A poetic response to Anna Berndtson's workshop "Art needs time and we need art."

I shall start at the end

I like to think that every action has three states

Anticipation

Explosion

And silence.

As if a bomb has gone off,

The ringing in the ears, the dust settling inside and out.

Look up at the sky when it’s completely grey.

What do you see ?

I see what looks like two women.

They scream from the top of a lighthouse.

Saying they’ve found me,

Picking at my scabs and eating grass.

They say I smell like a Pollock painting,

And look like a Dali,

But sound like a Kahlo,

And taste like a Magritte,

Surreal to the senses.

As I sit in the middle of the sky I see a red square.

I stare into it, waiting for something to happen

Waiting for something to happen

Waiting for something to take place

Take space in the crevices of my fleshy brain

It then hits me.

I have nothing left to give.

I want you to take a piece of paper and a pen and take 30 minutes to write your name.

You must continue moving, exploring, wandering through time and space.

It’s elastic and slippery, like molasses falling off a spoon.

Watch me as I jump up and down, running at speeds slower than sound.

See me pour water into the mouths of people I used to call home.

Take half breaths of stolen air, humid and thick.

Take up time within space.

Take time to stop and smell the roses.

Look at them and tell them they’re pretty, tell them they have nice petals and thorns and stems and leaves and blemishes and bruises and holes and buds and roots.

I think the wind is optimistic and the sea is a cynic.

But the last thing I saw before I closed my eyes for the first time was something swimming in that red square.

People dancing.

Little specks of today and tomorrow intertwined between layers of velvet and leather.

Craters of thought and lost toys from when I was a child.

Broken glass stuck in my foot.

My tarot yesterday told me that death made way for growth, change, rebirth.

I sat with my eyes closed and listened for the first time in my life.

And it was then that I realised that I’m living for the first time,

And it’s the last time I ever get to know it.

This was written in response to a workshop held at play_station on the 16th Feburary 2020 held by Anna Berndston (can you just hyper link her name to her website) https://annaberndtson.com/ 

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WHOS GOT THE POWER

By Frances Pavletich

‘POWER’ was a new performance work created by Sara Cowdell and was performed for two weeks in July at Basement Theatre in Auckland and Bats Theatre in Wellington. Frances Pavletich (Best friend of Sara Cowdell) writes a response.

A climate where what was created by cis men spoke to the universal slog of humanity, but what was based around women’s (and other minorities) experiences was niche, and largely inconsquential as a result.

I saw POWER twice in Auckland, on Friday the 18th of July, and as an usher on Saturday the 19th. Watching it for the first time made me reflect on growing up in a climate where what was created by cis men spoke to the universal slog of humanity, but what was based around women’s (and other minorities) experiences was niche, and largely inconsquential as a result. Within this archaic system, traditionally constructed and widely perceived “feminine” behaviours, values, and desires were understood to be of inherently lesser value (read: trivial), and therefore not to be fucked with if you had a semblance of a degree of self-respect. Girl pop is trashy. The cogs of internal self-policing fueled by an overwhelming desire to be taken seriously, and thus mould oneself to the “high-brow” standards enforced by the patriarchal elite. Synchronised dance routines at a theatre could only be considered quaint. In which case you would have been utterly oblivious to the transgressive nature of relishing in performing the height of that which is collectively ridiculed and ferociously denied ever being liked in the first place. Perhaps you found it ironic. Although that might be taking the easy way out. There is nothing ironic about watching 30 people trying desperately not to tap their feet.

POWER is centered around four women who story tell in between dancing to the music of Little Mix (a very commercially successful pop band). It defies a simple reading in favour of multiple interlocking juxtapositions. Firstly the private person versus the performing persona, and secondly, the sometimes gut wrenching art of disclosure versus the almost incredible switch to never allowing its audience room to feel burdened by their heavy emotion. What struck me most during my second viewing was how little our mainstream culture cares for the internal worlds of those we buy services from. In that simple transaction we completely blind ourselves to the complex and multifaceted identity behind the labour. This I partly understood from the personal stories that each woman shared on stage, and partly from personally getting to know some of these women and understanding what was going on in their lives outside of the show (full disclosure: I am friends with the curator). What struck me as so ingenious was how POWER forced you to acknowledge the humanity and realness of these synchronised-dancing-pop-performers, with smiles glued to their faces and last night’s make up still on, in a way that you couldn’t ignore. That behind lip syncing these seemingly simplistic, perhaps even shallow, lyrics lay these incredibly dignified and broken and powerful and impenetrable women. And they weren’t interested in being dismissed as trivial or low-brow or unable to fully grasp the significance of what they were saying or what they were doing.

POWER doesn’t want to be your quick fix feminism or your exceptionally educated outrage. It, like Little Mix, is painfully aware that when it says “Baby, you’re the man/ But I got the, I got the, I got the power” that it isn’t dismantling patriarchy or telling the truth of who actually holds the majority of the political, economic and cultural power in society, it is instead giving you a reason to be intoxicatingly hopeful. To remember, as the famous anarchist feminist activist Emma Goldman acknowleged, that “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be in your revolution.” Similarly as it peels back the notions of what is and what is not acceptable performative feminism, it pays heed to the simplistic and clichéd dismissing of certain occupations and who exactly does them. The inclusion of a stripper mid-way during the performance on first glance seems entirely tapped on as a compliment to go with the lyrics of a Little Mix song, yet undeniably resonates when considered alongside the assumptions we make about pop feminism and the women performing them. All the women I know who are in the sex industry are overwhemingly badass wāhine who own their shit and know exactly what they are up to, and yet I still find myself subjected to the occasional infantalising opinion and just generally ignorant + incredibly boring idea that they are “unwittingly oppressed.” Much like how people look at female pop stars and decide they don’t actually understand how they are perpetuating patriarchy with their silly outfits and regressive lyrics, women performing certain occupations still bare the burden of having to defend themselves against attacks from all corners of the social stratum.

POWER makes you feel good and doesn’t apologise for it. It isn’t so much a guilty pleasure as much as a pleasure you once had and were forced to give up because it didn’t fit with elitist or disturbingly santised ideas about how to wield influence in a society bent on bringing you down. It draws on the depths of storytelling that is hard to hear, but like the majority of women I know, asks you merely to listen and then imagine the idea of a better future, even only for a momentary 4-minute high. To dismiss the feel good would be to dismiss the transgression. It would be to dismiss the deeply self-aware ideologies, back stories, and bravery of the women who stand in front of you bearing themselves for what is a drop in the feminist ocean creating this current revolution. They dance because they want to. They dance because trauma, grief, sorrow, fear and pain is only a small portion of who they are. And they dance because it is never too early to celebrate the power of life’s small victories, especially those that lull us into a false sense of security before boldly baring their teeth.

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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 and Tom Danby on Mark Harvey: My own resistance / An Afternoon in the Sun

Sasha Francis and Tom Danby

The cross-pollination series continues in 2018, with a number of creative and written responses to festival performances. Sasha and Tom respond to Mark Harvey’s four-part ‘Interloper’ – Sasha touches on all four performances, Tom reflects on the first installment held on Parliament Grounds. 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.  Tom Danby is a graduate of Victoria University who still haunts the University library. He enjoys art & occasionally writing about it.

My own resistance

Thought leaders:

You told me that ‘thought leaders’ are generally the men we all know, offering us global tours to share with us their special thought-leading thoughts, as offerings granted for the price of ticket sales and speakers fees. Their names: Elon Musk, Tony Blair, Barack Obama, Milton Friedman.  Or local men. Local voices. Local places. Our own kind of fees. Parliament grounds us as the seat and space of this sort of power institutionalised, carried in the cultural norms that manifest in these so-called public spaces.

You carefully take our eyes and our lead.

Climb a tree because the body is a medium for every person. The proximity of touch: hand on your back makes you a real and fleshy being, an invitation, a playful laugh.

Remember: we guide each other through.

Complaints:

If I could breathe ink, associations between your hands and mind would be the bricks on the pavement. What have we built?  Leaving commodification of the city at the first step down, I try to make sense of the world from the inside of this Pākehā outside.  

Mark faces down into the space between the bricks tucked behind the shadow of Lord Plimmerton.  A body laid flat for two hours, posed between bustle and building.  Before it all started, Mark told us about Mr John Plimmerton – “the father of Wellington,” a businessman, an investor, a well-known-figure.   But this is also Te Whanganui-a-tara.

A woman walks passed us as we line the corridor with bodies:

Mark: Hello, would you like to exchange complaints?

Woman: I’d like to make it clear that I HAVE NOTHING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT.

Where does that resistance come from? When was it that we trained ourselves to disavow our own thoughts if they did not functionally serve us in ways that continued our own disavowal? 

Frustrations and disappointments are our complaints which make up more than the words said – there’s some difficult boundary wall that I have got used to, have disciplined myself, have to speak to try get outside of.  This is a letting go of my own resistances.  Then we’re all complaining together, a sweet release. We’re elated, try to draw people in. 

I want to complain about my own unconscious bias. Decolonising – what has it taken so long, why am I so bad at it? I want to complain about that.  I want to complain about the rise of Fascism.  I want to complain about the conceptual distinction between native and non-native plants, and how those distinctions are premised on a plant being ‘native’ if it has been on this land for only 100 years. I’d like to complain about not seeing the soil. I’d like to complain about Mike Hoskings. I’d like to complain about capitalism.  I’d like to complain about the overwhelming nature of that complaint. I’d like to complain that I’ve never seen you in a dress, Mark.

I want to complain that I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to say that might shift things even a little. I want to complain that we’re so used to critique and that we’re not used to being kind without reward. I want to complain about how resistant we all are to change. I want to complain about how we’re encouraged to be consumers before we are ancestors. I want to complain that I can’t figure out what the future looks like, except that it looks pretty dark from here. I want to complain that sometimes things feel pointless, that sometimes I want to give up. I want to complain about my stubborn resilient refusal, about my own passive activation, about my own lack of innocence in this place, about trying to balance mourning the old and acting into the new.

I think of these thoughts everytime I walk past the Plimmerton statue.

Shared Advice:

We are walking backwards into the future, but this time you’re my conversation partner and we’re exchanging life tips and instead of seeing a pile of debris pile before us as the wind of history continues to propel us, we’re in Civic Square. AstroTurf underfoot. You’re going round in circles, a brisk walk. I am almost running to keep up. 

We all have things to teach each other, you remind me in this moment, as things come out that seem to displace and re-surface thoughts from before. A disruption of hierarchies, a disruption of space.

Pullling thoughts and smiles, you blend into what is. It’s almost entirely fresh.  A handshake, a walking that weaves together our different pathways and talks through the things we’ve learnt.

Guilt:

Our bodies are the ground marked by a memorial to the missionaries we did not remember, marked by the people we were raised by, marked by the land we came from. Could we give space, name, acknowledgement to guilt if that was what was needed to move beyond it’s silencing refusal and taboo?

8 metres away, 8 moments too many, my distance joins me.  What do I feel guilty about?  What is it to talk intimately with a stranger whose face you’ve come to know? The self as if it were the space between that doesn’t quite make it in the journey across.  Words trail into sunlight, the grouting beneath our feet in the clasp of two hands, in a grin that weighs heavily on my thoughts.  Do things fall quiet in the conversation that you share?

Commemoration, history, heaviness; the release. The body, the word, the land. Do you know the stories carried in stone between us?  We become magnets to the things we refuse to see, to the ways significance changes when we put ourselves into the world as if a thing found differently every time.  What do you carry? What kind of openness are you ready to see?

The feelings are almost just as they were, as we say them to the sun becomes a ritual that gives us name. Genealogical stories that orient us: a curled finger tries to let go of the things my hands hold in the marks I was born with.  Two bodies lay together, words in the breeze, curled gently, the fetal space between.

I want to tell you that sometimes I am not good, that I always feel disappointed and disappointing, that I feel the weight of my body and what it affords me, that I see your face and mine, that maintenance of distance is an active refusal, that I hate the truth of these feelings that you’re asking about but are too raw to share yet, to even put them into words. To be guilty calls first to reckon with honest acknowledgement. Dissociation requires distance.  So I move back and let others – more open, more courageous –  go first. 

But these are the rituals we need, thank you. 

– Contributed by Sasha Francis

A Sunny Afternoon with Mark Harvey

I had little idea what I was walking into as I made my way down the Terrace to the parliament lawns to see Mark Harvey in his performance piece titled Interloper. What I did know about the piece came from the short description and it included the words “Colonisation” and “patriarchy”. They were coupled with other terms familiar to almost anyone who has taken a humanities paper at university; “political discourses, histories and potentialities”. But what worried me far more than these particularly heavy topics was the insinuation that Mark would be sparking “conversations with spectators”. Would this be a reenactment of the awkward stony silences of my university tutorials or some fresh new horror.  However, what I found on that particularly sunny Friday afternoon on the purportedly public lawns of parliament was a genial and amusing performer.

Any anxiety I may have had was assuaged fairly quickly on the start of the performance which saw Mark blindfolded at the top of the steps of parliament, the idea being that he would be lead by an ‘audience’ member, in direction as well as thought, around the public grounds. The top of the steps provided something like a stage with most of the gathered sat or standing around the bottom of the steps looking up at Mark backgrounded by the grand stone walls of parliament. But he was quickly informed by parliamentary security that there were “health and safety” concerns in regards a to blindfolded man walking around near concrete steps. This provided the first opportunity of insight into Mark’s personality and why he would choose a performance that requires him to walk up to random people in a park to talk “politics”. The security guard was quickly laughing along with Mark as they discussed the performance and Mark tried to cajole him into becoming his “thought leader”. But the security guard remained steadfast in his commitment to the job as well as displaying typical Kiwi self deprecation when it came to the questions Mark posed to him in regards to those lofty topics referred to above.

Mark’s goal for the piece seemed simply to make people talk. The setting, the public lawns of parliament, naturally framed what would be discussed yet it never intruded on what was simply a pleasant Wellington day spent in a park. As an audience member I found myself in an interesting position. I could follow Mark around as he approached various unsuspecting individuals and groups in his attempt to start a conversation, essentially becoming part of the performance and a performer in my own right or I could hang off, blend into the background and the various other people dotted around the lawn waiting for colleagues and friends and enjoying the sun. From a distance there was much comedy to be found in the performance as when Mark was lead up a tree or when a group of high school girls faked a phone call and quickly scattered before Mark could approach. From that distance too I could watch how little an intrusion Mark’s presence was on the dozens of people who used the park as thoroughfare on their journey home from work. Some certainly noticed the blindfolded man carefully walking around the grounds but more still seemed completely oblivious.

After and hour and half or so of watching Mark be lead around the laws I started to feel bad for the soles of Mark’s feet. But then I remembered two other key phrases from the performance description: “physical endurance and duration”. It would be a fascinating visual accompaniment to the performance to see a heat map of all of Marks steps.  Unfortunately, I missed the rest of Mark’s performances and therefore the chance to see how his performance grew but what I did experience was certainly something new and certainly unique as well as being far more enjoyable than those awkward University tutorials.

– Contributed by Tom Danby

Thank you to Wellington City Council for your support of Mark Harvey. 

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Saoirse Chapman on Caitlyn Cook: Visual response
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Jazmine Phillips/Him on Zahra: When the soft yells

Jazmine Phillips

The cross-pollination series continues in 2018, with a number of creative and written responses to festival performances.  In response to Zahra Killeen-Chance’s closing performance of PAWA 2018, ‘Shadow of Ease,’ Jazmine gifts us a poetic and audio offering. Jazmine Phillips performed at PAWA’s one-night only Auckland event, ‘From the foothills of the Himalayas,’ held November 10th.  She also makes experimental, haunting and instrumental music with her band Him.

Animal , prance on toes . Worm. Snake. nothing. Moved between duality seamlessly I didn’t realise id moved until I was still. I want to scream like you scream. soft. The only place I knew was the mouth. Duality. Confusion. fluid. I wanted to see you as a snake. But no. something. Something new. The sounds vibrated my throat. I swallowed a number of times. I cry a resistance a movement. The changes were quick. They left me behind. So I ran to keep up.

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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

Saoirse Chapman on Caitlyn Cook: Visual response

Saoirse Chapman

The cross-pollination series continues in 2018, with a number of creative and written responses to festival performances. Saoirse offers us here a visual response to Caityln Cook’s ‘Impervious intimacy.’ Saoirse Chapman paints, draws, prints and explores. She has too many jars of things. Presently she lives in Auckland planting seedlings and training to be a midwife.

Recent Posts

A poetic response to Anna Berndtson’s workshop “Art needs time and we need art.”
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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

Two responses in poetry and prose

Cris Cucerzan and Sasha Francis on Binge Culture Collective

The cross-pollination series continues in 2018, with a number of creative and written responses to festival performances.  Cris and Sasha here respond to Binge Culture Collective, offering two takes on the shared experiential performance piece, “Scene/Heard.” 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.  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. 

Te Aro Park on Saturday the 17th of November wearing orange overalls, the fringe of clouds far from a split end and so many cars around like a frame. We are sitting on these chairs on a grassy chin, listening 

not to the ripples pashing out of the fountain, lips out of lips out of lips, nor the seagulls trying to get a piece with their beaks sharp and wet 

but to snippets of Harry and Jack and Katniss; they are having conversations in our heads, and people are just walking by, ignorant, ogling whatever thoughts suck sweet behind their sockets. We are innocent, watching, touching them all with these stories coming into our heads, their pacing to the rhythm of the talk 

or the musical interludes, the instruments conjuring up a vocabulary of establishing shots, a new one with each turn of the head;  

and the laughter comes out of our throats simultaneously, like birds in a nest crying out to the man in the top hat, morselled out of a Barbershop, an asteroid with a cane shooting on the footpath. 

in the end, we clap. We take off the sunglasses and the headphones. We get off the seats and the wind is blowing. We go away having made a show for ourselves, of everyone and everything else. 

Contributed by Cris Cucerzan.

A future memory

TV sets for eyes, cracklings antennas, and seven aliens in the sun. A film of real life, an experience of individual togetherness. We wore sleek black wrap-around sunglasses that made us laugh as we put them on and it suddenly felt like maybe we were part of something. Voices overlaid and were the weaving of a series of fragmentary moments that we held in our memory together, guided us towards our own shared orienting narrative.  The pigeon dips into the running water, flies over us, stays wet and familiar. The seven of us find ourselves somewhere in the pop culture references we hopefully share. We’re bound together by hollywood profundity and snippets of advice that dominant culture: hegemony rendered playful had pressed into our deepest cultural account of who we were.

Plants were imprinted into the black tiles, memories of crafting, hands clearing the bush up North, a cosmic glaze shines and seizes and captures attention then lets it go. Things come to catch meaning as life becomes something more than everyday. This is an explicit license, an active invitation, to step into a world marked by the already difficult boundary between reality and narrative.  

An elderly couple walks down the concrete pavement, hands held becomes a loving gesture I narrate into a long romantic life of shared sacrifice; the faces of a young family capture the metaphorical intensity that I impress upon them; young kids exalt these structured worlds.  Feet up and down, up and down, up and down the little green in-between different streets as if a bridge between what is and what our imaginations pour into. In these moments, we are all here, just a bunch of beings going somewhere, doing something. A cool breeze catches and draws over us.  “Humans for the most part don’t have a clue. They don’t want or need one, either.”  Instead, we have sense, feeling, shared experience, this being together, here, now.

We keep laughing and smiling, reminiscing, laughing, smiling. Experience is a cutting-together that remains apart, like the pieces of memory that move backward in the sky, unfinished business, the murmured sound of a symphony travelling across a city you know well. I suddenly remember I’m wearing sleek men-in-black wrap-around shades, am pulled out of this everyday film, turn to the person next to me as we both remember together – that we’re wearing shades, that we’re listening to a track that has been guiding us together separately, that we’re sitting in Te Aro park – and we both smile and laugh again.

In between the passing by of life in front of us and soundtracks that guide us, the male voice persistently returns. Sometimes he travels alone, other times he travels with a side-kick, a heroine, a secondary character.  Voices we’ve heard before, before, before, before… his voice is a long root that worked itself through the foundations of everything, claimed it as his own. The water trickles, becomes a fountain that echoes through the old Pa ground: there is an undercurrent in this narrative. “Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.” These clips disrupt our present, take us back to those years when we watched and heard these different words for the first time – we’re all smiling and laughing as different relics overlay themselves like a shrine to cultural sedimentation, and we’re five, ten, fifteen years younger.

There’s a nagging inversion pulling at me, implicitly, through these pop culture fragments that have travelled from the US and the UK to reach the shores of Aotearoa. We’re an import/export economy, and the images of the Anglosphere slowly try to stretch and imprint themselves across and on top of everything that is our reality. The hand-folded paper boat tries to make it across the water to the promised land: “How about you love me too?” Fails to leave the edge of land, is still where it began.

“You want the rest of your life to start?”

Maybe. This is the arch of the story, the art of real-life creation: surrender to the contingencies, let the reproduction pass by, find space for the transformation of autopoesis, the opening of over-writing.  We’ve all been drawing together the outside world with these inside sounds, paying attention to passersbys in a way that starts to make sense to the narrative we’ve been forging in the spaces afforded to us.  

But those already murky lines between is/is not were pushed playfully further as our end arrives in a disruption that secures the outside as a film-site. From the corner of our eye, a man in a pinstripe suit carries us towards the finale, heels clicking to the rhythm of our laughter, curling across the divide between beginnings and ends, between real-life and story. Somewhere over the rainbow, that’s where you’ll find me.

Skipping along, twirling a cane, joyful, free, this autopoesis is the final exodus of the lead male character.  A dear friend passing through the spotlight towards never-land, edges out of view, and we remember the stored bustle of life beyond what had worked itself so deep in our cultural memory, the things that had leaked out beyond homogeneity.  A future memory, an ineffable tomorrow, the space beyond what we had known before – these gifts were what we caught as we all sat together, laughing, reminiscing, remembering, disrupting, re-writing.

Contributed by Sasha Francis

Thank you to Wellington City Council for your support of Binge Culture Collective.

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A poetic response to Anna Berndtson’s workshop “Art needs time and we need art.”
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 and Chloe on Louie Neale: Two visual responses

Saoirse Chapman and Chloe Palmer

The cross-pollination series continues in 2018, with a number of creative and written responses to festival performances.  In this post, Saoirse and Chloe respond to Louie Neale’s ‘Jellyfish do return’ through visual art. 

Saoirse Chapman paints, draws, prints and explores. She has too many jars of things. Presently she lives in Auckland planting seedlings and training to be a midwife.

Chloe Palmer is interested in blind contour drawing, expressive mark making and the relationships built between hand, eye and perception. Focusing her eye on the performances with little peeks at the paper, her hand followed alongside the show, tracing the experiences she had at the time as a viewer.

– Saoirse Chapman

– Chloe Palmer

Recent Posts

A poetic response to Anna Berndtson’s workshop “Art needs time and we need art.”
WHO GOT THE POWER
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

Ethan Morse on Rewa Fowles

Ethan Morse

The cross-pollination series continues in 2018, with a number of creative and written responses to festival performances. 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. In this piece, he responds to Rewa Fowles’ performance on Friday 7pm, 16th November. 

Stillness. Tranquillity. Stoic. Peaceful. The blank canvas. Birth. Contortion of the soul and the psyche. Anxiety. Growth. Childhood and Adulthood. Watercolour cultures and muddied identities. “You’re a brown girl in a white girl’s body.” How do we identify and place ourselves in space, time, and culture. The waterways, estuaries, rivers, streams of self-discovery and identification. The topography of self. A map of sorts. Where is the equator line of the self? The way-lines of one’s own identity. The eco-system of the place you were born and the place you grew up.  The cool waters of tri-culturalism is cleansing, washing away preconceived notion of what you are, and who you should be. Who or what dictates the self?  Is it a sole journey one must walk, is it a guided tramp through the untamed bush? Rewa, a discovery of self through movement and text. Like a wandering animal in the desert. Devoid. Barren. Wanting. Needing solace from the beating sun finding it only in the cooling wash of deep blue green salvation.  The cooling depths of tri-culturalism. Where is home? Where is my home? Where does the heart wander to on a lonely summer’s night? Home has and will be a fleeting feeling for anyone whose identity is undiscovered or unmapped. Ebbing and flowing to and from places, people and things. A complicated river system composed of many inlets and outlets of family and friends.

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A poetic response to Anna Berndtson’s workshop “Art needs time and we need art.”
WHO GOT THE POWER
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

Sinead Overbye on Virginia Kennard: the girl & the girl & the ghost

Sinead Overbye

The cross-pollination series continues in 2018, with a number of creative and written responses to festival performances.  Sinead Overbye holds an MA in Creative Writing from the IIML. Her work blurs the boundaries between reality and magic in order to reflect queer experience. This poem was written in response to the performance art work of Virginia Kennard.

the girl & the girl & the ghost

the room is empty
except for you & me
& the ghost of myself
muttering in the corner—

she’s very vocal
about her feelings
i cough            & pretend i can’t
hear her saying         please, get me out
of my head,       i’m so afraid
i’ve always been           lonely

you stay politely silent
painting patterns                  of your love
onto my spine           across the wide expanse
of shoulder     & repeat

the ghost says           don’t
                        don’t
           don’t
she’s far too good                 for me

i try to ignore her—
you’re painting me              a new skin
& it’s fucking beautiful

outside the widened window
birds flit along white roofs
trees caress one another        & whisper
back & forth
as you                          with your paintbrush
& your loveliness                     stay soundless
marking me                           for hours………..

i wonder what it means
to wear your love                    on my body like this
if the paint will           even last
or         if instead         it’ll           split open
scatter              the carpet                    with tiny flakes
& disappear    into the fibres…

when you’ve patterned me                all over
& i’m     shaking             i finally tell you
i’m not a ghost               & the ghost isn’t me
she just follows me around sometimes
& makes people                  uncomfortable

you say            don’t worry
            there’s no ghost in this room
there’s only       you & i

you kiss me once                  before i leave
& i go home      without showering
walk downhill               through winding streets
with clouds the soft colour of pigeons
& the sun beaming through
cracks form               like webs              in the paint

the city’s cats            stalk me home
& the birds        & the wind…           i stop
to take in                         the view                 they ask
what’s made me                        happy
i hold out my arms
smile                 & sing
look!                 look        at this!
these are the marks
she has left me

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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.

Recent Posts

A poetic response to Anna Berndtson’s workshop “Art needs time and we need art.”
WHO GOT THE POWER
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