Monday, 29 May 2017

artistic concerns

I was looking through some old archives tonight.  I found my resignation letter from the civil service, and I found this MA programme application that I wrote in 2013. Or rather, re-wrote as an exercise, after my application was rejected. I had some brutal but essential advice back then from Danny K, that I was giving a very poor account of my practice and needed to put more effort into it. 
So what did I think I was doing? What do I think I am doing? To go through this much struggle and sacrifice, I'd better know, hadn't I? I'm sorry Mum, I know you're still frustrated every time someone asks you what your artist daughter does.
These things are actually the hardest thing for me to come up with. Improvise from nothing in front of an audience? Eulogy for my grandmother's funeral? No problem. But synopsis of work, artistic statement.... the task makes me want to stab myself. Please try describing concisely why you exist. 
Of course, I had to try. I read this now and I see myself flailing and pretending. It's also still surprisingly accurate. In 2017 I'm still flailing, but maybe with sharper knives. 

2 - In light of your current situation, you could bring up issues related to your artistic concerns? Have you already identified one or more objects of research?
(2500 characters maximum)
What is the status of the individual in social organization, and how do we survive the systems and automatisms that we have created? We now have vast machineries, complicated institutions and modern rituals - urban living in particular has a quality of hyper-inflated reality where we try and insulate ourselves from discomfort and imperfection as much as possible.  In this frame the human life becomes so small.  I am frustrated and interested in both the system and the powerlessness that devolves to the individual.  The vain search for plastic perfection, how our systems re-create and process our lives, our modern incantations against pain and boredom, inequality and obliviousness, the need to remember and to be distracted and to forget.  What a safe space in which we enjoy TV, cinema, downloads, proscenium theatre, even the life in front of us in the myopia of handphone photographs. 
Seeking these themes, I feel a great impetus to make work from and in the cities of Asia.  I see the tensions of societies in development, the ever growing disparities of rich and poor, urban and rural, all painted in wildly auspicious colours. Singapore is one such place where comfort is cultivated amongst constant fear, a trope of madness and artificiality ripe for exploration. I continue to travel across Asia and Europe, exploring, creating and supporting production of dance and festivals.
In my current phase of creation I am exploring the emotional and intuitive resonances of these questions through improvisation, structured scores, spatial relationships, found text and my own writing. I know I am no longer thinking about creating something new as much as crafting filters with which to read the situations that I want to address – as well as the spaces and people that are already around me as collaborators and audience – a context that changes constantly. Working through the immediacy of physical and emotional responses, I’d like to confection performances to be so close that they are in your mouth, delightful yet disturbing.
I have done more than half of my work in the last two years with some degree of collaboration with partners or collectives including dancers, actors, composers and sound designers from different backgrounds and nationalities. The processes have been easy as well as difficult, but I continue to work this way for the impetus that I get from collisions and leakages from association with other artists, and realizing the differences between us.  This energy feeds back into my solo work and research.
At the same time I am following another track of body research.  Having studied a number of dance forms both “Western” and “Asian”, classical, traditional, contemporary, street, martial arts and improvisation, I try to approach movement languages and their interrelations with an appreciation of context.  First their meeting points in history, geography, and hierarchy, but also at an intuitive level their meeting points in the body - an instrument that has its own systems of integration and which when sensitized, learns to recognize the borrowings and transfers of physical knowledge that have seeped across cultures and through time - the body remembers things we don’t even know.
Of the two tracks of society and the body, it’s the anger in my understanding of the former that keeps me wanting to make work right now.   I accept that this is perhaps not the time at which the two tracks can be forced together, but I expect that they may grow to a fruitful intersection.

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