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Sunday, October 9. 2016
herbst (autumn) has come and gone too quickly this year. one day i was enjoying riding my bike in the warm evening air, the next day i was getting out my winter coat, boots and umbrella. the leaves are still clinging to the trees but temperatures have plummeted, and today i cut down the tomato plants on the balcony. some still had green tomatoes on them, so these have gone into a paper bag in the kitchen, to ripen there. the lovely physalises (physalii??) at right are from nicki's mother's garden.
i am currently completely busy with the organisation of "Magdalena München - In Between" - a long weekend of performances, workshops, installations, discussions and more; part of my efforts to establish the Magdalena Project network in munich and germany. it's not an easy task to organise something like this in a city where i am not only an outsider, an auslander, but also where i don't speak the language well and am not so au fait with the peculiarities of the arts community - the personalities, relationships, and so on that are different in every cultural ecosystem. i have to navigate all of this, with limited language ability, and sometimes it's pretty challenging. of course, i'm not doing it alone - i'm working with a team of great women, but our project is new and not easily communicated to people who have a vast selection of arts and culture to choose from. first of all we have to get across the concept of the Magdalena Project - that it is an international network, and that it is not only about "theatre" (germans have a very narrow definition of "theatre") but it encompasses a great variety of live performance work. and then we have to promote the individual women artists, who are all amazing in their own ways. we have to promote Violeta Luna to the spanish-speaking community and to people who are interested in political performance; Sandra Pasini should be of interest to the Italian community, as well as to musicians, singers, and so on. for Kordula Lobeck de Fabris, i'm trying to find out who in munich is interested in art projects inside prisons. and so on ... most people in munich haven't heard of the Magdalena Project, let alone any of these individual artists. so it's a big job!
as if it wasn't already challenging enough, annie abrahams & i will perform "Unaussprechbarlich" again on the opening night, friday 14 october. we created this performance last year, based on our experiences of learning another language as adults to live in a foreign country (annie moved from the netherlands to france 30 years ago, and i moved from new zealand to germany six years ago). i admit to being a little bit nervous about performing as well as organising - it's something many magdalenas seem able to do without difficulty, but as i'm not really a performer myself, it's more stressful. i'm doing my best to prepare in advance!
immediately after Magdalena München, i'm off to Coventry for the next iteration of "We have a situation!". this time the project will explore the university-city social relationship, something that should have resonance for many other university towns around the world.
meanwhile in other news: while at the Transit Festival in june, i was interviewed by the wonderful zoe gudovic for her series of inspiring feminist artists. the interview is now online here, and that's us talking together in the photo at the right. i recommend checking out the others who zoe has interviewed - read the interviews here and get inspired!
Wednesday, August 17. 2016
a few weeks ago, an extraordinary thing happened to me: i turned 50 years old. it's bizarre to have reached this age, when i don't "feel" it - but what's 50 supposed to "feel" like, anyway? when i was a child, 50 was something impossibly distant and old, older even than my parents (and my parents were old in comparison to my friends' parents), something that i simply could not conceive of ever being. 50 belonged to people who came from another time (another planet?), a time that was not and never could be mine. and yet: inexorably, time marches on and here we are - i have existed on this planet, in this form, for half a century. today's children must look at me as something impossibly old, from a time they can only imagine.
at the same time as i want to shout, "i don't feel 50!", and wonder whether a mistake of 10 years has been made with my birth date, i find myself enjoying the sense of perspective as i look back over the last half century. it's filled with amazing adventures and achievements as well as, naturally, a few disasters and disappointments; but generally i've been incredibly fortunate. for some unknown reason, i've never been one to follow well-trodden paths or approach conventional milestones in the expected order. rather, my life has been somewhat haphazard and serendipitous, with huge amounts of learning along the way. i hope that's how the next half century will continue to unfold.
ageing is deeply personal, even though it happens to all of us, no matter how old or young we get to, and it's happening all the time, just like life - in fact, it is life. hitting 50 brings an interesting new perspective to it. i think this next phase is going to be fun!
Friday, July 1. 2016
The Transit Festival has come and gone once again. This was the 8th Transit festival, organised roughly every three years since 1992 by Julia Varley at Odin Teatret. It's one of the high-points of the Magdalena Project festival circuit, as it is the most regular ongoing event as well as the biggest - this year encompassing 12 days. As usual the programme was packed, with early morning training and three performances most evenings, as well as workshops, work demonstrations, presentations and discussions during the day. My contribution included a presentation about "We have a situation!", speaking on a panel about the festival theme "beauty as a weapon", and creating the installation "her light stretches".
Also participating in the festival were two from the Magdalena München group, Henrietta Beyer and Cecilia Bolaños; as we are organising our second weekend meeting this October, with a view to hosting a festival in 2018/19, it's important that others from Munich experience a Magdalena festival, to network and learn what it is that makes a "magdalena". They met Violeta Luna, who will perform at our weekend in October, and Gilla Cremer from Hamburg, as well as many others in the network. We managed to have dinner together one evening along with Violeta, Gilla, Jana Korb (who will also come in October) and Barbara Luci Carvalho who is based in Frankfurt with Theatre Antagon. It was good to make connections and continue to build the network within Germany.
The installation occupied most of my time - more than I'd anticipated (as often happens with such projects!). I had hoped to participate in Deborah Hunt and Madeline McNamara's workshop "Droll Skirmish", but after the first morning I had to drop out as I needed all available time to create the installation. "her light stretches" is inspired by Helen Chadwick's performance and album "Fragments of Love" - songs that Helen composed from fragments of Sappho's poetry. I created text animations for each of the seven songs, and projected these into a space created from large, angled mirror panels. The idea was a development from an installation I made in 2010, with the Austrian artist Eva Ursprung, and I was able to realise it at Transit thanks to Odin Teatret allowing me to use mirror panels from the performance "Andersen's Dream" and financial support from Munich City Department of Art and Culture.
As there was not enough space at the theatre for my installation, the festival found a space nearby - in a former slaughterhouse. The Slagteriet, as it's called in Danish, had been decommissioned a year or two before and is now used for performances and other arts events. In some areas there are established projects, but most of the space remains almost as it formerly was, even with some of the machinery still in place; some rooms are still cold, damp and stinky. As a vegetarian, I was apprehensive about working in such a place, and needed to do some sort of cleansing ritual before I began. Many at the festival helped me with this: Suzon Fuks volunteered a Reiki cleansing, Ana Wolf gave a stick of sandalwood to burn, Maria Porter went to find sage, and Amaranta Osario bought salt. After some walking, visualising, sprinkling and burning the space began to feel better; and once we started setting up the mirrors and playing Helen's beautiful songs, there was a definite shift in the energy.
With the help of two enthusiastic technicians (Tomas Lindström and Gutto Basso) and my glamorous assistant Maria Porter, we managed to get the mirrors set up and the space blacked out over a couple of days. Then we had fun finding the best position for the projector. During this process, I realised that if there were more than about 5 people in the space, the effect of the reflections would be greatly reduced. The installation had been given a 40 minute slot in the festival programme, during which some 80+ people would come. The video loop was 11 minutes, and even if people didn't stay for the whole loop, they still needed several minutes in order to adjust to the darkness and take some time in the space (and many people wanted to see it more than once!). It was clearly impossible to even attempt to get everyone through in 40 minutes. So I did some quick organising, roped in more helpers, and managed to get more than half of the festival participants and artists through during two of our lunch-breaks. In the end we managed to get everyone through, even if occasionally there were 6 or 7 in at once and many people only had about 5 minutes in the space which wasn't really quite enough. I did not enjoy having to break the spell with a whispered request for someone to leave! However, everyone really liked it, many commenting that it was beautiful, and peaceful, and quite a few wanting to spend more time in it. It was great to be able to make this first step in the project, which I hope to continue by working with Helen to add a live performance element.
My presentation about "We have a situation" and the political aims of this project was well received, and in the panel on "beauty as a weapon" I talked about how beauty is a social construct and asked what "beauty" means for different people, for example what is "beauty" to a terrorist. There were several sessions on this theme, but unfortunately I missed all except the one I was speaking on, due to being preoccupied with my installation.
Performances that stood out for me included: Ledwina Constanti's visceral and surprising "Carnage", which combined physical and visual techniques in a powerful performance; the beautiful and inventive use of light and projection in Teresa Ruggeri's "Rovine del Tempo"; Jana Korb's delightful new aerial work "Frau Vladusch"; Madeline McNamara's hilarious and provocative work-in-progress about colonisation and racism; and the fantastic festival finale - "Babayaga" in masks, puppets, costume and the wonderful "crankies", by Deborah Hunt and Sugeily Rodriguez. The lunchtime "Poetry Menu" performances by Camilla Sandri and Roberta Lanave - where we could select a poem from a menu and have it deliciously recited at our table - was also a delight. And there were "old favourites", new works from Magdalena regulars, others presenting work at a Magdalena festival for the first time, works-in-progress and more.
There were two other personal highlights for me in this festival. One was early morning trapeze training on Jana's trapeze, which was set up outside at the edge of the theatre's lawn. This took me to the limits of my physical ability; how is it that as a child I could effortlessly swing myself up onto the playground bars and spin around without any problem, but now I can't even get my legs up without help? Admittedly the bar is higher up, and I'm a lot heavier than when I was 10 years old. With a bit of help from Jana I got there, and once up it was a great sense of accomplishment to sit, stand and do some very modest moves. To be continued, I hope!
The other highlight was the spontaneous opportunity to drive the forklift. The day after the festival ended, the Odin techs were busy moving things around - loading up a truck with the set of "The Chronic Life" to head off the next day to Romania, and putting things back in the storage area that had been our festival dining room. At one point I came out of the theatre and there was the little forklift, standing in the courtyard. I'd seen Fausto driving it at the end of the previous Transit and had expressed my desire to have a go one day - and this day my wish came true! Did you know that forklifts don't have a break pedal? Just one pedal to go forward and one to reverse. The lever for raising and lowering the fork at the front was a bit more complicated, so I just concentrated on driving. It was a great way to end my fifth Transit experience!
Thank you Julia, Nathalie, and everyone who makes Transit happen!
Monday, April 18. 2016
my work is live performance, which means i'm not usually "exhibiting" work; however from time to time i end up in an exhibition for one reason or another. unusually at the moment, i've got work in two different exhibitions, one in munich and one in london.
in munich, i'm at the GEDOK gallery as part of the exhibition "LET GO_D THINGS HAPPEN", curated by cornelia oßwald-hoffman. subtitled "conceptual art in progress", this is a continuation of "the repository of art and knowledge", which conny invited me to participate in back in 2012. this repository is a collection of unfinished or unrealised works, with each artist or project represented by a file containing material relating to an unfinished work. in my case, i've contributed a skype performance that i prepared for "open borders", a day of networked performance curated by adriene jenik and charley ten for the 2008 conference Actions of Transfer: Women's Performance in the Americas. at the moment that adriene cued me to start my performance, skype failed and i had to restart; by the time i was back, she'd had to cue the next performer, and in the end there was no gap to put me back in. the "repository of art and knowledge" was first at das Klohäuschen and then at Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Potsdam in 2012. in this latest exhibition, conny has broadened the concept to include presentations by artists around the question, "What happens when you stop the conceptual artist in the middle of the work process?" - not only looking at work that was never completed but also at work that will be completed, but frozen in a moment in the process.
you can use the QR code at the right to access a rehearsal recording of the never-performed performance.
the other exhibition is "Culture and Practice", part of the 2016 Libre Graphics Meeting which takes place this year at the University of Westminster in london. It is a group exhibition of work produced with open source software, around the theme "Other Dimensions". UpStage is a featured project, with a video of selected showreels and recordings, and explanatory panels telling the story of the project. i'll have the chance to see this exhibition when i pass through london on my way home from a meeting in cardiff about the future complete rebuild of UpStage/new cyberformance platform ...
Wednesday, March 30. 2016
Every Magdalena festival has its own unique character, determined by the people organising it and its location. The Tantidhatri festival, held first in 2012 in Pondicherry and Auroville, and this year in Bengaluru, is no exception; it floats in a magical bubble of scents, colours and joy that is gently cradled by each of the many smiling volunteers. From 17 to 21 Frebruary, we were hosted at the beautiful Ranga Shankara Theatre, founded and run by Arundhati Nag who made it clear from the beginning that it was a privilege for her to be able to give the festival a home; she and her team at the theatre made us feel immediately welcome and at home there. Workshops and presentations were held at the nearby Shoonya Centre and Kappanna Angala. All the spaces were gracefully decorated with flowers and leaves, and every day before we began an oil lamp was lit in the space and kept burning until we were finished - one of many quiet rituals that infused the festival with a special light and focus.
The 5-day programme was packed, as one expects at a Magdalena festival, and offered a combination of tradtional and contemporary performances. The tone was set from the start with the opening night demonstrating the breadth of contemporary Indian performance practice: Dimple B. Shah's performance installation invited the audience to collaborate in creating a mandala which she then transformed (reminiscent but completely different to the performance that had opened the first Tantidhatri festival); this was followed by Rudrayogini - combining the traditions of Baul, Rudraveena (instrument) and Charyageethi (Buddhist poetry); and finally a ritual Theyyam performance - performed by men but celebrating female heroes (pictured at left). During the following days, we experienced a variety of other Indian artists such as Dhrupad singer Pelva Naik, and the actress Revathy addressing the taboo topic of homosexuality, alongside international performances. With Geddy Aniksdal we travelled to ancient China; Sandra Pasini performed orignal and traditional Italian songs; Gilla Cremer took us on a harrowing trip to the seaside; Tina Milo explored the emotions of modern women; Julia Varley performed "Ave Maria"; and Korean performance artist Sin Cha Hong posed, through movement, the question "who am I?". The festival culminated in "Kaal", a performance that brought together international and Indian artists, and combined three different traditions to create a unique contemporary performance. Through Parvathy Baul's music, Anandavalli's dance (Bharathanatyam) and Narelle Benjamin's dance (based on yoga) the performance explored concepts of time and change.
A highpoint of the festival for me was a day of presentations entitled "Interactions with Social Change", with four feminist activists. Kamla Bhasin is currently the South Asia coordinator of One Billion Rising, and showed footage from the campaign's global dance action on Valentine's Day. Nobel Peace Prize nominee Khushi Kabir is involved in projects that empower rural working-class communities in Bangladesh. Vandana Shiva is an environmental and anti-globalisation activist and author who advocates for the integration of traditional wisdom in contemporary practices. Transgender activist A. Revathi works on and writes about sexual minorities' human rights issues. They all spoke candidly about their lives, both personal and political, giving us insight into their work over many decades and numerous issues. Kamla and Revathi both spoke about using performance and the arts in their work - theatre, songs, dance and street theatre (and Kamla reminded me very much of my grandmother, with her slogans and her strong, positive approach). Vandana talked about the terrible impact of Monsanto's genetically modified seeds on Indian farming communities (some statistics I noted down: the price of cotton seed jumped by %80,000 when Monsanto entered the market, Monsanto has collected $90 million in royalties from Indian peasant farmers, and 300,000 farmers have committed suicide as a result of being in impossible debt to Monsanto). She also mentioned New Zealander Marilyn Waring's book "If Women Counted" as an influential text for her.
My own presentation was in the "Experiencing the process" part of the programme, along with work demonstrations by Julia Varley and Carolina Pizarro, and folk singer Shabnam Virmani. I spoke about the process of We have a situation!, specifically about the "situation" at the Multicidade Festival last year in Rio de Janeiro on the topic of water pollution. I was the last speaker on the last afternoon of the festival, in a hot room, so I was impressed that people stayed to listen and remained engaged despite the heat. I had been very inspired by the "Interactions with Social Change" presentations the day before, as much (all?) of it resonated with my ideas underpinning We have a situation! I was also making connections with the reading I'd been doing in the previous few months around ideas of post-democracy and proto-political engagement as I was writing a chapter about We have a sitiuation! for a forthcoming book on the arts and global civic engagement. I had based my presentation on this chapter, then wove in themes from the talks the day before as I was delivering it. Gabriella, Elaine and Mem were able to join the presentation online and provided some humorous antics and work demonstration elements in UpStage.
Left: with performance artist Dimple B. Shah, who was also at our Magdalena weekend in Munich last year. We are standing next to a poster featuring all of the festival artists.
Late on the final evening as we made our traditional closing round, we interrupted ourselves several times to farewell departing artists. My own flight was not until 7am the following morning, however allowing for the drive to the airport which could take up to two hours, and time for check-in and security, my taxi was booked for 3.15am ... and as we didn't get back to the hotel until around 1am that left just enough time for me to pack and farewell my sleepy room-mate Carolina. As I waited for the taxi, I heard footsteps hurrying down the stairs and Tomomi, one of the dedicated volunteers, appeared to speak to the taxi driver and give me a last farewell. I set off into the night, feeling once more inspired and enriched by another encounter with the world of Magdalena, tired but eagerly anticipating three weeks of more inspiring adventures in northern India.
Friday, February 5. 2016
late last night - or rather, early this morning, i watched a live stream from auckland of protests against the TPPA signing (the TPPA is the pacific equivalent of the european TTIP). the recorded footage is here.
the nz government was hosting a behind-closed-doors ceremonial signing of the TPPA in auckland with the 12 other pacific nations involved. there were protests all over the country, including about 15,000 people in auckland where the march was led by maori performing the haka. these were local iwi (tribes) who had been asked by the government to perform a powhiri (maori welcome) for the signing of the TPPA (a powhiri is standard protocol for significant events in nz) - but the iwi refused and chose instead to lead the march. there was a big maori presence & a forest of tino rangitiratanga flags (red & black flag of maori sovereignty - & much nicer than the logo-like option the government is currently trying to force through as our new flag) & an overwhelming atmosphere of strong, unified opposition to the TPPA and the way the government has handled it.
february 6th is waitangi day in aotearoa/new zealand - the anniversary of the signing of the treaty of waitingi in 1840 between maori tribes (not all of them) and representatives of the british crown. it's a public holiday in nz, some see it as a celebration & others as a day of mourning / contemplation about colonisation. there is always a major ceremony at te tii marae in waitangi, which the prime minister traditionally attends. there is often some element of protest or controversy around it & this year it has been pretty much about the TPPA. as a result, our dickhead prime minister john key, who is busy signing away aoteaora/new zealand to coroporate colonisation, has decided not to go. maori objection to the TPPA is mainly over the lack of consultation, but also concerns that the TPPA will breach the treaty of waitangi (which it absolutely will).
i felt proud to see the huge public opposition to the TPPA, with people from all walks of life & everyone that reporter john campbell spoke to was very well-informed. the signing of the TPPA is purely ceremonial, it still has to go through the legal processes in each of the 12 nations, so there is still hope that the whole thing will collapse.
Wednesday, December 9. 2015
during november & december i've been working with annie abrahams on our collaboration "unaussprechbarlich"; we started a few months ago with the research (building on annie's "estranger" project from the last year or more), around the topic of learning language(s) as an adult to live in a foreign country. the project comprises research, the website, and performances - of which we have now given two work-in-progress presentations. tonight we give the third, and last for this phase of the work.
it's been a much more difficult process than we had expected, for a number of reasons. annie and i have worked together since 2008 on various projects: annie invited me to participate in her projects "breaking solitude", "huis clos/no exit", "angry women" and the Reading Club; we were both part of the CyPosium organising team in 2012; and during 2013-14 we co-edited CyPosium - the book. annie presented a work at the 121212 UpStage Festival and participated in the UpStage 10th Birthday Celebrations in 2014. that's quite a lot of online communication and collaboration over almost eight years, so it came as a surprise for both of us that collaboration in physical space is very different. i've worked both online and offline with people from all kinds of different creative backgrounds for over 15 years and never had this experience. so we are asking ourselves, what is it that has made it difficult?
there have been a couple of significant practical and environmental challenges, at least for me. first of all, we agreed that we would work as much as possible auf deutsch. we decided that our primary audience, at least for this first phase of the project, is german-speaking - either german people, or people who have moved to germany and learnt or are learning german; so it made sense to speak and write in german, on the website and in the performance. furthermore, i am in the middle of this language-learning process, and that is integral to the project, so by doing everything in german i am living the actual experience and improving my german along the way. which is all very true and good, but i discovered that not only is it very hard and tiring to be immersed in german (to be honest, i was never really completely immersed as i still had english conversations, emails, etc), it is also very limiting creatively. i frequently found myself tongue-tied, unable to express ideas, struggling so much to find words that i could not find anything and my brain ground to a halt. i could not be creative - yet - in german. the more i tried, the harder it felt and the more blocked, stupid and uncreative i became.
a second challenge was that, early on, annie proposed that we perform without computers. i don't remember now what her reasons were, and i accepted it without much discussion. i had ideas for text projections, webcams and other performative elements involving the computer which i was disappointed not to do, but i also didn't argue very hard for it. i was taking on the challenge of language immersion so why not also take on the challenge of going without my performance instrument as well? i was open to all proposals, willing to come out from behind the keyboard and explore outside my comfort zone. thus doppel-behindert, without language or instrument, i produced something immature, cliche, false and awkward. in hindsight i could say that it was a mistake, that i should have stuck to what i do best, but perhaps it was a necessary if unpleasant part of the process. finally i admitted defeat, retreated behind the keyboard and reverted to speaking english. yes, i felt like a failure (weichei, warmduscher, schattenparker ... ) but it was such a relief! struggling sometimes produces great results, but to struggle unproductively is very depressing and exhausting.
after our initial presentation at the villa waldberta, we had four days in the proberaum at schwere reiter theater to prepare for our next presentation. i experimented with text projections, my flexible mirror, live webcam images, online translation and pronunciation tools and text editors; all at the computer. i understood that annie's initial proposal not to use computers was the right thing for her, but not for me. we rearranged our material, developed different ways to present elements and found creative solutions to most of the problems. there were still difficulties, however the pressure of the next performance only a few days away meant that we didn't waste time analysing and in general it felt that we were working better. we were satisfied with our next performance and had a good response from the audience, although the structure of the evening meant that we lost the opportunity to have a discussion afterwards on the themes of the work.
now, as we prepare for the last presentation in this phase of the project, we're starting to be able to reflect on the overall process and what has made it so difficult. annie has written this post, including some response from me, i'm writing this post that you're reading now, and we're discussing together and via email. what we understand is that we have fundamentally different working processes: annie likes to think things through and not try out or rehearse, so as to be new every time and not completely controlled. i'm pretty much the opposite: i need to try things out in order to see if they work or not, and to discover new possibilities; then i rehearse and repeat in order to be able to do things smoothly without thinking. (which is interesting for another reason, as during the course of this project i identified that one of the things i don't like about learning languages is the repetition - having to repeat things over and over again to learn by heart. rote learning is boring - but rehearsing for a performance is not.) i might have recognised our differences earlier in the process, if i hadn't been so stuck and behindered by language. now, i'm curious about whether our processes are the same online or not, and what difference that makes to how we work together.
Friday, December 4. 2015
Dezember 4 20h Schwere Reiter Proberaum, Dachauer Straße 114, München.
Tram 12, 20, 21, Bus 53, Leonrodplatz. Eintrit 12 / 8 euros.
Unausprechbarlich untersucht die schmerzvolle, lustige und lebensverändernde Erfahrung in einer anderen Sprache als die eigene Muttersprache zu kommunizieren. Die Künstlerinnen sind beide Migrantinnen – Annie reiste vor dreißig Jahren von Holland nach Frankreich und Helen kam im 2010 von Neuseeland nach Deutschland.
Annie und Helen laden das Publikum ein, mit ihnen in ein Sprachgewirr jenseits eindeutiger Bedeutungen einzutauchen, das eine Welt erscheinen läßt, die unser aller Nomadenhaftigkeit sinnfällig macht.
Danach gibt es jeweils zusätzlich eine musikalisches Angebot eines aktuellen Villa-Waldberta-Stipendiaten aus Polen in der interaktiven Veranstaltungsreihe Matchpoint mit Franciszek Araskiewicz.
Wir sind Dankbar für die Unterstützung von: Landeshauptstadt München Kulturreferat; Künstlerhaus Villa Waldberta; Doku e.V; Schwere Reiter Theater; Lothringer13 Halle; Reading Club.
Die performance ist ein Unterteil von unaussprechbarlich; ein Forschungsprojekt, eine Website und eine Performanceserie.
Externer Berater : Horst Konietzny
Thursday, October 29. 2015
Who would have thought i'd find my way onto page 2 of Brasil's largest newspaper, O Globo? But there I am, staring mysteriously out of a computer screen beside an edited version of my life story. The full article is online here - in Português, naturally.
I was interviewed for O Globo in my capacity as a visiting artist at the Multicidade International Festival of Women's Performance in Rio de Janeiro, 31 October - 7 November, a Magdalena festival where I created and presented a new "We have a situation!" event. This involved a week-long workshop with local participants, as well as work over the previous months with a team of 5 online cyberformers. Our topic was water pollution, in the particular context of the approaching 2016 summer Olympics to be held in Rio. It is a pretty dire situation, with high percentages of the city's sewage going directly into the bay, industrial pollution and general rubbish; despite making promises to clean it up in order to win the Olympic bid, the authorities have made little effort. Of course, the problem is much deeper and more difficult than can be solved in the next six months. There is information and documentation of the project here, and documentation from the festival here.
Knowing that this would be a busy time for me, I arrived a week early to prepare my work and do a bit of sight-seeing. I'd never been to Rio before so I wanted to get a feel for the place, and I started by reading Juliana Barbassa's recently published book "Dancing with the Devil in the City of God" on the plane over. I recommend it for anyone interested in the history and contemporary social, political, economical and environmental situation of Rio de Janeiro. it's an excellent first-hand account from a writer who is both an insider and yet also an outsider, so able to present a very clear perspective across a variety of issues.
On my first day in Rio, I met Regina Célia Pinto and we visited Rio's historic Jardim Botânico (Botanical Garden), which was literally across the street from where I was staying the first week. Established in 1808 and covering 137 hectares, the garden is full of amazing plants and wildlife. I became fascinated by the variety of roots to be found - smooth roots that emerge a long way up the trunk to descend like gracefully folded curtains or thick long ropes, knobbly roots that erupt from the ground around the trunk, fat crocodile-shaped roots that lie lazily half-submerged in the grass, and roots that look like works of modern art. Then there's the fruit - such as the lumpy bags of jackfruit dangling like fleshy apendages, or the decorative balls and flowers of the monkey apricot tree. And of course all manner of birds, scampering little monkeys, grand collondades of palms, antique fountains. We wandered for nearly four hours in the gardens. The festival venue, Espaço Tom Jobim (named after the composer of "The Girl from Ipanema") is also located at the Jardim Botânico, so this was the area I would spend the most time in Rio.
Coincidentally, an exhibition of Maori art, Tuku Iho, was at the same venue as the festival, finishing on my first day in Rio so I was luckily able to see it. It was great to see all the taonga in the same space that, two weeks later, I would perform in.
Before coming to Rio, I had made contact with Haveté Sustentabilidade ("haveté" is a local indigenous word for being grateful), a group of four young women promoting sustainability at a grassroots level. They work with local communities on various issues, including recently on water sustainability, and had been very helpful with research and information on the topic of water pollution prior to my arrival. They offered to organise a boat trip with a local fisherman and water activist, who could take me around Guanabara Bay to show me sights of pollution and explain the problems from his perspective. We spent a lot of time of the next days planning and then postponing this trip - first on account of the weather, and then when there was finally a perfect day Rafaella, who would translate for us, was sick. It was a shame not to be able to make this trip, but the workshop participants were so enthusiastic and brought so much information and ideas that we had no shortage of material for creating the performance.
The first week passed quickly. I was interviewed for the O Globo article and met with kiwi journalist Laura McQuillan; I went up to the giant statue of Christ and, pressed between the other tourists, gazed out at the panoramic views; Regina and I walked on Ipanema Beach and drank coconuts; and with the help of Fernandez, one of the festival's drivers, I managed to get to the beautiful Largo do Boticário, where the Rio Carioca can be glimpsed in its culvert. This river, once the main source of pure drinking water for the city and revered by local Indians for giving men strength and women beauty, is today largely buried in culverts and pipes beneath the city and is so polluted that a sewage treatment plant has been built where its waters run into Guanabara Bay. This river also gives its name to Rio's citizens, who are known as Cariocas. Largo do Boticário is a quiet and peaceful place, just off a busy road and dominated by a beautifully dilapidated once-grand mansion; it was a good place to contemplate the city's history and current context.
Just before the intensity of the festival descended, I managed to have another wander around Santa Teresa, seeing the Parque des Ruinas and neighbouring museum; and with some of the other Magdalenas bravely rode the cable car up to the top of the Sugarloaf, for more stunning views. We were lucky to have a sunny day - once the festival began it rained nearly every day, torrential downpours that quickly created puddles around the theatre and rivers in the streets. Water problems in Rio are not confined to pollution! As well as the spectacular rain, the humidity is such that there is a always a faint whiff of mouldiness and even clothes that I hadn't worn felt slightly damp to the touch.
There is a lot more to say about my time in Rio - it was a fantastic festival and great to discover the city a little bit - but I will never finish this post if I don't stop soon. Maybe I'll write more later - but already I'm refocussing to work on the next project (Unaussprechbarlich, with Annie Abrahams) and I know I'll have little time before the end of the year. If you want to know more about it all, please look at these sites:
Tuesday, October 20. 2015
During the last week of September, I was once again invited to be an artist-in-residence in the department of Media & Communications at the University of the Creative Arts in Farnham. This year I focused on some of my most recent work, The Salmagundi and Tales from the Towpath, and gave workshops on creating Zappar codes. The course coordinator Yuwei Lin asked me to address topics the students were currently studying, including representation of the body, feminism, and issues of surveillance and data privacy, and I found myself concentrating on the latter. Although my work relates to all three areas, surveillance and data privacy fit well with the works I was discussing and with the emphasis on mobile technologies.
We also collaborated again with Rebekah Taylor from UCA's Animation Archive, using examples from the archive that related to the three areas and offering the students this material as possible starting points for their Zappar animations. The archive is a very rich resource, which surprisingly many of the students didn't know existed. Given more time, it would be great to do a larger project with something like Zappar codes to bring the archive to life and make it more visible on campus.
But we only had a week, on three days of which there was a different group of students from post-graduate to first years, with a three-hour lecture and three-hour workshop. In the lectures, at which Yuwei and Rebekah also spoke, I showed examples of work by artists who are critiquing surveillance and data gathering, from "I know where your cat lives" and Surveillant Camera Man to Andy Campbell and Mez Breeze's PRISOM game. It was interesting to see the reactions of the students, particularly the younger ones. I was a bit surprised when one expressed the opinion that if the government was undertaking surveillance and data gathering, it must be with good intentions, to help the people. Most of them were not quite as trusting as this, but still had not thought deeply about it, and nearly all of them acknowledged that they had little idea about the terms and conditions of the apps they routinely installed on their mobiles. I hope I achieved at least a little bit of awareness raising, if not increased critical thinking!
The workshops were hands-on and focused on how to create a Zappar code. I started by showing them some examples - first of all some professionally-made ones that the company sent me, to get them excited about what's possible, and then the Zaps we made last year for Tales from the Towpath, to show what's realistic with limited time and resources (still quite a lot!). I got the students work in pairs or small groups, to help them to quickly come up with and develop story ideas and generate the content together. We discussed why they might want to use a Zappar code to communicate an idea or story, and where and how their audience might be able to interact with it. Working directly in the Zappar creator interface, we looked at how to structure an animation using consecutive scenes, and the interaction options such as buttons to trigger things or go to URLs. All of the students managed to finish a Zap code, or at least have it in a working if not exactly how they wanted it; some of them were great, both in ideas and execution. Each student created their own personal account which gives them one free Zap, which they can continue to modify, update and improve on after it's been published. The students will be able to keep on playing around with their Zap if they are interested - and I think some will, as they really enjoyed the workshop.
One of the students has blogged about their experience here, and Yuwei has blogged about it here and here.
I didn't have much spare time to wander around Farnham, which is a very picturesque old market town, or have a go at finding the difficult geocaches that Yuwei and I gave up on last year. However, the weather was beautiful - cloudless skies, mild temperatures and colourful autumnal trees - and I could walk across a field from my B&B to the campus, pretending I was in the middle of the countryside and feeling like a local. It was a great week - lots of work, lots of learning, and lots of sunshine. Let's see what we can do next year ...
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helen about hankering for handkerchiefs
Sun, 12.06.2011 22:11
thanks! i'll email you my addr ess & yes, ironing things like hankies, serviettes, teat owels, even pillow-cases [...]
Meliors about hankering for handkerchiefs
Sun, 12.06.2011 17:01
I have about 20 hankies in reg ular use and about 8 cloth nap kins. I buy them in op shops, with preference for pret [...]
helen about gendered language
Mon, 24.01.2011 22:05
thanks for this, i didn't know about Rechtschreibreform. i'm not sure that it makes it any easier ... just have to [...]
Tuttle about gendered language
Mon, 24.01.2011 06:16
Yes, you're right. Gernder in formal German is binary, plus a neutral form, which is not n eutral, but is used for [...]
helen about 6 monthly report
Fri, 15.10.2010 19:53
the compost bin has returned! phew
helen about wiesn wetter
Sun, 26.09.2010 07:20
thanks & glad you like it all you should be able to subs cribe via RSS through your bro wser - if you're using f [...]
Nik about wiesn wetter
Sat, 25.09.2010 02:08
Hey Helen, Im having a good lo ok around at ur creations. Lov e the cyperspace stuff im stil l learning the internet [...]
helen about when old is really old
Wed, 09.06.2010 18:38
yes! i would love to! : )
Aileen about when old is really old
Wed, 09.06.2010 07:40
When I lived in Innsbruck, Bri xen was one of my favorite pla ces to visit. Reading this, I' d like to go back again. [...]
Meliors about siberry sunset
Sat, 06.02.2010 11:20
Wow, Jane Siberry is fantastic ! I would love to have seen he r live, especially in such int imate and beautiful surr [...]
Michelle about a hoarder reforms ...
Tue, 05.01.2010 19:41
I fully understand!! I'm a ho arder - trying to wean myself off this disgusting habit thou gh!! But it's not easy.
helen about a hoarder reforms ...
Tue, 15.12.2009 20:56
ouch! you know i do better wit h positive encouragement, not brutal challenge! ; )
brenda about a hoarder reforms ...
Tue, 15.12.2009 20:02
Only a third?? Go on, be more ruthless, I bet you could do a nother third on the second pas s.
helen about margaret joan holmes, a.m., 1909-2009
Wed, 23.09.2009 09:58
thanks, meliors; & yes it is s till sad, especially for me to be so far away from the rest of the family at this ti [...]
Meliors about margaret joan holmes, a.m., 1909-2009
Wed, 23.09.2009 09:12
I'm so sorry for your loss, ev en after such a long and good life, its sad to lose someone so dear. This is a beau [...]