MATTHEW DAY / ON DANCE AND PHYSICAL AFFECT

MATTHEW DAY / ON DANCE AND PHYSICAL AFFECT

“Maybe doing nothing for a while is the best way an activist, an artist, or an academic can do anything.”
– Matthew Day

In our last episode of season three, on dance and value, Jana and Beth are back in the studio together, this time joined by co-host Audrey Schmidt, to talk with choreographer Matthew Day about affect, physical touch, and how we can be queer outside of queer theory.

Matthew is one of the most interesting among the younger generation of Australian choreographers, appearing seemingly out of nowhere at Next Wave 2010 with THOUSANDS, a work of fully formed brilliance which would later form part of his Trilogy series. He has recently completed a Masters of Choreography at the DAS Graduate School in Amsterdam, and is about to present his new work, ASSEMBLAGE #1, as part of his Housemate residency at Dancehouse. Whoever has seen the Trilogy series – described as “a suite of visceral eviscerating works” of searing minimalism – would find it hard to imagine that, as a teenager, Matthew was a ballroom dancing champion.

Audrey Schmidt is a writer, curator and editor of contemporary art publication Dissect Journal. Her continuing research focuses on contemporary art, gender, biopolitics and identity in late capitalism, and her writing about Australian queer art has underpinned this series.

“I feel like – forget theory for a minute – I feel like, hanging out with my queers, that’s where I learn. I didn’t learn this stuff from reading books. My queer education was on the street – it was in bars, it was organising, it was going to buy beer, and squatting places, and putting on parties, and fucking up, and getting lessons, you know? For me, it’s messy, it’s always been messy, it’s never been binary. And embrace that mess, you know?”
– Matthew Day

episode-banner-large

SARAH-JANE NORMAN / HOW DANCE OCCUPIES THE SELF

“We talk a lot about white guilt, and it is a real phenomenon. … That guilt is kind of like the wages of privilege. But I’m interested in reframing it through my work, not as guilt, but as shame. Which is a different thing. It is a profoundly different thing.”
– Sarah-Jane Norman

In the fourth episode of season three, we discuss the politically explosive work of Sarah Jane Norman, Aboriginal Australian, queer, non-binary, cross-disciplinary artist.

SJ’s whole body of work traverses performance, installation, sculpture, text, video, and sound; it is anchored in a multitude of physical disciplines, as well as the written language. SJ has presented their work at Venice International Performance Week, Spill Festival of Live Art, Fierce Festival, In Between Time, Edinburgh Festival, as well as Performance Space, Next Wave, the Australian Experimental Art Foundation, and Brisbane International Festival. A proud Indigenous Australian of both Wiradjuri and European heritage, SJ grew up in Sydney and regional NSW, but today divides their time between Australia and Berlin. Most recently, SJ Norman was one of the artists In Residence with Marina Abramovic in Sydney, and has presented their Unsettling Suite at Melbourne Festival, as part of Dancehouse’s Dance Territories program. Looking through their rich body of work, we discuss inheritance of history, continuing transgenerational trauma, and the value of dissecting the effects of the politics of colonization with the artist’s body today.

“It’s a huge amount of emotional labour that I have to do on a daily basis, not just as an artist, but as a person. But, you know, it’s the same kind of emotional labour that every person of colour or Indigenous person has to do, living in a white-dominated society. That is invisible labour. Part of my practice is to make it visible. And to make it clear, the imbalance that exists in the cultural expectations, that we’re the only ones who have to do it, and that we’re the only ones who have to carry and hold back history.”
– Sarah-Jane Norman

episode-banner-large

SISTERS GRIMM / THE POLITICAL DRAG, THE QUEER MAINSTREAM

“The weird thing is that LGBTIQ exists as a category of being, that’s designated by mainstream culture, when actually it’s unbelievably fragmented. And there’s so much intra-group conflict because everyone actually has really, really different aims, and different objectives, and their struggle doesn’t mirror that of the other groups at all.”
– Declan Greene

“You find these little things that help… ‘If I can channel Judy Garland, If I can channel the strength of this survivor’… For some reason, it usually is a female survivor, because you don’t want to identify with the straight men that are making your life hell, or that you don’t relate to. You relate to the women who are outsiders as well.”
– Ash Flanders

In the third episode of season four, we discuss what queer is and isn’t with playwright Declan Greene and performer Ash Flanders, who together make up Sisters Grimm, Melbourne-based queer performance collective par excellence. Sisters Grimm have risen through the ranks of Melbourne’s independent theatre with a series of extremely well received shows, very quickly progressing from backyard performances for friends to sold-out shows at Malthouse Theatre, Sydney Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Sydney’s Griffin Theatre and Belvoir. By now, they have, together and separately, performed in all of Australia’s major theatre houses, and won an incredible number of awards. They have been described in The Age as ‘treading the line between the frivolous and the furiously political better than anyone in Australia right now’.

And it is their brand of frivolous, furiously political queer theatre that we talk about today. Drag, the way it speaks gender as a foreign language, and its undercurrent of dissecting, enabling, and owning, victimhood, as well as its central position in queer culture, is one of our great topics. Drag features prominently and aggressively in the Sisters Grimm oeuvre, which features every kind of cross-casting imaginable, most notably when appropriating Euro-Australian colonial narratives. The queer eye is particularly suited to dissecting national and colonial myths because it is an outsider eye, say Ash and Declan, giving numerous examples of the ways in which the queer individual grows up interested in aesthetics, in surfaces, in the performativity of identity, and the way in which oppressive power is exercised through cultural myths – and perhaps becomes particularly fluent in ways to dismantle that power.

“I think you develop critical facilities, as a queer person, because you learn to question the texts that you receive culturally… You know that those narratives don’t articulate your experience of being, so you have to figure out how to dismantle them, and to insert yourself into them in order to identify with them.”
– Declan Greene

episode-banner-large

BOJANA CVEJIĆ / THE DANCE MARKET & THE DANCE WORKER

“Artists lack political education.”
– Bojana Cvejić

In the third episode of season three, on the price and value in dance, we speak with Bojana Cvejić, performance theorist and dramaturg extraordinaire. With degrees in musicology and philosophy, Bojana works with performance-makers and choreographers ranging from Jan Ritsema to Xavier Le Roy, and has been teaching at prestigious institutions, from PARTS in Brussels to SNDO in Amsterdam. She has published a number of seminal books on contemporary performance, investigating it from the perspective of practice, labour, and social organization. And that’s what we talk about today.

“There was a moment around 2000, where single authorship was contested on artistic grounds. Then it was re-valorised, politically, economically, in relation to the value of the contribution of the dancers themselves. Now we’re in a moment where it seems that spectatorship, audience, reception decides – and programming relies on the judgement of the audience.”
– Bojana Cvejić

episode-banner-large

RACHEL PERKS / TO SPEAK AS A QUEER WOMAN

“Feminism is still, in most circles, seen as radical… What you’re really saying is, misogyny is equatable with normativity.”
– Rachel Perks

And the fourth season of Audio Stage continues with the question: queer? What is queer? What is not queer? How does queer exist in performance? How does queer performance exist in the world? What is its political power, and what its aesthetic urgency?

In the second episode of the season, Jana and Beth talk to Rachel Perks, Melbourne-based performance-maker who has, in only a few years, created a whole series of acclaimed shows that explore a woman’s experience of this world: ANGRY SEXX, We Get It (with Elbow Room), and now Ground Control.

As we speak – from the comfort of Jana’s bed – Rachel has only just closed Ground Control, a courageous new work developed for Next Wave 2016, and there is an exhaustion and exhilaration, a tiredness and hopefulness, as we talk about love, about being female, about cyborgs and myths, and about how sometimes love is a duty.

Trigger warning: This episode contains mention of sexual assault and our experiences with it.

“In Australia, we feel that emotions are a totally invalid place to speak from, invalid in general. They are also associated with femininity, feminised.”

episode-banner-large

ZVONIMIR DOBROVIC / WHAT IS AND ISN’T QUEER PERFORMANCE

“I remember the first time I went to a funding meeting, and the guy who was responsible said: “Can’t you get a boyfriend without a festival?”
– Zvonimir Dobrović

And it’s time for a new season of Audio Stage! The question we are asking is: queer? What is queer? What is not queer? How does queer exist in performance? How does queer performance exist in the world? What is its political power, and what its aesthetic urgency?

In the first episode of the season, Jana is talking to compatriot Zvonimir Dobrović, curator of Queer Festivals in Zagreb and New York. For the comfort of our listeners, the conversation is NOT in Croatian! We talk about his controversial curatorial policy, the power of norms, and how Queer Zagreb developed out of the anti-war activism in 90s Croatia.

When you have fear in the public sphere, you can do anything with people. You can manipulate, because it plays with the basic notions of safety. Conservatism always plays with fear, and it’s always fear of the other. And anything can be that ‘other’. … This education, constant education of acceptance and tolerance of the ‘other’, can’t be forgotten. You have to do it with every generation. It should be in schools from the earliest age.”
– Zvonimir Dobrović

episode-banner-large

DEBORAH JOWITT / THE VALUE OF DANCE CRITICISM

“I have not seen anything in the US as extreme as what I have seen [in Australia] in the past week.”
– Deborah Jowitt

In the second episode of season three, Angela, Jana, and Beth speak to Deborah Jowitt, legendary dance critic and the idol of everyone in the room. A long-term critical columnist for The Village Voice (1967-2011), Jowitt has created an immensely influential body of work that includes four books – the latest of which, on Jerome Robbins, was published by Simon and Schuster in 2004. Having lectured at Princeton, Barnard, and Tisch School of the Arts, and recipient of two Bessies, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, Deborah Jowitt is one of the seminal voices of and for the 20th century dance.

“People were concerned, there seemed to be disaster all round: enmity between countries, the possibility of bombs falling. I really thought: we’re going aerobic. We’re going to tone our bodies so we can run all the way from New York to Westchester county without getting hit.”
– Deborah Jowitt

episode-banner-large

CHRYSA PARKINSON / THE VALUE OF DANCE AS PRACTICE

“I think that equality comes with assymetry and that it’s not necessary for roles to be symmetrical for there to be equality.”
– Chrysa Parkinson

In the first episode of season three, Angela and Jana speak to Chrysa Parkinson on the creativity of the dancer: the work of dance, the authorship of the dancer, and whether excessive praise is how we pay artists in lieu of a living wage.

After many years in New York, working with Tere O’Connor Dance among others, Chrysa Parkinson now lives in Brussels. In Europe, she performed initially with Thomas Hauert and David Zambrano, and later with Boris Charmatz, Rosas/Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Jonathan Burrows, Mette Ingvartsen, Phillip Gehmacher, Eszter Salomon, John Jasperse, Deborah Hay, Meg Stuart. She is an esteemed pedagogue, teaching annually at PARTS, and currently serving as Director of the New Performative Practices MFA program at DOCH/Uniarts in Stockholm.

Chrysa Parkinson would say that her current practice is performance.

“I don’t really like the idea that there’s ‘the body’. I don’t know what ‘the body’ is: there’s this body, my body, your body… there’s no ‘the body’ disenfranchised from its psyche and its context. It doesn’t really exist.”
– Chrysa Parkinson

episode-banner-large

ANGHARAD WYNNE-JONES & ESTHER ANATOLITIS / RESPONSIBILITY OF CULTURAL LEADERS

“Risk is not so risky. It’s a necessity. It is how forms develop, how we find new audiences, new artists, how cultural conversations happen.”
– Angharad Wynne-Jones

In our momentous final, fifth episode on responsibility, Fleur and Jana speak with two great women of the Australian performing arts: all-round cultural leaders Angharad Wynne-Jones, Artistic Director of Arts House Melbourne, and Esther Anatolitis, Director of Regional Arts Victoria (formerly CEO of Melbourne Fringe). In an emotional, grounding ending to the series, we touch on some important, often neglected questions: how do we create an ecology that supports the artist, as well as the arts?”

“The independent arts is a hell of a lot stronger than any arts minister in any doomed-to-fail attempt to politicise the ways that art gets made.”
– Esther Anatolitis

JOLYON JAMES & SONYA SUARES / RESPONSIBILITY IN ACTING

“There’s a consciousness that needs to be put around the way that we behave. We can’t just keep patting ourselves on the back or excusing it: ‘We’re creating art! It’s not real!’ It is also really happening to somebody.”
– Sonya Suares

This week we return to the topic of ‘Responsibility’. Fleur speaks with Sonya Suares and Jolyon James on how this concept relates to the actor: the responsibility of the actor, of the director to the actor, diversity in casting and the potential impact of not providing a multiplicity of stories and voices for our stages, and the responsibilities of creating work for children.