The Clay Connection

The Clay Connection was conceived by Vidya Thirunarayan. Thirunarayan is a Bharata Natyam performer, potter, founding co-Artistic Director of SANKALPAM, and case-study participant for my doctoral research. The Clay Connection brings together a collaborative team of artists from diverse disciplines including myself as choreographer (and participant observer) to explore Thirunarayan’s instinct, that between clay and dance, an untapped connection exists. The collaborators have utilised the classical Hindu text of Pārvatí’s Dirt as a narrative device through which Thirunarayan’s concept can be explored using the mediums of ceramics, text, theatre, sound and dance. To date, the project has undertaken ten days practice-based research (2016) with a further ten days research and development planned for the summer of 2017.

The project sits within the broader framework of my doctoral research, which focuses on a single case study, Bharata Natyam Company SANKALPAM, and explores the Company’s evolving relationship with the culturally dislocated classical dance form. The following research questions have arisen out of The Clay Connection’s research and development and contribute to my broader enquiry:

  • How is it possible to re-examine existing and embedded cultural knowledge through diverse cultural interactions and tasks?
  • What stimulates different entry points into embedded cultural knowledge? What ignites different engagements with embedded forms, within practitioners’ individual body sites?

Early analysis of The Clay Connection signals that the tools of ceramics (the wheel, clay, slip) act as catalysts for the artist (Thirunarayan) to engage with her practice in different ways and in particular with the expressive element of Bharata Natyam known as Abhinaya. It further indicates the relevance of how process impacts upon an individualised response to familiar cultural narrative, in this case the story of Pārvatí’s Dirt. With further analysis, it may be suggested that interactions beyond performance practices have significant potential for re-located artists in enabling different engagements with complex and embedded cultural knowledge systems and forms.

For a short video of the project please go to:

– Debbie Fionn Barr


Thirunarayan, V. (2016) The Clay Connection [R&D] Photo Credit: Zoe Manders


rosa cisneros – what a picture is worth

Mass media offers up little in the way of positive imagery when it comes to the Romani community. The female body on screen is even more problematic and the image of the Roma woman is one that sits in two extremes, either being highly romanticised or painted as a criminal or beggar. Such stereotypes are harmful to the community and require members from within to offer counter narratives to challenge these accepted norms.

In April 2015 C-DaRE’s Romani Week Festival included a photo exhibition which was a three way partnership between photographer Antony Weir, the Roma Project Organisation and me. The photo exhibition was born out of a deep appreciation and respect for the Romanian Roma families who are located in the city of Coventry. More info can be found at The exhibition “Family Matters/Chestiuni de familie” was curated to bring people from all walks of life together and to offer a positive image of the local Romanian Roma community. Rarely do we see people for who they are and “Family Matters” offered just that, a glimpse into the lives of the stereotyped families. The exhibition was up for 8 months and viewed by thousands of people however, only covered by one journalist, although many were invited to the opening.

Another positive example of an organisation that is carrying out work that is pushing boundaries and promoting role models and positive images of the community is the Drom Kotar Mestipen Roma Women’s Association (DKM) located in Barcelona, Spain. The DKM was created in 1999 by a group of Roma and non-Roma women of different ages, studies, professional profiles and socio-economic levels with a common objective: to fight for Equality and non-discrimination of Roma women, promoting their participation in educational, social and cultural spaces.

The founders of the Drom Kotar Mestipen defined the following objectives of the association:

  • Work to achieve equality and non-discrimination between women and men within the Roma community.
  • Overcoming the double discrimination suffered by Roma women (based on gender and ethnicity) as well as racism and sexism as a whole.
  • Collaborate with other associations and organisations struggling to achieve equality based on respect for and promotion of their own differences.
  • Promote and enable equal access of Roma women and girls to all educational, social and labor spaces as a means of promoting equal rights, opportunities and outcomes among all cultures.
  • To promote the image of the Roma woman as the transmitter and promoter of the Roma cultural identity.

The Drom Kotar Mestipen is busy organising the Second International Roma Women’s Congress and in late January 2017, women from Greece, Romania, Serbia, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic and Germany met in Barcelona, Spain for a pre-congress meeting. The meeting brought together Roma and non-Roma women from a grassroots level to discuss education, feminism, labour market inclusion and the image of the Roma Woman in mainstream media. It was agreed that the Second Congress would include a space to discuss how the arts can help shape the narratives around the Roma woman and include exhibitions that reflect pivotal moments in the community’s history and challenge the accepted stereotypes. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words and the arts can be an entry point to discuss these highly charged topics.

– Rosa Cisneros

Image credits: RosaSenCis Photography, KoZin Photography, DKM Photography

margie medlin – australian residencies

In February I undertook two residencies in Australia researching concepts for a public art project, which links incidental spectators with large-scale video dance projections and mobile technologies. At the Substation in Melbourne I focused on media design and software. I also hung-out in the Altona Gate Mall, the proposed location for the work, asking shoppers if they wanted to contribute to my research by talking to me about the ways they use their smart phones. While at Critical Path in Sydney I worked with dance makers Vicki Van Hout, Patrick Lucky Lartey and video artist Martin Fox exploring, how movement inside a projection frame expands viewer’s perceptions of the space both inside and outside of the fame. We developed and documented dance phrases that explored notions of an unstable-ground and visibility through masking, persistence and the occupation of space.

– Margie Medlin


Dancers Vicki Van Hout, Patrick Lucky Lartey

Digital Echoes 2017: dance data – libraries and processes

Digital Echoes 2017 explores the generation, uses, and distribution of digital dance data. We ask critical questions stemming from the re-forming and re-contextualisation of dance through digitisation, about its effect on the ontology, form, and potentials of dance (and data), about dance digitisation as an emergent practice and what it may mean for future artistic and academic endeavours, for spectatorship, education and disciplinary exchange. The event will include presentations from Maaike Bleeker and Scott deLahunta, and the UK launch of Bleeker’s edited collection Transmission in Motion: The Technologizing of Dance. The participants in Digital Echoes will explore three key themes: Understanding/Context, Enrichment/Engagement, and Circulation. There will also be 5 minute triggers from various individuals with different interests and expertise.

When: Friday 10 March 2017
Where: Coventry University’s ICE Building
Participants: 50 scholars, artists, and engineers from the UK, Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand

Images: Deborah Hay’s No Time To Fly (2010), courtesy Motion Bank, The Forsythe Company

sara wookey – various projects

I am currently a TATE Learning Research Associate at TATE Modern examining dance as a lived reality within the art museum. Past TATE projects that I have been involved in include Collecting the Performative and The Experience & Value of Live Art. You can also find out more about my residency through my blog on my website: From March 7–10th I will be at the vanAbbe Museum to re-visit my project Punt.Point that has been on offer at the museum since 2014. As part of that visit I will give a free public talk and walk through of the project on 9 March 2017 called Moving the Museum.

– Sara Wookey