Interview with Sylvia Rimat (UK)

Posted by Thom Smyth, October 3rd, 2014

Proximity Festival is nearly upon us for 2014, taking over the Fremantle Arts Centre for two weeks of intimate one-on-one performances, big ideas at the Symposium, and one-off celebrations at the Party For 1. For the first time this year, Proximity is welcoming an international artist to the performance program line-up. That artist is German-born, Bristol-based Sylvia Rimat, who recently arrived in Perth ready for the Proximity LAB which started this week. Sylvia creates theatre-based performance work, and is an Associate Artist with In Between Time, an international production company that runs the prestigious biennial In Between Time Festival. Performing Lines WA’s Thom Smyth recently sat down with Sylvia after the LAB.

TS: Welcome to Perth! You’ve been in town for a couple of days now. How has the first couple of days of the Proximity LAB been?
SR: Thanks for the welcome, I think I’ve just managed to overcome my jetlag! So far it’s been really lots of fun, everyone seems very friendly and generous and the exercises are inspiring, fresh and relevant.

TS: You met Proximity co-curator Sarah Rowbottam at In Between Time in Bristol. Was that how you first heard about Proximity Festival? What made you take the plunge and head all the way over to Australia?
SR: Yes so Helen Cole, Artistic Director of In Between Time, asked me if I wanted to meet up with Sarah for coffee in Bristol. We both spoke about the work we do and I thought Proximity Festival sounded exciting. So I kept an open eye on the application process and eventually decided to submit a proposal. Also, I had the time in autumn to fit in a project of that scale and wanted to explore a new format; this is my first one-on-one performance project I am working on. Of course I was also excited about the idea of coming all the way to Australia, I’ve never been here before.ImagineMemain

TS: Your new performance Dance With Me is part of Proximity 2014. What can we expect from the show?
SR: Dance With Me aims to explore the voices in our minds, the familiar and the more unusual ones, as well as the voices that can become part of the consciousness of a building, in this case Fremantle Arts Centre with its history of a mental health asylum in the late 19th, early 20th century. Expect lots of sound and a dance with a stranger!

TS: Your practice looks a lot at ideas of memory and ritual; our desire to be unforgettable or to be remembered, and how we go about scientifically ensuring that. What sparked this examination and focus for you?
SR: I think my fascination started a few years back when I attended a symposium on Science Art projects and was instantly captured. At that time I was also starting conversations with a cardiologist at the Heart Clinic at the Royal Infirmary in Manchester, as I was working on a disturbing experience I had gone through when I fainted one evening live on stage, during a performance. At the Royal Infirmary they had set up a Black Out Clinic where people were put into a blackout in a controlled way to study what happens in the body and I wanted to work with the cardiologist and those people experiencing a black out. Unfortunately the planned collaboration didn’t happen in the end, however my fascination with biomedical science had only started.imagineus2

TS: A number of Proximity artists this year work on the border between art and science, drawing on scientific studies in health or environment or psychology to create work. How do you navigate that interweaving of scientific study and the creative investigation?
SR: Quite often I have conversations with specialists from various fields, it’s not limited to science. For instance, for my performance project If You Decide To Stay, drawing on decision-making, I had conversations with an Astrologist alongside meetings with researchers in Mathematical Science and Neuroscience. Also, I embarked on a few sessions with a Psychotherapist to find out about my very personal ways of making decisions. So all these different approaches on decision-making stood next to each other. I think that’s the great advantage of the arts, that we have the freedom to make connections between different disciplines and fields, and with our very own experiences and expectations.
For Dance With Me, I had conversations with people who hear voices, which was quite enriching as I learned that hearing those voices doesn’t have to be negative, it can be a positive experience. One person told me that he would feel very alone without his voices.

TS: Aside from creating your own work, you are also involved in a UK organisation called Residence. How does that operate and how are you involved?
SR: Residence is a collective of artists making theatre, performance and live art. We share space (one office and two rehearsal spaces), equipment and knowledge. We are currently around 17 artists and it’s so important to be in exchange with other likeminded people, to be able to ask questions, get each other’s support and be in exchange. For instance we have a regular event called Tiny Ideas where we show work-in-progress to each other and discuss it afterwards. We also do small events and invite other artists to come and stay with us for a weekend, as part of our hideaway scheme. And we have a well-stocked bookshelf bar in our office! I am very proud to be a member of Residence as it feels very generous and nurturing. The economic side of being a performance artist can be very hard at times, so it’s important to have good allies, accomplices and friends!

TS: What’s up next for you after Proximity Festival?
RS: After Proximity I will go back to England and present my performance Imagine Us as part of Compass Festival of Live Art in Leeds and my performance If You Decide To Stay at Chelsea Theatre London. And then I am planning on starting work on my new performance project This Moment Now drawing on our experience of time in relation to concepts of time in Mathematics/ Physics and research in Neuroscience. I will play with time delays, pauses, rhythm and beat and work together with a drummer on stage. The show is an ICIA commission and will premiere in April next year. Ah and I will be coming back to Australia in January 2015, to present my performance I guess if the stage exploded… as part of <INSERT MAJOR AUSTRALIAN SUMMER FESTIVAL WHO HAVE YET TO RELEASE THEIR PROGRAM> – really looking forward to that one!

Sylvia Rimat will perform Dance With Me as part of Proximity Festival
22 Oct – 2 Nov | Fremantle Arts Centre
More info –

Images courtesy