SL:K Performing Arts Night

Kaikōura Memorial Hall - Friday 22 February 

Image Credit: Louie Neale opening the SL:K Performing Arts night, 22.02.2019. Image by Jennifer Shields

On Friday 22nd February 2019, Kaikōura Memorial Hall was opened for an evening of performance-based practices. Louie Neale opened the evening with an elegant, poignant work addressing the fluidity of gender in a society confined by binaries. The Wellington-based artist began seated on the beach, their handmade costume-sculpture modelled on amorphous jellyfish. With slow and graceful movements, they unfurled and picked their way along shifting stones to more solid ground. Donning unfitting heeled boots, Neale navigated through the Memorial Park with a quiet dignity and confidence that grew as they stepped onto concrete. Once inside the gallery space, their movement bloomed into a swirling, spinning celebratory dance where the costume expanded, thrumming, floating and shifting in space. As the audience spilled into the gallery space, Neale took a seat on a white, tasselled cushion, becoming static once more as Fantasing began their surreal, site specific performance.

 

With each Fantasing member stationed in a different corner of the Memorial Hall, A disembodied voice answered an apparent phone call:

 

“Please hold the line

Press 1 for whale sounds

Press 2 for UFO abductions

Press 3 for the absentee line

Press 4 if you need a phone charger

Press 5 for a mullet

Press 6 for dolphins flipping

For everything else, please press the star”

 

A drummer in denim dungarees then began a simple, dedicated percussion that lent rhythm to the building voices. A suspicious, bulbous assemblage of brown and cream fabric on the floor shifted slightly; at times breathing raspily into a microphone. A guitar squealed and poetry emanated from within a beer box head-dress-come-mask, while across the way, the bassist in a seafoam green dress harmonized delicately.

The performance combined conversational snippets both banal and insightful in a singsong cadence.

 

“Who’s not here?

We’re leaving in the morning,

we’re leaving in the morning.

Do you have a charger?

We’re leaving in the morning”

 

Gradually, the band formed an orderly line and left the gallery, radio mics still on. Scraps of post-gig chatter filtering through until the group passed out of range and silence returned.

 

Shay Hooray was next, having snuck onto the curtained stage, he welcomed the audience with nonsensically elongated articulations and exaggerated facial expressions. The crowd thus captivated, he went on to perform his famous Rubber-band Boy act in absurdist silence, his constricted and contorted face in the middle of a floating picture frame.

 

This was followed by local artist, Steve Gill, who took to the floor with a spoken word piece; Newtearoa. Orated in deadpan fashion by the poet in amphibious attire – wetsuit, flippers, snorkel and cricket pads, complete with diving weights. His voice filled the hall, listing a litany of place names, histories and memories; travelling the breadth of our land as he traversed the gallery space.

 

Upon Gill’s exit, Audrey Baldwin began activating the Kaikōura Snood. The performing artists inhabited the snood-space first, lifting it up and encircling themselves in the macramé sculpture. Baldwin then invited everyone to join in, leaning back and supporting each other. With slight undulations, shifts in weight and pressure, the snood swayed gently as people adjusted their stance or angle. The tension was solely in the materials holding the people and space together. Borrowing a newly learned ritual from co-producer Amber Clausner; the artist led everyone in a “grapefruit” ceremony where they shared what they were grateful for. The snood was disbanded in a gently choreographed way and laid back on the floor.