Sunday, 3 September 2017

Performance art, Martin Place

As I approached the northern extremity of Pitt Street Mall I heard a brass band playing somewhere down the street, so instead of turning up King Street to go up the hill I continued along Pitt Street. Near Martin Place I could see from a distance there was a group of people and I could also see some placards being held in the air. As I got closer I could see that the members of the band I had heard playing 'The animals went in two by two' - a well-known song from long ago - were standing in a line holding their instruments, but they were not playing them any more. Also on the footpath were some young people in red T-shirts holding clipboards, and they were talking to people passing in the street as though they were doing a survey. As I came around the corner into Martin Place I could see a line of young people standing silently holding blank placards in front of the fountain (as you can see in the first photo).

Soundlessly, after standing there for a while, the line of people began to move in procession up the hill past the office buildings on the grey pavement. They then reformed further up Martin Place and stood dispersed on a flat part of the thoroughfare next to some stairs (as you can see in the second photo). Some of the young people faced south, others faced west, and one was even lying down on the pavement on his back. The band, meanwhile, had also moved up the hill and stood, as before, in a line beside one of the office buildings playing music.

A young man with a satchel and with a label around his neck on a lanyard was standing facing the line of young people and I asked him if he was involved in the performance. He said he was, and told me that the name of the artist responsible for the performance is Anne Collod. He also gave me a booklet with information about his organisation, La Magnanerie, when I told him I wanted to blog about the event. The organisation is based in France. Anne Collod's performance is a recreation of Anna Halpin's Blank Placard Dance, which was first performed in 1967 at the time of the Vietnam War. The booklet says that Collod's performance is on alongside the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, but according to Wikipedia this event was last on in 2016 and news reports online say the Opera House discontinued the series. Now, they have a new series of events called Antidote, where the website indeed has a page for Collod's performance.

The young man who gave me the booklet, whose name is Martin Galamez, told me that all the people involved in the performance were recruited locally, including the band, which is called Riff Raff.

The people with clipboards talking with pedestrians on the street, the young man called "collectors". "What is the meaning of protests in the city?" Martin said, referring to the blank placards, when I asked if the protest had to do with the emancipation of women. The collectors were collecting the things people want to protest about. The suggestions were posted at the Opera House today. I asked how long they would stay there but Martin didn't know. He said that Collod arrived in Sydney on Wednesday to set up the performance but would just be here as a tourist from today.

The booklet says that La Magnanerie is a multidisciplinary production office.

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