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The Puppet Army Congress Hall Project

Part 2 Project 2004
Jacqueline Sok Mei Chan
Joshua Ovenden
University of Auckland Auckland New Zealand
Puppetry is a powerful political tool, providing social commentary, operating as a shadow/double to ‘reality’.

This project explores re-occupation of the city through shadow/puppetry, restoring the site’s diversity in retaliation against homogenisation of urban space.

The illuminated canvas-clad theatre dissolves boundaries of performance and architecture into a shadow-dialogue between puppeteer, puppet and audience, and light, structure and skin. Utilitarian ‘behind-the-scenes’ activities of the puppeteers are partially visible alongside performances ranging from 4m tall rod-puppets to tiny marionettes. Visitors are fused with performance as shadows on the translucent skin, a dynamic backdrop to drama of everyday life in the surrounding precinct.

Jacqueline Sok Mei Chan
Joshua Ovenden

The project’s genesis is an examination of traditional shadow puppetry within the context of contemporary film ZhangYiMou’s HuoZhe, which juxtaposes political commentary and social intercourse, and Auckland’s relatively long history of Chinese settlement.

The main building form mimics an earlier Salvation Army Cathedral on the site and is a translucent screen over a puppet like assemblage of wires and pulleys organised to create an ambiguously interleaved arrangement of public performance and private workshop spaces.

Ms Chan successfully explored the minutiae of building articulation to achieve lyrical aims and to examine an area of the city previously home to Chinese tenements.


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