Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats cover more than 30,000 acres. The unique natural feature is perfectly flat with a thick crust of salty soil. The area is so barren not even the simplest life forms can exist.
The area includes the famous Bonneville Speedway (where Invercargill’s Burt Munroe set his under-1,000 cc world record) and has been the location for feature film productions including The World’s Fastest Indian and Independence Day.
In August, artist and performance designer Sam Trubridge was there to turn a five year old dream into reality. He wanted to perform his work Night Walk on the Bonneville Salt Flats and capture it in three-channel video.
Night Walk is a series of performance walks conducted in various locations. Sam has been performing the work since 2015 as part of his ongoing study into nomadic states. Night Walk sees Sam walking inside a large inflated sphere made from black plastic rubbish bags. He describes these walks as ‘blind navigations’, mapping the landscape through a negotiated passage through each terrain. As the journey proceeds, elemental forces and surfaces work at the thin plastic transforming the architecture of the globe into a shredded artifact of the performance. Sam has rolled out his performance walk in various terrains and conditions across Australia and Aotearoa NZ: including a reclaimed farming station, beaches, narrow city laneways, and busy high streets.
A new iteration of the work, Night Walk – Bonneville, is now on display at the Pah Homestead in Auckland. The three-part video installation documents Sam’s performance on the Salt Flats in the haze of the 2018 California wildfires. It shows the work from several angles, exploring the interior and exterior views of his giant globe of disintegrating plastic. There is a stark, alien quality to the work, invoking previous uses of the space for motor-racing and providing settings for science fiction films.
Sam says, ‘The velvet silence and soft cotton-wool light was the most powerful and gentle homecoming for a work that has travelled through wind, mud, undergrowth, bustling city, and stormy beaches to be here. It was hard to believe that I hadn't arrived on another planet. I was humbled and awestruck by where I had found myself.’
Sam is director of transdisciplinary performance company The PlayGround NZ, and of The Performance Arcade: an annual festival of performance art on Wellington Waterfront. He creates solo performance art works, installations, and theatrical productions. Sam also regularly contributes to Art Zone. You might like to read his thoughts about Te Papa’s Toi Art, or his review of a recent trip to Utah’s Museum of Fine Arts.
Night Walk – Bonneville
Until 9 December