Two young women dancing
Dance, Features, News, Performing arts

No ceilings for young dance makers

Two recent graduates of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts’ dance program, Briannah Davis and Olivia Hendry, are the artists behind new dance theatre collective Not Sold Separately.  Amy Wiseman chatted to the pair about their upcoming debut season “ceilings.”, and how they have navigated the transition from training to profession.

Two girls drinking tea
Olivia Hendry and Briannah Davis. Photo: Sarah Sim.

Amy Wiseman: Tell me about “ceilings.” and the two works you are presenting within this program.
Not Sold Separately: “Drug Aware presents: ceilings.” is a double bill encompassing two new dance works: Bloom, choreographed by Briannah Davis, and No Mandarin’s An Island, choreographed by Olivia Hendry.

We have joined forces as Not Sold Separately because we are interested in similar subject matter – expressing the female experience. We feel it is important, both for our own artistic careers and for those of our peers, to provide a platform for young female voices to tell their stories through multidisciplinary performance. Both works feature all-female casts of recent WAAPA graduates, along with collaborating composer Annika Moses.

Bloom (Davis) explores how we support those we are close to in times of need; falling apart and building each other back up again, influencing our personal growth.

No Mandarin’s An Island (Hendry) focuses on the “islands” or states of existence we inhabit, based on life’s experiences. Quirky, disarming and evocative, the work is jam packed with ideas exploring togetherness, isolation and how we choose to take up space.

AW: What made you decide to present your own independent season outside of the Fringe World umbrella?
NSS: Fringe is such a bustling time of year in Perth. We felt this work was at risk of being lost amongst the bombardment of material that is produced at that time. We are also both involved with another performance collective called SYNDICATE, that presented during Fringe, and we felt “ceilings.” deserved our undivided attention.

We saw an opportune space in the calendar for April, when we knew our voices would be heard, as well as allowing ourselves the appropriate amount of time to really refine our ideas and present them in a sophisticated way.

AW: What are some of the challenges you’ve come across as young emerging choreographers and producers? And any wins?
NSS: Our biggest challenges have arisen on the producing side of things, as opposed to choreographing. Basically, every choice we make and every obstacle that presents itself is one we have not faced before – so there is a learning opportunity around every corner. Perhaps the most startling challenge has been selling tickets and expanding our viewer demographic. We have amazing amounts of support behind us from connections made at WAAPA, but we are new to the broader independent performance community.

Our biggest win has been receiving a Drug Aware YCulture grant through Propel Youth Arts WA, which has definitely helped us to stay afloat and learn all the varying aspects of show-making as they occur.

AW: What would you say is the most difficult thing about the transition from student to professional?
OH: I think what’s most difficult is coordinating schedules. Once you leave the university bubble, you realise that not everyone exists in the same time frame as you used to, so getting a cohesive cast together and finding the (often unpaid) time to work on the project is a challenge. It takes a lot of sacrifice and forward thinking. But with experience and understanding it becomes more manageable.

BD: I think often the hardest part is believing in yourself. As a student, the professional world seems daunting and out of reach. However, anything can be achievable if you give yourself the chance to actually try it. I know I still have a long way to go but choreographing and producing our own show has given us so much insight into how much work goes on behind the scenes, and I know that learning these skills straight out of university will help me continue making and dancing into the future.

AW: What advice do you have for other aspiring choreographers and/or future graduates?
NSS: Just put yourself out there. There are so many artists who have come before you, who are incredibly generous with their time and want you to succeed – we have been blown away by the support we have received. You just have to be present, show your face and ask. Take risks worth taking, take matters into your own hands, and know that right now is your time to learn and grow – so use it wisely.

ceilings. plays Studio C5, Huzzard Studios April 4-6.

Pictured top: Olivia Hendry and Briannah Davis. Photo: Sarah Sim.

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fabric draped through a tree with woman alongside
April 19, Calendar, Dance, Performing arts

Dance: Drug Aware presents: ceilings.

4 – 6 April @ Studio C5, Huzzard Studios ·
Presented by Not Sold Separately ·

ceilings. is a double bill program, consisting of ‘Bloom’ and ‘No Mandarin’s An Island’ – two new dance works by Briannah Davis and Olivia Hendry of Not Sold Separately. This production explores relevant and universal concepts through hilariously poignant dance theatre that is bursting with power, vulnerability and feminine energy. Set to original sound by Annika Moses, prepare to be moved.

Proudly sponsored by Healthway, promoting the Drug Aware message and Propel Youth Arts WA.

More info
W: www.trybooking.com/BBHZK
E:  notsoldseparatelytheatre@gmail.com

Pictured: ceilings, photo credit: Sarah Sim

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Artwork courtesy of Natsumi de Dianous. Work details: Slime fantasy grrl, 2018, Clay, acrylic, clear slime and temporary tattoo.
Comics, Features, Film, Installation, Mixed media, News, Sculpture, Visual arts

Recasting the Manic Pixie Dream Girl

We all know the Manic Pixie Dream Girl of the contemporary romantic film. She’s that off-beat, mysterious one, that free thinker who enables the male hero to shake off the shackles of his dull, suburban life… and though she may seem carefree, she’s a problematic figure, defined and delineated by her relationship to a male protagonist.

In “Magical Woman”, an art exhibition curated by Aisyah Aaqil Sumito and Sophie Nixon, she’s being utilised differently, however. A platform for six emerging female and non-binary artists to explore representations of romance in film and popular culture, “Magical Woman” invites artists to use the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope as a starting point to produce a new body of work, while taking into consideration the intersections of racism, misogyny, queer exclusion and trans exclusion. Nina Levy spoke to Sumito and Nixon to find out more.

Nina Levy: I think most of us are familiar with the concept of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG) but can you talk about who the MPDG is and what she represents?

Sophie Nixon
Sophie Nixon

Sophie Nixon: The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a colourful and quirky character who exists to uplift, enrich and fulfil the

lives of white-male protagonists. Think of films like 500 days of Summer, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. If you pay enough attention you may catch these women encouraging the male protagonist to try new things and step outside of his comfort zone.

Manic Pixie Dream Girls are characterised as having bubbly and eclectic exteriors, often partnered with underlying poor mental health; this is often romanticised as being part of their “quirk” to add seeming depth, mystery and intrigue to the character – a plot device in the central character’s narrative.

Aisyah Aaqil Sumito
Aisyah Aaqil Sumito

Aisyah Aaqil Sumito: Referring back to what Sophie said about encouraging centralised male characters to “live”… these characters are infantilised by their inability to communicate their feelings, how they act, and what they enjoy – while simultaneously being granted the emotional capacity to teach these men how to live their lives (almost like mothering). It’s a harmful and unrealistic representation of women that is very ingrained in our ways of seeing things. In more simple terms, it affects the way that we interact, and the warped standards that women and non-binary folk hold ourselves to – even if we don’t fit into the mould of a trope that applies to a very specific demographic.

NL: What made you decide to take the Manic Pixie Dream Girl as the starting point for this exhibition?
AAS: “Magical Woman” began as a means to vent about frustrations and representations of women in media. Initially we were only planning to respond to Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope itself – a small, spunky project that we would use to rock the boat. The longer we looked for a venue, the more time I had to actually think about this particular trope and how transgressive critiquing it would actually be, and how beneficial it would be for the artists. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a trope that only applies to white cisgender women. With that considered, I wanted to encourage the artists to go a bit deeper than the trope itself, critically engaging with intersections of racism, misogyny, trans exclusion, and queer exclusion, regardless of what kind of work they decided they would make. For me it’s really important that it is distinguished as a starting point, and that our exhibition is a small contribution to an ever-expanding conversation.

NL: You’re co-curating “Magical Woman” – how did you meet? And what made you decide to work together?
AAS: Sophie and I met around February 2017, for an exhibition that I curated alongside Olivia Tartaglia at City Arts Space for Propel Youth Art’s 2017 KickstART Festival “KickstARTISTS: Symbiosis”. Beyond the work we do as artists and as curators, we are good friends. Working together to embody discussions we have on a regular basis, in the form of a curated exhibition, was really beneficial and a huge learning curve for both of us.

SN: Outside of “Magical Woman”, I’m working to complete my honours in Fine Art at Curtin University and hustling odd-jobs. As Aisyah mentioned, we met within the happenings of the “Symbiosis exhibition”. I was a participating artist in mentorship with Jess Day, and Aisyah was co-curator with Olivia Tartaglia in a skillshare/mentorship context. Shortly after that, I produced work for another show that Aisyah curated alongside Claire Bushby. I remember being so in awe (still am to be honest) of Aisyah, their dedication, professionalism and how they carried themselves as a curator. For both of us, this is  our first time curating independently (outside the program of a mentorship/institution). Knowing Aisyah and I were in this together made the process of applying for shows and grants so much easier, I don’t know if I would have had the same amount of courage, ambition and motivation if they weren’t there.

NL: You’re both emerging curators as well as visual artists… what draws you to curating? What are the challenges/rewards of being a curator?
AAS: My first curatorial project was “KickstARTISTS: Symbiosis”, since then I’ve curated “Borders and Transitions” (in mentorship with Claire Bushby) and “The Corsini Collection: Revisited” (in mentorship with Dunja Rmandić), all of which have been hugely rewarding learning experiences. Before I took on these projects, I was really interested in the role of the curator, and how that role fostered growth for emerging artists in a gallery context. It was something I started thinking about when I visited my first Paper Mountain exhibition “Stay/Keep” (2014), curated by Melissa McGrath.

I find working with artists, pushing their conceptual development, as well as their capacity to do and be better (despite inevitably recurring moments of doubt) incredibly rewarding. For the most part, balancing unpaid administrative labour within my curatorial practice, and setting my boundaries so that I don’t burn out from overwork, have been the most challenging aspects of curating. “Magical Woman” is the first show I have co-curated beyond a mentorship context, which is both nerve-wracking and exciting.

SN: During the last year (2016) of my Bachelor of Fine Art at Curtin, I was the student coordinator of the graduate showcase exhibition, which included organising several fundraising exhibitions. This experience gave me a taste for arts management and curating. After that I completed an internship at PSAS in Fremantle under the wing of their director Tom Mùller, which saw me curate an exhibition of their studio artists.

When it comes to the opening night I usually have this moment of stillness where I really take it in: reflecting on where it started and seeing a show in its resolution. It’s a very wholesome feeling. I think that’s what drives me to keep curating. One of the most challenging things about curating for me personally is managing my time between curatorial duties and honours research.

“Magical Woman” opens at Paper Mountain 7 September, exhibition 8-23 September. Magical Woman is supported by Healthway, promoting the Drug Aware Message and Propel Youth Arts WA.

Pictured top: Artwork courtesy of Natsumi de Dianous. Work details: “Slime fantasy grrl”, 2018, Clay, acrylic, clear slime and temporary tattoo.

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Artwork courtesy of Natsumi de Dianous. Work details: Slime fantasy grrl, 2018, Clay, acrylic, clear slime and temporary tattoo.
Calendar, Comics, Film, Installation, Mixed media, Sculpture, September 18, Visual arts

Visual arts: Magical Woman exhibition

7-23 September @ Paper Mountain ·
Presented by Drug Aware and Propel Youth Arts ·

Opening Night: Co-curators Nixon and Sumito invite everyone to come along to the official opening of Magical Woman, and to meet each of the talented artists amongst an energetic celebration of queer and women art in Perth. Opening night event will be held Friday 7 September 6-8pm in Paper Mountain’s main gallery.

Please RSVP for this event via eventbrite

Exhibition open to public: Saturday 8 – 23 September, 10am – 4pm Tuesday to Friday, and 11am – 4pm on weekends

Curator & Artist Talk: A Curator & Artist Talk event will be held in Paper Mountain’s main gallery Wednesday 12 September 6pm. Facilitated by Megan Hyde (Adjunct Teaching Fellow, Cultural Precinct, UWA) and Carly Lynch (Artist), this event will offer an in-depth view into the motivations of the artists and curators, and a reflection on the outcomes of the exhibition.

Please RSVP for this event via eventbrite

Magical Woman is a public art exhibition set to be displayed in the main gallery of Paper Mountain Artist-Run Initiative. It has been developed to provide a platform for six emerging women and non-binary artists to explore representations of romance in film and popular culture. Taking into consideration the intersections of racism, misogyny, queer exclusion and trans exclusion — artists have used the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope as a starting point to produce a new body of work.

Emerging artists, Amy McGivern, Astro Francis, Sam Huxtable, Shannon Marlborough, Natsumi de Dianous and Pip Lewi have worked closely with Sumito and Nixon. Producing work across a variety of mediums including: animation, comic art, video, installation, textile soft-sculpture and ceramics.

More info
W: aaqilsumito.com
E: aisyahsumito@gmail.com

Pictured: Artwork courtesy of Natsumi de Dianous. Work details: Slime fantasy grrl, 2018, Clay, acrylic, clear slime and temporary tattoo.

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Calendar, November, October, Photography, Visual arts

Photography: MOSAIC | 24 hours. Your camera. Our collective memory

26 October – 27 November @ Carillon City Shopping Centre ◆
Propel Youth Arts WA ◆

MOSAIC is a crowdsourcing photography project and free public exhibition, harnessing the potential of imagery to connect people, places and moments. Every photograph in MOSAIC reveals a personal story and a unique moment in time, forming a collective memory of our life and culture in WA.

On Saturday 23 September 2017, over three hundred Western Australians captured a single photo from their day as part of MOSAIC, a community photography project that captures 24-hours of life in WA. Every image submitted will be showcased in a breathtaking free public exhibition – located in a prominent shopfront near the Hay Street Mall entrance of Carillon City Shopping Centre, right in the middle of the Perth CBD – from Thursday 26 October until Monday 27 November.

Presented by Propel in partnership with the City of Perth, MOSAIC is a truly unique project that explores the collective memory of Western Australians. From Elizabeth Quay to Esperance, Applecross to Albany, each photograph tells an individual story about each of our participants, whilst forming a collective narrative about a day in WA.

MOSAIC 2017 is presented by Propel Youth Arts WA in partnership with the City of Perth, Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, Dexus, Carillon City, and the Telstra Perth Fashion Festival.

More info: www.propel.org.au/mosaic
Email: hello@propel.org.au

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