The Commons Project: Performance series in public/private space

January - April 2011

Richard Francis (Auckland)
and Jason Kahn (Zürich/Los Angeles)
Sunday 30 January 7pm
Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, Bats Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace

Campbell Kneale (Wellington)
and Alan Courtis (Buenos Aires)
Thursday 3 February 6pm
James Smith Carpark, 162 Wakefield Street

David Watson (Auckland/New York)
and the New Zealand School of Music
Sunday 20 February 12noon-1pm
Parade commencing from the Adam Art Gallery 12 noon, culminating in a performance at the Embassy Theatre,
10 Kent Terrace 1pm

Annea Lockwood (New York)
Wednesday 27 April 11am-5pm
Peter McLeavey Gallery, 147 Cuba Street

What and where are the commons today?
The commons is a space where resources are collectively owned or shared. Deriving from pre-industrial agrarian times, the commons was a demarcated site that could not be commodified. It was neither public nor private. The commons was managed by the local community which advocated for inclusivity and shared activity.

This project seeks to establish the commons again within the fabric of Wellington city. It calls on the community to gather in our urban environment and to claim space outside the market paradigm. It advocates for a common ground and collective experience.

To locate a space between public and private is to acknowledge that our environment is determined by power relations. The difference between what is private and what is public is marked by who is given access and for what ends. Finding somewhere between these definitions is to open up possibilities for action and to enable new meanings to take shape.

Right now we are living in a time of commercial contradiction: between hyper-capitalism and economic instability. There is also renewed investment in developing communities based on effective conservation and resource management. Here, in the space of negotiation—between community needs and capital enterprise, between the commercial agenda of the street and the city’s endorsed behaviour as a creative capital—a commons can be established. The proposition of this event is that this can be effected through sound.

Music is a popular medium. It creates shared states of being. It is undeniably pervasive. It cannot be ignored. People who make music do so together in the spirit of community and without regard for the structures of class. Music for this project is a tool, a means to explore an alternative to today’s rampant culture of consumption and propose other ways of communicating.

The Commons Project will not simply deliver music freely. It will challenge expectations of what music can be—delving into electronic sampling, score-based instrumentation and processional sounds—and where it should be performed. We have set a challenge for participants, by inviting them to work in city sites that are either unfamiliar or that test expectations of where one might hear sounds performed.

This series is based on collaboration. The collective dynamics explored by each performance will not only build relationships between sound and site but will also connect local practitioners with artists from other places with potentially long-term effects. The aim is to establish common ground not only in the public and private spaces where performances will be staged but in the connective threads that will stretch in many directions from this point.

Through the pervasive and popular medium of sound, this series of performances aims to empower an understanding of community and to re-imagine the commons as a public space to be re-claimed In Our Name.

Laura Preston – Curator

The Adam Art Gallery staged this series between January and April 2011. The Commons Project is the second off-site series to be staged as part of the Adam Art Gallery’s Sound Check programme focus, which sets out to explore the overlap between the visual and the aural.

We acknowledge the generous support of  the New Zealand School of Music and Wellington City Council through its Cultural Grant Funding Programme towards the realisation of this project.

Click here to view the public programme events associated with this exhibition.

In Our Name The Commons Project January-April 2011 [PDF]