Janet McAllister on the arts

Janet McAllister looks at the world of the arts and literature.

Janet McAllister: Roll up, roll up for an arcade full of entertainment

By Janet McAllister

Kalisolaite 'Uhila and Colin the piglet in Pigs in the Yard. Photo / Supplied
Kalisolaite 'Uhila and Colin the piglet in Pigs in the Yard. Photo / Supplied

Some extremely creative, well-organised people with interesting, worthwhile ideas set up camp in Aotea Square last week - and I'm not just talking about Occupy Auckland.

See also: the protesters' neighbours, the Performance Arcade (including a real, live piglet).

The free Arcade mixes chat, art installation, non-scary audience participation and performance in seven separate shipping containers. First seen in Wellington and curated by Sam Trubridge, it's a bit like the Auckland Council's Living Room outdoor art series, except it's all in one place every day from noon to 8pm, so you only have to find carparking once.

Incidentally, it's one of many events - including Art Week and the Rugby World Cup Fan Trail - which finish tomorrow; tell me, is some sporting force-of-culture in town?

We went for a quick look at the Arcade and ended up staying for ages; unsurprisingly, city workers have been repeat lunchtime visitors.

For a start, the piglet is incredibly cute. Disconcertingly, it plays a colonist in Kalisolaite 'Uhila's performance piece, which explores the pig's importance to Tongan culture. 'Uhila, wearing a green-leaf skirt, shares the pig's pen, until a farmer-type in a long black tupenu ties a tether to the man and leads him off like the animal.

That's the most intense of the shows on the row; others aim for fun. What I particularly enjoyed was how interactive and sociable it all was.

In GeoPing by Interrupt Collective, the sounds and semi-shadows change as you dance inside their black box, so you can conduct your own electric light orchestra. You can chat to Marcus McShane, who powers his onsite writing studio, computers and record player by cycling in old-fashioned knickerbockers.

You can feed fruit to the piglet (implicating yourself in its process of colonisation? Or just being petting-zoo friendly?)

My favourite box was Hidden City Maps by LudiCity. You can raise your own flag somewhere on their map of the Auckland CBD, to signify a memory of that place. You then write that memory on the blackboard provided. Looking at everybody's markings, it was possible to describe a journey that went from "where we got free black nail polish!" to "Brazil Cafe RIP" to where someone was "brought home by a friendly policeman" to "where we occupied Auckland". Memorable bus trips and first kisses feature everywhere.

And for a gold-coin donation, LudiCity will lend you headphones and five mysterious brown-paper packages for an hour. The audio will tell you, politely, to get lost, introducing the idea of city drifting: wandering, yet being consciously immersed in the city like a tourist. The packages show the city in unexpected ways: a magnifying glass comes with instructions to look closely at some pavement cracks and view them as a map of another city.

And how are the Arcade flaneurs getting on with their Square-sharers? Fine - the protesters and their placards, contrasting oil slicks with a slick-haired John Key in a swimming pool, attract onlookers who then become audience. And Arcade collaborative-video artist Linda T has enjoyed the "hundreds of conversations daily about the state of the world ... everyone's got their own idea of what we need to do".

Put in your own 2c worth and stoke the creative Arcade fire before it closes at 8pm tomorrow. That'll leave you an hour to find a telly.

- NZ Herald

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