Night Piece 2024

Directed by Bridget Sutherland Māhutonga

Bridget Sutherland documents the confronting career of Peter Roche, one of Aotearoa’s most electrifying conceptual artists, in this affectionately assembled portrait.

Aug 17

ASB Waterfront Theatre

59 minutes Colour and B&W / DCP
documentary film exempt from NZ Classification labelling requirements

Producers, Editors

Bridget Sutherland
Stuart Page


Stuart Page


David Kilgour


Peter Roche
Linda Buis
Gregory Burke
Christina Barton
Wystan Curnow

From sewing sheep kidneys onto his own body to cleaving fluorescent bulbs with a swinging chainsaw, Roche’s wild, never-to-be-repeated performances tested the limits of both artist and audience. Danger always played a central role for the provocative Auckland artist but, thanks to director Bridget Sutherland, his vital legacy can now be appreciated from the safety of the cinema.

Opening with the artist dropping a butchered sheep carcass from a small aircraft, Night Piece examines Roche’s penchant for shock as a post-object artist beginning in the late-1970s. A punk-fuelled reaction to Muldoon-era authoritarianism, his work represented a dramatic continuation of earlier movements like Neo-Dada that sought to challenge the way art is defined. For him, that meant performing with his body as the medium – screams, blood, and the threat of disaster all common elements. Interviewing peers and critics who experienced these works first-hand, the film offers fascinating insight into the process and mindset of a man who truly lived his art.

The documentary also offers a privileged peek into Auckland’s dilapidated Ambassador Theatre that Peter converted into a studio and occasional music venue in the 1990s. Purpose-built for his later sculpture work, it became a wonderland of brutal metal structures, snaking cables, and vivid fluorescence.      

The film chronicles a unique career through to Roche’s untimely death at 63 in 2020, affectionately assembled with archive photos and video, culminating in the construction of grand gifts to the culture – immense neon sculptures that became part of Auckland’s very cityscape. Night Piece is a warm tribute and accessible overview of provocative work that demands to live on. — Adrian Hatwell