Returning to the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) on Saturday 23 January, Sugar Mountain features another cutting-edge program of music and visual art from Australia and beyond (Hot Chip and Courtney Barnett are headlining).
L’Officiel chats to Sydney-based choreographer Yahna Fookes and film director Martha Zakarya about their collaborative project, Intwo Pieces.
‘O- Talk us through your project Intwo Pieces …
Martha: Intwo Pieces is collaboration between contemporary dance, film and music in the form of a visual installation—film projections and two live performances by Sydney-based dancer, Kelsey Smith, throughout the day. It is a conceptual piece in which the different components respond to a specific mood/idea, and together create a visceral experience.
‘O- The work investigates long-term memory, how did you approach the subject? Are you looking at memory that is contained in the mind or a physical/body memory?
Yahna: On a basic level I started creating the movement by layering improvisation tasks based on Kelsey’s long-term experiences and events in order to trigger physical reaction. In the studio we would revisit these moments with new dialogue emerging. However after a few weeks the movement dialogue started to look the same, as if muscle memory had preceded the memory of events. The editing of the film will toy with these themes also.
‘O- Is the piece site specific to Sugar Mountain? What considerations did you have to take in to fit the piece into the context of a festival and also the space?
Martha: It was important to curate a like-minded team of creative contributors who understood our vision, the festival and what it represents on a larger scale. We have been lucky to work with the talents of Daze (music producer), Kelsey Smith (dancer), Sarah Starkey (stylist), Adric Watson (cinematographer) and James Eisen (artist). The purpose of our installation within the festival is to provide an alternative way of experiencing music by creating a space for respite and to reset.
‘O- Yahna —this is not the first time you have presented outside a conventional (indoor) stage setting, what did you learn from the performance at Rooftop?
Yahna: I have been into making site-specific works for sometime now but ‘Suspended’ was most definitely challenging, consuming all of 2013. On the second night it was forecast to rain with storms, typical Melbourne style. I spent the day stressing whether or not to postpone the show but we performed anyway and the rain accompanied with the texture of the weather brought the show to a whole other level.
‘O- How did you two meet and what pushed you to collaborate?
Martha: We met a couple of years ago at a house party. At the time Yahna was working on ‘Suspended’, a site-specific dance project and I was working at Collider, a film and design collective. I think our relationship developed organically due to the nature of both our work, and from having similar interests and taste across music, art, photography etc. This is our first project together and the timing was uncanny, Yahna called me one evening to propose a collaboration, a few hours after resigning from my full time job to focus on my own projects.
‘O- What qualities does the dancer Kelsey bring to the work?
Yahna: For only recently graduating from arts school Kelsey shows maturity beyond her years particularly in the studio. It’s really refreshing to work with someone who has yet to develop her ‘voice’ and is unattached, open and receptive to new influences.
She is a really natural mover and can access the real subtly when expressing herself, a rare quality. It is this movement quality that summoned the whole mood of the work really.
‘O- You both have an interest or engage in fashion, please tell us more about this….
Yahna: Yes we have both dabbled and collaborated with designers. For me costume is super important and informs the movement of a work.
‘O- What challenges/concerns did you have in capturing a dance performance on film?
Martha: Casting and performance was the first challenge— to find a dancer who could communicate emotion through a subtle performance, on top of being technically flawless —we fell in love with Kelsey and she brought our vision to life. Finding a balance between choreography and film was another challenge, Yahna wanted to create choreography that was more introverted, and I wanted to create a film that explored the subtleties and sensibilities of the concept, mood and performance.
‘O- What acts are you hoping to catch at Sugar Mountain?
Yahna: This years line up is quite a treat. Nonotak, Fuse and Daniel Askill who I believe are all creating sensory/ multimedia works – excite us. Florian Kupfer from Germany is Djing, his sets are seriously mind altering.
‘O- Where can we see more of your work?
Photography by Natalia Parsonson