Since 2010 the SaVAge K’lub has been convened in locations throughout the UK, Europe, Canada, USA and Australasia. It is site-specific, but never location dependent. It has occupied museums, lounge-rooms, tea shops, subterranean wine vaults and Kurt Schwitters’ Merz Barn (where Schwitter was inducted posthumously into the K’lub). It has a life force and energy beyond that of its creator, who professes a certain reluctance to formalise either membership or proceedings lest this energy be compromised. Membership is fluid, inclusive, semi-automatic—if you have to ask, you’re not a SaVAge. Initiation is sparse, yet effective, acknowledging the power of transformation by costume: (1) Print your own SaVAge K’lub tee-shirt, and (2) bring your own regalia.
A safe-haven for experimentation, confrontation and fabrication, the SaVAge K’lub is for:
21st Century South Sea SaVAgery, influencing art and culture through the interfacing of time and space, deploying weavers of words, rare anecdotalists, myth makers, hip shakers, navigators, red faces, fabricators, activators, installators to institute the non-cannibalistic cognitive consumption of the other.
There’s a clever play on ‘othering’ here, subsuming and consuming the ‘savage’ envisioned by European culture and stages of colonialism:
the ‘noble’ savage (carrying aristocratic connotations) and the ‘good’ savage (a bourgeois notion), the savage cannibal (a counter-utopia), the ‘ferocious’ savage and the warrior (enemy images of the incipient and early colonialism), the ‘childlike’ savage (the savage turned subject, an image of mature colonialism), the ‘westernised’ savage (late colonialism or post-colonialism).
Where ‘the other’ is invited for cognitive consumption (or communion), they may be non-corporeal—ancestors, spirits. Performance and ‘worship’ are, after all, parts of the same system, their damnation a tool for ideological conquest.
Indeed, the saVAge body reinvigorated by the K’lub has been described and proscribed for centuries. In the 1750s, following the felling of a sacred tree at Taputapuatea by invaders from Porapora, the Ra‘iātea priest Vaita fell into a trance and declared that a different kind of people were coming:
Here is the adorned offspring [the clothed Europeans] of Te Tumu
Who come to see this forest in Taputapuatea
Their bodies are different, our bodies are different
but we are the same
We both come from Te Tumu, the origin
And this land will be taken by them.
The ancient rules will be destroyed
The sacred bird from the ocean will arrive to this land Coming to lament over what this broken tree has to teach
The strangers come on board a vessel without an outrigger
Among the remarkable features of this prophesy are references to the different bodies and adornments/garments of the newcomers, and the breaking of ancient rules. If ‘their bodies are different, our bodies are different, but we are the same’, what does this mean for overturning normative, gendered and colonial models of what a body is, has been, or can be?
The SaVAge K’lub addresses this challenge, centralising Indigenous embodied knowledge—the vā-body—giving space and priority to the moment-of-contact body; the tattooed body; the gendered and agenda-ed body; the genealogical body; and the clothed, adorned, dressed, undressed and re-dressed body. Its convenings offer places and dates for the exploration of space and time transcendence via the vā-body.
SaVAges actiVAte each K’lub to create the conditions conducive to a safe, inspiring and instructive experience for all concerned. Thereafter, the K’lub rooms themselves can be simultaneously fully-fledged workshop or gathering spaces; sites of potential, unfurling and growth; and performance residue. Each must be deactiVAted at its conclusion, again by “the most labile and complex site of reciprocal exchange”, the living body.
In Raymond’s words, the K’lub is “a space for the revision and creation of new VA-ried conversations, relationships, and artworks”. The power of such revisions and creations, is that they can take effect in diverse geographical and dialogical spaces, and be carried to different parts of the world by the bodies of the people involved, reconsidering how the body is employed and deployed to engage with broader social, political and cultural transformations.
When open to an audience these SaVAge K’lub convenings seem akin to what Christopher B. Balme has called citational practices, “in the sense that performers and spectators both draw on common, but not necessarily congruent repertoires of knowledge”. Always performative they are nevertheless not always performances, and this distinction is vital. Always the proceedings include ancestors. While spectators are accommodated and can add vital energy to proceedings they are not necessary, nor are they of primary importance. SaVAge K’lub actiVAtions and deactiVAtions welcome past-present-future and the realms of the living and ancestors into communion, disrupting the “clearly defined performative functions and spectorial frames” that have become tropes of entertainment-oriented Pacific performance—sometimes shocking, occasionally offending, always eye-opening and thought-provoking.
Ten years on from that chance find in the archives of MOA, the SaVAge K’lub has been actiVAted and deactiVAted to both critical acclaim and strident critique worldwide, and has amassed its own archives of ephemera, regalia, haka and waiata, treasured people and objects. Unlike the appropriated accoutrements of Savage Clubs of old, these archives are themselves networks of connections; the tangible nodes of “corporeal and perceptual practices determined by a high degree of reciprocity”.
And what words could never be adequate to convey, this website KRONIKles: a decade of 21st Century SaVAgery, endurance, resilience, and efflorescence.