Sriwhana Spong: A Re-Enchantment of the World

Sriwhana Spong Tasseography of a Rat’s Nest (extended), 2018.
Installation view: A hook but no fish, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, 2018.
Courtesy of the artist and Michael Lett Gallery. Photo: Samuel Hartnett.

I met the artist Sriwhana Spong in 2011 when I lived in Auckland, New Zealand, which is also her hometown. Today, she lives in London, and that’s where she spent the lockdown period. When we spoke from our respective lockdowns on a video call, Sriwhana was sporting an amazing high ponytail à la Ariana Grande and big headphones, as if she was a musician in her own recording studio. Sriwhana had sent me some links to her films to watch before the call and I formulated the questions below.

We spoke of many things: how to stay open during a pandemic, the feeling of being “far” from home no matter where you are, her peculiar personal history split between New Zealand and Bali, and how that created the conditions for the choreographic making of her filmic, sculptural and performative work. The following transcription alights on Sriwhana’s interests in animal bestiaries, performance as conduit to other dimensions, and the language of the ancient Christian mystics. Couched in the same refrains and legacy, hers is a language that could possibly re-enchant the post-pandemic world.

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This is definitely a thing

A still from “Fruits” by Ernestyna Orlowska, Les Urbaines 2016. Photo: David Wohlschag

Les Urbaines turned 20 this year, it is a remarkable platform to see exciting live works and new international productions on the threshold of theatre, dance, art and music. I arrived in Lausanne with a beautiful train journey through the mountains from Milano, which was not enough to wake me up from the realisation of how expensive everything is in this steep lakeside Swiss town.

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