Meet the Artists – Sydney Southam and Jiles Barrett

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I’ve had a huge art-crush on Sydney Southam for a while now. I suggested that she create a work with her partner Jiles Barrett for our performance series and their resulting collaboration is one of the commissioned pieces for our show next weekend.

Sydney Southam has a complex and diverse artistic practice. Currently a member of Vancouver based, Iris Film Collective, the bulk of her recent work takes the form of video and film installations, though she has also been a member of an international performance art dance crew, singer in a guerilla punk band in London and a professional pole dancer. Much of her work has been deeply personal, sometimes blurring the boundaries of public/private with regards to her history, sexuality and family. With a BFA from Central Saint Martins College, her work has been exhibited across Canada and Europe. She also curates a potluck dinner/artist talk called, Special Sunday Supper, during the summer months here in Vancouver.

Jiles Barrett is one of those rare characters where the distinction between his life and his artistic output is impossible to pin down. He doesn’t classified himself as an artist but concedes that he’s “always lived life as a fucking art project”. As a troubled kid, he found a creative outlet in dreadlocks and facial piercings, as well as vandalism and skateboarding. He attended film school on the island, having made videos independently since his teens. Jiles has collaborated on various projects both behind and in front of the camera and his massive output of tongue in cheek social media under the name ‘Jiles Reckless’ is an absurd deep dive into online culture.

Sydney and Jiles tease each other constantly, intermittently yelling over one another and turning to me with that, playful ‘you-see-what-i-put-up-with?’ kind of look. They explain that their collaborative process has been challenging, hilarious and full of arguing.

“We work very differently”, Sydney tells me. “Jiles has lots of ideas and is always talking. I’m slower; I like to think about the mood of a piece. I have a harder time expressing myself in words while I’m making art.” Unable to decide who is in charge, they found the camera to be an important tool in their discussions in the studio. Sydney says, “If I start to film him, all of a sudden I’m forced to listen to him and he becomes this weirdly articulate performance Jiles.”

This subtle shift into performing oneself is at the heart of their new work. The piece they are creating is about communication and relationships. But more succinctly, the piece is about their relationship, or at least, cannot be entirely divided from their relationship.

“You can’t separate us from what we’re doing on stage, it’s a heightened version of our relationship. We are just expanding on things that we were already doing.”

Sydney Southam and Jiles Barrett premiere their new work at Shooting Gallery Performance Series #3, March 31st and April 1st.

-Julianne Chapple

Meet the Artists – Sydney Southam and Jiles Barrett

Meet the Artists – Elliot Vaughan and Natalie Schneck

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I met with Elliot Vaughan and Natalie Schneck separately over coffees. The pair have be working together on and off for years and their upcoming collaboration combines musical performance with movement and theatre elements.

Elliot Vaughan is a classically trained musician and composer. Inspired to create his own music from a young age, he was drawn to compositions that worked with movement in an integrated way. He references Shostakovich as an early inspiration, describing a piece where the act of playing the score turns the string quartet into a sort of machine, bows flying wildly. By the time he was studying composition at SFU, Elliot was writing a variety of performative tasks into his compositions, actions that started to go beyond the physical execution of the sound itself. He tells me that a university friend said to him, “So you’re starting to make some kind of naive, kind of bad theatre, maybe you should check out what these kids are doing,” which led him to working with theatre and dance majors and more fully delving into experimental performance.

“Making compositions is solitary and being in the room with other people making stuff on the fly was a revelation,” he says, continuing to find projects where he is collaborating with other artists and musicians. Currently Elliot is half of collaborative songwriting duet called The End Tree. He is also making bluesy ghost-songs under the name Iffy South, a solo project that he always imagined would eventually incorporate dancers.

Natalie Schneck comes from a theatre background with training in Grotowski and a history as an athlete. Having always been drawn to movement, she pursued further dance training after her theatre degree, attending the dance and choreography program at Concordia for a year in Montreal. Working as a choreographer and dance teacher in Montreal, she also created a creative movement program for kids called 123 Steps Ahead. She’s been back in Vancouver since November and is currently working as the Development Associate at The Cultch as well as expanding her creative practice.

“It’s interesting for me to find the intersection of business and arts and see it in a positive way. Sometimes I think it’s looked at as one alienating the other, and I would be interested in seeing how they can come together.”
Before she moved back to Vancouver, Natalie heard Elliot’s Iffy South ep and decided to use one of the tracks for a short dance piece. Now the pair are back in the studio creating something that pushes both of their skillsets and blurs the movements of musical performance with choreographed dance. As a tangent development, Natalie has become the manager for Elliot’s Iffy South project, taking their creative collaboration into more of a business relationship as well.

Elliot Vaughan and Natalie Schneck will premiere their latest work at Shooting Gallery Performance Series #3, March 31st and April 1st.

 

-Julianne Chapple

Meet the Artists – Elliot Vaughan and Natalie Schneck

Meet the Artists – Alysha Creighton

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I met with Alysha Creighton at her art studio on E Hastings. Originally from Vancouver, she moved back recently after doing her MFA and then teaching at U of A and a short stint living and working in Europe.

After studying ballet at Arts Umbrella, she turned her focus to visual art, primarily working in drawing during her undergrad. Though her work is often figurative, she left her dance background behind for many years while exploring two dimensional work. During her MFA, Alysha began to explore video and this expansion in her practice began to lead her back toward working with her own body through “performing for camera”.

“It became increasingly sculptural as I was putting screens into chairs and tables and into the space more,” she says. “I think that led me more to utilize performance.”

Her video installations are worlds to be entered into. Viewers find their way around empty chairs, and lean over tables where words appear as if message from an unseen inhabitant. Much of her previous work has addressed the body in parts, isolating the gestures of disembodied hands or a single pair of feet disappearing out of frame.

Currently teaching at Trinity Western University, working with students feeds into her artistic practice as well. The act of presenting information has caused her to reflect on the implications of live performance, seeking out ways to “connect with a group of people, engage them, and get them invested in what you are invested in.”

“In the last few years I’ve been trying to reconnect with my background and training in movement but wanting to do it differently… not in the super intense ballet sort of way.”

Recently reconnecting with live performance through a residency in Berlin where she experimented with minimal movement and a video component, her upcoming performance will be her first time bringing her work out of the gallery and into a theatre space.

Alysha Creighton premieres her solo “Riverface” at Shooting Gallery Performance Series #3, March 31st and April 1st.

 

– Julianne Chapple

Meet the Artists – Alysha Creighton

Meet the Artists – Sarah Gallos, Dave Biddle and Ashleigh Ball

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Sarah Gallos, Dave Biddle and Ashleigh Ball cooked up the idea for a collaborative piece while chatting outside the Dusty Flowershop immediately following our November show. Their new work is one of two commissioned pieces for the upcoming Shooting Gallery Performances.

With very different artistic practices, these friends seem to share something in the way of free flowing imagination. Chatting with them over pizza and beer their energy is contagious and I can see how they work so easily as a group, finishing each other’s sentences and tagging serious answers with absurd asides. 

Sarah Gallos, Shooting Gallery co-producer, has a background in musical theatre and contemporary dance. She describes her current practice as “contemporary movement, improvisation, choreography, and visualizations… and I’m a dancer too” she adds. She works collaboratively in her own practice and as an interpreter working with other choreographers. In both instances, imagery is an important part of her process as a means of generating movement and communicating with her collaborators.

Dave Biddle, an MFA student at SFU, describes his current focus as ‘Seminart’, a term coined by himself and frequent collaborator Andrew Woods. These mutli media presentations are based on the formal elements of seminars which he says “are very powerful for being able to contain all kinds of content and media”. He works with powerpoint and laser pointers, as well as drawing on his background in visual art and music to create interdisciplinary performances which he describes to me in a business-like deadpan. Influenced by Sci Fi, Dave thinks of art making as “constructing parallel universes or alternate worlds” and points to the power of collaborative efforts in creating more fully formed realities than those of an individual creator.

Ashleigh Ball is well known as front woman for Vancouver band Hey Ocean! and her extensive career in voice over including culty fan favorite, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. She modestly describes her art practice as song writing and vocal explorations, adding that she is interested in “characters, soundscapes and beats that make people want to move their bodies”. Her interested in collaboration has been a through line in her career, growing out of childhood play with her sisters. Her and Sarah first worked together while studying at the Canadian College of Performing Arts, sparking in each other an interest for the potential interaction of music and movement in experimental forms. With a demanding career in the music industry, this project is a welcomed opportunity for Ashleigh to reconnect with this playful risk taking and interdisciplinary exploration.

These three artists are weaving choreography, music and video and with the dread and disinterest Vancouverites have for the imminent earthquake we’ve been promised. The group tells me that the initial inspiration for the work came in part from Sarah’s son Osman. At their first rehearsal, three year old Oz relayed a surreal memory of his future self living in a house that falls down.

Sarah Gallos, Dave Biddle and Ashleigh Ball premiere their new work at Shooting Gallery Performances Series #3, March 31st and April 1st

-Julianne Chapple

Meet the Artists – Sarah Gallos, Dave Biddle and Ashleigh Ball