Hello! This is Sonia Allori again with the next thrilling instalment (!?) of Dada’s Women – The Opera. To recap a little … I’m a musician and composer and part of the Flip Artists mentoring programme for disabled artists in 2015. The project I am developing (you may remember) concerns the creation of an opera with subject matter drawn from the female members of the early 20th Century Dada artistic movement.
Six months have passed since the research trip to Zurich in February and in the interim there has been a whole lot of planning, thinking, discussion, a bit more thinking and all framed within a healthy dose of self-doubt for good measure! I’ve since learned that this is a quite a normal stage in the development of a new work. This is by far the largest-scale work I have written and from the very beginning the process has been different and fairly overwhelming. This I have been assured is also quite a usual reaction!?
Development days – 17th & 18th July 2015
By far the most helpful part of the Flip Artist programme for me has been the mentoring side of things which has really been instrumental to me in terms of moving things forwards. Life has a habit of throwing a spanner into the works of most of our lives from time to time and despite struggles with ill health I’m pleased to say that Dada’s Women – the opera is still alive and kicking!
The most significant development has been the formation of a creative team who will drive the work onwards through the next year or so with funding applications, the actual writing and staging and …. Well, to wherever this work may end up (we’re still working out the details!). Flip Artists facilitated 2 development days for the fledgling team last month which took place at Royal Holloway (University of London) in Egham which has a really quite stunning main building in the form of “Founder’s building” and can be seen above and below. It really is the stuff of fairy tales with turrets and everything!
Introducing the creative team:
Our source of inspiration is the book “Dada’s Women” (YUP, 2009) by Dr. Ruth Hemus, which gives voice to previously unrecognised female Dada artists. Ruth is Senior Lecturer at Royal Holloway in the School of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures:
Ruth composed 5 power point presentations on each of the 5 women depicted in her book and we used these as a starting point for our discussions together with a comprehensive list of questions designed to get us thinking, talking and creating from the very first session.
Next is Vaia Paziana, a visual artist of Greek and German heritage and helpfully raised in the same city (Flensburg, Germany) as one of our Dada’s Women, Emmy Hennings (1885 – 1948). Vaia feels very close to the subject of Dada’s Women and even in the short time we had together last month we began to look at the women artists’ output in deeper terms and with a sharper eye. Some of Vaia’s work and previous projects can be viewed online: www.vaiapaziana.com
And then of course there is myself, pictured below with Vaia and talking with my hands as usual! Unusually for me I am taking a leading role in the creative team and this feels very bold and new for someone with hermit tendencies who likes to hide at home quietly. Again, this is where the Flip Artists programme has helped with mentors who know when to push you gently (not with a big stick or anything!?) and when to let you languish! I will admit to having required a fair amount of “gentle persuasion” on occasion but am reaping the benefits of this now in the form of growing quietly in confidence.
Where to next with this Dada thing?
We have started writing already and have even devised a writing plan of sorts. One of the most obvious aspects to emerge from the development days is the feeling that we don’t want to delay and as well as thinking about where this work will end up we very quickly wanted to begin to make the piece. This was helped in no small way by a deadline in the form of the Flip Artist sharing events later this month where I’ll be giving a short presentation on my year with Flip, showing some Dada imagery and performing the first new material, “Emmy”: http://artists.flip.org.uk/exhibition-and-events-the-view-from-here/
The next big hurdle is funding which is big and scary but at least I’m not in this alone (see the other 2 victims pictured above!!). In the centenary year 2016, we hope there will be scope to continue this project to completion and performance and I feel sure that this will come to fruition in the coming weeks and months. Everyone is engaged and determined, ideas are flying about rapidly and most of all we believe.
I have the opportunity to begin to develop and workshop material in earnest for Dada’s Women at a Creative Residency with Magnetic North in Edinburgh in September. To this I will bring the 5 Dada women in words and images and hope to discover new ways of looking at these together with the other residency artists who all have different approaches and art forms. It seems like it will be a very exciting environment to create and work in!
Sonia Allori, August 2015.
(Photographs: Donald Ellis Ross)