Monday, May 23, 2022

REMEMBRANCES - a new project for Birmingham 2022


Remembrances in development 
Georgia Rose Thompson, Avatâra Ayuso & Amy Hollinshead

It was more than two years ago that Avatâra Ayuso started to think about the need for the Birmingham 2022 Festival to acknowledge Indigenous peoples in its programming and its approach to performance.  Avatâra had been part of ORIGINS 2019, with her piece NO WOMAN'S LAND, in which she collaborated with Inuk Elder Naulaq LeDrew, so she has a strong awareness of the political complexities that the Commonwealth holds for Indigenous people, and the importance of welcome in their cultures.  As an artist based in the Midlands, she was acutely conscious that the conventional sub-Olympics torch-lighting would not be adequate to encapsulate the shifting relationships between the City that had supplied the arms that sustained an Empire and the Indigenous athletes and artists who would be visiting this year.  When #BlackLivesMatter highlighted the historical roots of current inequalities and racial tensions, the need seemed more urgent still. And so we approached the Birmingham 2022 Festival for a commission.  

There is a significant Canadian investment in the Festival's commissioning programme, and so it was to First Nations Canadian partners that we turned. As often happens, this pragmatic choice became creatively and politically potent.  b.solomon//ELECTRIC MOOSE had also been part of ORIGINS 2019, creating the wonderful WESTWAY SOLSTICE with the North Kensington community, and presenting THE NDN WAY at the Playground Theatre, so he seemed an obvious choice. What we hadn't realised was just how acute and immediate the challenge of welcoming First Nations Canadian artists would become with the discovery of the mass graves at the Residential Schools in Kamloops and elsewhere across Canada. These atrocities of colonial policy drove home the question we have placed at the heart of REMEMBRANCES:

"Who are we now to welcome you?"

b.solomon//ELECTRIC MOOSE & participants in WESTWAY SOLSTICE

We have been working on the understanding that we occupy different physical and cultural spaces: that the performance itself will represent our dialogue, and so, in a very real sense, our processes need to be distinct. Avatâra and I have been exploring British identities and responses to our colonial past, working with a very diverse group of dancers, and taking cues from a First Nations Canadian poet, Matthew James Weigel. b.solomon has been creating his work in his own country: what he knows of our work is that it will attempt to offer a nuanced and considered space of welcome, with an awareness of past wrongs. We do not know how he will respond. He may accept or reject that offer - certainly he will shift its meaning in some way.  

REMEMBRANCES will be performed in the open air in the centre of Birmingham on June 25th and 26th.  We'll also film it for streaming. We don't know exactly what's going to happen: but the dance will be extraordinary, and it will be a performance like no other.