Luke Pell was awarded £4,945 from the Artists’ international development fund for a 17-day research trip to New York and Washington, aiming to develop his practice as a performance curator working with diverse artists and communities.
In the second of our interviews with successful fund applicants, Luke explains how he developed his proposal and what he learned from the experience.
Watch Frames and Fragments featuring Luke Pell
Tell us a bit about your background as a performance curator in England.
I have curated participatory and artist development programmes, discussion series and live performance as part of my work with venues, dance companies and arts organisations in the UK for the past decade. In the past year I started to look specifically at how curation manifests both in my performance-making (the curation of people, experience, community and space) and in the work I do with artists and organisations (imagining alternative contexts for performance and artistic discourse).
Your trip to New York coincided with the Under the Radar Festival. How did you identify the festival as something relevant to your practice?
A colleague in the UK who had performed at Under the Radar recommended the festival as a place that might resonate with some of the things that I'm 'busy with' in terms of alterity, or ‘otherness’, and social engagement. She introduced me to Mark Russell the festival director and I had a conversation with him about visiting. Equally important was that Under the Radar happens at the same time as numerous other festivals in New York during January; they, in particular American Realness, were also really relevant to the work I'm doing in dance and performance here.
The criteria for Artists' international development funding asks for ‘a clear artistic rationale for your proposal’. How did you develop this for your application?
The ‘why?’ was super clear for me when I applied last year and it still is today. I've worked for a long time in the UK within organisations, doing my own independent work alongside full-time jobs. In 2012, I began to focus solely on my work as an independent artist who makes, curates and facilitates artistic work.
I feel like I know the UK arts landscape fairly well, having purposefully moved between disciplines, islands of thought and artist forms. My experience has been predominantly here and a tiny bit in Europe, but really I have been UK bound! So, to challenge, question and develop my practice, I'm conscious I need to actively go elsewhere – helping to consider my values and work in very different cultural contexts.
The schedule for your trip was jam-packed with meetings with artists and arts professionals. How did you make these contacts?
In all the ways we meet people... some were existing colleagues I'd met when they were working here but hadn't seen in their own environments, some I was introduced to by people I know here, and then people I met once I was in the US. Others were entirely unplanned - brilliant chance meetings - that came from being elsewhere and open to possibilities that arise when you are somewhere new.
How do you think the experience will change your artistic practice?
I've been really stimulated by considering alternative ways of living and practicing as an artist. The trip also reminded me of how considered we can be about our choices: the how, where, when and why. So one thing I'm going to be working on is being better at consciously practicing as an artist.
I had some wonderful, significant encounters with mentors and peers while I was in the US. Artists shared their own distinct experiences of creating work, as well as their perceptions of what I - as an artist - might be about. A large part of that information has already radically changed the way I'm working and will work from here on out.
As I mentioned earlier, the research period has inevitably left me thinking - a lot - about other cultural contexts, relationships between local and international landscapes, communities and their political and artistic ideologies. This experience expanded and further fuelled my thoughts and feelings to do with our experience of time, home, intimacy, community, presence and participation - which I'm itching to unpick in my next artistic project.