PerformLab interview with Cherish Menzo

From May 29 until June 6, the first edition of PerformLab took place at Beykoz Kundura in Istanbul. PerformLab is an international and interdisciplinary program of Kundura Stage, in which new generation theater makers work on new concepts and enrich their working methods in practice. As a collaboration partner, Productiehuis Theater Rotterdam has invited four theater makers to participate in this exchange program. Before the workshops started, the makers were interviewed by Art Unlimited. This third interview is with Cherish Menzo.

© Mélanie Musisi

1. What is the essence of performance in your opinion? How do you define contemporary performance? 
‘’For now…’’ I see it as an ongoing process and or attempt to reflect on the time. The past, present, future and all the grey speculative areas in between. A tool, an arena and or platform where beauty, grotesque, chaos, structure, realism and surrealism can clash, collide, transform, connect, find friction, resolve and transcend to then bring us back to earth again.   
2. Do you believe in the transformative power of art? How?   
I believe in the transformative power of art. For me performing arts or any art form in that matter gives us a playground to make space for our individual and collective imagination. This can be in the form of transformation of physical performativity, the transformation of matter and or materials and the transformation of (non) physical spaces. I do believe that this transformation is often in connection or a reflection on the reality.   

3. How do you think that this pandemic which humanity is facing at a global scale today will transform performing arts in the future?    
I am not so sure how it will transform the performing arts in the future…. 
I do think that we or maybe myself are still in process of reflecting how the things have been done before and to take the time in understanding the dynamics, patterns, structures and systems in the field. What I hope is that we can consider and take more care of the environment when all the excessive touring starts again. Next to that I hope the performing arts will find a more accessible connection with people outside of our field and hopefully be more considered of value in our society.  

4. As a performance-maker how are you personally dealing with the challenging conditions posed by the pandemic? How did having to comply with the constraints imposed by COVID-19 in the creation process sparked your creativity? 
What I find the most challenging with the conditions posed by the pandemic is that the disbalance amongst peers really revealed itself or got even more emphasised. In the sense of opportunities, visibility and accessibility.  

5. Are there any artist whom you can describe as "my master", or any person whom you think influenced your art the most? And if yes, who? 
I guess back in the days during my education I was driven by mastering specific dance/performative techniques and methods which made me consider the idea of others mastering or teaching these techniques as masters. Nevertheless there are many artists that I  admire and inspire me. 

6. When you are working on a piece, what sources inspire you? Do dreams play a role in your works?   
Different sources inspire me in or before a working process. I think music is the strongest and maybe most crucial inspiration element. Next to that I get inspired a lot by imagery that I find in film, books, exhibitions, album covers, texts that provoke my imagination and ‘’THE INTERNET”. 

7. When do you decide to give a title to a work you are working on if it already does not have one?  
Often the title is the first thing that reveals itself when I start to think or research for a new work. I haven’t found out why it happens like that, but I love the fact that it gives a clear characteristic, feel and dimension to the process and eventual project. 

8. What new perspectives do you think interdisciplinary production in arts provide to artists? 
I think it allows a great freedom in how one desires to express or materialize their art. Somehow, I feel that most artist intuitively already work interdisciplinary.  

9. What in particular (which performance, process, etc.) will you be sharing with the participants of PerformLab? 
During the performLab, I will be sharing a movement / performative research called Distorted Rap Body/ Chopped And Screwed Body. 

For the Distorted Rap Body/ Chopped And Screwed Body we explore the slowed-down, heavy-based and richly textured music genre Chopped and Screwed on our moving bodies and performativity. 
Distorted Rap Body/ Chopped And Screwed Body is a research and experiment in which we apply the Chopped and Screwed technique (also called screwed and chopped or slowed and throwed) to body movement and performativity. 

Chopped and Screwed is a technique of remixing originally used on hip-hop music. The technique was developed in the Houston hip-hop scene in the early 1990s by DJ Screw. The screwed technique is accomplished by drastically slowing the tempo and applying techniques such as skipping beats, record scratching, stop-time, repetition, and affecting portions of the original composition to create  "chopped-up" "oozing " version of the song. 

To apply this technique, which is originally used in music and lyrics, we are exploring to bring time distortion and over articulation to the body. How does the relationship between the mouth, voice, sound, muscles, tissues reinform and redefine the performing body and can propose new narrations, spaces, and body-forms? 

10. What do you imagine that you will be taking back with you after your experience in Istanbul attending PerformLab?
I try to dive into PerformanLab with an open mind and open heart. I’m just very excited to meet, share and exchange with the other artist. To hopefully create a long-term dialogue and sharing.