First Fridays happen on the first Friday of every month. First Fridays is a gathering place for artists or anyone interested in the arts, an opportunity to share food and talk. We’re still meeting virtually (on Zoom). Perhaps we’ll start to nudge back towards some in-person meetings soon although we don’t really feel this feels right just yet.

First Fridays are online, begin at 13.00 GMT/UTC+0 and last for an hour.

This month’s guests are Hayley Harrison, Anna Kushnerova and’s own Minou Polleros.

Hayley Harrison

Hayley Harrison: How did we become so resilient 3 weeks

Hayley Harrison is a multidisciplinary artist working with abandoned materials (human and non-human) and forgotten spaces to start conversations about our disconnection with ‘nature’ and each other.

This year she was awarded an Arts Council England Developing Your Creative Practice grant for her project ‘Practicing Outside’. This summer she has been based at Phytology: Bethnal Green Nature Reserve, where she has been attempting to start conversations with the non-human (and with humans about the non-human).

For the First Friday talk Hayley will be introducing new works ‘how did we learn to let go’ and ‘how did we become so resilient’ currently installed in the nature reserve. Both pieces are made out of green and red plastic kindling-sack with questions woven into them. Each work asks a question in the hope of capturing a response from ‘nature’. So far the responses have been ivy regrowing up through the question, suspended falling autumn leaves, or pigeon feathers left from a sparrowhawks dinner. As she listens to and interprets the responses to these questions  – she is considering the limitations of the human experience, language and our struggle to avoid being human-centric. She will also introduce ‘Projection’ a participatory video-based performance by humans for non-humans – made from your questions. If you could talk to plants and trees – what would you ask them?

Anna Kushnerova

As a body-based practitioner, Anna K gives attention to her kinetic and physical research skills. Developing ways of learning and building inquiry through the art of movement: a crossover of experiential anatomy, movement training and improvisation. Her performances are a blend of dance, ceremony, sculpture and sound. 

Within her performance practice Anna seeks a deeper, enchanted experience of being-in the world. Drawing from Butoh methods, she often explores ‘becoming’ animal and plant by leaning into liquid intelligence of the body and its inner multidimensional Dance, accessing its memory of perpetually morphing, evolving and enfolding organisms as well as the all sentient matter.   Anna K’s live acts explore play, and improvisation and attach a great importance to the instinctual response.  Having been trained in ceramics and textile, in her performances, Anna often incorporates costumes and sculptural works as body augmentations, metamorphic limbs, masks and set like installations.  

At First Friday I would like to focus on some of my performances where i draw on the worlds of animal and plant: HERON’S BLUES (2020), TOTIPOTENCY (2021), MONDRAGON (in development) with reference to  Psycho-Physiological Affect in Trance Ritual and Butoh Performance:The philosophy of animism in butoh allows the dancers to express the spirits of both animate and inanimate beings (such as animals, deities, plants, minerals, and natural elements).for Hijikata (one of butoh’s founders) the closest he came to articulating a methodology was this: ‘[The] [b]utoh dancer must be kidnapped, killed, reincarnated, and after that endowed with the power to talk with wind and grasses’ In his book Handsome Blue Sky, Hijikata describes the butoh body as an empty vessel that is abruptly invaded by something which ‘fills it to the brim’ and overflows (1987). He continues, ‘the movement of becoming empty is the way of the vessel … [Through this process] his body is metamorphosed to a new one which is the present ‘I’’ …as an empty vessel, the dancer simply welcomes everything that is given to him in these choreographies, accepting any condition, ‘always being ready to take anything, anytime’. Most importantly, the transformation process is instantaneous; Waguri says he needs to ‘watch, [and] already [he is] changed … [to] think and [then] move is too slow … [instead] at the same time as you watch it, you just become this thing’ (Notes: Michael Sakamoto’s paper.)

If time allows, I will weave in the beautifully poetic notion of “Metamorphosis without return” – introduced to me by Roberto Collasso’s Celestial Hunter: “If imitation goes too far it can become metamorphic: something that modifies the substance of the being. Sometimes irreversibly.” 
As well as touching upon Luce Irigaray’s contemplation on allowing the ‘emergence of the other’ and Merleau-Ponty’s flesh ontology where the body’s flesh is instantiated in “the flesh of the world”, and our perception emerges out of the contact of that self folded back on itself.  

Anna Kushnerova

Minou Tsambika Polleros

Minou is convening the next major event for Next July we will bring Sentient Performativities, to Dartington and to the world. This 2022 symposium investigates somatic practices and how they can foster embodied ecological awareness and communication between the human and other than human worlds. Traditionally somatic practices are most pertinent in dance and movement disciplines, rooted in the humanist perspective and primarily focusing on emancipating introception (the body as experienced from within). Current thinking suggests that such practices, while having the human self at the centre, can also highlight the reciprocal relationship between the self and the environment. Sentient Performativities: Thinking Alongside The Human will revisit our entanglement with the natural world from a felt perspective and bring together multiple fields of thought, practice and research that share embodied approaches to bridge the human, plant and animal divide.

image: Darren Jan Sutton