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Kathleen Downie

As part of Arnolfini's Artist Development Programme, interdisciplinary performance artist Kathleen Downie occupied the Dark Studio at Arnolfini for her last in the series of sessions aimed at developing group work. Here, Kathleen introduces her practice and talks about her time in the Dark Studio.

My practice is interdisciplinary and process based. I make work through a process of dance, physical performance technique, drawing, writing and reflection. I am interested in researching and developing ways of working as a starting point for making work rather than an idea.

The glue rather than the thing being glued.

And maybe part of that is making a thing, but instead of being really concerned with the thing we are making, the thing emerges out of the glue - through building complicité.

The drive to start this project came from various things:

  • Looking for ways to take my work forwards, not quite fitting into the clear box that gets me regular interesting paid performance/dance jobs
  • Wanting more of a sense of community and pulse alongside my own practice that feeds into my solo work.
  • Inspiration from groups who have built a unique solid thing slowly over time, an approach which is a contradiction to how most work happens these days as the funding generally comes first and for short specific periods of time.

I am interested in the potential of this approach for creating strong performance work, as well as building community and developing community projects.

Making work that is built on a mixture of compassion, openness and rigour.

I don’t know yet how this process will become a performance or something else for others to interact with. I do know that when a group of people commit to working together on a project whatever that is, and allow the work to take them beyond themselves, whilst facing the stuff that comes up but continuously moving through it, then something happens.

A little piece of magic happens. I want to build this.

The training is based on improvised dance practices, Grotowski and Lecoque based physical theatre, the work of Andrew Morrish, Rosalind Crisp, Grotowski, Company of wolves, Al seed, Alex Rigg, Kristen Linklater, Katie Duck, Julyen Hamilton, Butoh, clown, voice work, and other practices based on an integrated full body approach to working.

November 4 - Morning

Water bag body – Butoh exercise and body work

Moving from one point in the body like a splash of water.

Moving across the space by using short, mid and long range eye focus excercises from

Katie Duck.

Pause, flow, exit – Katie Duck improvisation score


Meditation, writing, speaking.

What is your dance?

I love the idea that dance is and comes from how we move within the world and our lives.

The activities you encounter again and again, the things you strive for, what makes you feel alive, what you are hungry for.

What is your dance from that perspective?

…and it will change from day to day, but also there will be patterns, and a kind of signature that develops overtime, a style, a feel that comes from deep within your bones, flesh, blood and breath, deep within the pits of your imagination, your story, your belly and in how you relate and connect to the rest of life, in how you feel and embrace connection, and interconnection.

Today my dance is a stamping into the earth and remembering dance, a pushing back the shit and screaming the frustration dance, it is a smashing plates and laughing at it all dance, an opening out and up and through step by step by step dance and it is a listening quietly softly deeply dance.

The painter Ran Ortner said: ‘ Art is not a cleverness contest, it is not ones capacity to be inventive, it is really an honesty contest. The capacity to truly be that thing that you are.”

‘psyche originally meant breath and blood. Psychology then, means the knowledge of breath and blood. Catharsis happens when the psyche of the character disturbs the breath, blood and psyche of the audience. “

“ For the actor who values truthful expression, breathing control must be diverted from muscle to impulse. The ultimate controls are imagination and emotion. ‘”

Freeing the Natural Voice by Kristen linklater.

November 11

Basic theme - space, words, emotion.

Warm up skin muscle bone. We named them and as naming them joined our mind with the touch and visualised the anatomy, and created a world of skin, muscle, bone between us.

We practice swarming, no leader, from body then from breath and voice first. What drives this creature? It is not abstract dance, the movement comes out of a desire for something.

we discussed a mundane topic such as toothbrushes or hair whilst switching through the filter of the emotions joy, anger and fear, and gradually becoming the topic discussed more and more physically in our bodies.

“When you have the guts to be fully there, we give permission to the others in the space” – Julyen Hamilton

We worked with the idea of doing or saying the right thing in the right place at the right time, noticing what this does to the space and the lines across space and the clarity of voice and action.

Ending with Drumming and running, bringing us together in a simple beet and shared space.

Participants on this project at the Arnolfini have included: Mary Eddowes, Brenda Waite, Sarah Corbett, Katherine Hall, and Liz Hart,

This time at the Arnolfini has been the end of the beginning, from here I write reflections of what next from here I think about how to move into the next stage. I will run another block in the new  year with more of a focus on making work – the thing out of the glue.

To find out more about Kathleen Downie click here

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Friday 18 October 2019 to Saturday 19 October 2019, 20:30 to 22:00

£12/£10 + BF Book

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