ARTISTS REACH OUT: REFLECTIONS IN A TIME OF ISOLATION
Senior Curatorial Director Eva Yaa Asantewaa dreamed this series of interviews, Artists Reach Out: reflections in a time of isolation, out of grief for her work both as a documenting arts writer and curator of live performance.
“In this time of social distancing, we are called to responsibly do all we can to safeguard ourselves and our neighbors. It is, literally, a matter of life and death.
But there’s no distancing around what we still can share with one another—our experiences, thoughts, wisdom, humor, hearts and spirit. In some ways, there are more opportunities to do so as we pull back from everyday busyness out in the world and have time to honor the call of our inner lives.
So, let me introduce you to some artists I find interesting. I’m glad they’re part of our beautiful community, and I’m eager to engage with them again (or for the first time) in years to come.” – Eva Yaa Asantewaa, Senior Curatorial Director
This interview features Julie Mayo, choreographer, performer, and 2020 Gibney Dance in Process (DiP) Resident Artist.
Julie Mayo is a choreographer and performer in New York whose work has been called “associative, sometimes absurd,” by The New Yorker. Making dances that foreground performance as content and resist easy description of lived experience Mayo’s work has been presented in New York by Gibney, The Chocolate Factory, The Kitchen, Movement Research at the Judson Church, Brooklyn Studios for Dance, JACK and Dixon Place and nationally by Highways in Los Angeles, Columbus Dance Theater (OH) Firehouse Theater and art6 in Richmond (VA), and NOHspace and Dance Mission in San Francisco. Mayo is a 2019-2020 Dance in Process (DiP) Residency at Gibney, was a 2017-2018 Movement Research Artist-in-Residence, a 2014-2015 New York Live Arts Fresh Tracks artist, and is the recipient of previous residencies at UCross Foundation, Djerassi, Yaddo, Mount Tremper Arts, Snug Harbor Cultural Center and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. Julie currently teaches through Movement Research and has taught at colleges and universities including University of Wisconsin/Madison, Dickinson College, University of Nebraska, Wilson College, Ohio University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Broward Community College, as well as many community venues including Gibney and classclassclass. juliemayo.com
Do you have a current or planned project whose progress is affected by the pandemic?
Yes. I have been working on a new evening-length performance called Tender Anxious Itch that began with a residency last summer with Ursula Eagly, Doug LeCours, Eleanor Smith and Jessie Young at Snug Harbor on Staten Island. I am a current Dance in Process (DiP) artist scheduled to be at Gibney for three weeks in June with the premiere of this new work slated for mid-September at Target Margin Theater in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Additionally, I was supposed to be at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, right now for their Spring Studio Series. A few of us were going to be performing, teaching, and sharing our various practices. Alternatively, we had an online discussion about a work I shared via video and the faculty will share this with their students.
Briefly, tell me about how you got involved in the arts and in your particular practice.
I took and loved jazz dance classes at a Cleveland studio while in high school. During my first year attending Ohio University I changed my major from Psychology to Dance. It was there that I met Stephanie Skura who came for a short guest artist residency and was teaching Skinner Releasing Technique. The imaginative element and poetics of this pedagogy struck a chord with me unlike any other dance training I had been doing. It opened a pathway to my dance-making alongside the composition classes I was taking in school. I continued to practice Skinner Releasing and, in 2004, did the teacher training and it has remained a foundational practice for me. It opens up so much. I’ve been influenced by many teachers and makers over the years, most recently I have studied with Deborah Hay and have found a lot of compatibility with the kinds of questions she puts into practice.
In a more specific way, what are you practicing? And what are you envisioning?
I’ve been editing videos of my work, both new material and older pieces and sharing some of these. Miraculously, my knees have allowed me to go jogging outside which I haven’t been able to do for years. This a lifesaver right now—have to get the yah-yahs out. Hope it continues! I’ve started Camus’ The Plague. I’ve been drawing some and cooking a lot. I like to think of the extra time I have for making food as a step towards me and my husband’s dream of opening a cafe that offers coffee/espresso, some small bites, and sells records. In a small town.
What I’m visualizing has shrunken, though not in a bad way. It reminds me of the cinematic “iris in/out” that looks like a camera eye opening and closing. It’s like my/our world is temporarily smaller, and in many ways it literally is. Though I’ve had more of a hummingbird rhythm since we went into “Pause In the City,” I can feel a slowing down coming, a deepening, and I know that smaller space/time can be rich. It’s akin to “being in the zone.” I hope that’s where it’s headed, at least for some of the time.
How does your practice and your visioning align with what you most care about?
In addition to caring for those I love and a vigilance regarding my own benevolent-o’meter, not unrelated, is my belief in living my life through a “lens of art.” What I mean by this is finding ways to continue cultivating the apparatus of perception, because in one sense, that’s all there is. It doesn’t need to be formal or on a stage (though it’s good when it can be as then it is shared). I find this to be rigorous work, both in conjuring and in letting go and I find that it’s worth it.
How does your practice function within the world we have now?
My work is predicated on “not knowing,” ambiguity, shifting landscapes, mutability of movement and voice/sound and a kind of alongside-one-another-ness ethos. I’m going to go ahead and say that all of these things are underway in our world in a really macro way right now. They were before as well, but now they are coming in naked and undisguised. The current moment is a chorus of sirens and it needs all of us to keep its pulse moving. Not sure if this describes how my practice functions right now, rather how my practice continues to be constituted by the world(s) we live in. Inside and outside and the boundaries that dissolve around these. I have read a lot recently about how artists are best prepared for these times. Certainly this is not true economically, but perhaps spiritually or psychically, given that many artists have practices that stem from engaging the unknown. I’m happy to be offering Releasing Technique classes to my community (near and far) this month on Mondays from 10-11 through Movement Research: a way to continue practicing together. The description and registration to join for free are here.
To read all of Eva Yaa Asantewaa’s Artists Reach Out interviews, visit infinitebody.blogspot.com.
Top photo by Ebru Yildiz.