This Thursday 3 May at 7.30pm the MCA is hosting This is not a Lecture Theatre, a talk featuring Bec Dean and Jeff Khan, Co-Directors of Performance Space, and Local Positioning Systems artists Lara Thoms, Julie-Anne Long and Jason Maling. Together, they will take over the Veolia Lecture Theatre to delve deeper into Performance Art and present their manifestos for performing in a gallery.
With this in mind, I asked Julie-Anne Long about her recent MCA performance, Val, The Invisible, that finished last week after several almost invisible sessions.
How long have you been performing Val, The Invisible?
I first performed a version of this intervention a couple of years ago as part of Performance Space’s LiveWorks Festival in and around the Carriageworks foyer. The current version, Val, The Invisible, was extended and developed from the earlier version specifically for the MCA.
Where did the idea stem from?
Over the past 6 years I have been working on a collection of works, The Invisibility Project, concerned with the invisibility of middle-aged women. Not only thinking about my everyday experiences as a middle aged woman, but also what this means for me as a dancer/performer. Val, The Invisible is a reflection on the invisible worker (who is often female and middle-aged) and I hope the presence of Val invites passers-by to consider the tasks that are often done by such workers that we take for granted.
I love your red bucket and distinctive orange uniform. How did you come up with it?
The visibility vest came first… my thinking was to put Val in a high visibility vest anticipating the probability that people would not give her a second glance…
Do you only perform in art institutions and galleries?
This is the first time I have made something like this for a gallery context – a controlled public space.
What is the weirdest thing you have done in public?
I don’t really do weird. But I suppose it depends on how you define weird. I wasn’t able to convince my teenage son to visit Val at the MCA. He thought it was a bit too weird to come and see your mother pick up fluff off the MCA floor. After all he can see that at home…
What else may people see you do?
In November I am premiering a new solo show Something In The Way She Moves: everyday dances for an invisible woman at Carriageworks as part of the Performance Space SEXES season. This show will bring together many of the smaller works I have made as part of The Invisibility Project. I am sure Val will make an appearance.
Have people ever said anything strange to you or freaked out around you?
During Val’s time at the MCA she did have a few people give her rubbish and ask where the toilets were. A child asked their mother what Val was doing and the answer given was: “The gallery isn’t finished yet. She’s just cleaning up”. One woman came up to Val as she stood still with her hand over her eyes and asked “Are you alright”. When Val looked at her the woman seemed genuinely concerned. I felt pretty uncomfortable about that so I didn’t let Val stand still with her eyes covered again.
Have you ever not been able to keep a straight face in public, when everyone is staring at you?
No that isn’t usually a problem. However, this work was a challenge for me in that I wasn’t intending to illicit any feedback from ‘the audience/gallery goers’ and as a performer that was quite disconcerting. My aim was to not be seen so in that respect the interventions at the MCA were highly successful. Many people didn’t notice me. When people approached me to talk I talked to them as myself. I was not ‘acting’ as Val I was just ‘doing’ a task. This became a little difficult when people I knew were there and the conversational mode was very familiar but ultimately it seemed fine for me to move in and out of ‘doing’ Val.
Did you go to art school, drama school, neither?
My training and background is dance. I graduated from the Victorian College of Arts, Dance School in 1982. I then worked full-time as a dancer for a number of years, during which time I had opportunities to choreograph and direct my own dance/theatre work. In 1988 I completed the Directors Course at NIDA and since then I have worked as a choreographer/director, artistic director of a dance company and various director/curatorial roles at places such as Critical Path and Campbelltown Arts Centre. Alongside these aspects of my practice I have completed a Doctorate and currently move between and across the performance and academic worlds and different art practices, with both my interests and the artists I collaborate with. This is how I find myself with this current work framed as Live Art, even though I fundamentally identify as a dance artist.
Posted by Kelly Stone