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News - 22nd of November 2021

Q&A with Samara Hersch

Q&A with Samara Hersch

Presented by PICA, Perth Festival & WA Youth Theatre Company, Body of Knowledge is an intimate and playful work, performed by teenagers who call into the theatre on mobile phones, is a powerful meditation on age and change: changes to bodies, changes in attitude, and changes to life. 

Questions of boundaries, sexuality, pleasure, shame, pain, consent, ageing, grief, and death are all on the table as teens chat with the audience in real-time from their bedrooms. 

As an inter-generational conversation unfolds, the teacher and the student, the adult and the child, the performer and the audience, begin to shift and entangle. At the direction and instigation of the young telephone callers, we’re given an immersive and deeply pleasurable glimpse into the sights and sounds of Generation Z. 

We’re excited to give you an exclusive insight into the artist behind this powerful work that showcases a number of extraordinary young Western Australians and will be showing in our performance space this coming February.

Samara Hersch is an artist and theatre director based between Naarm (Melbourne) and Amsterdam, whose practice explores the intersection of contemporary performance and community engagement. She is currently an artist in residence at Theatre Rotterdam and is part of the EU Network; ACT; Art Climate Transition. Samara is a winner of the Green Room Award for Best Contemporary and Experimental Performance 2017 and recipient of the ZKB Patronage Prize and Audience Prize, Theater Spektakle Zurich 2019.

How would you describe yourself as an artist?

My artistic practice responds to issues that feel urgent to me and that demand attention and care. It is for me a way to practice and propose unfamiliar relations and different ways to speak and listen through confrontation, through empathy, through our bodies, through our vulnerabilities, and through our interdependence.

Why do you think Body of Knowledge is such a transformative work for audiences?

I think the work is very specific for each audience member, but I think the transformative quality of it comes through the potential and unknowingness of where a conversation might lead you, especially conversations that are guided by young people. Similarly, I think it’s not just about the questions that the teenagers have for you the adults, but rather the work reveals the nuanced and critical questions we have for ourselves and each other.

What do you enjoy about working with young people?

I very much appreciate and respect the perspectives of young people. So many of them are leading the way when it comes to taking on some of the biggest issues of our times. Be it climate crisis, racism, transphobia etc.  I continue to learn so much from them and feel privileged to witness the solidarity and care a lot of them show one another.

Why draws you to incorporate community engagement into your work?

I guess I am interested in art that invites unlikely encounters and the possibility for something unexpected to occur. I find that often by inviting different communities or demographics to be part of the process and work means that there are always unique perspectives and a range of embodied experiences in the room – and that often guides or influences a lot of what the work might become.

How do you approach making work that involves the audience?

I am interested in participation that is not forceful. I like to think of it as an invitation – one that is open to whatever one feels able to give. For me, the work cannot be contingent on audiences doing what we tell them, but rather we try to create a space where trust and generosity are elicited and from there, something might happen.

What is your favourite part of the creative process?

Meeting young people via our various workshops. Through ‘Body of Knowledge’, I have met and worked with teenagers from all over the world including Hong Kong, Hungary, Italy, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Singapore, and the UK.  It is such a fascinating way to get an impression of a place or context; through the perspectives and questions of teenagers living there.

How would you describe Body of Knowledge in 3 words?


Find out more about Body of Knowledge here