Contemporary performance festival Take Me Somewhere returns

The Skinny chats to FK Alexander and Jamila Johnson-Small, two of the artists selected for Take Me Somewhere 2018, about their work and the space that the festival provides for contemporary artists

Feature by Amy Taylor | 31 May 2018

It’s pointless to write a feature about Scotland’s newest festival of contemporary performance, Take Me Somewhere, without mentioning the debt it owes to The Arches. Founded by Jackie Wylie, The Arches’ former Artistic Director, and now National Theatre of Scotland’s Artistic Director, the festival came about as a way to fill the gap left by the closure of that much-loved space in 2015. Recognising that the venue, and by extension, Glasgow itself, had been a hub of creativity and a home for contemporary artists, the festival continues its predecessor's mission to be a space for diverse and crucial artistic voices from all around the world.

Take Me Somewhere 2017 was a phenomenal success, boasting critically acclaimed shows and strong attendance, with the festival eventually selling out. Clearly, the demand for a space for contemporary artists to perform their work was high, and so this year’s festival continues in that same vein, playing host to artists performing existing work and new commissions, too.

For dancer Jamila Johnson-Small, Take Me Somewhere gives her the chance to perform her show i ride in colour and soft focus, no longer anywhere, in a city she’s admired for some time. “There’s a real scene and a real interest in performance and art. I’m interested in that and in the work,” she says of Glasgow. “I make work so that I can have conversations about stuff that I think is important; questions I have, not just making work and composition and choreography, too… trying to have new conversations, meet new people, share where I’m at.”

First performed in 2016, i ride in colour explores Johnson-Small’s interest in making art from existing work and creating dance and spectacle in what she describes as “the spaces between things.

“I’m very interested in creating, crafting a spectacle, but at the same time I’m interested in the space between spectacle and everyday things.”

In the piece, the body is the vessel, as Johnson-Small examines its limits, landscapes and her mental state, identifying her own voice through her experiences and memory. As well as dance and movement, Johnson-Small utilises song, music and her own voice to explore themes, such as representation and visibility, as well as occupying space.

“I’m not really someone that likes to be stared at and not really big and loud or anything, so there’s a tension there in the work about regarding the gaze, how loud do I have to be to be heard? How big do I have to be to take up a space?”

Take Me Somewhere have also commissioned a small number of artists and companies to present new work during May and June. These works, which come from familiar names and newer acts, tackle various subjects from LGBT political history, to the topic of FK Alexander’s latest piece, love.  

“There was a very clear moment for me when I was like, ‘Why am I speaking somebody else’s words?’” explains Alexander about her past life as an actor. “…it’s some dead white guys, and you’re going to say their words. I’m sure that Shakespeare has a lot to say about a lot of things and that’s true, but he doesn’t mean shit to me about my life, or anybody that I knew. So, there was just a very clear point for me where I was like, ‘I have things.’”

These “things”, as Alexander describes them, became her work, and her latest, Violence, a new commission from Take Me Somewhere, Outspoken Arts and the Marlborough Theatre, explores a theme that has become all too familiar; the way we think about love and how it is represented in popular culture, specificlally that it was really another name for a form of violence.  

“I realised that I had received a lot of that information [about love] through untrustworthy sources, like Hollywood, which actually had given me the idea that romantic love is just a form of suffering and all too often, violence,” she explains. “I think I just wanted to make a piece of work that was like the dream of this is broken for me. I wonder who else has a thought about that or has an experience about that?” she ponders. These shows would not have been out of place at The Arches, and thanks to Take Me Somewhere, they have another home. 

Take Me Somewhere until 4 Jun, various venues