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September 12, 2011 | by  | in Arts Theatre |
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In August of 2007, artist Guillermo Vargas notoriously tied a dog to a gallery wall in Managua, Nicaragua (a Central American state bordered by Honduras and Costa Rica).

Allegedly withholding both food and water, news of the canine’s starvation and subsequent death soon spread across the globe, sparking international outrage. Criticism has since stimulated discussion on the controversial extent of conceptualism; simply put, is death ‘art’? Sketch is Kate Morris’ reply.

Sasaki, Japanese resident artist in a Wellingtonian gallery, is approached by Nadi, a young dying woman who wishes to have a box built in which she shall spend the remainder of her life*. Meanwhile, money-laundering gallery investor Bernard, accompanied by sidekick in tight white trousers, awaits the birth of a cultural masterpiece. Shit goes down—and it involves secrets.

A scathing review of the ‘superficial art world’, every aspect of the play seems to oscillate between caricature and emotional intensity. Sonia Yee, Alex Lodge and Ralph Johnson (Sasaki, Nadi and Bernard respectively), perform heartfelt roles in an otherwise exaggerated satirical environment. Their collective performances are tender but marred by an overwhelming cast of loudmouthed art worldians. However, the tables are soon turned: Nadi, Bernard and Sasaki become increasingly sour, and some of the artsy folk have been secretly lovely all along. Whether this is a decision of direction or text I do not know, but I was left confused as to whom I should pity most.

And it doesn’t improve with the stage. Dappled across BATS’ black floor, strips of white tape indicate various rooms within the gallery, names included. Despite my personal longing for Cluedo gags, the actors preferred to cut corners and straddle imaginary walls. In every respect it looked fine, but should one choose to employ such a device I recommend you adhere to it. Lighting, sound, and costume design are clean, but that is where it ends.

P.S. It was the girl in the glass box with the disease. *

*Find this interesting? Check out Cornelia Parker’s 1995 The Maybe in partnership with actress Tilda Swinton and/or Antony Gormley’s Blind Light installation, 2007.

By Kate Morris
6 – 17 September at BATS

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