For ‘to and fro’ exhibition at Artspace Gallery, Auckland.
July 11-August 23, 2014, curated by Amelia Hitchcock
“Within the final Duotones performance smith erected a quasi-lecture set up, a simple power point presentation giving the titles of their performances thus far as well as smith’s collaborators and brief bullet points. Initially positioned behind the station, a trestle table loaded with a computer and audio equipment hooked up to rather large speakers, smith played a seductive song by the velvet-tongued Barry White and in a distorted and deep voice repeatedly intoned “Forward… Forward… Forward” into a microphone whilst making a gesture which seemed to say “come forward, towards me.” Audience members got up and slowly moved towards the artist paying attention to the ways in which smith altered their hand movements like a police officer on point duty. smith manipulated audience members around the room, herding them like sheep, dividing them into groups, beckoning them to crouch, kneel, sit, jump. At one point smith had coerced the audience out of the gallery into the foyer while remaining inside the central space, only their arm visible from the doorframe, still signalling, as if to say “move back.” At that point we were all huddled together by a wall as far back as we could possibly go. Appealing through strange verbal cues, confusing hand gestures and sometimes more direct bodily intervention, smith moved participants, appealing, commanding, separating, dividing, controlling, directing… using one body, one that enjoyed a certain amount of authority, in order to manipulate the bodies of others.”
Fuck Me Fuck You
for SEP ARATE double bill, Basement Theatre, November, 2014
"FYFM by Val Smith continued to pull apart concepts of gender identity through further penetration into the other via a post-human world of sense and affect. Described as a conversation that unravels the concept of the ‘hetero-dance duet', the somatic embodiment of performing body, gender (less) and power dymanics between two ‘Mam-malls' or ‘Ani-Wo-min' meant this piece lived up to its name FUCK YOU FUCK ME exploring notions of gender and intimacy. Immersive sensations experienced between Val Smith in her hairy wig beast costume and her collaborator Tru Paraha in synthetic pure white tinsel puff outfit, were witnessed. (...)
The performers are enfolding, enveloping multiple concepts within the materiality of bodies, hair, synthetic, fluff and tinsel, shaking gyrating as we respond uncomfortably with laughter. An extended arm creates distance between them perhaps suggesting the distance between visual imagery and the act of sensation. The increasing intensity also refers to power and manipulation. Performers stop at times realizing we are there, noticing the unusual."
"Fuck me Fuck you offers us a fluid and multitudinous interpretation of the male/female roles with plenty of room for thoughts to wander through and around the images which morph from beautiful, to titillating before dragging out almost to the point of apathy. They're exhausted, we're desensitized, no-one is quite satisfied. It is a beautiful indictment of humanity's incessant search for completion.
Throughout this piece there is a lack of artifice, which becomes jarringly funny when set against the excess of the costuming, props and actions of the performers. It is perhaps this quality that makes the premise so eminently relatable, even as our expectations are thoroughly messed with."
This is a Trans-World
Theatre As Is, Dunedin, February 2012
"wonderfully confusing ebb and flow between comedy and seriousness (...) so unexpected, so oddball, and yet --- in the context of such a deliberately oddball, mixed work as this --- so bizarrely apt that the audience almost to a one applauded enthusiastically."
Johnathon W. Marshall. Theatreview.
Old Folks Association Hall, Auckland, November 2011
"Talk and cellular improv are combined in a section which considers the notion of straightness and where it is determined, in the body and/or the mind, with various kinds of kinked-ness, twisted-ness and bent-ness demonstrated along the way to arriving at the logic that straightness is relative. (...) By the end of the evening, we have been thoroughly entertained, provoked , and made to think (...) "
Raewyn Whyte, Theatreview.
Qubit: a weekend of Contemporary Performance Art, Dunedin, 2011
“The split of the public and private self, and the often impossible task of aligning the two, was also pivotal to Val Smith's Straight Relatives, which explored gender politics by poetically subverting conventions associated with dance. (...) Smith beautifully interwove physical and verbal movements in an effort to re-programme the dancer's straight body memory to account for a bent lifestyle and perspective. The most touching (and touchingly funny) moments were those when body memories emerged as verbal memories and vice versa (...)”
Sandra Muller, Qubit Catalogue
Gender and Performance Inquiry
Tempo Dance Festival, 2010.
"I love watching dancers faces and being given the permission to stare back and observe nothingness. The minimalism of the movement allows you to soak up each image. A sweeping arm to a fist, or a turn and reach back. It is a little bit like a Calvin Klein commercial coming to life."
Jack Gray, Theatreview
"a finely nuanced minimalist improvisational duet"
Raewyn Whyte, NZ Herald.
Tempo dance Festival, 2007. Collaboration with Alys Longley.
"How is it that dance (in this case a fairly broad definition of dance) can invoke feelings? Two people dancing a teabag dance, moving alongside each other, reaching for midnight stars in a New Zealand sky or sitting reading in companionable holiday silence. So satisfying. What an excellent counter balance to the whirling festival feel."
Felicity Molloy, Theatreview.