PA2013 Interview #12


Anna Hunt is inviting everyone to join her work Emoticons. For five seconds or five hours, you can join this ‘frozen flash mob’ of live mannequins. All it takes is putting a paper bag on your head…


Hannah McDougall talks with artist and designer Anna Hunt about her interactive installation in The Live Lab container, featured at the Performance Arcade 2013.  

What are you presenting?

The title of the work is Emoticons. The concept came from a performance project at Massey University where we studied a performance artist and then based a performance piece on that artist. The artist that I looked at was Edward Gordon Craig and his use of masks and puppets to capture the audience’s attention and imagination. Craig wanted to capture pure emotion in the plays that he worked on and he felt every director should have a blank canvas approach.

I am presenting a performance that takes away the familiarity of a face and its characteristics to give it one pure emotion. The performance is of a mute, static crowd of depersonalized figures. Expressions are drawn onto the paper bags that the performers wear on their heads. These performers are still and silent to make the paper bag masks the key feature and further enforce the raw emotion conveyed. They no longer have their own free will or identity: this has been taken away and they have been turned into motionless mannequins of living flesh.

What have been some of the challenges in creating this work?

I first tried some experiments where the performers were walking and forcing themselves onto the public. But this made the public shy away from the performers and not want anything to do with them because of this forceful nature. I found that as soon as I told the performers to be still and silent, the public can then make their own decisions in their own time as to how to treat these emoticon figures. I received a lot more reaction from the public this way.

What are you most looking forward to?

I am really looking forward to viewing the public’s reactions and if they will try and provoke the performers into moving or talking. I have given the public the option to join the performers by having more paper bag masks on either side of the container for them to grab and use as they please. This may make the public feel more at ease with the performers, as by wearing a mask themselves, they can now relate to the performers. It will be interesting to see what happens to the paper bag masks – if they will get used or just stay as they are, whether people will take one or many, leave them there or take them home. 

What are you ambitions for your work?

By taking away the facial features, I am creating something that is unfamiliar and foreign to the audience. I am controlling the expressions that the audience sees and these are fixed and cannot be changed. By keeping the performers’ identities hidden, the audience will find it hard to relate to them until that moment when they remove the masks and step away from the performance space, therefore showing that they are just ordinary people.

What has been the most exciting point to date in your process leading up to the Arcade? 

The most exciting part has been making the ideas and what was on paper come to a reality. Preparing the performance piece is taking some time as I am currently making over 500 paper bag masks with emoticons so it will be interesting to see what becomes of these – how they are treated and used, how they are reacted to. It has been an exciting experience working with The Playground and Sam Trubridge to provide such a fantastic opportunity for the public to view artists’ work along the waterfront. 

Emoticons will be presented in the Livelab container on Sunday 17th February in the Performance Arcade on Wellington’s waterfront. To contribute to the Emoticons performance just come by, put on a paper bag, and join the crowd. Alternatively you can join the Facebook event to arrange a specific time.

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  1. […] More Fringe festival themed posting going to Brighton, UK. In here are various flyers for some of the exhibitions, as well as some extra special gifts from The Performance Arcade including sea salt from Mick Douglas’ ‘Container Walk,’ an origami template from ‘F.O.L.D‘ by Flux Productions and paper bags from Anna Hunt’s ‘Emoticons.’ […]

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