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February 28, 2011 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

The Commons Project and More…

It seems that few of us are squeezing out summery Wellington this year, like every year. Can you lie down in your mat, sipping some wine while enjoying the vibes and the magic at the Botanic Gardens? Have you danced to the imaginary frequencies pouring out of the supposedly out-of-budget Cuba Street Carnival? Or spotted a hammerhead shark on the bay? Walked along Oriental Parade, showing off your worked-out-muscles-for-the-summer, playing your ukulele, or having a good-old splash in the surprisingly warm waters? Even pretended to be sporty at the Round the Bays? Nay? Then sorry, my friend, but you’ll need to try harder to keep that Welly spirit up for the next season!

If you were here, as I am, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. As they say, you can’t beat Wellington on a nice day… and we’re having plenty of those! But it’s not all about the weather: the arts are boiling in the city, from our favorite venues to our overlooked spaces in town.

Victoria University’s Adam Art Gallery is running what they call ‘The Commons Project’. In their words: “This project seeks to establish the commons again within the fabric of Wellington city. It calls on the community to gather in our urban environment and to claim space outside the market paradigm. It advocates for a common ground and collective experience.”

It makes sense, then, to picture the beloved Campbell Kneale together with Alan Courtis performing at the as-urban-as-it-gets carpark right below the Duxton Hotel. I had my earplugs and my noise-cancelling headphones ready and loaded, prepared to experience the eardrum-altering noise exposure, but it turned out to be the other way round. While Kneale was burning CDs on the spot (from the live recording of the audience present at the carpark), one after the other, Alan was drawing patterns over them before wrapping them and throwing them round plastics as frisbees all over the place.

Walking along with David Watson, on a casual mid-summer Sunday, with a whole lot of performers doing the Mobile Experimental Music around town, was another out-of-it experience. Starting at the A.A.G., we walked along the Terrace, Willis, Cuba, and Manners, turning heads while offering a symphony of the improvised and the intimate. The event concluded with a sublime performance at the Embassy Theatre (ovation included!). As Watson told me after we were done, “Although vulnerable as we were, with the stage being the street, it was great to feel Wellington’s openness and appreciation for the different; people did seem a bit grim at first, but then engaged in quite an interested manner.”

Richard Francis and Jason Kahn played at Bats, a performance I unfortunately couldn’t attend. And this show is not over until Annea Lockwood (New York) does her thing at the Peter McLeavey Gallery this Wednesday 27 February. Not enough for a month? Then I guess you didn’t go up to Auckland to enjoy the eclectic Plastic Beach beats, or buy those tickets to the Freak Out the Chemical Brothers are gonna stir up on 4 March at the Vector Arena.

Richard Francis and Jason Kahn at BATS


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  1. Gabriel Shaw Bunge says:

    This review is a fantastic and comprehensive gaze of Wellington I felt visiting him!

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