A Dance Centre and Push International Performing Arts Festival presentation. At the Scotiabank Dance Centre on Thursday, January 18. Continues until January 19
In her quirked-out, intermittently hilarious monologue/dance, Australia’s Nicola Gunn takes a few big digs at the grandmother of performance art, Marina Abramović. A residency with her was, apparently, “fucking horrible”.
In fact, one good way to describe Gunn’s own, audaciously Aussie take on performance art is that she is the anti Abramović.
Where Abramović’s most famous installation finds her sitting still, silent and staring, Gunn barely stops moving in her Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster. Often Jo Lloyd’s choreography makes her look like she’s doing an aerobics workout; at other times she’ll carefully stretch a leg high. When she’s really worked up about something, she runs around flailing her arms and looking like her head is going to blow off. And she chatters away incessantly, and entertainingly, conversing with the audience like it’s an old friend. She recklessly follows tangents into Hercule Poirot movies, Jeffrey Archer, and her general aversion to children, then loops back dextrously to previous points. But, mostly, she’s bent on tearing down the pretension and narcissism of art.
Ghetto Blaster’s unlikely beginning is a "conundrum": the story of a canal in Ghent, Belgium, where a man is throwing stones at a literal sitting duck. The throughline of the piece is the philosophical question: should the woman running by (who may or may not be Gunn) confront the man, especially in front of his children? And especially since he won't understand a word of her English rant? From there, Gunn poses all kinds of hypothetical sociopolitical possibilities, from the man being a refugee to the fallout from posting about the incident on Facebook. All the while, her giant, old-school blaster sits at stage left, silent—until about halfway through the show, when it plays mindless electro-synth beats.
If the show sounds silly, it sometimes is. But Gunn—decked out in perky pink shorts and runners—is so charming, and she so slyly underscores it with such irreverent smarts, that it might come as an absolute shock to discover, late in the game, that she’s asking pretty massive questions about art. At the same time, she's pulling off an awe-inspiring physical feat.
It’s odd, for sure, but in a completely amusing way. A heads-up that the finale is out of left field—and may or may not send up all the inflated, affected art you’ve ever been forced to consume.
In the end you have just got to love an artist who isn’t averse to stopping her performance, interrupting herself to ask “What the fuck am I doing?!”