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Aliens clubbing

Updated: Jul 21, 2020

Sam Trubridge is a Performance Designer who is the artistic director of The Performance Arcade in Wellington. He talks theatre, the biggest problem facing galleries, and peers clubbing at Jupiter's.

How have you developed your career? Between theatre-making, curation, and performance art, I have never fixated on the concept of ‘career’ in my work. Instead, the driving principle has always been about an enrichment of vision, creativity, and cultural experience – in my own life and the lives of others. I have worked through a range of disciplinary fields and modes of practice. My work has gathered value because of my radical approach to space, design, discipline, audience, and architecture. A career has formed from this, but it is more artistically motivated than anything else.

What are your must-read books and why? Martin Amis’s Time’s Arrow. It turns a scenario upside down and creates a moral dilemma. And Elias Canetti’s Crowds and Power, for its poetic analysis of how we gather, occupy space, and function as groups.

What does a typical day look like? Never typical – always different.

How would you describe the aesthetic of NZ art? A loneliness and wonder in relationship to our landscape seems to be our defining aesthetic. Our figures sit within the landscape awkwardly, often lost, trying to make amends with its indigenous narratives and our damaged stripped landscapes. Even in the most urbane works, there seems to be some sense of this.

The biggest problem facing galleries/shows/exhibitions today is…

Certain institutions have all but disappeared with the growth of online experiences, virtual transactions, and digital content. Record stores, post offices, and newspapers have all diminished significantly in recent years. I suspect that arts presenters have some challenges ahead to operate successfully in an environment that is defined by the easy accessibility of experiences from within the bounds of one’s own home.

What is your favourite show you’ve seen lately?

Yona Lee’s In Transit at City Gallery. It’s a fantastic installation that sprawls through the architecture exploring the ubiquitous steel handrail and a few other devices. It's a beautifully detailed work that explores the way that architecture guides us, helps us, and controls us by setting boundaries and disciplinary systems.

What do you consider to be your most successful shows of the last five years?

Sleep/wake in the NZ New Performance Festival at La MaMa Theatre, New York; the deep Anatomy exhibition at Silo Park in Auckland; the whole Night Walk project; and The Performance Arcade.

What were you like at 15?

I was new to town, and a bit of an interloper after being shifted up a grade at high school. I had regular nosebleeds and enjoyed constructing imaginary scenarios using role playing games, drawing, and writing. I was still a child and found the adult-like attempts of my classmates (such as sneaking into night clubs and getting wasted) the most alien thing ever. The fact that the night club in question was called 'Jupiter’s' made me wonder which fantasy world was more absurd – mine or theirs.

What quote or saying do people say that you think is complete BS? 'You can’t have light without the darkness.' It may be true, but too many abusive people seem to use it as a quasi-spiritual justification for their poor behavior.

Describe the colour yellow to somebody who is blind.

Like gentle morning sun falling on your skin.


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