I recently had the pleasure to join Andrea Pena & Artists at one of her rehearsals as she prepared for her recent show called El Vientre del Animal. In which she choreographed and presented at the Place des Arts with Festival Quartiers Danses.
Enjoy a brief interview with Andrea Pena as she shares her creative story, thoughts and process, past, present and future.
What is your name ? Andrea Pena
What type of artist are you? Choreographer, Sculptor, Designer, and Videographer.
Where were you born and where are you living now? I was born in Bogota Colombia. Living in Montreal. Have moved around about every 4 years.
Where did you go to school and what training do you have ? Cuban National Ballet, American Ballet Theater ( N.Y.C) Undergraduate in Design, and presently I am doing my masters in design in Montreal. I have also been mentored by the dancers, Louis Le Cavallier
What is the mediums you use to express yourself?
The Body: To me the most visceral and ephemeral art form. The ability to sense the strife, physical challenge and imaginative narrative universe of a performer, brings forth an incredibly honest representation and perspective into the human being.
Materiality: I love working with my hands and crafting a material into a form that speaks. This is a very personal medium for me, which becomes more meditative than others. It is an exchange (Actor-Network Theory), between the material, my craftsmanship and my ideas.
Digital and Virtual Realities: The speculation of the future is exciting! I find within the digital realm, I am able to play within numerous possibilities, with limited constraints that the body and materials do not allow me to do so. The crafting of a digital reality brings with it, a childlike play, paired with a tongue and cheek conceptual and critical proposition. I think this is where my nerdy side comes out.
Camera: Poetry. Although unfortunately not a fan of written poetry, I find the video and the camera to be a poetic and aesthetic medium in which to subtly express ideas.
6) Who inspires you or influences your work. Either is be other artists, music, nature, city, poetry, family, mentors ?
Being Colombian I find my passion, inspiration, drive, guts and feed of chaos. The idea of complex chaos, randomness, spontaneity, chance, improvisation, intuition lead my artistic journey. I usually need to step out of my comfortable and constant routines to find a spark of difference and complex, chaotic beauty. That being said, philosophy and reading are the sources of many of my ideas. I need to fall into a sea of ideologies from which to bright forth an artistic proposition.
7) Why create? What does it mean to you to express. ? Is it mediative, for work. Is it your passion? out of necessity ?
I think my need to create comes from observation. Coming from a cultural past, raised in Colombia and experiencing injustices politically, socially, culturally, economically, ecologically and historically; to then being introduced into a live here in Canada, where many of those paradigms are presented very differently and privilege finds it self at the forefront, I have always been very observant of the realities around me. From a very young age, filled with empathy and not being able to understand certain things that seemed unfair in this world, I became an observer curious to explore the beauty and contrasts of humanity. I think for me the purpose of my work is to question beauty, question the experience of living, question each other and ourselves. I aim not to create work that is about my self, but about the human experience. To create platforms for questioning and experiencing propositions that transgress our everyday and our consciousness.
8) What is your theme or subject ? If it varies, what is it now? and why this theme?
The question that always leads my work within various mediums is the exploration and expression of the individual within its societal context; from a very philosophical and critical perspective. I am curious to explore the essence of the individual and the “human”, and the impositions, implication that have shaped us through time. Through my work I aim to present universes, sculptures, digital experiences that shift our inner, personal perspectives of familiar and unfamiliar worlds. All this with the hope to instigate a level of consciousness or awakening about the individual to this material and man made world.
9) Can you tell me a bit about your process?
For this point, I'll speak more precisely about my choreographic process. I work in very large teams of usually 9-11 people. This is absolutely the best most interesting part of my work. My team usually consist of a lighting designer, costume designer, music composer, 6-7 dancers/artists, videographer, set designer, and my self the choreographer. When we embark on a new creation everyone is on board from the start. It is very important that the whole team finds themselves within the same conceptual framework within the idea of the creation. A new creation is usually a process of 3-4 months, where for the 1st month, the work that is done by my self in isolation. I need to find the essence of this next creation. What does it want to say? What is the visual and aesthetic universe? How does it feel? What does it sound like? What will the audience feel? How will the dancers move? What is the language of the body if different from before?
Most of this process, is very very quiet and requires me to calm my chaos loving side down. I usually lay down and meditate for hours until an idea comes to mind. Until as though from the darkness I start to sense the essence of the work. The essence then moves into visualization and mood boards, texts, philosophies, concepts, examples, soundtracks that are send to the whole team.
From this direction board we move forward.
10) What are the biggest struggles in your creative life as a artist in the city or just in general? How do you generally move past any blocks?
Million dollar question I wish I had an immediate tool box and practical answer for. I am very very hard on my self, fortunately and unfortunately a huge perfectionist. I have a love_love_hate relationship to push. I usually feel the most encouraged and satisfied when I have a million different and unrelated projects at the same time. Yet this comes at the cost of exhaustion. I try in all the work I do to connect with people around me. I find it is not always the work, but the exchanges and interactions that continue to fuel what I do.
Most of my challenges come at the time I have just presented a new work. Almost as though the letting go of that piece into the world, brings with it an extremely high level of critically. I find here is where I question my work the most. I usually give my self time to not think about my work post a big premier and allow for the personal questioning to dig it self quite deep. With time and patience, ill find something that inspires me and re-opens or channels my doubt into a new level of personal artistry.
11) What projects are you working on now, and what are you dreams for your future for your work and life ?
I am currently in the quiet stage before a new creation. We are embarking into a new piece in 2018, and I find my self not only searching for the essence of the work, but in truly tumultuous waters of self questioning. Im in rocky waters requisitioning my work, my choices, my aesthetics and what is going to be my next set as a choreographer.
Future dreams: I hope to further established my company on an international level, while finding a marriage between all my disciplines. I am grateful of where I am and wouldn't change it for the world, I am just looking to do it better and continue searching for honesty and vulnerability.
12) Travel? Where have you been and where would you like to go?
Favourite place recently: Kefalonia in Greece.
Where would I like to go: Japan!
13) Any words of advise to other emerging artists on being a creative person..any motto’s you live by or remind yourself on a daily basis.
Fuck it! Honestly. Sounds silly, but half of the time when I am questioning my self, i always tell my self. Fuck it. Its art at the end of the day, and its an individual and personal process. If others don't like it thats ok, if your not sure, don't take your self too seriously and just keep trying! And most importantly have fun.
14) Does the city you live in influence your work?
Yes. It's a seed that allows me to be anything I aspire or feel like. the multiplicity and immense individuality in this city leaves room personal expression however and whatever that may mean. I found a very significant part of who I am as an artist by coming here to Montreal.
ANDREA PENA - CREATIVE WORK
A N D R E A P E N A
S O C I A L M E D I A
INSTAGRAM- @penaa18, penaleon_studio
WEBSITE- https://www.andreapena.net/about , or andrea-pena.format.com/