Nicola Gunn works across contemporary performance, choreography, theatre and socially-engaged art as a performance artist, writer, director, choreographer, facilitator and dramaturg since 2002. She makes live performances, videos, objects, site-specific events, installations and books; and has collaborated with dancers, choreographers, actors, anthropologists, indigenous language archivists, comic book artists, translators, children, architects, senior citizens and the audience. Within her solo practice, she borrows from theatrical, choreographic, literary, comedic and visual art languages to create a mode of contemporary performance that plays with form, bends narrative and makes an effort to solve a problem. The guiding principle of these works is an attempt to productively pull apart whatever is going on with her or whatever interests her at the time. Often these things are one and the same. She often uses subversive, humorous, choreographic and philosophical tactics to come at things from a moral and ethical standpoint and uses language simply to convey a hidden and modest complexity. Within her social practice, she is interested in people and relationships first and foremost and how to use art as a tool for social transformation. Exploring wide-ranging topics including power, language, gentrification, displacement, the problem of intimacy and exposure, peace and conflict, her work attempts to intermingle material and context, complicating relationships between self, subject and viewer in the process. While meaning to defy categorisation, there is an unavoidable debt to and association with autobiographical fiction, institutional critique, socio-pedagogic art, choreographic essayism and entertainment.
She has been commissioned by both theatre and dance venues, and presented in both contexts internationally. Her work has been shown in Australia, New Zealand, Chile, the US, Canada, France, Austria, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Italy, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Ireland, the UK and Belgium and by festivals and venues including BIT Teatergarasjen’s Meteor Festival and Oktoberdans, BIT Teatergarasjen in partnership with KODE 2, Biennale Venezia di Danza, HAU / Tanz im August, Southbank Centre, Dublin Theatre Festival, Tanzquartier Wien, La Villette, Le Grütli, PuSh Festival, La Mama ETC / PS122’s Coil Festival, Santarcengelo Festival, Melbourne International Arts Festival, Black Box Teater Oslo, Melbourne Theatre Company, Malthouse Theatre and National Gallery of Victoria International among others.
Major awards include an Australia Council Theatre Fellowship, Sidney Myer Fellowship for Artistic Practice, Winston Churchill Memorial Research Fellowship, Playking Asia Travel Grant, Norsk Kulturråd Arbeidsstipend, Bergen Kommune Arbeidsstipend and an Australia Council Emerging Artist Fellowship. Residencies include Carte Blanche and USF Verftet (Bergen), The Chocolate Factory (Long Island City/NYC), Cité des Arts (Paris), CAMPO (Gent), Bundanon (Australia) and Banff Centre for the Creative Arts (Canada).
As a collaborator, she has worked with choreographer Jo Lloyd, creating both performances for theatre contexts, as well as durational pieces for museums and art spaces: the National Gallery of Victoria International, West Space and Gertrude Contemporary. As a writer she has contributed text to the work of Tamara Saulwick (Public), Pan Pan (The Temple) and most recently authored the site-specific work, PASSENGER, for directors Ian Pidd and Jessica Wilson. In 2016 she collaborated with illustrator Michael Fikaris on a comic book called Instruction Manual for Lonely Mountains adapted from her 2014 stage production, Green Screen. As a performer she has worked with Tamara Saulwick (Public), Ridiculusmus (The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland) and Andrea Spreafico (Danced Work in Progress). As a dramaturg she has worked with choreographers Jo Lloyd (Confusion For Three), Luke George (Public Action, Erotic Dance) and Mirte Bogaert (And there is a chair). She is co-editor and co-curator of the Australian edition of Imagined Theatres, an online anthology of contributions by international performance artists and theorists towards the idea of an “imagined theatre”, a project conceived by Daniel Sack.
As a teacher and facilitator, she has led workshops in performance-making and writing for performance in Australia at the VCA, National Theatre School, Monash University and Back to Back Theatre; in Canada at Dawson’s College, St Catharine’s University, Intrepid Theatre and Simon Fraser University; in Ireland at Dublin Theatre Exchange for Dublin Theatre Festival; in Austria at Tanzquartier Wien; in Bergen at Bergen Dansesenter and KMD; and in Malmö at Skånes Dansteater. She is currently an Assistant Professor in a temporary position at KMD, the art academy of the University of Bergen, in the department of Time-Based Art.
Nicola holds a Master of Arts (Art in Public Space) from RMIT in Melbourne.