Thoughts on terminology

As an artist, I have adopted collaborative methodologies and worked in an interdisciplinary way within my practice for some years now. A recurring point which arises, predominantly when embarking of exploration with new collaborators or welcoming new participants into a process, is the terminology used surrounding the roles of the individuals involved. Language and the terminology we use can be problematic. Especially, some may say, during interdisciplinary exchange.

Today I am a performance artists. I am a mover. I trained as a dancer. I perform and make compositional choices. Sometimes I use my voice. I draw and make markings with materials other than my body. I inhabit performance space..

For over ten years, sound has had an equal footing to dance for me, and I was given the outlook that musicians are not there to ‘play for’ a dancer. The movement generated by a musician who is simply playing their instrument is also of great interest and carries much weight, so to see those individuals as merely sound makers or to hide them away to be heard but not seen doesn’t sit comfortably with me. I feel this mindset is a privileged, which I was given early on. I have my teachers and mentor to thank for that. Skip forwards ten or so years, and sound is pivotal to my work. The collaborative nature of the Rituals project, including the opportunity to work with composer and musician Paul Hornsby, was something which really appealed to me and I am excited to be involved.

When embarking on the Rituals research and development process, I felt comfortable that a number of the other artists have similar viewpoints to mine. Although what I was not expecting is the deep-rooted believe from others which is to the contrary. Their surprise and joy at a mentality and approach which is just second nature to me.

On the second day of working together in the studio, something said by Paul promoted me to voice my suggestion to use the term ‘performer’ instead of ‘musician’ or ‘dancer’ when talking amongst ourselves within the Rituals process. This is something I am striving to do across all my work although can admit it is occasionally a struggle (and at times counterproductive). The decision to negate differentiating between our most prominent discipline or training or varying skill sets is a conscious choice to approaching this collaboration in a unified way. If we can remove the labels that separate us, and subsequently the preconceptions those labels may carry, we can begin to view ourselves in a more open role of performer. It could provide greater space to cross over guidelines – whether those be self inflicted or imagined by others – and truly exchange in an interdisciplinary way, aid the avoidance of hierarchical structures, consciously seeing ourselves as one entity, whilst expanding the possibilities to each bring a wider knowledge.

Today we are six performers, and the development continues.


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