Serena Chalker

In 2018 Ausdance WA launched our first Dance Artist In Residence (DAIR) initiative. This program was introduced with the aim to address the challenge faced by many dance artists in accessing affordable studio space. DAIR creates the opportunity for Ausdance WA to establish partnerships with dance studios, schools and other dance spaces and provide access to this space for our members.

For this initial DAIR Round, four residencies were granted:

– Latin Dance Productions
– Lauren Catellani
– Serena Chalker
– Talitha Maslin
This week we are presenting Serena Chalker, a successful dance artist based in Perth who has recently completed their residency at YMCA HQ Leederville in their new dance space.
Ausdance WA will be launching a new DAIR initiative shortly for Fringe World performances in 2019. Keep an eye out for updates as they happen.

What are you exploring as part of your DAIR?

I am looking at the beginning of the third part of the project From the Outside, In – a multi-site project that looks at the dynamic interaction between site and person, and the relationship between a site-based arts practice and working in a globalised environment. Previous incarnations of this project have resulted in a collaborative exhibition and performance in Bulgaria (exploring the dual perspectives of the foreigner and the expat in what is “foreign” and “familiar” in a place) and an installation for one person at a time in Finland (exploring the dialogue between body, memory and site through living and working in the same building for 2 months). This project is CHANGESCAPES – exploring dynamic systems of interaction and perspective.


What have you been doing so far?

I’m only halfway through the second week of half-working days, so there hasn’t been a lot of time (and I’ve just come off the back of the MoveMe Festival and Quindell Orton’s Seed residency with STRUT so it has been super busy creatively), but there has been a lot of dialogue, prototyping and filming. This last week I have been working with Matt Cornell, a dancer, artist and sound maker from Sydney, and we have been talking and developing methods of perspective shift through new media technology – and talking about when tech is necessary and when it isn’t – how theatre can replicate/replace some of these ideas, and how to pick the best medium for what you are exploring.


So do you think it is necessary in this process?

I think that what I am interested in is the possibilities for enhancing sensory awareness and being inside and outside of a system – in this case, We have been working with video to explore temporal shifts that take you outside of yourself – creating introspection through action (or, learning by doing, to put it more bluntly)


What do you mean by introspection through action exactly – what does that look like practically?

Ha! This is the ultimate question, really. I mean I think what I have realised is that I have this week started creating two separate things – one is a solo installation and one will eventually become a performance. But what I mean by introspection through action is creating a point where your actions trigger something – but perhaps you don’t quite know what yet, or what it means, but you see someone else doing that same thing that also provokes a reaction – you find the point where you “learn the rule”, which then makes you hyper aware of the situation – you are both within a system, but you also are looking from the outside. There’s something satisfying for me in the point where an audience opens up to something that has been right in front of them the whole time.


What have you been looking at from a technical perspective?

Well we started the week playing with AR technology – creating things in the space that aren’t there – but of course this can also be done by naming the thing that isn’t there “watch out for the rabbit” – thereby creating a rabbit in the mind of the audience, even though they can’t see it. We were also playing with the possibilities that video gives for people to come outside of themselves by seeing a side that they can’t possibly see – we (and by we I mean Matt) hacked a mirror ball and created a prototype of a 360 perspective machine – through a skype call between two phones (or a phone and another screen), you watch yourself from 360* (through a skype call with a camera circling you), offering a critical, but augmented view of yourself while you are standing there. It doesn’t sound like much to describe, but it was quite an interesting and slightly unsettling place to be in. We also playing with 360* VR with the gopro fusion and discovered that the thing that is the most interesting is seeing the room that is almost but not quite the same as the room that you are currently in (in this time and space), time shifted to the past – and then as you pan the camera around to “discover” this world that you happen upon a version of yourself, looking at yourself.  – it was more interesting to look around the room if there is something to look at and just happen upon yourself, while you were looking for something. I think the intermediate step to uncover is what happens in that middle zone – how do you create a room of “the past” to uncover which you then watch back at a later stage?

Are you trying to create a comment on the permeability of technology in our daily lives?

Actually no – I have been thinking about this a bit – and it very much depends on how you set certain parameters – for example, watching yourself on the 360* circling camera is a very different experience if your are looking at yourself from a phone that you hold, or if you look at a projection of yourself (ie looking down or looking up) – looking up, you more get the detached analytical perspective of yourself rather than creating a comment on the permeability of technology in our every-day lives…. I am more interested in using the technology to facilitate the experience of this change in perspective – to take the tools, themes and techniques that I have been exploring in other ways and through other works into a new area.


So you said that there seem to be two things going on in this residency – what is the other area you are exploring?

Well, actually what I came in here originally intending to explore was a system of performance where the movements of the audience around the space would affect the sound environment, thus also affecting the trajectory of the performance – I am very much interested in audience engagement, and particularly a bodily engagement in a space to facilitate understanding. I have only really just touched on this area, but I will be working with Alwyn Nixon-Lloyd, a sound designer that uses sensor technology and coding to produce sound. I am interested in proximity, awareness and engagement, listening to the sounds of the space (through the body), and reacting to the changing environment of an audience. I will be exploring this further in Korea in February next year, so this DAIR residency is a good time to lay the foundations of this work, and then next year I will be exploring more the actual practical and choreographic frameworks for the performance.


Do you think these two things are related?

Yes they are, and no they’re not.

What do you mean?

I mean they are both exploring systems, interactivity and perspective – but I think one is more connected to a personal introspection and the other is more related to a collective understanding and thinking through. They are two sides of the same thing, but I don’t think they are part of the same work. But I guess that will become more clear as things progress.


What are you doing with the rest of your time then?

I will be thinking more about this “middle” space of the 3-part installation – what evokes a curiosity in an audience to explore something (and how they can affect change in that environment), an then how the experience of them watching that process back can take you to a higher level of understanding of how you affect your environment in an intangible way. With Matt we also talked a little bit about using algorithms to generate a performance score – I am going to be looking at that a bit more next week, and what that might look like from a practical sense. I will also be working with Alwyn on some frameworks for generating sound through proximity to an audience (or of an audience to itself).

Sounds like you have a lot to work on. Better get back to it then

Yeah, you got me on that one.

Thanks Serena!!