Interview: Pepa Ubera's Wild Card

Monday 29 February 2016 by Carmel Smith

Pepa Ubera. Photo: Jesus Ubera

Pepa Ubera is the latest artist to curate an evening in the Lilian Baylis Studio, as part of Sadler’s Wells Wild Card. Originally from a classical background, Pepa trained in Spain, before moving to London to study at London Contemporary Dance School. For the past ten years, she has worked as a freelance dancer, deviser and choreographer with a variety of artists both in the UK and abroad (Jose Vidal, Tom Dale, Karavan Ensemble, 30 Bird Productions). Recently, she presented work at Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (2015) and Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre (Mirror City 2014, in collaboration with Giuliana Majo). She also performs and choreographs for Secret Cinema and with music band Bunty Looping (Battersea Arts Centre, 2015). We asked her to tell us about The Palest Light, which unusually for Wild Card, is an established platform which Pepa has been presenting at Tripspace in East London…

Can you tell us more about The Palest Light and how it came about?
The Palest Light is a night of contemporary performance I initiated in 2013 when I was part of the artistic team of TripSpace Projects. Over two years I developed 5 editions and I am currently preparing the sixth one which Eva Martinez has invited me to curate as a Wild Card in the Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells.

The Palest Light is a platform to show the work of artists I have met in London and Europe whose work expands the notion of choreography. Each version of The Palest Light takes a different concept and although choreography is at the heart of the project, it has always been crucial for me to include sound, video and live art. I look at art works through a choreographic lens and as much as it is important for me to get influences from other media, I also placed importance on the visibility of choreography as an artform of its own.

Perhaps one of the ideas I emphasize the most is related to politics that involve the relationship between the audience and the performers. I am interested to challenge the long established protocols and experiment with how new propositions make us experience art/life and the opportunity to have a collective moment. One of my strategies was to change the configuration of the use of the space, so from the first edition I removed the sitting area and placed the audience at the centre of the room. I try to create a soft environment, bringing plants to the space, low light in order to create an environment where people might feel like sitting in the floor, sharing a rug with a stranger and leaving and entering the space as their wish.

I also engage with a thinking process that allow opposites ideas to meet, contradictions that live in one same ground. This also relates to the thought of how important some ideas can be and at the same time all of this does not matter at all. If people come to my night and feel relaxed enough that they realise they have to go home and meditate, that’s exactly what I am up for, that is the kind of artistic experience I want to be part of. That for me is contemporary rock & roll. I am interested in experiences that allow us slow down in order to see or explore the things we really care about.

What do you find so exciting about East London?
I use to find East London very vibrant and exciting and although there is a lot going on in here there have been massive changes in the past years. Many people I admire had to move somewhere else because the cost of living. Difficult to exercise poetry if you are constantly worried about ground matters. I am still part of a very open minded community of independent thinkers and loving friends but we know that the rent situation is only putting more pressure on artists. In November our studio rent will go up 100% and so what next?

Tell us about the work you are presenting with Alice Chauchat… How did this collaboration came about?
I have invited Alice to perform her work in this upcoming Palest Light at the Lilian Baylis Studio. Last summer I was part of the Impulstanz Festival where we met. I saw her performance and I felt it was relevant to bring it to London because of the culture she is proposing with her work. A culture that talks about performance in terms of a collective process and collective imagination. 2015 was an important year for me and since then I have been thinking loads of how do we spend time together and what is it that we want to bring to the social context. In this case this piece has helped me develop further thinking into these aspects.

You are also performing with Josefina Camus in Ellipsis Land, questioning how we relate to the virtual world. How do you feel about the virtual world and what it offers to us – as individuals, audiences, artists?
The virtual world for me is this infinite thread of connections and so relations and it is very much connected to what I think of what choreography can do. It expands without my understanding of time and space and that totally fascinates me. I think it is important to support this process but also mediate – what does this now mean? It is a very supportive tool and incredible projects are taking place in this new reality. I also wonder how this new way of relating to each other affects our bodies, the way we occupy space and how is reshaping our brains. For example I wonder how kinds are developing when one of their daily friends is an external devise, an object.. and if their attention is always split in different places, what would it mean for them to be focus, to have their attention in one thing only?

You’ve worked in several countries – Spain, France, Belgium, Italy, Germany and Chile. How does that experience influence your current work?
This experience made me understand that I can not take anything for granted. I think I am generally quite an open minded person but that is always challenge as you travel and realise that the meaning of words, actions and atitude can modify radically as you change culture. It made me approach ideas in a slower way as I think there is a lot to explore and the dimensions are very complex when you really consider things.

And now you’re based in London. What keeps you here?
I have been in London for 13 years now. I have lived in other countries in those years but this really feels like a home to me. At the same time I have always considered the possibility of living somewhere else for some time of the year. There is so many places I want to discover and when I decide to go somewhere I like to stay for some. In general I do not enjoy being a tourist. In terms of work, London is offering me a lot at the moment and so it is still an exciting context to be part of.

You are taking part in the latest Sadler’s Wells Summer University which will run for four years. What did you get from the first sessions last summer?
Even though my professional network is wide in the UK and Europe I feel like this other configuration of artists adds something different to my previous experiences. The participants of this edition are professionals that I admire but I did not necessarily knew them so well before. It is a privilege for me to be able to know more about their artistic practice in a relaxed environment and spend time with Eva [Martinez, Artistic Programmer, Sadler’s Wells] and choreographer Jonathan Burrows.

What else are you working on at the moment?
Recently I found out I’ve got Arts Council England funding to support my choreographic practice, The Palest Light at Sadler’s Wells and to research in order to curate further editions this year. Some of the ideas I will be working on will be failure/success, gender and manifestos..

I am always working on something and lately I am also working on trying not to work on something! The last few years of my working life have sometimes been too busy and I am looking into a more healthy way of working which includes being able to not always be productive, to allow myself to be still and let things emerge…

The Palest Light
Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells, 3 & 4 March 2016 (return tickets only)

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