Colette Sadler: 'With art, we're just reflecting back what we're seeing, we're like mirrors, and maybe it's creating alarm bells'
Mark Bleakley / credit: Claricia Parinussa
Choreographer discusses curating Glasgow's new three-day festival, Present Futures
A well-known face on the contemporary dance scene, choreographer Colette Sadler is also making a name for herself as a curator. Following the success of 2016's multi-disciplinary arts symposium 'Fictional Matters', Sadler returns to the Centre of Contemporary Art in Glasgow to curate a new three-day festival, Present Futures.
With its diverse mix of live performance, installation, film and workshops, Present Futures is hard to quantify, but is there a theme that links it all together?
I guess one of the over-arching themes is the impact technology is having on arts practise, and in particular performance. How notions of the physical body are being transformed, as society becomes more and more dependent on data – and how that changes our notion of ourselves as humans.
All of the artists who are part of Present Futures, even if they're not directly working with technology or presenting it literally, are dealing with the fact that we're living in a time where the future has already happened – and we're carrying on into a new era, another phase of human kind.
What were you looking for in the artists and companies you programmed?
Primarily I was looking for artists who were working in an inter-disciplinary capacity. So, for example, Florence Peake is a visual artist as well as a performance maker – so it's interesting to look at how her drawing and sculpture feeds into her performance work.
I was also reflecting on my own recent works, which have a sci-fi aesthetic where we're almost imagining a future where human bodies no longer exist. And quite a lot of people are dealing with gender and queer politics.
So on the one hand the sci-fi genre, and on the other hand artists whose work is re-inventing and re-imagining what bodies and humans may become in the future.
The idea of a future without human bodies sounds pretty bleak – is Present Futures hopeful or hopeless?
Well it's interesting, because I've had a number of conversations with artists about dystopian ideas appearing in work right now. And I think that's got a lot to do with our fear of environmental disaster.
With art, we're just reflecting back what we're seeing, we're like mirrors, and maybe it's creating alarm bells. I don't want to believe in a dystopian future but maybe by thinking about it, it will encourage us to think about where we are right now and how we can actually make that better.
You've included two of your own works in the festival, Body A and Temporary Store, which will both appear at the Gallery of Modern Art – tell us a bit about them.
I'd been unsure about presenting my own work in the festival, but then I felt it did have a place.
I made Body A in collaboration with German visual artist Mikko Gaestel, and it's the first work I've made within a specifically visual arts context. It speculates on a future where the body is no longer in existence, so Body A is this monolithic figure, an algorithmic agency that rakes through the archives of humans to see what was important to them and how they made meaning.
And because I thought it was nice to have a sister piece, I'm including a solo taken from my recent full-length work, Temporary Store. It's a one-hour choreographic loop, where the dancer is seen as some kind of futuristic hybrid human or cyborg body. She's on a plinth, like a living sculpture.
What do you feel is unique about Present Futures?
I have thought about how the festival creates a place for itself within a very busy calendar of performance festivals in Glasgow. And I think there are two things that are distinctive – firstly, I'm an artist curator, so the work I've programmed is connected to my own personal research within dance and visual arts.
And secondly, with Fictional Matters in 2016, a lot of audience members said they really enjoyed hearing the artists talk about their work, because to engage with an artist's process can be really fascinating and add another layer of appreciation.
So I'm opening up a conversation – it's not just a case of here's a festival, buy a ticket, come and enjoy the work. I'm also saying here's the thought process behind these works and you can talk to these artists and listen to the wider themes they're dealing with – like how do we all negotiate our current environmental and political situation and think about the future?
Present Futures is at CCA and GoMA, Glasgow, Fri 7–Sun 9 Jun. Find the full programme at cca-glasgow.com/programme/present-futures
Colette Sadler curates the fourth edition of this multi-disciplinary art event, wherein Scottish and international artists present their work on speculative futures through human/non-human relationships.