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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

Oracles In Sepia: Sarah Jane Dobbs

Sarah, Dobbs (2020) Oracles In Sepia: Sarah Jane Dobbs. .

Item Type: Show/Exhibition


Filmed on Hendon Beach in her home of Sunderland, against the backdrop of the sounds of the ocean, Sarah Jane Dobbs brings a visceral response to the archive in this week's penultimate Oracle. Footage depicting the recent Black Lives Matter protests and evoking Geroge Floyd found resonance in connected forms of prejudice, and embodiment in a very different approach to aerial movement. Exploring themes of constraint, her performance juxtaposes the freedom of her body in flight with the noosing captivity of her aerial apparatus.

From the artist:
I wanted to create a performance response that felt physical and close, despite the distance between us all at the moment. I'm used to using my physical space to engage with an audience, but this time my collaboration with the film-maker is my gateway to my audience.

In shaping my own response, I considered what the oracles before me had created. There were standout images and feelings in each one. A collective defiance seemed to link many, the desire not to repeat our mistakes.

I wondered, what makes us act? Is it hope, or fear? I tried to construct a storyline that moved in opposition to my natural inclination of hope. What if we don't act? What if we don't change? What if one day there is no time left to keep repeating our mistakes?

The archive footage led the creation, especially the local footage. There were scenes of Monica Rutherford, a gymnast from Sunderland, incredibly strong but softly expressive. The echoing of her movements across the ballet dancer images, the birds in flight, the moving hands, all became a connective tissue and throughline.

I've never worked with projected images before and I loved the accidental moments that led certain choices. For example, I usually think of performance in terms of being completely visible, and the projection changed that approach. The intricate moments I'd designed needed to be bigger, simplified, say more.

The footage of the hands I had chosen because it was beautiful, but when they were projected, as they touched the body they took on a menacing quality and this in turn influenced the sequence of images I used, and the contrasts in those sequences.

Amidst stitching the choreography together with the projection, I started to enjoy these moments of chance.


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Additional Information: In the face of crisis, uncertain futures, and continued social injustice- there have been glimmers of hope and new imaginings. We sought the oracle and took to the archives looking for perspective. From vaults across the land, sepia-stained reels of celluloid have been dusted off, and film footage from across the years has crackled to life for us to play with.To sift through the tea leaves and imagine our shared future we present some of the UK’s freshest artists. From opera and dance, to circus, comedy and spoken word, each have created a bespoke work in response to the archive, uncovering hidden stories and presenting their unique vision of the future.
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Depositing User: Sarah Dobbs


Item ID: 13439
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Users with ORCIDS

ORCID for Dobbs Sarah: ORCID iD

Catalogue record

Date Deposited: 05 May 2021 12:37
Last Modified: 19 May 2021 12:50


Author: Dobbs Sarah ORCID iD

University Divisions

Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries > School of Art and Design

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