news

ecofeminism(s)

curated by Monika Fabijanska

June 18 – July 24, 2020
press day – June 18, 2020, 12-6 PM
opening reception – no public gatherings is planned
artists talk & walk through (online) – tba
gallery hours: Tue-Sat, 11-6 (through June 27); Mon-Fri, 11-6 (from June 29 onward)

Thomas Erben Gallery
526 West 26th Street, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10001
tel. 212-645-8701

ecofeminism(s) explores the legacy of some of the pioneers of ecofeminist art: Helène Aylon, Betsy Damon, Agnes Denes, Bilge Friedlaender, Ana Mendieta, Aviva Rahmani, and Cecilia Vicuña, and how their ideas and strategies are continued, developed or opposed by younger generations – Andrea Bowers, Eliza Evans, Sonya Kelliher-Combs, Carla Maldonado, Mary Mattingly, Jessica Segall, and Hanae Utamura. It also features the ecofeminist works of Lynn Hershman Leeson and Barbara Kruger, who escape these categories.

The historical perspective gained over the last fifty years reveals how revolutionary the work of pioneer feminist artists was, and how relevant it remains, whether for women’s rights or the development of social practice. The most remarkable, however, is their voice regarding humanity’s relationship to nature. The foundation of ecofeminism is spiritual feminism, which insists that everything is connected – that nature does not discriminate between soul and matter. Their recognition that Western patriarchal philosophy and religions have served to exploit both women and nature is particularly resonant in the era of the #MeToo Movement and Climate Change. But if the ecofeminist art of the 1970s and 1980s was largely defined by Goddess art, ritual performance, anti-nuclear work, and ecological land art – the curator poses the question – what makes female environmental artists working today ecofeminists?

Since the 1970s, ecofeminism evolved from gender essentialism to understanding gender as a social construct to gender performativity. But today’s feminists still address the degradation of the environment by creating diverse responses to patriarchal power structure, capitalism, and the notion of progress. They invoke indigenous traditions in maintaining connection to nature and intensify the critique of colonialist politics of overextraction, water privatization, and the destruction of native peoples. They continue to employ social practice and activism, but focus on denouncing global corporate strategies and designing futuristic proposals for life on earth.

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Image: Jessica Segall, A Thirsty Person, Having Found a Spring, Stops to Drink, Does Not contemplate Its Beauty, 2011, performance/video still, archival print. © 2011 Jessica Segall. Courtesy of the artist

CAMP / MODELING RESILIENCE WITH ART / AVIVA RAHMANI

STARTS 11/07/2020 | 1 PLACE LEFT
ONLINE WORKSHOP

CAMP AT HOME

You’re viewing the distance learning part of this course. Our distance learning sessions are a great way to get involved with CAMP if you can’t make the trip, or as a preparatory step for an onsite workshop. Remember – if you sign up to an onsite workshop in 2021, you get the 2020 distance learning course free.

The onsite version of this workshop is here.

BOOK NOW

This online course costs €299 (or 2 monthly payments of €149.50). To reserve, click below – no payment is required at this stage. You’ll receive a booking confirmation email with secure payment links, and you’ll have three days to confirm your booking by making a payment.

BOOK NOW: ONLINE ONLY

BOOK NOW: ONLINE & ONSITE


At this turning point between Earth rights and Earth fragility, how might we divine messages from the non-human inhabitants of our ecosystems to protect our collective future and find hope, despite threats? Can the trees and small creatures of the world teach us to adapt to a global crisis even as much of the world holds its breathe in the face of catastrophe? Are there threads from cultural, scientific and even spiritual knowledge to lead us out of a labyrinth of trouble? Activities in this workshop are designed to go beyond mindfulness and hear the silent cries of alarm and the whispers of hope we can pass on to others to collectively find the answers we need, welcome or not.

Each day of the workshop will focus on employing familiar tools in new ways: walking, journaling, recording, sharing and discussing the implications of our observations. Our frame of reference for these exercises will be the rules of trigger point theory with the goal of identifying points for possible intervention in environmental cascades.

The session will be based around Trigger point theory (TPT) – this is Aviva’s original approach to environmental restoration, developed from her experience creating Ghost Nets (1990-2000), a project which restored a former town dump to flourishing wetlands and formal gardens. This workshop has been designed to develop TPT skills to connect theoretical and personal experiences to practical initiatives.

The course will take place over four sessions, on the 11th,12th, 13th and 14th of July. Each session will be split into three parts: a lecture/discussion, a period for individual exploration in your location along the themes of the day, and presentation of results, discussion of insights and challenges.

Aviva Rahmani is one of the most important artists contributing to the current movement of environmental art. Her public and ecological art projects have involved collaborative interdisciplinary community teams with scientists, planners, environmentalists and other artists, and her projects range from complete landscape restorations to museum venues that reference painting, sound and photography.

She began her career as a performance artist, founding and directing the American Ritual Theatre (1968-1971), performing throughout California. In 1971, she collaborated with Judy Chicago, Suzanne Lacy, and Sandi Orgel on Ablutions, now considered a groundbreaking feminist performance work on rape. After graduating from California Institute of the Arts and getting her PhD from Plymouth, Aviva began presenting workshops on her theoretical approach to environmental restoration, and her transdisciplinary work has been exhibited internationally. 

Aviva’s video documentation Gulf to Gulf sessions have made international impact, and it’s precursor “Trigger Points/Tipping Points” premiered at the 2007 Venice Biennale. In 2002, her pioneering community action project “Blue Rocks” helped restore degraded wetlands on Vinalhaven Island, Maine (triggering a USDA investment of over $500,000). “The Blued Trees Symphony” (2015 – present) has received numerous awards and had huge impact around the globe.

“Ghost Nets 1990-2000”, one of Aviva’s best known works, includes her original theories of environmental restoration and trigger point theory. In 2012, she applied trigger point theory and the “Gulf to Gulf” webcasts to “Fish Story Memphis,” a multi-part public art project. In 2006, she initiated a series of podcasts, “Virtual Cities and Oceans of If”, which segued into webcasts on climate change. She is currently an Affiliate with the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado Boulder, Colorado (UCB), where she has been collaborating with the Director, James White since 2007 on “Gulf to Gulf”, a series of webcasts on global warming with other scientists, artists and thinkers. Their first collaborative work premiered with Cultura21 in the Joseph Beuys Pavilion of the 2007 Venice Biennale.

In 2007, in collaboration with White, Aviva appeared in the collective exhibition Weather Report, debuting her work “Trigger Points, Tipping Points”. She displayed a series of digital prints that superimposed satellite imagery with textual warnings on the morphing and changing of climate change on the global landscape. Her work embodies a discourse that focuses on the power dynamics of disaster and how rising sea levels will not only effect landscape, but also result in the relocation of communities and refugee migration. She seamlessly ties together climate change with the themes of class, power, and justice – a conversation frequently not as prevalent in the global warming conversation.

WHERE AND WHEN?

This is an online course, but it involves realtime sessions and contact time with your tutor – it’s not a “download these videos and watch them at your leisure” type of thing – it’s a real workshop with live lectures, individual tuition, assignments and feedback sessions. We’ve tried to make this remote session as close as possible to the experience of an onsite workshop at CAMP. The course starts on 11/07/2020 and ends on 14/07/2020.

HOW TO BOOK

To book your place on the course, click the button in the green section above. You won’t pay anything right now – we’ll send you a booking confirmation email with everything you need to know next. Your place is reserved without payment for three days.

You’ll find a payment link in the booking confirmation email – follow the link to make your course payment. All card payments are handled by Stripe, and are extremely secure. We don’t store any card data ourselves – all of this is handled securely off-site by Stripe.

Once you’ve made a payment, you’ll receive another email containing your receipt, links to resources, contact information and access to our group chat to discuss the workshop with other participants.

IMPORTANT: BY SIGNING UP TO A COURSE, YOU AGREE TO THE TERMS

Joya: artist in residence / AiR apply

Joya: arte + ecología / AiR is an “off-grid” interdisciplinary residency rooted in the crossroads of art, ecology and sustainable living practice. It is located in the heart of the Parque Natural Sierra María – Los Vélez, in the north of the province of Almería, Andalucía. Joya: AiR offers abundant time and space for residents to make, think, explore and learn from their surroundings.

Joya: AiR supports a range of disciplines including, but not limited to, visual art, writing, music, dance, curatorial and film. Founded by Simon and Donna Beckmann in 2009, the Joya: arte + ecología / AiR programme is grounded in the foundation that dynamic and sustainable creative activity is the backbone to regenerating the land that has been slowly abandoned over the last fifty years. 

Since 2009, Joya: AiR has welcomed over 600 artists and creatives to realise their projects within one of the most unique and beautiful regions of the country. This is one of the sunniest regions of Europe receiving over 3000 hours of sunlight a year.

Residents have access to studio space and 20 hectares of land. Accommodation (private room with attached bathroom) and meals are included, as is collection and return to the nearest public transport system.

We happily cater for vegans, vegetarians and occasional carnivores (we have a reduced meat consumption with an emphasis on all our food being local)
We happily cater for vegans, vegetarians and occasional carnivores (we have a reduced meat consumption with an emphasis on all our food being local)
Accommodation is bright, warm and clean with wood heated radiant floors. More images…  https://joya-air.org/centre/
Accommodation is bright, warm and clean with wood heated radiant floors. More images… https://joya-air.org/centre/

Selected artists are invited to contribute to the Joya: artists listing and are asked to contribute a small text outlining the nature of their practice whilst in residency. This will be posted to the Joya: website along with a link to the artists website. ( examples are to be found here)

Selected artists are requested to make a presentation of their work to other artists in residence during their period at Joya: AiR. This is not obligatory but it does contribute to the overall experience of all artists in residence.

Joya’s working languages are English and Spanish.

NOTE: with reference to Covid 19 Joya: AiR is conforming to the current (July 2020) Spanish law making the wearing of face masks in public obligatory and social distancing of 1.5m. Neither of these regulations will be a problem for resident artists at Joya: AiR as our location is remote and our complex is large. The wearing of masks and social distancing need only apply when in proximity to other artists. The law will not impact your studio/study time or your interaction with other residents.

DISCIPLINES AND MEDIA:

Interdisciplinary: Visual Art / Sculpture / Ceramics (enquire before applying) / Dance / Theatre / Performing Arts / Music / Writing / Educational Programmes / New Media / Curatorial / Film Making /

TYPE OF ORGANISATION:

Independent not for profit association/foundation

APPLICATION:

Joya: AiR is currently accepting applications in Spanish and English only.

RESIDENCY PERIOD:

The length of the residency would be 1 to 2 weeks (longer periods are available)

NOTE* the experience of previous resident artists strongly indicates that a two week residency is much more preferable and productive than one.

NEXT APPLICATION DEADLINE:

MONDAY THE 20TH OF JULY 2020

RESIDENCY PERIOD:

1ST SEPTEMBER – 30TH NOVEMBER 2020

FEE:

The Joya: AiR residency has a subsidised fee of €325 per week + tax (10%). This covers the cost of accommodation, wood for heating and all meals. It also includes collection from our nearest transport hub, Vélez Rubio.

TERMS & CONDITIONS:

Note* in the event of an artist not being able to take up a residency opportunity they have accepted (and paid their deposit), and there are extenuating circumstances, we retain their fee for the next opportunity they can be in residence, typically up to one year after their deposit was paid.

Accompanying friends and family:

Accompanying friends and family are welcome subject  to the contribution of the same outgoing fees as the resident artist (above).

APPLY

The following data is required to consider applications to Joya: AiR and to conform to Spanish law. This data is retained for one year before being deleted. Unsuccessful applicants will have their data deleted as soon as their applications have been processed. Joya: AiR will not use or share your data for any other purpose.

APPLY HERE

Climate Literacy 101: Communicating Sustainability

Session 4: 9th July

Register here

Communicating Sustainability

As part of the Arts Council England environmental support programme, we’re running a series of introductory webinars on creative climate action. 

Cultural and creative activities are uniquely placed to bring people together, providing a platform to inspire, share knowledge and build a sense of community. Messaging and signage can inform audiences and staff about on-site environmental actions as well as influence them in adopting pro-environmental behaviours. In this webinar by Julie’s Bicycle, we’ll look at different ways of communicating your environmental projects and initiatives: from explaining why you’re ‘going green’  – and how your communities can play a part – to transparently and creatively speaking about your environmental impacts and celebrating your achievements. We will also include practical tips on using sustainable materials and tactics to share your messages. The webinar will feature case studies from the cultural sector and allow plenty of time for discussion and Q&A.

Well cover:

  • the state of the climate and climate policy (where we are now and where we have to get to), 
  • where Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from (how we got here)
  • the role of the arts (where we can be most powerful)
  • understanding data and taking action (what YOU can do now, and how we move from individual action to big picture change).
  • case studies from the arts sector 

This webinar is designed for those just starting out, or who want a refresher in the basics of climate science and action.

Time: Jul 9, 2020 10:00 AM in London

Register here

COMMON GROUND BRIEFING – Season For Change (UK Artists)

We will be hosting two briefing sessions for artists interested in applying for our Common Ground commissioning opportunity to find out more.

This is the second of two briefings, taking place Tuesday 7 July at 11am with Zena Edwards.

Raised in Tottenham, North London, Zena Edwards has become known as one the most unique voices of performance poetry to come out of London. She is also known for her polemic voice, speaking on panels for climate change and creative campaigning for equality and equitable rights.

Zena has been involved in performance for 20 years – as a writer/poet performer, facilitator, creative project developer and vocalist after graduating from Middlesex University. 

As part of Season for Change, Zena will be working with Apples and Snakes on a new commission in 2020/21.

Who is this briefing for?

UK-based artists, makers or creators. Common Ground invites applications from artists who identify as Black, Asian and minority ethnic/POC, refugee, D/deaf, disabled, neurodivergent, working class and/or LGBTQI+.

Access

The sessions will be delivered digitally. If you would like this session to be captioned or BSL signed, or you require other access support, please email info@seasonforchange.org.uk.

Visit there website

Climate Anxiety to Climate Action with and through the Arts – Webinars with CSPA Director Ian Garrett

Tuesdays June 30th and July 7th 7:00-8:30 pm Mountain – log on at 6:45 pm

Presented by the Boulder County Arts Alliance in collaboration with EcoArts Connections and the Arbor Institute.

For more information and registration for webinar links:

https://www.bouldercountyarts.org/workshops/business-of-arts

Webinar information:

Tuesday, June 30th, 7:00-8:30 pm – Sustainability and the Arts for the Uninitiated

For arts makers, administrators, curators, producers, presenters, funders, policy makers, and others, this webinar will provide a forum for recognizing the individual realities of cultural workers and help to dispel myths, assuage fears, and contextualize how to start thinking about eco-positive change across all aspects of the arts.

Read more https://www.bouldercountyarts.org/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=202

Tuesday, July 7th, 7:00-8:30 pm – Building a Critical Community of Sustainable Arts Practitioners

For cultural workers and others interested in gaining a broad view of sustainable initiatives in the cultural sector internationally through the lens of the Boulder community. It will begin to establish our shared value system, as well as connect you to available tools, resources, and ways to build the networks of support we need to integrate the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and other principles into our work, together.

Read more: https://www.bouldercountyarts.org/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=203

Read more about Ian Garrett

Lockdown: Green Up!

Introducing Lockdown: Green Up! ☝️

A digital environmental theatre week, sharing the work of climate theatre-makers & artists, for those wanting to integrate eco-practices into their work 🌍 With livestreamed conversations & Q+As!

We hope this will contribute to the ongoing discussion over how artists, venues and producers can green up, engage with climate injustice & reimagine a more sustainable industry.

Conversations and Q+As will be streamed live on Facebook and most sessions will remain online afterwards to create a database of accessible climate theatre resources. We’ll also be sharing artists making climate work each day on social media.

🔎 Streaming is not entirely carbon neutral! To minimise our impact, we will be offsetting the carbon cost of people streaming our workshops, and the electric energy we’ve used preparing the week, with the advice of our friends Climate Stewards.

All sessions will be available captioned within one week of streaming.

All sessions are free of charge. However, if you’re able, we ask participants to donate the price of a £5 “ticket” (or whatever is appropriate!) to a fund, such as these supporting artists:

👉 ARTISTS FUND ARTISTS who are redistributing all funds raised before 1 August 2020 to Black artists in the UK:
www.gofundme.com/f/artistsfundartists

👉 TERRIBLE RAGE, covering essential costs for artists ineligible for the Self Employed scheme & unsuccessful in their ACE Emergency Funding application:
www.gofundme.com/f/theatre-makers-ineligible-and-unsuccessful

SCHEDULE OF LIVESTREAMED SESSIONS 👇
(Times BST, unless stated)

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‪Start with the Land 🍃

A conversation with playwright David Geary and site-specific theatre-creator Kendra Fanconi, on the relationship between art and nature, and making work with the land at its heart.

‪📅 Mon 29 June 4pm‬ (8am PT)

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‪How is theatre adapting in a time of climate crisis? 💚‬

A conversation with Lyn Gardner, and theatre-makers & Staging Change co-directors Alice Boyd & Josie Dale-Jones, about how emerging theatre makers are adapting for greener future 👊‬

‪📆 Mon 29 June 5:30pm‬

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‪Signalling Through The Waves 🌊‬

‪Creating a durational performance with the sea & approaching work through a ‘climate lens’, with pioneering eco-critic Una Chaudhuri, and artist & director Sarah Cameron Sunde 🌳‬

‪📆 Mon 29 June 6:30pm‬ (13:30 EST)

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‪Rethinking Design, and Embracing Eco-Scenography ♻️ ‬

‪What is Eco-Scenography? Pioneering eco-designers Tanja Beer (The Living Stage) + Andrea Carr on rethinking design practices & reinterpreting materials to integrate ecological principles. ‬

‪📆 Tues 30 June 10:30am‬ (19:30 ACT)

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‪Making the Digital LIVE 💻 ‬

‪Joe Ball, Artistic Director of Exit Productions and theatre-maker/political-activist Zack Polanski discuss digitalising their interactive environmental show, Eco Chambers.

‪📆 Tues 30 June 5:30pm

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Thinking Bigly: How to make an anti-TED talk

We talk to Ben Yeoh and David Finnigan about making their theatre-performance talk ‘Thinking Bigly: A Guide To Saving the World’ and finding hope in the midst of the climate crisis.

‪📆 Wed 1 July (Time TBC)

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Lighting a Greener Path 💡 ‬

‪Olivier Award-winning lighting designer, Paule Constable (associate of National Theatre, Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures and Lyric Hammersmith Theatre), discusses incorporating environmental sustainability into her practice for a brighter future.‬

‪📆 Wed 1 July 5:30pm‬

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‪Making Green Productions 💚‬

‪We discuss how Julie’s Bicycle are paving the way to green productions, and top tips on how to make your show sustainable with Julie’s Bicycle Creative Green Programme Lead, Graciela Melitsko Thornton 🦎‬

‪📆 Wed 1 July 6:30pm‬

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‪Running on Your Own Energy 🚲 ‬

Award-winning choreographer, Prue Lang, on powering theatre with renewable energy generated live during performance & how to create Green Guidelines for your practice 💃‬

‪📆 Thurs 2 July 11am‬

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‪Integrating Science & Eco-Philosophy into Theatre ✍️ ‬

We discuss the research process for climate play Dweepa with playwright Abhishek Majumdar (Pah-La The Royal Court Theatre): science, philosophy, and the lived experience of Bengali communities.

‪📆 Thurs 2 July 2pm‬ (18:30 IST)

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Telling Climate Stories Through Dance 💃

We talk to international award-winning dance company VOU Fiji about “Are We Stronger Than Winston?”, and investigating the human costs of climate change on Pacific communities through dance.

‪📆 Fri 3 July 9am (20:00 FST)

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‪Peddling sustainable practices with The HandleBards 🚲 ‬

An interactive workshop led by the HandleBards, cycling Shakespeare company & Edinburgh Sustainable Practice Award-winners, on how to implement sustainable practices into your company. (Details on signing up to follow!)

‪📆 Fri 3 July 5:30pm‬

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Towards Climate Justice 💪

A knowledge sharing with Groundwater Arts on re-evaluating your practise with a climate justice lens and their Green New Theatre proposal, applying the #GreenNewDeal to the theatre industry.

‪📆 Sat 4 July 4pm‬ (11:00 EST) TBC

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Making Saving the Planet Sexy 🎉 ‬

‪“Why can’t you enjoy a good sex story whilst wanting to save the planet?”‬ Award-winning comedian and climate activist, Steve Hili (Steve Hili – Comedy), on writing and performing climate comedy 🤪‬

‪📆 Sat 4 July 6:30pm‬

I’m writing a book!

By Tanja Beer

I have some news! I’m writing a book! Yes! A book on ecoscenography!

CALL OUT for cool sustainable design projects!

I am looking for examples of people doing great stuff  in the world of sustainability and the performing arts that I can feature in my book. So, I’d love to hear about any projects people are doing around the world that are worth a mention. I really want to celebrate the exciting range of work that people are doing — everything from tiny theatre projects to massive spectacles, in both conventional and expanded practice. Especially projects that are not always celebrated the way they should be or from different parts of the world often not recognised in the Global North or English speaking context (note: this is not the time to be shy about spruiking your own work). Looking for examples across the whole spectrum of set, costume, props, lighting and sound.

Ecoscenography: an introduction of ecological design for performance

Sustainability in theatre production is the topic of my forthcoming book entitled, Ecoscenography: an introduction of ecological design for performance (Palgrave Macmillan 2021) based on my PhD research at the University of Melbourne which I completed in 2016. The monograph examines the emerging concept of ‘ecoscenography’; a neologism that I use to bring performance design into an increased awareness of broader ecologies and global issues. In the book, I argue that the current ecological crisis calls for a new philosophy for theatre production that promotes more ecological (holistic, interconnected and symbiotic) ways of doing things. Related industries, such as architecture, product design and fashion have already shown us how a sustainable ethic can create exciting new processes and aesthetics. However, we are yet to fully grasp what a socially and environmentally conscious approach entails for the performing arts.

The ephemeral and specific nature of theatrical work means that most set and costume designs are only of valued for the duration of the performance season – often a matter of days or weeks – before they are discarded. Designers are trained to work towards Opening Night. How we ‘get there’ or what happens to our sets and costumes after the production ends is often neither a priority nor a consideration. Our focus as scenographers has typically been to create ‘experiences of impermanence’ – often extravagant spectacles with little regard for the prevailing permanence of unwanted remains (seen and unseen) which persist long after the event. Unlike typical theatre productions where the performance season is precedent, ecoscenography is comprised of three stages that are considered equally fundamental to the aesthetic consideration of the work – co-creation (preproduction), celebration (production) and circulation (post-production). Drawing upon literature across the ecological worldview (Hes & du Plessis 2015), systems thinking (Meadows 2008), biomimicry (Benyus 2002), ecomaterialism (Cohena and Duckert 2013; Alaimo 2010), regenerative development (Reed 2007) and others, the book provides an introduction to ecoscenography’s theoretical and practical framework, opening up new processes and aesthetics of theatrical design that enhance the social and environmental advocacy of our field.

(Top photo: The Living Stage, Castlemaine Sate Festival 2013. Scene from Produce, created and performed by Creatability and Born in a Taxi)

The post, I’m writing a book!, appeared first on Ecoscenography.
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Ecoscenography.com has been instigated by designer Tanja Beer – a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, Australia, investigating the application of ecological design principles to theatre.

Tanja Beer is a researcher and practitioner in ecological design for performance and the creator of The Living Stage – an ecoscenographic work that combines stage design, permaculture and community engagement to create recyclable, biodegradable and edible performance spaces. Tanja has more than 15 years professional experience, including creating over 50 designs for a variety of theatre companies and festivals in Australia (Sydney Opera House, Melbourne International Arts Festival, Queensland Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Arts Centre) and overseas (including projects in Vienna, London, Cardiff and Tokyo).

Since 2011, Tanja has been investigating sustainable practices in the theatre. International projects have included a 2011 Asialink Residency (Australia Council for the Arts) with the Tokyo Institute of Technology and a residency with the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (London) funded by a Norman Macgeorge Scholarship from the University of Melbourne. In 2013, Tanja worked as “activist-in-residence” at Julie’s Bicycle (London), and featured her work at the 2013 World Stage Design Congress (Cardiff)

Tanja has a Masters in Stage Design (KUG, Austria), a Graduate Diploma in Performance Making (VCA, Australia) and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne where she also teaches subjects in Design Research, Scenography and Climate Change. A passionate teacher and facilitator, Tanja has been invited as a guest lecturer and speaker at performing arts schools and events in Australia, Canada, the USA and UK. Her design work has been featured in The Age and The Guardian and can be viewed at www.tanjabeer.com

Go to EcoScenography

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Q18 DESCRIBED: FOUR SOLOS IN THE WILD

Lead Editor’s note: We will be publishing excerpts from Q18: dis/sustain/ability, guest edited by Bronwyn Preece, in order to make the content accessible to blind readers with audio screen readers. We’ll also be including audio descriptions of the Quarterly’s original layout designed by Stephanie Plenner, audio described ky Katie Murphy. Please stay tuned for future posts and share widely. In this chapter, Ray Jacobs discusses the process of creating “Four Solos in the Wild.”

Audio Description of Four Solos in the Wild by Katie Murphy

Four Solos in the Wild By Ray Jacobs

I am in a familiar situation — a circle of twelve talented learning-disabled dancers from Arty Party — partaking of the ritual known as warming up. Each performer takes their turn to lead, taking their moment in the spotlight and passing it on to the next performer…     Each performer has a distinct movement language honed through a lifetime of dance and movement based projects, or simply their own indomitable style.

Mervyn (Performers’ names used with permission) begins, with movements and gestures that have power, gravitas and yet they still hold qualities of softness. Graham, who has an incredible graceful sense of wingspan within his arms, beguiles us with his bird-like movement. Erika brings weaves a lightness of moving with contagious joy and laughter to match. Andrew, all angles and emotion, falls into the drama of dancing, daring us to be part of that drama.  Dean adds his twisting, repetitive and darkly comedic movements of subterfuge.

My name is Ray Jacobs, director of performance projects for Arty Party, a learning- disability arts organisation based in Shropshire, England. Four Solos in the Wild, is a touring exhibition of dance solos filmed in ancient wild woods. This is the story of how the project evolved from a moment’s desire, into — two years later — learning-disabled performers sharing their work with the public at the Tate Modern Museum in London. I speak as an observer, a facilitator, a director and a learner in this unfolding process.

The warm-up sparked the initial spark.  During it, I had a growing hunger for this movement to be shared within a landscape that meets the performers incredible qualities and Tycanol Woods came to mind.  I wondered what if the performers were to respond to, be taken up by, and place their movements within the magical Tycanol Woods?  

Months later, seven learning disabled performers and a team of artists arrived at Pentre Ifan Centre in the Woods. After hastily unpacking sleeping bags and choosing bunk beds, we began a ritual of filling water bottles, donning walking boots, cagoules (waterproof jackets), and gathering for adventure. Support, patience, openness and laughter replaced habitual urgency.

The movement solo, especially when created by the performer, is an intensely artistic and personal statement. This, I felt, would be the right channel for the performers to create and have agency over their own work. We would be creating an installation of four film screens, showing each solo continually looped, surrounded by a forest of images of the performers captured by dance photographer Chris Nash.

Movement facilitator, Simon Whitehead, led us through the atmospheric Tycanol Woods, where, like a many-legged creature finding its pace after a long time immobile, we found a rhythm and a pace that suited everyone.  We splashed, splattered, crunched, and slid. There are members of the company who find uneven surfaces challenging, but the group met squelchy mud, slippery rocks and glorious cushions of moss, with creativity, cooperation and laughter. The excitement and group impetus gave energy and verve to everyone. Playfulness is a strong, committed member of the group.

During the walk we stopped at a glade opening, deeply moss covered rocks and oaks in the foreground, an island of oaks on the horizon. The instructions were to walk towards the horizon and find a place to be, within the landscape. Once the first person arrived and settled, the next person was to follow and find their own place in relation to both the landscape and the other performer, and so on. Half the group witnessed the forming of this landscape portrait. The act of walking into an opening, being in a chosen place, alive to the environment, felt like a statement of sovereignty over our bodies, yet at the same time we were supported by each other and the landscape. We returned, one at a time, leaving no physical trace of the group but inhabiting it with memories.

Tycanol Woods is an ancient dark oak woodland, rich in moss, fern and lichen. Towards the hostel is a more recent, lighter part of the woods, with a mixture of beech, oak, sycamore and holly, ideal for bonfires and days when we don’t want to walk quite so far. Gathering the performers around an old fire pit, amongst a group of large beech trees, Simon gave the performers a task in pairs: one person leads, listening, seeing, touching the environment as they walk through the woods. The other follows. The leader is looking for a place that resounds, feels right, invites. Once the right place is found, the leader becomes dancer, spends time connecting with this place and then with eyes closed begins to move. When the dance comes to an end, eye contact is made between the mover and witness and the roles are reversed. Solos are created.

As a group we visit each solo. Graham Busby has chosen some long forgotten dens made of branches. He hides and scurries between the old dens like a hermit crab. His witness, Wren, aids the shell building, covering Graham’s body with leaves and branches. Erika Juniper dances around the base of a big beech tree, a dance of fingers sensing and listening, a powerful connection and longing.

Back in the studio the work was recalled in writing and drawing, and re-enacted, each performer was allocated a mentor who supported this recording process. These tasks of listening, moving and witnessing, and performance immersion within landscape, were all contributing to building the personal stories, the structure and the flavors of each performer’s solo. 

Whitehead shares memories of the retreat:

Slowly, Tycanol entered us, and the dancers became quietly attuned the place and each other…

Real time seemed to drop away and a process of composition, song and observation took us through the falling afternoon light for hours. It was both ‘real’ and sublime. 

I remember a talk by disability activist Petra Kuppers, at a conference in Ilfracombe, during which she stated that there was a strong need in disability performance to present ‘depth, heft and presence.’ This phrase has become an inner mantra and was one of the beacons moving this work forward.

Dance, historically, has been a bastion of the body perfect. An art form based on perfection is like a road ignoring all contours and cutting through the landscape with no regard and ultimately a heavy cost. Inclusive dance, on the other hand, is open to meanderings, diversions, the beauty of curves, twists, and setbacks. 

Facilitating disabled performers to make their own work or collaborating with disabled people is not a separate field, or something adjunct to the mainstream but at the very heart of being human.

Returning to the Woods two weeks later, we had the task of honing the solos, creating music and costume and filming all four solos in five days. The performers were joined by Welsh composers and musicians Ceri and Elsa, supported by mentors, and followed by film makers.

The musicians had researched traditional music composed in the region. Morning movement sessions, led by inclusive dance artist Rachel Liggitt, forged an incredible link between performers and musicians. The musicians learned to respond to the dancers and the dancers, breathing in the notes of harp and fiddle, breathed out beautiful, moving dance. 

“It felt so good being out in the woods by the tree, spending time with it.” – Erika, performer.

Erika’s solo was woven together with the song a Cantref that the musicians had unearthed.  The song is a message from a yearning lover sung to a bird who would relay the message to her heart’s desire. Erika’s dance of whispering, tender strokes and circling the tree sparked our imagination…  Erika, in a flowing purple gown, performs the solo with incredible concentration and presence. The musician’s voices add atmosphere to this scene in the heart of the woods. When Erika reaches out to touch the tree and the haunting Welsh voices begin, it is deeply moving. Performers, camera crew, mentors, and support artists are mesmerized and applaud every take.

“I’m feeling really good today, we did the filming, it was really wicked.” – Erika

Whilst given the space to find their own creativity, the performers were provided with rigorous direction, feedback, mentoring and critique, enabling them to work to the highest professional standard. I remember as a performer in an inclusive touring dance company, during a physically and emotional gruelling devising process, the disabled dancers stated critically that they did not receive the wrath and demands of the director as much as the non-disabled dancers.  Arty Party’s process aimed not to recapitulate inequality. 

One of the ground rules we had been given was to ‘be here and now’… amongst the calls of ravens, rush of streams and flight of the air. Andrew Kelly, one of the performers, initially struggled with this: falling into dramas of ‘another world’: being chased, dodging bullets, breaking down doors. I suggested a simple score of calling out loud the things we feel and the things we see right here: the edge of a leaf, the roughness of lichen, the call of a raven, a distant aeroplane, the snap of a branch underfoot. Opening the door to the present also invites all the things we are avoiding.

Andrew’s dance Letting Go was the last piece to be filmed, on dappled ground under the canopy of a sinuous oak: harpist, fiddle player, film crew and Andrew in spring sunshine, making sense of it all. During an interview, Andrew put his solo into words:

Breaking out from the cage of branches is finding my freedom.

Touching the sapling gently, I remember my Mother’s love.

I break and throw the branches, I feel raw with anger about my mother’s death.

Letting go of the branch is just that, letting go of it all and starting anew.

During the post-production process the films were edited exactly as they were performed, using shots from different camera angles to bring out the best.

Community dance pioneer, Cecilia Macfarlane, once shared during a lecture at Coventry University, that “Every project has a storm, it might happen at any time but I assure you it will.”  The storm happened three weeks after getting back from filming, when we all found out that Dean Warburton and his mother had been killed in a car crash on the way to the workshop.

The remainder of this workshop and others during the following weeks were amongst the most emotionally challenging myself and my colleagues had ever facilitated. Performers and teachers shared so much grief, attempts at running a class regularly breaking down, with the whole group sharing memories and in tears. Attending Dean’s funeral with group members really brought it home. Three weeks before, we were in beautiful woods exploring the idea of burying each other amongst branches, moss and birdsong, with the usual funny, soft, expressive Dean, and here we were at his funeral, Dean’s larger than life body in a wooden coffin being carried gently by his family.

The Four Solos in the Wild opening was to be a celebration of the exhibition and a wake for the life of Dean. It was only upon setting up the four screens, each showing a looped solo, that we realized how beautifully they worked together as a quartet. Many people working at the theatre entered the space and were mesmerized by this quartet of solos – actions, gestures and stories full of presence and connection. Arty Party has a membership of one hundred, many of whom were present. The opening was a beautiful, wild, red carpet event. 

The exhibition toured seven UK venues. At each opening the performers spoke to the public about the project and their solos, each time growing in confidence. When the exhibition was shown locally, it was a chance for the learning-disabled performers to share their work with support workers, family and friends. To hear how people were moved by the presence, qualities of movement, sense of inner story, was music to our ears. The performers grew visibly in stature through the process of sharing their work and the positive public response.

We are currently preparing for the project finale, a sharing of the filmed solos at the Tate Modern Cinema, organised by learning-disability film festival Oska Bright.  Presenters have been Skyping with the performers on a regular basis. The performers will be invited to talk about their work in front of an audience of learning-disabled people, film festival programmers and curators.  From the ancient woods of Tycanol to the South Bank in London, it will be a fitting finale to quite an adventure…

Biography

Ray Jacobs is a UK based artist who uses the mediums of image, film and movement to highlight the beauty, power and presence in the narratives that surround us. Ray works as a director and facilitator, creating imaginative and powerful works with a wide variety of companies, performers and participatory groups in particular collaborating with disabled artists.  He states, “I aim in my work to create movement and image which steps quietly into the human heart”.

His recent multi award-winning short films include The Sea Reminds Me and Bastion.  He is currently developing a new film based project with Arty Party based on the writings of Canadian Sci Fi author Jeff Vandermeer.

The Green Rooms: The Earth is Watching… Let’s Act

What it is:

All Green Room events are in English only

As part of its response to the escalating climate crisis – and in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic – NAC English Theatre in partnership with Festival of Live Digital Art (FOLDA), the Canada Council for the Arts, The City of Kingston, HowlRound Theatre Commons and The National Theatre School is bringing together participants for an extraordinary three-day/three-country digital experiment to re-imagine the future of theatre.

Join us for spirited conversations with leaders in fields such as climate activism, ecological economy and environmental humanities, as well as with theatre artists and leaders who have found innovative ways to engage with the climate crisis.

A limited number of active participants will join the event on Zoom, from eight cities across three countries: Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Kingston, Montreal, and Halifax, as well as London (U.K.) and New York. In addition, a livestream of the event will be accessible to spectators everywhere.

Please note: If you are not in one of those cities, you can still participate by joining the city closest to you or the one most meaningful to you!

Co-curated by Sarah Garton Stanley and Chantal Bilodeau.


Schedule: (subject to change)

DAY 1: Wednesday, June 10, 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. (EDT)

  • Opening Picnic

DAY 2: Thursday, June 11, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. (EDT)

  • Climate Despair – 3-4 p.m. (EDT)
  • How Artists Respond – 4-5 p.m. (EDT) 
  • Leadership and Structures for Change – 5-6 p.m. (EDT)
  • Averting Climate Breakdown – 6-7 p.m. (EDT)
  • The Future: What is it? – 9-10 p.m. (EDT) 
  • DJ Syrus Marcus Ware: Dance Like the Earth is Watching – 10-11 p.m. EDT

DAY 3: Friday, June 12, 2:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. (EDT)

  • The Closing Act

How to participate:

The Green Rooms are an online gathering space where we will engage with the climate crisis. There are two ways to get involved:

As an active participant

If you wish to actively participate, experiment and play, send an email expressing your interest to climatechangecycle@nac-cna.ca.

Please note, there is limited availability for active participants. If interested please be in touch at your earliest convenience: climatechangecycle@nac-cna.ca.

During the three-day event, active participants will be called upon to help create an environment of curiosity and play. This multi-layered gathering has never been tried. As an active participant you will be part of creating a raucous space that is part-picnic, part-convening and part co-creation.

As a spectator

Spectators can join the livestream throughout the scheduled times above and witness all the sessions, discussions and performances over the three days.

Watch the livestream here


For more information:

Contact climatechangecycle@nac-cna.ca