Tiger Dublin Fringe is proud to be collaborating with SummerWorks Performance Festival (Toronto) with the support the Ireland Park Foundation in 2016 on TxD.
Forging connections between contemporary Irish and Canadian theatre makers, the international touring exchange brings Liz Peterson’s Summerworks hit Performance About a Woman to Dublin and Ruairí Donovan and Asaf Aharonson's Fringe sensation GHOSTS to Toronto in 2016. TxD enables artist mobility: introducing international artists to new cities, cultural landscapes and artistic ideas.
“It was a treat to see this bit of art brought over from Ireland so that we could see an exploration of queer performativity coming from the lens of their culture.” - Mooney on Theatre about GHOSTS at SummerWorks as part of TxD
Liz Peterson, Ruairí Donovan and Asaf Aharonson sat down to discuss their shows, TxD and much more in this fascinating conversation.
Ruairí: Describe your project in terms of central and peripheral topics. What’s in the middle of the work and what’s on the far edges?
Liz: This is an interesting question to me as I often struggle with wanting to be in dialogue with multiple ideas, both thematically and formally. I always start in this place with a lot of ideas and impulses that shoot off into many directions, trusting that as I keep working on it the connections will become clearer. So I’d say that my artistic project is centrally about transformation, transformation of an idea and then hopefully transformation of myself and maybe even the audience. Peripherally, my work is about mythology, identity, power, colonialism, desire. At least that’s what I’m thinking about these days.
Ruairí: This resonates with me - starting off I also have a lot of images or structures I want to investigate and then through making things start to crystalise down. It’s a trip! I would say that identity, desire and in a certain way colonialism are definitely present in our work or practice.
Liz: Ruairí and Asaf, you’ve been working on GHOSTS for a couple of years now. How would you describe the practice that you have together? Do you feel that you had to step much outside of your individual practices to meet each other in making something together? In GHOSTS I could see you working on macro and micro perspectives of certain themes; what would you say is central to the work you’ve made together and what is at the edges?
Ruairí: I would say that we started to ‘work’ together, by just going to the studio to spend time together in our working environment or to share practice.
Asaf: Intoitivly i think we had to came together to a knou grond of meking work wich is nat the fomiler thet we wood mike mork indevijoaky , but i gass its tro to eny kind of colaborechen . i think working with ru , i lornd to imejen and fantesis and then manifest samthing thes dreming in its bigest scil and nat siplifing things for canfort ,thes is hou we fund the work with the wood for exsampel .
Ruairí: As a couple we were interested in spending time together in an artistic frame. I would say our practice is to bring the private aspects of our relationship as a couple into the public sphere. To employ artistic practices to our relationship and our relationship practices to our art. For me collaborating with Asaf meant I had to step out of my comfort zone, but not out of my practice, I think we tried to stay in our individual practices but to instead consider how best to open them up to each other and let the other play inside them. Asaf opened a lot of great dancing and choreographic modes to me.
Ruairí and Asaf: Central themes in the work are indecency and desire, and the iresh lwo on the mater. Qweer nacher profermativity or the nicher and caacher devid. Censorship of queer or LGBT bodies. The Marriage Equality Referendum in Ireland. For sam risen i wood olso see thet the perefary or the edes are rileted to plices thet we work on it sepertly, like the praktis of transleting the pice into a sort poem notbook , or rus exsperementing with the swond of flawers , and awer jorni and work in kalifornia , it felt like of sites wer we viset in order to inrich the woork but meby nat direkly working “on” it.
Ruairi: Liz, what do you think the contemporary dance scene is busy dealing with at the moment in Toronto?
Liz: As someone that is only an honorary member of the Toronto dance scene, i.e. no formal dance training but often invited to appear in a dance context, I feel that I should qualify my response here with an acknowledgement that I have limited knowledge of the history of what contemporary dance in Toronto has dealt with in the past…I see dance artists in Toronto dealing with many things, but primarily I see dancers/choreographers examining the processes by which dance is made and how the form itself is valued. Hierarchical structures inherent in art making are being looked at through different lenses, autobiography, authorship, collaborative performance making. And then I see the crossing of disciplines, which is where I think I have found my moment in the sun with the Toronto dance scene. Compared to theatre, independent dance is underfunded in Toronto, but currently there seems to be a renewed interest from larger institutions. Art galleries in particular are looking to dance artists to activate their spaces which is interesting to experience but this is something that I also hear being questioned. Is dance being borrowed to make other art forms more relevant/lively? And if so, what does that mean for the economies of art making in general?
Ruairí: I think this is a really important moment for dance as a discipline, we are also dealing with similar structures and questions in Europe and maybe to a certain extent in Ireland but definitely in Berlin - what does it mean for dance to be installed in the gallery, what happens when fine art or academic institutions start to write the history/language/documentation of dance and live embodied performance?
Liz: GHOSTS dealt quite directly with legislations in Ireland around sexuality. Is there a community of Irish performance makers that you are in dialogue with, either thematically or formally? In GHOSTS you engaged the audience in certain tasks and at times put the audience front and centre. Why is it important to you that the audience be a part of the performance?
Ruairí: I would say that I definitely feel a kinship with Irish performance makers who are politically engaged and also directly dealing with form and the expansion or progression of the discipline through experimentation. Irish work has been very narratively driven and I think there is a small community who are working through, alongside or against that to do something different with dance and theatre. Also I would say that we began to make GHOSTS before the marriage equality referendum started in Ireland but that a lot of artists became engaged and responsive to that movement and I would say the work was in a dialogue with that move towards social and legislative change but also critical of some of the normalisation of Queer Relation that it brought about, and a lot of that great momentum that is being carried forward into the Repeal the 8th campaign.
Asaf: Abut the ingejmant with the odiens , il start with seeing thet both me and ruairi are intrestid in work thet is involving the odiens in awer on practis for a wile , so its a cuntenuing practis , and a politikol estetiks thet consists thro awot awer difrent works . in ghosts spesifikly , i fil thet awer ingejmen and inveteshens are sorsd from a wonting of breking the tenshen of the work, in a pice thet is diling qweet alot with the rileshenship of the capel of stige , the inviteshens are eimd to constantly pancher the potenshel of thes pich to by hermetik and introvorted . in a difrent level the inviteshen are olso creting a sfir of tenshen and risk , oltho the work with the odiens is nat poshi or preshrei or provokativ in a agresiv wey , its is still ekshens thet rikwesting to goo thro a leyer of intemasi with us on stige.
Ruairí: How would you describe your work to a stranger in a bar?
Liz: Generally I tend to describe myself as an actor with a practice of inter-disciplinary performance making. I work alone and in collaboration. Collaborative work is most often with visual artists and dance artists. I’ve presented work in theatres, in art galleries, at comedy nights, and in dance series. Whether I’m working alone or in collaboration I’m always looking to see what I’m in relationship to and respond to it. I find it’s a good tool for staying present. I’ll be honest here, if I had a pint in my hand I’d probably just make a joke about theatre being dead and be done with it!
So I have lots of projections about the differences/similarities betweens Irish and Canadian audiences and cultural landscapes. But I haven’t yet been to Dublin so it’s all conjecture at this point. What was your experience of performing GHOSTS here in Toronto? Did you also have projections about what audiences would be like in Toronto versus Irish audiences? Was the experience very different to those projections?
Ruairí: I’d love to hear some of your projections before arriving in Dublin, I wonder if they are close to what you will meet in the Irish audience. The experience of performing GHOSTS in Toronto was such an amazing one, it was really a fantastic opportunity for us as we have never presented in Canada before. We have performed the piece in the USA and If I am honest I thought that the Torontonian audience would be similar to the SF or Portland folks we met, there were some common feelings in that the audience was receptive and seemed comfortable with the style or format of the piece, but I would say the Canadian audience were less eager to be entertained and maybe more eager to be provoked or challenged. I think the experience of presenting this work outside of Ireland is really different as it becomes more reflective of a foreign situation as opposed to critical of a system in which the audience are more directly participating in. So showing it abroad always comes with a certain distance, conceptually for the audience which we have to bridge.
Performance About a Woman opens at Bewley's Cafe Theatre @ Powerscourt on 20 September. Buy tickets here.