Dancer, Farmer

0 Nat Cursio and Daniel Crooks, “at least for a while anyway,” 2015. Image courtesy of the artists

Nat Cursio is a Melbourne-based dance maker, who creates choreographies, curated programs and developmental platforms under the umbrella Nat Cursio Co. Here, she illuminates her newest project, at least for a while anyway. 

24 Frames Per Second opens at Carriageworks, Sydney on June 18.

 

at least for a while anyway is a seven minute video piece, a collaboration between myself and artist Daniel Crooks. I was invited by Carriageworks to create something for 24 Frames Per Second, and the brief was pretty open. The exhibition looks at the juncture of dance, film and visual art and I wanted to collaborate with somebody I hadn’t worked with before. I wanted to work in a way that was a little foreign to me and that might produce something I couldn’t have achieved as a single author.

I went to talk to Daniel Crooks at a time when I was thinking a lot about new learning and how we continue to learn as we age. Particularly I had in mind Don Asker, a veteran of Australian dance and academia who, at around 66, runs a small cattle farm and is re-conserving a beautiful stretch of land in N.S.W. My admiration for Don, his resilience, and his ‘other life’ as a farmer made me curious about studying someone away from their dancerly identity.

What drew me to Daniel as a collaborator was (what I see as) the choreographic way in which his work fleshes out the body and adds further dimension to the perception of the subject matter. Daniel extracts moments of a moving image and technically re-imagines them to dismantle the traditional visual relationship between time and space. There is something deeply engaging about the fact that such a machine-based digital/video process can so sensitively investigate corporeal complexity and elicit an emotional response in the viewer.

The making of at least for a while anyway has been stretched over a long period of time, weaving small intense moments of creation interspersed through our other individual projects. By a stroke of luck, a beautiful co-incidence, Daniel and his family happen to camp in summer time in N.S.W. in a location that is just a half hour drive from Don’s secluded farm and land. It was through this miraculous little window of opportunity in our schedules that allowed us to do a test shoot in 2014 and then the final shoot in 2015.

Nat Cursio and Daniel Crooks, “at least for a while anyway.” Image courtesy of the artists

Nat Cursio and Daniel Crooks, “at least for a while anyway.” Image courtesy of the artists

The way we made this work was by talking and playing: experimenting with movement development, shooting, manipulating footage and editing. We never really made a story-board and we didn’t set out to make a work about one particular theme. The test shoot was all blue skies, sun, fluffy clouds and buzzing insects. The final shoot was the opposite—grey skies, misty rain and resonant frogs. So we were not in complete control of the outcomes, more so allowing possibility, following tangents and being responsive. It was a gathering and distilling of ingredients—people, location, a (very nice) camera, some physical ideas/motifs, some local sound recordings and the trust that there was something compelling about what we had to work with.

We talked about how present the dancer is in the farmer (what is the residue? is the dancerly experience evident in daily farm activities?) and how present the farmer is in the dancer (how does the acquired association to the land and animals imprint upon one’s movement patterns and creative expression?) We talked about the solubility of one’s identity, the places in which we become embedded and the transience of life. And ultimately I think the work subtly references all those things whilst maintaining a sense of mystery. I like that about this work.

Aside from Don Asker as the subject/performer, my partner Pete Brundle has created the sound design which includes custom sounds from virtuoso recorder player Genevieve Lacey. Making a work for screen is relatively uncharted territory for me. The work has gradually come together through a co-choreography of all of these elements into an arrangement that makes sense to both Daniel and I. It is the first time I have presented my work in a gallery context so it’s pretty exciting to be doing so at Carriageworks alongside a bunch of other amazing artists.

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