Newell is the creator of performance hybrid DANDROGYNY and is currently working on queer, multi-modal performative critiques of Australian masculinities, its contradictions and toxicity, through their project NED KYLIE, which will be a focus of their studio with Testing Grounds.
Daniel Newell is a dancer, maker, performance artist, and graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts. Daniel’s work can be defined as creatively chaotic and cathartic, catwalking the fine-eyeliner of the pop-cultural and political. Having performed in over 20 countries, highlights include working with Shelley Lasica, Deanne Butterworth, Bollywood Film, Opera Australia, Strange Fruit, Melbourne Festival, Dance Massive, Rafael Bonachela and Kylie Minogue.
The first month of studio practice has been a process of relating to a more conventional studio space, understanding how my physical / performance practice relates to space/s. My process has been grounded in bodies, movement, and physical articulation; explored in locals of dances studios, drag stages, amongst large audiences and diverse peoples. From configuring the space in a way that allows for the imagination of my body, to learning to surround my self with objects which are physically imbued with practice and meaning in close proximity with other studio artists. This process of allowing, integrating and realising the limitations of my first defined studio space has been a playful and intimate mapping of my process. In conjunction with the development of a stronger understanding of the texts, I will use as central to the theatrical work I’m creating, allowing my research of these texts to inhabit the space in their own right.
On day two of the residency, I was diagnosed with a genetic heart condition. The news shocked and shook me; forcefully urging me to re-question the resonance/vibration, need and desire of Art and Performance within my life. Genetics, Family (logical/biological), Heteronormativity and Uncertainty resurfaced to my consciousness. Knowing that a huge empathetic muscle pumping inspiration, ancestral lineage and cellular data through my being could stop at any moment… without warning… is both numbing and confronting. A pace-maker?
Within my studio, I have been experimenting through reading many – but two prominent texts:‘Gender Trouble Down Under: Australian Masculinities’ by David Coad 2002 & ‘The Decent of Man’ by Grayson Perry 2016. I have been reading, while writing, while teaching/playing with ideas on children & young people, manipulating costume & props, while also preparing/presenting performance propositions/outcomes for Melbourne Fringe Festival, Honcho Disko, variety events, club nights, performative dance classes and collaborating with a dear Sydney performance comrade. Working with Signal and House of Dēvine in a supportive capacity was a beautifully affirming moment in preparation for their House Warming Ball set to unfurl at Kensington Town Hall on November 9th. Assisting Vogue workshops and sharing of cultures and dance with Young People ignited a severe emergence of community, passion, dance, love and fire. Inspiration and reclamation! A clear sign that activation and bringing together; worlding of worlds is important and is often hugely neglected within solo studio practice.
Survival is a true provocation… working/revisiting previous modes, previous works/outcomes and ways of creating work has lead to notions of extinguishing patterns of distraction and destruction while allowing new ways of working to manifest. Accepting – slowly – my vulnerabilities and the need to conceal process from others is quickly shifting and allowing my creative expression to refine and inhabit more space. A blank canvas, an empty notebook; still is the most inspiring yet most daunting place to project creative thought.
1|2 Photo shoot — (Williamstown) Photography by John Lloyd Fillingham
2|2 Photo shoot — (CBD) Photography by William KEO Photography
This month has been a full embrace of organised mess and vigour… perhaps in preparation for the madness ahead, the whack season! corporate cannibal capitalist Christian consumerism… corruption. rubbish. Introducing more objects and materials ( performative and structural bits ) within my studio has been telling of the way in which my process evolves through and by relying on properties, things, objects and implied histories and tellings… while the strength of colour (hi-vis), construction paraphernalia and masculinity is shrouded and reflected throughout the exaggeration and over-stimulation of bestrewn array. Experimenting with Aussie – Slang and iconic Aussie – objects have seen to have a co-shared focus this month.
A question I have been thinking about is- How Queer is our fella, Ned (Kelly)? And how much Queerness does pint-sized princess Kylie need to survive? Conversations around queer-ness and how much-ness and femme-ness and female-masculinity within the Bush Ranger realm has been intriguing and really fascinating to unpack.. still only scratching the surface.
I’ve been exploring this question through object manipulation, further reading, chats of works gone by and newness & expansion, the exploration of celebrated monuments of these two icons, and also performative outings through addressing recurring themes and performance plots and potential narrative has been of ongoing approach to my research and experimentation toward NED KYLIE.
This month, a magnetism has thrown me to value and be alarmed at how much technology and wireless networking structure/s are required to support, allow and enhance creative ‘infrastructure’. The firm nod to reading from page, from book, reading a room/space, engaging in old fashion chat, showing ideas ( one on one and in small gatherings ) has been a firm and kind discovery that screens and unseen radio-waves don’t own the practise, and definitely don’t rule the roost… and in most cases could be used as a perceived easy way out.
Dandrogyny as creation has played between the lines of being both characters, and self. Drag like much of art, cannot escape being autobiographical, though as we world with our characters, there is a pain in the stretching of old skin, the renewal of essence, and the tiring of muscles. January has been about retroactively consuming old performance works, inviting them back onto the stage, and asking what is held, what has changed. The second part to this process was designing and creating a costume with my mother, as a ritual of healing, holding and worlding together, tying myself back to deeply carved histories, and imagining futures together. It has been a month of taking inventory in order to see one’s self through time and process.
Performance/drag is magic, is worlding, processes, is ritual, is right, is the essence. My practice though always contextualised within social assemblages and political waters are anchored in a sense of essence, of performance as reducing and distilling. Stages house great acts of alchemy, of religion, of transformation. Working forwards to a more directly durational theatre piece means working back through the archives of practice, which has directly lead to my curiosity around what was the original essence of these ideas, how did they transgress across the stage, and may I reduce them further. This retroactive play is providing new space for character and self-growth, as well as a humbling interrogation of one’s practice and vulnerability.
Thinking about the way architecture, assemblages and spaces inform work and performance. The way the drag as ever-shifting simulacrum responds to codified spaces, and performances changes in each ecology. I’ve been experimenting with theatrical rhythm also, heavier climaxes to form of the act, slow somewhat – lost – drawn-out spaces between theatrical explosions, ultimately conjuring the anti-climax. Form and rhythm, I feel somatically a linkage, and hence why I have been exploring the two harmoniously. Both are held deeply in the body and respond to complicated\ environments.
I feel as though these contemplations arose from working across multiple different settings, from the Melbourne Immigration Museum, the NGV, to the Town Hall of Daylesford and Moomba. As I have been thinking about the ways my practice responds to spaces, I’ve gravitated towards working with tension control and rhythm/s in my act writing as a counterbalance. To feel, be with and tweak what I have control over while noticing space as an informant, and often the lack of control one has on space/landscape/structure they perform in.