Edinburgh based, Luke Pell “is an artist … who collaborates with people and places, imagining alternative contexts for performance, participation and discourse that might reveal wisdoms for living” (Luke Pell, 2020).
The project brought together peers in Scotland, Germany and the Nordics whose practice is concerned with intersectionality and interdisciplinarity “to better understand and position themselves in an ever changing and uncertain dance sector” (Luke Pell, 2019) and amplify such artists through increasing awareness of international collaborative opportunities and helping establish allies and networks.
The project provided space and time for deep reflection and conversation for dance artists outside of the mainstream, artists who may consider themselves ‘outliers’: because, for example, they create work using their lived experience as a person from a marginalised or minority group; or identification as disabled or queer; or they create work outside of traditional infrastructures.
At CODA Dance Festival in Oslo, Norway in October 2019, Luke and Nadja worked with Stine Nilsen, Artistic Director of CODA; and independent Berlin-based maker, curator and teacher, Peter Pleyer. They had access to programmes of work they would not see in Scotland and by curating a series of conversations with 15 artists, gained an appreciation of both similarities and differences between practice in Scotland and Norway.
In partnership with Peter Pleyer and guest speaker Tony Tran, Luke led an intensive workshop for Nordic producers which drew on the perspective of two queer artists and led to attendees reflecting on differing practice and looking at their work in new ways.
Then at Tanzplaftorm in November 2019, the team invited conversations with presenting artists and programmers on topics ranging from form and aesthetics to process and underpinning values. As Luke explains: “A particular concern arose regarding the relationship between ‘what content claims to be’ and ‘how it comes to be’” with participants noting the influence of ‘market interest’. Country-specific political and economic drivers, and priorities were also recognised by participants as being either barriers or facilitators to international collaboration.
Luke Pell comments: “Hosting and leading conversations – as an independent artist – with peers in differing roles across countries provided critical insight into where priorities lie and why, where there is real potential for collaboration and where perplexity arises because of differing approaches to arts/culture, de-centralisation and the outlier”.
Nadja Dias reflects: “An open, honest, critical dialogue with regards to the work of ‘outlier’ artists, producers and the relationship to programmers and the mainstream has led to new ideas that will impact my future projects.”
Nadja considered it a rare privilege to share critical discourse with both artists and programmers from diverse backgrounds and give space and time to think about those outside of the mainstream.
Stine Nilsen says of the project: “The set up provided has allowed for reflective conversations about possibilities and challenges from all involved, and proposed ideas about ways forward in terms of developing and supporting work. It has also highlighted the ‘outlier’ position from an artist’s perspective and broadened this perspective in terms of who feels like they identify with this term.”
The Future for Outliers
The project has had a major impact on Luke’s capacity to work internationally, as evidenced by multiple invites for him to contribute and collaborate: as writer, facilitator and reflector in on going exchange relating to a 2-year mentoring program in Nordic countries; as a contributing artist and facilitator in a new innovative online collective, Grand re Union; as guest curator at CODA Dance Festival in 2021 and to contribute to a proposed new podcast series ‘What Happened When the Dancing Stopped” from Frikar dance company in Norway.
Luke has already begun to share learning online and in person, with the sector in Scotland in collaboration with partners such as Imaginate, the Federation of Scottish Theatre, The Workroom, Dance Base; and there are many other exciting plans in the pipeline.