summer diary for Sreda magazine
SERAFINE1369 (previously Last Yearz Interesting Negro) is the London based artist and dancer Jamila Johnson-Small. SERAFINE1369 works with dancing as a philosophical undertaking, a political project with ethical psycho-spiritual ramifications for being-in-the-world; dancing as intimate technology.
Their work is informed by research into movement and dance as a tool for divination, decoding messages from an oracular body – on personal/structural/symptomatic/somatic/psychic levels – to be processed through the medium of choreography. Always thinking about the metabolic – impact and exchange through/in/as movement. Their shows are stage/dreamspace/battleground, decompositions, atmospheric landscapes created through the live unfolding of the tensions between things that produce meaning.
SERAFINE1369 has a relational, cumulative and often collaborative practice, gathering and transmitting information through working in various constellations, at different scales and in different roles to build spaces for communing/attuning/communicating through dancing, performance, listening and conversation; spaces that might hold the complex, multiple and contradictory, spaces that consider movement and transformation as inevitable, working to be unsettling situations of non-dominance.
I Have Become A Prayer
new work for My Wild Flag, Stockholm, 2nd and 5th September 2020
podcast for DRAF, interview with Fernanda Muñoz-Newsome and Ned McConnell
I am cocooned in my own electricity every day, but today my cocoon reaches out for the electrics of my screen for the electrics of your screen for the electrics of you is a digital work made with graduating students from london contemporary dance school
Short film of Heavy handed, we crush the moment commissioned by the Barbican in 2019
interview with chat like this:
“I think of decomposition in relation to this desire to stay ‘live’. Things that are alive go through processes of decomposing that aren’t subject to human control or direction. The way that I work as a choreographer, is to try to create conditions for things to live together in a space, and for a period of time. I see that living as an unfolding or unravelling of the scenario – a mixture of clashes, confusions, attractions, encounters… a surfacing (as in, coming to the surface) between somatic presence and the elements within the environment. Things might arrive unintelligible, as a flood or dribble of language, as a strange feeling, an awkward gesture, a collection of seemingly disparate or disconnected things. An engagement of practices of imagination and association comes to give voice to unreachable or buried (yet present, affecting, driving) things.”
BASICTENSION audio featured on The Wire
It’s low rumbling unruly states and navigating control internal external outside inside city streets and parks and bodies of water what is done and doing to you, to us, to me, for us, for you, for me. psychic landscapes laid out and all that tangled up complicity doing and done and how these things play out in the body-space arena. I say fragile unknown and precarious, a sanctuary though, for tending rage nurturing control / abandon this is survival work touching those tender spots of paranoia, flowering, resilient – this energetic environment, it is beautiful, I have always loved botanical gardens. (i am) [fury] a project that ruminates on care and what it is to be supported to grow, in cages, in pens, in traps…
scroll down for more tho
Earlier this year (2019) I spoke about choreography in an interview as “unlanguagable places of coalescence”.
Not speaking for sense-making speaking for the future practice as divination, words like tea leaves. Fragments of old thoughts in new constellations.
Every gesture, movement or non-movement that sits in relation is a voice and Everything is speaking. Dancing as tuning my body and it’s channels to hear, to let in – and to let out – those voices, everywhere and nowhere like some eerily comforting haunting, those spirits that guide us.
I have realised that very nearly all my remaining clothes are black. This is since I left my day job. This is since my father died. Daily life body is a shadow person (no less dimensional) collecting and drawing in information and feeling to be put through the process of this stupid mysterious and oddly formal word ‘practice’.
Alone in the studio I sing from my organs. I sing for my organs – who else will sing them lullabies? Gentle and ragged vibrations. Underneath everything is rage, and tenderness.
I have been making my work like drowning – knowing that I am afraid of water – drowning out my own voice with the voices of others and then placing myself in that emergent chaos, weather, flood…performing like standing naked in the rain, wind-kisses but in-control, to an extent, of that weather; practicing. Sometimes I can’t hear my own voice there. I exist in response. Practicing.
Maybe before there is the physical reality of this voice, the first battle is with the words onpaperonscreeninmouth, attempts to be harnessing feeling and flinging it out onto another surface that wasn’t involved in the same kind of life but is enlivened by these words. Some distance.
We have to now talk of multiple dimensions, spaces, nonspaces, unspaced…I fall apart. I come apart.
This is good.
I often have problems trying to communicate, vocal chords navigating tricksy words and this body forming and holding those vocal chords can be a distraction. As is my tendency to unpick, everything, standing in the rain in a puddle in a rut where the crap from the pavement has been/is being collected.
– Last Yearz Interesting Negro, 2019
i want to think about the impossibility of beginnings and endings with you (2020…?)
When one thing shifts, so does everything else. Something simple. Something mythological. Something about the weight of each gesture. Something about the ways that forces form bodies, giving and taking life. This is a performance about relation as bondage, as companion, as fate. A search for the regulating gesture, a groping for the space around and away from constructs of identity as the only strategy for interpreting feeling, relation or understanding. A choreographic unfolding of shifting internal centres and re/orientations, proposing a meditative labour state to open up spaces for contemplation.
Awkwardly kind of linear but also endless, cyclical. Darkness and gaps offer punctuation and meaning, becoming code and drafting a syntax that is processed by the performer in a ritual for becoming both agent and channel.
This work addresses the different regulating systems of the body – heart, spine, skin, gut – stimulating the body’s electricity through practices of (at)tuning to the sensory stimuli of the constructed environment. The narrative is a fractured rhythm, the spectacle an atmosphere created by the simultaneously composed and unpredictable mechanised scenario running on heartbeats, randomising algorithms and the breaks and tensions of existing in relation.
The dance practices emerge from experiences of somatic therapies, ‘free’ association, conversations around rest, love labours, burning, burning out, boundaries, practical strategies for survival in hostile environments and the pull towards self-punishment.
for Art Now at Tate Britain, dates tbc
Heavy handed, we crush the moment (2019)
somewhere between a dreamscape, a meditation, a nightmare and a nightclub.
a choreographic space that is both social and meditative, reflective and relational.
a space that allows space for varying relationships to linear time and coherence.
a climate of intensities, alienation and sensation.
a sonic environment that facilitates shifting states of dancing and being.
interested in the sensory impact of the live encounter for performers and audience, Heavy handed, we crush the moment is an invitation to reflect on boundaries, intimacy, spectacle and the inevitability of movement; a gathering of energies – both held and unravelling – formed between the works of different artists and a public.
concept, choreography Last Yearz Interesting Negro
performance Last Yearz Interesting Negro and Fernanda Muñoz-Newsome
rock sculptures/set design Studio Augmenta
hanging structure & costume AGF HYDRA
light design Jackie Shemesh
sound design Josh Anio Grigg
music +TETRA+, ABENÇOADA, Rebecca Bellantoni, Phoebe Collings-James, Andrew Kerton & Hannah Holland, David Panos, Verity Susman
text/lyrics Last Yearz Interesting Negro
commissioned by the barbican, london, 2019 featuring guest performances from keyon gaskin and antonija livingstone&mich cota, dj sets from elijah* and planningtorock
a collaboration with Rowdy SS initiated by Last Yearz Interesting Negro as part of their fury series of works concerned with boundaries, intimacy and spectacle in performance. they navigate space together through live simultaneous practices of responsive sonic manipulation and dance. collapsing time and working with the simultaneous presence of past-future-now; for you and for us in different ways at the same time.
silence and stillness are fictions; holding the density, feeling out languages of darkness and omissions. sound and bodies in wordless dialogue like light that refracts in the prism of the moving crowd. always movement.
2018: Bastard Assignments, Total Refreshment Centre, London / DoDisturb, Palais de Tokyo, Paris / Club Fierce, Quantum, Birmingham / Art Night at The Garden Museum curated by Liv Wynter, London /SALTY, Hastings
2019: Vooruit, Ghent / Transmediale, Berlin / Nessuno / Hot Bodies, Macao, Milan /Virtually Reality, Soup Kitchen, Manchester / Deptford Moving Image Festival, London / Steakhouse Live, Wilderness festival, UK / Suspended Power, hervisions takeover at London College of Fashion, London
BASICTENSION (ongoing, 2017/18/19/20)
a love letter/a break up note to Contemporary Dance
I started this project wanting to make meditation tapes to calm my rampant alienation and to slow my racing thoughts but what does calm look like when you embody countless contradictions, conflicts and traumas and language can’t stretch to hold you and it was never your language anyway and you look out at the city and it is like your beating heart, complicated, congested and broken. Some things need to break and I don’t want space or distance but to assume my hybrid form right here. I want to break this space open. I want to be broken open, like Leeloo in The Fifth Element.
2017: ICA Theatre, London
2018: ICA Lower Gallery, London / Palais de Tokyo, Paris
2020: CCA, Paris / Vooruit, Ghent
i ride in colour and soft focus, no longer anywhere (2017)
“in my hole in the basement, there are exactly 1,369 lights”
body as oracle, a trance, a rhythmic interface, an atmosphere, a landscape with the texture of my current mental state. a dance informed by everything and everyone i have ever encountered, seen, heard, felt, been beside that has become part of me, as i try to identify my own voice. and then see if i can stand it. nothing ever really goes away.
a choreography that prioritises density over going anywhere, noise over silence, now over yesterday and pleasure over doing it right.
a meditation on osmosis and internalisation, the responsibilities of blackness and queerness, the pressure to ‘take space’, the feeling of being possessed by other people’s fantasies and search for my own.
commissioned by Fierce Festival and the Marlborough, supported with public funding from Arts Council England Grants for the Arts.
CONCEPT, CHOREOGRAPHY, DIRECTION, PERFORMANCE, TEXT: Last Yearz Interesting Negro / Jamila Johnson-Small
SOUND AND TECHNICAL DESIGN: Josh Anio Grigg
LIGHT DESIGN: Jackie Shemesh
MUSIC: Phoebe Collings-James, Josh Anio Grigg, Junior XL, Nkisi, Shelley Parker
VIDEO: Last Yearz Interesting Negro in collaboration with David Panos
SCULPTURE: Joey Addison
2017: mac, Fierce festival, Birmingham / Kanneltalo, Baltic Circle, Helsinki / XS Festival, Kutomo, Turku
2018: Palais de Tokyo, Paris / Mousonturm, Frankfurt / Take Me Somewhere, Tramway, Glasgow / Baltic Triennial, Talinn / Nuit Blanche, Théâtre de la Ville, Espace Pierre Cardin, Paris
2019: kaaistudios, Performatik, Brussels / New Queers On The Block, Folkestone / Stratford Circus Arts Centre, London / Sophiensaele, Berlin
2020: Queer Performance Camp, La Chapelle, Montreal
Torchlight artist at Siobhan Davies Studios, 2019/20
an opportunity to focus on an evolving set of questions around the conditions of my work, reflecting on the collaborative, collective, co-led and curatorial through dancing, talking and exchange in various constellations. guided by an interest in the politics of boundaries, the mutable experience of edges, the impacts of the many cycles and systems of influence that inform bodies/minds and the overwhelm that can come from working to be sensitive to all this, I will be thinking about framing and methods for dissemination, spending time considering and questioning ideas of ‘communication’ to support and open up conversations around practice and subjective experience that might lubricate making and moving and thinking. I will be looking at how these practices can be technologies for survival in some ways but questioning their practical use for living within existing oppressive systems. A particular interest is in how environments (living, object, concept, body, psychic) might be affected and transformed through the sharing of practices and the effect this then has on those practices and ourselves.
I will be using this time to look back at works I’ve made and practices I have been developing over recent years and use them, read them, as divining tools to discover responses to current questions in a period of ambivalence and unknowing. BASICTENSION is one specific project that holds this practice/activates this technology of allowing histories to surface through the body and through a cumulative, collective imaginary, in order to consider and reconsider systems of influence, taste and value.
Always with an interest in multiplying, widening and expanding to hold the overwhelm of simultaneous multiple realities, subjectivities and experiences – the hosted hosting hosts hosting – complicating the invitation and allowing for no single answers, no centre, no single focus, no ultimate value, no coherence, no forward or upwards trajectory just the informative navigating of shifting landscapes, atmospheres and tensions; a hope for the research methodology to embody and not only hold, the questions and curiosities of the researcher.
evening of reflection with Antonija Livingstone, November 2019
I have been wanting to untangle this post-workshop feeling of over-exposure or hyper-sensitivity, to think about what it is to practice going into rooms and doing the work of getting your defences down and letting your internalised bullshit dissolve for a while, to be opening up and encouraging opening in others and then going back out into the world…
AL: My gut feeling is it doesn’t need to be talking ABOUT anything
other than what emerges in the room amongst whoever is there …no big deal
playful and friendly atmosphere
declaring lots of space for…I don’t know…I wonder…
questioning and answering silence and blushing ( my fave )
That said had just read an article earlier this season reflects on a text by an Canadian Indigenous poet and urban geographer Leanne Simpson : Islands of decolonial love
(fragment from text correspondence between AL and JJS)
Fragment from conversation with Giorgia:
“hyper awareness is violence to myself / it is not a choice to be in a continual state of friction”
What is this work and if it is survival work, why can it leave us feeling devastated? This is not necessarily a sign of growth or healing, or if it is a part of these processes, how can I/we support that? What do we do with it, how can we move through it?
I guess I want to think together about/allow a being in, this wake, hitting up against hostile architectures that exist inside and around us.
Pleasure Body, a space facilitated by Giorgia Ohanesian Nardin, June 2019
Oracular Practice with Irish Chan, Claudia Palazzo and Daniella Valz Gen, May 2019
Interview in The Wire #430
Feature by Vittoria Matteresse in CURA.31
On care and Fury1 for Virtually Reality, May 2019
Talking about Sounds 4 Survival on Stance podcast, March 2019
Interview on AQNB, September 2018
Jenn Joy for BOMB Magazine on i ride in colour and soft focus, no longer anywhere, September 2018
Matthew Collings for the Evening Standard on Someone wise once told me that you should just give people what they want… video work, March 2018
Interview with Emma Capps for i-D March 2017
Project O with Alexandrina Hemsley
Sounds 4 Survival with Phoebe Collings-James
unruly bodies with Fernanda Muñoz-Newsome
Past projects include immigrants and animals a collaboration with Mira Kautto, GUSH diy art night with David Panos, HOTLINE talking event with Sara Sassanelli, 48hours a duet with Rowdy SS, BELLYFLOP Magazine online dance/performance journal (a long time ago).