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megan garrett-jones: nighttime: petty theft, performance space


Tully Arnot and Chris Petkovic performing Beavis and Butthead, NightTime: Petty Theft, Performance Space Tully Arnot and Chris Petkovic performing Beavis and Butthead, NightTime: Petty Theft, Performance Space
photo by Heidrun Löhr
A character straight from a B-grade sci-fi film speaks amicably to a small group of people of his expeditions aboard a grand star ship. He tells us that there is no currency in the future, but muses he is glad to be with us tonight in our present. Video records of his adventures in space play on stacks of old TV sets behind him. The footage is ripped from Star Trek, the Next Generation. This is Matt Rocheford’s performance, part of the first half of NightTime: Petty Theft.

In the most recent of Performance Space’s periodical short works nights artists were encouraged by the curatorial team to borrow, steal, appropriate and remix—all in the name of art.

The CarriageWorks Bay 20 theatre was set up for standing and mingling amongst installation works in the first half. Tully Arnot and Chris Petkovic sit on a couch being Beavis and Butthead. Video works by Jorey Corson and Blaine Cooper are looped on a commandingly large screen. In an intimate performance Phil Spencer asks you to sit on a milk crate opposite him and confess ‘have you ever stolen something?’ For your confession you are rewarded with a cashew nut.

I noticed a distinct ambivalence in the works staged towards the moral ground on which ‘theft’ stands. Underlying this was a questioning of the terms on which an artist can appropriate others’ words, images and ideas, and rehash them for their own work. When is the remix quotation and when is it plagiarism? And what is the outcome of the constant recycling of cultural icons? Some works suggested reference as flattery, some were critical or derisive of their original, and a few (and this is the danger of remix) were simply derivative.
Katie Molino performing Already Gathered, NightTime: Petty Theft, Performance Space Katie Molino performing Already Gathered, NightTime: Petty Theft, Performance Space
photo by Heidrun Löhr
The second half, a sit-down show, was a clash of theatre-type performances and multimedia and film works. Brown Council came out in T-shirts that read FRESH, NOW, HOT, HYPE. Recycling historic images of feminism and pop music, they feebly tried to set fire to their nylon bras (now removed) with cigarette lighters to Beyoncé’s hit song "All The Single Ladies." I doubt that Beyoncé got royalties for this performance.

In a self-reflexive monologue Katia Molino affirmed the claim that everything in the theatre has already been done. A Soda-Jerk film constructed an hilarious fictional history of hip-hop culture entirely through sampling existing footage and sound—appropriate given the abundant use of samples and remix in hip-hop music.

The finale for the evening was audio-visual duo They Live with a recut of John Carpenter's classic zombie film, They Live, performing their own sound piece over the top. The creepy ambient music made the film scarier than it actually is. Usually I would be laughing at the dated special effects but I was drawn into the relationship between the live music and the film that now seemed to have a renewed contemporary relevance. I am torn though—is it more homage than original work? For this NightTime it shouldn’t have mattered, as the platform was set up to celebrate postmodern pastiche and piracy. Still, although funny and all very cynical, there was something about the endless recycling of pop culture references that left me feeling empty.
They Live performing Here to Chew Bubblegum, NightTime: Petty Theft, Performance Space They Live performing Here to Chew Bubblegum, NightTime: Petty Theft, Performance Space
photo by Heidrun Löhr


Performance Space: NightTime: Petty Theft, curators Lara Thoms, Rosie Dennis, Rebecca Conroy; CarriageWorks, Sydney, June 19

RealTime issue #91 June-July 2009 pg.

© Megan Garrett-Jones; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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