No Thanks

SHIFTING FOCUS: AMRITA HEPI

Amrita Hepi is an award-winning First Nations choreographer and dancer from Bundjalung (Australia) and Ngapuhi (NZ) territories. Amrita shows incredible strength through her activist voice and expressive movement. She pushes the barriers of intersectionality and explores 'decolonial imagination' through her practice. We have admired Amrita as a role model in the fashion and art scene. She often performs wearing Pleats Please, choosing the pieces for their ease of movement. The fabrication adds an extra layer of motion and resistance that is effective on stage. Recently we spoke to Amrita about her 2020 experience, her practice and her hopes for the future.

Amrita wears Pleats Please by Issey Miyake New Colourful Basics Tank Dress in Beige


As a fellow Melbournian, we've been in lockdown for a while now. What has helped you through this time?

I feel like I’m still a relatively new Melbournian, so thanks for the affirmation of acceptance! I moved down from Gadigal (Sydney) in October last year as I was given a studio at Gertrude Contemporary but I have always had a fondness for Wurundjeri country because of the independent dance and arts community here. It's hard to know what has 'helped' me because, usually what has helped, are actually coping mechanisms - making pasta, drinking wine, face-timing friends, crying, laughing, mushrooms.. ha

But I’ll say that what has made it more bearable is being able to lament and whine a little to people who will listen without prejudice, watching series like Gomorrah or Billions, online house dance classes, Zadie Smith’s book Intimations, funny poetry, treating myself to flowers and nice smelling objects and my analyst.

"In an ideal world, all of my outfits for performances and for the better part of life would be Pleats Please by Issey Miyake."

When you're planning performance, how do you consider your outfit and how it will add to the experience?

Unless the work is driven by a costuming element, like it was in earlier works, like Passing, I am ashamed to say that it's usually the last thing I think of. So, if you’re reading this and want to be my stylist, get in touch! Depending on the project I can get quite swept up in the details of making; with the objects, movement, aesthetics and minutiae that go into performing, which is why at times I forget to make the consideration with costuming that I should.

We've noticed that you're a bit of a Pleats Please fan, what do you love about the clothing?

In an ideal world, all of my outfits for performances and for the better part of life would be Pleats Please by Issey Miyake. I love the fabric and how nimble, functional, bizarre and resistant it is. I love the way it falls as well as how some of the dresses and pants in the lighter colours are slightly see-through. I love that I can scrunch it up and put it in my bag and not have to steam it because I am lazy with elegant aspirations. The history and how Miyake describes himself and his technique intrigue me; he talks about his iconic pleating as being 'The Mutant Pleat' which shows he had a desire for hybridity whilst still being highly technical and remaining traditional.

I also have a soft spot for his collaborations with Dancer and Choreographer, William Forsythe, in particular the work, The Loss of Small Detail.

 

While live performances aren't possible at the moment, how have you expressed your creativity through other mediums?

*heart breaks*

While I understand there are other things to mourn and work through, not being able to witness dance or physically dance and with others is sad and I miss it a lot.

During the pandemic, I was fortunate enough to be commissioned for a few projects with Kaldor Public Art Projects, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art and Art Gallery of NSW.

For ACCA I collaborated with the amazing brain, writer and neuroscientist Dr.Samuel Lieblich to make a chatbot called Neighbour which masquerades as a virtual assistant for ACCA. The bot is actually just interested in flirting with the user and is trying to uncover the question of “it” in “How Does it Feel?”. Using artificial intelligence and very lo-fi video, Neighbour is a cute algorithmic entity that is up and running for the next month on ACCA’s website.

I also made a text bot called Cass whose aim is to be heard and to keep you entertained with rhetoric questioning. By texting (+61 429 983 628) you can begin to interact with a series of flow scripts/texts. Her name comes from the Greek priestess Cassandra, who was cursed to forever utter prophecies but was never believed. This Cass is a millennial herald - not easily distracted, but a multi-tasker. There’s been a lot of choreographic text endeavours!

And lastly, I was asked to contribute to Hans Ulrich Obrist’s Kaldor Public Arts 'Do it' Project, where artists from around the world pen a short instruction for people to participate in.

I was also 70% creative expressive genius in the kitchen and 30% creative nightmare disaster (no sourdough baking here).

Amrita wears Colourful Madame-T in Pink 


What are your hopes and dreams for the future?

My hopes and dreams are to continue to carve out enough space for myself whilst remembering to aim high and surprise myself with what I can accomplish. As well as trying to not let my neurosis 'death prep' for the future all the time. To spend more time with my family, to continue the work of loving dancing, to get my license (and a car!), to make a contemporary musical, to join a community choir and sing more in public, to continue to try to learn to code, to talk to my mum more, to be loving and affectionate with my friends, to be nicer to my sisters and to have a wardrobe full to the brim of mutant pleats.

 

Photography: Gopi Lev
Words: Kirra Scotland


amritahepi.com

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