BlackMarket PIAF 2016

I normally don’t have the energy to socialise or leave the house on a Friday night.  After an early morning PT session at 7 am then a busy half-day in private this morning, and arriving home sweaty from the train ride home, I was ready to pike on our plans to attend another Perth International Arts Festival (PIAF) performance tonight; I suggested to Dan that we give away our tickets to BlackMarket, stay home and watch Teen Wolf on Netflix.  I’m so glad we made the effort.

Perth’s own tactical media art renegades, pvi collective, have created with blackmarket a participatory site-specific work that takes place on the streets of our city at night.

Dan had flagged this event in the festival program and I had agreed: an interactive and immersive work.

Spoiler Alert!

blackmarket
blackmarket

We arrived early.  Our tickets was for 19:30 and our emailed interactions had advised to arrive 10 minutes early, and bring 5 items to trade that we would not get back.

We waited outside.

The doors opened and we entered.   A woman handed us a clipboard, to sign a disclaimer and deposit a credit card as collateral; the installation involved the use of a Samsung electronic tablet.  A woman sat on a bench by a wall furiously marking wooden squares with  a marker pen.

We were directed to another room.  “Stand behind the yellow line!” a woman ordered.  There was no yellow line, a white line, but no yellow line.  We left the room.  A young man saw us leave and pointed to the white line and barked, “Stand behind the yellow line!”  I wondered if the experience would be an hour of being yelled at with confusing messages.

We exchanged our five items for a survival tool.  I had taken bandaids, a bottle of whisky, a book, a toothbrush and a bag of chocolates from the fridge that nobody in our house likes.

We left the marketplace and ventured into the night.

As with other immersive installations we had to experience it alone. We walked up towards the public toilet first, as I already had to pee.  I waved goodbye to Dan and chose the closest hustler: Void.  It was right next to the public toilet!

I realised we were on a timer.  Advancing through the black market would be like questing to level in World of Warcraft.  I found the closest next hustler: Romance.  It was Sete! I worked with Sete in 1994, in my first season with Steps Youth Dance Company. I bid to exchanged my bottle of whiskey.  We met on the Corner of Rokeby and Roberts Roads.  We shook hands and leant right shoulder to right shoulder.  I followed the audio instructions.  Pedestrians walked by and ignored us.

I moved on.

The next hustler was less than a block away: Compassion.  His profile pic was stunning!  I bid to exchange my book.  The performer took my hand and led me to the bus stop I’d just been sitting at.  He hung a poster of a Coca Cola bottle over the backlit advertisement and the audio played something about corporate greed.

As I walked away I saw Dan’s profile close by: he was offering the skill of Faith.  I’d been assigned Deception.  We met in an arcade off Hay St.  I hadn’t realised how many alleys and arcades there were in Subiaco!

Other audience members walked by, bright yellow gaffer tape marking their sleeves.

As I was scrolling through the marketplace list of skills to choose from, worrying whether I should completely trade out my remaining items, somebody offered a pen for my skill.  The profile picture looked familiar: it was Rose, a woman who was in my Mum’s acting school when I was in primary school, who’d I’d seen perform and rehearse many nights throughout primary school.  We met on Rokeby Rd and I followed the audio instructions to teach her my skill, in exchange for her trade item.

Three more people requested my skill.  One walking right past me, not realising we were both walking towards each other.

It was entertaining to witness others making similar transactions, or searching for their meeting place, interspersed through pedestrians that were blind to the entire performance.

Our time ended and I was satisfied with my score: 70%.  I was leading our cohort.  Dan was right behind at 68%.

It was a show that we didn’t want to leave.  We kept talking about it, our individual experiences, our interpretations, for half an hour.  I want to go back.  I hope they extend the season.  More people need to experience this home grown performance!

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