A storyteller, for SHORE


30 April, 2017 in Reports

Artist Emily Johnson caught up with YIRRAMBOI Creative Director and fellow artist Jacob Boehme to chat about the role of community in storytelling and the power of performance.

Emily, I’ve heard you talk about SHORE as every part being dance. How do work with movement throughout SHORE?

I have a very broad definition of what dance is; and that is that dance is our blood moving through our bodies, and our cells shifting stories that are stored in our bodies until they move out into the world. SHORE is a way that this definition of dance can be present in the world. I believe that dance is vital in the world and it can be a very active part of our communication. I wanted to create something where dance was present in many different places and atmospheres, with many different activities happening.

How does environment influence SHORE?

I always begin with my body as the thing that I create ideas and have ideas from. I think of how the work that I am making can be in conversation with place; with humans in that place, with other beings, with the ground, the trees, the sky, with people who stay there, and with people who come and go in that place. It’s always shifting and it requires a huge amount of listening. I think about creating the work from a conversation base; even if that conversation isn’t based on language.

I’ve heard you talk about the four parts of SHORE as being the whole, but there are different access points through which audiences can enter into the work, without having to follow the whole ten day journey. Can you elaborate on that?

Logistically SHORE is a complicated structure with many organisations, people and places involved. But it’s also very simple, as it’s about gathering together and getting to know each other and where we are in an intuitive way. At the beginning, SHORE is about listening to many people’s stories about connection or disconnection to place. Then we gather and do actual work in the world. By doing this, we are creating a positive effect in the world whilst at the same time learning something about that world. I want us all to bring something, give something, learn something or share something of ourselves in these moments. I host each of those moments so that something like that might continue to happen and where conversations and relationships might develop. I get the most joy when I see those connections happening. Something I am learning over a course of time is that it’s becoming more vital in our lives today to spend durational time together.

You speak about being a curator of conversations and I have heard you talk about the importance of language as well. Can you tell me about the importance of language?

When I speak about language being important, it’s partly language in terms of identity and in terms of knowing and self-defining who you are in what language. Language to me can be verbal or nonverbal. My work is not verbally based because I see and recognise the importance of modes of communication.

In terms of everything you have spoken of as a contemporary First Nations artist working with many different communities, does SHORE in its foundation have any cultural context?

Essentially SHORE is an extension of my growing up; specifically the gatherings around harvest that my family would do. My extended family across Alaska would gather at the beach to harvest our salmon. This was intense work but also so fun and joyous. It was such a part of the cycle of our summers and our lives and learning growing. As kids, we learned the process of putting up the fish over the course of years. As we worked, we also had the joy of being with cousins, aunts, uncles and grandmothers. As we were picking the nets and working on the fish cleaning hill there were always stories being shared. Family times as a kid, when you’re listening to these stories and hearing some of them over and over again, it makes you feel a part of something. Then of course, you are feasting and eating, while at the same time preparing feasting for your family for the future. To me SHORE is an iteration of all my listening to stories, working in the world, gathering together and feasting together. All of that to me is part of what makes performance. It’s the drama, the work, the story and it’s the sweat. It’s all of that.

The joy in your face after you recalled that story was magnificent. If that’s what is behind SHORE, then I so look forward to it. Thank you.


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