Interview: Lorin Sookool at Constellations 2022 with ‘ongoing’– mourning, motherhood and the act of working- the ‘Double Rupture’ of birth and death

The third edition of Constellations is taking place at Spier Wine Estate, Stellenbosch, from November, 4 to 19, 2022, featuring the work by women artists [Webtickets]. Lorin Sookool is presenting on going, a “performative offering”, which is part of her body of work, Project On Going and which she describes as “a deeply intimate piece”, very much in synch with the intimacy of Constellations- small gatherings around fires in the farmlands at Spier.  The year 2022 has been busy forthe Cape Town based creative and she is excited to share an iteration of her work at Constellations 2022.

Mourning, motherhood and the act of working

Constellations has elements of surprise so not sure how much you can or want to reveal about what you will be presenting?

Lorin Sookool: I will be entering the Constellations 2022 frame with the work I have been moving with for the entire year. The performative offering is called ‘on going’, currently, and is part of a personal continuous project entitled Project On Going. It consists of a series of different iterations of creative offerings that contemplate my personal experiences of mourning, motherhood and the act of working and how these three things are inseparable acts. The first iteration exists as a film, with a performative action that takes place while the audience views the film. Koleka Putuma has created a written response to this iteration which was presented to a small guest audience in the living room of my home. The second iteration exists as a personal mourning ritual which an audience is invited to see into. I have performed it at the Vrystaat Kunstefees (Bloemfontein) and The Commons in Muizenberg (co-produced by Theatre Arts and The Commons) and for Constellations I will be adapting this performative ritual to the wilderness setting at the Spier wine farm. It is important to me to hold onto this work as platforms appear, as a way of employing a ‘”practice” as research approach for its full-work development which will take place on multiple platforms in 2023. It is a deeply intimate piece and so Constellations provides the perfect place for its adaption and development.

Work is subject-centred – challenging emotions and not genre specific

Dance is your field of practice- in which you trained. However, as a multi-disciplinary artist, you have worked theatrically, across genres, creating ‘dance-theatre’. Will your piece at Constellations have dialogue and will there be interaction with the audience?

Lorin Sookool:  I try to avoid defining the genre of my artistic offerings – I prefer to leave that up to viewers and critics. My work is subject-centred so the form, informed by the subject, changes from work to work. As a dancer though with many experiences performing in theatre spaces, there is probably a certain way in which I story-tell and so sure, I see how ‘dance theatre’ arrives in this conversation but I wouldn’t confine myself forever by that. To answer your question, yes, there is spoken word in this piece but it is not directed at the audience exactly. I have come to realise that the work is actually a moment for me to sit with the grief of having lost an intimate partner. Because I have not really had the opportunity to truly do so – I have had to mother our child and I have had to write proposal after proposal after proposal in an effort to continue to create a steady stream of income for myself. This work has become a blessing to myself in this way. And so, the audience is simply invited to sit with me as I go through my mourning cycles. The work is currently very much about me, and I think that is okay – at this stage of its development and for my own personal healing journey. But I do hope that the audience is able to connect with their own challenging emotions through witnessing me allowing them to rise to the surface of my being.

Sounds of nature holding space, with emotions at the centre

You graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor of Music in Dance from the University of Cape Town and majored in contemporary and African contemporary dance pedagogy. Is music part of your Constellations piece?

Lorin Sookool: No, the only sounds will be the sounds of nature around us, and the nature that is me. Iteration II of “on going” only uses a constant solfeggio frequency sound element, with sound bytes coming in from the projected video. The sound is meant to hold space for the action to take place, the action and the emotions are at the centre.

Seeding work- an ongoing process

We last connected at the end of 2020 [Oct/Nov], when you directed Mulato Sujo? at Theatre Arts in Cape Town. It was your directorial debut and the nub of the piece was ‘race’ in the context of Mozambique and it featured dancer, Sumalgy Nuro from Mozambique –you said that the work was a seed. []. In your very busy 2022, did you develop it further and is any of that in the Constellations piece?

Lorin Sookool: Mulato Sujo? was definitely a seed. A seed that will only begin to sprout later in2023 and I am very excited about that. It will look very different though as things have changed and time has passed but I have been patient in waiting to get the conditions just right for the development of what was planted that night.

Double Rupture- simultaneous death and birth experiences

Shortly after Mulato Sujo? you lost your intimate partner who happened to be a public figure- and well-known South African artist. You were pregnant at the time, with his child and gave birth a few months later. Through the loss and with a baby, you managed to build yourself up emotionally and physically and have been incredibly busy in 2022. You were in Italy. You seem to have been everywhere. Can you briefly talk about this year of artistic practice abroad and the essence of the work created and whether any of that will be distilled for your piece at Spier?

Lorin Sookool: This is a very difficult question to answer. I’ve just lit a candle as I try to answer it. Yes, the past two years have been characterised by a whirlwind of emotions – right from the start of what I call the “Double Rupture”; simultaneous death and birth experiences– on going was birthed because there was nothing else I could see and I needed to keep working. on going will continue because I will forever grieve losing my partner and I will forever be a mother and I will forever be working. I will be as honest as I can in communicating what that means at different stages of my life. Currently, I just need to sit with the grief and so, the work as it stands is reflective of that. This is what you will witness at Spier.

I don’t know how to talk about the rest of it; the professional growth, the travelling, the overall influx of energy into my career life. All I can say is that I am glad that it is finally happening – I have been doing this for what feels like a lifetime already. I am glad that I did not throw in the towel last year, which was definitely a thought I sat with for a while. Artistic practice and life experience go hand in hand, they communicate with one another (for me anyway) all the time. Going abroad showed me my unique light more clearly. My travels are helping me find my voice, sharpen my practice and also tap into the confidence that was always there but operating marginally all this time. And most of all, motherhood gives me every reason to keep going and to speak up while I do. My loss has broken me, but it has also empowered me, because it has reminded me that I am alive. We are alive. And so we must live like it.

✳ Bookings for Constellations 2022: Webtickets

Mourning, motherhood and the act of working: Lorin Sookool – ‘on going’- an iteration will be performed at Constellations at Wine Estate, Stellenbosch, from November, 4 to 19, 2022. Image: Tanja Hall, 2022. Supplied by Lorin Sookool.
Lorin Sookool’s ‘on going’: Image: Tanja Hall, 2022. Supplied by Lorin Sookool.

✳ Images: Tanja Hall, 2022. Supplied by Lorin Sookool.

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