Alice Canton Talks WHITE/OTHER

Posted on March 23, 2016 by Basement

Basement blogger and theatre superfan Jonty Crane talks to Alice Canton about her upcoming show, WHITE/OTHER, on April 12 – 21.

How would you describe the show in one sentence?

A contemplative surreal show that softens a relentlessly inquisitive and analytic discourse around identity.

Where did the inspiration for WHITE / OTHER come from?

As a young female who identifies as a cultural minority in a white, patriarchal hegemony, you could say my whole life has inspired a show about “Otherness”. There has definitely been a series of events in the last 18 months that have accelerated the desire to make this show: Labour pointing the finger at Chinese-sounding last names in Auckland’s housing crisis; the conscious encouragement for New Zealanders to be more inclusive and celebrate “diversity”- and the subsequent resistance; a bunch of color-blind casting decisions that have blown open the debate of the place of yellow-face in the performing arts; and the NZ Herald continuing to propagate yellow peril across their broad social and economic commentary.

New Zealand has always been an immigrant society, how do you think the second generation experience has changed? I don’t think it has changed that much for some migrant cultures at all. Yes, there is a consistent narrative that tracks the migrant experience of feeling like an alien or a foreigner, which is somewhat of a universal understanding. Yes, there still exists concerns about intergenerational misunderstanding, assimilation, and identity. But sadly, for many visibly “different” cultural communities (different, in this case, to white-passing), this feeling continues for generations and generations, despite being second, third, or fourth generation. Systems in New Zealand tend to favour some migrant groups over others. For example, statistics show there is a disproportionately high unemployment rate for qualified and tertiary educated Asian migrants, and yet European migrants with overseas qualifications have a higher employment rate here than New Zealand-born Asians with local qualifications. Go figure.

You use dance, projection, poetry, and other forms of communication in WHITE / OTHER, how do you decide on the appropriate medium for the message? I was recently sent an excerpt from Scott McLean’s “Understanding Comics”. It loosely identifies four ‘tribes’ for artists to affiliate with, based on their artistic values. I currently align with The Iconoclast – honesty, vitality, authenticity and unpretentiousness, putting life first.

Purpose and ideas are very important to me, as is artistic/dramaturgical investigation. The conventions of dance, poetry, and imagery have a function and also a deeper metaphoric resonants. Because I want to provide space for contemplation and the surreal, it just fits. There must be a relationship between the two – we operate in a postmodern artmaking context where we don’t need to select the medium first.

Orangutan was hugely acclaimed, how difficult has it been to follow?

I lie awake at night plotting my failure..

No! But the pressure is all internal. To be better. To have learnt something. To have developed. To be consistent. None of these things are helpful. So I just let myself dance with the doubt maybe once a week and then I put it away for the rest of the time.