Things that Move Me
Created and performed by Oliver Connew - NZ Fringe - BEOP Studios, Mt Eden, Auckland - 2017
Dear Oliver, when I sat down to write this response the term ‘prodigal son returns’ wandered into my attention-sphere.
This from the internet: The Prodigal Son was a young man who asked his father for his inheritance and then left home for “a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.” As his money ran out, a famine occurred, and he went to work tending pigs, but even then he could not get enough to eat. This idea of tending pigs for inadequate pay during a famine seemed like a grinding contemplation on being an art maker in New Zealand.
I like Oliver. We are friends.
I hope we will remain friends after he has read this. This status of friendship and the subsequent hope that this status remains unchanged are built very much into the writing. These are personal biases. So too is this: a declining personal investment in the general conceit that art making in and of itself is intrinsically important. It ain't. At least not to me. That decline is offset by a personal occasionally satisfied hunger for live content that is somehow unexplainably ‘good’.
Things that Move Me was performed / danced / spoken with a certain frugality of context. Oliver was, at the beginning of the piece lying on his side on the white floor in the white space. He wore a grey sweatshirt and sweatpants - perfectly relaxed attire for a semi-formal occasion. There was a white box downstage looking like an art gallery display case. A water bottle placed deliberately on top commandeered the space with an air of awkwardly deliberate casualness.
There was a screen or a projection or something. This all happened a few months ago so details are sketchy. There was a looping projection of war porn involving aircraft or an aircraft carrier and. I remember thinking that the sound was interesting. There was a part where the performer let his spoken text get drowned out by copyright free music. Oliver improvised movement and I enjoyed the process of watching a human with long limbs get up and down.
Actually maybe he wasn’t improvising. I mean how the fuck am I supposed to even know these days what young people are even doing. These days they’re all doing 'tasks' aren’t they. Everyone’s busy doing some kind of thing whilst paying attention to fuck-knows-what and not telling you what they’re doing or why they’re doing it.
No one fucking cares anymore.
They jiggle an arm nonchalantly then they walk around and go stand over there don’t they.
Dear Oliver, I think I fell in love that night for all of 45 minutes but not with you. Can we still be friends?
There were bits of paper on the floor and on audience members seats with written instructions. Before all that there was skipping and it was timed. Timed rope skipping. So Oliver advised us there was a kind of break but it wasn’t a break for us the audience. It was a break for him from memory.
If I sound a bit all over the place its because I’m still even now to this day processing the arabesque that the performer delivered. Oliver has an underplayed facility to perform ballet to a high standard without actually maintaining a practice of it. He does this with the air of a man who has zero smug. The arabesque, like other tropes Oliver was playing with in Things that Move Me, was a live action durational glyph. It anchored the work and distorted time. It was a precision bomb. It shook all other events around it and turned them into memory rubble (NB: When I played back the video he was wobbling. Not important because thats not how I remember it and how I remember it is very fucking important).
There was pronounced sense of sequence in this pristinely designed show. At times it’s architecture jutted forward and eclipsed the content. Or maybe it’s because some of the edges around the content still seem a bit blurred to me. Oliver’s political artistic marksmanship is shaping up nicely. Right now it’ seems he’s lined up on the immediate peripheries around the targets but hasn’t quite zeroed in on what he wants to hit yet. Buckshot or laser sight - I know which one I prefer to use.
There was an audience participation section.It altered my relationship with the show tangibly. In participating the process somehow removed me from the show by placing me and others directly inside of it. All of the audience were invited to pick up the aforementioned notes with written tasks off of the floor, read the tasks, and voluntarily do the tasks in the performance space.
Thats where the piece pivoted for me. Paying no attention to Oliver, lying on the floor talking to another human and falling in love with her for all of 45 minutes. All other events became so peripheral that I don’t know what other audience members were doing or how the work ended. I do know now that Oliver has since returned to Berlin.
Dear Oliver, Sometimes I wonder what it might’ve been like to have grown up pre-consciously fermenting in the agar another artist's practice. To have had your dreamscape permeated by other potent domineering (?) images. That question looks cynical written down but I don’t mean it that way.