Q&A W/ PERFORMANCE ARTIST NITA BOWERMAN

Posted on Oct 1, 2014

I think that is pretty cool, unearthing and developing latent curiosities. It is an adventure.

Nita Bowerman (credit Simon Photo)Briefly tell me about your work. What’s your artistic passion? Career highlights?

I am a performance-based artist. I practice many disciplines, most of which are concerned with the instrumentation of the body for the purposes of theatre-derived experiences. I am motivated to move beyond what I think I know with my practice and often find myself in unfamiliar creative terrain.

In 2011 I created, performed and produced a site-specific theatre work under a dock on Granville Island. For this work, wreckage I made a homemade raft and collaborated with a scuba diver who swam the raft around and operated underwater lights. It was during the creation of this performance that I began to notice certain themes that run through my works: staged physical action frameworks that represent the central conflict of the works, a nightmare phantasmagorical aesthetic, and a search for genuine human contact between performer and audience. Although I use many different mediums and am not strictly bound by the above themes, they are certainly recurrent and continue to hold my creative fascination.

Nita reflected in Brief Encounters ExpressTell us about the last time you participated in Brief Encounters?

Barbara and I collaborated in Brief Encounters Express at The Cultch in May 2014. We had 48 hours to create a piece. With such a short creation period, I immediately gravitated to what I do fairly well, extreme physicality. I took in our site-specific location, looked at the exterior fire exit and thought “I can climb this sh*t.” Barbara interviewed me and crafted a really sweet and kind of twisted loosely biographically inspired song – a draft of which I still have on my playlist. I sung a tiny bit with Barbara in our last piece together, which is something I rarely do on stage – I probably haven’t performed a full song from start to finish since my grade school days, although music is such a huge part of my casual every day life and I used to love singing, before I began to judge it.

This time around, in collaboration with Barbara, I wanted to make work that moved considerably beyond my comfort zone, work that is musical – I’ve never played an instrument on stage before – and I wanted to confront my judgement by performing music live. Barbara has been working lately with multidisciplinary musicals and recently created Pathetic Fallacy, “…stories of failed, youthful romance…translated into the language of weather and performed by a nine-piece chamber-rock band”. After seeing the work performed at the Accordion Noir Festival, I felt certain that Barbara would encourage me to be bold and brave. I think we have both taken a few leaps of faith here.

Nita Bowerman (credit photo by Jürgen Fritz, edited by Nita Bowerman)
What are you hoping to get out of the Brief Encounters process?

I’m expecting all the usual, for me, elements of art making to come into play…inspiration, excitement, thrill, terror, doubt, discipline and surrender.

What I love about Brief Encounters is that I am paired with people that I might not work with otherwise, and I always find that I learn so much from my collaborators. There is the approach to art making itself, process and performance, but equally engaging for me is getting to know the artists as people and learning how they manage all the side-effects of art making, the judgement, the exhaustion, the fear. It’s risky business putting yourself out there and one generally has to face a fair amount of rejection to reap the rewards of a creative life. Being open about navigating a creative life, the joys and frustrations, has helped me gravitate toward inspiration and optimism with my practice. I am incredibly fortunate to be able to follow my curiosities. My Brief Encounters partners have been ambitious artists and generous humans. It has been a pleasure to get to know them.

What are you most excited about re: Brief Encounters Revue?

Brief Encounters is a playing ground dedicated to experimentation that encourages taking bold risks despite the potential for so-called ‘failure.’ That, to me, is dangerous and pretty damn sexy. You just never know what you are going to get.

Tell me about your Brief Encounters collaborator. Without giving too much away, what can Brief Encounters Revue audiences expect from this collaboration this go around?

I think audiences can expect some surprises. Barbara and I have been working with the idea of surprising each other and I anticipate there will be surprises until the end of our last Brief Encounters show. Barbara is currently in the Czech Republic for two weeks collaborating on a film about tramping…check it out. She returns the night before the show. We scripted the work before she left, but have yet to do a full run together and some of what we present onstage for each other we will be hearing for the first time ourselves. I know I will be rehearsing a great deal on my own, but of course, performance is an act of being in the moment, listening and responding, and Barbara has such a beautiful ability to be spontaneous in performance, so I expect a fair amount of ‘I didn’t see that coming.’ It’s a risky adventure, scary and exhilarating.

What is your biggest take away from your experiences with Brief Encounters?

I suspect that this will be a question more accurately answered after the show. Overall I’m a huge fan of Brief Encounters for prompting artists to step outside their comfort zones by collaborating with artists and professionals of different disciplines. I now know how to hook a microphone and electric violin with three effects peddles into a one-channel amp through a mixer. Before being invited to participate in Brief Encounters, I didn’t even know that this was something I wanted to know how to do. I think that is pretty cool, unearthing and developing latent curiosities. It is an adventure.

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