Performing Grounds: Unsettling Cultural Landscapes

05 November, 2021 by Andrew Filmer | 0 comments

Performing Grounds: Unsettling Cultural Landscapes

An online gathering with thinkers, designers and artists from Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, the Pacific (Moana Nui a Kiwa) and Turtle Island (Canada).

Performing Grounds: Unsettling Cultural Landscapes
 was an online gathering that invited thinkers, designers and artists from Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, the Pacific (Moana Nui a Kiwa) and Turtle Island (Canada) to share their indigenous knowledges and reparative approaches to unsettling and reconfiguring grounds for performing identities, technologies and stories. The event was hosted by PULSE in association with IFTR’s Theatre & Architecture Working Group as part of the 4th Space Residency program, Concordia University, Tiohtià:ke/ Montreal.


Performing and performance space generally involves an event of ‘taking place’… but where, what, and whose place? What does it mean to design and construct performance space in a precarious world pushed to its limit by climate catastrophe, mass migration and unruly pandemics that threaten established borders and the territories they contain?


It seems more urgent than ever to critically reconsider the necessary and entangled relationship between space and performance, between site and action, between theatre as built form and theatre as art form. Architecture continues to serve the Western knowledge systems responsible for the conditions that dominate our cultural landscapes; evidenced by a proliferation of cookie-cutter auditoria reinforcing colonial legacies, binary thinking and neoliberal capitalism. Performers and audience remain separated within the dead air of theatre as a disciplinary machine, while the very lands these venues occupy – transformed from earth into property – reinforce the narratives of discovery, conquest and occupation. However, within indigenous epistemologies lies the possibility to rethink our relationship to the cultural landscapes we share, as well as how we gather, exchange, and perform diverse cultures.




Tanya Lukin Linklater is an artist and writer. Her collection of poetry, Slow Scrape, was published by The Centre for Expanded Poetics and Anteism in 2020. In 2021 Tanya received the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts for Visual Art. She is a doctoral candidate in Cultural Studies at Queen's University. She is Supiaq/Alutiiq and a member of the Native Villages of Afognak and Port Lions, Alaska. Her performances, works for camera, installations, and writings centre histories of Indigenous peoples’ lives, lands, and structures of sustenance. Her performances in relation to objects in exhibition, scores, and ancestral belongings generate what she has come to call felt structures. She investigates insistence in both concept and application. Tanya has shown at SFMOMA, Chicago Architecture Biennial 2019, EFA Project Space + Performa, Art Gallery of Ontario, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Remai Modern, Winnipeg Art Gallery, and elsewhere. She is participating in Soft Water Hard Stone, the 2021 New Museum Triennial.



Tiffany Shaw-Collinge (Métis) is an interdisciplinary artist, curator and architect based in Alberta. She holds a BFA from NSCAD University, a Masters in Architecture from SCI-Arc, and is currently working at Reimagine Architects. Tiffany has exhibited widely and has been the recipient of multiple public art commissions such as Edmonton's Indigenous Art Park and Winnipeg’s Markham Bus Station. Oscillating between digital and analogue methodologies Tiffany's work gathers notions of craft, memory and atmosphere. Her practice is often guided by communal interventions as a way to engage a lifted understanding of place. Tiffany is also a core member of Ociciwan Contemporary Art Collective.



Amanda [Ngāti Rangiwewehi, Ngāti Whakaue, Te Aitanga a Māhaki, Rongowhakaata] is Associate Professor at AUT’s School of Future Environment. She works with Councils, iwi and communities exploring place-based, indigenous-led strategies and actions for urban transformation in an era of climate and biodiversity emergency.


Whenua-ora: performative more-than-human cities for a living earth


For Indigenous-Māori the ground is always already performative and performing as an agential entity. The ontology of whakapapa (living-world kin-ship) establishes a tūāpapa or foundation for thinking of earth as entity, as primordial relation. This earth-oriented ontology understands ground, rock, river, sea as living and interlinked with trees, birds, insects, fish, and humans: all as a connected and vital life-field – mauri ora. At this time of ecological emergency increasingly we see the performative effects of a false conceptual model. Western knowledge systems manifested an industrial modernism that separated human and more-than-human, thinking the earth passive, inert. As climates change, storms flood, and heat events drive firestorms, we see instead the radical agency and power of the more-than-human. How can we now decolonise and indigenise our Aotearoa urban cultures so that they can, as in the pre-colonial era, perform earth-oriented ontologies, practicing care for a living kin-world?




Shannon is a D’harawal Saltwater Knowledge Keeper, artist and interdisciplinary creative practitioner with over twenty years of experience in designing education programs and spaces in prominent Sydney learning institutions. Her research with the Centre for the Advancement of Indigenous Knowledges (UTS) addresses a large gap in site-specific, Sydney based Aboriginal knowledge, as she documents the stories and knowledges of her family - the D’harawal people of the Sydney region.


With a passion for design practices that counter colonised accounts of place, Jo (Karyouakou wugulora) educates and practises in a way that is respectful of Indigenous (hi)stories, cultures, languages and knowledges of Country/whenua. Her experience in architectural practice since 1991 in Aotearoa New Zealand, and now Sydney, led her to embrace the negotiation between cultural protocols to find productive modes of Indigenous and non-Indigenous collaboration.


Giligili Djanaba: Cultural Performance in the Built Environment


Our presentation recasts the city as 'urban Country,' working with the enduring spirit of that Country to reveal and perform traces of what has undergone colonial erasure at the hands of architecture, urban design and Western governance. We position on-Country cultural performance in the built environment as a critical spatial practice (Rendell, 2008) that reasserts the sovereign relationality between the acts of performing/gathering/making and the ground upon which they are enacted - ground that is geologic and Ancestral, bearing deep time of rocks and oral histories, ephemerally percolated by fugacious water and ceremony; aerated by the wind, loves and fleeting breath; enveloped by the skies, ecologies, community and your Ancestors’ blood pumping within your skin.



Latai Taumoepeau makes live-art-work. Her faivā (body-centred practice) is from her homelands, the Island Kingdom of Tonga and her birthplace Sydney, land of the Gadigal people. Latai centres Tongan philosophies of relational vā (space) and tā (time); cross-pollinating ancient and everyday temporal practice to make visible the impact of climate crisis in the Pacific.


The Last Resort


The Last Resort excavates a dystopian image and experience of idyllic island landscapes mostly considered as holiday destinations to outsiders. Void of Pina Colada cocktails, hypnotic hip-swaying and rugby balls, this performance installation documents a dangerous current of transformation and dispossession due to human induced climate change specifically of industrialised countries. The Last Resort is an endurance performance, ritual and installation exploring the fragility and vulnerability of saltwater ecologies and communities of Pacific Island nations in the Oceanian region. It emphasises the labour of the most vulnerable communities impacted by the environmental capitalist climate crisis and the imbalance of power in caring for country.

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