Saturday, 10 June 2017

In the Ink Dramaturgy: Luke Pell @ Leith Late

Immersive new performance makes space for Edinburgh's loves and losses
In the Ink Dark - A dance and a poem made from memory and from conversation

In the Ink Dark is a new intimate, participatory project from performance maker and choreographer Luke Pell and collaborators. Taking inspiration from a series of conversational encounters, this unique work will culminate in a live dance performance and publication and is accompanied by a series of podcasts.

This ambitious new production will be premiered on June 16th as part of LeithLate17 in the grand surroundings of the main auditorium of Leith Theatre. 

In the Ink Dark will then be performed at a series of special sites across Edinburgh including; McDonald Road Library, the Botanic Cottage at Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, Central Library and The Scottish Poetry Library.

In the Ink Dark
Luke Pell and collaborators
Leith Theatre 28 – 30 Ferry Road, EH6 4AE
Friday 16 June 7.30pm

In the Ink Dark collects and explores - people from Edinburgh’s - experiences of loss and landscape, memory and materiality through dance, design and poetry. Performed by an eclectic ensemble of dance and performance artists with an original sound score and performance design, In the Ink Dark creates a space to reflect, remember, imagine in honour of things loved and lost.

Speaking ahead of the launch Luke said: “I wanted to make something for the place I live and the people who live in it. A space to hear folks talk about what matters to them, the things they have loved and lost, to listen for the poetry in their words and to make something that could only be made by these stories coming together, to try to find words and dances for things we might not have words for.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

The project has grown out of an ongoing enquiry into how we might find language for loss, how we might re-imagine that or hold it differently, what might come from those moments we find ourselves In the Ink Dark.

In 2014 Fleur Darkin at Scottish Dance Theatre invited me to write something about her work Miann. In that writing I said "In amongst these people, places, living, come some things we wont have words for. But when words fail we have dances”.  I’ve always been preoccupied with the relationship between words and movement, words as movements. I think of poetry as being of the body, coming from the body and dance as the poetry of the body.

Around that time I was also in conversation with colleagues at the Scottish Poetry Library about when and why people come to poetry… we talked about how often that’s when things don’t make sense, when something is beyond our known experience, when we feel things that are inexplicable, beyond logic. That folk often say poetry doesn’t make sense, it’s not for me, much like I think many feel about dance. But then there are these moments when these forms that function in excess of ‘sense' or ‘meaning,' do something that resonate with us, with what it is to be in the world unlike anything else.

So this project draws these threads together. I’ve been in conversation with folks all over Leith and Edinburgh, listening to them talk about what matter matters to them, the things they’ve loved and lost. From those conversations we’ve found a handful of words that might just touch that thing and from there, we’ve begun to weave these thoughts, memories, materialities together, to make this project in four parts - conversation, podcasts, a performance - which is a dance and
poem - and a publication.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

Absolutely. Our work as performance makers - I think - is to do with liveness, is to attend to liveness. We can create spaces in which to problematise, question, search, challenge, celebrate, honour, reflect, re-imagine. To notice what happens when seemingly unrelated bodies of thought and feeling encounter one another and what that might generate. Most importantly for me is that happens in physical space, the live. 

What it is to think and feel together in shared space. I perhaps feel this more urgently now with the proliferation of digital discourse, our online articulacy. Performance can be both a careful and messy space in which thoughts, ideas, feelings and beings come into real contact with one another.

How did you become interested in making performance?
I originally trained and worked in visual art and fashion and increasingly became fixated on notions of presence and absence, of liveness and otherness. When I worked with materials, assemblage, sculpture, I wanted these textures, properties, plasticities to become flesh. When I
painted portraits I wanted them to come off of the page. When I made photographs I felt the touch of light and wanted to play with that light with others. 

When I worked with designers or styled folk I was excited by processes of becoming, of transformation. I wanted to tune to those things more closely. 

Alongside that I was dancing for fun and for freebies in clubs and for clubs at parties as part of underground and queer communities. I felt something happening in these spaces, a charge, a freedom of expression and exploration, a dissolving of borders and boundaries, a sharing of space that I didn’t when I was making visual art. 

I got to know some folks who were making performance/live art and devised theatre who encouraged me to explore their worlds and that led to going back to study performance as a ‘mature' student and overtime I found myself eventually practicing in and in-between these territories of live art, performance art, devised theatre and contemporary dance.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

This project carries it with it something of the handmade, what’s passed from heart to mouth to hand. How things are carried with us, passed on, transformed, the slippery mercurial nature of memory and experience, how they transform over time, what we touch and what touches us. So a large part of what the performers are working with are attempt and materiality, to never arrive at something fixed, to be always becoming, giving attention to tactility, to the haptic, to skin and texture, the touch of light.

The project is also about conversation, between different bodies and what might come from those conversations, these choreographies of connection. That feeds into the approach in that there are several parts or elements that speak to each other, the conversations, podcasts, performances and publication. Folks might might meet with these separately or in relationship to each other. 

I’m interested in multiplicity, different voices and perspectives and so we’ve invited the voices of other artists - Lucy Cash, Claire Cunningham, David Harradine, Simone Kenyon and Robbie Synge - in through the podcasts, a guest poet JL Williams and visual artist Brian Hartley responding to the work, Valerie Reid creating digital and print, and designers Ben Wyman and Shanti Freed working on garments and installation and an original composition from Scott Twynholm, alongside a diverse intergenerational ensemble of performance and dance artists - Kitty Fedorec, Rob Hesp, Alex McCabe, Katie Miller, Janice Parker, Carolina Ravaioli, Jak Soroka, Richard White.  

The breadth of collaborators makes space for multiple perspectives, acknowledging different approaches and relationships to what we’re exploring in the project and then seeing what happens when a whole load of other folk that might not normally share spaces meet with that.

And, the project is underpinned by this question of - tell me about something you’ve loved and lost. We’re performing in a series of sites across the city that have been at risk of or have for some time been lost. Spaces where we can gather and reflect, go to find words for things, spaces with incredible natural light, where we might notice, subtlety, softness, detail.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?
I’ve historically made time based durational works, installations, one-to-ones and work for digital space. This project brings all of the principles of my previous works together, a fascination with  the nuances of time, texture, memory and landscape to create something for a series of public spaces that very different communities of people use for different reasons. 

At the heart is still the sense of intimacy, of participation, immersion and conversation, this time with many more people in different contexts, collaborating to create the work and those who might encounter it.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I hope that we are making spaces for folk to reflect, remember, imagine in. That they will experience the touch of some of the incredible spaces in our city, activated by the presence of an ensemble of remarkable performers. That they’ll have time to witness an ensemble of people, who invite being seen, who invite noticing one another and that that invites listening. 

To the poetry in other people’s words and in other worlds. I hope they will experience something that has been carefully crafted, something gentle, something stirring perhaps at times unsettling or unfamiliar, something they might not have words for and ultimately something hopeful. 

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

I considered different places where people come to gather and reflect, spaces that aren’t ‘the usual suspects’, spaces that folk might be curious about or how have an existing relationship with - a relationship that might not be about dance or performance but about words, curiosities, memory, quietness. 

Some of these spaces can be thought of as some the last democratic free spaces we can come to be alongside each other, for information, for interest, for shelter, for solace. I wanted to make something that celebrated that, those spaces and what they mean and the people who host them.   

I dont think the way we come to things is linear, so the project has many threads in for folks, that might inform or augment their experience. It’s nuanced and it’s subtle and these things are important to me in terms of the aesthetic and expectation. Every element from print, to composition, to project producing, to the design has been really carefully considered by the artists and professionals involved. 

I hope this careful approach is felt on some level and informs the experience from the first moment of encountering an image or some writing to do with the project, to meeting the people involved in making it happen, to experiencing any of it’s parts. I hope the intention in this approach augments the way people enter into meeting with the work, what it might be able to offer them and what that encounter might mean for the work and us. In the Ink Dark is something that can only come into being because of the many people it meets with. 

We’re excited to be making the work in response to and for some incredible spaces in our city. Spaces that have themselves for sometime been lost or closed and missed, spaces that go unnoticed, are overlooked or have been at risk of being disappeared. Spaces where people go to find words for things, to gather and reflect, celebrate and share.”

In the Ink Dark is performed by Kitty Fedorec, Rob Hesp, Alex McCabe, Katie Miller, Carolina Ravaioli, Janice Parker, Jak Soroka and Richard White. Original sound score from Scott Twynholm and performance design from Shanti Freed and Ben Whyman. Invited Voices for Podcasts: Lucy Cash, Claire Cunningham, David Harradine, Simone Kenyon, Robbie Synge. Visual Artist: Brian Hartley. Print and Digital Design by Valerie Reid.

In the Ink Dark is supported by awards from the National Lottery through Creative Scotland’s Open Project Fund and City of Edinburgh Council’s Culture Project Fund and the following hosts and partners LeithLate17, Leith Theatre, Botanic Cottage Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Scottish Poetry Library, Edinburgh Libraries, Dance Base and Janice Parker Projects.

Lulu Johnston, Dance Officer at Creative Scotland said: “We are delighted to support this exceptional project that will present a unique series of dance and poetry events and experiences that focus on a simple, universal theme. In bringing local residents together to celebrate and reflect on their own and each other’s experiences of love and loss, it shows Luke’s sincere curiosity, sensitivity and genuine care about people and places.”

Lynne Halfpenny, Director of Culture for the City of Edinburgh Council, saidI am delighted the Council’s Culture Project Fund has been able to support such an original and collaborative project for LeithLate17. Led by Luke Pell, Ink In the Dark promises to join people together from Edinburgh’s many communities in a collaborative fusion of music, dance, poetry and podcasts. We look forward to hosting the performance in our local libraries following its premiere at Leith Theatre.”

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