Paper Presentations # 1 – Session 1C

NZ – 1.30pm | VIC/NSW/TAS – 11.30am | SA – 11am | QLD – 10.30am | NT – 10am
WA – 8.30am

Chaired by Olivia Millard

Links to join all conference sessions can be accessed via the program page of the ADSA conference website

Jonathan Marshall, Clint Bracknell, Pierre Horwitz & Trevor Ryan – Performing kayepa dordok living waters in Noongar Boodjar, South-Western Australia

For the 2021 ADSA Crafting conditions for decolonising scholarship conference, we propose to discuss a short case study of decolonizing performance (a novel Noongar dance) as a strategy for employing Australian First Nation knowledges as a tool to enhance ecological and environmental affective links, deepening relationships with water bodies here represented as part of a living continuum. Water systems are here depicted as interlinked “nourishing terrains” (Bird Rose) or boodjar / Country. The practice values here the affective and the Indigenous as part of social discourse and academic research, serving to assist in decentring scholarship and pedagogy in the performing arts. The project brings together Noongar cultural knowledge (gleaned from elders and historical accounts) in combination with Western scientific / ecological concepts. This paper examines ways to perform and/or communicate relationships between living underground, estuarine and riverine water bodies (kayepa dordok). The research is a pilot of part of a larger ARC and Masters of Arts research project.

Two new interlinked Noongar song and dance works have so far been sketched in response to local riverscapes. These were performed as part of, the Perth International Arts Festival in 2021. The first embodies the return journey of the maadjit, kworlak or bullshark, from the salt water to the riverine fresh water; the second was to enact the presence of the unseen groundwater – which emerges as wetlands and estuaries strewn throughout the landscape – on its return to the sea. We hope to show some footage of the performance, speak briefly to the method used to derive the song and dance, and touch on the impact of the performance itself, are described.

Trevor Ryan is a Noongar / Yamatji man currently enrolled as a Masters of Arts (Performing Arts) candidate at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Edith Cowan University. Ryan has worked extensively as an actor and dancer for nearly 20 years, including with Wadumbah Indigenous, and on landmark theatrical productions such as Jandamarra (Black Swan Theatre, 2008) and the first full length play in Noongar, Hecate (2020)

Pierre Horwitz is a settler descent man and Professor of Environmental Sciences, School of Science, Edith Cowan University. He is the Co-Director of the Strategic Research Centre for People, Place, & Planet, and Co-Editor-in-Chief for the international journal PLOS-Water. For the last 30 years his research and teaching have included an ecosystems approach to the relationships between biodiversity, culture, human health and well-being, with a particular interest in gabbi (estuaries) and karl (fire) on Noongar boodja.

Clint Bracknell is a Noongar man and a Vice-Chancellor’s Teaching and Research Fellow, located across the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts and the Kurongkurl Katitjin Centre, both at Edith Cowan University. He regularly composes music for theatre, dance and performance, and is the coordinator of the ARC funded project Restoring on-Country Performance: Noongar Song, Language and Landscapes. Bracknell has published extensively on Noongar and Indigenous music.

Jonathan W. Marshall is a settler descent man and a scholar of performance and the art. He is postgraduate coordinator at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Edith Cowan University. Marshall has published on First Nations performance, landscape and performance, butoh dance, and other topics. In addition to his academic work, Jonathan has been an arts critic in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand for over twenty years.

Shaun McLeod, Gretel Taylor, Anindita Banerjee & Joshinder Chaggar – Sticky Conversations about Dancing Between Two Worlds

Dancing Between Two Worlds was a practice-based research project which involved a live site-specific performance in the outer-Melbourne suburb of Werribee in November 2019. The performance framed the skills and artistic forms of artists of Indian origin (dance, music and visual art) in a performance which moved along the Werribee River and then along the main street. It aimed to give presence to Indian artists in relation to ideas about place and citizenship. Initiated and directed by Deakin University artist/academics Shaun McLeod and Gretel Taylor, the project was funded under the umbrella of multicultural arts policy for the Wyndham City Council. As such it aimed to make visible an otherwise under-represented group of artists. Yet it was conceived and directed by artists from outside of this cohort.

The realisation of this performance led to significant questions about the appropriateness of its methods for intercultural performance making. A few participants of the Werribee performance (Shaun McLeod, Gretel Taylor, Anindita Banerjee and Joshinder Chaggar) re-grouped with the intention of creating a new work which interrogated these questions. Centering on questions around culture, ethnicity, in/equality and the arts, the artists (of Indian and ‘anglo’ origins) have evolved a sustained practice of online conversation. Necessitated by the ongoing COVID lockdowns in Melbourne, these sometimes playful, sometimes ‘sticky conversations’ have become the means for evaluating cultural value (and values); for giving equal value to different (and differently weighted) cultural and aesthetic perspectives towards the development of an intercultural, site-specific performance. The personal, singular experiences and group interactions these conversations have elicited will form the fabric for a developing, future performance work (to be realised when we emerge from social restrictions). This presentation will articulate some of the issues, assumptions, tensions, and pleasures which emerged from this practice of sustained intercultural conversation. It will also reflect on the application of this process for developing a performance work in which enforced separation and a restriction of embodied interaction necessitated a different approach.

Shaun McLeod is a dancer, choreographer and senior lecturer in Art andPerformance at Deakin University, Melbourne. He is interested in the affective situation of dance improvisation and performance, attunement strategies within improvisation practices, and exploring alternative audience/performer relationships. As a dancer, he danced with Australian Dance Theatre, Danceworks and One Extra Co. His work the weight of the thing left its mark was presented as part of Dance Massive 2011 (Melbourne). The performance component of his practice-led PhD, entitled Witness (Abbotsford Convent 2014, Dancehouse, 2016) was an activation of the Mover-Witness dyad at the heart of Authentic Movement. Dancing Between two Worlds (November 2019) was a site-specific, multi-arts performance involving artists of Indian origin in the city of Wyndham. The project examined questions of identity and transnational mobility in the arts context of outer-suburban Melbourne.

Gretel Taylor is a dancer, artist, researcher and curator who has presented performances and research insights internationally. Her PhD explored relationships between place, body and identity in Australia (2009) and she continues to create performance work and curate experiences that are site-responsive and activate decolonising and ecological themes. Gretel is a key artist of Environmental Performance Authority (EPA), an interdisciplinary collective that facilitates immersive acquaintance with places through walking performances. She collaborates regularly with photographer Laki Sideris on a suite of body-place-video works and teaches, performs and curates events independently under her platform BodyPlaceProject. Gretel has worked as artist/researcher exploring place and identity with diverse cultural and social groups, most notably as part of ARC Discovery project ‘Challenging Stigma’ (University of Melbourne, 2014-17) and recently on ‘Dancing Between Two Worlds’, Deakin University 2018-20). She is currently on the Creative Advisory Team for RidgeWalk – a major public art project across the Dandenong Ranges, and Research Fellow at Deakin University on a Dance and Indigenous Knowledges project with Shaun McLeod, Liz Cameron and Olivia Millard.

Anindita Banerjee describes herself as a twice uprooted Indian. She is an interdisciplinary artist and researcher that lives and works on the land of the Wadawurrung people of the Kulin Nation. Having completed a creative practice led PhD at Deakin University, her research interest includes cultural otherness, authentic identity and the sense of home. The memories of ritualistic ceremonies and mark-makings and her reconstruction of them informs her practice. Using gestural portrayals of hybrid rituals, she wonders where her place is as an immigrant to the unceded indigenous lands of present day Australia. She has exhibited at the Victoria Parliament Melbourne, Customs House Sydney, the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Academy of Fine Arts in Kolkata, at the Palazzo Bembo Gallery in Venice in conjunction with the Venice Biennale 2019 and various other institutions and galleries. This year her exhibition Ondormohol is being shown at the Art Gallery of Ballarat as part of the Ballarat International Foto Biennale. She is currently working as an Arts Program Officer at the City of Wyndham and also as a Sessional Academic at Deakin University. 

Joshinder Chaggar is a dancer, choreographer, actor, teacher, writer and film-maker. Her work is influenced by physical theatre, Indian folk, Indian classical dance & experimental movement. Joshinder spent ten years in Karachi, Pakistan, working in theatre, television, live events and films. She also taught ‘Movement for Actors’ at the National Academy of Performing Arts in Karachi and toured the country with her solo show, ‘She flies with the Swallows’, with the aim of sparking a conversation on what it means to really be free. Joshinder has participated in many festivals, locally & internationally; Edinburgh showcase 2017, Mapping Melbourne 2017, NAPA International theatre festival (Karachi), Karachi Biennale 2017, Kunstareal Fest 2017 (Munich), Emerge in Yarra (2018), India @Mindil 2019 (Darwin), and Dancing Between Two Worlds (2019). Currently she runs the Wellness program at Studio J dance, in Melbourne, working intensively with the senior community. In Feb 2021 she began her PhD degree at Deakin university, researching transcultural identity.  

Ajeet Singh – Performing ‘Aboriginality’ as a Decentred Identity: A Survey of Contemporary Aboriginal Theatre

Last decades have revealed how contemporary performance through multiple points of view and genres employed a non-hierarchical and fluid structure of concepts. The productions of the three indigenous theatre companies (Ilbijerri, Kooemba Jdarra, Yirra Yaakin ) unsettle the Australian theatrical space; they question and refute accepted construction of historical and spatial identity. Contemporary Australian Aboriginal performance and its dramaturgical structure as a decentred practice represent a shift away from the conventional discourses of ‘Aboriginality’ towards a new intercultural expression of fluid identity. This decentred dramaturgy displays a combination of multiple cultural contexts and fragmented histories of a divided cultural heritage. As a dramaturgical manoeuvre through the deconstruction of conventional representations, it performs an ongoing history that exists before colonization and extends out to the future, and produces an intercultural exchange to re-negotiate the idea of ‘Aboriginality’ as a process of continual becoming. This study argues that contemporary indigenous theatre destabilizes an all en-compassing and fixed indigenous identity and repudiates the totality and essentialism of an undifferentiated ‘other’. Based on the textual analysis of Jane Harrison’s Stolen (1998) and Wesley Enoch’s The Seven Stages of Grieving (1996), this paper looks at how contemporary Aboriginal theatre interconnects the historical with the contemporary through lived experience.

Ajeet Singh Ajeet Singh earned his Ph.D. from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and wrote his doctoral thesis on European Experimental Theatre and Ancient Indian Theatre. He has been teaching as Assistant Professor since August 2008 in the Dept. of English, BPSMV, Khanpur Kalan, Sonipat, India. His teaching experience ranges from undergraduate to postgraduate levels covering varied fields of literary studies like Contemporary Literary Theory, Indian Poetics, Cultural Studies and Western Literary Theory and Criticism. He has been actively involved in guiding research and other academic activities. As an academic, along with intensive teaching work, he has been doing research work in terms of publishing research articles in different research journals and presenting research papers in different national and international conferences. He has presented his research paper based on a comparative study of Indian theatre and Brazilian theatre in IFTR-2017 Conference, Sao Paulo, Brazil. As an invited speaker, he has also participated and presented his papers in another two important Conferences i.e. IFTR-2018 Conference in Belgrade, Serbia and LMU, Munich, Germany. In July 2019, participated in IFTR-2019, Shanghai, China and presented his research and chaired one of the technical sessions in the conference. Recently, invited to participate and chair one of the technical sessions in ADSA-2020 annual conference held in UNSW, Sydney, Australia.