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Luke Willis Thompson Performance

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A still from Thompson's film, Untitled, 2009

With the film we see personal and normally private footage of the naturally affected artist behaving with bravado towards his dad's corpse. He is even clowning with the body, pinching his father's nose, tapping his cheeks, looking at his hands and dress shirt and sheepishly grinning. This seems to be partly to entertain the person filming, partly as a lovingly humorous comment on his father's personality, and partly stress.

Auckland

 

Luke Willis Thompson
Untitled

 

Sunday 1 July, 3 pm

As part of the performance program devised for Natasha Conland’s Made Active Chartwell exhibition at Auckland Art Gallery, this work by Luke Willis Thompson fits in nicely with his two earlier pieces discussed on this site: one at RM featuring a Stepin Fetchit store-display mannequin, and the other a house in Epsom to which viewers were taken by taxi.

Sunday’s performance consisted of a film screening (four sessions, a dozen people each time) at a panel beater’s premises, a site that used to be a Funeral Parlour and where in 2009 the artist saw his father’s body lying in a casket before it was buried.

The ‘performance’ is that documentation of Thompson gazing at, thinking about, and touching his father’s body and clothing. He was filmed by his brother and the screening was held in an enclosed area that seemed to be used for spray painting. The projector was screwed to the ceiling and worked by remote control whilst the space where the audience sat seems to have originally been a small chapel with pews. As a performance work there is no ‘liveness’ apart from the seated audience themselves providing it as surrogate members of the family attending the parlour three years later. Or the ‘live’ Thompson of three years in front of a camera.

With the film we see very personal and normally private footage of the naturally affected artist behaving with bravado towards his dad’s corpse. He is even clowning with the body, pinching his father’s nose, tapping his cheeks, looking at his hands and dress shirt and sheepishly grinning. This seems to be partly to entertain the person filming, partly as a lovingly humorous comment on his father’s personality, and partly stress. Despite his perky and jovial demeanour Thompson is still bleary eyed and shaken.

There is something courageous about the way Thompson presents his own vulnerability using family home movies. The work focuses on time and place and how swiftly family life and municipal social amenities change. The camera work is jittery and the artist nervous, so at times it is difficult to watch. As a work Untitled is more audience friendly than hisinthisholeonthisislandwhereiam installation earlier this year because this time plenty of contextual information is made available through the Made Active catalogue. It seems very focussed in its use of architecture, traumatic memory, audience placement, and of course the greatest of all themes, the inevitability of death.

There is a panel discussion on Made Active this evening (3/7) at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, in the lecture theatre - starting at six. Should be fun. Blair French, Natasha Conland, David Cross and the artists will be present. See you there.

John Hurrell

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