Pah Homestead, TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre, 72 Hillsborough Road, Auckland

10/03/2015 - 15/03/2015

Auckland Arts Festival 2015

Production Details

Pah Homestead & surrounds

In association with Auckland Arts Festival Pā Collective presents PAH.

PAH is a remarkable multi-dimensional project weaving art, live music and dance at the Pah Homestead and Monte Cecilia Park. It is a unique collaboration between leading and emerging New Zealand artists, the Pā Collective.

PAH is a specially curated installation of artworks by painter Star Gossage, commissioned photographs and video by Solomon Mortimer, original music by Gillian Whitehead and sound design by Russell Scoones, works from the Wallace Arts Trust Collection, with design by Sean Coyle and Grant Hall to complement the live performance.

PAH evokes the lives of the people who have lived here through its many transformations; from pā to colonial mansion to orphanage, boarding school, home of the Sisters of Mercy, to refuge for the homeless and makes connections to the land it sits on.

PAH will be performed for six evenings during the Auckland Arts Festival as a group of dancers and musicians directed by choreographer Carol Brown and composer Gillian Whitehead explore hidden histories and forgotten secrets inside and outside one of Auckland’s largest 19th century houses. The audience will follow the performers on a journey as they weave through the magnificent rooms, amidst the artworks and inhabit the gardens.

Commissioned By: TSB Wallace Arts Trust Pah Homestead Arts Centre

  • TUE 10 March at 7:00pm
  • WED 11 March at 6:00pm
  • THU 12 March at 7:00pm
  • FRI 13 March at 7:00pm
  • SAT 14 March at 5:00pm
  • SUN 15 March at 5:00pm

Tickets: $39 (Friend/Conc/Group) and $45


PAH is a specially curated installation of artworks by painter Star Gossage, commissioned photographs and video by Solomon Mortimer, original music by Gillian Whitehead and sound design by Russell Scoones, works from the Wallace Arts Trust Collection, with design by Sean Coyle and Grant Hall to complement the live performance.

Dancers - Kelly Nash, Nancy Wijohn, Zahra Killeen-Chance, Emilia Rubio, Haanz Fa'avae Jackson

Musicians - Luca Magni, Katherine Hebley, Andrew Uren

Site-specific/site-sympathetic , Performance installation , Dance , Contemporary dance ,

1 hour

Flickering entities

Review by Raewyn Whyte 19th Mar 2015

Close Encounters: PAH, a collaboration between choreographer Carol Brown, composer  Dame Gillian Whitehead, and visual artist Star Gossage, as part of Auckland Arts Festival 2015, promised to reveal “hidden histories and forgotten secrets” of one of Auckland’s iconic mansions, The Pah Homestead, now extensively renovated and home to the leading art gallery and residency space, The TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre

There are plentiful opportunities for the audience to come to terms with the site as they traverse its spaces, read the plaques referring to its history, observe symbolic objects scattered about, and feast their eyes on contemporary art works. And during the hour-long performance of PAH, there is even more to absorb…

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Mysterious vignettes

Review by Marianne Schultz 11th Mar 2015

On a balmy late-summer’s evening, audience members are offered a complimentary glass of homemade lemonade on entering the grounds of the Pah Homestead in the Auckland suburb of Hillsborough. Once assembled, we are led to the magnificent building standing at the centre of the manicured lawns and sculptured gardens by young women in simple colonial muslin dress. As we approach, four figures in hoodies sitting on the ground, conjuring the many homeless passed by everyday on the streets of Auckland, beckon us to follow. One speaks, an indecipherable word. From that moment the performance begins and for the next 60 minutes we are led through, around, up and down the nineteenth-century building and its surroundings.  

The episodic nature of Pah, constructed to reveal the ‘unspoken histories of a house [and] the land that surrounds it’ deem that the work unfolds in vignettes that are expressed by movement, speech, sound, music and images, sometimes singularly, other times collectively.  The five performers take on multiple character roles without warning, so the hooded figures we just met now become four dancing woman in floral frocks and workman like boots. Confronted in an intimacy of space, these women dance gaily to Gillian Whitehead’s rollicking score. But who are they, what period of the site’s history do they represent and why are they so happy to be dancing together? None of this is signified in the space they occupy or the movements of their dance. Next, a young man in a cheese cutter hat carrying a suitcase encroaches on their dance and begins to speak: ‘a horse, a pair of trousers and two pairs of leather boots for 400 acres’. Programme notes provide minimal explanation for his words; this land was exchanged for these items by local iwi to Europeans.         

Entering the building we are free to wander through the upper galleries. Solomon Mortimer’s black and white photographs of people affected by the housing crises provide a stark and poignant reminder of the home’s previous use as emergency shelter for the displaced and the homeless. Disappointingly, no obvious connection between the dance, music and photographs is forthcoming. Moving to the back lawns, the young man now appears to be playing ‘war’ in front of a clothesline. He speaks again, conveying an orphan’s perspective, but again, without referring to the programme we would not be aware that the house once served as an orphanage.

The architecture of this restored building resonates with past purposes and events. Dressed in white blouses and long black tunics, the female performers, Zahra Killeen-Chance, Kelly Nash, Emila Rubio and Nancy Wijohn, roam up and down the elegant central staircase, under lintels and across hallways. Possibly representing the Sisters of Mercy who resided here, their stern and at times, pained expressions convey a period of the house’s history absent of joy. The dancers are all strong performers who display control and focus in what must be difficult circumstances. With audience on all sides, standing, sitting, wandering, it take tremendous strength to hold the attention and compete with the array of visual art on the walls. However, the choreographic vocabulary seems at times incongruous with the settings. For instance, the significance of the reoccurring finger-snaps was lost on me, as was a section on the lawn consisting of rolls, slaps, and twists with the women dressed in black tunics sans white blouses.

Gillan Whitehead’s music provides a consistent foundation for the work and it is good to have the trio of musicians (Katherine Hebley, Andrew Uren and Luca Manghi) appear as integral components in the performance. However, there is an overall sense of discontinuity to Pah. Perhaps the involvement of so many ‘creatives’ led to the works’ incomprehension. It is almost as if each artist had a separate idea of the overall vision and execution of the work, resulting in a lack of coherence. What makes site-specific performance successful?  Is it interaction with the location, reference to its history, exploration of the site, interpretation of landscape or the uncovering of hidden perspectives? Ideally, all of the above, but unfortunately this ambitious project of the Pā collective does not live up to the potential that this beautiful, contested and engrossing site offers. 


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