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ISSUE 008 AUGUST 2017 ISSN 2206-9615

Environmental Impact

CRITICAL PATH STAFF Director Claire Hicks

General Manager Laura Osweiler

Project Manager Bibi Serafim

PUBLICATION STAFF Editors Liz Lea and Kyle Page

Copy Editor Laura Osweiler

Designer Kathleene Capararo

Contributors James Batchelor Lindy Hume Gene M. Moyle Dr Sarah Jane Pell Jade Dewi Tyas Tunggal Vicky Van Hout Dean Walsh

The next issue of Critical Dialogues is scheduled for November 2017. Sign up to Critical Path newsletters to stay informed.


6 18 34 46 62 74 88 104

Introduction Liz Lea and Kyle Page

Light, Space, Silenc Lindy Hume

The Psychological I Gene M. Moyle

An Inverse Trend Vicky Van Hout

Thoughts on Deeps James Batchelor

Embodied Environm Dean Walsh

Following the Bodie Dr Sarah Jane Pell

Moving with My Na Jade Dewi Tyas Tunggal

ce... Elemental Thinking

Impact of Environment on Creativity



es’ Natural Edge to the Abyss of Space



Introduction LIZ LEA & KYLE PAGE Artists’ Brief: Environmental Impact examines the affect of environment on creativity through the lens of 7 distinct thinkers, makers and creatives. In a discourse spanning physical and psychological environments, changing environments, remote and regional environments, connection to place, disconnection from place, vastness, intimacy and non-traditional spaces, together we unpack the profound ways in which environment shapes experience and output in the creative realm. Liz Lea: I am thrilled to be co-editing this Critical Dialogues edition with Kyle. The subject matter is very close to my


heart and working with the different

into her experiences working in regional

writers has been a stimulating and

Australia - and which gave me a new

intriguing process. Some articles

found confidence in being based in

deeply moved me, others sent my

Canberra. Gene Moyle’s article is one

mind soaring, dazzling my thinking.

which I feel all artists will relate to - the

The opportunity to share thoughts,

clear and deeply considered outline of

writings and discourses in this way is an

just how much our creative environ-

invaluable one and both Kyle and I are

ments are shaped by the people we

grateful to Critical Path for inviting us

choose to work with.

to edit this edition of Critical Dialogues. Each contributor’s approach to the brief

Vicki Van Hout’s article gives a great

above gives a stunningly broad insight

insight into the history of contemporary

into the many and myriad ways in which Indigenous dance practices, connection artists see, creative and seek inspiration

to country and how creation is informed

from the environment in which we live

by the land, space and place for her as

and work.

an Indigenous dance artist.

We open with Lindy Hume’s article,

I have watched James Batchelor’s work

which gives a very personal account

evolve since he danced with QL2 over


the past 8 years and am always amazed at the intelligence and ingenuity of his thinking and artistic processes. Seeing how Deepspace has evolved from his journey to the Antarctic is stunning and will continue to be so. Dean Walsh’s article is beautiful and brave as he shares his explorations of past and current personal experiences and how they have and continue to shape him, his practice and his way of engaging with the world. Sarah Jane Pell has provided a new mind crush for me - the extent and breadth of her work is stunning and the rigour behind her process is intriguing. Space flight is not the normal space for movement creation. We close with Jade Tyas Tunggall, who writes in the most beautiful and mystical way. It is like riding a wave of consciousness while also learning about her cultural heritage and that of her ancestors, which aligns with her current practices and being with her daughter. I grew up in Sydney and Malawi. We also lived in Bangladesh and Pakistan


Liz Lea from above, swimming in a red dress - Photo Credit: Nino Tamburri

and these experiences have absolutely

spaces I rehearsed in around the world.

shaped me as a person and dance

Anything that did not resonate was cut

artist. My speciality in classical Indian

and new movement, inspired by the

movement forms was very much

heat of Goa, snow of Bassano, bustle of

informed by living in and around

London and crazy energy of New York

countries in which the classical Indian

was added. The environments wildly

forms evolved over many centuries.

influenced and informed each work and

Being in the zone, in the space, as I

performance. However, the genus of

call it, is fundamental to my creative

each work was created from the sea,

practice. I respond best in rehearsal

sand and solitude of a known and loved

spaces with a history. Even when


based in London for 20 years, I always returned home to Manly, NSW, where

Outside of the soft shores of Manly,

I was born, to create my solos. I would

my most powerful experience in an

see family and friends and tuck myself

environment was travelling to visit the

away, nothing more, and work in Manly

Kalash people in northern Pakistan,

Dance Arts Studio. Then on tour, I

a few hours walk from the Afghan

found I knew a piece ‘worked’ when the

border. This was in 1999 and it was

movement resonated in the different

till a crazy thing to do alone. It was


literally two years before 9/11. I was

ground, the scathing, harsh beauty of

deep in Taliban territory, in the wrong

the hills, the warmth of the people and

kind of Salwar Kameeze with AK47’s

being sick as a dog. Nearly 20 years

all over the place. As a non Asian artist

on, it instils humility and desire in my

specialising in classical Indian dance, I

creative practice.

was researching previous interrelations between East and West. I was advised

Now based in Canberra, I still go back

to ‘just go’. So, I did and it transformed

to Manly to create. I find the relative

me. Luckily, there were gentle, wise and solitude of the gum trees calming. I discreet people to guide me.

used to cry out for the madness of Covent Garden, but my practice has

The Kalash are descendants from

changed as I move away from a solo

Alexander the Greats journey through

practice and seek younger bodies and

the area in 326BC. They are extraordi-

minds to work with. Canberra has a

nary, resilient and deeply connected

beautifully creative space around her

with their culture in a stunningly

and Gorman Arts Centre is a new hub

isolated environment. The Greek

for me. It lies along ancient energy lines

Embassy has built two dance spaces

and when an idea comes along with

- one outdoor, a clear flattened area,

goose bumps, I have learnt to trust that

and one indoor. The indoor space, lit by

the idea is coming from somewhere

two squares in the ceiling and the shaft

else, not me. It is from a higher place.

of afternoon light that cuts through

My experience working with Tammi

dust of the space, is forever etched on

Gissell, Eric Avery and Graham David

my mind. I have created innumerable

King taught me this and I am deeply

works in squares of light since then.

indebted to them for opening a new

Maybe I didn’t need to go such lengths

way of thinking, connecting and being

to work with squares of light... it was

present on Australian soil. •

all part of a mind blowing experience, AK47s aside. The menstruating room the women lived in once a month, the graveyard with bodies buried above



Liz Lea stands in water with arms up in a red dress - Photo Credit: Nino Tamburri


Kyle Page: Working alongside the wonderful Liz Lea to co-edit the 8th edition of Critical Dialogues has been deeply rewarding and intellectually stimulating. Together, we have selected seven artists with a broad range of experience and insight into the Environmental Impact of creating work in a variety of ways and conditions. Each of the articles speaks for itself with rich and compelling glimpses into the thinking processes and methodologies of these extraordinary creatives. Lindy, Gene, Vicky, James, Dean, Sarah Jane and Jade have been immensely generous and open throughout the process and I would like to thank each of you for your stunning contributions.


A dancer jumping sideways on a beach - Photo Credit: Amber Haines

For as long as I can remember, I have

reef and gazing in awe at the Aurora

felt most at home surrounded by trees,

Borealis. The juxtaposition to these

swimming in the ocean or walking

wild open spaces are densely packed

through wilderness. I love the way that

cities, where the collision of humanity

nature can make you feel so dizzyingly

is endlessly fascinating and equally rich

small, so deeply connected and so

creatively, all be it for very different

wonderfully alive.


Insight and inspiration has often arrived

Creatively, the spaces we inhabit have

whilst wandering through wildlife -

the potential to shape and inform the

wandering in the truest sense of the

project as much as the research and

word, with nowhere to be and no time

concept. The space is not restricted to

to keep; staring at the immeasurably

four walls and a floor; the space is the

vast starlit sky in the desert, hiking

amount, or absence, of natural light,

through remote wilderness, sitting

the energy of the room, the people,

under waterfalls, strolling along the

the temperature, the size... elements

beach, rousing early for sunrise or

often unconsciously assimilated. The

pausing to catch sunset, standing

challenge and opportunity comes from

silently in the snow, swimming on the

sculpting these conditions, crafting the


environment in all its manifestations to

unexpected, intensely provocative

serve the creative process.

creative discoveries!

Two creative environments that have

The second... a Barquentine tall ship,

etched themselves most deeply in my

Svalbard.In 2015, Amber and I were

memory were polarised in both scale

fortunate enough to take part in the

and context.

Arctic Circle Residency - sailing a Barquentine tall ship around Svalbard

The first... a concrete garage in

for 3 weeks with 20 multidisciplinary

Varanassi, India. My wife and long-term

artists from across the world. The

collaborator, Amber Haines and I were

silence was absolute and the sunlight

lucky enough to receive an Asialink

omnipresent, even at midnight. We

residency in 2013. We travelled to Kriti

thought, we spoke and we read. We

Gallery, Varanassi, under the proviso

were wholly absorbed in the vastness of

that we would have access to a dance

the natural world. Here on the edge of

studio with parquetry timber flooring.

the earth we felt so small, so inconse-

Upon our arrival, we anxiously asked

quential, yet so intrinsically connected

to see the studio; we were escorted

to all and everything that our place in

to a derelict garage on the side of

the world made more and less sense

the property, which we entered, only

than ever before.

to find two staff watering rough wet concrete, smiling. “The concrete has

It is in these rather paradoxical

been freshly laid, ready for your arrival!” extremes that I have discovered we were excitedly told. “Um, and where

the most diverse and nourishing

is the parquetry flooring?” we politely

creative input. Inspiration abounds in

asked. “Here!” the staff replied as they

environments far removed from that

unrolled a 4x4 meter sheet of linoleum,

which is familiar, and it is here, on the

complete with an embossed parquetry

edge, at the precipice of the ‘ known’

floor pattern... This was our introduc-

environment that I like to find myself. •

tion to India, and this set the tone for a truly extraordinary 3 months of wildly


Two dancers reach upward and around one another in ‘Syncing Feeling’ - Photo Credit: Ashley McLellan


LIZ LEA Liz Lea is a performer and chore-

woman show, RED, with solos commis-

ographer based in Canberra and

sioned from Martin del Amo and Vicki

NSW. Her speciality is working with

van Hout, mentored by Brian Lucas.

classical Indian dance and martial arts. Liz Lea Dance projects include 120

Liz is currently shortlisted for an

Birds, InFlight, Magnificus Magnificus

Australian Dance Award for her

inspired by the red tailed black

direction of Great Sport!

cockatoo for Indigenous dance artist Tammi Gissell and Kapture, inspired by the freedom fighter Ahmed Kathrada. In 2013, Liz founded the DANscienCE Festival, 2013, 2015 and in 2018 in collaboration with FORM Dance Projects. Liz is currently working on The Galaxy Project and a new one


KYLE PAGE Kyle Page is Artistic Director of

gious Arctic Circle Residency, sailing a

Dancenorth Australia. He has

barquentine tall ship around Svalbard

performed in 17 countries and collab-

for three weeks.

orated with renowned choreographers including Meryl Tankard,

Kyle received the Australian Institute of

Garry Stewart, Lucy Guerin, Gideon

Management 30 Under 30 Award and

Obarzanek, Gavin Webber, Ikuyo

was named Emerging Leader of the

Kuroda, Antony Hamilton and

Year for the North Queensland Region

Stephanie Lake. Kyle and his long-time

in 2015 and was listed as one of North

collaborator Amber Haines have

Queensland’s top 50 most influential

directed four main-stage works -

people in 2015 and 2016.

Syncing Feeling, Spectra, Rainbow Vomit and Tectonic. In 2013, they received an Asialink residency and in 2015 they attended the presti-


Light, Space, Silenc Elemental Think

A landscape shot of rolling fields, spotted with trees in the Candelo area - Photo Credit: Joanna Kelly


ce... king LINDY HUME

In the decade-plus I’ve lived in regional Australia, one of the most useful and surprising discoveries is that the quality and characteristics of my thinking the way I process thoughts - is quite different here, surrounded by the elements, to my thinking in the city. I recall the moment. I was sitting in the shade at the edge of a forest, looking out to the mountains and valleys. The sun had begun to set, the whole afternoon had passed but I had been working in such a state of flow that time had just disappeared. I had worked hard, the work was now done and I was happy with it. It felt like coming through a tunnel. Yet, I had at all times been intensely aware of my un-tunnel-like


surroundings: abundant space, the air, kookaburras, the thud of kangaroos, the continuous movement of the trees and the shimmering light endlessly undulating through leaves. At first I thought it was simple - a change of scenery stimulating surges of productive thinking, but over time I came to understand its significance: when I’m here, my thinking will be clearer, deeper and richer, more continuous, and therefore, more fruitful. Initially, this epiphany was a lovely bonus, now it’s a creative strategy. The system works like this: When I have something new or complicated to write, or if I need to wrap my head around a big multi-demanding directing project or manage a complex situation, I surround myself with the environment I need - abundant space, silence, light, the elements - to tear into it conceptually, to wrestle abstract ideas into submission, to map things out and turn my internal chaos into some kind of order. As long as I give myself enough time to change gears from city to country, time to breathe, process and read, to walk through trees and watch


the water, the elemental energy of this place always, always rewards me with some kind of clarity and perspective, and the electric charge of the ideas my creativity thrives on. Having this reassuring knowledge up my sleeve has, far more than once, averted meltdown by subduing the emotional panic associated with approaching deadlines or crises. Knowing that I have a highly effective thinking place to go to comb out the chaos has helped me manage (not conquer, alas) my anxiety and stress levels. In fact, in a weird way perhaps it even encourages me to take on more projects than I probably should. It’s not like I can’t concentrate, process information or come up with good ideas when surrounded by buildings, of course I can. I thrive on the many distractions and accelerations of urban life, most of my work is made in cities, but I now accept that these dynamics also make it harder to maintain the continuum of a thought-stream, to spiral deeper into a concept, to sit with an idea for a while, to walk or drive with it and let it settle. To put it


bluntly, I’ve learned that my thinking is faster yet shallower in the city, but deeper (although no less restless) and more productive when I’m surrounded by space, silence, light, distance and thousands of shades of green. This growing understanding of the effects of the natural environment on has led to a growing fascination with the impact of the elements on the creative life of artists, and performancemakers in particular. No doubt there are neurological and chemical impulses pinging around, doing complicated things to our brains, but that’s not my focus. My focus is on productivity. Why the elements affect human creativity interests me far less than how they affect my creativity as a director. And in terms of making new performance work, what might be the outcomes and implications of this deeper understanding? So the question I’m exploring is: How do the effects and affects of regional environments impact upon creative development processes devised by performing artists and directors?


my own creative and thought processes


It’s a question I’ve begun to ask

frailty, creating a tension between the

colleagues, in parallel with exploring

rational and irrational mind that ‘may be

my own experiences as I design and

compared to a vibration’.[1]

develop the first project of my own creative enterprise based outside the

Being attuned to a sense of proximity

city. There is a confluence to their

to the Sublime and wildness is certainly

responses that is perhaps not surprising

part of it. There’s no doubt I am affected

- the relationship between the elements

by a deep aesthetic and emotional

and creativity is not exactly a new

response to the unique beauty and


power of the Australian landscape, and particularly the landscape of my

As long as humans have communicated

home on the south coast. There may

by leaving marks, mark-makers have

even be a quasi-religious aspect - ritual,

sought to interpret natural phenomena.

solitude and quiet contemplation - to

The resonances between environment

the experience of getting focused and

and performance are core to the

going into the ‘thinking zone’.

singing, dancing and storytelling on Country that connects a landscape to

In considering how the external

the maintenance of cultural practice for

environment affects internal focus, I

Indigenous communities.

am immediately drawn to the most obvious change one feels on leaving the

In the digital age the visceral

city - a sense of space. One experiences

experience of extreme weather, a

distance, a horizon, we can see things

powerful landscape or a sky full of

far away, how the light and weather

stars can still reconnect even the most

changes over that distance. We can

urban of creatures with a long-lost

feel our perspective and sense of space

wildness and the awe-inspiring quality

and scale adjust as we respond to a

of greatness or grandeur described as

sweeping vista, a plummeting canyon,

the Sublime. I like Kant’s idea that our

a mountain range, a winding road, a

ecstatic response to nature’s power is

forest walk or the ocean. Our bodies

underpinned by terror of our human

experience more, and there are


Person in a pink costume and wig, facing sideways, with arms bent at the Candelo Village Festival - Photo Credit: Paul McIver

practical considerations - keeping warm or sheltered from the sun and wind. A sense of our human scale in relation to our surroundings is affected. It all adds up. My fascination about the impact of the Australian landscape on creative processes, sparked in my conversations with Mike Shepherd, founding artistic director of Cornwalls internationally celebrated Kneehigh Theatre, coinciding with my previously described epiphany. Kneehigh’s fantastic show, ‘The Red Shoes’, was in my 2011 Sydney Festival, and the companys ethos was a revelation to me.


Over its thirty-year evolution from

‘We created theatre on cliff tops, in

a raffish bunch of local actors to a

preaching pits and quarries, amongst

company of national and international

gunpowder works and arsenic wastes,

acclaim, the companys creative teams

up trees, down holes, where the river

have ‘held their nerve’ to maintain their

meets the seas and where woodland

distinctive way of theatre making and

footpaths end.’

regional identity as a fundamental artistic priority. As Kneehigh’s manifesto Many of Kneehigh’s most famous shows makes clear, the elements are central

are retelling of myths animated in the

to their work at The Barns, a series

company’s distinctive narrative style,

of restored buildings on the rugged

featuring natural light and in particular,

Cornish coastline, cheek by jowl with

the shift from day to night.

neighbours’ farmland and overlooking the sea.

‘The Red Shoes started outdoors so there was the storytelling element that

‘The isolation of the barns, and the

as dark fell, it affected the actual shape

need to cook and keep warm provides

of those stories, Red Shoes, Tristan

a real and natural focus for our flights

and Isolde. The story deepens and the

of imagination. This... radical choice

emotions deepen with the darkness.’

informs all aspects of our work. Although much of our work is now

The sensuality and wildness of those

co-produced with larger theatres, we

early theatre-making experiences is

always try to start the creative process

embedded into the Kneehigh rehearsal

at these barns, to be inspired by our

process at The Barns:

environment and where we work. These elemental and charged spaces add a

‘We’ll be out on the field, or we’ll mark

physical and vocal robustness to our

out the space down on the beach and

performance style.’[2]

we’ll run (the show). We get out on the cliffs and we sing and we run... then

Kneehigh’s early shows in the 80s took

there’ll be times when we focus on a

place in ‘less conventional places’:

more intimate space indoors, so its a


mixture of the intimate and the epic... All the fresh air and the changes of weather and the running about give a natural robustness and rigour physically and vocally. We find it hard in the cities to get peoples’ vocal strength up, and it just happens naturally here.’ Beyond the physical, Mike asserts that an awareness of the environment is key to establishing a psychological state conducive to creativity: ‘This place, the Barns, it’s at the end of the United Kingdom, it’s at the end of the road, and it has a massive horizon, which makes you look outwards, it makes you have an open mind, which is important... and quite hard to keep a hold of. It’s about getting people to step back a little bit, which they readily do, and they look at that horizon or light that fire, or get their hands dirty or just put a woolly jumper on if its getting cold. So they’re the simple elemental things that I mean, really. You’re in a lot of weather. The weather’s changing a lot of the time and you do step back... you eat together... we sit around that fire-pit, you surround


yourself with the rudimentary nature of things.’ The shared or communal experience of weather and environment, combined with the relaxed atmosphere that is part effect on productivity and the sense of ‘flow’ that is so important to the creative process. In my recent Platform Paper ‘Restless Giant: Changing Cultural Values in Regional Australia’, I offered this example: Recently I was part of the co-creation, with playwright Suzie Miller and singer/ songwriter Zulya Kamalova, of a new version of Snow White co-produced by OperaQ, Brisbane Festival and La Boite Theatre. The complexity of the works development was tripled by the fact that all three of us were in different cities. Most of our communication was digital, exchanging ideas and drafts via email and Dropboxed sound files. But we are very different women and artists, and we had never worked together before, so there came a point when we needed to spend real time together to find our shared voice. Having found a single weekend in our


of the regional experience, also has an


schedules we chose to run away to a beach shack on the NSW central coast. We walked and talked and talked and walked for three days, along the coastline, over rocks, through bushland. Ideas flowed effortlessly, progress on the work bounded ahead and we returned to our various bases with the heart of Snow White, and the body of the show. Most of our work was done while walking or driving, preparing or eating our meals, or sitting on the beach as the sunset - casual, communal

tion, high and balanced challenges

creativity combined with an accelerated and skills and a sense of control and sense of ‘flow’ that many regional artists satisfaction.[4] know well.[3] Solitude and silence are often cited Perhaps this sense of ‘flow’ is the nexus

as essential by thinkers and writers.

we’re seeking, that there is a logic or

Candelo singer/songwriter Heath

synergy between environmental flow

Cullen says:

and creative flow. Perhaps landscape provides a physical, external counter-

‘I write well in a cluttered environment

point to the internal flow experience

in the city too, but I have a much bigger

as described by the psychologist

need - the quiet. Last night I was out on

Mihaly Csiksentmihalyi, that deeply

the porch and it was so quiet, I could

pleasurable state of optimal produc-

hear the creek about a kilometer away.’

tivity ‘in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to

But once the writing’s done, creating a

matter’, a state that all high-level artists

sense ensemble, community and shared

revel in, consisting of deep concentra-

purpose are central to the development


of new performance works. And here

which will inform the next days work.

too, the casual mode of a regional

Philosopher Donald Schön’s example of

environment can support the creative

improvising jazz musicians is apt:

process. The fact that the atmosphere s relaxed does not mean the work is less

‘As the new musicians feel the direction

important - often the work continues

of the music that is developing out of

well beyond business hours - timetables

their interwoven contributions, they

and schedules flex; relationships are

make new sense of it and adjust their

neighbourly as well as professional;

performance to the new sense they

people are in and out of each others

have made. They are reflecting-in-

houses for rehearsals and meetings.

action on the music they are collectively

There are often dogs and kids around.

making and on their individual contributions to it, thinking what they are doing,

There is practical value to the project

and in the process, evolving their way

of extending that creative conversa-

of doing it.’[5]

tion over that beer after rehearsal. Consciously or not, an informal mode

The shared meal and informal

of ‘reflection-in-action’ is happening

after-work gathering, ubiquitous


rhythms of communal life, are rituals

touch; drawn as we are to Beauty

that underpin the creative process

and the Sublime; and being creatures

everywhere, but in regional Australia

of community, it would take a

they too respond to the natural

superhuman, indeed unnatural, effort to

environment. As Richard Sennett points

block that ‘flow’. Better then to abandon

out in his book ‘Together: the Rituals,

oneself to it, explore it and see where it

Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation’:

might lead creatively and reflectively.

‘Ritual enables expressive cooperation

After a period of residency at

in religion, in the workplace, in politics

Bundanon, Wesley Enoch wrote:

and in community life.’ ‘... the river and the rocks allow you In summary, it is impossible for artists

to think differently, (they) provide

and thinkers to not to be affected by

inspiration and a safe place to explore

their surrounding natural environment

the role of the artist.’

in some or all of these ways. Attuned as we are to the sensory experience

This is the very idea - exploring the

of light, sound, smell, taste and

further potential of my role as an


artist in an environment outside the


city - that began with the revelation described in the first paragraph of this article. It’s an ongoing project, shared by colleagues around the country. The question of how the effects of regional environments impact upon creative

[3] Restless Giant: Changing Cultural Values in Regional Australia, Currency House, p.24 [4] Flow: the Classic Work on How to Achieve Happiness (Rider, 1990)

development processes devised by

[5] Reflection in Action, the Reflective

performing artists and directors is

Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action.

the subject of further research I am

Schön, D. A. (1983), New York: Basic Books.

undertaking as a student at QUT, and as Creative Director of my own company ‘Crimson Rosella’, based where I live in Tathra on the far south coast of NSW. • References [1] kant-aesthetics


33 33

LINDY HUME Lindy Hume, former artistic director of

Herring and Phaedra (Aldeburgh

Opera Queensland, Sydney Festival,

Festival),andThe Barber of Seville,

Perth International Arts Festival,

Rigolettoand Die Fledermaus for

West Australian Opera, Victoria State

Houston Grand Opera. Her production

Opera, and OzOpera has created more

of “Cenerentola”, has been presented

than 50 major productions across

by New Zealand Opera, Oper Leipzig,

Australasia, Europe and the United

San Diego Opera and the Royal

States. International productions

Swedish Opera, Stockholm.

include Barber of Sevilleand Comte Ory (Seattle Opera), Don Pasquale (Oper Leipzig), La bohème (Deutsche Staatsoper, Berlin), Radamisto (Handel Festspiele, Halle), A Streetcar Named Desire and Norma (Opera Theatre St Gallen, Switzerland), Albert


The Psychological I Environment on Cr When reflecting upon what

personal dynamics; the actual physical

‘environment’ is in the context of its

space, context and the relationships

psychological impact on creative

and meaning we give to/have with

practice, the focus on people as the

it; and specific psychological and

environmental factor is an area not as

cognitive factors such as creativity. In

readily considered within a creative

the exploration of physical and ‘place’

setting. Add to this the way in which psychology can be utilised to assist artists explore people as the environmental factor and its impact upon creativity, and we have the opportunity to explore how other fields of research and practice can contribute to our understanding. When considering the ‘people’ factor, elements that play a role within this interaction include: intra- and interLooking through studio 310 door at filled room - Photo


Impact of reativity GENE M. MOYLE

contexts, Environmental Psychology

physical environment/s in the context

has been defined as the exploration of

of creative practice has previously

the interplay between individuals and

been explored in depth, therefore this

their built and natural environment.[1]

article will primarily focus upon the

This concept of physical space, place-

exploration and reflection upon people

making, and the relationship to our

factors as an environmental impact upon creativity. When reflecting on the people factors, a point for consideration is who we (as practitioners) are interacting with through the course of our creating. Creative collaborators, artistic directors, producers, performers, the list goes on.... Who are defined as the leaders within this type of context and who makes up the teams? In the business and social behaviour literature,

Credit: James Dillon


research[2] has demonstrated that

in creating a team atmosphere that is

Authentic Leadership (AL) promotes

characterised by a high degree of trust;

creativity through the creation of

thus enabling the increased communi-

trust and psychological safety within

cation and knowledge sharing of ideas

the leaders team. Those leaders who

and information, which contributes to

exhibit high ethical standards and are

improved creativity. Ethical leadership

transparent in their relationships, assist

has additionally been found to increase

Six dancers from the Liz Roche Company hold hands during a performance of TimeOverDistanceOverTime - Photo Credit: Luca Truffarelli


psychological empowerment which in

work in all stages of the creative

turn fostered creativity.[3]

process, when compared to extrinsically motivated students.[5] Motivation

When considering the notion of

is believed to sit at the heart of the

extrinsic motivators and how they are

creativity process[6], therefore when

used by leaders and organisations,

leading a creative process or working

reward for creativity has been found

in collaboration with others, it would

to enhance the association between

appear important to invest the time

novelty and an individuals performance,

in understanding the motivations and

dampens the relationship between usefulness and performance, and has no influence on the relationship between integrated creativity and performance. [4] However,

when dealing with

subjective art forms, what constitutes an extrinsic reward from leaders and/ or others? Positive feedback, audience response, critical acclaim, box office success? What perceived role or impact do these have upon creativity, and does this shift at different points within the creative process? Typically, intrinsic factors have been viewed to be central to the motivation of involvement in the arts in light of a love, passion or calling. StankoKaczmarek identified that intrinsically motivated art students experienced significantly higher levels of positive affect and higher evaluation of their

David Rock’s SCARF Model - Image Credit: Woithe & Co

motivators of these people within our environment. Neuroscience, namely Neuroleadership as defined by David Rock[7], provides a scientific basis from which an understanding of our brains and how they work in relation to each other, and can significantly


assist in supporting how we lead and

If we arent doing this regularly, how

interact with one another to get the

can we start to remind ourselves about

best outcome/performance. Rocks

the importance of recognising the

SCARF® model is a brain-based

potential interactions and impact that

model that has become a foundational

these detailed, complex and embedded

framework and approach within

attitudes, behaviours and instincts can

leadership development, and has been

have upon ours, and others, creativity?

applied within a variety of sectors and industries.[9]

Shifting into the understanding of context in the case of creativity,

Describing how we each have a

Glâveanu[10] outlined that cultural

preference for operating from, or being

psychology proposes that despite the

triggered by, one or more of five key

important role of individuals and their

domains/cues (i.e., Scarcity, Certainty,

traits (i.e., cognitive, motivational,

Autonomy, Relatedness, Fairness), Rock

personality) in the process of creative

outlined that we do this to address our

production, it suggests that people are

survival instinct; that is, the Approach

considered in a broader temporal and

(Reward) - Avoid (Threat) response.

spatial context. That is, it is defined by


As a leader in any setting, we are

its view of creative work in time and

encouraged to first understand what

space as a relational process between

our SCARF preferred response is,

creators and audiences, and engaging

and then invest time identifying what

existing cultural artefacts in order to

each of our team members primary

generate new outputs. This perspective

response entails. Once this is known,

was based upon Glâveanus[11] sociocul-

we are challenged to adapt how we

tural reformulation of the conceptuali-

communicate and interact on the basis

sation of the four Ps of creativity (i.e.,

of which approach will get the best

person, process, product, and press)

response out of people in line with their

into the five A’s: actor, audience, action,

SCARF preferences. How often do we

affordances, and artefacts.

(seriously) reflect upon such consider-

Linking this back to leadership and

ations within creative practice settings?

creativity within creative contexts,


how often do we invest time into

the psychological factors at play within

clarifying how our creative team

the dynamics of our interactions with

is going to operate - beyond the

each other and/or the environment and

mechanics of what our roles involve?

context we are working within? Or is it

What are the teams values? What are

inherent within our professions that we

the specific roles and responsibilities

will just know what all these are based

that each of the members would be

upon our engagement as a dancer,

expected to perform - individually or

producer, designer, choreographer;

collaboratively? Are we conscious of

influenced by the unspoken hierarchy

Six people congregate around lights and computers - Photo Credit: James Dillon



that we have learnt to

ensuring that new ideas are protected

conform to as part of our

during development stages then tested

training - whether formal or

against a brainstrust of experienced

in the workplace?

creatives, whose approach is focused upon candid feedback shared from

Ed Catmull, co-founder of

a perspective of improvement, not

Pixar Animation Studios,

through fear and criticism; that commu-

outlines in his account of

nication does not follow organisational

leading Pixar and Disney

structures - everybody should be able

Animation Studios, that the

to talk to anybody; and that leaders

people and culture factors

need to make it safe to take risks and

(i.e., psychological consid-

focus on the learnings from failure.

erations) within creative

When considering the literature in

environments are critical

the leadership and corporate areas,

to success - both in terms

when we lead a project or creative

of business and artistic

collaboration, it is essential that we

results.[9] Leadership within

consider such psychological factors in

these settings requires

the set-up, operations, and completion


of the project/s for the group (i.e., the

process. Using the SCARF model [9]

team). Incorporated into the framework

as a foundation for understanding

of leadership, is an understanding of

individuals motivations or likely

the intra- and inter-personal people

responses, it would appear helpful

factors that play a crucial role as

to invest some time thinking about

part of the environment we work,

the range of people factors within

create, and practice in. Meaning,

the environments in which we create.

belief systems, previous experiences,

Ensuring that we look to other areas

world-views, perception, and emotional

of research and practice to take away

and social intelligences all contribute

and apply learnings that could make a

to our interactions and relationships

difference in our own context, may be

with and within these contexts. How

beneficial in looking at more closely in

creative practice activities relate to

our preparation to create to the best of

our own vision and purpose, both

our ability. •

as an individual and related to our professional self, in addition to whether they align (or not) with our goals - can impact or influence our own creative



creativity as viewed from the paradigm of

[1] Steg, L., van den Berg, A. E., & de Groot,

positive psychology. In L. G. Aspinwall &

J. I. M. (2012). Environmental psychology: An

U. M. Staudinger (Eds.), A psychology of

introduction(1st ed.). Chichester, West Sussex:

human strengths: Fundamental questions and


future directions for a positive psychology (pp. 257 -269). Washington, DC: American

[2] Meng, H., Cheng, Z., & Guo, T. (2016).

Psychological Association.

Positive team atmosphere mediates the impact of authentic leadership on subordinate

[7] Ringleb, A. H., & Rock, D. (2008).

creativity. Social Behavior and Personality,

The emerging field of neuroleadership.

44(3), 355-368. doi:10.2224/sbp.2016.44.3.355

NeuroLeadership Journal, 1, 1-17.

[3] Basharat J., Atique A.K., Sajid B., &

[8] Catmull, E. E., & Wallace, A. (2014).

Surendra, A. (2017). Impact of ethical

Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the unseen forces

leadership on creativity: the role of

that stand in the way of true inspiration. NY:

psychological empowerment. Current

Random House.

Issues in Tourism, 20:8, 839-851, doi: 10.1080/13683500.2016.1188894

[9] Rock, D. (2008). SCARF: a brain-based model for collaborating with and influencing

[4] Sue-Chan, C., & Hempel, P. S. (2016). The

others. NeuroLeadership Journal, 1, 1-9.

Creativity-Performance relationship: How rewarding creativity moderates the expression

[10] Glâveanu, V. P. (2014). Theorising

of creativity. Human Resource Management,

context in psychology: The case of creativity.

55(4),637-653. doi:10.1002/hrm.21682

Theory & Psychology, 24(3), 382-398. doi:10.1177/0959354314529851

[5] Stanko-Kaczmarek, M. (2012). The effect of intrinsic motivation on the affect and

[11] Glâveanu, V. P. (2013). Rewriting the

evaluation of the creative process among fine

language of creativity: The five As framework.

arts students. Creativity Research Journal,

Review of General Psychology, 17(1), 69-81. doi:

24(4), 304-310. doi:10.1080/10400419.2012.730


003 [12] Amabile, T. M., & Pillemer, J. (2012). [6] Nakamura, J., & Csikszentmihalyi,

Perspectives on the social psychology of

M. (2003). The motivational sources of

creativity. Journal of Creative Behavior, 46(1),


3-15. doi:10.1002/jocb.001 [13] Luckman, S. (2012). Locating cultural work: The politics and poetics of rural, regional and remote creativity. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. doi:10.1057/9781137283580 [14] Rock, D. (2011). Neuroleadership. Leadership Excellence, 28(8),11.



GENE M. MOYLE Gene has worked across a dynamic mix Committee member for a number of fields including the performing arts,

of professional and advisory boards

elite sport and the corporate sectors.

across a range of performing arts

A graduate from the Australian Ballet

and elite sporting organisations,

School, QUT Dance and after working

and is currently the Head of School

with the Australian Ballet Dancers

- School of Creative Practice at QUT

Company and Queensland Ballet, Gene Creative Industries. pursued further studies to become a registered Sport and Exercise Psychologist. She has focused on the application of performance psychology and performance enhancement, particularly within the performing arts and elite sport domains. Gene is a Non-Executive Director and National


An Inverse Trend VICKY VAN HOUT

A dancer stands with one arm partially raised in the Long Grasses of Darwin


Australian Indigenous Dance an Inverse

thematic drivers and as indicators for

Trend - bringing the outdoors indoors

mandatory cultural consultancy and

As Eurocentric contemporary chore-

permissions is no longer confined to

ographers continue to clamour in

representations of performance in situ

great numbers to leave their theatrical

on country. In order to illustrate the

habitats, Australian Indigenous

many ways in which site specificity

performance makers have been

continues to inform and impact

exploring the scope of possibility from

Australian indigenous dance, I will

an inverse trend, of infiltrating into

provide a brief description of the

the theatrical spaces. From a cultural

diversity of currently existing (although

practice that has been traditionally

not regulated or officially recognised)

performed outdoors, the concepts of

Indigenous dance categories or genres,

the environment and site specificity

their manifestations and purposes. I

are inextricably bound to my works and

will outline the initial anthropological

those of my contemporary indigenous

significance of Australian Indigenous

choreographic peers, as cultural

art making conducted before British


settlement, which lead to the formation

Locating Australian Indigenous Dance

of the resultant genres in reaction to

Location is of paramount importance

the colonisation process. Focusing on

in the Australian Indigenous artistic

the Aboriginal human rights activist

lexicon. The first thing another

movement of the 1960s and 70s, in

Indigenous person will ask is, ‘Where

combination with and in juxtaposition

are they from?’ Or, ‘Who’s their

to American dance theorist Susan Leigh

mob? Who are they related to?’ This

Fosters research into the American

geographical line of enquiry represents

resistance and post-modernist dance

a mandatory prerequisite applicable to

movements, I will locate this form of

all indigenous artistic styles and cultural

social activism as the tipping point for

practices. These styles have come to

greater visibility and opportunities for

unofficially include those considered

Aboriginal arts and artists citing my

‘traditional’ which are indicative of

experience in conjunction with perfor-

an unbroken lineage of expression

mances from myself and my Australian

extending before the advent of English

Indigenous peers.

settlement and are primarily performed


art and performance is promoted through many avenues including, cultural tourism and as strategies within the education and state or government systems to promote positive Indigenous acknowledgement and community engagement. Lastly a ‘contemporary Indigenous’ artistic style is an umbrella term, which may or may not include both the unbroken and recently formed ‘traditional’ styles. The term ‘contemporary indigenous’ generally refers to the works that are presented within the mainstream Eurocentric contemporary artistic spaces and movements. as part of cultural ceremonies including funerals and men’s coming of age

Aboriginal Dance - from the Dreaming

practices. Another is the ‘contem-

Indigenous art making processes

porary traditional’ aesthetic, similar

including, painting, storytelling, song

in appearance and content to the

and dance, were inherently site specific

‘traditional’ (often remote) community

acts chronicling ‘Dreaming’ activities.

styles. Contemporary traditional dances Anthropologists Spencer and Gillen and groups are post-colonial constructs were the first Europeans to document a consisting of reimagined or revitalized

universal Australian Aboriginal concept

dance practices including reclaiming

of ‘The Dreaming’ or ‘Dreamtime’

lost languages. Caused by the

fundamentally binding the people in a

systemic breaking up of families due

geographical relationship to the land,

to forced removal off homelands and

called the Alcheringa by the Arrernte

institutionalization, these dances focus

people in 1899.[1] The Alcheringa is a

on reconnecting a relationship to the

complex non-linear definition of time

environment. Contemporary traditional

and place known as the cold or Nyitting


time by the Nyoongar of WA[2] and the

Lawford. Their names were Nipper

time when the Yolngu Wangarr spirits

(Buck) Tubagee, who was songman

came to rest, creating the land and all

(and renowned Aboriginal rights activist

of its features in North East Arnhem

establishing better living conditions for

land.[3] The Dreaming is accessed

the remote Noonkanbah community

through action. Through the acts of

in the 1970s) with dancers and fellow

artistic expression participants are

elders Peter and Dora Francis.

present here and now while simultaneously communicating with the first

While the Kimberley Elders were

hybrid entities, the prototypes of all

in residence in Sydney, we learned

beings existing thousands of years

their dances. The days were long


and the dances small and repetitive in comparison to the mainstream

A Personal Initiation to Cultural Dance

techniques including classical ballet

from the Kimberleys

and Graham based Modern taught

As a young Aboriginal dancer, I

at the college. The women’s dances

realised the geographical significance

were smaller and far less spectacular

in relation to cultural arts practices

than the men’s counterpart, which

when I first embarked on a ‘traditional

was punctuated with dynamic stomps

trip’ as part of the NAISDA (National

whilst holding elaborate woven woolen

Aboriginal/Islander Skills Development

artefacts in their hands and propped

Association) Dance College in 1987,

on shoulders behind their heads.

to Christmas Creek and surrounding

The women’s kinesthetic vocabulary


consisted of more subtle gestures danced in unison as a collective

Earlier in the year, the representatives

organism, in comparison to the

from the Kimberly region of Western

virtuosity of the men’s input.

Australia had come to the College, then based in the inner city suburb of

The days on country at Christmas Creek

Glebe in Sydney. They were kin relatives were even slower in pace than our taste of a fellow student Josephine Ningali

of the remote WA homelands in the


city. Slower than I could’ve imagined before actually travelling to the isolated town camp we would call home for the next few weeks. On this, my first ‘traditional’ trip, I remember the dry heat of the day and the plummeting temperatures at night. I remember seeing children at the local school


with legs thinner than my forearms. I remember all of the women had closely shorn hair. I remember tap dancing on an outdoor stage constructed of doors for the community. I remember the iron rich red dirt penetrating every orifice, every nook, cranny, crag and corner of my being and everything I owned for weeks, months and years afterward. I remember feeling privileged amongst a community with little material wealth, feeling simultaneously guilty and comforted in the knowledge of the modern conveniences awaiting me back home in Sydney. I remember (this story I have told many times before) after what seemed an eternity, we were going to finally dance. At around midday, we followed the women to a clearing of spinifex. We took off our tops and pushed the thick ribbed bands of our bras to our waists.


A cast member of Briwyant sits on the floor, surrounded by playing cards - Photo Credit: Jeff Busby

Our chests were then slathered in a

the oil saturated pigment seeped into

slippery shiny film of Crisco cooking

the formerly pristine woven fabric of my

oil in preparation for paint-up. The


ochre turned a deep red when it came in contact with the cooking oil and our

We walked back to camp as the too hot

skin. The spinifex did nothing to protect

sun was dying and adjourned to our

us from the damaging rays and my

temporary abodes to wait some more. It

shoulders were hot to touch from over

got dark and we ate dinner. I remember

exposure to the misleading dry heat

drifting off to sleep to be wakened

from the bright cloudless sky. After we

with the promise of performance. As

were painted, we sat for what seemed

the evening chill started to settle in my

like an eternity. By this time, my bra

bones the men started to dance. Seated

was back up over my shoulders and

bodies watched the performance,

my top was back on. In our huddled

slightly to the right of the songman.

formation all I could think about was

Some of us girls practiced steps in

the price of my forever ruined b-cup as

anticipation of our turn behind the


Then the men danced some more. It took years of reflection in hindsight to appreciate the fact that our dance was not confined to the 10 minute performance in front of the community. All of our actions that day: the walking to the place a little apart from camp, the paint-up, the sitting and waiting, the anticipation of performance and the secret shared practice concealed at the back of the camp, the agonizingly slow pace at which everything transpired, formed a vital component of the greater dance act. audience seated on the hard cold red dirt. Although we mostly cradled large

(Before we left the community we were

enamel mugs of sugary black tea, less

given dancing necklaces, some the

for the taste, more for the respite it

length of our standing selves. The rope

presented in lieu of standing on top of

holding the nuts together answering

the low burning fire nearby for a share

the question of the commonly close cut

of the scant heat emanating from its

coiffures of the locals.)

dull embers. The Birth of the Political Artist/ActivistWe danced for ten minutes in total

happenings heralding change

that night, with our pictorially painted

The emergence of an assertive

breasts safely concealed under our

Aboriginal political activist movement

damaged underwear. Our contribution

in the early 70s which was inspired

was ended before I was physically

by the US African American fight for

satiated. I remember feeling cheated.

human rights activities, played an intrinsic role in the diversification of


Australian Indigenous performative arts. innovative theatrical works to address These human rights activities included

Aboriginal inequality, organising

freedom rides against segregation

perhaps the most significant site

in rural NSW[4], emulating those of

specific act in Australia - the Aboriginal

Americas Deep South[5], and the

Tent Embassy.

creation of an Australian Aboriginal arm of the Black Panther movement, which

In the Early hours of 27th January in

took an assertive proactive stance.[6]

1972, four Aboriginal men travelled from

This assertive self-determined approach Redfern to Canberra, funded by the precipitated the emergence of the

Australian Communist Party, to pitch a

Black Theatre of Redfern who created

tent on the lawns of what is now known

Cast members of Briwyant gather arou


as Old Parliament House in protest of

American dance theorist Susan Leigh

an address delivered by Prime Minister

Foster recognised the performative

McMahon concerning Aboriginal

significance of the U.S. civil rights

welfare by promoting assimilation in a

resistance movement, which influenced

plan which detailed a proposal to grant

the development of the Australian

fifty year leases of traditional lands

Aboriginal activist movement, as site

back to communities, so long as they

specific acts of creative merit and social

made ‘... Reasonable economic and

import. Foster referred to the physical

social use of that land’[7] in accordance

intervention of the 1960 African

with the colonialist agenda of

American dinner sit-ins, whereby Black

capitalism and consumerism.

college students requested service

und a table; behind them is a projected image of a road on window blinds - Photo Credit: Jeff Busby


whilst seated in the whites only areas of the cafeterias, as a ‘choreography of protest’.[8] Foster described the subversive mobilisation of bodies which was realised through an opportunity to seize economic leverage through the subsequent nationwide drop in sales, which contributed to the eradication of segregation as integrated service resumed.[9] The Aboriginal Tent Embassy similarly presented itself as a powerful critical creative and political durational site specific happening by forming tonguein-cheek Aboriginal shadow ministry

for the Arts to promote the visibility of

which utilised the media, including the

Aboriginal arts and artists within the

burgeoning television industry, to bring

mainstream arts sector.

international attention to the current plight of Aboriginal human rights[7],

The Contemporary Australian

the epitome of which was securing a

Indigenous Lexicon- my work and that

sit-down meeting with the then shadow

of my peers

Labor leader Gough Whitlam who

Fast forward twenty-three years, sitting

would eventually succeed McMahon

alone in track 8 at Carriageworks in the

in November of the same year.[7] While

inner Sydney city suburb of Eveleigh,

in office, Whitlam would implement

amidst forty interconnected grey

significant improvements to Aboriginal

jigsaw mats, equipped with a piece

people in the areas of health, land rights of chalk, a stanley knife and a small and the arts which was bolstered by the mound of boxes of cheap playing cards, creation of an Aboriginal Board within

I constructed a river. Each card was

the formation of the Australia council

representative of a dot, designed to


This elaborate set piece was dismantled and resurrected in several theatres on national tour. Briwyant, the work it belonged to, was indicative of my intention to transpose the theatre into my Grandmother’s ancestral homelands as an example of the memory practices, which first occurred as people were forced off their lands onto group settlements. Kuku Yalanji artist Marilyn Millers choreography Quinkin (Critical Path 2003), based on a Queensland make the eyes dance as they would

Dreaming narrative containing two

a dazzling desert painting, in the

inter related spirits[10], utilised western

attempt to elevate its significance from

artistic convention to ensure the

decorative set piece to sacred artefact.

perpetuation of her homeland culture.

The completed river resembled and

Similarly, Francis Rings demonstrated

represented a cartographer’s map of my her connection to her cultural homelands in her choreographic piece Grandmother’s country of Euabalong and the Lachlan river when viewed

X300 (2007) which acted as a contem-

from above. All of the choreography

porary Dreaming construct charting

occurred on either side of its artificial

the Maralinga atomic bomb testing

banks. In one section, the dancers

conducted in 1956-57. The precedence

travelled its length over and over and in

for contemporary themed narratives to

the dance’s final vignette they system-

be added to the Australian Indigenous

atically flattened its raised contours,

performance lexicon includes the Tiwi

marking the end of the dreaming

Islander chronicling of the bombing of

narrative for which it was created.

Darwin[11] and the Borroloola Aeroplane


Dance whose song and dance

and access to country. One of the

documents the downfall of an American

biggest activist legacies, the ATSI board

WWII bomber.

of the Australia council, continues to facilitate meaningful Indigenous

Lastly, many of Artistic Director

representation in the arts evidenced

Stephen Page’s Bangarra choreogra-

by the creation of the Working with

phies transform major international

Aboriginal Arts Protocols guide (WAAP

venues into satellite Yolgnu territories

2007)[12] regulating the mandatory

through danced and voiced vocabu-

implementation of the formerly more

laries originally reserved for ceremony,

colloquial enquiry and consultancy into

including the signature work Ochres

location of country and kin, as a crucial

(1994), which utilises gestures charting

component of every indigenous creative

Macassin trading predating British

endeavor, including all manifestations


of Australian Indigenous arts practice. •

For many contemporary Australian


Indigenous artists, we see ourselves

[1] Spencer, B & Gillen FJ 2014, The Native

as heritage makers, creating works

Tribes of Central Australia, reprint of 1899,

demonstrating the vitality of Australian

London: MacMillan, London, last viewed 20

Indigenous culture as a living ontology, which is continually being augmented and reinvigorated through contemporary artistic demonstrations. Those early Aboriginal activists used their

June 2015, spencer/baldwin/s74n/Trezise, P & Roughsey, D 1978, The Quinkins, Collins, Sydney. [2] Robertson, F Stasiuk, G Nannup, N & Hopper, S 2016, ‘Ngalak koora koora djinang

site specific demonstrations to provide

(Looking back together): a Nyoongar and

a pathway for contemporary urban

scientific collaborative history of ancient

Australian Aboriginal people to build

Nyoongar boodja’, Australian Aboriginal

contemporary practices in the metro-

Studies, vol. 1, pp. 40-54, last viewed 15 March

politan theatrical spaces; to create

2017, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO host.

opportunities for cultural maintenance despite broken ancestral songlines

[3] Keen, I 2006, ‘Ancestors, magic, and


exchange in Yolngu doctrines: extensions of

[11] Kuipers, L 2010, March 15 Aeroplane

the person intime and space’, Journal Of The

Dance in Borroloola, Australia, YouTube, last

Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. 12, no.

viewed 2 April 2017,

3,pp. 515-530.

com/watch?v=PYbJOVh-dkwKuipers, L 2013, March 19, Bombing of Darwin Dance by Tiwi

[4] National Museum of Australia, Freedom

Aborigines, Australia, YouTube online video,

Ride 1965, Collaborating for Indigenous Rights,

last viewed 2 April 2017,

last viewed 2 April 2017, http://indigenous-

com/watch?v=24sJ6mu9WQQ,_1965 [12] Australia Council for the Arts 2007, [5] 2017, Freedom Rides,

Performing Arts: Protocols for Producing

last viewed 21 September 2015, http://

Indigenous Australian Performing Art: 2nd

edition, last viewed 18 March 2017, http://


[6] Foley, G 2001, Black Power In Redfern

Dance Theatre 2017, 22 May 2017, https://

1968-1972, The Koori History Website, last

viewed 11November 2015, foley/essays/essay_1.html

[13] Marrugecku 2017, last viewed 22 May 2017,

[7] Foley, G Schaap, A & Howell, E (eds) 2014, The Aboriginal Tent Embassy: Sovereignty, Black Power, Land Rights and the State, Routledge, Oxon & New York. [8] Foster, S 2002, Walking and Other Choreographic Tactics: Danced Inventions of Theatricality and Performativity, SubStance, vol. 31, no. 2/3, issue 98/99, pp.125-146. [9] Foster, S 2003, Choreographies of Protest, Theatre Journal, vol. 55, no. 3,pp. 395-412. [10] Trezise, P & Roughsey, D 1978, The Quinkins, Collins, Sydney.



VICKY VAN HOUT Vicki van Hout, Choreographer; is a

has danced with companies including

Wiradjuri woman and independent

Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre and

choreographer, performance-maker

Bangarra Dance Theatre.

and teacher. She has worked across a range of performance mediums nation- Vicki was awarded the 2014 NSW ally and internationally. A graduate

Dance Fellowship for established and

of the National Aboriginal Islander

mid-career artists - the first Indigenous

Dance College (NAISDA), Vicki has

winner of the Fellowship.

learnt and performed dances from Yirrkala, Turkey and Christmas Creeks, Mornington and Bathurst Islands, as well as Murray, Moa and Saibai Islands in the Torres Strait. Vicki also studied at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance in New York and


Thoughts on Deeps

James Batchelor dances on deck; a craggy island can be seen in the distance - Photo Credit: Charles Tam




Thoughts on Mapping I remember how much I loved my childhood desk, which had a map of the world on its surface. It was communicative and expressive, yet at the same time mysterious and romantic. Presenting the world as flat, I was endlessly curious about its edges. A map in its minimal elegance tempts our imagination about what is left out, what it does not show. I was particularly interested in the white mass at the bottom of the desk - a continent with no cities. Antarctica was a mysterious place that I wanted to


discover. My first major work ‘ISLAND’,

my own body was a dream.

was partly inspired by writings of early Antarctic explorers and the difficul-

Nearly two years later in January

ties they encountered in mapping an

2016, I joined a team of 60 scientists,

environment that had so few visual

students, artists and ships crew on an

markers. I was extremely fortunate that

expedition to the sub-Antarctic Heard

the then Director of the Institute for

and McDonald Islands. Not Antarctica

Marine and Antarctic Studies in Hobart,

itself, but equally fascinating. Floating

Professor Mike Coffin, decided to come

on the oceans surface in one of

and see ‘ISLAND’. After this encounter,

the most isolated places on Earth,

we met to imagine ways that we could

science and art processes converged

work together. He asked if I would like

with surprising synergies. It was a

to work on a research expedition at sea

particularly unique and inspiring space

and I was immediately fascinated by the to study and research the body in potential. To have an opportunity to go

movement. On a constantly moving

to Antarctica and research it through

platform, simply searching for stillness


James Batchelor fits his body horizontally between parts of the ship - Photo Credit: Charles Tambiah

and stability was a task in itself. It

hold in its physical intelligence.

was a relentless project. For two

In dealing with this task, I had to

months at sea, it demanded extreme

determine what I wanted to map. For

patience and flexibility to meet the

many weeks we saw only endless

myriad of challenges that exist in such

ocean from horizon to horizon. I got to

harsh environments. The isolation,

know the ocean intimately - its colours,

confinement and repetitiveness of our

patterns and movement. Occasionally, I

daily experience prompted a profoundly would peer through a porthole window unique approach to space and time. to see beneath its surface. Despite its From this unfamiliarity, I developed a

mesmerising visual beauty, I craved

particular sensitivity to the body.

contact with it. So far my experience relied heavily on what I could see, what

In embarking on this expedition, my

I needed was touch and sensation.

primary question was; could my body

I would visit the Operations Room

be a map? I wondered how it could be

where the acoustic instruments were

a record and what information it could

generating maps of the environment


beneath the ship in real time. Taking

discovered that the environment that

note of the depth, I liked to see how

I could most meaningfully engage

long it would take me to run that

with physically, was the one I was in

distance on the treadmill, imagining

contact with; the ship itself. Inspired by

myself running vertically downwards

Hepworth, I began a process of under-

towards the ocean floor. Running on a

standing the ship by touch. I thought

treadmill on the ocean is an extremely

about my skin, the largest organ of the

profound experience, almost impossible body, as the first contact point with the to do without holding on. Carried by the ship. Through the immediacy of touch, movement of the ship, you are continu-

I could map the ships environment and

ously running on many different planes.

measure it against my body as a ‘known’

I discovered that although I was not


physically in contact with the ocean, by simply being on the ship, I was

It was a process in experimental

experiencing its motion. I found that I

cartography: interrogating form,

had to learn again how my body would

documentation and translation. Each

walk, run, sleep, eat, and breathe with

day, I would set up improvisations in

its relentless presence.

different areas of the ship, moulding my body around its surfaces, measuring

Master sculptor Barbara Hepworth

the distance between points in space.

once said ‘I, the sculptor, am the

I would also film these improvisations;

landscape’.[1] Her relationship to the

sometimes from my own perspective,

material world was one of commu-

other times from afar.

nicating; transmitting form, intuition and intelligence from body to body. ‘I

By the end of the expedition, I had

cannot write anything about landscape

touched nearly every surface on the

without writing about the human figure

ship and in my skin I held a physical

and the human spirit inhabiting the

record. The next task is to see how

landscape - the balance of sensation

this record is transmitted. What does

and the evocation of man in his

it communicate, how is it useful? I am

universe’.[1] While on the expedition, I

currently developing a series of works


from large-scale theatre to intimate gallery performances that continue this research. Again like Hepworth, it is now a process of communication from body to body; both for the dancers I work with and the audiences I perform to. What I am finding now, is that although I can somewhat recreate movement and sensation from the ship environment, as


my memory fades it is more interesting to study the method itself. The physical act of sensing, interpreting and recording. The process of mapping rather than the map. Thoughts on measurement Measuring is a way of processing what we sense, a tool to define our relationship to the universe in space and time. On the expedition, there were many measuring processes in action. The scientists used highly sophisticated instruments to measure the ocean environment. The ships crew relied on measuring distances precisely to navigate our course. I was of course busy measuring with movement. In movement, the body measures space and time very specifi-


James Batchelor suspends himself using parts of the ship - Photo Credit: Charles Tambiah


cally. It is an internal process, based on

sought to challenge. Yet we could not

our own sense of scale. Every step and

have launched the expedition at all

every turn is a measuring process and

without a strong scientific hypothesis.

remains in the history of the body.

Perhaps the artists had more of a luxury for openness.

Fellow voyage artist Annalise Rees, was using this same bodily sense of scale

For me of course, the interesting part

to translate what she saw to pencil and

is not the conclusions or answers

paper. The physical act of drawing was

that could potentially be formed, but

also a real time process of measuring

the search itself. What does it mean

taking place in her body.

to practice science? For me on this expedition, I felt for the first time I

But why measure? Measurements

could participate in science. To critically

are crucial to knowledge; they are

sense and measure space through the

evidence, the basis from which we

body was already scientific, albeit in an

understand phenomena. There is

unconventional way. We were at least

no meaning in the measurements

all committed to a process of inquiry

themselves. Knowledge is in the

and ready to question the practices

synthesis, links and connections

through which we do it.

between them. There is a process of filtering, selecting and discarding that

This became an interesting discovery on

inevitably needs to take place.

the expedition, that in the simultaneous practice of science and art, all systems

How do we know what we are looking

can be questioned. The known can

for? This appeared to be one of the

again be unknown.

major differences between the arts and science teams; the scientists seemed

Thoughts on the Unknown

to have a pretty good idea of what they

What drives us as humans to explore

were hoping to find whereas the artists

the unknown from the deep ocean,

had less expectation. The scientists

to deep space? What is the physical

sought to confirm, while the artists

encounter with the unknown? How do


we recognise it? How do we capture it?

Barbara Hepworth, “A Pictorial autobiog-

The expedition was for me an encounter raphy”, Praeger Publishers, New York, 1970,p. with the unknown, immersing myself within an environment of complete unfamiliarity. This proved to be extremely inspiring. A quote from one of my favourite

280 [2] Thomas Hulme. “Speculations Essays On Humanism and the Philosophy of Art ed by Herbert Read, London, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co LTD, 1936, p220

philosophers Thomas Hulme reminds me that to be human is to accept that ultimately we must deal with uncertainty. ‘There is a difficulty in finding a comprehensive scheme of the cosmos, because there is none. - [The] [w]orld is indescribable.’[2] Accepting this thought has guided me towards an emphasis on process rather than outcome, of practice rather than theory. Research for me is in the doing. With our limited capacity as humans to understand and describe the complexity of the universe, there is yet something beautiful in the attempt and ultimately our failure. Perhaps it is the search itself that is inherently human. • References [1] Barbara Hepworth, ‘Studio International 171’ - June 1966; as quoted in “Voicing our visions, - Writings by women artists”, ed. by Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York 1991, p. 280

James Batchelor bent over wi

ith arms in an ‘L’ shape on deck - Photo Credit: Charles Tambiah




JAMES BATCHELOR James Batchelor is a multi-disciplinary

biennial. In 2017, he was presented by

artist from Canberra working interna-

Dance Massive and has been commis-

tionally. His work has been presented

sioned to make a new full-length

by major festivals and venues around

creation for Chunky Move.

the world in theatres, galleries, museums and public contexts. He is most known for his prolific work ‘Metasystems’, which has toured extensively in Australia, France, Italy, China and Thailand. In 2016, James was an artist in residence on the RV Investigator with the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies. He has been commissioned on two occasions by the Keir Choreographic Award


Embodied Environm

Dean Walsh kneels, wearing a blue body-suit, washing a blue head - Photo Credit: David Brazil


mentalism DEAN WALSH

1. Contempt or Commitment: the

Whilst we were looking skyward,

expanding and compressing space

another immense and largely unexplored inner space lay all around

‘Houston, we have a problem...’

and beneath us here on Earth. At its deepest the open ocean descends

This timeless refrain was originally used

eleven kilometres. If outer space could

to announce a life-threatening event

entice us towards infinite expansion,

during a space mission in 1970 that

then all that scientists were learning

had much of the human world tuning

about inner space had the potential to

in. Transfixed, we held our collective

entice us towards knowing more about

breath hoping the Apollo 13 mission

our prehistoric, waterborne selves; our

and the lives of those on board were

infinite genetic compression.

not lost, and with them, our hope that we could securely reach outer spatial

Apollo 13 satiated our drive towards

worlds. We ached for transcendence

a better tomorrow that could jettison

from our war-ridden home and NASA

us out of earth-bound misery. The

was offering us the balm of actuality.

survival of the mission signaled a renewed possibility that we might reach


beyond our worst and achieve our

comforts we had never known prior.

best. This is understandable, however,

New homes and new worlds all seemed

our focus outwards distracted us from

something tomorrow had on offer.

the growing evidence that humangenerated environmental disruptions,

Meanwhile, hundreds of billions of

including world wars, were real and

dollars were being hurled at other

needed much urgent attention.

Cold War programs. By comparison, very little was going towards environ-

‘It is a wholesome and necessary thing

mental science research agencies. It is

for us to turn again to the earth and

unfortunate for us now that sufficient

in the contemplation of her beauties

environmental funding policies weren’t

to know the sense of wonder and

put into place around the time we


were so enthusiastically future-gazing. Surely this alone elucidates why we

In 1951, renowned marine biologist

can ill-afford to wait any longer in

and conservationist, Rachel Carson,

addressing climate change urgency?

wrote her first international bestseller,

Even if it means we must hurl a few

‘The Sea Around Us’ that was followed

hundred billion at safe-guarding our

in 1962 by her seminal work, ‘The

inner space? In 2010, after attending

Silent Spring’. Her works are credited

the 3-day Tipping Point conference

with advancing the environmental

at Carriageworks, I began to ask

movement. But were the people of

many other questions like this and felt

Earth listening? Well, yes, it seemed

compelled to continue my research

they were. Her book brought environ-


mental concerns to an unprecedented number of people. However, 10 years

2. Atmospheres of Urgency: the oldest

later, post Apollo 13, many seemed to

dance of all has become the dance of

have become complacent around talk

our lives

of a future environmental catastrophe.

In 2009 after watching the

War had exhausted us and our modern

documentary, ‘The End of the Line’,

household goods were ushering in new

about overfishing, no-one in the cinema


Dean Walsh in a blue body-suit, sits underneath an upside-down umbrella - Photo Credit: Heidrun Lohr

moved. Two hundred strangers sharing

accomplished environmental scientists

a stunned silence. I thought, ‘Right, if a

are screaming, ‘Hey Houston! Yup, we

film can do this to a couple of hundred

most definitely do have a problem’!

people a pop then there must be something I can also do with my art as a Their data warns that we must look at creative communicator.’ My subsequent realigning our lives with the balance of dance and environmental research

nature and look beyond our anthropo-

became my own Apollo 13 mission.

centricity when proclaiming our rights

Now, with so much advanced evidence

to a sustainable existence. This doesn’t

at hand, many of the world’s most

mean we must don hiking boots or


scuba gear and take the plunge into nature - though it does help in gaining profound embodied insight. For me, it is more about raising awareness in any way we can, whether we’re nature go-getters or hard-core city slickers. All cities are part of our shared biosphere, here on the only habitable planet in the known universe. I feel one of the more potent and inclusive methods to raising awareness around environmental concern is to embody the information marine scientists have discovered. We have

Dean Walsh, looking up, raises an upside-dow Heidrun Lohr

been creatively embodying the natural environment since our earliest nomadic existence. We once all lived within an intrinsic interconnected knowing: ocean-river-animal-human-earth-tree and, yes, stars. These were daily experiences for our ancestors to synergistically contemplate, absorb and form complex embodied (and disembodied) relationships with. We saw ourselves as integral to the whole and these environmental immersions fueled our sense of identity, right alongside otherthan-human beings. We transformed our experiences into dance, song, music, visual art and storytelling. Art

and science were inextricably linked and have shared an ancient genealogy, so why on earth should they be separate now at a time where the need to express environmental reconnection is so critical? I’ve been fascinated with marine realms my whole life. Unfortunately, as a child, chronic disruptions at home, dramatically affecting my schooling, meant I was forcibly diverted from my core interests. I discovered dance quite by chance at the age of 20 and


familial discrimination and countless AIDS related deaths). As I began to comprehend the wider picture, my work developed to express the abuse of familial ‘bodies’ (war, its aftermath and ‘ex-serviced bodies’). When I returned to Australia after working for three years in the UK and Europe, I

wn umbrella above his head - Photo Credit:

it satiated needs for self-expression of heinous acts committed against my body (and mind). I now realise that my mature dance practice, having taken a seemingly dramatic turn in terms of where I now draw my creativity from, is an organic evolution of my creative and innate interests. Throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s, my works focused on expressing abuses inflicted upon my personal body, which expanded to express the abuse of my cultural LGBTIQ ‘body’ (societal and


felt the need to shift focus for my own wellbeing. Then, in 2008, I got my first scuba diving certification and this was the next game-changer I wasn’t expecting. I could see a range of possible methods to experiment with, embodying marine understandings whilst bringing my practice a renewed investigation. Scuba became an experiential conduit to expressing abuses facing our planet’s massive water body. In 2010, I found the disability-inclusive community through developing a work ‘Second Nature’, with Restless Dance Theatre.


Here I felt right at home. I next

too abstract for most people to make

joined Sydney-based disability-led

relevant, integrated sense of in their

performance ensemble, RUCKUS, as a

day to day lives, sensory-based and

key collaborator where I could explore

creative embodiment systems can offer

the expression of yet another neglected

new ways of understanding complex

‘body’ - the disability arts community.

theories about our physical, natural

The mistreatment of ‘body’, in some

world. If I’m to continue developing a

form or other, seems to underpin my

methodology aimed at reflecting upon

creative life’s work. Social and environ-

and educating environmental fascina-

mental awareness are really one and the tions and concerns, then I feel I must same for me. The promotion of health,

engage in a fully inclusive research and

wellbeing and sustainability of the

development practice that brings all

natural realm is the promotion of our

points of view and lived experiences

own intrinsic wellness and longevity.

into consideration.

Environmental science is now the lynchpin to my teaching, research and

The evolution of human artistic

choreographic practice enabling me to

expression, over a vast time frame,

be the informed advocate, activist and

has facilitated countless methods

artist I feel I’ve always been, regarding

of expression, largely informed and

the content I’ve wrestled in all my works developed by our ancestors’ relationsince 1991.

ship to the physical natural world. Even when we make work that is focused

For me ‘embodied environmentalism’

on reflecting our contemporary human

is the most apt description of the

condition we are communicating animal

inclusive methods I employ in my

to animal realities. It is not such a big

current practice. I want to exclude

leap for me to study other species

no-one, to leave nobody feeling

and learn all I can about them, their

invisible, patronized, defenseless or

mannerisms, behavior and relationship

dismissed. Given so much scientific

to habitat, and to see if I can modulate

climate change information is already

these into human movement tributes,

out there in written form and often way

celebrations and embodied awareness-


raising methodologies. For me, these

exclusive to only fully trained dancers.

methods need to be formatted in

My ongoing and persistent question

a way that scientists feel they also

is, who are we in the greater natural

have access to and I have sought out

environmental context? Through

numerous strategies to do this allowing

embodying marine understandings,

them to recognize their research in

we learn about this realm in ways our

what I’m physically investigating.

ancestors once did - through direct lived experience and our muscle memory.

My interest is in facilitating research

‘The body keeps the score’.[2]

processes through environmentally direct (scuba and free diving) and

3. What is PrimeOrderly?

indirect (studio-based movement

PrimeOrderly is a movement

research) practices. I do this by

methodology I have developed over 8

teaching specific modulations and

years that needs far more space than

compositional improvisations inspired

I have in this article to fully explain

by my marine interactions. It would

its inner workings. I finally have a

be very ‘unaware’ of me to make my

website up this week and plan to keep

research methodology, PrimeOrderly,

it well-stocked with details of how

A dancer stretches out a string dotted with balloons - Photo Credit: Heidrun Lohr


Dean Walsh balances an upside-down umbrella on his face - Photo Credit: Heidrun Lohr

I incorporate my research methods

no finite end results to my research.

in various contexts. As a movement

PrimeOrderly is also part training

reference taxonomy, PrimeOrderly

methodology. Its written structure

helps me record, codify and then play

is loosely inspired by the biological

physically, and more organically, with

taxonomy used by biologists to classify

the scientific research data drawn

organic life. This acts as a type of user

from specific marine eco-systems, the

manual, which provides definitions of

species within them and their relation-

the physical language uncovered in my

ship to one another. Through this I

research. The system can be referenced

feel I can then start to impart these

during general practice and training,

intricate findings to participants in

educational forums, as well as profes-

diverse workshops, classes and during

sional and non-professional dance

the construction of performances. It is

classes. It is comprised of four primary

a methodology in development - I claim




part in the problem solving, one way I


have found to carve through feelings of

Sensory (Inner Spatial)

helplessness is to attend information

Architectural (Outer Spatial)

sessions, pick up plastic debris whilst walking my dogs and on volunteer

It has over thirty-five subset movement

diving days and attending rallies.

modalities and countless precepts (rules Another effective way of expressing of specific engagement). PrimeOrderly

concerns is through facilitating people’s

brings together two decades of

embodied experiences of PrimeOrderly.

experience in choreographic practice

I feel as artists we need to know the

with now eight years of research

scientific facts and learn how we can

into human interactions with marine

reflect them with the best hope the

environments. My research was first

world has - creativity. There is a long

developed during several Critical Path

list of human-generated environmental

residencies and then my (2011-2012)

ills currently going viral across our

dance fellowship from Australia Council

world. Rather than list them here,I will

for the Arts.

soon upload them on my website with descriptions on how I, and other artists

4. Believe art matters: what to do with

I know, are attempting to research and

hard-core facts in a post-truth world

develop communication methods.

‘Houston, are you still there?’

Being submerged in the actual water environment, from which I draw

In writing this article, I wish I could

much of my research, is also entirely

include that all humans, without

reassuring. As someone living with

exception, back our environmental

acquired and congenital disability -

experts up with another timeless

complex trauma disorder (CTD), autism

refrain; ‘… and so say all of us… which

spectrum condition (ASC) and attention

nobody can deny…’ This is, unfortu-

deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) - I

nately, far from true. It is overwhelming

am also personally comforted by my

but as an artist wanting to play my

methods of investigation. I see this as


another natural progression for my artistic trajectory and I’m reassured by its greater environmental engagement. My methods suit my neuro-diverse brain and calm my traumatized core belief system. Healing self means facing and dissecting hard-core facts head-on. Knowing self, for me, means learning to understand how my family and greater history have shaped me. I find many parallels between individual lives and the greater lived experience. The micro and the macro, the inner and the outer. Our planet and the greater universe. Humanity and the immensity of the

Two dancers share the same balloon with their

animal kingdom. We are not alone and never really have been. The more I investigate marine environmentalism and disabilityinclusive practice, the more I find my clan. I’ve discovered that aspects of PrimeOrderly also benefit others with similar neurological diversities to myself, whilst nestling this integration within the greater environmental context. The more we stick with our core interests the more we find our raison d’être. Just like scientists, artists are explorers. We are driven to find ways of defining specific aspects of our

shared lives and what it means to be human - or animal. At the World Parks Conference in 2014, Hawaii-based marine biologist and Ocean Resources Specialist for Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC), Jennifer Vander Veur, reassured me; ‘Dean individuals do count. Individual scientists get a lot of very important work done that they report to a larger team with, who in turn get to work to prove the individuals’ hypothesis and get it


r mouths - Photo Credit: Heidrun Lohr

out to wider communication circles.


Individual artists count too. You help

[1] Carson, Rachel, 1907-1964. Silent Spring.

spurn many of us on with your skill for

Boston :Houghton Mifflin, (2002)

taking an idea and finding methods to communicate it in ways we cannot. Your [2] Van der Kolk, Bessel A. 6th ed. The Body presentation was utterly captivating

Keeps the Score: brain, mind, and body in the

and made us think about our research

healing of trauma.Viking Press (2014)

in new ways. One person can inspire 10, who can inspire 100, who in turn can inspire 1,000. Just keep it up. Do not stop! We need you.’ To which I replied, ‘We need one another.’ •



DEAN WALSH Dean Walsh is a Sydney-based

DV8 Physical Theatre (London), No

dance practitioner and inclusive arts

Apology (Amsterdam), ADT (Adelaide)

advocate. Since 1991. he has been at

and Stalker Theatre (Sydney) among

the forefront of many significant shifts

others. With his Australia Council

within the Australian arts and cultural

fellowship (2011-2012), Dean developed

landscape. Dean has make over 30

an embodied-environmental practice

solo and group works, wrestling some

he calls PrimeOrderly, influenced by

difficult core human and non-human

his marine science fascinations and

themes. His works have toured

environmental concerns.

Australia and many destinations internationally. Dean has worked with several disability-inclusive companies and has been key collaborator with Sydney ensemble, RUCKUS, since 2011. Additionally, he has worked with


Following the Bodie Edge to the Abyss

Sarah Jane Pell underwater, dressed in a space-suit during Project Moonwalk Sarah Jane Pell: Simulation Astronaut, Project Moonwalk, Comex, Marseille FR. - Photo Credit: Alexis Ro


es’ Natural of Space

osenfeld, 2016


To help us to move confidently toward an uncertain future, artists must prioritize embodied approaches to understanding the marriage of human cognition, perception, affect and action in ever increasingly extreme and technologically mediated environments. The aim of my body of work is to map changes in human performance and expression caused and inspired by extreme environmental interactions from sea, to summit, to space. As a live artist, I’ve gained valuable insights by working as a commercial diver, at high altitude and in astronautics.[9] Astronautics is defined as the practice of navigation beyond Earth’s


atmosphere. Astronautics is risky

performance and exploration. I also

and costly but deeply alluring. The

hope to instil the value of arts-led

art of astronautics transforms human

research as a fundamental enabler of

physical, temporal and spatial bodily

innovation, adaptation and evolution as

memory[17] and teaches us about the

a space-faring species through parallel

wonders of the life in the universe and

research: operational/performative and

beyond. Astronautics has produced

instrumental/speculative action.

all kinds of art[10] and artists are encouraged to illustrate science, inspire

Artist-Astronaut: Operational/

and imagine space. Space art has often


centred on the often intangible

My formal training for spaceflight

qualities of microgravity experience

commenced in 2016 with Project

into an Earthly practice[3][11][18] but

PoSSUM[23]: an US civilian astronau-

artists are not prioritized for spaceflight

tics program designed to qualify

pre-selection like pilots, scientists and

mission specialists to conduct

engineers. The commercial spaceflight

the NASA-supported technology

era is about to disrupt this.[1] I qualified

experiment S-46 [Polar Suborbital

as an Artist-Astronaut Candidate on

Space Upper Mesosphere]. This

Yuri’s Night 2016 and follow Astronauts

included training to capture polar night

and Cosmonauts with artistic training:

shining cloud tomography and dynamic

Alan Bean, Alexi Leonov, Guy Laliberté

imagining data, conduct astrobiology

and Richard Garriott de Cayeux.

research, media and outreach, and technology validation high-altitude test

Following the bodies’ natural edge to

flights. Continued operational training

the abyss of space has inspired a new

is vital to building somatic or corporeal

direction in my work: from Aquabatics[7] literacy of the environmental impact of to Astronautics. The urgency of my

outer space on climate change and

mission is to create a movement to

contemporary performance.

initiate new paradigms: a frontier body art to innovate on astronaut bodily

‘Performing Astronautics 2016-2018’

memories and to contribute to extreme

seeks to firstly address the challenge


testing the Comex Gandolfi II EVA SIM

knowledge embedded in the

Spacesuit Underwater with integrated

astronautic body.[4] By literally

gesture-control sensors to operate the

becoming the Astronaut, I connect

YEMO robot. I also used hand tools

or differentiate this knowledge with existing theoretical understandings of space-based embodiment from an Earth-based logic[10] (grounded, pedestrian, linear) and sea-based sensitivity (buoyant, hydrous, flowing) [12].

By then connecting performing

arts practice with astronautics, I also externalise how space impacts the human body/mind cadence to alter motion, rhythm, and perception of time/place spatiality in new ways. New strategies for space adaptation, personal expression and degrees of freedom, and interdisciplinary knowledge transfer for future missions may arise too. In 2016, I also joined Project MOONWALK[22]: a 3-year research project conducting Astronaut-Robotic cooperation EVA Simulation trials in Europe’s Moon/Mars Analogue sites.[6] Earth-analogue simulations are typically simplified and abstracted representations of a more intricate real-world system. I was a Simulation Astronaut


of translating first-person tactic

for performing typical lunar surface activities in multiple underwater pool and sea experiments. It was particularly important that I demonstrated that with detailed adherence to disciplinary protocols, creative practice could occur in high-risk operational training and research environments and achieve all mission objectives. I knew better than to ‘swim’. I walked, climbed and jumped, as an Astronaut in the 1/6th Lunar gravity before multiple cameras and security divers. With limited line of sight, I did not bend but pivoted the waist to twist down without generating torque or overbalancing to deploy payloads, collect and carry items. When all the


Sarah Jane Pell underwater, dressed in a space-suit during Project Moonwalk Sarah Jane Pell: EVA Lunar Simulation, Project Moonwalk, Comex, Marseille FR. - Photo Credit: Alexis Rosenfeld, 2016


telemetry failed, and I was ‘standing

Once I forgot about my self-imposed

by’, and there were no media film

instruction to fly and let myself flounder

crews present, I could experiment with

and fall, I surrendered to the sea and


explored the real movement possibilities. Not surprisingly, the design was

Performing astronautics underwater

perfectly efficient for diving and not

in a spacesuit was like finding the

flapping. It taught me how to move

sweet-spot between two bodies; two

the body of water rather than force

centres of balances and two commu-

myself on it. Captured by underwater

nication and control systems: the time

cinematographer Paul Wolstenholm,

delays between were like encountering

the piece became the first significant

two worlds simultaneously. I defied the

creative output of Aquabatics Research

biometric ‘falling’ alerts, by breathing

Team initiative [ARTi] 2002-2012 that

out upon extension and moving quickly

I initiated at WAAPA. Revolution,

between fall of my body and the

2005 (or The Vitruvian Woman) again

suspended delay of the suit: buoyed

referenced da Vinci. Underwater

slightly by the exhaled air cavitation

cameraman Adam Burke filmed me

in the helmet to support balance at all

at Bathers Bay, Fremantle strapped to

extreme tests of my movement range. It

an Ayro Wheel, rolling over and over

was the most beautify merging of every

repeatedly along the sand towards -

reality and dream I knew.[19]

and then into - and under the Indian Ocean… dunking… dunking… until the

Never underestimate the embodied

water resisted me.

knowledge of small performance gestures and playful experiments.[10]

Logging thousands of hours working

Sixteen years ago I performed Second

in zero visibility, and performing all

Nature Second Skin, 2001 in the open

number of experimental Aquabatics,

ocean wearing custom-made wings

has ‘informed’ my body of a corpus

designed by Leonardo da Vinci to

of knowledge about the ocean[9] and

explore the poetics and mechanics

many physical aspects of Astronautics

of the ‘body in flight’ underwater.[7]

training. I had practiced ditching and

dunking, and wearing all kinds of

In 2014, I sent an invitation to 7

water-filled suits and helmets.[7] With

astronauts including (Nicole Stott (US),

training, it wasn’t a huge stretch to

Paolo Nespoli (IT), Ron Garan (US), Jeff

perform pressurized spacesuit trials or

Hoffman (US), Soyeon Yi (KOR)) asking

an underwater egress from a ditched

them to collaborate for a Weightless

aircraft with and without the use of

Artists Association exhibition entitled

an Emergency Breathing Device (EBD)

Mission 014. I included 250g blocks of

in Spaceflight Survival and Egress

clay and a USB with audio and video

Training, 2017. My vestibular response

from their missions. The invitation

affecting perceptual orientation, spatial

was to spend time moulding the

awareness, movement control, posture,

clay as they ‘membered embodied

breathing and adaptation to visual

microgravity experience prompted by

disturbances, and auditory localiza-

Neuro Linguistic Programing triggers

tion has conditioned well to hypoxic,

and then find it within. It was my wish

disorienting and aquatic spaces. The

that bodily memory would somehow

challenge of communicating these

transmute into unconscious interactions

embodied experiences remains the most rewarding part of my creative journey. Artist-Astronaut: Instrumental/ Speculative Many Astronauts have reported the lack of a documentation format that can convey the microgravity embodiment that frames the environmental impact of space[5]. I had previously related this conundrum to the parallel performance challenges of documenting the embodied aquatic experience to a dry land-based audience but it goes deeper.

Sarah Jane Pell stands, facing away, ready to dive into Bathers Bay Sarah Jane Pell: Diving, Bathers Bay, Fremantle AU. - Photo Credit: David Hocking, 2006



Diagrams of bodies are labelled with red and yellow stickers Microgravity Body, Outline with Stars Reference for Storyboard - Image courtesy the artist, 2014

with the material. I wanted to cast

access and public engagement branding

the hand-moulded form in aerogel (an

issues. Secondly, I learned that aerogel

ethereal spacerated material lighter

was so brittle that I could not ‘sculpt’ it

than air) and implant the elusive

with precision. Machine made would be

bodily memory artefact into a life-size

most unsatisfactory.

hanging sculpture and projection of their bodies in space. The task proved

To me it was clear that I must go

very challenging. Not one astronaut

to space: the public dimensions of

returned their clay; instead I gleaned

personal expression by an artist

insight into performance anxieties,

astronaut would be unique and

trial runs and astronaut mindsets, and

unencumbered, and by that virtue,

practical concerns of making art that

bodily performance would be the

immortalised something so sacred and

subject of art, not the object of a

personal, cloaking dutiful consideration

representational remanent. I chose

to the legal property rights, copyright,

Mt Everest as a high altitude space

self/state representation, open-source

analogue for an arts-led simulation



Sarah Jane Pell crouches and examines rocks in stills from We Are All Explorer Fish Sarah Jane Pell, Site Reconnaissance VSSEC Mars Simulation, AU. - Photo Credit: Richard Byrne, 2013

test mission Bending

tions with a range of technologies and

Horizons, 2015.

the environment.[8] Unexpected events,

[20] Sagarmatha’s

including the Nepal Earthquakes,

glacier was a cold

ultimately prohibited me from reaching

but welcoming body

the summit and completing the project.

of water close to

My technology failed as often as the

outer space, or so I

environment ruptured, and I faced

thought. I set out to

enormous stressors. Nonetheless, the

summit, capture HD

experience confirmed that my training

360-degree video

and willingness to experiment and

and record artistic

imagine was essential to meaningful

expressions made

interactions with the environment,

on site, paired with

and indeed my survival. By imagining

GPS location, altitude

the expedition as a dynamic space of

and body sensor

performance once I was safe, I began to

data. Over 17-days,

frame an analytical phenomenology of

I trekked from Lukla

extreme bodily experience.

2840m to Everest Base Camp (EBC) at

As a way of processing my experiences

5364m, acclimatising

of isolated training, a complex Everest

to the altitude while

summit attempt to make art at high

investigating interac-

altitude, and the rupturing of all reality


A hand holding eight sardines Sardine Reference for Storyboard - Image Credit: Unknown

during the Nepal earthquakes in 2015,

into a sea, she sees the ancient explorer

I completed We are all Explorer Fish,

fish come to life before her very eyes.

2016[21] the short film sequel based on

Threatening her existence and the entire

my ‘Bodies in Extremis’ essay published

mission, she calls on her alter ego for

in Star Arc: a self-sustaining star ship,


Springer/Praxis 2017.[16] I played Amulet the first human born in low Earth orbit,

Filmed at the VSSEC Mars Simulation

and her holographic flight crew, on

by Shaun Wilson in 2013, the Martian

a mission to set up a new outpost on

landscape had an eerie absence of

Mars. ‘If she survives, others will follow

life, and by contrast, my neo-human

and alone no longer is she...’

onscreen performance of being possessed by fish spirits was rather

Amulet draws breath through a filtered

disturbing. By combining scientific

snorkel plugged into drill holes in an

‘reality’ with plausible speculative

ancient riverbed. An instantaneous

fiction, the live artwork also explored

rush of pure Oxygen floods her body: a

the psycho-cartographies of our

temporary ‘high’, before heavier toxic

collective fears and desires for

Carbon Dioxide floods her lungs. As the

liberation and exposure to out of this

risk of ingesting indigenous Martian

world experiences.

organisms becomes higher, and the cloud of hot rain within the impact

To begin with expressive acts such as

crater starts to fall like a sky descending live events and testing provocative


interactive designs in space analogue environments and by creating poetic post-performance artifacts for exhibition and publication, I hope to invite questions of the bio-political, technical and societal implications for a spacefaring humanity, and further discovery. It is a humble beginning, but as an artist, I recognise that the value of embodied knowledge practices (even if suits, vehicles and sensory technologies augment our bodies) remains superior to robotic envoys and digital simulations, so mission architects must engage artists in future flights and visions. A fully supported artist astronaut in space program would help build the kind of somatic or corporeal literacy needed for mission planning, and address the global imperative for an innovative, interdisciplinary and culturally robust future. Resulting exhibitions, performances, publications, and media engagements from Performing Astronautics will ultimately reflect the courage of Australian art. •

Sarah Jane Pell crouches and examines rocks in a still f We are All Explorer Fish, 2016. Short film starring/Prod

from We Are All Explorer Fish - Film ducer Sarah Jane Pell. Cinematographer Shaun Wilson - Still courtesy the artist, 2016




[5] Garan, R. J., and J. A. Hoffman (2013) The

The ‘Performing Astronautics’ project is

Overview Effect: Freethink@Harvard, filmed

assisted by the Australian Government

22 November,,

through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body. We are All Explorer Fish, 2016 was Co-commissioned by Trondheim

accessed 15 March 2014. [6] Imhof, B., Hoheneder, W., Ransom, S., Waclavicek, R., Davenport, B., Weiss, P., ... & Hoppenbrouwers, T. (2015). Moonwalk-Human Robot Collaboration Mission Scenarios and

Electronic Arts Centre for Meta.Morf

Simulations. In AIAA SPACE 2015 Conference

2016 - Nice to be in orbit!

and Exposition (p. 4531). [7] Marshall, J. (2005) The Art of Life Support,

References [1] Armstrong, R. (2014) Space is an ecology for living in. Architectural Design, 84(6), 128-133. [2] Bureaud, A. (2009) Kitsou Dubois and the Weightless Body. IEEE MultiMedia, 16(1), 4-7. [3] Bureaud, A., Dubois, K. (2005) The Embodiment of (Micro)Gravity. Kitsou Dubois’s Analogies: An Artistic and Aesthetic Experience, Proc. Yverdon Leonardo Space and the Arts Workshop, [online] available te_kDuboisBureaud.php accessed 1 May 2017. [4] Garan, A. R. (2015) The Orbital Perspective: Lessons in Seeing the Big Picture from a Journey of 71 Million Miles. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Real Time & On Screen, Vol 68, Aug/ Sep 2005, pp. 48. [8] Mueller, F.F & S.J. Pell (2016) Technology meets adventure: learnings from an earthquake-interrupted Mt. Everest expedition, In Proceedings of the 2016 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing (UbiComp ‘16). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 817-828. [9] Pell, Sarah J. (2014) Aquabatics: a postturbulent performance in water, Performance Research,19(5), 98-107, 0/13528165.2014.958365. [10] Pell, Sarah J. & Muller, F. (2016) Homo Ludens: An analysis of play and performance during spaceflight to inspire the cultural sector to design for new modes of space and spatiality. In 67th International


Astronautical Congress (IAC) Proceedings

R., & Pell, S. J. (2017) Space bodies. In Star

International Astronautical Federation (IAF) ID:

Ark (pp. 341-382). Springer International



[11] Pitts, B. (2006) Against space utilization

[17] White, F. (1998) The overview effect: Space

(cultural or otherwise), Art and the Cultural

exploration and human evolution. AIAA.

Utilization of Space Track of the 2006 International Space Development Conference

[18] Woods, A. (2013) Art to the Stars: an

Los Angeles, May 5, 2006 [online] available

historical perspective of Space Art, May 26,

2013 [online] available http://www.arsastro-

utilization-cultural-or-otherwise/ accessed 1 accessed

May 2017.

1 May 2017.

[12] Pothier, B. (2014). Towards a moister


media, from aquaponics to multi-scalar navigation. Technoetic Arts, 12(1), 121-129.


[13] Seedhouse, E. (2016) How to Fly. In XCOR,


Developing the Next Generation Spaceplane (pp. 149-169). Springer International


Publishing. [23] [14] Streb, Elizabeth (2010) STREB: How to become an Extreme Action Hero, The Feminist Press, The City University, New York. [15] Yaden, D. B., Iwry, J., Slack, K. J., Eiechstaedt, J. C., Zhao, Y., Vaillant, G. E., & Newberg, A. B. (2016) The overview effect: Awe and self-transcendent experience in space flight. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 3(1), 1. [16] Warwick, K., Hendriks, A., Armstrong,



DR SARAH JANE PELL Sarah Jane Pell, Ph.D. is an Australia

Lab (RMIT), International Space

Council Fellow (Emerging &

University, Singularity University,

Experimental Arts), TED Fellow (US),

Atlantica Expeditions, Project PoSSUM

Simulation Astronaut (EU) and Artist-

and Project Moonwalk. Novel experi-

Astronaut Candidate (US) Her practice

ments, prototypes, live art events,

marries Aesthetics with Astronautics,

films, publications, exhibitions, new

Occupational Diving, HCI Design,

business, policies and curiosities

Biotechnology, Body Performance


and Exploration. She engages art and performance practices to disrupt thinking on the kinds of high-risk domains that can be innovated on. Project Partners have included: NASA, European Space Agency (ETTAS), SymbioticA (UWA), Exertion Games


Moving with My Na


Painting of Jade Dewi and Jaia Dewi - Image Credit: Kyra Henley 2015



WI TYAS TUNGGAL Opening Dancing has a sense of searching; for belonging, for transcendence, for centring, for meaning and connection. To touch and be touched through an encounter with the world of land, sea, sky and cosmos. Observing the precious value of water in relation to environments, bodies, languages and gravity, I am mindful of the ebb and flow of my respiration and reflect on the powerful paths of least resistance. Dance as an art-life practice occupies my moving cultural body. Daily explorations of embodied and self-spirituality brings me closeness, participation and relatedness. Seeking to understand balance in personal and communal


life, I use the living measurements of my breathing body to calibrate spaces between myself, place and other. Sensing the survival of my spirit, I notice qualities of mind and find touching connections with the roots and roof of my ancestry. My imagination can play with symbols, myths and metaphors of my felt living and enliven sensory intuitive experiences as foundations for authentic storytelling. Perceptions of energy, water and gravity in Hindu and Buddhist dharma life values, Indigenous Australian Dreaming beliefs, esoteric Javanese spirituality and progressive somatic scientific research (including neurology, cognitive psychiatry, biochemistry,


genetics and quantum physics

presence. Imagination in movement

inform my creativity. Universal ideas

becomes a source of spiritual transfor-

surrounding immense energetic

mation and development.

networks of inter-connectivity support my research in self determination,

Dance is a way in which the Javanese

agency and presence. Concentrating

contrive to lodge powerful feelings to

on the interdependence of myself with

identify with their past and its heroes.

others and place inspires a freedom

From my experience of studying

to listen, respect and interact across

Classical Javanese dance in Yogyakarta,

different cultural beliefs and psycho-

I have an appreciation for the role that

logical languages.

dances and dancing play as devices for educating the Javanese in the proper

Head Centre Allows Space

conduct for a ceremonial life.

Mind knows intellect and reason

My father is a direct descendant

emerge from movement, then become

of Kangjeng Sultan Hamengku

conditioned and nurtured by movement.

Buwana, the first Javanese Sultan of

Slow time intimacy with felt senses

Yogyakarta, and I feel a great affinity

can open awareness of living cellular

with Javanese spirituality (Kejawen


Kebatinan). I am fascinated by, and

the entire world, both seen and unseen,

draw resonant inspiration from, the

both felt and beyond our normal senses.

Gamelan Karawetan (gong orchestras), Wayang Kulit (puppet shadow theatre),

The Indonesian art critic Atmadibrata

Jamu (herbal medicine), Keris offerings

characterizes the function of Javanese

(mystic daggers), Penchat Silat (martial

dance as a way of learning relations

arts), Seni Tari (art dance) and Java

with the cosmos, ‘The dance developed

Candi (sacred stone architecture). I

in order to unite oneself with the hidden

have greatest respect for the power of

forces which control human beings and

Gunung Merapi (fire mountain), one of

their environment.’[1]

the youngest and most active volcanoes in Indonesia! There is also significant

In my dancing, I experiment with

energetic power at Parangtrirtis Pantai

an ancient way of seeing; where

(Beach) where the queen of the south

everything has soul and valuable inter-

sea lives and devours lost fishermen and relations. Researching the possibility sailors.

of microscopic cellular human systems having interlocking connections with

When we are opened to the energy

the ecosystems, weather systems and

source we can borrow energy. The

then further into the galactic universe

energy is borrowed and not taken.

intrigues and moves my cultural body.

This is an important way of being, because taking without giving creates

Perceiving the physical boundaries of

an imbalance. It is more in balance with

self through an exploration of my own

nature to borrow, because borrowing

skin as a meeting place with the world

creates a natural cycle. The process

through touch, I focus on breathing

of giving and receiving, is applied not

and the sensitivity of my skin whilst

only in meditation but also in traditional

dancing. I am forever learning more

healing, honouring of ancestors, the

about how to balance openness to

relationship between people and nature

the world and the world’s ability to

and importantly in artistic expression.

consume me when I am unconsciously

It is a way of relating to all things, to

open to it.


A dancer performs with open hands, her palms faced toward her - Photo Credit: Heidrun Lohr 2013

A Javanese expression for the mental

significant to the Yolgnu Morning Star

state of a dancer is, ‘kothong nanging

song-line. Listening and learning from

kebak’, empty yet full.

the landscape and custodians of that heavenly saltwater/freshwater place,

Heart Yields Personal Essence

I observed being in a living creation story. Its shape-shifting characters and

Opening the heart centre to the world

narratives reflected the bright constel-

and finding compassion, we can sense

lations dancing across the dark sky in

the environment through grounding

the symbolically rich waters. Dancing

awareness, connecting to breathing and

the rhythmic movements of seagull,

being conscious of intimate initiations of

star, spirit, little bat and brolga on the

personal movement.

soft white sand was like floating in golden stardust. The vivid intensities

Several years ago, my contribution in

of that place are a different reality

a performance project with Mirramu,

from living in regional NSW. The strong

Kiryuho and Bangarra dancers opened

kinship laws, respect for elders and

my experience of space as conscious-

family/community ethics reminded me

ness and all time living. We camped

of being in Java.

on the Yirrkala Rangi, a sacred beach



I have been adopted by the Marika family and my skin group is Galikali and clan Rirratjingu. My given name is Murukun. Meaning morning glory flower, I initially identified with this plant as a noxious weed, often banished during local Coastcare gatherings. Questions revealed the purple flower to be significant in the Morning Star ceremony as it blossoms with the morning light and recalls connections with Asian ancestral spirits. Murukun symbolizes listening to the land as the plant’s green vines hold the sand dunes together. I feel the heartache of the Yirrijta and Dhuwa custodians as their land and waters have been ravaged and poisoned


by bauxite mining. Many sicknesses

environment and become attentive to

initiated by colonial governance

the elemental influences of the resting

continue to cause untimely death and

spirit ancestors.

destruction. The Yulngu continue with great heart to sing, dance and paint

The experiential circular time of

the patterns of environmental and

oral culture has the same shape as

cultural regeneration. The community

perceivable space. Time is experienced

is grieving and lamenting for the health

as the succession of seasons, the

and security of their sacred land, with

rotation of crops and migration of

so much sorry business to attend to.

animals. Space too is known through

The notion of Aboriginal Dreamtime

circular trajectories that travel

is a time out of time, a time hidden

landscapes with wind directions,

beyond and within the manifestation

currents and tides, or in ceremonies as

of the land and its flora and fauna, the

the sung repetitions of place names.

earthly sleep, out of which the visible

Dawn and dusk frame my time on Earth

landscape continuously comes into

in sure cycles - earth orbiting sun and

presence. When walking and dancing

moon orbiting earth during days, nights

in familiar and new places, I endeavor

and years.

to tune into animate energies of the


I draw on social and ceremonial values of ‘dance as a cultural practice’ to unearth contemporary relevance for the traditional beliefs I embrace, to nurture experiencing truth and knowledge through perception. ‘Aboriginal peoples interpret awareness, or ‘mind’, not as a power that resides inside their heads, but rather a quality that they themselves are inside of, along with the other animals and the plants, the mountains and the cloud.’ [2] - David Abram These principles guide my consideration, embodied exploration, observation, recollection and realisation whilst immersed in creative processes - being in nature, in the dance studio and performing. Body mind spirit techniques give me the permission to play and dance a healing and empowering experience of ‘being’. Belly Supports Essential Self Visceral knowledge and wisdom from the belly centre. The body thorough dance is a place where visible and invisible entities weave physical with

A photo-collage of a dancer with a sheet of white plast

tic, performing ‘Mermaid Tears’, indoors and outdoors


spiritual expression. Spiritual qualities of joy, wonder, wisdom, love and deep contentedness within infinite space. As Human beings, we construct our moral identity by unifying our past, present and future. I am conscious of the journeys of my ancestors and their footprints on the planet. I feel the deep pain of loss and grieve for the health of our lands and oceans. I daily lament the declining quality of life of our ocean, rivers and other watery environments. I reflect on how there are similar conditions of the life of one persona and another with completely different cultural backgrounds. As despite these obvious differences certain aspects of emotions and spirit are the same. What is life? What is death? What is mourning and bereavement? My mother is seventh generation white Australian with Scottish, English and Viking blood lines. I was born in Awabakal country and now I live in Bundjalung country. I am most happy when exploring the places where the Australian land meets the South Pacific Ocean. I am fed by the elements that sustain these meeting places as


mother with father connecting spaces.

intense storms and flooding. Whilst I

The beach is charged with cleansing

endeavor to reuse and recycle when

energy that opens my heart to personal

possible, I have immense guilt about the

presence and respect for ancient air,

plastic bags, packaging and items we

stone and ash. The vibrations sweep


through my soul spirit and awaken every cell in my body mind. Water

New dance work floats on toxic tides

supports and nourishes me. I love

Previous choreography and

surfing the beach and point breaks,

performance works always include a

but of late my imagination of great

considered convergence of bodies,

white sharks has been keeping me out

space, materials, light, sound and

of deep water and instead playing in

audience. My most recent solo work,

the shore dumps with my daughter.

‘Mermaid Tears’, is a moving lament for

The environment is expansive and

the trillions of tonnes of plastic rubbish

embracing of a diversity of possibilities

destroying our oceans and waterways.

and perspectives. There is a quality

The work premiered at the 2016

of infinite source and returning to the

Artlands regional conference in Dubbo

essential elements of being.

NSW. I recently performed this work in schools and cultural museums in Bali

All my life I have walked along the

Indonesia. As an ongoing improvisation,

tide line and tide pools, of seemingly

I continue to challenge the personal

pristine beaches, searching for beautiful philosophy, heart yearning and draw on sea shells. Listening to the sound of the

the belly utterances I am writing about

sea echoing in the hollow of the shells,

in this article.

I felt their value and returned them to the beach. Over the years, I have

Floating on toxic tides, plastics quickly

developed the practice of carrying a

break apart despite taking hundreds

bucket to collect rubbish as I roam. In

of years to decompose. Large plastic

my lifetime, I have noticed remarkable

pieces, including bags and bottles, may

increases in small pieces of plastic

entangle or kill wildlife that consume

dotting the landscape, especially after

them but micro-plastics are insidious


pollutants for all living things.

self-concept that accepts fluid

‘Mermaid Tears’ integrates solo dancer

exchanges within a diversity of environ-

with plastic objects, music, audience

ments. Since touch unites my sensory

and the site of the storytelling. Whilst

and emotional feeling in a physical

searching for a place of belonging and

way, the details in what I see and hear

exploring the possibility of existing

resonate with my internal feelings. My

together, the dancer becomes aware

felt life is as though I am ‘in touch’ with

of an ever-present threat from the

the energy of the world. When I dance,

plastic objects and the changing

I feel most connected to everything

circumstances of the situation. The

in my internal and external life, to

performance is a cry for humanities loss

what can be seen and what is hidden.

of empathy for nature and our complex

Movement evokes a sense of mental,

attachment/addiction to consuming

physical, emotional and creative play


with the myths and metaphors of my life. Opening out towards the world and


returning into myself, I dance to feel my

Motivated by ecological and humani-

aqueous contact and connection with

tarian issues my performance making

the vast human narrative. •

practice situates my head, heart and belly centres in direct relationship


with nature. Experiencing a flow of

[1] Suryobrongto. The Classical Yogyanese

harmony and order inside my dancing

Dance. Yogyakarta: Lembaga Bahasa Nasional

(being), I also sense unknown forces,

Tjabang, 1970.

chaos and falling. Highlighting my interdependence with fragile ecosystems, I endeavor to appreciate and trust inter-subjective experiences as consciousness. Connection happens through yielding communication and sincere compassion. My shifting creative experience reflects a flexible

[2] Abram, David. The Spell of the Sensuous. New York: Vintage Books, Random House, 1996.



JADE DEWI TYAS TUNGGAL Jade Dewi Tyas Tunggal is a Javanese

sions, and intensive cultural exchanges

Australian dancer, choreographer and

in remote communities. Researching

teacher. Worldwide dance studies led

resonance, rhythm and tone in space,

to freelancing with diverse companies

movement, sound, touch and light, she

and unique artists. Inspired by travel,

endeavors to tell stories of isolated

architecture, film, music, choreo-

cultural bodies finding transformations

graphic and somatic practices Jade

with seen and unseen forces.

returned to Australia to achieve a Master of Choreography (High Distinction) from Victorian College of the Arts.Jade makes solo and ensemble performances during international choreographic,residencies, global inter-arts projects, dance company and tertiary dance commis-

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