Interview: Celeste Snowber

Web Editor Sarah Thompson chatted with multi-faceted artist, Celeste Snowber, about her upcoming collaborative show Perfect Imperfections. Celeste joined forces with JUNO nominated bassist Jodi Proznick and harpist Alexa Reimer to create a show about embracing messiness. Perfect Imperfections will run from June 14th to 16th at the Cultch.


perfect-imperfections.jpg

SAD: Could you tell me a little bit about Perfect Imperfections, and how the three of you came to work together?

Celeste: Well, Jodi and I did a full-length show several years ago called Woman Giving Birth to a Red Pepper, that was sold out and it was at the Cultch. It’s about sexuality and mid-life, and sensuality, and the juiciness of being deeply alive in your body. And, the way I met Jodie was she was my student at SFU. She was in an Arts Education Master’s degree, and I’m a professor in the program, so that’s where I first met her, and later on several years ago we decided to collaborate together. We wanted to do another full-length show. We loved working with one another. She had a student, Alexa Reimer, who’s an amazing harpist at Kwantlen where she teaches, so she invited Alexa to join with us. The three of us have been working together since February, and that’s how it started. And then we’re bringing on Katherine Penfold, who is a singer as well.

SAD: And, I’m wondering, how do you see womenand, people in general, but I understand the show centres on women’s perspectivesrelating to themselves in a way that inspired you to create a show that’s about accessing messiness, and accepting the things we cast out?

C: The first thing is: I can only create out of my own lived experience. I can’t create someone else’s. My experience is indicative of being a woman, and so I create out of my lived experience. We’ve really put a lot of emphasis on living from the inside out, rather than the outside in, and that we have this amazing richness. To dwell inside the richness and messiness of our bodies. But we’ve really been subjected to, not only different kinds of gaze towards us, but we actually are not free in our bodies; we don’t enjoy them. Often they talk about only using one part of your brain, whatever… I think we don’t live deeply and enjoy the richness of our viscerality. Whether that means just walking in the forest, or taking a breath, or having spectacular sex; actually understanding body intelligence. The body is deeply connected to our brilliance. I’m fascinated by creating out of that, and actually a lot of times we can’t just create. We wait to create. Like, we get the babysitter and then we create. We all have these messy, complicated lives, even if it looks like we don’t. We’re all just walking around acting like we don’t have bowel movements.

I have three kids I raised mostly on my own, I had to work full-time, so I just create in the midst of it. And out of that, I realized there’s incredible richness about embracing this messiness and embracing the imperfections. We’re all so obsessed about being perfect, but the root word of “perfect” means “wholeness”. It doesn’t mean having it all together, or right. And so, that’s kind of the impetus for the show.  But Jodi has kind of done the same thing, and she’s created her new album which is hitting like wildfire, she created that out of her own life, out of her lived experiences of loss, of her mother having Alzheimer’s. I’ve also created a lot out of loss, and there’s this relationships between humour, humanness and humus. Having some lightness to our life, the humour in humanity.

SAD: I love that so much. And it seems like so many of us are waiting for ourselves and our lives to get out of the way so that we can create.

C: That’s totally it. We are waiting to create—to have the perfect opportunity. I think what’s really deeply taught me this, is that my parents died eight months from each other, and I was only thirty, and I was an only child, and I realized that you cannot wait. You cannot wait to do stuff because the only moment we have is the present. In fact, I don’t really want to give it away, but I give this kind of TEDTalk on how to create and sustain a mess in your life , and at the end of the talk, the last line is, “A mess is waiting to interrupt you.”

SAD: Ah, that’s wonderful.

C: So, how do we listen to our interruptions? If something happens, and it changes… How do we relinquish that and stay within that? Within every creative person is a mess, and part of that messiness is actually the canvas. That’s the paint. That is the stuff for creativity. We need to have form, but we need to be able to play with form, like playing with mud, to be able to transform. The show has these threads of dance, comedy, and jazz, and harp, and it goes from the absurd to the profound. It’s for women, and it’s for men as well—but the reality is, we’re women. I can’t speak for men—I don’t like it when they speak for me. But, it’s all about being human.

SAD: I have a sense that embodiment is a huge part of the work, even just based on what you said earlier. I loved when you said, “the juiciness” of being alive in the human body. It sounds like you’re describing an experience that is explicitly intuitive and embodied, in a way that it’s difficult to wrap our dialectic minds around. I’m wondering if you could speak to the place of embodiment in the show, and how it maybe was part of the creative process.

C: That is my scholarship. My artistic work and my scholarly work is about embodiment. And embodiment, I know when I first started studying it, was very disembodied. The language was very disembodied. It was very distant, and very linear. Embodiment for me is the connection between body, mind, soul, spirit, cognition, intuition. That means living in the paradox of being bodies. Most of the time we think we have bodies, but we are bodies.  We’re concerned about how big our hips are, our nose is, how not-how-big our breasts are… there’s a whole piece in the show about “Not Enough, Too Much”. It’s never right. But what does it mean to feel that energy in your body, that you’re so alive? I really believe it’s the same energy that’s connected to the earth, connected to creating, connected to sexuality.

For example, one of the pieces is about “the roll” on the belly. What I call “the roll” as well has been marginalized to a country that’s both far away, and you’re not supposed to have it. The reality is that lots of us have a roll, have a belly. But the belly is this incredible energy. It’s like this source. The belly is the volcano. And you start putting it under girdles… and we may not have girdles now, but we put it under our bullying. Our girdle is that we bully our bodies. What would happen if we just celebrated them? How would that shift our relationship to ourselves, to our partners? It doesn’t matter what you are, LGBTQ+, anything, we’re all subject to this mass-marketing. None of us escape it. You go to the grocery store and it’s all about the outside and the inside. And so slowly, it’s wears us down, and you forget the magnificence in our bodies.

 So in the show, there’s room for tears, there’s room for hilarity, there’s sensuality, and the idea that we live in this perfect imperfection no matter what we do. I’ve written lots about embodiment, but to me it’s should just be all summed up in one gesture: in how we are present in our bodies. I want people to go away and feel inspired to be deeply alive in whoever they are. I’ve had surgeries, and knee replacements, we all have some degree of limitation. We at least will, because none of us are getting out alive. So how do we do that, embracing our limitations? I mean, I’m doing this show and I’m in a mess! I have a hamstring injury, my pelvis apparently isn’t stable, so y’know, let’s do it in our imperfections and in what happens. That’s totally against all of our training in the arts. Everything has to be perfect. Well, I don’t know if I’m ever gonna get everything perfect. By the time I get it perfect, I’ll be gone.