Interview: Aimee Smith Wintering

Posted by Thom Smyth, June 14th, 2013

Aimee Smith is one of those Perth people I really admire. She appreciates what this city has to offer and uses her art as a way to talk about social, environmental and political challenges we face in the world today. She’s is an advocate for social change, and it shows in her work. Inspired by a trip to the High Arctic in 2010, her current work Wintering asks us to consider what it means to live in a world that is ever changing and disintegrating.

Words: Sarah Rowbottam (SR) and Aimee Smith (AS)

SR. Let’s start from the beginning. What’s the story behind Wintering?
AS. In late 2010 I was part of an artist-led expedition to the High Arctic. For 18 days we ate, slept and travelled on a boat around the archipelago of Svalbard. Every day we made landings on shore, working independently and collaboratively, to create art works immersed in and around this incredible landscape. It was simultaneously one of the most heartbreaking and hope-filling experiences of my life. From this came Wintering.

SR. What should audiences expect?
AS. Wintering has been described as a meditative and hypnotic work. It moves more slowly than most contemporary dance and live performance. But there is purpose and intention and structure to this pace that, I hope, in the end guides people on a journey through an emotional landscape.

The dance also shares the space with an audio-visual performance by musician Craig McElhinney and video artist Kynan Tan at the beginning of the show. I’m really interested in presenting different artistic mediums within a shared performance context, bringing new audiences and communities together.

SR. For the Perth season you have collaborated with video artist Kynan Tan. What has he brought to the performance?
AS. Kynan has brought an incredible sensibility and design to the video content that sits at the beginning of the performance. I collected some incredible footage from my time in the arctic but didn’t have the skills to turn it into an engaging video work that also spoke to the themes of Wintering. The footage, before Kynan came along, looked a bit like a holiday slideshow and he has been able to transform that into a video work that contains texture and grit and emotion.

SR. You talk about Wintering evoking a sense of Solastalgia. Can you expand on this?
AS. Solastalgia is a word created by Professor Glenn Albrecht to try to explain a sense of solace and loss one experiences when the place in which they live changes. About 10 years ago he saw a lack of words in the English language to adequately explain the lived experience of negative environmental change and has been working on a generating relevant vocabulary ever since. When I first heard of that word it connected with me and made me realise my experience was shared by others. This was really empowering.

In the arctic I was overwhelmed by the immense beauty and fragility of a magnificent place. I acknowledged a great sadness in myself in this space. It was this emotional landscape, very rarely spoken of, that I wanted to nurture in Wintering. And in this way the work connects with both the meaning of, and my experience with, solastalgia. Perhaps by expressing and talking about how we feel about the world we may be more able to accept where we’re at and move forwards.


SR. What keeps you optimistic about our ever-depleting environment?
AS. I just have to be optimistic…or I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning. There is no choice. Other people doing inspiring things helps. Surrounding myself with people who care also helps. And regular trips to our amazing beaches to stare out over that incredible expanse of ocean also brings me optimism.

SR. Who are your main influences at the moment?
AS. I’ve just completed a Masters in Sustainability and Climate Policy so that, of course, is having a huge influence on my thinking and creativity at the moment. I’m also finding great inspiration in other art forms right now – music especially. Both these influences, I think, shine through in Wintering.

Aimee Smith is the Choreographer for Wintering 12 – 15 June 2013 at the State Theatre Centre of WA Studio Underground.
Special Offer for Performing Lines WA readers! quote password ‘Arctic’ for $25 evening tickets and $20 matinee tickets
Click here for tickets and info

*FREE GLASS OF WINE pre-show to those traveling to the theatre by bicycle or public transport. Present your bike helmet or train/bus ticket between 7-7.30pm, prior to any evening performance and receive a free glass of locally produced House of Cards wine at the Studio Underground bar.

Wintering from Aimee Smith on Vimeo.