The Performance Arcade brings together visual arts and performance in a specially curated ‘exhibition-event’ of live art practices on Wellington Waterfront. An arrangement of shipping containers and scaffold structures provides a temporary architecture for this unique project, housing a bar space, a programme of live music and events, and new performance installations by NZ and International artists. Open 13 hours a day, this event is free to the Wellington public.
Every night without fail, crowds mass on either side of the border between Lahore, Pakistan, and Amritsar, India, to participate in the Wagah Border Ceremony, a meticulously choreographed ceremony which addresses the seventy-year-old rivalry between the two countries.
Complimentary Service playfully references and critiques nationalistic spectacles such as the Wagah Ceremony, the Olympic Games, or more pertinently perhaps to New Zealand, the Rugby World Cup. Events like these suspend attention from the actualities of humanity and reality, ignoring the individual and homogenising a nation under the banner of patriotism, and in the latter case, sporting pride. By framing a collective identity, the effect of the spectacle is escapist: distracting from, yet perpetuating, the insecurities of missing out or being labelled as 'different'.
During one iteration of the ceremony, a friend waved out the Pakistani crowd, who waved back. Other spectators on the Indian side, thinking they were the target of the wave, waved back, until the action gathered so much momentum that a mass of people on either side were waving at each other.
The absurdity and irony of Complimentary Service works in much the same way: The Welcoming Party’s campy, over-the-top appropriation of the spectacle celebrates the age old notion which Jacob Rajan describes as “opening the audience's mouths with laughter, then slipping something serious in”. What is fundamental to this work is enthusiasm and commitment - the commitment to the physicality and time involved in the endeavour, and the enthusiasm for what the service that is ultimately being provided. Through essentially trying to subvert the intent of the Wagah Ceremony spectacle, The Welcoming Party seeks to reclaim public space for the coming together of its inhabitants.
The Welcoming Party (NZ)
The Welcoming Party consists of Elisabeth Pointon and Lucas Donnell, products of Massey and Victoria Universities respectively. The pair began collaborating as artists over their shared enjoyment of playing with people’s perceptions, and the ways in which those perceptions are shaped by social and cultural factors. After being repeatedly paired as a couple, they took this mistaken perception to an absurd extreme on the streets of New Plymouth as part of their work Relationship Aesthetics, a playful criticism of heteronormative conventions and gender roles. Complimentary Service combines Elisabeth’s audience-immersive style of performative work with Lucas’ love of exaggerated, lived fictions.