Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi, Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University, Kelburn Parade, Wellington

04/11/2023 - 04/11/2023

Performance Art Week Aotearoa

Production Details

Artists: val smith and forest kapo

Curated: Mark Harvey and Sara Cowdell

Performance Art Week Aotearoa


Feather Messages: the ones we take for granted holds space for intimate conversation between birds and humans and trees. We invite you to gather with us at dawn and/or dusk for the transition from dark to light and light to dark. We will be actively listening and passing on messages from the birds/bards as desiring, as shining, as whistling, as journeying with the more-than-human world.

This performance project continues the ongoing collaborative inquiry of Forest Vicky Kapo (Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Raukawa) residing on Dja Dja Wurrung land Central Victoria, and val smith (Pākehā) at the edges of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland on Ngāti Whātua o Kaipara whenua. They have been exploring together what it means to be transgender and migrating between lands, places and cultural spaces since 2020. Engaging a collaboration of Māori/Pākehā, Indigenous/settler-coloniser, and human/nonhuman their work is energised critically and creatively by the waters and winds that connect Aotearoa and so called Australia.

Feather Messages: the ones we take for granted includes two performances on Saturday 4th November. Meeting at Adam Gallery at 5.30am and 7.30pm, we will move together towards a nearby forested place.

Artists: val smith and forest kapo

Curated: Mark Harvey and Sara Cowdell

Performance Art , Dance ,

1.5 hours

Birds, being trans, being between cultures, language.

Review by Lyne Pringle 06th Nov 2023

Intro: practice outlined: [It’s about] Birds, being trans, being between cultures, language and sometimes species. FEATHERED MESSAGES: THE ONES WE TAKE FOR GRANTED.

Walk quietly into the gathering pre-dusk. val smith leads, forest kapo flickers in and out in the distance, prone – weighted, summoning portent on the path. Karakia, bracket of protection read from a phone (important, could be memorised/embodied surely), in order to enter the graveyard, ‘remember transcestors’, pause, a tui call drowns out human utterance, past, present, future emerging, merging. Carry a ringa ringa flower or a weed. 

Many hours spent in this cemetery in youthful times searching – now seasoned transed into aged and lined. Invited – ‘take time here, be with thoughts’. People disperse. 
Look towards hillside in Newtown, behind the Carillon – memorial to war, where we work with neighbours, planting for the birds, trapping the unwanted. Legions of carers all over Te Whanganui a Tara – that’s why these calls are here in this dusk.

Denis Hayes Departed this life July 15th 1903 – 67 years RIP.

Wind picks up, blackbird startle call, shrill. People sit quietly, scattered over the hillside, sound of city behind. forest kapo draped on grave (4 Cosgraves lie here), val smith incognito in grass.

Departed this life 1890. Who?
Died 7th Nov 1885 45 Requiscent in Pace. Rita Taverna Corrado.

Loved ones laid together. Two tuis blast through in intricate choreo. Rory bumblers on the horizon.

Beloved, wife, mother. Be here for a while, a while is a long sliver of time.
Another: Died July 15th 1883 aged 14 joined by big brother Died June 6th 1895 Aged 52.

Kaka – raucous bogun! Feather messengers flurry here amidst spirits. Gray warbler trills, the sound of joy or sorrow, depends on perspective. Blackbird starts to chortle – his spring(fuck me) song. Tuis come back drunk on Ti Kouka flower nectar, starling glides through. 
The wind is now cold. Careful not to walk on those lying. Sit. Smell of the earth, grass, fennel, old man’s beard, oxalis, dandelion, chick and onion weeds, pohutakawa, camelia, death lilies. forest kapo moves from ground to skywards in imploring lunge posture.

The wind gets colder, fallen pohutukawa leaves – ruby lips. If left -in a graveyard to one’s own devices, the ghost of the Romantics, will drench you in poetry. Dickinson – maybe Baxter flit through. Shake it off. Back to the botanical. Ringaringas not just white flowers, can be purple.

Single file goat track to exit, nod to headstone cross strangled by vines. Remove the tapu, return to noa, cleansed with water from a single use plastic bottle (is there a better vessel for this purpose?).

Back inside, the senses contained between dark brooding concrete walls, sitting on dead animal furs. Canned birds and boxed pink dawn/dusk – poetry stripped, lulled into the nuance of the soundtrack, tendrils connect us via a booming Aussie bird. What is being thought? Said? By the birds by everyone who has passed through? What is fake, what is real? Dancers once, now pedestrians move position to position making their slow exit, pausing to look, is that ‘wistfully’ no too emotional, ‘pragmatically’ out a window, then evaporate leaving a woman who has captured birds in her phone. 

Disappeared – releasing, relinquishing. Trans, transform, transcendetalate, transmute, transbody – we have skittered on the surface of something deeper. Digging would yield the root vegetables.


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