University of Exeter Artist in Residence - Jane Mason1 Oct 2015 – 31 Jul 2016
Artist in residence, University of Exeter, 2015/16.
As part of the Exeter Enquires Project, performance-maker and choreorgrapherJane Mason undertook a residency at the University of Exeter with Dr Astrid Schrader, who works at the intersections of Science and Technology Studies (STS), Human-Animal Studies and Feminist and Poststructuralist Theories.
The residency culminated in two events, The Sharing - comprising performance, video, shared reflections and the opportunity for discussion, and a free workshop for people interested in movement and collaboration to physically explore a range of choreographic tasks that have arisen out of connections made during Jane's residency.
Jane's Personal Statement about her residency and collaboration with Dr Astrid Schrader,
"At the heart of all of my work is a fascination with the human body, its expressive capability for movement and the detail and significance of the small and slow.
As a dancer in my 40s placing my body directly within movement enquiries is hugely important. It’s where I keep confronting and considering why I move, the layers of information that arise mentally, emotionally and physically when I do, and how to continue to articulate and be in dialogue with these processes as my body changes and time passes.
The Exeter Enquires residencies are designed to support and develop interdisciplinary collaborations between academics and artists. I approached Dr Astrid Schrader, who works in Science and Technology Studies (STS) to collaborate with me following a recommendation and introduction by Paula Crutchlow. Astrid has written about scientific explorations of marine microbes (especially dinoflagellates), their harmfulness, ecological significance and how they may unsettle relationships between life and death. In addition, Astrid has explored notions of care, vulnerability, time, and uncertainty in knowledge production. I felt a strong connection with these themes, sensing an affinity with my own work and ongoing thoughts around creativity that can be hard to define, pin down or fully grasp intellectually. In a recent conversation with Deborah Robinson in the studio, we talked about relationships between lostness, uncertainty, creativity and the unexpected, and how it might be possible to explore these themes in writing, as these seemed to describe spaces that I am making available when moving.
This residency working with Astrid has been for me about carefully evolving our conversations and drawing on ideas within her research as departure points to respond to creatively. I’ve often needed to simplify bigger arcs of thought, sometimes dancing with just one word in mind, but it’s largely reflecting on the process itself that has been interesting for us both. Astrid has suggested reflecting upon and documenting the process of our transdisciplinary conversations that involves connections and disconnections as a way to orientate ourselves.
Something that roots our collaboration in a more concrete way is the dinopet. We ordered living dinoflagelattes, with their required nutrients, and an aquarium container that resembles a dinosaur from California. While similar to the critters that Astrid has written about these dinos are special, they follow a circadian rhythm/light cycle photosynthesizing during the day and bioluminating at night when disturbed or interacted with. We each have some at home in a mini aquarium that we are looking after. Astrid has written about scientific responsibility in relation to these microbes, for me there is something about the process of caring for the living creatures, keeping them alive in quite a non-scientific way that relates directly to the themes of care and time that both of us are dealing with in very different ways. It also makes me think about memory, history and other ways of sensing that connect to ideas of presence and embodiment when dancing.
I’m particularly interested in the spaces between things, in the porous relationship between thought and feeling that can be difficult to speak about when moving. When I’m dancing, I’m thinking about an articulation of physicality that relates to intention. When improvising, in real time composition, I have a heightened awareness of the multiple choices I’m making but I don’t fully understand what is guiding my decisions; rather I explore for how long I can stay in unknown places, maintaining a tension between research or experiment and craft. In our particular artistic/academic relationship we are trying to observe how our modes of communication shift and alter when translating ideas into the physical and non-verbal."
Events Inspired by Jane's Residency with Dr Astrid Schrader were:
The Sharing included vignettes of choreographic materials, some video of the dinos, and reflection on how two non-specialists have connected through the process of keeping them alive. This was followed by a live conversation facilitated by an invited guest. The event was not about presenting finished work rather an opportunity to open out the process and engage in a wider discussion around collaboration and the nature of process with the audience.
The workshop was an opportunity for people interested in movement and collaboration to physically explore a range of choreographic tasks that arose out of connections made during the process. Together participants worked in response to ideas of weight, repetition, continuity, rupture and gravity, within a wider context that considered how we think about and what it means for us to care.
The workshop was facilitated by Jane Mason.
More about the artistJane Mason - www.jane-mason.co.uk is a performance-maker creating choreographic works (Life Forces, Come on Sun, The Brow, Singer) and films (ANDOUT, Hard Told, The Pleasure of Gliding). She collaborates in devised theatre contexts with various companies (Lone Twin, Blind Ditch, National Theatre of Scotland) and is a long time collaborator with Quarantine most recently on: SUMMER. AUTUMN. WINTER. SPRING. and also Wallflower which presents in Dance Umbrella and Juncture 2016 festivals.
She facilitates participatory projects in community/educational settings, including A Dance at Home; four performances in people’s homes created with the homeowners for Dance 4’s Nottdance 2015. Most recently Here with You, a performance for 114 primary school children and REST YOUR HEAD, a film project with over 60s dance company Sapta.
Jane worked with Paul Russ and the dance4 staff team on a novel staff development project in Autumn 2016.
Jane Mason is a resident artist at Kaleider.
Acknowledgements to people who contributed to Jane's process at the University of Exeter:
Kelly Miller, Paula Crutchlow, Deborah Robinson, Fiona Millward, Aaron Scott and Chris Garbett from the Biosciences department, University of Exeter, Prof Manuela Barretto, Prof Susan Banducci, Dr Cathy Turner, Naome Glanville and Kaleider.Special thanks to Stephen Hodge and Jon Primrose in the Drama department.
Jane's residency and the associated events are supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.