On the Couch with Sarah Aiken

sarah aikenWho is Sarah Aiken?
I’m an Aquarian and a Rebecca Jensen is a Cancer, an air sign and a water sign. We’ve been making work together, and independently for the last few years. Our first work was OVERWORLD, now there is Underworld, maybe next is Limbo, Airports or No World. Post apocalypse, pre big bang. We’re really excited about Underworld, it’s quite a grueling show to perform but it feels like we’re refining the mess and excess that our work has, into something that has a clarity and focus without reducing its multiplicity.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
I think about what else I should do with my life all the time but I can’t think of anything else that I both could do, and want to do as much as what I’m doing. Making work gives you a lot of skills that are hard to put on your CV and very hard to pinpoint. Maybe something that is a bit more tangible than dance, something where you can see the results of your labor or its effect on people. Or maybe save some lives, or the environment.

Who inspires you and why?
Lots of things inspire me but Underworld comes from thinking about the negative, or the flip side of our 2014 work OVERWORLD. As soon as we started thinking about creating a piece that was the inverse, we had to talk about the impossibility of creating a binary, and the importance of all the things that exist between binaries. Where OVERWORLD took from the internet, and acted as a vessel for a huge amount of collaged materials, Underworld deals with materiality, the physical and bodily, which led us to consider waste, excess and the physical environment; our place within the ‘natural’ world.

The 1978 Australian film Long Weekend was recommended to us by musician and sound designer for the work, Andrew Wilson (Art Wilson). It somehow dealt so well with a lot of what we were talking about, so in line with the recycling that informs every part if the work, we took the film, storyboarded it and built the show around its plot and its overt symbolism. It has been described as an eco-horror, which is such a great term, and so the work has become some kind of cautionary karmic tale because the apocalypse is actually happening right now and there’s not a enough being done about it.

At the same time the work is not ‘about’ any of this content, its sometimes very overt and other times totally abstract and opaque, its a lot of things and maybe there is a take home message but more likely its as complicated and conflicted as our relationship to the natural/physical/environment or whatever you want to call the world.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Existing is impacting the world, so we create potentials and movements every moment we live, actually even if we died we’d still make difference. I genuinely try to make the affects I’m having positive ones, or at least neutral, but that’s obviously only in relation to my particular values. I like to think that holding yourself accountable for how you live in the world, and try to live in a way that doesn’t harm others and enacts the values you hold is a form of activism, but also I think individualism causes a lot of harm and the collective momentum is so vital because I know how hard it is to be a good human, collective momentum is so vital because its hard to be a good human, I am so often hypocritical and even if you are trying your hardest to do the best, it’s never easy to control the effects of your actions. I think that art is important for changing the world, but I’m right now flying across the world burning fossil fuels in the name of art, so maybe if I just worked in a bank my net good would be higher. I don’t know.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Anywhere with water you can swim in, although after seeing Long Weekend I think about all my environmental sins and think maybe a dugong will get me.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
To see dance shows obviously. What else would you do? There is a good one on now, opens Thursday, called Underworld. Afterward I would crack a tin with them and talk about the world.

What are you currently reading?
Sarah Ahmed’s Useful from her blog feministkilljoys – there is a lot of good stuff on there. I’ve also been reading a lot of fiction while travelling. I read A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, it made me cry alone by a canal in Venice. Now I’m reading Eileen Myles’ Inferno (a poet’s novel) because my friend recommended it. I try to read a lot of female authors because we’re usually always drowning in male perspectives.

What are you currently listening to?
Jump Style.

Happiness is?

What does the future hold for you?
Don’t know, hopefully making more working and working with other people more, I made a few solos and its pretty lonely. I have nothing much planned for next year yet so it always makes you think maybe I’ll never work again and I’ll have to retire. But I probably won’t do that. I actually need to get a job that earns me some money, so maybe that’s in my near future. I got a fortune cookie the other day that said ‘live your fantasies’ so maybe I’ll try that.

Sarah with Rebecca Jensen and Darebin Arts Speakeasy present the world premiere of Underworld – a dark, thoughtful, humorous and hopeful environmental horror at Northcote Town Hall from 31 August to 9 September 2017. For more information, visit: www.darebinarts.com.au for details.

Image: Sarah Aiken