Gestural Lexicons in Lockdown: An Interview with MaggZ | Hosted by Georgia Mann

MaggZ is an interdisciplinary artist from Melbourne Australia, with a creative practice centered on movement exploration in conjunction with artistic materials. Sharing the intimate thought process behind the works, MaggZ captivates us with her honest and cathartic approach to expression and communication. In this interview, we discuss the importance of documenting performance in the current climate supporting the architecture of body and space.

J I A - MaggZ

GM: Your collaboration between disciplines blurs traditional boundaries and allows for multifaceted work to emerge, for example the conflation of Waacking dance and artistic materials in your practice, which seems to create a sort of gestural language. How do these interpersonal elements reflect your ways of seeing and in turn influence how you work with visual materials?

MaggZ: Waacking is a freestyle dance originated from gay clubs in LA in 1970s, created to liberate oppressed sexualities at the time. Although I don't identify myself as queer currently, I'm still deeply attracted to Waacking as it encourages me to honour my individuality which is very much constantly evolving with my state of being in everyday life. Growing up I've been exposed to multiple creative outlets, I’m still interested in them and much beyond, exploring what is art and what is the relationship amongst different art forms. Waacking acts as a vessel for me to navigate and to interact with other art forms. Additionally, I've been exposed to the hierarchy in the creative industry where certain art forms are often regarded as more valuable than others. In using waacking, or dance in general as my predominant art form, I intend to challenge the existing hierarchy through exploring diversifying art / creative experiences, as well as showcasing the potential of such experiences, therefore placing an emphasis on equality and equity in the creative industry and beyond.

GM: Would you say that your process is open-ended, allowing space for improvisation? Are any elements of your work pre-determined?

MaggZ: All movement in my works are freestyled and improvised; predetermined factors are mostly the environment around me (in performance / installation contexts), and sometimes perhaps the sounds, if there are any sounds involved. In a more traditional context, music and dance are inseparable not only in Waacking culture, but in hip hop culture in general, and there's a saying of "music always comes first". I respect this perspective and very much enjoy intertwining with music when I move. In a more contemporary / experimental landscape, the use of sound in my process varies according to different projects but for all my projects, sound is used as an additional factor instead of the centre where everything else derives from, in comparison to the traditional take on music and sound and its relation with dance and movement.

GM: A sense of documentary realism appears in your artistic practice, particularly in your untitled work created in collaboration with Misha. In this work you manipulate the body through movement and media through editing; exploring Psychoplasticity. Is there an intentional parallel between how you manipulate the two?

MaggZ: This was actually a spontaneous photoshoot that occurred earlier this year, exploring the interaction between movement and materials. I had the vision of an ambiguous mutant being placed; the use of the semi transparent fabric covering my upper body was intentional, as a starting point of experimentation too. Psychoplasticity represents humans' dislocation in ethereal settings; the words of the work were written by me during the second wave of COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne, Australia, where I felt that reality and subconsciousness overlap and everything blends. I can't recall what exactly inspired the idea of mutants, but this year I have been exploring and creating art that is unsettling, livelihood that's beyond humans and mutant is one of the ideas.

MaggZ and Misha - Untitled

GM: Your artistic practice is centered on bodily gesture and contextual movement, appearing to create a universal flux. “花窗花 (window decor)” accounts for personal cultural connotations. Would you say your bodily gestures function as a social mannerism? And because of how these functions are embedded within your artistic practice it brings into question the wider context to your piece. Does your heritage interplay with your work often?

MaggZ: “花窗花 (window decor)” is honouring nostalgia, my experience as a Chinese woman living on foreign western land and the hybrid in betweenness of my cultural identity. I don't recall using my bodily gestures as social mannerism, however, my movement in this piece was certainly influenced by the media (window decor paper) and memories accompanied the media.

I'm exploring and communicating my heritage presently through my work - it's definitely been a journey of locating myself and my sense of belonging to my cultural heritage. In the past I have often found myself alone and belonging to nowhere; only recently have I started to make a conscious effort to unfold these cultural layers within myself, hoping to be open, honest and to embrace my vulnerabilities. As much as I love the excitement and adrenaline of creating, it's also very much therapeutic and healing, especially in relation to my cultural identity.

MaggZ - ‘花窗花 (window decor)’

GM: “a:daptexplores sculpting with clay with a transformative contemporary approach, concerning the architecture of body and artistic materials in space outside of traditional artistic parameters. The use of clay connotes to constructing physical forms, how do you use bodily gestures in order to mimic this, creating your own visceral forms?

MaggZ: The mimicry in “a:dapt” explores the constant adaptation and re-adjustment in the era of COVID-19 in 2020, where the process of sculpture being made by humans relates to the process of humans needing to adapt to the forces of COVID-19. I think the beauty of freestyle / improvisation is trusting my body and being in the moment, hence there's no set ways of using bodily gestures to reflect internal experiences. Internal experiences are manifested by staying in touch with my body, mind and soul. In regards to sculpting - clay was used as the texture of which forges a connection between the nature / external environment and my internal experiences, words simply won't do the justice and I'm okay with that as many experiences are to be embodied without words.

MaggZ - ‘a:dapt’

GM: ‘Performance is defined by and exceeds the space it occupies’ In response to this, how do you interact and respond to space within your artistic practice and to what extent are your performances deviated from where they take place?

MaggZ: Space plays such a crucial role in my performances - I often see space as an individual being that is capable of having mutual exchange and communication with humans; all elements in my performances tend to be interdependent and interconnected therefore not as much of one being deviated around another. I guess to some extent I am a spatial artist, I am deeply fascinated by the possibilities of multimedia, but at the same time, I'm not too concerned about my title as an artist to be very honest.

GM: The use of social media allows your work to reach a wide audience as it is more accessible. How do you understand documentation and what is its purpose within your work, is the process of performance separate from the outcome? Does this take away from the ephemerality aspect of the work?

MaggZ: Media is definitely a crucial part of my work, currently more as a means to document and preservation; but I am exploring post-production and expanding the use of media to produce different outcomes of the same work. The purpose of documentation acts as an active memory board in my works - although I do believe that performances are ephemeral and unreplicable, documentation serves a practical purpose to enable me to store and organise my work. Particularly during 2020 where human contact is minimised, documentation has become an indispensable form of communication.

GM: The creative courses that you offer are centered around dance and wider movement exploration. Can you tell me more about this? What inspired you to start these creative courses?

MaggZ: For quite some time people (both in real life and online) have been asking me if I'm running any movement / creative courses. Though I've always had an interest in doing this, I never had the time as I tend to have quite a busy schedule. However, when Melbourne returned to strict lockdown in August I thought it was a good time to do it - to share and exchange, to inspire and be inspired, to maintain some human connections during isolation.

The creative courses that occurred in August were for both individuals with little to no dance experience and those experienced. They were seperate group courses, following the structure of mindfulness practice, warmup, movement concept practice, exchange, cool down stretch, and a Q & A at the end of each session. I'm open to booking for 1 on 1 private sessions too if any readers are interested!

GM: As briefly mentioned, Live art and performative works may appear synonymous with a cultural hierarchy, stemming from its intention to blur boundaries outside of traditional artistic parameters. In some cases this may be challenging to engage with and feel inaccessible. Do you aim to break barriers around this genre of artistic expression through this platform?

MaggZ: Absolutely - to embrace and honour the ephemerality with live performances, the one-time experiences of being present in the moment. In terms of accessibility, I have been thinking about that a lot recently. I suppose it really depends on the context of the performance, sometimes an uninviting and unsettling atmosphere might be an important factor of the performance. With regards to my creative courses, the aim is to encourage others to explore and to honour their beings, whatever this means to them.

GM: Lastly, the pandemic appears to have shifted your practice, through creating boundaries and tensions. What can we expect to see for upcoming works?

MaggZ: I'm learning and growing so much in this pandemic in every aspect of my life really but in relation to my art, I have definitely been pushing the boundaries of creating multimedia works by myself. This has been challenging but also really amazing so far. Melbourne is in strict lockdown currently, therefore upcoming works mostly will be creating solo and pushing myself to different places. I have been working on a few long-term projects with others and hopefully when the restrictions are lifted these collaborations could come to life.



Process Based Participatory and Interdisciplinary Artistic Practice, Arantxa Echarte

Lynda Benglis Beyond Process, Susan Richmond