Oct 3, 2016


Conceived by val smith, and developed in collaboration with Kristian Larsen
Performance by valvalval smithsmithsmith and Krstn Lrsn
12 - 4pm, Saturday February 13th 2016
Te Uru Gallery, Titirangi

Meiosis can be divided into nine stages, separated in half through the first time the cell divides and the second time it divides.
1.       Interphase
2.       Prophase I
3.       Metaphase I
4.       Anaphase I
5.       Telophase I and cytokinesis
6.       Prophase II
7.       Metaphase II
8.       Anaphase II
9.       Telophase II and cytokinesis
During these nine stages we might see cells, or their chromosomes and chromatids, pairing up, lining up, pulling apart, or pinching in the middle.
-          Sourced from www.yourgenome.org/facts/what-is-meiosis

As part of a live art festival ‘They Come From Far Away’ which ran from 10-13th February at Te Uru Gallery in Titirangi, myself, as valvalval smithsmithsmith, and fellow choreographic artist, as Krstn Lrsn, engaged in a 4 hour process of comprehensively transitioning to become each other.  The intention being honest and whole-hearted, that Krstn Lrsn would become valvalval smithsmithsmith, and valvalval smithsmithsmith would become Krstn Lrsn. With this intention we were exploring an kinaesthetic engagement with the question: How might we become each other?

Meiosis is not representation, pretending, reiteration, documentation or demonstration.
Meiosis is act/acts/acting.
Meiosis is social signs and symbols through the body.
Meiosis travels through time to understand who the other is / is not.
Meiosis is strictly a response to invisibility and a feeling of lack.
Meiosis is dance. Meiosis is not your dance. Meiosis is micropolitical.
>excerpt from performance manifesto/handout<
In the lead up to the event, Kristian and I discussed strategies that might be useful in a 4-hour process of becoming each other. We predominantly talked about somatic and performance methodologies, but also fielded other ideas such as swapping Facebook accounts / identities (for research purposes), and explored reading text sent to us from other people, and i.e. in order to practice being each other.

I was interested in how Krstn’s process and methods for becoming me, might be quite different from my own. Would this reflect our separate (and shared) histories of improvisation, dance and movement forms?

In order to know and become Krstn, I was thinking of dropping into an embodied listening practice to trace his feeling tones, anatomical personalities and other complex stylistic features. A practice that perhaps hopes to better understand who he is, in order that I might embody that ‘who’. I was imagining a kinaesthetically focused practice of empathy to comprehend the subjectivities of ‘Krstn’, sensing identifiers and signifiers as they emerged in the moment. Before the event took place, I was completely convinced that this task to comprehensively become each other was absolutely possible.

Te Uru's video documentation of the work 

I am interested in how this video documentation reads. When I watch it, I see Krstn and I working with quite different strategies. We approach the task with distinct tones and tempos. Due to the overlapping programme of events, the video documentation only occurred for the first 10 minutes and then again towards the end of our 4-hour process, so the video misses other ways of working that we engaged with. Over the span of time we worked in relation to various different spaces and people we encountered. The video shows how we started together, and some opening propositions that emerged between us. Over time these shifted and developed.

I am wondering about the ethical implications of the given task.
It is interesting for me to consider the various normative and gendered assumptions potentially embedded in a process that relies on the body and its senses as the sole source of information when considering who another human being is. What kinds of identifying impressions might emerge through an osmotic process of sensing, listening and tuning? How real and concrete will these impressions be? Will they align with the self-identifying language used by the other person to describe themselves? In reflection, I am thinking about the potentiality of the non-typical neurological activations that some somatic practices present, as a pathway that might lead into non-normative identity-forming/unforming socialisations. What are the metaphysical implications of getting to know someone else through kinaesthetic means?

“Osmosis is the spontaneous net movement of solvent molecules through a semi-permeable membrane into a region of higher solute concentration, in the direction that tends to equalize the solute concentrations on the two sides.”

During the event we shifted between sensing and talking. Sensing through touch, closeness, being-with; talking through noticing, awareness and the sharing of insights and embodied experiences. This shift between sensing and talking unintentionally invited a certain kind of engagement from exhibition attendees. People stood and watched, sat and listened, asked questions, came and went, took photos, and came in close or stayed at a distance. We responded to these spatialized engagements in various ways depending on our mood in the moment; verbal invitations to join us, walking away, looking at or seeing with, asking questions, staying with, and hiding from.

I was interested in the 4 hour time frame we had given ourselves to do the task. How long will it take to become you? What durations and stages would emerge? Can we sustain interest and energy in the process over time? How would we navigate everyday human needs through the time? Would we measure time, and how would we experience time from within the process?

We started our performance process in Te Uru’s main floor bathrooms complex where there is a wide wooden bench in a kind-of-foyer outside of the designated male, female and disabled toilets. From there we had decided to not put any restraints on where the process might take us physically (as well as psychically, emotionally and philosophically), and ended up moving through the gallery to occupy various spaces for lengths of time including the platform at the top of the back stairwell, and the cafe next door.

photo by Christina Houghton

Thankyou, we had lovely moments with people as they came, went and drifted past our 4 hour long distance. In particular, I enjoyed our time with Katherine Tate. It was super lovely, connected and felt expansive in terms of how we were dealing with the question of performance engagement. And, I will never forget our shared experience of Sean Curham's work - Gentle Lying on the Bonnet of a Popular Car  - it was super erotic, and deeply relaxing! Rrrrrmmm rrrrmmm.
Unfortunately, I truly failed to become Kristian, yet I feel like I know him in my body a little more microperceptually and intimately, which I think is, in itself, a small success.

As I write above, in a text to a friend who wasn't able to make the physical performance, I failed the brief. I failed it utterly. Not in any one moment did I feel like I was becoming, or had become, Krstn. Rather, I felt like, in attempting to become Krstn, I had managed to become more myself. I had managed to better understand who I was, or perhaps more accurately, I had managed to feel more of myself through the process. This is regardless of whether those embodied experiences of myself are defining of valvalval or not. Perhaps in a small yet significant validation of this outcome I might add another val onto the end of my name - to become valvalvalval.


Photo by Christina Houghton of Krstn and valvalval participating in Sean Curham's Gentle Lying on the Bonnet of a Popular Car


Whilst drawing heavily on post-structuralist, feminist and queer philosophies of performativity, becoming and affect from theorists such as Judith Butler, Eve Sedgwick, Jose Munoz, Gilles Deleuze and Brian Massumi, Meiosis is firmly rooted in technologies and techniques of dance, somatics and postmodern performance practices. Meiosis advocates for an addressing of HOW we might become each other (or more of ourselves) through the technologies of embodiment and choreographic thinking. I repeat; this is not a demonstration or an idea.

Meiosis is curious about how our perceptual experiences of ourselves, each other, and the environments we exist in, shift and morph when engaging in such bodily practices. Note to self: necessarily improvisational.

“I have been studying Krstn Lrsn’s profile page on Facebook in order to suck his humour and gendered being into my nervous system and fluids. Later into the process, I will retrieve all of this digital and electronic data and reconstitute it through my entire self."

Do signifiers applied to who we are, in the form of names, adequately capture the ‘wholeness’ or ‘reality’ of who we 'truly' are?

'val smith' is a self-described gender. val smith and Kristian Larsen are in no way stable identities, rather they are in a constant and fluid state of reinterpretation of themselves through daily acts of sexual repetition.

Jul 25, 2016

mapping a politics of queer pride and shame

Mapping threads of thought in response to Sam Orchard's call out through DPSN (diversity promotion through social networking) - for folks to talk about what pride means to them.

DPSN pride-vlog 

I am interested in the affectivity of shame, and the politics of shame in relation to performance and performance makign methodologies?

How might gay shame and somatic practices come together in a performance context? How can this open up discussion around queer and trans bodies, and the affective realities of living everyday as a visibly queer, trans and/or genderqueer person?

Are queer bodies seen to be Unworthy and Unproductive bodies?
-considered guilty for not conforming to the norm?
-who decides who/what is worthy of love?
-rejected & ostracised bodies

Why is 'Pride' so valued by mainstream LGBTQI culture, and mainstream culture generally?

WE ARE WHO WE SAY WE ARE - why identities are so important to queer communities? 
a necessary move in revaluing bodies, expressions and sexualities that are deemed wrong, not normal, dirty or shameful.

Unvalued/valued feelings

Standards of success & Failure
-Why is there such a huge stigma around shame? Are we afraid of feeling ashamed?

Brush it under the carpet, where it cannot be seen/felt.
Reclaiming the strength and power of SHAME in a performance context.
Seeing and being seen in a state of feeling ASHAMED - affective flows between performers/audience.

What do I feel proud of?
-proud of who we are?
-proud of what we do/achieve?
-proud of non-productivity? doing nothing? 
-proud of listening to my body?
-proud of respecting my boundaries?
-when i take risks, and challenge myself to do things that feel uncomfortable?
-proud of doing things that make me feel good about myself?

Not Proud - what is that?
-feeling ashamed, hateful, judging as bad/not good?

Gay Shame
-consumerism and capitalist culture...
-what does a Pride parade stand for with it's comsumerist aesthetics? 
-how does racism play a part?
-how are big businesses valued over queer activism & politics?

Secrets & Shame
-feeling like a BAD person

Pride feels like:
-warm fuzzies
-loving, embracing, supportive
-smiling and caring
-little explosions of love from teh chest

Making friends with shame
-taking the power out of it
-EMPATHIZING WITH resistance, judment, tension, blocking


May 25, 2016

This Cloud Is - final performance event for the Caroline Plummer Fellowship!

What is This cloud?

This cloud is: trillions of tiny water droplets floating around in the atmosphere as a togetherness (meta-physics)

This cloud is: a face, a fish, a plane, a horse, a heart shape (matter-physics)

This cloud is: a logical pooling of digital data; a storage infrastructure non-thing-thing (meta-data)

This cloud is: here-now-morphing-gone; not a cloud, o rain (ode to)

This cloud is: allowing a lot of light through

This cloud is: not letting light through (mental health triangles)

This cloud is: ... (fake)

THIS CLOUD IS. (realness)

THIS CLOUD IS QUEERING! is a 6 month creative project facilitated by choreographic artist val smith, for the Caroline Plummer Fellowship in Community Dance at University of Otago. The project has explored a process of mapping queer, trans and gender diverse experiences of public spaces engaging Dunedin’s rainbow communities in one-on-one walks, conversations, community building experiments, workshops, studio research, site-based tests and somatic performance methodologies.

As the project’s culminated event, This Cloud Is, in partnership with Urban Dream Brokerage, will occupy George Street’s Underground Market for 2 weeks from June 6-20th in a participatory residency. 

The residency offers Dunedin’s citizenry multiple ways to engage with the creative practices, including an experimental process of digitally mapping embodied experiences of public spaces in and around the Underground Market. There will be a roaming performance installation event on June 19th, with collaborative contribution by local performers and artists, including sound artist Eves who returns from Melbourne to perform live.

The Underground Market will be open during specified hours throughout the residency. 

For details on This Cloud Is join the Facebook event This Cloud Is, Facebook page THIS CLOUD IS QUEERING! or follow thiscloudis on Instagram for digital archiving of #queerfeelings #queerephemera #queerchoreography 

This Cloud Is
a) a performance event finalising 2 weeks of #queeringspace in The Underground Market on George Street, from 5-19 JUNE in partnership with Urban Dream Brokerage.

b) a participatory residency that invites the public into a process of digitally mapping their embodied experiences of public space.

c) a present-ing of digital and realness data archives as #queerfeelings #queerephemera and #queerexperiences in #queerspace as particles of This Cloud Is.


Collaborators / Performers: Ede Eves and a bunch of other folks tbc

Final event - 7.30-9pm Sunday June 19th.
Participatory residency hours - tbc (limited hours each day June 6-20)

Acknowledgements: Caroline Plummer Fellowship in Community Dance, Dance Studies, School of Physical Education Sport and Exercise Sciences, Otago University. Urban Dream Brokerage. Katrina Thomson. Leyton Glen.

Apr 16, 2016


This is not a rainbow.
This is not a utopic dream.
This is not a flag.
This is not art.
This is not pride.
This is not feeling.
This is a cheesy morsel left unharmed by a tall fall, alone on the sidewalk.

Feb 8, 2016

Mapping queer experiences

Caroline Plummer Fellowship - Week 1

Lots of threads have begun to unravel this past week in playing with the idea of mapping queer and trans* experiences of public spaces around Dunedin city.

I've been:

- exploring ideas of queer choreography and queer contemporary dance technique,
- considering the possibilities of parties, picnics and discussion groups as ways into exploring notions of experimental and temporary queer communities,
- noticing the surfacing of the public and private in all spheres of my life,
- developing small tests that map desires and queer feelings,
- toying with the implications of queer time and queer space,
- scribbling notes on inclusion, exclusion, the binary of dirty / clean, intersectionality, safety, invisibility, darkness, introversion and agency...

So yeah, necessarily I've been thinking a lot about toilets.

 >Otago University library<

In particular, I've been thinking about bathroom experiences for transgender, non binary and gender non conforming folks. There are heaps of disturbing and inspirational legal cases, hearings and stories in a number of countries being talked about online at the moment. So I'm taking creative cues from the important work being done around these issues by trans activists, and on-to-it journalists and lawyers etc.

I've been taking photos of toilets from outside looking in, and from inside looking out and around. And I've been dancing inside toilets, and recording the soundtracks that are played inside public loos. I've been thinking about shame, privacy and the sacred body. And I've been dreaming about utopic queer bathroom designs.

 >The Good Earth Cafe, Cumberland st<

Anyone who knows me well, knows I've always had a thing for toilets. So now I get to make some live art and performance work in relation to these intimate, contentious and mysterious spaces. This part of the Fellowship project will be connecting in with OUSA's Diversity Week, which runs from May 16-20. My hope is to create experimental spaces and structures for temporary queer and trans communities to thrive in. THIS CLOUD IS QUEERING!

 >behind The Atheneum off the Octagon<

I've also been imagining and listing methods of mapping for this project, where the question of how to map queer experience has been opening up.

I've been going on lots of walks, mapping out my own pathways from home to office, to supermarket, to friends' houses, to the green belt, to the Leith.. etc. One night I ended up down the bottom of Serpentine Ave, and found myself drawn to the dark recesses inside The Warehouse carpark.

>The Warehouse carpark, Serpentine Ave entrance<

I started filming short clips of me doing 'queer choreography'. With the question of what is queer choreography? No answers yet! But some interesting off-shooting ideas, which I will focus my next post around I think.


Feb 2, 2016


Caroline Plummer Fellowship in Community Dance 2016 (project runs Feb-July) 

@ University of Otago

- mapping queer and trans* experiences of public spaces around Dunedin city - 

one-on-one walks, conversation, somatic experiments, mapping, site-oriented practice, choreographic and live art tests

#co-imagining  #the_political_body  #hand_holding

haha, thoughts on this?
Dunedin is a designated queer utopia.

Apr 23, 2015

Gutter Matters Pecha Kucha styles

I recently presented my work 'Gutter Matters' at the DPAG for the Dunedin Fringe Festival's Pecha Kucha event (March 2015).  This is my script.

Gutter Matters: queer choreography in city gutters

A city’s drainage system is designed to channel unwanted runoff from the streets, but has become part of a cycle of toxification, which circulates pollutants from city to sea to fish to gut. Gutter. Cigarette butt, oil, gas, and litter. This is our collective gutter matter. Gutter matters. 

I’m val smith, and I lie face down in gutters as a kind of dance practice. Tonight I will introduce to you a choreographic project called Gutter Matters which investigates the relationship between city drainage systems, ecological thinking, and a queer politics of pride and shame. 

The project begins three years ago in Auckland city when I was thinking about a parallel between the way Western society conceives of and treats the body of the city, and the human body. 

I noticed that people walked alongside the gutter, stepped over the gutter, but, they didnt step into the gutter. In fact, people seemed to ignore or block out the existence of the gutter, as if it wasn’t there. 

Is Western thinking driving us to close our eyes to what is considered to be unclean, shameful or private? And does the gutter, as system of elimination, somehow relate to Western beliefs and values that fuel homophobia, transphobia, and other hate crimes in society?  

When you think about city drains and gutters, what aspects of society come to mind? When I asked this question of participants in the project, I heard a range of associations, which became starting points for the creation of 7 performance experiments. 

Nowhere further to fall, Channels of shame, BLOCK, detox/retox, mind in the gutter, META-gutter, You’re draining me. In one of these experimentsI invite passers-by to lie on the footpath next to me and observe what is in the drain below.   

When activated on Auckland’s Karangahape Road, this performance resulted in some confrontational verbal and physical responses from the public. 

Despite these external happenings I carry on with the bodily practice, dropping into a process of becoming-gutter. I am s l o w i n g and stilling, to sense and listen to the gutter environment. Becoming-gutter is at first embarrassed and nervous, but then it softens, dissolves and relaxes.  

Assumptions about the gutter peel away to reveal unexpected beauty and aliveness. The underworld of the cigarette butt filled gutter morphs to become a palatial theatre chamber with deeply moving lighting states and elaborate miniature gardens and sculptures.

I want to talk with you about the unspeakable. I want to sneak through the cracks of the city, and follow its flows and blocks. Let’s make friends with the hair bunny, the chicken bone, the scrawny leaf.  

I have presented iterations of Gutter Matters on Auckland’s K Road, and also in Finland’s city of Turku. Each gutter I encounter reveals particular human habits, and that specific city’s attitude towards cleanliness, or an ethics of the ecological. 

Finland’s gutters for example, were squeaky fucken clean. Each night a truck would drive through to scrub away unwanted dirt, or “scum”.  Socio-economic issues, and attitudes towards homelessness and cultural minorities, were mirrored in the state of health of this city’s gutters. 

In Auckland I crawl up two flights of stairs to enter the bright, clean, white room of Artspace Gallery. A stark contextual contrast to K Road downstairs on that Friday night.  

This is a Pride Parade of my own design. I finish with a slow motion pompom routine on the floor. Afterall, focusing on the details of movement inside the joints of the body, is just as gay as holographic hotpants, right?! 

I invite the gallery goers to join me in an After Party for Introverts, my own queer utopia. Inside the party is pitch black with only a windup torch and a tiny disco ball to light the event.

There is also a small hole that allows for an introverted socialization between the individual party zones.

I’m interested in embracing shame in performance as a productive force, an affective experience through which we might engage with our identities from the inside out, rather than from the outside in. 

Can these bodily experiments contribute to the re-writing of a gutter culture?  I am dreaming here of ‘Pride’ events that reflect counter-cultural ideologies that exist outside of the gay mainstream.

Gutter Matters demands to be seen and valued, it resists gutter-judgment, and celebrates gutter-life. Gutter Matters walks with the fullness and power of gutter - desires. 
Photos by val smith, Peter Jennings, Nina Gastreich, Hannu Seppala, Antoine Pickels 

Thanks to:

Josh Thomas for the invite to present at the totally packed out Pecha Kucha event, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

All the Gay Shame Parade helpers and participants.

Support from New Performance Turku Festival, Amelia Hitchcock, Artspace Gallery, Alys Longley & Dance Studies, University of Auckland, Dunedin Fringe Festival.