REFLECTiON AFTER THE PERFORMANCE AND EXHiBiTiON
1. WHY AN EXHiBiTiON?
Documenting and visually recording my experiences of moving in the landscape was an important part of the process, and therefore an exhibition of work was a cohesive way to collate all of this information into one space. RiVER-BODY became so much more than a solo embodied performance: the collaborations with local people, the conversations, and creating outside all informed the work. The exhibition brought these experiences from Northumberland into the studio space.
2. HOW WAS THE EXHiBiTiON PUT TOGETHER?
The exhibition contained several different aspects. The performance allowed the audience to settle into the space and begin to engage in the intertwined, immersive human-land relationship, before being invited to explore the rest of the work in their own way. The other elements were:
- River of words: The words were taken directly from poetry produced from conversations with local people of Felton.
- Graphic Scores: These were 'neat' versions of the scores shown in the sketchbook, capturing sounds, rhythms, textures and patterns of site explorations.
- Postcards: There was one postcard for each participant, created in response to their experience of moving and dancing in Felton along the River Coquet.
- Film: This was shown to give a micro-capture of part of the landscape and river. One shot was a close-up view of the river (as shown on the home page), the other was a view above its banks, into the trees. It provides an invitation to notice small details and to 're-look' at the same area of landscape.
- Sketchbook: This was part of my documentation process and all of the other elements, including the performance, were first captured in its pages. By presenting it in the exhibition, the audience is invited into the project as a whole, not just the end result.
3. HOW HAS THE SOLO EMBODiED PERFORMANCE DEVELOPED THROUGHOUT THE PROJECT?
I visited the sites in Felton at various points over three months. After these explorations, I took the material and motifs into the studio to inform my improvisations in this space. The graphic scores played a large part in this practice - I 'danced' each score. After the workshops, I also took movements and motifs that the participants had created at the sites into my solo practice.
At first, the solo was completely improvised as this reflected the constant changes in the landscape each time I visited. However, once the music and soundscape had been established, the solo became more structured, with moments choreographed in-between improvised sections that were influenced by the prominent motifs and movement patterns collated. This resulted in the creation of the 'performance score', which graphically shows the structure of the solo alongside the fluctuations in the music and soundscape.
4. IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THiNG ABOUT THE PROCESS, WHAT WOULD iT BE?
The workshops with the local participants were hugely rewarding as an artist as it gave me an insight into their perspectives of the landscape. The conversations stimulated points of interest and also acknowledge points of concern about the sites, ecology, and human-land relationships. Moving and dancing with them at the sites opened up my own movement practice to expand beyond my solo explorations. If I had had more time and opportunities to visit Felton during the process, I would have loved to have worked with the participants more frequently to dive deeper into the site-specific process and develop the cohesion of the group further.
5. IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THiNG ABOUT THE END PERFORMANCE AND EXHiBiTiON, WHAT WOULD iT BE?
With more time, I would have liked to have developed the performance more in terms of being true to my experiencing of sense of place at the sites. Being able to rehearse both outdoors in Felton and in the studio in the last month leading up to the performance would have been ideal to allow for this, but logistically this wasn't possible!
Feedback from the audience was really positive, and people particularly seemed to enjoy looking through the sketchbook in detail and being given the opportunity to take home a word from the river that resonated with them. One suggestion was to pick three words from the river to create a small, unique poem. This would have added another immersive element to the exhibition and corresponded with the poetry written in the sketchbook.
6. IN AN iDEAL WORLD, WHO ELSE WOULD BE PART OF THE PROJECT TEAM?
An assistant producer to aid the creation of the exhibition; an assistant workshop leader to support and help facilitate the work with the community; a costume designer to create a costume that was more reflective of the landscape; a marketing and social media support as I didn't spend a huge amount of time on this aspect; and tech support for the exhibition.
7. WHO WAS THE iNTENDED AUDiENCE?
The project was created with the knowledge that I would be able to share it with my peers, friends and family, and therefore show a part of my practice as a dance artist that I perhaps hadn't had the chance to share previously. Creating the project took a lot of energy, commitment and passion from myself and so being able to share my Northumberland sense of belonging as the performer felt really special. It was hoped that the audience would question their own relationship to a particular landscape through viewing the work.
The exhibition was also created for the community participants. Although they could not see the performance live, by sharing aspects of the documentation and sending them each a postcard, it feels as though they are also part of the audience.
8. ANY iDEAS FOR FURTHER EXPANSiON OF RiVER-BODY?
Collaborating with another visual artist would be an interesting way to expand the project. This would provide another perspective on the human-land relationship and a different experience of sense of place. In particular, collaborating with an artist who works with film and installation would expand these elements of the exhibition. Further workshops could be done with the local community, exploring other creative ways of engaging with the human-land connection alongside dance, combining multiple art disciplines. Also, creating a film of the dance performance actually in the sites along the river would be exciting. During my research, I was inspired by the National Theatre of Scotland's film How The Earth Must See Itself (2019) and so creating a film like this could almost be a homage to the River Coquet.
9. WHERE ELSE COULD THiS PROJECT BE PRESENTED?
During the creation of RiVER-BODY, I was approached by visual artist Marilou Chagnaud (who I have also spoken to on Between the Art) to perform at her end of residency exhibition at VARC in Northumberland. Although the other work in my exhibition won't be shown, I will perform aspects of the solo. There's a sense of taking RiVER-BODY back home. More details can be found here. See images from the event here.
Performing the work outside at the sites in Felton would perhaps give the audience a richer, deeper engagement with the landscape. It would be interesting to change the gallery-like space of the studio to the outdoors and present the artwork amongst the trees.
10. WHAT'S NEXT?
As a dance artist, I would love the opportunity to develop the project further on a residency, such as VARC. I have enjoyed being able to invest time into a body of work for a prolonged period, much like a visual artist would, and so I would like to continue working in this way through residencies and artist commissions.
I also want to continue working collaboratively with other artists and continue to engage with community groups to talk and explore important conversations such as ecology, place, memories, and belonging.
RiVER-BODY has established what I potentially knew all along: I want to create, move, dance in landscapes where there are big skies.