Breaking down the barriers

Choreographer Ross McCormack rehearses with a dancer ahead of the Dunedin Arts Festival...
Choreographer Ross McCormack rehearses with a dancer ahead of the Dunedin Arts Festival performance of ArteFact: How to Behave in an Art Gallery. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
ArteFact: How to Behave in an Art Gallery, NZ Dance Company, DPAG, October 22 

New Zealand Arts Laureate Ross McCormack brings us ArteFact: How to Behave in an Art Gallery, an intriguing look at how people look and view art that ultimately asks — what is art?

ArteFact starts before the audience is even aware — essentially as soon as you walk through the door. Who are the performers, who are staff? McCormack has purposely dressed his dancers in the uniforms worn by the gallery staff, which blurs the lines and immerse us into this intimate and playful journey through an otherwise serious space.

The cast of five — Jag Popham, Kosta Bogoievski, Ngaere Jenkins, Olivia McGregor and Tyler Carney-Faleatua — invite us into this rare treat, moving through the gallery in such a different way. There is a wonderful waterfall of the two male dancers’ bodies descending down the stairs while the "gallery madam", Olivia McGregor, attempts to impart the proper behaviour expected of visitors to a gallery. The closing duet between Bogoievski and Carney-Faleatua is tender and beautifully set to David Bowie’s "Let’s Dance".

The beauty of using the Dunedin Public Art Gallery is the three levels the atrium space offers.

At one point the audience is split over the upper two levels while the performance space is on the ground floor below, offering different vantage points and perspectives of the action unfolding. Moving the audience between spaces means that we too are a part of the performance, and at one point people are plucked out of the audience to physically participate.

This all makes for a refreshing work that puts the audience at its centre.