Artist Jessica Lerner reflects on Groundwork residency at Cardiff M.A.D.E

“I applied for this residency as a way of utilising my time to train alongside my other work. The residency provided me with the opportunity to spend time making my own work in Cardiff, which was new to me, as my studio and my home is in Carmarthenshire. I have been part of other people’s work in Cardiff and have shown films of mine there, but never my own live performance. I tend to show my work in a gallery settings, although it sits within dance, so the combination of Groundwork Pro and Cardiff M.A.D.E seemed perfect for me.

I was impressed by the Maternal Attitude Symposium hosted by artist and curator of MADE Zoe Gingell, a few weeks earlier and having met Zoe a few times before, I felt a potential there.  She had included my 5-minute film last minute as part of the Maternal Attitude symposium. It was also at that symposium that Deborah Light and I had the chance to talk about the lack of dance works represented in the symposium apart from mine. This led me to feel confident that Groundwork Pro had an interest in dance in an art setting like myself.

I wanted to try working with a new dancer, and Rose Leighton had got in touch with me a week before the performance. As Rose is trained in somatic movement and I work with a combined somatic movement with visual performance, I thought it could be an interesting combination.

For the first two days I worked alone, and Rose joined me for the last day and the performance. I went in with the idea of our generational differences, but to not be prescriptive about it. I started from scratch using the Choreographic conceptual techniques learnt from Rosemary Butcher, who I was very lucky to study with before she passed away a couple of years ago. I started by working with painting, writing and dropping into the movement that came from letting go of these. Concepts began to emerge aligned with my relationship, co-inhabiting, architecture, emotions, symbolism, and internal organs. Then later ideas of imperfections or illness of the body/mind, scratching, incompatibility, ageing and youth.

I later had the idea of utilising the stairs in Cardiff M.A.D.E and a projector to film movement from upstairs so that the audience could witness what we were doing on the stairs from downstairs. When Rose arrived we developed from these ideas. Rose brought her energy of fight or flight, we talked about the parasympathetic and other psychological understandings of our relating in dancing which she brought suggested from her psychology training.

I found the structure of having to present a public performance very motivating. Zoe, M.A.D.E and Groundwork Pro were very supportive. They provided feedback on our run through and asked how I was doing in the studio time, which felt very important to me, as I was in a new environment on my own, bringing dance to the gallery. Starting to make new work can be a very desolate place.

Thank you to Deborah, Zosia, Lara, Zoe and Josh.”