What if the City was a Theatre? A Symposium on Performance and Urban Space

Academic Symposium

Thu 11 Feb, Fri 12 Feb, Sat 13 Feb, Sun 14 Feb

Various, see below


Various locations, see below

Wellington 6011, New Zealand


wheelchair accessible, casual

In this multi-disciplinary, three-day symposium the city features as both a space of performance and a space performing itself; a living, theatrical entity in its own right.

All events are free and open to the public. Academics, independent scholars, performers, artists, and members of the general public alike are invited to attend and participate throughout the symposium weekend. Some events require advance registration and have capped numbers.

REGISTER HERE: https://forms.gle/xJdXbYt4d8kA6id46

City Gallery Wellington
6 - 8pm, City Gallery Adam Auditorium

Mihi Whakatau by Kurt Komene and representatives of Te Ātiawa / Taranaki Whanui.
Readings and performances by Awa Puna, Chris Tse, and Emma Barnes.
Keynote address by Dorita Hannah:

“RELEASE THE FURIES…! Theatre Has Left The Building.”

It wasn’t so long ago that we negotiated the city as self-organising citizens: free from security fencing, stanchion barriers, fluoro-orange traffic cones and proliferating signage; all designed to regulate our individual and collective movement. This new normal, which signals impending catastrophe and therefore a precarious existence, not only limits how we engage with the urban environment but curtails spontaneous self-expression and risk-taking while disregarding the city’s multiple histories, cultural mythologies and socio-political realities. And yet, recent incidents on a highly mediatized global stage have revealed a hyper-theatricalization of everyday life, blurring the boundaries between fact and fiction. This is accompanied by a tendency for contemporary theatre to leave the ‘dead air’ of its designated buildings, seeking ‘the real’ in all its manifestations. In this keynote address, Dorita Hannah presents a range of key performance projects, including her own collaborative dance-architecture events, in order to consider how challenging well-established binaries—between safety and danger, mythos and materiality, theatre and city—can enrich urban development with opportunities for liminal scenographic encounters, particularly in Wellington, Te Whanganui-a-Tara.


FEBRUARY 12, Day 1: Claims to Space
Te Wharewaka-o-Poneke and throughout city

10:30am - 12pm: Walking tour: Indigenous knowledges and Te Whanganui-a-Tara
Tour led by Angela Kilford
Meet at Karaka Cafe at Te Wharewaka-o-Poneke at 10am
Rain date: Sunday, February 14th, 10am

Angela Kilford (Te Whanau A Kai, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu) is an artist and designer with a background in textiles. She also works within the College of Creative Arts, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand. Angela’s inspiration comes from Māori concepts and knowledge. Her most recent works have explored the whakapapa of local ecology and the lesser known connections between living and non-living entities. These ideas are examined and expressed through walking, performance, collaborative making, large scale public installations and writing.

Join Angela for a walking tour that engages with Te Ao Māori histories and stories of place in Te Whanganui-a-Tara.

Registration for the Walking Tour is now full. You may sign up for the wait list via our registration link.

12:15 -1:30pm: Lunchtime roundtable: What if the City was a Theatre?
Panel discussion and lunch
Matiu Room, Top floor, Te Wharewaka-o-Poneke
Jack Gray, Mere Boynton, Sarah Thomasson, Sophie Jerram, Stephen Bain

Panelists propose a series of provocations and questions for audience members to keep in mind throughout the weekend’s symposium and performances. A light lunch will be provided.

Curated visits to City/Theatre performances
Led by Sam Trubridge

3:00-4:15pm: Panel discussion: What about spatial justice? Kaitiakitanga, Performance, and Collaboration
Matiu Room, Top floor, Te Wharewaka-o-Poneke
Dorita Hannah, Emalani Case, Huhana Smith, Sean Coyle, Sophie Jerram

How might performance in urban space embody kaitiakitanga? How are spatial justice and performance linked? This panel will explore the ways power relations and histories play out in urban space and performance, and what obligations we might have as practitioners, thinkers, academics, and urban designers to care for and to collaborate on guarding and protecting urban space and the environment.


FEBRUARY 13, Day 2: Sympoesis—Making Together With
Across Wellington Waterfront

10:00am-12:00pm: Citizens Assembly by Binge Culture Collective
The public is invited to join and vote in a lively participatory assembly on Wellington housing.
Frank Kitts Park Amphitheatre
Rain venue: City Gallery Wellington Adam Auditorium

The Citizens Assembly is a theatrical provocation, a demonstration of what direct democracy could look like, and an opportunity for everyday citizens to participate in debate and decision-making processes that acknowledge Te Tiriti and Te Ao Māori in their conception.

This participatory event is an exploration of the potential of Citizens Assemblies in solving seemingly impossible political issues. We will look at how this democratic model of public debate has been applied overseas and consider where such a process might sit in the context of Aotearoa’s existing political institutions and tikanga Māori. We’ll conduct a short practical experiment using the present-day housing crisis as a case study, using theatrical and musical elements to liven and enhance the political process.

All welcome. Join us on Saturday, February 13th, 10am in Frank Kitts Park Amphitheatre. RSVP is appreciated; please RSVP through the link at the top of this page.

12:00-1:00pm: Kai ‘n’ Kōrero
Public discussion and kai, facilitated by Jack Gray
Kumutoto North Pavillion, Queens Wharf, Wellington Waterfront

Atamira Dance Company’s Jack Gray facilitates an interactive meal of fish ‘n chips and kōrero. The lunchtime event will address contemporary hot topics like mapping and whakapapa through creative interaction, play, and drawing—starring the ubiquitous kiwi chip wrapper.

RSVP is required and fish ‘n chips are provided for all participants who register. Registration is capped at forty participants and specific dietary requirements cannot be catered for. Please register through the link at the top of this page.

This event may be cancelled in the case of heavy rain

Curated visits to City/Theatre performances and Performance Arcade Preview

3:00-4:15pm Panel discussion: “Developing” Cities: Class, Economics, Housing, and Gentrification
The Performance Arcade Stage
Rain venue: The Upper Chamber at Toi Poneke Arts Center
Ashok Jacob, Ian McComb, Mark Southcombe, Sarah Thomasson, Tamatha Paul

Panelists discuss housing access in Aotearoa New Zealand from a variety of perspectives, addressing the current limitations and problems of the housing crisis and considering the role of architecture, sustainable communities, renters advocacy groups, city councils, and arts festivals in collaborating on ways forward.

4:30-5:45pm: Panel discussion: Whose City? Body, Space, Culture
City Gallery Adam Auditorium
Brannavan Gnananligam, Lori Leigh, Mohsen Kafi, Raed Rafei, Suzanne Tamaki

Is public space really public, and in the sense of the commons: open to all? When we speak of "our" city, and the "we" who lives here, who are we really talking about? In what ways might the "we" exclude or overlook? How might dominant narratives about city space impact which bodies are visible and present? The artists and thinkers in this panel have a vested interested in looking at what lies beneath claims to public space in the city of Wellington, and in presenting alternate narratives of public space both in Aotearoa and overseas, be it through queer, migrant, performance, or language and translation perspectives.

6:00-6:45pm: Artist Talk: Counter Strike!
George Awatea and Reuben Friend
The Performance Arcade Stage
Rain venue: The Upper Chamber at Toi Poneke Arts Center

What happens when arcade games strike back? This exchange between two artists from Performance Arcade 2018 reexamines the theme of ‘counter narratives’ from that year, and brings into view modes of art and historical figures from Aotearoa’s past.


FEBRUARY 14, Day 3: Urban Futures
City Gallery Wellington and Performance Arcade Stage

11:00am-12:15pm: Panel Discussion: “Thing power:” Posthumanism and City Performance
City Gallery Adam Auditorium
Jacob Edmond, Jan Smitheram, Catherine Bagnall, Jess Richards, Marco Sonzogni

If we think of "citybeing" as a web that extends beyond the human, to include non-human animals, weather systems, plants, architectures, virtual realms, and inanimate objects, how might we include these non-human factors in discussions about the city? How might we think of them as agents in and of themselves, exerting influence and shaping place? In turn, what might be the pitfalls or limitations of a western academic notion of "posthumanism," where indigenous knowledges have conceptualized animism and acknowledged the spirit of places well before the academic term—or the academy—arose? How can posthumanism apply in practice, where we seek to voice or "body" non-human agents in our work? This panel takes to heart the question of how we, as Te Whanganui-a-Tara citizens, might engage in reciprocal relationships with the non-human elements we live alongside and how we might think or feel their existence with or beyond the notion of the "posthuman."

12:30-1:15pm: Summer Poetry Preview
Performance Arcade Stage
Featuring poets: Ash Davida Jane, Emma Barnes, Maeve Hughes, Miriama Gemmell, Sam Duckor-Jones

1:15-1:45pm Artist Talk: Art and Labour: Working to Keep the Lights On
Katrina Elizabeth Bastian and Marcus McShane
The Performance Arcade Stage

Katrina Elizabeth Bastian and Marcus McShane create erratic and exhausting workspaces that test the endurance of their participants. This artist talk explores the limits of biopower and the ethics of art as labour and labour for art.

Curated visits to City/Theatre performances
Led by Urban Dream Brokerage

3:00-4:15pm: Panel discussion: The City in the Anthropocene: Performing Urban Geology and Te Taiao
City Gallery Adam Auditorium
Angela Kilford, Huhana Smith, Ingrid Horrocks, Maibritt Pederson Zari

The term "anthropocene" pays attention to the material impacts of humans on the environment, highlighting the present era of geological history characterized by human impact. This panel will investigate the term "anthropocene" and consider its positionality as a notion in and of the western academy, drawing on the words of Métis scholar Zoe Todd when she stated: "Anthropocene is a gentrifying term." We will also think through the ways materials (from plastics to harakeke) and elements (such as te wai, water) create connections between the urban and non-urban, human and non-human worlds. How does performance configure in a geological, biomaterial, or temporal context that is shaped by the presence of the human?

4:30-5:15pm: Roundtable: What if cities could talk? Reflecting on the City/Theatre Festival and Symposium
The Performance Arcade Stage
Rain venue: The Upper Chamber at Toi Poneke Arts Center
Dorita Hannah, Jack Gray, Sam Trubridge, Stephen Bain

Symposium participants and festival organizers reflect on the discussions and events of the weekend, and consider the provocations that they will continue working through in their own practices.

5:15-5:30pm: Closing karakia
Kurt Komene and representatives of Te Ātiawa / Taranaki Whanui
The Performance Arcade Stage
Rain venue: The Upper Chamber at Toi Poneke Arts Center


Photo credit: Tongues of Stone Workshop by Dorita Hannah: Perth 2010. Photo by: Lauren Skogstad

REGISTER at this link: https://forms.gle/xJdXbYt4d8kA6id46

Curated by Melody Nixon in association with Victoria University's School of Languages and Cultures