The Leeds Summer Group Show is an annual exhibition started by Courtney Spencer started in 2015. This year she partnered with Leeds Inspired, CuratorSpace and The State Of The Arts to present the 2020 exhibition online in response to the unusual set of circumstances. From almost 400 submissions, the selection panel chose 38 artists to exhibit and awarded six shortlisted artists/collectives with a share of the £600 cash prize and, luckily for our readers, an interview on The State Of The Arts! The artists are: Sarah Roberts, Paris Crossley, Nisa Khan, Katie Bennett-Rice, Alice Chandler and ACCA.
In the last interview of the series, we chatted with the incredible dance theatre performance duo ACCA – Anna Cabré-Verdiell Bosch and Charlotte Arnold.
What are the main themes running through your work?
We’re mostly inspired by what’s happening now – what’s topical in and around our own lives and how we can discuss this through movement and voice. So far we’ve explored the subtleties of body language in relation to the topic of consent, which stemmed from the effervescence of the #metoo movement in our piece ‘Occupational Hazard’. Then ‘ACCA Danst’ was a tribute to the iconic ‘Rosas Danst Rosas’. ACCA Danst started as a simple pastiche, but quickly became a social commentary of lockdown blues and the film format reinforced this notion. Currently, we are exploring a new project – ‘Cautivas’ – which is a discussion, and also a provocation about the continual undervaluing of the arts sector in respect to the crucial roles it plays in society.
What were the first artworks/ artists/ experiences that made you want to create art yourself?
Charlotte – I’ve always loved the subtleties of Tino Sehgal’s work – his work ‘Kiss’ is more sculptural than performative, and I adore this way of considering it. Additionally, Marina Abramovic’s hard hitting assaults on the senses and pain brings a harsh reality, that although I don’t see myself ever working in this way, uses the body to command conversations, which I think we’re also trying to do with ACCA.
Anna – The first ones…I have to travel far back into my memory files…
As a child my parents were always taking me to the theatre. I have particularly exciting memories of Ple de Riure, a comedy theatre festival happening in the beach of my hometown, El Masnou, for a whole week in summer. In the evening we would get dressed up and walk down to the beach, into the red and blue circus marquee where I saw Pepe Rubianes, Miguel Gila, Sergi Lopez, The Chapertons amongst many others. The whole ritual of attending a show excited me big time. Then, back home, I would perform relentlessly in front of the mirror, trying to recreate the buzz of a full auditorium. Only that this time I was the star.
Tell me about the relationship between movement and writing in your practice.
We both like writing a lot – Anna studied Journalism in Spain, and Charlotte edited the Northernisms blog during her final year at Northern School of Contemporary Dance – so it’s very much a mutual interest. At the moment, however, it feels for us that they’re more separate practices, and the cross over tends to come with writing serving as a reflective medium for movement work. Collected together they give us a more holistic approach to exploring our creativity, but honestly we’re still finding ways to combine the two – which is nice knowing that we don’t know everything yet, and that there’s still places to go and discover.
How has art and making accompanied you through the pandemic so far? Has it helped in any way or has your relationship to it changed?
We felt like we were very much on a roll in February before the pandemic hit. We were deep in developing ‘Occupational Hazard’ and preparing for performances – these plans were all sadly curtailed. We tried to keep up the flow during lockdown, ended up making ‘ACCA Danst’, and really cemented the foundations of ACCA and the nature of our collaboration, which although bubbling beforehand wasn’t so formal. Now, we have quite clear goals and intentions and know where we want to go, which wasn’t so defined pre-lockdown.
Additionally, the lockdown gave us the impetus for our new project ‘Cautivas’, so essentially did the opposite of discouraging us from the pursuit of an arts career, and if anything made us want to fight for it more, and aim higher.
For Anna, keeping creative and physical during lockdown was an incredible support and guide through, and it was particularly beneficial and empowering to have a break from the constant external validation that as freelance artists we always seem to be seeking and instead finding that validation from within.
Whereas for Charlotte, lockdown was very much a period of being a couch potato, switching off and getting out of shape, that then paved the way to reset her brain, body and creativity. Not so metaphysical, but still an essential process in its own way.
What’s the purpose of art?
The purpose of Art is to be the checks and balances of society. When spirits are low it provides joy and escapism, it can be critical when ideas need challenging, it can revive dying cultures, mirror emotion and offer food for thought. It’s omnipotent, unprejudiced and permeates everything. Precisely for the reason that Art has this potential, it is constantly susceptible to censorship and top down powers trying to asphyxiate it. We could go on for longer, and we will in our new project ‘Cautivas’ which tackles specifically this question – so stay tuned if you want to hear more!
What is your main source of inspiration at the moment?
Charlotte – I’ve just moved into a new flat, and my window looks out onto the River Aire. It feels like the most dreamy little nook to watch the world go by, with the constant ebbing and flow of the water and a perfect place to read. I read a lot and just finished ‘Skin’ by Roald Dahl, which is actually supposed to be teen fiction, but I read it anyway – there’s a macabre element to his writing that becomes apparent with his more adult work, and I love it.
Anna – Being physical really; it infuses me with a mixture of joy, peace and fulfillment that is quite unique. Riding on my bike, climbing, moving in the studio or even going for a run, which I used to hate, is always a highlight of my day.