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[ENG] Transcript - Full Interview with Justyne Li


Photo Credit: Tony Chan

Date: 11 July 2016

TB: Tom Brown @dance journal

CL: Cathy Lau @dance journal

JL: Justyne Li @Neo Dance HK

TB Tell me a bit about the mandala, and how you came about doing it.

JL First of all, the concept is to start from the center and decide how many partitions you want to make within the circle. For example, I chose to make five with this one (pointing to one of her drawings). So I start from the center and divide the whole circle with five parts and then just add on any elements, one element at a time. So for example, I make a cross, and then I make the same cross in other parts so with each element I add, I try to make the whole picture balanced and even with each partition. So the whole idea is to generate something from the center and make the whole picture balanced and adding on little bit by little bit going out. For example, (showing us on the drawing) a cross and the next the thing I wanted to make was this little circle, so (again pointing out places on the drawing) little circle, little circle. And the other important thing for me is not to plan the whole structure beforehand. So it’s just like playing a game or playing with a toy it’s a way to pass time in an enjoyable way. And let things just flow out. Let the information from the subconscious or from the universe just flow into the mind and come out through the pencil. Without any planning, the picture will plan little, by little, and it will be a nice surprise in the end.

TB The process that you describe, allowing it to come out almost on its own – from the subconscious or from some kind of ether – there was a trend in early 20th century art, Dadaism it’s called, that had something called automatic writing. And people would – it’s completely different but – one person would write something and then fold the paper over and the next person would write something, and fold it over until they had a whole phrase or a story sometimes. And one of the ideas behind that, and behind Dadaism was to allow things to come out from the subconscious, not from habit or from taste, or anything like that, but just from itself. It’s also the whole thing behind Cunningham’s work and the idea of chance. He would roll the dice, toss the dice and decide which one of the body parts would move, which direction it would move in, whether it would be partnered, which part of the stage it would happen in. He wanted to remove his own choices, he wanted to let the movement speak for itself. It’s like color field, in a way it’s a very modern idea, contemporary idea.

JL That’s interesting. That’s why with this mandala, when I just let things come in and without my own style, I found that everyone can be very different. I haven’t practiced for a long time – I haven’t practiced so much yet, so I don’t really have a fixed style for each one. It’s really nice that everyone is different. That is the reason I really want to make one. Particularly for this dance work, because I want to know how the energy from the whole process, and how the energy from the dance work or from my dancers, transfer to a drawing.

CL You mentioned one way of drawing this is making it balanced and equivalent. Is it the rule for drawing this, or is your own idea.

JL (Answer in Cantonese) This is not truth. As far as I know, the concept of drawing a mandala is “whatever happened inside a circle”. There will be two ways of drawing it – one is start from the center, then each part will be balanced and equal; another way is to fill up the space after framing a circle.

JL This one actually is the first one I drew without absolutely even partitions.

CL (Summarizing JL’s Cantonese response) Justyne mentioned there are two ways of drawing. The first way is what she is using, adapting – it starts from the center. The other way is frame a circle first and fill up the information of the inside.

JL Actually when I started this one, (pointing to one drawing) I started this one as well (pointing to another drawing), because I didn’t know whether to make it four or five for this.

CL Including herself is five; excluding herself is four. So why did you make it four instead of five?

JL (Answer in Cantonese) One day when I arrived the theater in early morning, and I drew this when I was at the restaurant unconsciously.

CL (Summarizing JL’s Cantonese response) She made it when she was in the theatre for rehearsal, and she had some free time when (Lam) Po was doing his tech rehearsal. And she started in the Café, and she made a start for no reason.

CL So was it that anything touched you, maybe you saw the dancers playing in the theater?