Remnants of Failure

Updated: Jun 7, 2018

This text was developed with collaborator Joshua Rutter as part of an application for residency at PACT in Essen.


Taniwha [‘tanifa] are mythic dragon-like creatures connected to the Maori (indigenous people) of Aotearoa: New Zealand, acting as guardians for specific tribes or important individuals. They are essentially relational, often associated with rivers or waterways, but not to be misunderstood as simply ogres since their role of guardian and messengers of change are interchangeable. Taniwha must be respected if disaster is to be averted.

Like many performing artists, we have been working increasingly in the urban environment, drawn by the huge functional and ideological shift typical of most liberal democratic cities, from industrial economies toward information and service economies. Accelerated through neoliberal policies that forge new relationships between public and private interests, industrial architecture has been either replaced, ignored or restored to a new function. These seductive spaces inspire performance, palpably charged with an uncanny residue that marks absence, they haunt the urban landscape as remnants of failure -- of an age based on extraction and exploitation, of capitalism itself perhaps.

The monstrous is frequently associated with disaster, ‘creatures of admonition’[i] are a sign that something has gone terribly wrong. However a monster is also enduring, beyond the event they may survive generations, sometimes even their nascent environment. How then might we imagine the monsters of failed neoliberal democracy? Not just within these failed industrial structures, but also from the remnants of financial collapse, of human labour replaced by machine, of materialist consumer waste?

This research seeks to firstly identify failed and absent spaces, then embody by way of somatic practice and object-based interventions, creating the implicit monster specific to each uncanny space. Secondly, to allow the monsters to co-exist in heterotopian space (this may be the theatre, but could also be found space).

In our age of rationalism the Taniwha is generally treated as a popular fiction, yet its influence on the imaginative psyche has real-world implications. Legal recognition, such as denied or restricted access to waterways and ancestral land, illustrates how the mythopoetic plays an important role in shared space. This research will survey the immediate surroundings of PACT residency centre, and move further into Essen industrial spaces as time will allow. Each day we will split time between on-site research and studio time, encouraging a dialogue between responding and informing space.

The outcomes of the research are yet to be formalised, however both participants have a strong history in public-space performances and collaborative creations. The three week residency will be a testing ground for a theoretical approach, we also expect to generate some material or dramaturgical approaches.

[i] Gordon, J. A. and L. R. Gordon (2015). Of divine warning: Disaster in a modern age, Routledge.

(near Kanal, Anderlecht)


(Quai de L'Industrie)


(house in Schaerbeek, Brussels, BELGIUM 2018)



(Boulevard Baudouin, Brussels)


Parnell, Auckland, NZ 2018

Here are some short clips from a previous research, shot in Palmerston North (NZ) in 2015.








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