Dance Marathon Journal #9

Ng Yi-Sheng

September 14, 2015


EYES OPEN. EYES CLOSED. (a.k.a. Traitriot)





20min, followed by intermission




VENURI PERERA is one of a handful of artists engaged in exploring contemporary approaches to dance-making in Sri Lanka, from and for their cultural context. She is interested in the body as a political ‘provocateur’ and strongly believes in the transformational power of the performing arts. Perera is primarily trained in Kandyan dance and was a member of the acclaimed Chitrasena Vajira Dance Ensemble from 1994 to 2007. After completing her master’s degree in Psychology in 2006, she went on to receive a Postgraduate Certificate in Dance in 2008 from Laban Centre, London, where she was also awarded the Michelle Simone Prize for Choreography. Since 2004, she has collaborated in dance, theatre, film, live art, multimedia, site-specific, promenade theatre, musical theatre, therapeutic movement and mixed-abled dance projects in Sri Lanka and abroad. She has presented her short works in festivals, platforms and symposiums in Europe, as well as South and East Asia.


What were your initial thoughts on first receiving your corresponding Archive Box?

I was really quite excited to finally receive this long-awaited Archive Box that had been couriered to me. I opened it and I knew what it was going to be, because I had seen a picture of it, but I was really surprised that it was quite a small bottle – much smaller than I had imagined. I opened it and inside it was a letter. It’s quite nice in this day and age of e-mails and text messages to receive a message in a bottle. Although I didn’t discover it on the beach and it came via air, it was quite exciting. I looked at the contents and it was just three pages translated into English and also this set of cards – I remembered thinking, “That’s it? That’s all?”.

From what you saw of the Archive Box, could you imagine what the ‘original’ dance was like? Have you seen the dance?

The letter from Natsuko Tezuka contained six instructions. The set of omake cards in the bottle, which have to do with your feelings, stuck with me. Looking at this Archive Box, I felt I could really understand and imagine what the process would have been like in making the private piece, “Anatomical Experiment 6”. I think the instructions are essentially her process. But I cannot imagine what the final dance would have been, really – it has to do a lot with her context – and I haven’t seen her work. 

How do you archive your work as a dancer and choreographer?

My work has been documented via video and most of it is on YouTube and Vimeo so it is accessible on the Internet. A lot of the documentation was not done intentionally – some [videos] were quite accidental and are also not very good, but they exist. Other than that, I record my process for myself and I have video recordings of all that, along with my notes. But those have not been sorted into separate boxes or books per project. I haven’t intentionally archived my individual works.

How has working on this Archive Box project affected your notions of archival?

I think that, prior to this project, my notions of archive and archiving were quite basic. For me, it had to do with the past, history and preservation, with an eye towards accurately representing or documenting the ‘original’. Archiving was done on things which had value, as decided by another party or group that usually had some authority. Also, of course, there can be this notion of the living archive – a person can be an archive because of accumulated tradition or history.

With this project, I am still getting my head around this new notion of archive and archiving. The major difference is that it’s really something about the present; these archives are not set, they can evolve and are creative. The archive is not an accurate representation or description of the ‘original’. It could be a process. The archive can be used to generate some new material in a creative way. It is not something that needs to be revered. Archiving has been done by the person who created the work, so no other party is involved in deciding if the work is valuable or not – you are archiving your own work. Earlier, I would have thought that one cannot archive his or her own work; I had this notion that you could only archive something if it was of value or use to someone else.

  • 2015