Over the past week, Kalisolaite ‘Uhila has produced two performances in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. Both took place in the surrounding neighbourhood of Michael Lett gallery, on Karangahape Road and in Auckland’s Central Business District. As gentle interventions, the performances involved the artist responding to the actions and activities that habitually take place in such areas, whether it be walking or selling one’s wares. As they were unannounced, each street-based work was encountered by chance, by those who happened to pass through the area, at that particular time.
From 3 o’clock in the afternoon, Kalisolaite ‘Uhila stood on the corner of Howe Street and Karangahape Road. A mover’s blanket was spread on the footpath beside him with around a hundred stones placed upon it. Passers-by were invited to choose a stone that was then numbered and signed by the artist. They could then take their rock home.
It is a common occurrence for wares to be spread out upon a blanket, in a public space. In his performance 99, ‘Uhila uses this format to set up a temporary gift economy. The stones, once given away, become dispersed across the city, this alludes to the way in which Polynesian voyagers brought stones and rocks with them as they travelled from island to island. These would prove invaluable for making stone axes with which to fell trees, shape canoes as well as hew timbers, household furnishings, wooden spears and clubs, this would help them with settling into their new environment.
From midday on a Saturday, Kalisolaite ‘Uhila walked down Queen Street from Karangahape Road to Britomart Place. Tin cans were tied to his left leg and coconut shells were tied to his right. As he walked downhill they made loud, rattling sounds.
Left-right! Left-right! relates to a story told to the artist by his uncle. Whilst in the Tongan military ‘Uhila’s uncle was trained by members of the US armed forces. Drilling exercises were in English and in order to quickly distinguish their left and right sides the Tongan soldiers would tie plastic bottles or tin cans to each leg, to help them remember which was which. These simple devices, alluded to by ‘Uhila in his performance, hint at broader systems of imperialism, geopolitics and language as well as ingenious strategies for negotiating and learning within them.