J Neve Harrington

J Neve Harrington is an artist from the UK whose work includes writing, dance & choreography, drawing, video, installation, costume and space design. She works mainly in gallery and non-stage spaces where her work prioritises explorations around access, play, agency, confrontation by times/scales beyond the human, neuroqueer experiences of information processing and attention.

Her most recent project is SOME TIMES (Sadlers Wells, London, UK) which offers possibilities for ways we can be together across different generations in the times we are currently living through; referencing the climate crisis, digital, geological and distinctly human time scales. This piece reaches far beyond the human, and into the past and future.

Describe the nature around you at the moment?

I’m currently in Newcastle where we are rehearsing SOME TIMES, and though I am spending a lot of time indoors these days, I am aware of a difference in the scents carried on the air, the closeness of bodies of water: the North Sea and the Tyne. From the windows of DanceCity I can see a landscape that makes the word moor appear in my mind, but I am disoriented by the closeness and the overlay with buildings and roads. I haven’t had the schedule space to walk out to see what’s there. Part of the work we are making relates to modes of composition in collaging, digital collage, painting, sculpting and photography. Right now windows are the portals to the natural world, which feels quite far away.

Where do you feel most at ease?

I feel really good in woodland and forest. It takes about 40 minutes of walking to really arrive at a sense of ease, which is maybe more a sense of tuning. I think this probably has something to do with what happens to depth perception and balance in natural spaces: the way that the vestibular system is affected by walking on uneven ground and how what is seen is rarely homogenised by continuous surfaces.

What was the inspiration behind your latest work SOME TIMES?

Looking to movements and patterns, scales and media made by humans, but also beyond the human, to explore different ways to be together in and with time, in the times we’re currently in.

The project has an intergenerational cast, and spans dance, text, sound and space design. I think of it as a texture book of experiences, images, associations and gaps. SOME TIMES is my first full-length work and first for theatres, but it’s also a bit like a concert or an exhibition. Underneath the inspiration for the work, there is also an ambition or maybe a desire to allow myself to lean into rather than mask my neurodivergence. For me this is an attempt to continue to be part of a plurality of makers, bodied and minded differently to each other.

What lessons have you learned about nature through dance and choreography?

I think I’ve understood something that’s hard to put into words: about programming/coding/codes/style and how these get activated or shut down through contexts. Something about neurodiversity and biodiversity, about adaptation and creativity and contact.

What rituals do you practice to keep you grounded and connected to the outer world?

A year ago I started to share an allotment plot with a friend. I’m often there alone in the evenings - learning as I go by trial and error and with the support of others who have more experience than I do. These allotments have been going a long time, and there’s a large community of growers there.

I’ve never felt a strong connection with the word ritual, which perhaps connects to whiteness, cultural and class background…something about growing up without practices which build those internal and external social architectures of connectivity with others or with the world through specificity. Instead it’s maybe having a sort of intuited wide-angled orientation to everything, yet actually experiencing lack of connectivity. I’d like to think about this more because it brings up a complex felt-sense about intersecting experiences.

But I connect strongly with rhythms of work and working, and maybe it’s the work of tending the allotment which is becoming something of a ritual-activity I pass through, changed, in which I feel connection, gratitude and commitment to pasts, presents and futures. For some people food is involved in ritual, and for me it is very grounding to eat the things I have grown.

Which song, book or performance inspires your relationship with nature?

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer and The Overstory by Richard Powers are favourites from the past years.

What kind of ancestor would you like to be?

I’m practicing kinds of kinship which aren’t biological, vertical, linear or binary. I hope I’m an ancestor who is doing the work of moving towards healing inside of my inheritances and sharing what I’m learning with others. As a future ancestor I hope I will have nurtured the spaces I’ve moved through, even if that’s through trying and failing and recovering.

What challenge do you face in your locality, being a part of nature? (asked by art curator Naoko Mabon)

I live in a tower block in South London. The natural world is everywhere, but the most accessible experiences of nature feel pretty domesticated. London feels like a green city compared to other places I have moved through. I’m grateful that there are so many trees and green spaces around, but I don’t really know how the other species are doing. I wish that I was living in a way that was more acknowledging of the fact that human beings share space with all these other lives, with different needs and rhythms to ours.

When I visit my collaborator and friend Russell Harris in Berlin we always talk about the birds of prey in the city - goshawks, kestrels and peregrine falcons. There’s something about this proximity that I feel humbled by, and it always draws my attention to the difference between naming a group of animals other than humans, to knowing specific names, to knowing or understanding anything about how other beings live. Maybe that’s about distance and empathy.

What question would you like to ask to the next person on #TNK?

What’s your experience of intergenerational conversation and the natural world in your context?

And could you suggest someone else or other organisations you admire that we could approach for #TheNatureKind?

Peaks of Colour in the Peak District. Christine Bramwell- sound artist, youth worker. Laura Burns- artist, writer.

You can find out more at www.jnharrington.com and @j.neve.harrington

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