Katrina Brown is an interdisciplinary choreographer who embraces a hybridity of materials across performance and drawing. By working collaboratively and closely with paper and mark making, she records corporeal movements to investigate architectures of the body and space.
For her current project tilt-rythm-back Brown is investigating the ‘dorsal’ in relation to concepts we associate with the back of our bodies. In July 2019 she used funding from an a-n Artist Bursary 2019 to complete a residency at Dance4 in Nottingham, where she worked on research and development for the project with sound artist Rob Gawthrop.
Research has continued with choreographer Grace Nicol at Siobhan Davies Dance Company in London, where she has built on previous ‘studio conversations’ with dancers Maria Evans, Zach McCullough, Yi Kwek and writer Neil Chapman in Falmouth earlier this year.
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When did you first put drawing together with choreography and where did the idea come from?
Between 2004 and 2006, during my masters in Choreography and New Media at the Theatre School Amsterdam, I was drawing and diagramming as a way of recording ideas, sensations and thinking processes.
I developed animations for live performance, recording the immediacy of drawing using chalk on the studio floor – a very ‘analogue media approach’ of live moving-drawing. I then made a series of performances during my studies incorporating the organisation of drawing as choroegraphy, and produced the website Moving/Drawing, An Archive of Traces.
The relationship between choreographers and their notebooks is a long-recognised activity. There is also the historical context of dance and notation. More recently there has been a renewed interest in visualisations of choreographic structures – Trisha Brown’s It’s A Draw/Live Feed and William Forsythe’s Improvisation Technologies for instance.
I am very interested in the word ‘dorsality’! It makes me think of anatomy beyond the human body, particularly dolphins… but I bet there is more to it than this?
Yes, dorsal fins and maybe a sense of an animal on all fours with a very different relationship to its back than our upright human stance. As well as anatomy ‘dorsal’ is also used in relation to orientation, political force and conception of time.
Such terms can open up a work in many ways and I enjoy how philosophical ideas reside in the body, and in choreographic structures. From within our bodies, if we bring visual attention to the surface of the back then our eyes usually soften into peripheral vision and the sense of listening becomes more apparent. Then in moving backwards we have to orientate differently in relation to vision, weight, spine, skin, breath, and the articulation of our joints.
The dorsal offers another way of orientating with one’s own body to others and the world. A slightly (dis)orientating and unstable leaning, not led only by what we see.
You refer to the body as ‘bio-technological’. What is meant by this and how do you employ its meaning within your work?
I picked up this term from David Wills’ 2008 book Dorsality, thinking back through technology and politics. It resonated with a particular way of moving, with a sense of my body that is continually generating and erasing itself. A process of gestural articulations that pass through shapes but never settle into form.
Within choreography it takes a lot of attention not to settle into a shape. Formlessness involves gesturing that does not communicate meaning or intention. It’s a strange experience in which I feel human-amoeboid. Wills proposes the ‘bio-technological’ as a human-mechanical relation that goes beyond traditional understandings of technology:
“what turns will be presumed to be something human […] in turning, it turns into something technological […] the human being turning as it walks, deviating from its forward path. […] a detour, a deviation, a divergence into difference. […] the animate first articulates, and so becomes technological in the self-division of a cell, in the self-generation of an amoeba.”
How do you expect viewers to interact with your drawings after they are activated?
I hope viewers will take time to engage and find an entry point. I myself value performances that take time and require patience, observation and curiosity. Ones in which I become part of the time and space of the performance.
In the right conditions it is interesting to watch another performer doing something whilst actively engaged in a drawing process, task or score. My drawing events are propositions – an invitation to linger, choose perspectives and proximities. To notice shifting relations between my body and their body, as well as our breath, temperature and light.
How do you go about working with practitioners in other specialisms?
It is very interesting working with a collaborator who has a different field of knowledge. I enjoy the trust that can develop and feel relief as well as excitement in not knowing something. This highlights the specifics of what I do know, or can offer. By working together you find points of encounter and shared concerns. Surprising materials and new dialogues can emerge. Or not!
There is an element of quietness in your work. Could you explain how this is positioned within your approach?
With quietness I am referring to a quality of performer presence, a situation in which the performer is not the central point but is equally present with other materials, bodies and elements. This proposition came out of my PhD research. Working low and horizontal with the floor, I drew upon theories of non-anthropomorphism and non-human agency in relation to activities of drawing.
Quietness can also arise through volume, high intensity and friction. I am interested in a ‘quiet presence’ in terms of a politics of relations between human and non-human forces.
Katrina Brown was our featured a-n blogger for July 2019 at www.instagram.com/anartistsinfo.
Follow the ’tilt-rhythm-back: dances & drawings’ blog here
1. Katrina Brown, studio conversations for tilt-rythm-back, with dancers Maria Evans and Zach McCullough, 2019
2. Katrina Brown, documentation of research and development for tilt-rythm-back, Dance4, July 2019
3. Katrina Brown, Em[bed]ding circle, durational drawing score as part of the series ‘She’s only doing this’, 2014
4. Katrina Brown and Rob Gawthrop, collaborative research for tilt-rythm-back, 2019
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