Gina Biggs - Artistic Director
Care is at the heart of my actions and ethos
My artistic practice emerges from two key influences - post-Grotowskian ensemble theatre training undertaken with Song of the Goat Theatre (Poland) and Helen Poynor's somatic non-stylised movement in the environment as influenced by Anna Halprin and Surprato Suryodarmo. In my practice I allow these influences to speak to and enrich the development of the other whilst building on both to describe what I do as 'environmental ensemble practice'.
Through non-stylised movement I intentionally build a relationship with environment (landscape) as if an alive and active member of the ensemble. Simultaneously, I draw on the rich musical heritage of Eastern European ensemble theatre to bring voice, sound and song into an embodied practice that is more traditionally rooted in movement. This is site-responsive work that facilitates encounters with landscape whereby personal experience and autobiographical story meets with the historical, social, geological and natural histories of place to generate and present contemporary narratives in performance.
I do this because, simply, I see that cultivating a relationship with the more-than human world matters. Linear, extractive, production-oriented ways of being in the world, fueled by a neoliberal capitalism, have driven us towards mass environmental devastation on an unprecedented scale. Similarly, the trope of individualism that underscores this effort is leaving humankind feeling isolated and lonely - yearning for connection and community. We are living through a global mental health crisis as a result.
My practice responds to heighten our sensory awareness to these fractures and, through body and voice, seeks to (re)awaken a more caring relatedness - to self, to others and to environment. My process of engaging with site intends to do this deep work of (re)connection. Eastern European ensemble theatre is a practice that is always carried out in relation. In this work compassionate relationships to people are nurtured through heightening both an individual and shared sensory awareness; a heightened sensitivity which leads to deeply profound connections with other people. I intentionally extend these compassionate connections to include the more-than-human world as my ensemble - acknowledging us as interconnected beings.
This ethos in practice is my environmental commitment to better care for 'life' on this planet, but it also emerges in response to the need to better care for myself as an artist who manages a chronic pain condition (Fibromyalgia) that has mental health challenges. In contemporary working cultures notions of progress, productivity and models of success are regularly configured within well-managed, linear, time-bound temporalities that are predominantly shaped around non-disabled bodies. Conversely, fibromyalgia has a less predictable, cyclical, fluctuating and spontaneous rhythm of symptoms that will flare and recede throughout one’s lifetime - whilst pain remains the constant and invisible drone. The effects of living in a world that consistently demands we go faster and produce more are experienced as no less detrimental to my lived experience as they are to matters of environment. Subject to their own rhythms and ways of experiencing time both body and earth have the potential to suffer greatly as a result.
I intentionally forge deep connections with the Earth, not only because spending time in nature is consistently evidenced to improve physical and mental well-being, but as a personal commitment to celebrate the life force found in other ways of being in the world. Nurturing (right) relation to a more-than-human world, through ensemble, is my practice of care. It means that even when working 'solo' (which due to my condition I often am) I am always held in a sense of community. In environmental ensemble practice we, the human and the more-than-human, continually make space to witness, celebrate and attend to each others' care and thriving life.