This is the first of a four part series of interviews with female performance artists about creative process, feminism and how the two intertwine.
Vicky Kapo (Healer, Sha-woman, Performer, Nurse, Holder of Space, Disrupter, Mover, Mana Wahine, Mediator of Many Realms, Friend)
When you think about your own processes for making a ‘performance work’ do you have a formula you follow or is every piece a different process?
My performance process relies a lot on 3 things.
- How complicated the application process is, for the show /festival/residency. Read what is my level of energy.
- What I’m figuratively working on or with, or thinking through at the time of the application process.
- And what the actual physical /performance space, location, feeling is AT THE TIME OF PERFORMANCE.- which can completely undermine what I said I was going to do in the application process.
and how do you think process informs the end artwork?
hmm.. So I largely work within an improvisation framework; which can scare a lot of programmers, so I tend not to share this aspect of my performance process.
However, the way you feel is influenced by the architecture surrounding you, by what you’ve eaten recently, who you’ve hung out with, what literature you’ve been reading, etc, etc… Just like a child right? So how you feel although in a way isn’t what you want to necessarily perform, nor do you want to watch it but it becomes apart of the work.
A really good improviser has the ability to summon up Context and Content, that is relevant to the place, the time and the people/audience, whether the audience know it or not.
I often like to walk through or near the performance space before hand, alongside going last in the program, there’s a lot of stuff sitting in the atmosphere, and it’s nice to make magic with the seen and unseen, the heard and unheard…
Also there is a lot of letting go that has to occur, and on the spot crafting. There’s a weird split that happens in self, – like you’re channeling and at the same time watching yourself channel – this is so you can use semi familiar theatrical structures and aspects of stagecraft, that helps you connect with the audience. It is necessary to know and be aware of say the use of timing, pacing, narrative, scenography remembering what you started with… the relevance being so you can recognise the ending when it approaches. Mostly there is a lot of praying that goes on.
I have an ongoing process /practise, that requires going into a studio and staying there for a length of time – each week. In a good week I go in twice, I’ve done this for the last 4 years. I also add a residency of 4 days or more about every 3 months or so… this is necessary, because during the day, I work as a nurse, and it is full on. In many, many ways the nursing gig can deeply deplete me in every way. This practise is sustenance.
The performances are the pot at the end of the rainbow... So there has to be place to study and transition the work and/or the ideas, otherwise it falls into indulgence. There is a need to work with others. Within this practise I’ve had the privilege of working with a small group of other movers/ performers, weekly for most of a 4 year period.
This year the journey has been very much a solo one and it’s really really hard- to get a sense of what is building and or what is present. Also most of the performing I’ve been doing this year has been in other artist’s work, which I have loved because it gives an opportunity to explore creativity and vision in a different way, I’m looking forward to doing more of this but there is a balance that needs to be maintained, which requires discipline, if I don’t all sorts of mental health stuff happenings occur and I unravel into an angry fiesta of a beast….
I’m over giving myself a beating for the way I need to exist, I’m here and this is what I need, to be community spirited and able.
In your past projects I have noticed a spiritual element to the work? Do you have your own spiritual practise in your life, that informs your creative processes?
Ok yes… if I think about what pulls creatively and the recent theme commonalities, I’ve been working through in the performance pieces, then yes there is a questioning of these elements; Ritual and performance, rituals in performance, intimacy, light, community, concerns, what will help us connect, pull down the walls and lifts us out of our fears.
My spiritual practise has been and is based hugely on my relationship to nature, and on my own inherent nature, which is very animal in quality. I live in the country, 2 hours outside of Melbourne metropolitan (although I have just recently moved back into the nearest town). A lot of my physical practise has been (up until 2 months ago) outside in the woodlands. Here I find a stillness that really calms and restores. This resonation has a pulse and a sound that seems to provide, a large, large sense of space, that lets one energetically spread up, out and down. In fact I think a lot of the search for a spiritual frame comes from a knowing and a desiring of this exquisite state which I think we as energetic beings are completely familiar with pre-fetal, pre-birth. I’m indigenous Maori though, so my whole life has been governed by the many prayers to the many gods… so in the forest in-between doing a practise of fake kung fu, and jumping jacks there is a lot of gratefulness, mediation / play and prayer going on.
Do you see your artistic process as a feminist practise? And if so how or how not?
Yes, I guess so, if I qualify feminism as an uncompromising, reaching toward, and for a conscious conscientious harmonious interdependence, state of flux, one that is ruthlessly community minded, and working with an enquiry of constant renewal of embodiment and experience.
- This type of learning daily human experience is presently outside of normal narratives or social constructs.
- Yes my work and my ideologies embodies feminism, as I hope my work does. I don’t think I’ve had much choice about this, as I’m in a body and mind that holds a lot of diversity within. I think I became a feminist at 4/5 yrs old when I decided I didn’t want to get married, it’s easy to be a critic at that age, but what I saw with my very young eyes were roles and behaviours that seemed very narrow, undernourished, and repressive. I didn’t want any part of that.
What do you think the relationship is between feminine spirituality and creative process?
All 3 are advocates of nourishing life, even if it means also killing/or being witness to death. In my culture Hine Nui Te- Po is an experience of all 3- an embodiment of virgin, wife, crone.
My culture is very yin and yang, and there isn’t one without the other…
Anything else you want to share around these topics, my own questions feel limiting, as I feel there maybe also something in here related to views around the process of dying?
I explained a little in the process question, about my interpretation of improvisation and how there’s a lot of praying that goes on. Well as a nurse, who works only with the dying, theres a lot of praying that goes on here too.
I often wonder about the components of my job, and why I am in some ways a perfect fit for this role.
It challenges me in so many ways, the way other nurses work, the way management governs and the lack of pay for the work load which is heavy in all ways. But in some ways, I’m a shepherd, holding the body, as it crumples, nurturing the soul as it once again readies to leave, soothing the mind, calming the fears…
All the while, I’m singing, joking, laughing, amongst the toiling.
Theres a proverb, in my culture what is the greatest gift of life, it ends by explaining it is people people people.
Well I think the greatest gift in life is life… and us the ones with bi-polar, aspergers the people with anxieties, the ones that can’t, and don’t fit in with the narrow version of what life is supposed to look like or talk like because of whatever, we without prompting naturally push against the repressive cults that want to brand us. But we are life…
I might be a strange friend to have around, at the end of your papered citizenship, but hell, if we are going to feel like this whole journey was worth the ride, then it’s definitely someone like me – you ‘ll need whispering into your ear…
you’re ready, …
it was totally worth wasn’t it..
you might even want to come back..
let go now..
your more than your body, more than your mind, more than a collection of ..
oh you forgot..
you’re doing a great job..
Curated by Sara Cowdell