Lucy Suggate talks about Swarm Sculptures

Lucy Suggate talks about Swarm Sculptures

Lucy Suggate will present Swarm Sculptures at Nottingham Castle as part of the Ways of Seeing, Ways of Being weekend on 23-24 September. Have a read of our Q&A to find out more about her piece.

WHY DANCE?

 (LS) Because it’s a small act of defiance against the forces that want to beat us into submission. Dance somehow feels like it’s on the side of humanity. As the world is precariously balanced between advancement and disaster, the only way I know how to respond to the havoc is to dance and when I say dance I mean really dance… Every time I begin to move I approach it with such focus, sensory attention, force, energy and serenity, that I am able to become my most integrated, articulate and available moving self. I have a disobedient body, that twitches, scrunches and is very idiosyncratic, combined with a hate of copying people and a healthy suspicion of the person at the front telling me what to do, so the traditional, mainstream approaches to training, making and disseminating movement never really worked for me. In order to survive I had to find my own way through.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE WORK YOU MAKE?

(LS) Dance is in a constant state of flux – it’s simultaneously contracting and expanding whilst still emerging as a contemporary art form. What I’m attempting to do is navigate and respond to an ever-changing context. The work I make derives from a movement practice, because when I move I generate thoughts and ideas. These ideas are then examined, processed, shaped and framed into something that can be disseminated. I’m still figuring out how conceptual thinking and approaches to making can be integrated into the moving body, moving beyond the role of illustration/decoration. My work is attempting to translate ideas and energy to those who witness it and looking at how we can expand our movement possibilities.

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW SWARM SCULPTURES CAME INTO BEING?

 (LS) The work is the result of many ideas and actions colliding and becoming the catalyst for Swarm Sculptures. After many years of making solo works I was beginning to feel lonely and I was curious to see how I could propose work to include other bodies. I knew it wasn’t a case of just up-scaling my solo practice; I wanted a group of bodies to reconfigure in a different way. I’d been spending a lot of time in galleries and museums and realised how much I enjoyed my freedom to roam. Since 2013 I have been working with the music of James Holden. Known for his techno wizardry, his music and artistic approach was aiding the development of my movement language. It was during this period of practice based research into trance and altered states that I became curious about the infectious nature of music and movement and the durational properties that the research was encouraging in my work. Ideas around synchronicity and swarm intelligence were emerging. How could these ideas translate into group, choreographic behaviour? The technological revolution means that at the push of a button I can access complex research on most subjects. This access to further (mis) understanding the world we live in is infiltrating the dancing body. No longer are dance artists reliant of an archaic script of bodily movements. I think some of the developments in the field of cognitive science are having the most amazing impact on dancing/moving body – a welcome relief from the ongoing regurgitation.

YOU’RE CURRENTLY INVOLVED IN A EUROPEAN DANCING MUSEUMS PROJECT, WHICH EXPLORES THE VIEWER RELATIONSHIP TO WORKS AND ARTIFACTS. HAS THIS MADE YOU FEEL DIFFERENTLY ABOUT CHOREOGRAPHY’S RELATIONSHIP TO / WITH THE VIEWER, PARTICULARLY WHEN CREATING SWARM SCULPTURES?

(LS) Dancing Museums has given me the opportunity to embed my practice into different spaces. For a number of years I have found the visual arts context to be a huge resource for my choreographic work. My focus is shifting towards integrating more thorough conceptual thinking into the material of the body. I’m drawn to the autonomy the visual arts/museum context offers its visitors; somehow visitor status feels more flexible than audience member. So Swarm Sculptures is fulfilling my need for audience proximity and autonomy in relation to witnessing the dancing/moving/performing body. Theatre spaces often insist on distance and fixed perspectives that for me are counter-intuitive. Why is it I feel held hostage by so much dance work? I want my work to be encountered in a similar way to how you might approach an object, a piece of sculpture, a strange creature or another person. I would like to exchange the binary doing-watching into something more integrated, if possible.

WAS THERE ALWAYS A DESIRE TO MAKE SWARM SCULPTURES ON THE TRAINED AND UNTRAINED BODY?

(LS) I think Swarm Sculptures can be physically deceptive; because of its simplicity, it can come across as easy to do. The doing of it requires a lot of focus, strength and sensitivity. At one point you may need to support weight and encourage stillness, then direct or lead movement. There are very functional and very practical elements to being in a swarm sculpture; you are responsible for the building, the transformation and the collapse of these big living structures. All require different physical labour, so the most important thing is to have commitment to wanting to build something. I think it’s a lot like signing in a choir, the communal activity and listening to each other is very important – so conventional ideas around trained or untrained become less important.

AND FINALLY…
YOU STUDIED DANCE WITHIN THE EAST MIDLANDS AT DE MONTFORT UNIVERSITY, LEICESTER FROM 1996 – 1999. WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER FROM YOUR TIME THERE?

I remember from a young age not appreciating the authoritarian approach to a lot of dance training. De Montfort University offered me an education that was rooted in inquiry and process with an encouragement to ask questions and dig deeper. I have many gems from my time there that have served me well. The generosity behind the teaching stays with you and provides a strong foundation.

Ways of Seeing, Ways of Being will be a weekend of activities to enhance visitors' experience of the 19th century picture gallery at Nottingham Castle, using movement to provide a new context for viewing and engaging with the art collection.

SATURDAY 23 – SUNDAY 24 SEPTEMBER 11AM – 4PM | Suitable for all

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