I was fixing chair legs in the cafe down by the gallery atrium in the week before it reopened after its multi-million dollar overhaul. I noticed about a dozen guys in high visability vests congregating, as if something was scheduled to happen in the foyer.
One of them wheeled in a dry ice machine and started pumping haze- while the other guys watched, arms crossed- until the two story space was filled. Then very loud sirens went off, followed by a massive roar as extractor fans sucked the smoke out in a blender-vortex through the ceiling.
It seemed like I wasn't at work anymore but a chance guest at a performance by someone with a lot of resources to throw around. Like one of those European things Joel likes where they can afford to drop cars from the ceiling and fly cows about on strings. Or a movement of the dreamlike, purposeful Third Horse in Dunedin earlier this year.
I was grinning, but a bit sheepishly because the guys in vests looked like they were still at work! Their arms-folded, workmanlike attitude added to the effect, like disciplined extras on set.
And then it was over. The guys got onto their cellphones to sort out final paint jobs and wiring and all the rest of the to-do list.
Tim Etchells' latest column, and in particular this quote, reminded me of this experience and made me want to write about it: "It's one of those sights that makes you wonder why art is needed at all, since the world itself – once you're looking hard enough – is already such a complex and disturbing arrangement of signs and signals." This made me think about the smoke test as a rare co-incidence: I suppose the reason I was looking in that way was because it just happened to occur in an art gallery, and the reason I enjoyed it was because it just happened to occur. More evidence that "its all about context?"
As for the unimpressed vest guys, I'm sure you don't need that many boys to witness a smoke test. I strongly suspect it was the highlight of their day, too.
Tourism can be a great economic asset to a country, here in NZ it's the number one industry, and in developing nations the money brought in by tourism is often a veritable lifeline. But of course there are two sides to every coin and the tails to economic benefit heads include ecological destruction, exploitation by foreign tourism outfits, and the erosion of local culture. This sentiment was summed up by a Bolivian artist, whose painting serves to remind me to always tread lightly when travelling
Things To Say When You Didn’t Like The Show.
As you will be aware, there is in place a lengthy or indefinite moratorium on constructive criticism for any new theatre performance. In the meantime, the following remarks are allowable and may be helpful in the foyer:
You made that yourselves, right? It was really devised-feeling.
I liked you in it.
I liked that you were in it.
I really liked the bit where (mention intensely specific action). It was quite an interesting stage image.
You guys were all obviously really, really committed.
You used the space.
Great energy! I could tell you were all having a lot of fun.
We were meant to be bored, that was part of it, eh?
I liked how there were no (name something absent, like swastikas, or dead babies, etc) in it.
I’ve never seen you act before (no follow-up.)
You know what? It reminded me of (talk about something else).
I’m not really a theatre person, you know, so I guess a lot of it just went over my head.
You looked really pretty.
That costume looked great on you.
Who did the design?
I like how it didn't have to mean anything.
So are your parents coming to see this?
Do you get paid for this? No? Yeah that makes sense.
Oh hey! Hey! I've got to get a bus!
This is really cool, what you’ve done to the foyer.
REMINDER: You must, by no means, tell the performers what you actually think. Who do you think they make this stuff for?
On Exponential Curves
We started a bit early tonight.
We started at one o’clock. We felt normal.
Two. Lightheaded by this point. We were able to make plans. We could still do tongue twisters.
At three o’clock we got that mild feeling of floatation, or gliding. Vodafone told us to make the most of now.
Four. We knocked over objects, we spilled drinks. Cosmopolitan declared it the Summer of You. We played truth or dare.
We got to five. We were unusually confident. We got bolder, more flirtatious. In sports cars, green became the new red. Someone suggested strip poker.
Six. Our speech got pretty slurred. MacDonalds used climate change to sell us coffee. People’s first names became interchangeable. Bad hangovers became likely. Nostalgia. Nationalism. Spin the bottle.
Seven. We saw lines of large trucks filling Lambton quay. We had sex with randoms. Ex partners received incoherent text messages. Somewhere around here we reached a sort of point of no return.
Eight. We hit a spike. The gulf turned to shit. We had breakdowns on the footpath outside Shooters. We gave up on empathy.
At nine o’clock we basically said fuck it, lets make a night of it.
By Ralph (with a nod to Don Patterson). This was written for Wellington theatre collective Binge Culture’s last show, Drowning Bird, Plummeting Fish, but wasn’t in the final version.
1001 Things You MUST Do Before You Die (Abridged)
Carry this list with you, and as you complete each action, tick the corresponding box.
…Watch the launch of the space shuttle. c
Roll in the snow with a really beautiful boy. c
Eat an endangered animal (e.g tuatara or hector’s dolphin). c
Tell someone the story of your life, sparing no details. c
Make love on a forest floor. c
Make love on a train.c
Make love on the kitchen floor. c
Kill something with your hands. c
Learn to take a compliment and perform a selfless act. c
Learn to rollerblade. c
Perform standup comedy. c
Send a message in a bottle. c
Ride a camel into the desert. c
Fight in a just war. c
Learn to ballroom dance properly. c
Commit a heinous crime and get away with it! c
Write the novel you have inside you. c
Shower with a loved one. c
Shower in a waterfall. c
Receive a golden shower. c
Receive a golden handshake. c
Get passionate about a cause and spend time helping it, instead of just thinking about it. c
Write your will. c
Sleep under the stars. c
Teach someone illiterate to read. c
Really beat the shit out of someone. c
Forgive your parents. c
Learn to juggle with three balls. c
Give a speech in public. c
Experience weightlessness. c
Feedback the Judges have given us:
“I wish you’d sing something about my problems.”
“I’d like you to do that again, on fire.”
“I’d like to see you do that again, but with some tigers.”
“Are you aware of the snipers on the upper balcony?”
“You have a luminous soul. You are a voice in a billion. Fix your breasts.”
“We don’t have time for another version of Memory. For god’s sake, the ice caps are melting.”
“You need to relax, be proud of who you are. Just act natural.”
“I don’t think you know who you are. I don’t know who you are. Who are you? How did you get in here? Security!”
“Je ne parle pas anglais.”
“You’re good, but there are far too many famous people.”
“Do you have an eating disorder, because you should consider getting one.”
“You need to believe in yourself.”
“You believe in yourself too much.”
“I’ll give $1000,000 to the audience member who brings me your head in a bag.”
“I think that you are what this competition is all about.”
In Defence of Humanity
Without coming across all defensive, we thought we should remind readers that there are, despite what people have been saying, some pretty clear differences between humans and animals.
a) We will not tricked by basic traps- ie flowers that look like other bees so that they mate with them, or eyes on butterflies that look like predators.
b) We are (usually) less hairy. We wear eyeliner.
c) Time, clocks and watches. We understand about death, and that the sun is a very, very long way away.
d) We make tools, like hammers and water blasters.
e) We outthink our instincts. We tell lies.
f) Art. No apes make art and if they do it looks like a Jackson Pollock, which doesn’t count.
g) We went to the moon. And no, the dogs and apes that went into space first don’t really count because who put them in the rockets in the first place?
h) Shakespeare. And especially Hamlet, though I haven’t read it.
i) We fall in actual love and only kill when there are wars or a good reason.
Wooohooo! Ride’m cowboy!
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