Brian Fuata at First Thursdays

Brian Fuata Will Most Likely Die From Suicide or “Minibar” was a delightful insider take on performance art.

Using a sheet with a gaffa tape outline, a microphone stand, a printed poster (possibly a plan for the performance, but it wasn’t clear) and two chairs Fuata began by wandering around, setting up, sipping his beer, saying hello to people while balancing on one leg and occasionally getting stuck in a glitch-like sequence of movements as he worked through movements like thoughts.

Billed as a ‘durational structured improvisation’, Fuata set up a sequence of movements and interactions to repeat in two later iterations around the gallery. There was no obvious distinction between Fuata’s performance when he said it was now ‘beginning’ and started the iphone timer. Fuata charged the crowd with remembering the sequence but whether it was a failure of our collective memory or intentional on the artist’s part, by the second round we were randomly yelling out things that had happened in no particular order.

Early on, Fuata pulled out Harriet from the crowd, sat her in a chair and asked her to put the white sheet over him when he moved his arm in a certain way. Contorting on the ground, once the sheet was on, the artist howled like a ghost and ‘levitated’ a chair while reciting lyrics from Beyoncés Run the World (Girls). Later Fuata mimed sharing amyl with Simon from the crowd. At one point kissed Johannes on the forehead and made a note to the crowd that it was going to happen two more times.

Fuata is very warm and engaging as a performer. At the event he was able to create a micro-community out of us by engaging the crowd in the performance, Inviting laughter at his informality (he frequently discussed the sequence with the crowd, broke into laughter himself and said his thoughts out loud) simultaneously embracing the absurdity of performance art.

Enjoyable as it was, it was difficult to engage with Fuata’s thinking behind the performance. It was intended as a ‘performed suicide’ according to the text, but short of a few references to ‘dad’ ending up as ‘dad bod’, the narrative arc was hard to see. There are critical threads to pull however.

As a Samoan queer performer in the gallery space, his scattered informal approach denied the gallery its authority. The clash of high and low culture added to the sense of community ownership. At the performance I couldn’t help thinking of 90s classic She’s All That, where the serious performance artists writhe under a white sheet, only to be upstaged by Freddie Prince Jr playing hackey sack when unexpectedly thrust onto stage. It’s hard to decide which Fuata most resembles.

At one point, during the outside iteration of the sequence of events, a car pulled up to see what we were all looking at. It’s a tribute to Fuata’s engaging physicality while directing singing artist Clare Cowley to repeat phrases that they stayed for a while before moving on.

In the end it was the annoyingly familiar iphone alarm (Fittingly as the only structured part of the performance, Fuata forgot to turn it on but put it on for one minute at the end) that closed the performance. The crowd didn’t really pay attention to it however; we were watching to see what Fuata would do next.

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Written by Rosie Goldfeder


Brian Fuata at First Thursdays, 3 August 2017. Institute of Modern Art