INDEPENDENT NEWS

STILL LIVES: AUCKLAND, A Scrum Suspended In Time

Published: Fri 23 Feb 2024 06:48 PM
A scrum suspended in time, unravelling the personal stories of female rugby players - a site-specific performance art installation
In Still Lives: Auckland, artists Luke George (Naarm/Melbourne) and Daniel Kok (Singapore/Berlin) work with eight female-identifying rugby players, using ropes to tie their bodies together, re-creating one half of an interlocking scrum.
Following acclaimed runs in Shanghai, Taipei, Venice, and Melbourne, New Zealand audiences are invited to assemble for this free durational artwork in the Concert Chamber of Tāmaki Makaurau's iconic Town Hall and witness the process of creating this tableau where players are transformed into living sculptures on a grand scale.
Still Lives is a site-specific performance art installation series, in which artists ‘capture’ with ropes a significant moment or movement in relation to its cultural context. Binding bodies in their place allows new conversations to emerge and unveil hidden narratives regarding local history, social bonds and personal attachments.
The performance will involve the entire creation of the installation, from the first piece of rope being tied onto a player to the last piece being taken off. The public is invited to arrive at any time, sit where they like, and view from different vantage points. The artists will collaborate with a lighting and sound designer, creating a visual and sonic atmosphere that references the game and stadium itself.
Connections between art and sport, tensions experienced by the players in the game they love, and the culture of teamwork and cohesion in rugby becomes an object of reflection. Urgent issues, such as sexism, racism, homophobia and transphobia within sporting culture are also revealed through the knotty negotiation between bodies.
Recruitment is currently underway for the eight female-identifying rugby players with producers Nisha Madhan and Julia Croft receiving assistance in this process by Jo Caird, the first official photographer for the All Blacks.
“The evolution of women's rugby has so often mirrored the journey of women in society beginning with the games pioneers in the 1980’s who fought for the right to play through to the recent RWC2021 which filled the national stadium of Eden Park for the World Cup Final”, says Jo Caird.
Four female-identifying rugby players are confirmed, with further four yet to be announced. Confirmed names include former Black Fern and Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit Rochelle Martin; freelance sports journalist and podcast host Alice Soper; Auckland Storm player Kelvery Longopoa and Black Fern Vita Dryden.
“These eight women will all have been part of the struggle and their individual stories give an unique insight into the heart of Womens rugby. How rugby was a truly safe space for them to be themselves, a chance to be seen and heard. A place where they could express themselves, be physical and confrontational and yet also be supported by their team. Rugby requires participants to put their body on the line for each other” continues Jo Caird.
As part of this performance installation a series of video portraits, which will explore and highlight each player’s personal journey with rugby, its meaning in their lives, and the challenges they have faced wil be created.
Artists Luke George and Daniel Kok share “Ropes lend themselves well to the unravelling of human relationships. In Still Lives: Auckland, we invite you to join us in untangling the knots in a diverse community, strengthening communal bonds, and weaving together a social fabric that works for contemporary times. This is the first time we are presenting our work in Aotearoa. It is a privilege for us to be hosted and to participate in the intricate cultural conversations."
This project aims to attract a broad range of audiences and a cross-section of the community, from people who love art to people who love sport, LGBTQIA+ folks, and those into or curious about bondage. The practice of care that the artists and rugby players engage with each other will be a blueprint for how this diverse temporary community might share and make space for each other.
On experiencing Still Lives: Melbourne in 2022, Australian journalist Jill Stark shared it was "a near spiritual experience…watching the kind of art that moves you in ways you can’t quite find the words to express. In a city where football is a religion it was fitting that art should intersect so powerfully with sport in the Still Lives installation.”
STILL LIVES: AUCKLAND
Saturday 30 March
Concert Chamber, Auckland Town Hall
Start time: 5:30 pm End time: 8:00 pm
Cost: Free
Still Lives: Auckland is proudly presented by F.O.L.A. [AKL] with support from Creative New Zealand, National Arts Council (Singapore), NZ Rugby, Satellites, Auckland Live, TAPAC and Auckland Arts Festival. This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through Creative Australia, its arts funding and advisory body.
ABOUT F.O.L.A. [AKL]:
We created F.O.L.A. [AKL] as a haven for those subversive, dirty, playful, humorous and above all daring artists who make life so much better by being in the world. Neoliberal and capitalist structures have been notoriously poor at creating space for Live Art and artists in general. F.O.L.A. [AKL] is here to change that.
Live Art is typically practiced in Aotearoa by Artists who dwell in the most potent of political intersections (feminist, Queer and BIPOC). It is not surprising then, that this work has been underrepresented in the western-colonial-capitalist regime within which we live in today. But the most accurate picture of living in Aotearoa comes straight through the eyes of these very artists and we want to share that with the world.
F.O.L.A. [AKL] is about building a community of artists and safeguarding their artform, livelihoods and legacies by creating new models within which they can flourish. We hear clearly from our community that what is needed are alternative models that centre care for artists. So apart from innovative content, the festival is led through care, responsibility and responsiveness to uphold Aotearoa’s most forward thinking artists.
We acknowledge the inspirations behind F.O.L.A. [AKL], pioneering festivals like EDWA, TinyFest, The Performance Arcade and PAWA, overseas peeps like Buzzcut, Tempting Failure, Forest Fringe and Liveworks. Festivals created in opposition to the limitations of mainstream arts spaces.
But F.O.L.A. [AKL] is also our excuse to throw a big goddamn beautiful party. Because life is just so much sexier when we’re together.
Nisha Madhan & Julia Croft
Co-Artistic Directors

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