• Sam Trubridge

Performance Art in Wellington

A big applause to the team behind Performance Art Week Aotearoa (PAWA), which showed last week across several venues in Wellington. Hosted by 19 Tory St and Play Station, the programme included numerous performances as well as a rich variety of workshops, discussions, breakfasts, and dinners.

On Friday night three works were presented in a miniature performance series at Play Station – DEATH.BIRTH.DEATH.DANCE by Kyah Dove, Fake Organ Show by Taekyung Seo, and No/i/se(lf) by Virginia Frankovich with (PA2011 and PA2013 artist) Thomas Press. Kyah Dove’s mix of shamanism and body art carried a potency that transcended the usual pitfalls of this style of performance. Whether pinning buttercups onto her legs or digging in a pile of salt for shards of broken mirror she was able to create timeless, primal images that stung of something present and contemporary. The sustained image of her staring into a slivers of broken glass, her thumb gently active on each surface, was as tense and layered as the wincing discomfort of watching her dig in the salt for their sharp glassy edges – expecting the sudden flash of blood in the snow-white crystals.

Taekyung Seo tugged garish junk from holes cut into plastic wrapped tightly around her body. Each object was strange, yet so familiar, evoking the uncanny experience of meeting one’s own internal organs. The evening rounded off with Thomas Press and Virginia Frankovich’s riotous, chrome-and-silver, noise-cult ritual, an interactive gathering for the ecstatic audience. It was a fantastic taste of the event, and an exciting collection of works.

Many of the artists are Auckland-based, as is curator Sara Cowdell. Meanwhile, at Bats Theatre, a group of predominantly Auckland-based artists have just opened Body Double for this year’s STAB commission. So it is a great time to see what’s happening in New Zealand’s other capital of culture, and to ruminate on what makes Wellington so attractive for these artists and producers. Perhaps it is possible to feel proud of the pull that our city exerts on artists working in experimental performance, and to acknowledge the impact that The Performance Arcade and other initiatives have had upon the performance art ecology in town and across the country. The inception of PAWA in Wellington by a largely Auckland-based contingent, testifies to the strength of a community serviced in many ways by Meanwhile, Play Station, Urban Dream Brokerage, and our own programme. Jordana Bragg (Meanwhile) and Kane Laing (Play Station) both presented their first works after art school at The Performance Arcade. With these artists remaining in Wellington to run venues we have seen the growth of an ecosystem that attracts artists to Wellington and allows events like PAWA to emerge.

Performance Art Week Aotearoa is a fresh new addition to our cultural calendar, and we are lucky to have it in Wellington. Here’s hoping that it stays and grows in the years to come.

Image credit: Performance Art Week Aotearoa

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