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Friday, February 25, 2022

There's a giant Wheke in Wairepo Lagoon and other things - Kura Moana - Aotearoa NZ Festival Of the Arts

Experience this gift to Wellington as you wander the waterfront and discover local stories animated in new ways.  Artist in Focus, Lisa Reihana has created Kura Moana, a series of instalations around the Capital's harbour as part of the Festival of the Arts.  They are:

- Pūrākau - City to Sea Bridge - Jervois Quay
- Te Wheke-a-Muturangi - The Adversary - Whairepo Lagoon 
- Kupe Raiatea - He Karanga - Taranaki Street Wharf Tableau 
- Vivant - Te Papa Lagoon Te Wheke - The Battle - Te Papa Lagoon 
- Ngā Kaikanikani ō te Rangi - The Sky Dancers - Waitangi Park

Pūrākau - City to Sea Bridge - Jervois Quay The magical presence of the giant wheke (octopus) Te-Wheke-a Muturangi is all around you. Augmented reality reveals Te-Wheke-a Muturangi against the Wellington skyline. 

Use the QR code to download the app to see and hear a Pūrākau. Te-Wheke-a Muturangi speaks about being a goddess while taking selfies. She hovers above the pouwhenua of Para Matchitt’s bridge, their navigational symbols mark the original waterfront. 

You can download the Pūrākau app from Apple Store & Google Play.

The creator of this work Lisa Reihana talks about her time as Artist in Focus and her work for the festival in the video below.  


Learn all about these free interactive installations at: AOTEROA NEW ZEALAND FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS

Thursday, February 24, 2022

GROOVE AT THE FRINGE - The Professio(nah)ls by the Sincere Muckabouts / NZ Fringe Festival 2022

NZ Fringe Festival 2022 The Professio(nah)ls Creatives Caspar Ilschner and Otto Kosok, with Music by Martin Greshoff, Design by Hollie Cohen, and Co-Produced by Monique Gilmour and Isaac Kirkwood. Te Auaha, Dixon Street, Te Aro. From 18 Feb 2022 to 23 Feb 2022 

The PROFESSIO(NAH)LS is the brainchild of recent graduates from Toi Whakaari and the New Zealand School of Dance, especially Otto Kosok and Caspar Ilschner who have teamed up on stage with composer Martin Greshoff to create a vibrant and absurdist take on the old adage ‘stop mucking about and get a job!’ 

The Professio(nah)ls combines choreographer Caspar and Otto’s curiosity for relevant topics with their shared sense (or rather non-sense) of humour. As a result of this, the two have assumed ‘Sincere Muckabouts’ as their company name. The work was created at Toi Pōneke Arts Centre over a three-week-long development and saw its debut last May at Little Andromeda Theatre in Christchurch. 

The premise revolves around two dancers (Kosok and Ilschner) who are obviously fish well out of their waters. They must nervously navigate the alien world of the corporate office. In their choreography they demonstrate deftly the awkwardness of their new environment led by Greshoff’s very clever retro digital soundtrack. 

As a team, they all come across as charming, a bit wet behind the ears and a tad buffoonish. And that’s how this company, Sincere Muckabouts manage to smash up the mundane and challenge what it means to be always busy doing ‘busy’, being ‘flat out’, and bonkers concepts like meetings about meetings, the pointlessness of filing files and all other stuff we take for granted in office culture. Oddly, in these Covid days, we almost miss the office. 

It seems a bit of a nostalgia trip to return to this, when getting stuck in the elevator, losing a stapler, a jammed photocopier or being late to clock in due to a train strike actually mattered. Designer, Hollie Cohen and producers Monique Gilmour and Issac Kirkwood have creating a brilliantly coherent narrative and a perfectly wonderful interactive set that will literally be destroyed and re-made in front of your eyes. 

The show opens on a set of three cubicles, all lined with paper – like the kind a printer spews out all day. The walls of the dividers are lines with that bleached cheap newsprint that comes in a large roll and we like to write our mind maps and brainstorms on. Each desk has computer and a phone, similar to the kind you’d find in a mid-90’s ‘Dilbert-ville’ open plan office. Two young newbies arrive, nervous and spooked by this alien environment. It’s very different from the classrooms, dorm rooms and lecture halls they are used to. Like many of us on our first day, they struggle to navigate. 

Of course, the computers don’t work. So, our duo follow the blue ethernet snake along behind a wall of white file boxes to a huge tangled web of cables. Their first dance piece is a short slapstick wrestle with the ‘web’. It sets up the comedy brilliantly, and we all can relate to this scene. We’ve all been there. Intermittently, Greshoff’s keyboard and computer emits various symphonic blathers constructed of synth chords, desk phone ring tones, fax screaming and internet dial-up blips. Anyone who worked in a 90’s office would clearly remember. Think Kraftwerk and Eno with a smattering of humour by The Devine Comedy (remember their song ‘Office Politics’?). 

In my favourite, scene Greshoff, who until now been noodling around in his own cubicle, stands up and approaches the other two. Like an auditor he prods and poke, scribbling on his clipboard, checking and assessing. One by one the players show off their ‘office skills’ – stapling, typing, shredding, etc. The tasks become more and more ridiculous, morphing into a completely unexpected peacock display of breakdance moves. The piece moves from brown-nosing to showing off – awkward newbies become the ‘lads about town’. 

Another well executed moment is when Kosok gives a painfully self-conscious ‘presentation’. We all know how this goes. Bob from accounts has come to tell us about the sales predictions – or some other such tediousness. This ‘Bob’ blunders through the whole thing, waving around meaningless sales figures, fumbling with names (he refers to the CEO as ‘executed’), mumbling and blah-blah-ing his way through the entire thing. 

Platitudes, equipment glitches, unreadable spreadsheets, acronyms, and all the other pointless clichés we endure through during tedious office meetings. As the show moves on, the mood changes and the two workers become rivals. They fight, then clown about becoming more and more chaotic and crazy. They eventually destroy their office – the fragile paper walls are torn, balled up and shredded. The boxes, stacked like bricks at the back of the stage are smashed. Out of a briefcase comes suit clothes. The twosome use these to build an effigy of their boss - A guy to be burned, I wonder. An act of ridicule and fun. There is a climatic moment when this whole world explodes. In the aftermath the two walk amongst the rubble like survivors of a devastating earthquake. This is the only piece in the show I didn’t quite understand. Perhaps this is a corporate stock crash, literally. Like the fate of real companies, this is an empire that’s is destroyed, literally torn up – on paper and in person. 

But the devastation doesn’t last. They rebuild the box wall, this time in front of the stage while a short black and white movie is projected over the the construction. Roger Waters would be proud (or sue!). Once again, we get the absurdist. Like an old Jaques Tati film, it’s played back at double speed, an image of a man working with what looks like a human sized puppet. He’s trying to pose it and manipulate the body into the required shapes. I wondered if this was a reference to corporate grooming and institutionalism. 

Until now the dance aspects of the work had been limited. But now they start to flourish. The action is physical and fluid. Two bodies write in competition and in unison. This is like the two newbies, interns forced to be rivals, being both buddies and competitors, vying for that job dangled like an unreachable carrot in front of them. 

Overall, I loved this mix of dance, performance and comedy because it spoke tome at a level I could really understand. I’ve been to those meetings. I’ve been that newbie on my first day. Hell, I’ve even crawled under a thousand desks trying to find the right port to plug that damn cable into. They really got it. The show connected with the audience, who all got it too. 

Special mention for the use of the projector, literally as a lighting tool at times creating white cells to divide the cubicles and create washes of colour, gobo effects and, of course that manic movie.

This was a confident, clever work using a simple, straight forward theme. Well executed. It deserves to be seen again. Sadly, our Red-Light setting limited the audience to an exclusive number. I wish I could have taken my children, my partner and my colleagues at the office I work at. Perhaps some came with an expectation of more dance – more choreography, in the traditional and conventional sense. They saw movement and narrative. It was different. But ask yourself this – do we not plan and arrange our professional selves, wear make up and costumes, and hide our real person from the theatre of the corporate? We too, are performers, we dance to the tune of a boardroom, shareholders and managers. Just not as well as these Sincere Muckabouts.

CoffeeBar Kid

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

THIS JUST IN: Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts 2022 goes online

Due to the rise of Omicron the Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts 2022 has had to pivot to present a revised digital programme for you. We are relieved and excited that we can offer a series of writers events that you can watch from anywhere. 

Browse the programme, pre-book on a pay-what-you-want basis and stream great conversations with some of Aotearoa and the world's best writers right to you. 

See the writers programme online here.

There have been some brilliant RNZ interviews with some of our writers in the lead up to this programme. Kaya Wilson, Elif Shafak, Mariana Mazzucato, Whiti Hereaka ... if you haven't read the books yet then these are a great way to learn more about these incredible thinkers before you view the digital events. These books are all wonderful so if you need to stock up then head to your favourite bookshop to stock up on all these authors.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

This Just In: WOMAD 2022 Cancels, back in 2023

Wednesday, 9 February 2022

WOMAD NZ wants to thank everyone for being patient and understanding while we've worked through all our options to safely present the festival in March.

With deep sadness, we are announcing WOMAD NZ is no longer going ahead for 2022.

We all had great expectations of bringing the festival back to Taranaki after disruptions due to COVID 19 in 2021. It is heartbreaking to cancel for the second year in a row due to circumstances entirely out of our control.

Our team has cautiously forged ahead with planning for 2022 over the last few weeks. The decision to cancel has not been made lightly. There is too much uncertainty surrounding large festivals and events, and what the growing threat of Omicron's spread in the community means. Ensuring the safety of our festival and the people of Aotearoa continues to be at the forefront of our response.

To our artists, performers, traders, crew, volunteers, and sponsors who continued to stand by us and contributed so much – we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

WOMAD NZ is also deeply grateful for the additional security of the one-off underwrite of nearly $2 million that New Plymouth District Council approved to allow TAFT to run the 2022 WOMAD festival. Also acknowledging the Government’s Events Transition Support Scheme recognising the important role our festival plays in the region of Taranaki and ensuring the future of the festival.

Justine Gilliland, Venture Taranaki Chief Executive says, “It’s another major blow to the region that WOMAD, a highlight for many locals and visitors, has had to follow suit along with several other events this summer and cancel. Venture Taranaki supports TAFT’s decision as completely understandable under the current circumstances and uncertainty.
“In 2020 WOMAD’s economic impact on the region was $6.1 million. We look forward to supporting TAFT to present WOMAD again in Taranaki for 2023 and will welcome the positive flow-on effects the festival has on the region."

WOMAD and TAFT have worked hard to create an award-winning festival in New Plymouth, and WOMAD is regarded as one of the most important events on New Zealand's cultural calendar.

Director of WOMAD International, Chris Smith comments “The WOMAD festival attracts thousands of visitors to the Taranaki region each year and has rightfully gained a reputation as one of the most beautiful outdoor festivals in the world.”

We're already setting our sights on WOMAD NZ 2023, our most exciting festival year yet, as we celebrate 20 years of WOMAD NZ making its home in the stunning Bowl of Brooklands and Brooklands Park, New Plymouth, Taranaki home. With the news that our borders will open on the horizon, it's looking highly likely that WOMAD NZ will be able to bring together artists from all over the world again over three incredible days of music, arts, and dance.

To our festival ticket holders, your tickets will roll directly over to WOMAD NZ 2023, our 20-year celebration, which takes place 17 - 19 March 2023. Nothing changes and all tickets will remain valid and at the 2022 prices! We hope you will all join us for the 2023 - 20-year event!

If festival goers cannot make our 2023 dates, refunds will be available through our ticket outlet Ticketspace, at face value. Please bear with us while we work this process with our ticketing agent Ticketspace.
We will email all ticket holders with further information about your options.

We now look ahead to channelling our energy into creating a truly magical experience for WOMAD NZ 2023 - a 20-year event!
 - Chris Smith - Director of WOMAD International  & Suzanne Porter – CEO Taranaki Arts Festival Trust