 21 years with my 3 siblings and parents. The suburb changed so much in that time, as did I. I stole flowers from the gardens and resold them as ‘perfume’ (stolen flowers mixed with water); I drew chalk artwork on the roads at our regular ‘street parties’; I trick‘or‘treated in my shitty Witch costume; I was mugged on my street; I knocked on doors selling girl guide biscuits; I drank wine out of water bottles on the kerbs. Everything about my upbringing is deeply rooted in Grey Lynn and so it holds a lot of meaning for me.
 

 

What made you want to be a part of PAWA?

I guess it was important for me to feel like I was branching out into a more interdisciplinary community. It is easy to feel glued or trapped to the confines of theatre and it can get bloody claustrophobic. Being involved in PAWA felt like a healthy step into the unknown.

 

Who are the artists you feel are doing great things right now?

FAF SWAG

Hito Steyerl

Guan Xio

 

What does the future hold?

I’m working on an upcoming piece with Julia Croft; Nisha Madhan & Zanetti Productions for a mysterious Wellington & Auckland season in late 2018. Julia and I are also looking at re-staging our work THE PLASTIC ORGASM early next year for Fringe. Other than that I have some film aspirations I am dreaming of. And am also working in TV as a Researcher for ‘Whānau Living’.
 

How you feeling about your upcoming performance piece NO/I/SELF? Why is it important to you to make?

I am really nervous about the technical / musical side of things because I am not used to being heavily involved with those elements even though I think about them all of the time. This piece is important to me because I like the idea of creating a space where a group of potential strangers can be brought together in a collective experience where they can lose themselves to the noise.

 

Finally, do you feel as though New Zealand respects the arts? why?

 

To a degree, but not enough. It’s amazing how often people negate the fact that artists aren’t paid enough by saying that “at least you get to do what you love” which I think is a very unfair and unhelpful statement. The amount of artists I know that are not paid properly for their work; who have to work 7 days a week just to pay rent and are feeling utterly exhausted and undervalued would have something to say about that statement as well.

 

In Conversation with Jess Holly Bates

 

Virginia Frankovich and Thomas Press’ performance NO/I/SELF takes place this Friday 10th November between 8pm and 10pm at Play_station gallery. 

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.

When all the washing is completed, the other figure leaves the washing and also enters the space…

Here the initial moment jars as a PowerPoint begins with infomercial like music, the two quiet figures suddenly come to life in an effort to educate, inform and sell the sacred. They wear blazers over their naked bodies and gold painted nipples. With high heels. As if suddenly emblazoned with ‘the spirit’ they dance energetically to the music and explain the points of the PowerPoint.

Recent Posts

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WHO GOT THE POWER
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