Jun 11, 2020


just a thought : faux-anatomy dance education systems #SayNoToScience

Bttm Manifesto collaboration with Richard Orjis

Our long-overdue invitation to you all to participate in the Bttm Manifesto open-source doc (as link to google doc in the webpage below):
Bttm Manifesto was co-created by artists Richard Orjis and val smith in 2018 during PhD studies at AUT (Tamaki Makaurau, Aotearoa). The manifesto takes many forms, including public readings and a rotting paper version that was buried for three nights under a ring of colonial oak trees in Albert Park. Bttm reflects an emergent collaborative practice that underpins the conception of a number of projects, including Queer Pavilion.
This version of Bttm Manifesto is an open-source document. Your contributions are invited with excitement for how it might travel. Feel free to add, share, edit or shuffle at will. We also welcome any feedback, critique or suggestions on the manner in which we offer this.
You can contact us on valvalvalsmith@gmail.com, richard@richardorjis.com or as comments here
nga mihi!

Untitled performance, Arts Foundation Ball 2019

Arts Foundation Ball 2019 performance, smoko section with Richard Orjis. Just before bar staff told us that "those drinks are not for us, they are for the guests, so please do not take any more." Apologies to the bar staff who were not briefed properly on what this performance would involve. (Damn though Bollinger tastes delicious!!) #DoNotDisturb #classclash

Photo credit Kyro Selket 

queer walking

I graffiti-ed a 2x4 area of pixels in the middle of a digital photo that witnesses a colonial tree twig resting on top of a discarded used lube sachet. The twig and lube lay together in the hidden grassy margins of a suburban recreational park space frequented by pram pushers. A cluster fuck of material-discursive issues. And yet still they shine.
That particular twig is now part of a growing confederation of witch-sticks, wands utilised for their magical powers to transform the fucked-up-ness of judging, shaming and belittling queer sexualities.
The graffiti includes a knee jerk thought-feeling—gays are good—a gesture to counteract my own #gayshame; a marking that wishes to make my presence known; and a mapping of that iteration of queer walking through Te Wai Ōrea Western Springs Lake Park, drawing-moving with encounters, relations and ideas in flux.

Feb 26, 2018

Queer Dating Sites - locationlocationlocation

Queer Dating Sites 

28 Feb 12-2pm
1 March 5-7pm
2 March 12-2pm

This event could involve getting down on the ground, which could mean you get 'dirty'. Given this, please wear clothing and footwear which is comfortable for you.

This letter regards details of the event's locationlocationlocation.
If you looked up 412 Titirangi Road in Google Maps it would show you an image of the block of toilets that sits on the corner of Titirangi Road and South Titirangi Road.  If you stand on the sidewalk outside these toilets you might be gifted with a magnificent view out to the Manukau Harbour. 

This image is useful in the task of locating Queer Dating Sites.  Let’s call these toilets a key marker in the search.  Behind them you would see a carpark that is entered by car off South Titirangi Road.  It has 21 marked spaces for vehicles.  If you had been intending to drive to Queer Dating Sites you might have looked for a space to park in there.  If you had been arriving by bus, train and/or foot you most likely would have entered the carpark a different way from up on the Titirangi Road Village footpath via a neat little set of stairs to the side of the toilet block.

One possible outcome though, if you had driven to the location, is that all of these 21 parking spaces may have already been taken.  In that case, I would have recommended driving a bit further down South Titirangi Road and pulling in left at the Library/War Memorial Hall carpark.  This carpark is listed as 500 South Titirangi Road on Google Maps.  Which is interesting.  Interesting in terms of property division and numbering, which is only really interesting if you are thinking about the politics of land, ownership, and this performance site.  In any case, where I had hoped you would end up for the start of Queer Dating Sites (until about half an hour ago) was pushed up against the back of the Titirangi Village retail strip in behind the toilet block and next to the carpark.  Does that make sense?

My plan was to be standing around the back of the Titirangi Village retail buildings to welcome you all to Queer Dating Sites.  I would have been wearing a long baby-pink sequinned throw to flag myself as ‘queer’ (as an aside that feels relevant, the throw has stains and holes and has been performed in many times in Oakland CA, Dunedin and Tāmaki Makaurau). I thought that in wearing this sparkly pink throw you couldn’t possibly miss me, or miss Queer Dating Sites.  After all there is nothing worse than getting lost when running late and looking for a queer performance event you plan to attend in unfamiliar suburbia (from experience).  Driving the creation of these location details was a strong desire that not one of you would get lost, miss the event or feel unsafe in hostile homophobic territory.  But Google Maps had complicated the numbering system for the area which was ironically invisibilising the site I wanted you to find.  Argh.

In the interests of precise directions then, I was going to tell you that if you had met with a family of chickens in your search for Queer Dating Sites you would know that you had gone too far.  With the chickens in check, I would have warned you to back up the metal driveway a little bit and wait for me in the carpark until the exact starting time.  
As it turns out all of this information regarding the location of Queer Dating Sites is no longer current.  So, there is no need for you to click on the following links to find me.  Unless you want to look closer at the image of the toilet blocks.  Which would be perfectly relate-able.  In that case click away.

412 Titirangi Road, Titirangi
500 South Titirangi Road, Titirangi

Before addressing what occurred half an hour ago, and with further regards to the location of Queer Dating Sites, I want to tell you that after welcoming you all I had planned to lead you past the chicken whanau and past the lease holder employee carparks.  I was going to invite you all in behind and underneath the retail spaces, buildings that would extend two stories above us, to experience the invisibilised b-side of the affluence of Titirangi Village.  As part of our time together in that semi-covered dark and damp site I had prepared for encounters with security guards, wild cats, and homeless residents.  I had intentionally not asked permission of the retail space lease holders or the property owners as I was interested to see what would happen in terms of enforcement, boundaries and transgressions (sorry Lydia and Fringe, I know I have been bad).

I had wanted to reflect on our embodiments and experiences in this ignored, excluded and forbidden(?) suburban space.  I wanted to consider places like this in predominantly white rich neighbourhoods that are mostly hidden, and generally considered to be dirty, ugly, gross, filthy, and not yet* worthy of attention, touch, affection or care (yet* in the sense that the space is not-yet seen to be potentially profitable).  I had become particularly fond of the things that had been discarded in this dusty space, thrown ‘away’ as ‘rubbish’.  If you are friends with me you will probably know I am not ashamed of my love of detritus, a marginalized subgroup of >>> things <<<.  I’ve always had a softening touch for the underdog.  I am pointing here to a perceived correlation between conventional perceptions of how things and bodies relate, normative pedestrian behaviours in urban spaces, and the socio-psychic-physical patterns of homophobia, transphobia, racism and misogyny.  So, yeah, I was curious about how it might feel for us all to hang out together in that particular site with its' pretty little piles of cigarette butts, cans, glass, weeds and wheelie bins, cracked chairs, dripping pipes, flourishes of tagging and bright security lights. 

I guess you are still wondering though what happened half an hour ago that led to the irrelevancy of the location information.  That story begins a couple of weeks ago when I made contact with Te Kawerau ā Maki to consult over an acknowledgement of the site, check in about whether my plans for this event were tika with tangata whenua, and make sure I wasn’t going to interfere with the rāhui over Waitākere Ranges.  In visits to the site I had noticed a number of kauri trees nearby to where I planned for Queer Dating Sites to take place.  Some of the site floor was concreted which I knew to be safe for the trees in terms of walking, but most of the terrain consisted of dry earth that led out to the forest floor, a strip of bush where numerous kauri stood in between the Village buildings and the Titirangi Library and War Memorial Hall.

In the leadup to the event I had been thinking about the relationship between kauri dieback, manawhenua, and the concepts of ‘property ownership’ and ‘retail investment’.  I was also thinking about what it means to be a pākehā artist creating work on this contested ‘property’ site.  One particular aspect I was considering, was an ethics of accountability and the Coleman family who ‘owned’ 408-416 Titirangi Road and 490 South Titirangi Road from 1947 until recently, when they sold the site to Rotcol Enterprises Titirangi for ‘development’.

Titirangi retail investment for development or long term hold

This is not the end of the half-an-hour-ago story, but let's jump back into my imagined forthcoming event anyway. Maybe we could have admired the space and >>> things <<< together, as a kind of ‘queering’?  Perhaps we might have even moved towards the possibility of an intimate encounter with the site?

I imagine these intimate encounters as dates.  Maybe a romantic date if those kinds of feelings arose, but not necessarily.  Maybe the site would end up friend-zoning us anyways.  I wouldn’t be surprised given my flirtatious presumptions.  In any case, I had hoped to announce whatever happened in the encounters to be a collective queering of space.  And in this same line of thinking, I also wanted to name the site a Queer Space, where queer behaviour was welcomed.  But these kinds of anticipatory desires brought me right back to contemplating the ramifications of the event in terms of respect, kauri dieback, manawhenua, ‘property ownership’ and ‘retail investment’, my own whiteness, and the very colonial implications of naming this event as a queering of space, and the site a Queer Space.  You see my predicament, right?  My event is problematic.
 Whichever way I look at it, my practice in association with this particular Titirangi site invites the shady histories of the crown's land deals, dodgy Auckland City Council transactions, the impacts of colonization on local iwi, local ongoing racism and enforcement of Western ideals, AND the current urgent environmental situation of kauri dieback.

Most notably, my decision to park my physical association with the sitetonight was cemented when Waitākere Rāhui confirmed half an hour ago that walking through there is not safe for the kauri nearby since their roots extend up to 30 meters underground (!).  All hail the power of tendrils!

I want to reiterate the sensitivity and vulnerability of the whenua and taiao of the Waitākere ranges that Waitākere Rāhui and Te Kawerau ā Maki are working to protect and care for.  I don’t want to be part of a pattern of disturbance, where the land is being damaged by folks like me who might think that what I do won’t harm anything because I am just one person, or I am a harmless eco-liberal hippy or whatever (read whiteness).  Cos yeah, that's a BS irresponsible and short-sighted pov.

So I’m writing to you to let you know that Queer Dating Sites is not going to be performed where I thought it would be and that I am yet to confirm another site.  But likely it will be inside an institutional space, probably a concrete walled room at AUT on St Pauls Street in city central where I am currently enrolled as a PhD student in the Art and Design department.  Hopefully that is not too depressing a vision and hoping you still attend the event ;).  Stay tuned for confirmations on Queer Dating Sites' locationlocationlocation in the next 48 hours.

Kia kaha

Waitākere Rāhui video

x val

Sep 28, 2017

Enough - whY Chromozone Tempo Dance Festival

I was invited to participate this year in whY Chromozone, a "Variety Showcase" for Tempo Dance Festival. I'm not quite sure if I fit the context though, as the programme explicitly asks these questions, which I find perplexing and intimidating and annoying: 

What does it mean to be male?  What does masculinity look like?  And what does that one Y chromosome have to do with it anyway?

But I guess I wanted to contribute my current thinking around non-binary genders and queerness anyways, and see what comes of it all.

I would love to see you there!

I'm a non-binary queer femme btw!

Saturday 07 October 830pm
Sunday 08 October 630pm

Enough - val smith

Enough Is Enough – Donna Summer & Barbara Streisand
Am I Not Pretty Enough - Kasey Chambers
Never Enough – The Cure
Never Enough – One Direction
Just Can’t Get Enough – Depeche Mode
Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough - Michael Jackson
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough - Tammi Terrell & Marvin Gaye
You’re Enough - Carpenters
Are You Strong Enough To Be My Man – Sheryl Crow
Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love Baby – Barry White
Can’t Get Enough – J. Cole ft. Trey Songz
Can’t Get Enough – Supergroove
Can’t Get Enough – Bad Company
Queer Enough For You? – Mukilteo Fairies
Is That Enough – Sons of Zion ft. Aaradhna
I Am Enough For Myself – Sinead O’Connor


Anonymous vaporwave track pirated from a gay porn site

Choreographic Thinking – Sarah-Louise Collins, Caitlin Davey
Design Consultant – Leyton Glen
Thought Contribution – Creek Waddington