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Intimate Qs with Nisha Madhan

Nadisha Madhan from Future Hotel
IQ2 performance led by Future Hotel
IQ2 performance led by Future Hotel
Elise Sterback talks to Nisha Madhan from Future Hotel, creators of IQ2 performance as part of the Living Room programme in Auckland.

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Elise Sterback talks to Nisha Madhan from Future Hotel, creators of IQ2 performance as part of the Living Room public art programme in Auckland.

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IQ2 (short for ‘Intimate Questions’) is a public theatre piece that explores the divide between public and private senses of space, and gets very intimate indeed with its participants. Passers by are asked to join in on a 20-minute instructional experience, where they respond to questions by moving their bodies along a physical scale, or making certain gestures.

Nisha Madhan, one member of the trio behind the project, describes how the use of wireless headphones worn by participants helps to create the divide between public and private.

“Everyone is so used to wearing headphones these days, it’s sort of a comforting thing that puts you at ease. I guess because you feel like you’re alone with it you can surprise yourself with what you would do.”

While the surrounding audience (others walking past on the street) are unaware of the questions the participants are responding to, fellow participants can observe each others responses as they answer. Previous happenings have provoked interesting and often amusing dynamics between participants.

One question in particular revealed the ideas kids have about ownership and what that means. “We asked - ‘Will you own a house?’ And 80 per cent of the children said yes, they’ll own a house in five years time, which might be when they are ten years old, or fifteen. All of the adults participating were like - hang on, first of all, that’s my house you’re living in not your own, and how are you going to own a house?"

The experience is quite a different one for those watching without headphones. Music and sound effects are played while the participants move to answer the questions or instructions.

“We can see the potential for it to be a kind of a public choreography, when the people are following the instructions on the headphones we can play with what actions they do in unison and what they act out in pairs or groups of two or three.

“We kind of like the idea of making it a choreography that the participants don’t quite know they are doing. So from the outside it looks like a sort of dance piece, but from the inside you’re answering questions and following instructions.”

The performers unwittingly act out a scene of appearing lost in an airport, a journey through a space of transit, eventually finding each other. A triumphant finale finishes the piece, where all performers (some reluctantly) belt out Whitney Houston’s The Greatest Love of All.

IQ2 is just one event in the Living Room programme, an annual series which this year coincides with Auckland’s Art Week. MaryJane O’Reilly curates the 2012 Living Room programme, focusing on a theme of performance art and interactive experiences.

It’s not too late to attend IQ2, performances are planned each day from November 1 to 4. Check out performance times and the full Living Room programme. Or catch a new happening by the creators of IQ2 - Future Hotel - at Art in the Dark on November 9 & 10. Head down to the bottom of the park and look for light up tennis rackets... 

Written by

Elise Sterback

1 Nov 2012

Interests Arts policy researcher for The Big Idea Assist and Working Group member of Creative Coalition.