Evaporative Body/Multiplying Body, Alan Schacher & WeiZen Ho
Hannah Wu

This month Performance Review is partnering with the Keir Choreographic Award (KCA) to bring you interviews with this year’s finalists: Alan Schacher & WeiZen Ho (NSW); Alice Will Caroline (VIC); Jenni Large (TAS); Joshua Pether (WA); Lucky Lartey (NSW); Raghav Handa (NSW); Rebecca Jensen (VIC) and Tra Mi Dinh (VIC). In this interview Hannah Wu speaks with Alan Schacher & WeiZen Ho about their KCA work Evaporative Body/Multiplying Body, 2022.

Alan Schacher & WeiZen Ho, Evaporative Body/Multiplying Body, 2022. Photo by Fausto Brusamolino and Hirofumi Uchino.

HW: Can you tell me about your collaboration and what community means for you?

WH: Working with a life partner is a deep investment, a dynamic that holds many tensions, intersections and outcomes. I enter the collaborative process with Alan with great trepidation, but always possessing a desire to create a space where our contrary positions can provide us with the capacity to flourish. We have lived different lives and carry different histories, which produces tensions when working together. But we also find many unpredictabilities and shared themes in the process.

AS: We explored bringing together our cultural archetypes from Chinese and Jewish traditions in our earlier work, but our relationships to the notion of community are quite different. I grew up within a diasporic Jewish family who had lived through the losses and displacements of World War 2. My community is both a global network of artists and friends and of the local communities in which I reside. My work expresses the state of being a diasporic citizen who is shaped by multiple external forces and I define the diasporic condition as constituted by a global state of crisis.

Live art is inherently collaborative, it productively engages other participants and communities. But collaboration also necessitates a negotiation around differing value systems, where people bring an array of differing perspectives from their backgrounds. For the Keir Choreographic Award, our collaborators are lighting designer and video artist Fausto Brusamolino and noise artist Hirofumi Uchino.

WH: We examined the insatiability of desires in our first works together, inspired by the Buddhist concept of The Hungry Ghost. This seed of insatiability is a drive that will torment humans in perpetuity. Suffering and pain are core concepts and are therefore the first principles we have to look at in our lives. How do we integrate this pain into ourselves and societies?

We view our socially engaged, community-based works in terms of relationship building. Our motivations and through-lines experiment with temporary community-making, which helps us to evolve propositions together. But the friendships we develop during this process are nurtured beyond the duration of the project. The form that these temporary, site-specific works take on, reflects the mobility and flux that is intrinsic to our lives, a historical thread that ties migrants together.

Community is always connected to history and history is always connected to family. My family was displaced from the land they occupied, a province in Southern China that was affected by extreme poverty, resulting in a mass exodus. People who left weren’t allowed back easily. As a result, we landed in other countries, bringing along animistic Buddhism and Taoist rituals. During my time in Malaysia, I lived in communities with shaman rituals. I would ask the shamans “what are the origins of the rituals’ movements?” and I would always receive different answers. We lived within an oral tradition and these gaps within cultural memory offered a poetic ambiguity.

HW: What is the meaning of the body, the object and their interactions in your work?

AS: The body is my tool, device, means and method, a self-archive, a home, a container, a ‘state’ in all senses of the word. It is a ‘place’ where I stash my secrets and it is the genetic and genealogical pathway of my ancestors and my family into the present. The body in performance conveys multiple meanings beyond those I intentionally present, attaining different qualities of presence and absence.

In our new work Evaporative Body/Multiplying Body we examine the potential of the body beyond its physical limitations. We aspire to reach states of ambiguity and transcendence through the situations we devise, stepping in an instant from the everyday into the extraordinary.

WH: You cannot escape your body. In our combined explorations of different, hybridised, devotional body practices, I cannot think of the body as separate from the spirit; the physical form, the mind and emotion. The way I see it, the body holds experience and memory. It will always be a carrier of lineage. The body is a kind of wisdom itself, that holds intergenerational, familial and collective memories in its form. But what exists in the spirit will always be a question mark. What is the spirit’s essence?

I perceive the objects in our performances as ritual objects. They become animated when you bring your intentions to them. Objects can trigger memories, the things we have forgotten, they can extract obscure references. We look at the objects and ask “how can we create a new relationship to them?”.

AS: We use objects as a means of extending the body and its relationship to site, space, situation and place. The imagination is ignited and the senses come into play when the body encounters objects in the world. We find ourselves in dialogue with the objects; if a site can be thought of as set, then objects can be considered as co-enactors.

Hannah Wu is a writer and musician from Aotearoa, studying on unceded Wurundjeri land. Her work has been published or is forthcoming with Cordite Poetry Review, un Magazine, Island Island online for Bus Projects, SEVENTH Gallery, Liminal Magazine, Yale Art History Journal, Enjoy Contemporary Art Space, Disclaimer Journal for Liquid Architecture, Pantera Press and Voiceworks. In 2021, she was shortlisted for the Liminal Nonfiction Prize and was longlisted for the Liminal Fiction Prize in 2020.

Alan Schacher is a performance artist and creator concerned with the body’s engagement with inhabited space, material form and the diasporic condition. He devises and enacts rituals for place and situation. The founder of Gravity Feed and Gravity Research Institute, his dance influences include Russell Dumas, Katie Duck and Min Tanaka.

WeiZen Ho devises performances and participatory works that occupy spaces of uncertainty between performance, ritual and installation. Perceiving spirit possession as socially transformative and empowering, she employs accoutrements and imagery that locate and coalesce relationships between body, voice, sound and site. She was previously music director of TUFA music-visual ensemble.

Alan Schacher & WeiZen Ho will perform Evaporative Body/Multiplying Body at Dancehouse on 23—25 June and at Carriageworks on 30 June—2 July.

An innovative commissioning partnership between Dancehouse, The Keir Foundation and the Australia Council for the Arts, with presenting partner Carriageworks, the KCA is Australia’s largest contemporary dance award showcasing new, choreographic short works by eight Australian artists.

Held over two weeks, this year all eight commissioned works will be presented at both Dancehouse, Melbourne and Carriageworks, Sydney in a rotating program of two bills (four works each).

The KCA is an extraordinary, fully paid opportunity for independent Australian artists to develop and share works with audiences and an esteemed jury of dance luminaries. The jury of international dance leaders tasked with selecting the recipient of the 2022 Keir Choreographic Award and awarding the $50,000 jury prize on Sunday 3 July at Carriageworks includes Daniel Riley (Wiradjuri/Australia); Eko Supriyanto (Indonesia); Laurie Uprichard (Ireland); Lemi Ponifasio (Aotearoa/New Zealand) and Nanako Nakajima (Japan).

Melbourne season at Dancehouse
23 June – 2 July
Book tickets for Melbourne

Sydney season at Carriageworks
23 June – 2 July
Book tickets for Sydney

Performance Review acknowledges the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation as the traditional custodians of the land on which we operate. We pay our respects to their Elders; past, present and emerging and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.