she lay as if at play (film stills), 2010
Mel Shearsmith is a movement and video artist who is primarily interested in the body. Why we move, where we move from and how we respond to our environment. She trained at Dartington College of Arts in performance where her initial research prioritized the body, site and language (especially feminine Écriture) embodied text or prose. Her practice developed to include film and installation as a means to explore participation, re-presencing and embodied interactions, to challenge our behaviour in public settings (i.e. gallery spaces, urban streets, etc). Through performance, video and installation she employs strategies from other disciplines, inserting them in unfamiliar contexts to provoke and dislodge the ‘expected’ and bring the experience closer, to bridge the distance where the audiences experience is intimate.
What do we mean by embodied text? Can language move the listener to re-engage the body to perceive with a physical sensitivity, to experience the words as you would a gesture, another sense of place, of a time and be moved to be more present in the moment. By exploring embodied language to re-word and re-make the dance the aim is to bring the listener to the suspended moment, in the present, where the failure to fully transport is acknowledged but nonetheless moves beyond these limitations. To be translated back to the present, the body and to where the experience is intimate and re-found. Language moves, conjures and is lost – it returns to be somatically re-initiated, forming another affect that translates and is transformed.
This current area of investigation is an area of experimentation exploring performance through presentation – initially as respondent for the ‘Moving Between the Lines’ conference at the University of the West of England, July 2010 with her paper A somatic translation, in other words; in Fragments; rooms performing the re-imagined and re-imagining what is lost she re-visited her installation She lay as if at play (2010) for the PLaCE/Mapping Spectral Traces event, March 2011 and a collaborative, co-authored performance presentation with Iain Biggs, ‘The only thing that stops my memory from turning to ash in my mouth is…’ at the Mapping Spectral Traces IV international conference, Maynooth, Dublin in May 2011.
Following the pathways established by practitioners working with performance, live art and theatre such as Peggy Phelan, Goat Island Performance Company, Adrian Heathfield and Helene Cixous she investigates a process of re-embodying the live (the lived experience) where presence is felt and the active role of the witness is initiated.
After completing her Research Masters at the University of the West of England Mel’s PhD research, at Worcester University, will investigate translation (transformation); specifically interrogating translation from the body experience (movement and active witnessing) to the written and spoken word, negotiating the bridge between the live experience and re-experiencing the authentic.
Mel’s video, installation and performance work has been exhibited in Holland, Budapest, and Dublin and around the UK including The Place (London), the Arnolfini, Picture This and the Watershed in Bristol, she is also a PLaCE associate and a member of the Mapping Spectral Traces network.
Measure a wingspan, a metre, here
beat, beat, beat
Mimicking room 1
Mirroring room 2
Remembering, re-telling, grasping
the view (to your breast)
two men, chairs, tables and walls are absent
here the traffic crashes, subsides and climbs down the bird song
looking in through the window, recollecting the weather or two
tracing the bones; the scapula, the groove, the memory, the sky and aching for everything between.
Aria: never has there been a shade, 2009
The memory of moths, 2008/9