Louie Zalk-Neale (Ngāi Te Rangi, Pākehā) is a queer performance artist and costume designer based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington. They create performance events centred on their intricately made costume garments, often allowing space for their audience to become active participants, giving them the opportunity to critically embody the absurdity of normalised, everyday experience. With queer traditions supporting their practice, they subvert the logics placed on people's bodies today, such as clothing, gender and movement norms, while also creating new logics inspired by the world-building of marginalised communities. They transform second-hand materials into garments that lead to performance in which the audience is submerged into Louie’s queer lived experience.
Louie’s work has featured at Performance Art Week Aotearoa (2018), Home Movies (2019) with CIRCUIT Artist Film and Video, and at Te Whanganui-a-Tara artist run initiative MEANWHILE, where they are currently a lead facilitator.
Shared Lines: Pūtahitanga 2020
The mountain I live on is called Matairangi — a.k.a. mt vic. It’s on the edge of central Te Whanganui-a-Tara/wellington. I've been spending time walking though the different types of ngahere that cover parts of the mountain. I’ve been climbing in the branches of the rākau, and as I look closer and closer at the soil and plants, I ask myself: am I like the native or exotic plants here? Am I like the rubbish or the rocks?
In this drawing, I scaled and warped the perspectives of my body (like a homunculus) to make it look like the way that it feels to be in my body, and to be immersed in the ecology of Matairangi. As a trans-feminine queer person, depicting my own body this way makes me more aware of how I disrupt gender normality on a human-inhabited Matairangi. It helps me to imagine how many other queer lives are embedded in this landscape’s history, and all the other places we live.
Shared Lines: Aotearoa in Japan 2020
Stranded Hero (2019) performance documentation by Jennifer Shields, digital inkjet print, 304x406mm
For Shared Lines: Aotearoa in Japan 2020, Louie Zalk-Neale presented a digital print of Jennifer Shields documentation of their performance from Shared Lines: Kaikōura 2019; 'Stranding'.
Shared Lines: Kaikōura 2019
Louie Zalk-Neale performing for Shared Lines: Kaikōura performing arts night, Feb 2019
"Stranding" uses costume and visceral embodiment to criticise and blur the concept of binary gender.
The costume is constructed from recycled fabrics; weighted at the bottom with rice. Its veil structure seems ritualistic and traditional but can’t be linked to a particular culture, time-period, gender, or purpose. By wearing the costume and moving with slow, fluid
gestures, it mimics the movements of a sea creature, or even a lampshade swaying in an earthquake. It must be from beyond this world, yet here it is, here I am, and here you are.
When I’m performing, freed from many social restrictions, I’m embodying a utopian world that doesn’t stop us from being our true selves. I want you to consider why certain ways of being are socially acceptable or not.
The wind blew my stringy veil around my body like sun-bleached seaweed. The seagulls, shags and people watched me together. I wandered up the beach; each footstep in the deep gravel coincided with a sway of my weighted veil.