Featured Farmer: michael smith
Michael is a dancer/choreographer living in Brisbane… for the time being…
An interview with Michael in May, 2019...
Where are you right now?
Kyiv, Ukraine. Sitting on a couch after eating a large bowl of hummus. Yes hummus, it’s everywhere!
Can you upload a photo for us?
Sure, this is our front door and the view from it
When and how did you first meet other members of The Farm?
I first met Grayson after APAM in Brisbane when he joined our taxi on the way to Black Bear Lodge for a sneaky disco. It was a brief meeting, as he was wearing thongs and got turned back at the door. I met Kate when we were both showing short works at the Angry Mime in Brisbane, she rocked my world. I think that is where I met Gav too, I have a feeling we had briefly crossed paths before, but our Cowboy selves connected that night.
We recently just finished the shows of Throttle at the Mudgeeraba showgrounds. What was that like as a performer?
Sooooo different!!! It’s a very odd feeling to have limited connection to the audience, other than hearing the occasional scream through muffled windows. They are sitting in their cars, drinking, eating, maybe chatting to each other, I don’t know, and we are out in an open field, with V (our beloved Volvo). We don’t always hear them or see them. At first it was a bit strange, performing to cars, but once we got used to it and we found our stride, it was liberating. We were in our own kind of bubble, and were able to support each other and perform together almost as if we were contained in our own little live action film. It was oddly intimate, and we could help each other maintain the energy that all performers thrive off. Also, I gotta say, it was super cool to be driving a car during a performance, that doesn’t get to happen in a theatre. Plus, getting ‘killed’ by stunt-man Dan was a highlight for me…
You have just been performing your solo work in Berlin, tell us a bit about it’s evolution and how Cowboy became Cowboy.
I was offered a 5 minute showing in Brisbane (The Angry Mime) before I had any plan of what I would do.
I was mulling over this whilst bushwalking in Gladstone, and suddenly was struck by the idea that I should attempt to become a Cowboy. It wasn’t the result I was interested in, as much as the attempt. I wanted to get past the ridiculous idea of me posing as a Cowboy to the meaningful process of trying to be something that I am not.
Once I got hooked on that idea, I teamed up with Liesel Zink for a bit of help, and jumped on the Western film bandwagon and watched as much as I could.
I had never really watched any Westerns, other than Will Smith in ‘Wild, Wild West’, that’s about as close as I had come. So I thought I’d start from the beginning, hit up John Wayne for some classics, some cringey classics. In getting past the cringe, I really fell for the Genre itself. Some of my ultimate favourites include ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’, ‘Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid’, ‘No Country For Old Men’, ‘Oh Brother Where Art Thou’, ‘Hostiles’ and ‘Django’.
After the 5 minute version at the Angry Mime, I also teamed up with Gavin and Ben Ely and worked towards a longer version, and it’s been evolving ever since.
Since the Angry Mime it’s now been developed and shown at Flowstate as an indoor/outdoor work, during a FarmHouse residency as a studio showing, at Dance Massive in Melbourne at the Abbotsford Convent and now in Berlin as a schools show. Next up will be as an outdoor work during AGITART Dance Festival in Spain.
Was there a big difference between performing Cowboy for kids and for adults?
In general, I suppose one sees what they are surrounded by. Afterwards adults spoke about a man who identifies as queer trying to court cowboy culture. Kids spoke of trying to fit in, and how it doesn’t always work.
They are talking about the same thing.
One section in which I got interesting reactions was a scene where I pull out my finger pistols and start shooting.
When children see this, they see a Cowboy shooting a gun. They know that it is not real, but they accept the fantasy at face value.
When adults see this, they see what IS real, a performer pretending to be something he is not, extracting himself from an awkward situation by ‘Going Cowboy’. It’s almost like Children see me as an adult and adults see me as a child.
What are you up to next?
Next up, Liesel Zink and I will premiere a new, site-specific work ‘We and the Uncertain’ here in Kyiv for Zelyonka Festival, made on an awesome bunch of 10 local Ukrainian dancers.
Then heading to Perth with Yilin Kong to undergo a STRUT Dance SEED Residency, to continue a collaboration with our Israeli friends Guy Shomroni and Yaniv Abraham called ‘Nothing to Something’.
On another note, I am falling more and more into the world of film. I am going to buy myself a camera and start playing.
Where can people find out more about you?
In a cafe, over coffee.
But you can also check these out:
My website: https://www.michaelsmithprojects.com/