Minneapolis-based Bharatanatyam dancer and choreographer Ashwini Ramaswamy is one of this year's Liquid Music Series' 2017.18 Artists in Virtual Residence. Known for her ability to "weave together both fearfully and joyfully, the human and the divine" (New York Times), Ramaswamy will be bringing her craft to the 2018.19 Liquid Music season in collaboration with DJ, composer, and author Jace Clayton (our other Artist in Virtual Residence) for a premiere of their new work. Throughout the process, Ramaswamy will document her personal experiences with the project. Here, in her first writing entry, she reflects on her ancestral roots, wandering art museums in New York City, and getting to know Clayton as a collaborator through conversation, performance, and artistic influences.
Blog Entry #1
By Ashwini Ramaswamy
The new project for Liquid Music that I am working on with DJ/composer/author Jace Clayton has been ebbing and flowing in my head for a few years. I have long been interested in the restlessness and unpredictability of cultural memory, which is deeply embedded in my own transnational existence. Like a phantom limb, my Indian ancestry lingers with me, informing my artistic work and daily interactions and sparking my interest in the specter of cultural memory. I wanted to go outside my comfort zone to create an organic collaboration with a DJ and composer with whom I would have otherwise never partnered. Liquid Music curator Kate Nordstrum connected me with Jace, a master of electronic manipulation, who has worked on a number of past Liquid Music programs. The collaboration is also alien for him, too: he’s never before partnered with a choreographer. We come from very different artistic spheres and backgrounds, and are using this Virtual Residency to find our connection points and weave them into the new work.
This July, I went to New York City to gather inspiration and have an initial meeting with Jace about our project. I used to live in New York, and always savor my visits. More often than not I am there to perform, so when I have the luxury of enjoying the city without the pressures of a performance, I try to take full advantage. I visited the Whitney Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, saw a performance at Lincoln Center, and Jace accompanied me to an exhibit at the Rubin Museum called The World is Sound curated by my friend Risha Lee. Risha was gracious enough to give us a personal tour of the exhibit, which took over two years to conceive and execute.
At the end of October, Jace came to the Twin Cities for our second meeting, which also involved the consumption of art. We attended the first event of Liquid Music’s sixth season – Breaking English, by Rafiq Bhatia, with an opening piece, Spiritual Leader, by Ian Chang, at the Walker Art Center. Integrating other artists’ performances, readings, or exhibits into our collaborative process is something that I hope will continue in the coming months – that undercurrent of creativity helps spur conversations that can go in unexpected directions.
Artistic inspirations have been the main crux of what Jace and I have discussed in our meetings thus far – from Abram Tertz’s A Voice Form the Chorus to Eduardo Galeano’s Memory of Fire trilogy, the work of visual artist Doris Salcedo to a documentary on musician David Byrne. While our project is still in its infancy, these discussions help us navigate and discover each other’s working styles and influences. I played Carnatic (south Indian classical) compositions for Jace at the Ragamala studios in Uptown Minneapolis, and I saw him do an experimental, improvised DJ set at Honey in the Northeast neighborhood. By our next meeting, we will have a narrative framework in place that will further define the work and drive it forward.
We’ll have more to share soon – until next time!
Follow the Liquid Music blog for more entries and updates from Ashwini throughout the season – she will continue to share her journey of the project's evolution through a series of posts including writings, photos, and videos!
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Instagram: @ashwiniramaswamy (instagram.com/ashwiniramaswamy/)
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