Next place we can see your work: Richmond Cultural Centre 25th to 27th October, and Orpheum Annex Theatre 31st October to 2 November, 2018.
1. What is art to you?
Art is a medium by which we can connect on a soul to soul, heart to heart level; learn to empathize and live in someone else's shoes; to see and experience the world viscerally through different points of view. I am interested in making Art that has the power to heal.
2. What did you make in the past (and why)?
I am a multidisciplinary artist who has made films, published books, performed spoken word poetry and storytelling. My personal mission as an artist and mental health advocate and activist is to educate the public about mental health issues and help fight the stigma, discrimination, and prejudice against people with mental illness.
3. What are you making now (and why)?
I am producing a 1-hour theatrical production entitled Surviving Samsara
that traces my personal struggles with manic depression, and my journey towards recovery, acceptance and unconditional self-love. Co-produced by myself and Cinevolution Media Arts Society, the work brings together acting, spoken word, music, video, film, audiovisuals, and dance.
Surviving Samsara exposes the damaging effects of the stigma of mental illness, and explores manic depression not only as a disorder, but as a spiritual emergence -- a vehicle for personal growth, healing and transcendence.
The goal of this project is to raise awareness and educate the public about mental health issues and combat the stigma and discrimination against the mentally ill. Through this work, audiences will learn firsthand the societal stigma and discrimination faced by persons with mental health challenges, and see how the power of art and creativity can be used to overcome these barriers and obstacles. I hope my personal journey of recovery will be a truly transformative experience that will inspire audiences to find courage and hope in their own journeys towards recovery.
Statistics show that 1 in 5 people will be diagnosed with a mental illness in their lifetime (making up 20% of the population). Research also demonstrates that artists are more likely to have a mental health diagnosis than their counterparts, yet this is rarely discussed within the arts community. The subject of this production is highly relevant to many people’s lives, not just those with a mental illness but also their friends, relatives and family. Mental illness is so widespread that no one’s life is untouched by it. However, awareness of mental health issues remains limited both within the arts community and the general public. Surviving Samsara tackles issues of stigma, discrimination and prejudice against the mentally ill, and makes tangible an experience that is typically internal and invisible. The production will create a space for dialogue through talkbacks and Q & A sessions, and invite audience members to share their own experiences with mental illness in a safe environment.
Closing the Gap Between Professional Arts and “Disability Arts.” There is a perception that artists who openly identify as having a disability are more activists than artists, and that their work, while meaningful and socially significant, lacks artistic merit. At the same time, artists within the disability community are often create works catering to their own community, and lack the networks to be able to collaborate more broadly and reach out to a broader, unconverted audience disconnected from experiences of disability. Surviving Samsara strives to close the gap between professional arts and “disability arts” through its commitment to artistic excellence and the exploration of universal themes. I seek to celebrate the artistic possibilities generated by my struggles with mental illness, and to bring that narrative into a wider discussion about the human experience. We have a comprehensive marketing and outreach plan to engage and foster dialogue amongst diverse audiences.
4. What are your hopes/plans/dreams for the future?
With the support of Cinevolution, the Vancouver Foundation's DTES Small Arts Grant and the Kettle Friendship Society, I seek to build upon the earlier success of Surviving Samsara, and further develop the work under the tutelage of Artistic Director SCOTT SWAN, and through continued collaboration with award-winning choreographer & Butoh dancer SALOME NIETO. Funding for this interim stage of the production will allow us to secure strong collaborators such as Video Designer CANDELARIO ANDRADE, award-winning composer STEFAN SMULOVITZ, and allow the work to evolve from the realm of community arts to a professional arts level and garner recognition so the work can be presented nationally and internationally at professional theatres. Funding for this stage of the development will move the production forward to a new level of excellence.
Phase III: What we are building up to next.
Building upon the anticipated successful delivery of the project, I want to design the production to be portable for future use in theatrical and spoken word venues, festivals, mental health, and educational institutions. Ultimately, the goal is to create a minimalist performance that is ideally tailor-made for educational institutions such as high schools, colleges and universities.
The production of Surviving Samsara will then be followed by a 4-day theatrical run at Gallery Gachet on 9th to 12th January, 2019; and a 2-week theatrical run Vancouver Fringe Festival in 2019. The production will then tour with the Artstarts Artist on Tour Program (https://artstarts.com
) in high schools, colleges and universities in 2019.
I am also applying for an Artist-in-Residence Program at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts to further workshop and develop the project and take the production to its final phase. Our ultimate goal is to partner with an established theatre company and showcase the production of Surviving Samsara at venues like the Firehall Arts Theatre or the Cultch and tour nationally and internationally.
5. What would surprise people about your creative practice?
My creative process involves a great deal of trial and error. Artists are sometimes too precious with their work and are afraid of making mistakes. But mistakes are an essential part of the creative process for we discover what works and does not work through trial and error. You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs. As mythologist Joseph Campbell says; "Destruction before creation." Creativity is a messy process. Furthermore, mistakes may lead to surprising and unexpected discoveries -- which then can be incorporated into the evolving work. I do not strive for perfection in Art. Art, like Life, to me is a process of discovery. If I am not learning and making discoveries then the so-called "perfect" work is inert, dead, devoid of life. Art and the creative process is an evolving and breathing organic process.