Emily Gastineau is a choreographer, performer, writer, and arts administrator. Her work has been presented at Frascati (Amsterdam), On the Boards (Seattle), Garage29 (Brussels), Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), and Red Eye Theater (Minneapolis), among others. She collaborates with Billy Mullaney (US/NL) under the name Fire Drill, and their work has been shown in Amsterdam, Minneapolis, St. Paul, New York, San Francisco, Portland, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Chicago. Her collaboration with Vilma Pitrinaite (LT/BE) has been supported by workspacebrussels, SE.S.TA (Prague), and the Lithuanian Council for Culture. Emily co-founded the performance writing platform Criticism Exchange, curates performances at Fresh Oysters Performance Research (Minneapolis) and elsewhere, and produced RELAY RELAY, an interview marathon and publication on contemporary performance. She is the recipient of a 2016 Next Step Grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council and a 2017 Artist Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. From 2017-2019, she was based between Minneapolis and Amsterdam while completing a master's at DAS Choreography, Amsterdam University of the Arts. Emily is one of seven artistic directors of Red Eye Theater.
Emily has worked with Mn Artists since 2014, supporting almost every aspect of the program, including website development, content strategy, outreach, live programs, and editorial. As Program Manager of Mn Artists, she collaborates with guest artist-curators to produce the Mn Artists Presents [Your Name Here] program series at the Walker Art Center, and coordinates guest editors to commission original arts writing for mnartists.org.
I approach live performance as the ideal medium to investigate this crucial question: How is contemporary capitalism changing the body and the act of viewing? I observe that most cultural production, even outside of entertainment, centers on capturing and managing the attention of the viewer. My work exposes and intervenes in the organizing principles of neoliberalism—how the financialization of life determines our embodied experience, qualities of attention, valuation of labor, and beliefs about what art can do.
With collaborative duo Fire Drill, I conduct pseudo-empirical investigations into the nature of attention, tracking our collective desire for constant stimulation. I create performances that are sometimes stark and sometimes spectacular, using distilled performance structures to result in sensory overload for the audience. I catch the viewer between pleasure and pain, boredom and engagement, identification and repulsion, laughing and crying. My works exploit theatrical convention, saturate the audience with information, and accelerate the effects of exhaustion on the body. I highlight ragged breath and muscle fatigue, revealing the body’s inability to sustain the increasing demands on labor. My scores pit the performers’ will and desire against the limits of their endurance. Composition is organized around a singular goal—like dancing to the point of vomiting or competing for the audience’s attention—to expand the notion of choreography.
My work has progressed into writing, organizing, and curating, aiming to evolve the discourse of performance practice in dance and visual art contexts. I organize projects that involve fellow artists in the form of publications, immaterial installations, and alternative economies. I am intrigued by the process by which art becomes public, via economies, institutions, and our beliefs about whether art can actually affect society. I hold a tension between art and politics, suspicious of the instrumentalization of art, yet committed to rooting out the political in the aesthetic. I perceive that art is obsessed with its own weakness, continually trying to prove its worth in a culture that doesn’t value it—and yet I believe that in a world ruled by efficiency, the purposelessness of art is actually the key to its power.