In a previous post we featured our costume designers Sandra and Carolina and how their work has been part of the creative process of Unearthed. For today’s post we feature some beautiful sketches of their ideas for the performers.
Unearthed is driven by the desire to connect, share, build and strengthen – individual artists, companies, countries, praxis and art philosophies – and to encourage mutual growth through the collaborative process that is in the heart of the project. It is our belief that the spirit of the shared experience is integral to an arts practice and context; thus, in this collaborative project, learning will take place through a process of sharing and through three main project areas:
1. Artistic Research & Development
- Artistic Skills Exchange
- Creation of cross-disciplinary work
- Introduction of new theatre and performing art forms to practitioners and audiences
2. Education & Training
- Inter-Cultural Learning
- Support of emerging and established artists in the development of their practice
- Audience Development & Audience Engagement
- A programme of lectures with a focus on introducing new art forms and approaches to arts management
3. Health & Wellbeing
- A programme of workshops & lectures with a focus on introducing somatic and movement therapeutic training to professional and non-professional artists
Sanjana Hattotuwa interviewed Ruhanie Perera, Artistic Director of Floating Space about Unearthed. The interview covers several topics including what has inspired the creation of the piece, what it means to create a site specific piece in Sri Lanka and collaborating with Sally E. Dean.
Original post and an overview of the interview is available on Groundviews.
Photograph by Shehal Joseph
Unearthed was awarded an ‘Artists International Development’ grant, jointly funded by Arts Council England and British Council. Unearthed was one out of only twenty-five project proposals to succeed the applicant process, which attracted a total of 291 applications.
In addition to both companies investing into the project from our own resources, we also launched a campaign on Kickstarter to raise funds. This is first time a Sri Lankan theatre company successfully raised money on Kickstarter. Watch our Kickstarter video here. A list of all our generous individual backers who supported us through Kickstarter is available on our main websites – Floating Space and Sally E. Dean.
We spent several weeks looking for the perfect site to create and perform Unearthed and we were extremely lucky to have had Hiranthi Amarasekera donate her lovely house in Pita Kotte to us for three weeks to create and perform Unearthed. The house – the rooms, it’s furniture, the objects has inspired and shaped the performance and came complete with an adorable Labrador, Ranger, who unfortunately could not be incorporated into the performance!
Several workshops, including a 10 day Skinner Releasing Technique intensive and ‘The Art’s Manager’s Starter Kit’ lecture were conducted under the Unearthed project. The Nelung Arts Centre, Colombo supported us by providing studio space for SRT intensive while the Goethe-Institut, Colombo generously gave us their space for the lecture.
Fund raising for the arts in Sri Lanka is no easy task and sometimes most impossible. We are extremely lucky to have these generous organisations and individuals not only in Sri Lanka, but also the UK, the US and several other countries who believed in the potential of Unearthed and came forward to support it.
The Unearthed cast consists of Jake Oorloff, Venuri Perera, Tracy Jayasinghe, Sulakshani Perera and Prasanna Mahagamage.
Jake Oorloff – It’s been an interesting exercise in finding common ground between Sally’s movement based approach to performance, and my own interest in text based performance. The process of collaborating with another artist to find a common language can be challenging; it forces one to question, re-examine, defend, and assent to co-create .The result is a deeper understanding of one’s own work and appreciation of the other’s.
Venuri Perera – Unearthed to me is finding different ways of relating to the space, objects in the space, and bodies in the space while exploring the layers of these relationships; the intimate, the mundane, the violence through body, memory and text.
Tracy Jayasinghe– Unearthed has been an interesting and challenging process to be a part of. As performers you always look to venture into different forms of the art and constantly learn and be challenged by the unfamiliar. This project has offered me a place for exactly that. I realized how complacent i had become in text based work that the element of movement had suffered through the years. It was refreshing to revisit, familiarising myself with my body as well broadening and discovering the scope of movement within myself, through Sally and Ruhanie’s process.
Prasanna Mahagamage– While working with objects in the space and objects we encounter in our day to day lives has been an interesting experience, for me the highlight of the creation process of Unearthed has been exploring my own body through the movement and working with the other performers who all come from different creative backgrounds.
Sulakshani Perera– This has been an opportunity to explore a different type of theatre, one that incorporates movement in order to tell a story in an absurdist light interspersed with mundane. I also feel that the nature of Unearthed will encourage the Sri Lankan theatre community to look beyond the boundaries and venture into new territory. The text used as the centre point for Unearthed – 21 love poems by Adrienne Rich – also drew me to project. Although in essence it’s a string of poems about love and intimacy, I find it fascinating that Rich has managed to incorporate political ideology and violence into her writings.
Photograph by Shehal Joseph
“It isn’t that to have an honourable relationship with you, I have to understand everything, or tell you everything at once, or that I can know beforehand everything I need to tell you.”
“It means that most of the time I am eager, longing for the possibility of telling you. That these possibilities might seem frightening, but not destructive, to me. That I feel strong enough to hear your tentative and groping words. That we both know that we are trying, all the time, to extend the possibilities of truth between us.”
Adrienne Rich: ‘On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose’
How do we come to terms with the stories we encounter in our lives?
Our own, or those shared with us?
What do we find? Where do we find them?
What are our personal stories around lies, secrets and silence and how can we share them – through words, through gestures, through movements – with and without words?
As much as the site has played a significant role in shaping and influencing Unearthed, the prose and poetry of Adrienne Rich – one of America’s foremost public intellectuals, who died in Spring 2012 – has been a major stimulus throughout the creation of Unearthed. In particular, Rich’s ‘On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose’ (1966-1978) and ‘Twenty-one Love Poems’ (1977) lent themselves to the themes that are explored in Unearthed.
Ruhanie Perera, Artistic Director of Floating Space says “Unearthed draws on the idea of lies, secrets and silence which will work as a thematic expression in the work – or even elements of the work. We’re also working with the idea of how to create a theatrical poem on stage.”
More on Adrienne Rich can be found on www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/adrienne-rich
Costumes are forming an integral part of Unearthed: rather than using costume as a decorative ‘add-on’ to performance, the work created by Unearthed Costume Designers Carolina Rieckhof and Sandra Arroniz Lacunza with the support of Marisa Gnanaraj, brings additional narrative meaning to the piece.
Carolina and Sandra have been working collaboratively with Sally E. Dean – one of the Unearthed Artistic Directors – over the past two years and since the three artists first met in London. For both Sandra and Carolina being part of Unearthed and working in Colombo and translating the concept of ‘Lies, Secrets and Silence’ into fabric was an intriguing prospect: “Coming to Colombo as part of Sally’s team was a response to the trust I have in Sally’s work and a natural continuation of our ongoing collaborative research into Somatic Movement and Costume”, says Carolina. “So far it has been a great process and we have been given the possibility to create various ideas in response to Unearthed and being in constant dialogue with the Artistic Directors about what works best for the themes we are working with.” For Sandra “travelling to different countries and working with local artists, understanding their ways of living, working and creating and interpreting this into my work is what I have always been interested in and really want to continue doing. I learned a lot from working with the Unearthed performers and Artistic Directors.” For Carolina “working with our local peer Marisa Gnanaraj has been one of the most wonderful experiences in the process. I really like her work and admire what she’s doing. So it’s been great to share and learn from each other.”
Carolina Rieckhof is a sculptor and costume designer originally from Lima (Peru), currently based in London where she gained an MA in Costume Design for Performance from the London College of Fashion. In her work she explores the relationship between the body, costumes, sculpture, and space. Carolina’s work has been exhibited in Lima, London and Paris. More about her work on her blog – wwwcarolinarieckhof.blogspot.com
Sandra Arroniz Lacunza is a Spanish visual artist – based in Pamplona – who specialises in costume design. She is currently creating her own costume-based performance work. Sandra has gained an MA in Costume Design for Performance from the London College of Fashion and is currently finishing an MA in Investigation and Creation of Art at the University of the Basque Country (Spain). Her work is placed somewhere between art and costume and where the boundaries between sculpture and scenography diffuse. Most of Sandra’s work is conceived as a prolongation of the body and has an implicit action, transforming the costume itself, different perception of the self and the other, and the space surrounded. Sandra’s work responds to a specific time and space, as well as to particular feelings and sensations. More about Sandra’s work – www.sandraarroniz.com
Images from the Unearthed site in Kotte
Unearthed is a site-specific performance piece: a private home in Kotte is the venue for Unearthed. In Sri Lanka, the concept of creating site-specific performance – meaning creating work in dialogue with and response to a site (such as heritage sites, derelict buildings, nature, etc.) – has so far been fairly unexplored. For Ruhanie Perera, Creative Director of Floating Space, the concept of creating site-specific work and choosing an unusual site for Unearthed is “a risky but hugely exciting decision. We wish to de-centralise the presentation of our work in Colombo, reach out to new sites and invite our audience to literally come on a journey with us to explore unusual and new settings for theatre. Unearthed is of private and intimate nature and we feel strongly about reflecting this through the venue at the same time making the venue a part of our process and creating work in response to it.”
Co-Director Sally E. Dean’s strong background and expertise in making site-specific work has certainly played a key role in the creation process of Unearthed. Over the past decade, Sally has performed in settings such as church crypts, markets, a post-war junk museum, and gallery spaces.
The private home in Kotte has a story of its own: furniture from various decades, crockery, paintings, vases, collectibles from across the world and family photos fill the house with a story of its own. From very private to more public spaces within the home, each room and space lends a different frame and creates a different connection to the scenes of lies, secrets and silence of Unearthed. It’s that story carried by the house itself that spoke to Ruhanie & Sally when searching for the perfect site for Unearthed.
Unearthed Co-Directors Sally E. Dean and Ruhanie Perera share a vision for cross-cultural meetings through the arts but bring different backgrounds and methods to the creation of Unearthed. Whilst Floating Space has a tradition in naturalistic theatre, Sally E. Dean brings a background in Somatic Movement (a holistic approach to movement that aims to bridge the field of performance with the field of health and therapeutic practices) and Site-Specific creation to the process. The so far fairly unexplored concept of creating site-specific work in Sri Lanka – meaning to create performance in dialogue with and response to a site – was one of the key interests of collaboration for both artists.
Ruhanie Perera and Sally E. Dean first met in London in 2009. Inspired by each other’s performance work and the strong collaborative ethos of their work they began to take first steps of international collaboration – learning from each other’s strengths (movement and storytelling praxis) with the long-term goal of creating performance work together to present in Sri Lanka, the UK, and beyond. Unearthed marks the crucial next step in Ruhanie’s and Sally’s collaboration.