Duck defender dances her truth in Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster at this year’s PuSh Festival

Nicola Gunn tells the story of a woman, a man and a duck in Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster at the 2018 PuSh Festival. Sarah Walker photo.

One of the most talked-about presentations coming to this year’s PuSh Festival is Nicola Gunn’s Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster. In the Dance Centre co-presentation, the Melbourne-based performance artist dramatizes, through words and movement, a confrontation she had in a foreign country: upon seeing a man throw rocks at a duck protecting her eggs, Gunn intervened.

Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster runs Jan 17-19 at Scotiabank Dance Centre (677 Davie Street). The PuSh Festival itself runs Jan 16-Feb 4. For more info and festival highlighs, check out our PuSh Festival 2018 preview post. Visit for tickets ($36).

Q: You just arrived in North America, first in Vancouver and now in Toronto. Will you need to do training or rehearsals before the first performance here?

A: I have to cram in some training. I’ve been working with this choreographer (Jo Lloyd) since 2015. We just started messing about. The dance in this show is very specific. It’s part of the whole concept of unnecessary action, which is why it exists in the first place. I didn’t do it on a whim, there’s an intelligence behind it. I think the fact that I’m not a dancer makes it a bit more absurd. It’s very obvious.

Q: What about the performance requires the training?

A: It’s the dancing and talking at the same time. It’s kind of like you’re doing two counter-intuitive things. To be able to move you have to have a lot of control, and to be able to speak you have to have a lot of softness. It’s managing two things simultaneously that’s so tricky.

Nicola Gunn in Piece for Person and Ghettoblaster. Gregory Lorenzutti photo.

Q: When is the last time you did the show?

A: I did it in November, in Santiago. That’s really interesting, doing the show with subtitles. It adds a whole other layer.

Q: There is humour in the piece. Did the jokes land?

A: Usually they land before I said them. Sometimes the subtitles are ahead. That’s really discombobulating when people are laughing or chuckling before I’ve said the joke.

Q: The idea behind the piece is this encounter you had. Are you a confrontational person by nature?

A: I think I am. In this particular situation, I was moving before I was thinking. I guess that’s why the movement and choreography is part of the work. I saw this as such a gross injustice, though it was just a bloody dunk. The fact that it was a duck sitting on eggs, it amplified the situation for me. I was utterly incensed.

And he was with children. This all happened. Of course, there are embellishments. But the way I tell the story is how it happened, really. The fact that the children were implicated made me even angrier. It was a really complicated situation if you take all that into account.

Q: Here’s a delicate question. Do you eat duck?

A: No, I’m vegetarian. (Both laugh.)

Q: How does the ghettoblaster fit into it?

A: Historically, when you look at the ghettoblaster, it’s like an intervention in public space. It was used particularly by a group of people who wanted to reclaim public space and take their voices and sounds and music into a public space. In that respect I feel like I’m using it to reclaim public space, to make a loud noise. Which is kind of what I created when I amplified the situation by verbally attacking him. It’s used in that way I suppose.

Q: But there was no ghettoblaster on the scene at the time.

A: No. I kind of justify it in all manner of ways. Sometimes things just are. I just wanted it. And I got it.

Q: How did you source it?

A: Ebay! Where else? At great expense. And we’ve rendered it absolutely worthless. We gutted it. We use the speakers, but it’s remotely operated from the sound desk.

Q: Did you know what kind you wanted?

A: No! I was looking for ghettoblasters in Melbourne and this one came up. I did some research and it turned out to be the holy grail of ghettoblasters. And he (the seller) lived near me. So it was meant to be.

Watch the trailer for Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster here.

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