Caro Meets Dance & Physical Interview Theatre Interview

The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein: Notorious

By | Published on Thursday 2 November 2017

You might already be aware of The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein via her previous genre-blurring work, such as ‘Splat’, which won much acclaim when it was on at the Barbican Centre back in 2013.  And those of you who have experienced one of her performances will no doubt be thrilled to hear that she returns to that venue this week with her latest offering, ‘Notorious’.
To find out more about the new peice, and her work in general, I arranged to have a quick chat.

CM: Let’s start by discussing what kind of work this is. It’s hard to pin it to a genre. How would you describe it to those previously unacquainted with what you do?
TFLBH: So I usually say that I come from a dance and choreography background, but my research and influences are from the performance art, live art and body art world, and I make work mainly for theatre spaces. So it is this interdisciplinary mix most easily categorised as ‘contemporary performance.’

CM: What is this show about? What themes do you focus on?
TFLBH: ‘Notorious’ is about witches, bitches, whores and sluts, and the mechanisms that seem to require their punishment/redemption.

CM: What was the inspiration for this show?
TFLBH: The central inspiration for this show was the way in which female artists are often pathologised. It is much easier to see a woman as a victim, as crazy, as tragic, than it is to accept her in all her complexity. My research into artists like Lynn Hershman Leeson and others demonstrated the ways in which we culturally seek a singularised, easily essentialised, female subject – and once a woman betrays that singularity, she needs to be redeemed.

CM: How does it compare to your previous shows?
TFLBH: ‘Notorious’ is a development of my practice from my previous works. I really allowed myself to play with scale and taking up space with this show, even more so than the last, which relates to the way in which I really pushed to bring the show into more mainstream venues. Bringing difficult women into main spaces, and demanding that space and time, is an increasingly important part of my practice.

CM: How do you go about creating a show? How does your creative process work?
TFLBH: My shows always start with theoretical research. From there, I allow myself to discover images or actions that excite me. With ‘Notorious’, creating text through improvisation became a big part of the process, which was new for me. As the piece develops, there is a constant process of evaluation and analysis that never ends, even after the piece has been shown.

CM: How did you become so focused on work exploring gender and female bodies? What made you want to use your own body to do so?
TFLBH: As a dancer, I always struggled with the idea that my body was being ‘used’ by a choreographer to create beautiful images for the pleasure of the audience. It is this lack of agency I felt as a dancer that led me to create my own work, and create work on my own body.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about your academic studies and how they’ve informed your art?
TFLBH: My academic practice has focused on contemporary feminism, feminist theory, and gender theory for many years. I particularly research the ways in which popular culture have problematically appropriated the terms of feminism and what that means for the representation of women, as well as the embodiment of female subjectivity. My academic practice is integral to my art practice – they are actually one in the same thing, with multiple outcomes (eg, performance, academic writing, teaching, etc)

CM: What ambitions do you have for the future?
TFLBH: World domination for the freaks, bitches, and non-white men of the world.

CM: What’s coming up next for you?
TFLBH: I’m thinking about writing a novel about forest-dwelling hermaphroditic centaurs and neocolonial fascism. We’ll see…

‘Notorious’ is on at Barbican from 7-11 Nov, see this page here for more information on the show and this page here for accompanying workshop events.

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