Cecilia White is a Sydney based interdisciplinary artist who has spent a lot of her life engaging with other languages, art, music and psychology with a focus on anxiety and wonder and the creative breath and how we come to understand the world that we live in.
Cecilia looks at how we engage with creativity and breathing particularly to tap into our emotions, our sense of connection with other people and our physicality and our sense of self.
“I’m interested in the way we come to understand ourselves, how we come to lock ourselves out of ourselves and in understanding the self, we understand the other,” Cecilia said.
“I look at the things that we don’t dare look at and I challenge those ideas and there is something beautiful in that.”
Like all creative, we know the importance of engaging creatively. Cecilia believes creativity is a form of breathing and particularly through the use of performance art, people can see other human beings physically engaging in something that they can instantly relate to.
Inspired by life and her desire to reveal things to herself that she doesn’t know and things she may never come to know, Cecilia has been on a journey of exploring the creative breath.
“I find other people very inspiring and not always in a good way but you can still be inspired to do the opposite,” she said.
“I am also inspired by the things I can’t do myself and the way we live our lives and the way we inspire each other, it’s a very positive aspect, it’s the notion of coming to that awareness that we can keep on looking and discovering.”
Cecilia’s discovery of ‘breathing spaces’ and the creative breath began very humbly in a performance in Newcastle, in her old sandpit that her father has converted into a compost heap. It was there that she learnt about contact to the earth, the environment.
“Then I flew to Germany and went high into the air as I could. I went up into the Alps and did a performance there and it was all about connecting with the air,” Cecilia said.
The great thing about living creative is that wonderful things happen when you least expect them.
“It was there that I found myself joined by a Swahili choir. They asked to join me and as I walked up the Alps they sang behind me while I did my performance,” she said.
From there, Cecilia found herself in Venice, where she connected with the element of water. There, she did four days of performances in a courtyard in an area called Dorsoduro.
12 months later she was in Singapore at the Performers Voice Symposium where she performed with a Clarinettist called Tan Boon Ping.
“I looked to see if the northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere of my life, Sydney and Europe, could actually meet as close to the equator as possible,” Cecilia said.
“I had brought with me sown material of mine and mirrors to see if I could see the seam in the air that knitted my lives.”
In-between her travels, Cecilia did a 3 months residency at the Cite International Des Arts in Paris. While returning to Sydney to perform and explore anxiety and wonder and the creative breath.
In a performance at the Verge Gallery, which was supposed to be the Commonwealth Bank, she created the sofa of dreams in a performance called, ‘Don’t give up your day job’ where she looked to members of the audience to participate in her work.
Cecilia White has collaborated with everyday people who have no acting or performing experience whatsoever.
“I do a callout to the everyday person because I am talking about the everyday and I am going to ask them to bring something special as well,” she said.
“No, it’s not about acting, it’s about being ourselves, and that is absolutely critical, really just be ourselves, whatever ourselves are.”
Cecilia’s performances have the profound ability to create anxiety in a subtle way or a sense of wonder. Performances, that gets you to think and to look beyond oneself and ask questions that you normally would ask yourself.
“It’s all about saying, okay, bring your anxiety and now let’s see if it can shift and let’s see if it can breathe and let’s see what can happen,” she said.
In a performance at the Newcastle Art Gallery, Cecilia performed for 14 hours in a performance titled, ‘At the end/beginning of the day’.
“For seven of those hours I shredded family photographs from my personal albums, that I could never retrieve, they were the original copies, I was questioning what it is about these photo albums that we grab when there is bushfire for example,” Cecilia said.
“I still have the photos but they are in a different way. But it’s also about letting go of this need for objects when we have memories.”
Cecilia’s performances are many and each installation carries a thread with it, each is meant to be an individual breath that says a lot about her.
“It is part of my life and it talks about my personal experiences as much as it does about others. But ultimately, I am heading towards, where many other artist have gone, I’m heading towards love,” Cecilia said.
Cecilia White will be working on her final show, the exhibition show, which will close the chapter on her journey looking at breathing spaces and the creative breath, In December. She will also be writing her thesis while taking part in a group performance with other artists.
Images: Cecilia White