While a chunk of the city’s population are gallivanting at Splore, I’m staying in Auckland this weekend. But it’s not without its events to keep the intentionally or unintentionally grounded from being entertained.
The New Performance Festival is on now at the Aotea Centre from the 17 – 25 of February. 9 days of genre-bending shows, where New Zealand artists join forces with international acts, to push the boundaries of theatre, dance, music and art.
2 Dimensional Life of Her is one such show, created by Australian artist Fleur Elise Noble. With multiple projections, Noble leads the audience down the rabbit hole of her studio. Sketches come to life, only to get erased by her mop, or destroyed by rogue string puppets. In turn, puppets tear their paper confines and chase a projection of Noble out of whatever 2D surface she finds herself in. Before the puppets visually overwhelm the set, she then resurfaces on another part of the screen and, with her trusty mop and bucket, wipe the hooligans back to oblivion. Everything is in black and white. Everything is a work in progress.
The sound of her footsteps reverberate through the room, giving clues as to where in the space she is located. Multiple screens host the projections, irregular and layered. A white cut out of Noble’s silhouette stands in front of a bigger screen, another screen hangs adjacent where her studio is projected. A projection of a table holds a pile, several torn paper completes the floor. Darkness, chaos, heavy footsteps, the string puppets’ misbehavior and the incessant creation and destruction of images; it is both unsettling and amusing. Bursts of live, theatrical invasions remind the audience it’s all happening in real time.
One doesn’t search for a narrative on 2 Dimensional Life of Her; it’s of the same grain as that of a dreamscape. String puppets sit to watch a short film of Noble looking for her paper cut-out on the loose. Suddenly, everything roars in flames. The engineering of the sound and projections are brilliantly executed that any sense of reality is temporarily suspended, leaving you to believe those flames are real.
While the plot is amorphous, what’s directly conveyed are the emotions of an artist at work in her studio, perpetually creating and destroying images. And just before you start believing it’s getting too esoteric, real-life Noble emerges from the shadows. “I guess you guys are looking for a happy ending,” she pronounces. The tone switches to that of irreverence, with the puppets returning in full colour, on a paper sailboat, waving goodbye. Real-life Noble hilariously instructs each string puppet to their task. After a huge amount of time devoted to tension, this was the release. It wasn’t meant to be all serious. Down the rabbit chute I was seeking for some heart and relief flooded me when I found it in the end.
Being an artist myself, it’s the sense of play and irreverence in the process of making art that I identify with these days, more than the pain and the struggle. Without the injection of humor and pathos in the show it could be perceived as just another pretentious conceptual performance. Thankfully, that’s not the case. 2 Dimensional Life of Her is executed impressively, with most gears of its engine created by Noble herself – puppetry, animation, film, projection, stage design, drawing and direction. Illusory, captivating and charming. Back to front, then back again.
2 Dimensional Life of Her
Friday 17 – Tuesday 21 February
6.30pm Mon/Tues/Fri, 4pm and 6.30pm Sat/Sun
Lower NZI 2, Aotea Centre
Adult $25, Senior/Student/Groups $20
Limited door sales available or pre-book now at THE EDGE