Meet the Artists- Julianne Chapple

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When Sarah asked me to write about creativity outside of my artistic practice, I thought that would be an easy topic. When am I creative in my daily life?

-getting dressed

-playing with the cat

-alleywalks

-thrifting

-conversations

This is around where I get tripped up. Because strange thrift store clothes and rambling conversations are where my performance pieces usually start. Is it life informing the art making practice? Or can it be separated at all?

Sometimes I take out an audio recorder on coffee dates and interview my most patient friends. Sometimes afternoons at home with my husband turn into brainstorming sessions, art critiques, or rudimentary contact dance improvs. I’m constantly writing things down, dreaming choreography, playing, wasting time.

Last week I was sitting in my little reading corner with a John Berger book and listening to the greatest hits from 1972. Berger spoke about women seeing themselves from the outside; that a certain self consciousness shadows every motion. I can relate to that feeling of always performing. No doubt this idea is familiar to women everywhere, but in our current landscape of images and voluntary surveillance I suspect that most people can relate to the experience. Dance training also makes you hyper aware. It can be a bit maddening, over analyzing the minutia of each movement in the everyday. Even reading at home alone, I have the shape of my silhouette accessible in my mind.

Where am I going with this… I’m bringing my living room to the Dusty Flowershop next week. I’m going to recreate the moment of imagining myself from the outside for an audience of real humans, which is what performance perhaps always is–a visualization of an imagined self in front of an imagined audience. If we’re habitually observing ourselves, does that audience ever leave? And furthermore, how can our creativity ever stop?

Meet the Artists- Julianne Chapple

Meet the Artists- Olivia Shaffer

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Photo Credit: Chris Randle

Oh man, creativity, the ability to make new things or think of new ideas.

How fitting it is to contemplate this when I’m in a process of trying to do just that. I struggle with the act of creating something rather than simply letting it unfold. I’m good at the later, really good, some might even say I’m blessed with an easygoing disposition. But when it comes to summoning something, I’m often at a loss. I’d rather let it find me.

That’s why improvisation has been my refuge as of late. I do it all the time – it’s how I get through day-to-day life! And with the added ingredients of a skilled body and a present mind, voila I’ve got the precise recipe to create movement-based art. Sure we bypass the craft of composition, but that fleeting, genuine moment can be as compelling as a well rehearsed dance piece.

I find it difficult to conjure images or memories. A couple years ago I was trying to find “imagination” lessons because I felt I had forgotten how to access that part of my brain. I hadn’t always been like this. As a child I would easily fabricate entire worlds around me. I was often pretending I was some animal or another. A hazy memory comes to mind… about 3 years old, in the forest with grandma, flapping my arms, running with wild abandon: “Look Mimi, I’m a butterfly!!” then trip, splat, face plant into a pile of horse crap.

It’s possible that with maturity my adult mind has become appeased with reality and as a result I don’t often feel motivated to escape. Nevertheless, it took me many years to get comfortable with my existence. Perhaps like most children, I was an existential child. I simply could not understand why I had been given the task of controlling a human life, having the responsibility of making choices and accepting all consequences. The weight of responsibility felt too much to handle.

That said, I find that creativity allows me to reconnect with my child self. As a playful child I always wanted someone to play make-believe or to get down and wrestle. I am relieved to again be spending much of my life doing just that, tumbling around a dance studio. After years of rigorous training in Cecchetti ballet, a degree in contemporary dance and an international quest for dance forms that inspire, I am often amazed that I’m still dancing. Luckily I’m still in the game because it allows me to retain my childhood delights.

Outside of my dance practice, I think creativity has ways of creeping into my day-to-day life. I grew up in a home where thrift and saving were esteemed and consequently I took up these traits myself. Somewhere along the way I unconsciously set these attributes as parameters in how I dress myself and how I compose my home. My creativity provokes me to develop a sense of style with the limitation of only using items that I have acquired at no or little cost. This is just one example in how I experience creativity, my subconscious mind interlacing with my intimate values and my relative existence.

I’m honoured and excited to be included in the Shooting Gallery Performance Series coming up in two weeks time. I look forward to sharing my interpretation of the complex process of art making.

http://www.oliviashaffer.ca/

Meet the Artists- Olivia Shaffer

Meet the Artists- Ray Prendergast

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Hello. My name is Ray, and I am thrilled to be a part of the Shooting Gallery Performance Series next month! As the days grow shorter and the time grows nearer I feel these weights we carry feel a little heavier, and our pondering become a little deeper.

We draw lines to separate our different sides. Sometimes these lines can be quite thick, almost walls to keep things out or hold things close. We separate parts of ourselves to find order and clarity in each small section. It is easier and less chaotic to know all the small sides of yourself rather than see it as one huge picture to navigate through. But why do we draw these borders, does it make us more secure to have separate versions of ourselves?

I try as much as I can, as a human, to erase the lines that we draw which separate these different parts of my life, I feel that my creativity is in no way separate from my life. I hope to have one version of myself which can be adapted and moulded to change as I grow. My creativity is who I am, and I think to a certain extent it is what defines who we all are. It’s how we choose and respond in any situation, it colours our world and changes how we feel about things. Our creativity is really and truly the essence of who we are whether or not we are conscious of it. I would like to, as much as it sounds cliche in a way, think of my life as a creative process. Building and developing each day into what I need in the moment. Of course it sounds great when I say it out loud and it doesn’t always happen exactly that way but, I have always tried to stay true to myself and in that have really broken down the walls that were drawn initially. To me creativity is a vital part of human nature and I truly believe that everyone (whether they are aware of it or not) is extraordinarily creative and we don’t have to separate our creative time and our ‘real life’ time. It is how we see the world and how I have found a tether. It is how I find myself within this madness.

Meet the Artists- Ray Prendergast

Meet the Artists- Elysse Cheadle

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Photo by Elliot Vaughan. Taken during their show “Soft Face and Featherless”.

My name is Elysse Cheadle. I am a theatre-maker living in Vancouver, British Columbia. I grew up in Calgary, Alberta in the shadow of the monstrous Rocky Mountains. In Calgary, the Bow and Elbow Rivers carve the city into segments. As a teenager, I spent many late nights sitting on the banks with friends. There, huddled in winter coats and blankets, we would sip cheap yellow beer and speak secrets to one another loudly over the rush of the water. The fingers of the river reached from my backyard West towards a glacier in Kananaskis country, and East towards the saltwater of Hudson Bay. I liked to think about the narrative of the river even as a child. I would dip my hand into it and imagine that hundreds of kilometers before, a Grizzly bear had lapped from that same water. I would drop a leaf in, and as it swirled away, I would picture it crashing, weeks later, into the rocks of the Canadian Shield. I loved the driving noise and the seemingly antiseptic cold of the river, and the unknowns of where it had been and where it was going. The river’s presence in my life often caused me to meditate on the relationship between movement, space, and time. It was a constant reminder of impermanence and interconnection, and of the illusion of the presence and the past.

 

I moved to Vancouver six years ago to complete my BFA at Simon Fraser University. The Pacific Ocean was a complete novelty for me. I moved in right beside it: on the corner of Denman and Comox in the West End. The smell of the rotting sea plants, salt, and soggy driftwood was overwhelming at first. As was the relentless screaming of the gulls. I chose to go to SFU specifically because of their ‘Black Box’ course. ‘Black Box’ is a wonderful class designed for masochists who wish to completely eradicate any opportunity for social interaction outside of the confines of a windowless studio. I took the class twice. Over the course of the semester, the ensemble creates, and publicly performs a completely original 45-60 minute piece of theatre every two weeks. It was madness, but it taught me more than I ever could have imagined about making theatre – about writing, performing, and directing, and about group dynamics, working under pressure, trusting your own instincts and those of your collaborators, managing deadlines, giving in to the possibility of failure, and of the discipline and rigor required in a creative practice.

 

The label of being a “creative person” is one I apply to myself reluctantly. I think my acts of creativity occur because of the clash between my pedantic nature and my convoluted thinking. As a child, each school project (regardless of the subject) was taken as an opportunity to write and perform a play. I wrote terrible plays prolifically. At home alone, every new concept was processed by turning it into a dance or a song or a narrative. I remember my math teacher pulling me aside in junior high because, while I was getting the correct answers on my tests, he did not understand all of the extra drawings and steps on my exam papers. He tried to go through the exam with me and show me the simpler, more direct ways of getting to the right answer, but I just could not adopt his methods. I could get to the right answers because I had written different stories at home about the mathematical concepts and created character traits for different types of formulas. Finding the answer required jumping into those imagined worlds. To this day, I think that what appears outwardly as ‘creative’ is simply a self-taught coping mechanism. Theatre is the method I use to process new ideas and to think through concepts and curiosities.

 

The creative process is difficult for me; it always feels as though I am fighting myself for answers that are locked away. Starting work on a new theatre piece almost always begins when I become obsessed with a specific image or combination of words. These seemingly come from nowhere, and hit me suddenly, without context. The image or words relentlessly slosh against the back of my forehead until I submit to their pursuit. In this first stage I feel like a detective maniacally searching for some sort of broader frame of reference for the obsessive thoughts. Sometimes, this means a lot of research or improvised physical exploration. Other times, I use free-writing to help my subconscious reveal something more about the source of the obsession. My movement from this original thought to a presentable piece of theatre follows jagged terrain. I leap haphazardly between bursts of generative stages, and stages of backtracking through material searching for meaning and the next propelling idea. My goal is always concision, but I can never find that directly. I rely heavily on fellow collaborators. I never create anything alone. I feel very lucky to be surrounded by a pool of smart, playful, strange, and trusting artists who are comfortable collaborating with me on projects whose identity does not reveal itself until close to the performance time.  

 

Currently, two of those amazing collaborators are Carmine Santavenere (www.carminesantavenere.com) and Elliot Vaughan (www.elliotvaughan.com). We are busy working on making a new piece for the Shooting Gallery Performance Series on November 4th and 5th. If you are interested in seeing some material from my past shows, please go to www.elyssecheadle.com

 

I hope to see you in November!

Meet the Artists- Elysse Cheadle

Meet the Artists- Nita Bowerman

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Hi. I’m Nita Bowerman. I am an interdisciplinary artist. A creator who bridges multiple mediums. I create prolifically, because creation is a compulsion for me. Check out my Instagram account at nitab_c where I post mostly short digital dance works.

My artmaking intersects with my life. I can’t help but bring myself to my work. But how does my work, my artmaking, influence my daily lived life? This is the question that was posed to me, a proposed subject for this blog.

I posit that, of all the mediums through which I endeavor to express, dancing has served me most in my everyday life. I have, after all, been practicing it longest. It has stayed with me through decades. And it got me through some tough times. The rigour and repetition and discipline, the focus of setting myself to something that I could excel at when I felt so….days, and torturous nights, of youth. Which lasted right through my twenties, when I took my dancing underground or, more accurately, to parks and parking lots at night. Finding a physical language for my intolerables, my inexorables, in an unsafe environment, feeling both defense and offense, ready to fight, to flight. I soul wrestled at night through my body, alone, reliving and recounting. On and on, working it out, over and over, in my own time, on my own terms. I didn’t consider myself a dancer then, even though all I wanted to do was keep moving, moving the inside out.

On a very practical level, dance training has saved my skin in a couple of potentially life altering bike accidents. One: involving a sudden dropped back fender, the screeching of metal on concrete, sparks, and riding out the fishtailing, unable to stop on a downhill urban street with an approaching intersection. Two: a hit curb on busy street, body hurtling over the handlebars, miraculously landing in a crouch on the sidewalk with bike still in hand! Balance. It’s a useful skill.

Maybe it’s a natural part of growing up, exorcising ill feelings and pulling oneself out of darkness. Sometimes I consider that I danced myself out of misery by finding a language for it and a space to release it into. In public parks at night, then shifting to twilight, then to daylight as I became more comfortable with who I am, how I am.

I endeavor to make time every day to dance, not because my current methods of supporting myself demand it, but because it is good for my mental and physical wellbeing. It has provided a method through which to examine and release some pretty shitty feelings and, over time, to let in some joy. In a way, to do so, not in pursuit of a career, outside and in every day public spaces has enabled me to air some dirty laundry without pinning myself to specifics or to expectation. I have been dancing my life for strangers in passing and in some strange and inexplicable way it has helped me to integrate my history and move toward healing.

This blog post might lead you to believe that I will be performing a dance piece at the Shooting Gallery show on November 4 & 5. Although dance has been a survival and transformational mechanism for me in my everyday life, and I utilize the skills I have cultivated in my performance practice – and I post digital dance works prolifically on my Instagram account – I have yet to choreograph and perform a dance piece on stage in my adult life. Never say never. However, my professional interests are varied and my artistic curiosities span disciplines and mediums. 

I’m am thrilled to be delving deeper into work sound artist Emma Hendrix and I began working on in 2012. For a taste of our source material, check out this soundtrack from our Pure Research collaboration: https://soundcloud.com/nita-bowerman/beat-around-the-bush Trigger Warning. It’s just a jumping off point.

Meet the Artists- Nita Bowerman