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Sunday, April 19, 2020

Artists Reach Out: Jules Skloot

Dear friends,

Welcome to Artists Reach Out: reflections in a time of isolation. I dreamed this series of interviews out of grief for my work both as a documenting arts writer and curator of live performance. In this time of social distancing, we are called to responsibly do all we can to safeguard ourselves and our neighbors. It is, literally, a matter of life and death.

But there's no distancing around what we still can share with one another--our experiences, thoughts, wisdom, humor, hearts and spirit. In some ways, there are more opportunities to do so as we pull back from everyday busyness out in the world and have time to honor the call of our inner lives.

So, let me introduce you to some artists I find interesting. I'm glad they're part of our beautiful community, and I'm eager to engage with them again (or for the first time) in years to come.

--Eva Yaa Asantewaa, InfiniteBody

Jules Skloot

Jules Skloot
(photo: Jules Skloot)

Jules Skloot is a dancer, choreographer, and educator living in Brooklyn, NY. Most recently, Jules has performed and collaborated with Tatyana Tenenbaum, Hadar Ahuvia, devynn emory, Circus Amok, and The Ballez. Jules’ work has been presented at Dixon Place, BAX, BKsD, The University Settlement, and through AUNTS. Jules teaches dance classes to people of all ages, health classes to 4th graders, and is committed to joy and collective liberation in all these endeavors.

Jules Skloot
(photos: above, Jim Coleman; below, Megan Stahl)

Do you have a current or planned project whose progress is affected by the pandemic? 

I do. I am working on a solo performance investigating the phenomenon of projective identification and my embodied experiences of it. Projective identification is the psychological process by which we project onto other people our own subconscious needs and feelings, and also subconsciously internalize and take on the projections of others.

I was supposed to perform part of this solo this past week at DåncēHølø, which is a dance series at a music venue in Ridgewood, organized and curated by the wonderful Rebeca Medina. I was supposed to perform in devynn emory’s piece at Danspace Project this month, too. Hopefully both are just postponed and will get to be performed in some way in a future time.

My own project has costume elements, I’ve been working with cloaking and disguising my body, so in quarantine I’ve been working on some sewing and hot glueing and also creating a few collages that touch and elaborate on the dreamspaces of the work. But otherwise I am in a deep pause.

Briefly, tell me about how you got involved in the arts and in your particular practice.

For me as a kid, art was the portal to the world that I felt okay living in. I felt freedom in art, from social constraints, rules, and expectations that felt oppressive and scary to me, like norms around gender and “beauty” and behavior. My parents, who had a lot of fear and expectations for me and my survival based on their inherited Ashkenazi ancestral terror, gave me miraculous and joyful leeway around artistic expression and creative shenanigans. I was a very physically curious and precocious kid, and they were able to put me in dance classes from a young age, and this just became a staple in my life. I had some traumatic surgeries as a very young person, and experienced some physical abuse, and I think dance was a way to re-inhabit and heal my connection to my body after vacating it. I almost lost my connection to it around puberty time, but I think I needed what dance gave me too much to ever permanently walk away from it; a space to be alive, embodied, with all of me, a space to regulate myself, and be really human and also in touch with something infinite.

In a more specific way, what are you practicing? And what are you envisioning?

I am practicing self love and self-gentleness. This means having to really see and admit the harshness and denial with which I learned to treat myself. I grew up in the midwest, and most self-love talk and affirmations sound so pretentious and hollow to me and, while I have no problem believing, saying, or applying them to someone else, I just can’t say them to myself, or believe them when I do. So I have been trying to translate the message into some midwestern voice that I can listen to and not wriggle away from. The best I’ve been able to come up with so far is when I am scared or really struggling saying softly to myself “oh, honey.” So I’ve been walking around gently touching my chest and saying that.

I am practicing not letting my anxiety confirm my worst fears and suspicions. 

I am practicing tasting, letting taste be a full-body physical sensation and if it connects to a memory, taking the time to remember.

I am practicing noticing what is working, or going well.

I am noticing how my life has been shaped by trauma, fear, and my family’s assimilation into whiteness and white supremacy culture. I am practicing coming out of denial.

I am taking a lot of walks and taking a lot of pictures on my walks. I am remembering how much I love visual composition, looking around at, framing, and arranging sights and colors and textures and relationships that please and delight me. I am feeling and allowing myself to be delighted by signs of spring.

I am dreaming and envisioning ways out of oppressive structures. Ways to not ever go back to the inhumane “norms” of daily life. I am looking for the ways people are figuring out to push towards liberation in the cracking and crumbling of our society. Doing what I can to add wind to the sails of those ideas, people, organizations, campaigns.

How does your practice and your visioning align with what you most care about?

The themes of the practice are what I care most about.

How does your practice function within the world we have now?

The world is changing and so much is being uncovered in mainstream collective consciousness about terrible things that have been happening for a long time, the ways in which those problems are connected, and we humans are interconnected. These practices are functioning to keep me awake to the moment, and alive to the feelings and information coursing through me. They are helping me to grieve this pandemic and what it is revealing about the injustice of the world we have now. They are helping me to stay grounded so I can be in integrity with myself, a good partner to my partner, and good caretaker to my dog, a good neighbor to my neighbors. So that I can take action towards my visions when the opportunities crack open. I hope that these practices of being present and envisioning and working towards liberation will function to bring me into the world I want to live in.


DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve as Senior Curatorial Director of Gibney. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions of Gibney.


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