Kate Radford is a multi-disciplinary artist, polymath and activist based in Hebden Bridge. On the lead up to her performance Drought at Vault Festival, we had a chat about her practice…
Your work tackles themes around social change. What is your perspective on activism through art?
I think art communicates to people through and beyond the walls of the world that are built around us. It connects us to our imagination, our spirit, our history, our future, in a way that can and does transcend time. In this sense, I see it as the perfect mechanism for activism, as it allows us to dream the world better than it is, or to explore the sense of horror and joy that surrounds us constantly. Art allows us to literally change the world around us, physically, emotionally, visually, audibly, and it is these acts of change that inspire and energise us into action. Art is just the term given to categorise the manifestation of the imagination which in a world driven by politics, capitalism and patriarchy can act as a remedy and a weapon.
Drought is based on an ancient Greek tale. Can you tell us about it and how it has inspired the performance?
Ancient Greece is a fascinating era in general, both politically and contextually in terms of art and theatre. Theatre as a mode of communication for me has always been intrinsically political, it is in its bloodlife, and you can trace that through generations of its form and practise. That is why I think often I am drawn to it as a starting point, because of its mechanism and clear use of the abstraction or integration of morality. I do think however, the horrors that are embedded in those tales should be exposed, as part of its energy which continues to infiltrate narratives today in a way that is violent, and diminishing. Women’s stories within those narratives are seldom empowered, and often used as catalysts for male redemption. Drought is a comment on this, and how as performers, orators, women and people of our time, we must offer in new stories. Intricate and beautiful mythology, folklore and fantasy that allow women to exist outside of a world of violence, and have autonomy and freedom within our imagination. It is my belief that what we manifest exists within our imagination also, we must embed this in the mind, in our bones, as well as on our stages and galleries.
Drought is a multi-sensory performance that uses photography, music and experimental prose. How has this interdisciplinary approach shaped up the show?
I identify as synaesthetic, meaning I sense and feel multiple things with how I engage with the world. Sound as colour, in particular is something that often finds its way in to my work, and with my installation based work this is particularly evident. The show is actually more refined in terms of its multi-disciplinary aspects compared to other installations and works I have done. My practise explores particularly how words exist within different worlds for us, so it is very natural for me to explore poetic language, and particularly from a more academic perspective, it is also my exploration of my gender through the written experience. I do not think, or feel, or work in a traditionally linear one format way, words move into sounds or into visual pieces, or visual elements become worlds for sound to live in. Drought, amongst my other pieces allow for the senses to be in conversation with each other, to allow intuition and sense to guide you rather than narrative and clarity. I feel that working in this way allows those participating to feel free in having their own experience, there is not a definitive way I want someone to ‘feel’ or respond, but allow them to feel my skin as I show them the way that I feel and respond. Drought moves into the real and none real, that is to say there are moments when I am part of the landscape, but moments when I am also the choirmaster, and I think important particularly because of the clear relationship to language and violence. It is also important that audiences feel safe, and that they are moved in a way that allows them to open, and close when they need to, and not feel vulnerable and alone. I think adding a visual world, texture, and other elements allow for small moments of escape, and for the imagination to rupture in a way that if I was only speaking, perhaps would not happen. In a world that so often wants us to categorise and make descions, I think the playfulness between art forms is a true joy.
In this occasion, you have worked with Bryony Good and Laurence Alliston-Greiner. What are their contributions to the project? Is collaborative work recurring in your practice?
Bryony Good is a visual artist, photography, writer and dear friend and sister to me. Her work speaks to me visually in a way that I could not re-create or trace exactly. She works particularly with landscape, and creating a visual world for Drought was something I looked at in detail, initially with set design, and later digitally. Her work translates to performance incredibly well because of the dramatic composition that is integrated. Her photographs are featured as part of the visual world, which I transformed into video, combined with some of my own filmed elements, as well as the poster which we recently re-designed. We have collaborated on previous projects, and hopefully will continue this rich creative relationship in the future.
Laurence is a theatre maker based in Lisbon. We connected through Rose Bruford, and subsequently worked together. Laurence has been part of the research and development stages, which we started in 2014 and has showed support and advice throughout the journey of the piece, including reading drafts, and exploring physical and narrative aspects with me in the rehearsal room. He has assisted from a dramaturgical/directorial perspective during its initial stages, and has remained a supporting artist.
Within my community, I collaborate with local artists to create opportunities for young artists, with an organisation, The Nova Collective, I co-founded in 2017. Within that group I collaborate with local artists, also offering them support where I can, and in 2018 with our first year of life we won an award for a project I directed and produced. The energy of group work is like a little universe we all get to swim in for a while and its excellent. I collaborate as well with Bred In The Bone Theatre, who I have worked with since 2013. They have been formative in terms of my exploration of physical performance.
I do collaborate, and invite collaborations in often, but find myself working independently much of the time. I work very quickly, I think and move quickly, and find that sometimes and often timing can be what is an obstacle. I relish working with other artists, and find the creative space such a pleasure to be in, but sometimes it can be difficult particularly with funding to support collaborative work. This year I am devising two projects that are much more collaborative which I am excited to be exploring in more depth. For now, I will be following Drought as it begins to tour, and perhaps through those happenings and performances, future collaborations will emerge.
PIT – THE VAULTS, LEAKE STREET
20-24 February (various times)