How ‘To Create a World’: Andrea Miller + Gallim at the Joyce
After your residency at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, how did you come back to creating this world for the Joyce Theater?
When I went into the show at the Met, I was really struck by the Temple of Dendur. Seeing the hieroglyphs and imagining the person that was there, chipping the little details into the stone. I was feeling distant and yet connected to that person as an individual passing through their lives. My dad had just died, I had given birth, and these two defining parts of our existence brought me into this ancient rite, this prehistoric experience of life we share with our ancestors: parents have been watching their children sleep, feeding them, keeping them warm since the time of cavemen.
Another step in-between was our exhibition at the Met Breuer, in three galleries. That was another research on the body, in three states: by yourself, with one other person, and in a mass or a community. Each of those rooms described the behavior in those relationships.
The Joyce is yet another arrangement, another format, and the audience is in another place in the theater. I thought more things would cross over from the temple and Met Breuer with this theater work, but nope, it really its own form, its own craft. It was humbling in many ways, and it was not the first time I had done site specific work, but it was different in the framing of visual art. I feel very changed by my time in the museum, and it is hard to reconcile it with my life in the theater. I feel like I am coming back to theater and don’t know quite who I am.
Even the title To Create a World is a bit of a description of what it is to make a full evening dance: you are making a world, you are deciding its darkness its lightness, the environment the community, the experience. That’s how I see it and part of the process is trying to chip away at certain essential questions or issues that I see in my life and in our human experience. The creative process and the themes of this work are consistent with each other: wanting to be born into a new understanding and wanting to shed some habits. The way that you survive the creative process (this is a theme I have explored in other works like Blush) is like living knowing you are going to die. There is so much chaos and suffering whether in your life or those around you, it is almost unbearable. And yet, I have this question of how we deal with that, how we continue to find that muscle of happiness show, how we work on it and make it strong, and have it there to support us when we need it.
Making meaning with life between those two defining moments is the task at hand. For a lot of people it feels like it is so out of your hands. And how do you put it back in your hands? How do you carry this boulder up and again when it rolls down? I am just continuing to push my craft and take new risks and explore how I can get deeper and further in my work. I feel like this is my boulder, and I enjoy ownership of it in some ways. Some days it is lighter, and some days, I am doing it primarily to survive and not to transcend, which can be freeing.
words by Andrea Miller | images by Alexander Katan-Schmid
You can see To Create a World February 12-17 at The Joyce Theater. Click here for more info and tickets. To read more of the backstory that led to this conversation and see more beautiful images of these dancers, order Issue 02 today!