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Mary Amery

March 9th, 2016

Source:The Big Idea


It can be a penny arcade, a video arcade or a shopping arcade. It can be a series of arches – trajectories extending elegantly, briefly, repetitively from the norm. All meanings of the word arcade conjure up the eclecticism and fantasy of a festival.

The Performance Arcade is now in its sixth year. This live arts festival in and around a procession of containers on the Wellington waterfront during arts festival remains an ingenious format: an independent force to be reckoned with.

In 2016, 19 works were present for 26 hours over four days, with a live music series and bar. A development programme with public events led up to it over the summer. For the artists the Arcade allows for development and experimentation in the company of others, with intense interaction with a wide public. For the passerby, it’s an accessible way to engage with new ideas. Crucially, in public space, it is free.

My favourite works sustain your attention by guiding you out into the urban environment beyond. For them the containers are a matter of convenience rather than necessity.

For the Body Cartography project with Footnote Dance Company closer I booked in for a 15 minute one-on-one dance performance. My daughter and I were instructed to follow a dancer, as close or as distant as we wished. His expressive improvisation with different elements around the wonderful Megan Wraight-designed water-sensitive Waitangi Park provided a powerful way to unlock physical enjoyment of the corners and ledges of public space. I was reminded how close the language of dance is to that of natural childhood public space play.