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Always was, always will be.

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Sarah Aiken: Make Your Life Count Program

Sarah Aiken: Make Your Life Count Program


17 – 20 April 2024
Presented by PICA

Artist Statement

We live and participate in a culture that centres on the individual – which tells us to make the most of ourselves and our lives and to build identities that incorporate our values, politics and contributions to the world. The process of personal growth and self-actualisation is embarked on to be the best versions of ourselves and to make a difference; we have never been so conscious of ourselves, looking inward for meaning where we once might have looked to god.

The work zooms in on finding a gross realism and out on losing the self in replaceable Lilliputian multitudes. The giant is powerful, grotesque, singular, all detail exposed, severed from its referent – the miniature is perfect, neat, its horrors obscured by the limitation of our eye: but it is one of many, replaceable, indistinguishable. They are the same thing, just the scale is different.

This work is about the giant and the miniature, the individual self and the ungraspable scale of the universe. In making it, I was thinking about things too big for my mind to comprehend; scales in space and time that are too much for us to see/understand- so that we can only grasp them in fragments..

I was also thinking about myself.

In trying to make a positive mark on the world, I need to learn (and love) how little I matter and how powerful that can be. With so much of our lives and identities commodified, we can’t look away from ourselves, so I’m looking even closer, zooming right in, in an attempt to unsettle the boundaries of self.

I am trying to understand the importance of my life and the importance of others’ lives in a world in which this value shifts depending on whether that individual is Palestinian, First Nations, poor, or a middle-class white woman with an Australian passport.

The question is not whether we are enmeshed, but how we negotiate, suffer, and dance with that enmeshment.’ – Maggie Nelson

Credits

Lead artist (Choreography, Video, Visual Design and Performance): Sarah Aiken

Sound Design: Andrew Wilson

Technical Designer and outside eye: Daniel Arnott

Creative support: Claire Leske

Text: Megan Payne with Sarah Aiken

Lighting Design: Amelia Lever-Davidson

Creative Team Bios

Lead Artist, Video and Performance:

Sarah Aiken is a Melbourne-based performer, teacher and choreographer. Sarah’s works investigate assemblage, authorship, scale and the self. She critically engages with the relationship between performer and audience and the possibilities for empathy and exchange.

Sarah’s recent choreographic works include Demake/Demaster SITU8 City, Liberty Theatre (STRUT/TURA 2022), What Am I Supposed To Do? (WAISTD) Arts Centre Melbourne (2019) and SARAHAIKEN (Tools for Personal Expansion), Keir Choreographic Award (2016). In 2022 she participated in the Australia Council’s Helsinki International Artists Program and is developing new work Body Corp for premiere in 2025.

Sarah is co-director of Deep Soulful Sweats with Rebecca Jensen, creating work that engages rigorously with participation and waste, recycling content to consider materiality and how we come together. They presented The Eleventh Hour workshop and Deep Soulful Sweats for STRUT’s Perth Moves as part of Perth Festival 2024 and in 2023 toured Deep Soulful Sweats to Latvia and Finland.

Make Your Life Count premiered at Arts House, Melbourne in 2022, with subsequent seasons at Platform Arts and video presentation at Federation Square, Gertrude Street Projection Festival, Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney and Frame Biennale of Dance. The work won Best Visual Design at the Australian Green Room Awards in 2023.

Sound Design

Andrew Wilson is an Australian musician working in the space between dance and ambient music. Using a wide variety of aliases (including Andras, Wilson Tanner, Berko, Art Wilson) his releases are increasingly concerned with breaking and reassembling an Australian vernacular sound and identity. In addition to his studio practice, Andrew has hosted radio shows, composed soundtracks for contemporary dance and compiled reissues of Australian music for the cult label Efficient Space.

Andrew has toured extensively worldwide as a DJ and performer and was an Artist in Residence at MESS in 2019. Andrew has worked with Sarah Aiken and Rebecca Jensen since 2013, creating original compositions for Greenroom Award Nominated WAISTD (2019) OVERWORLD (2014, 2015), Underworld (2017) and Deep Soulful Sweats (2015, 2019). OVERWORLD was released on Growing Bin Records in 2014 with subsequent release in 2021 by Numero Group.

Creative Collaboration and Rehearsal Direction

Claire Leske is a Melbourne-based performer and collaborator from Wagga Wagga NSW. A graduate from the Victorian College of the Arts in 2014, Claire has worked with Rebecca Jensen and Sarah Aiken (What Am I Supposed To Do? (WAISTD) and Underworld), Lucy Guerin Inc. (NEW RETRO 2023, 2024), Siobhan Mckenna, Geoffrey Watson, Jo Lloyd (CUTOUT and Garden Dance), Prue Lang (ZAURAK – performed with the Michael Douglas Collective, ALTO AIR – inside the work of Belle Bassin), Sarah Aiken (Tools for Personal Expansion), Shelley Lasica (Behaviour part 7), Rebecca Jensen (Deep Sea Dances), Brianna Kell (Observation).

Claire was a collaborator for the Artist in Your Backyard Program (Sarah Aiken – Dancehouse) and is a recipient of the Ian Potter Cultural Trust and the NSW Young Regional Artist Scholarship. Claire is the initiator of Dance Is; a website that shows what’s on in the world of contemporary dance in Melbourne and is the founder and operator of Open Dance, classes for those with a background in dance.

Technical Design and Creative Collaboration

Daniel Arnott is a technician, sound designer, musician and secondary school teacher. After completing his Bachelor of Music VCA, Daniel has collaborated with many independent dance makers, creating sound scores and technical designs through performance and live audio/video manipulation, as well as playing in bands around Melbourne. Notable design collaborations include SET (Sarah Aiken, Dancehouse, 2015, Dancemakers Toronto 2018) MAXIMUM (Natalie Abbott, Next Wave 2014, Dance Massive 2015), Three Short Dances (Sarah Aiken, KCA 2014, Les Plateaux de la Briqueterie. Paris 2015), PHYSICAL FRACTALS (Natalie Abbott, Next Wave 2012, Dance Massive 2013). Daniel toured with Sans Hotel (Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster, Working with Children) throughout Australia, Europe and America as a technical operator and sound engineer.

Lighting Design

Amelia Lever-Davidson is a lighting designer based in Melbourne, whose practice encompasses theatre, dance, live art, television and events. In 2012 she completed a Postgraduate Diploma at the Victorian College of the Arts, where she received the Orloff Family Charitable Scholarship for excellence in theatre. She is a graduate of The Western Australian Academy of the Performing Arts and completed Lighting Engineering and Design at RMIT. She has worked extensively across Australia in independent and main-stage theatre and dance.

Amelia’s work has been recognised with Green Room Awards for Contest, Looking Glass and her 2015 body of work. Amelia is an Australia Council ArtStart and JUMP Mentorship recipient, and a past participant in the Malthouse Besen Family Artist Program and the Melbourne Theatre Company’s inaugural Women in Theatre Program.

Text and Dramaturgy

Megan Payne works with dance, choreography and writing. After graduating from the Victorian College of Arts in 2013, Megan danced for Russell Dumas in Australia and internationally, and regularly performs for dance artists Shelley Lasica, Ivey Wawn, Sarah Aiken and Rebecca Jensen. They have presented work at Testing Grounds, TCB art. inc, TBP-HQ, Bus Projects, 215 Albion Street (Neon Parc), PS Artspace, Gertrude Contemporary (Naarm) and Judson Memorial Church for Movement Research (NYC). Their writing has been published in ACCA’s Writing in the expanded field, Archer Magazine, Bus Project’s Island Island, Visible Ink and In Perpetuity (Ivey Wawn, Next Wave Festival). Megan also created and hosts the radio show: Land Swimming, together with Oonagh Slater for Bus Radio (Bus Projects Gallery)