Mantras and a Naming for the Break Horizons Artistic Company
Creating clear frameworks for creative pedagogies when you’re conjuring new work and ceremony is imperative for ethical and meaningful creative processes.
As the creative lead, if I don’t have a clear structure to play within, I grossly neglect to take care of my artist's ability to be vulnerable and brave, especially if we are working inter-Nationally.
Mantras, frameworks, methodologies and company names are all ways I give totems for creative structures to ensure that when I ask artists to go conjure, I’m not pushing them out into space without tethering them to the heart of the story and ceremony.
When you’re creating big worlds, big pieces in production and ideologies, having a mantra to share the impetus of creating, what movement I’m hoping to steward in society must be succinctly present.
This is also how productions can go from an “I” to a “we”. The process must be handed to the company of people working on it. I had an amazing conversation with Emily Soussana and we were chatting about how we create and make trusting offers and structures to ensure everyone feels like they have agency on a process. She said, once creative leads ask other people to work on it, to give their time and creativity, it is no longer the individuals, it’s everyone’s.
This hit me hard, in the best way possible.
I once had a really jarring and disappointing experience with a creator where days before an opening they said “this is MY show.” And it was in that moment I realized the whole process never had a chance. The story was never given over to the artists, the team. There was no embodied trust, there was no mantra, no methodology and no tethering.
It was scary.
And remember nothing brave, no nourishment can come from fear. So if I’m asking people to give light to artistic areas and theories that are already engulfed in darkness, it’s my ethical responsibility to give them a torch, a mantra to guide their journeys.
Exploration is inherently daunting because of the scope of the unknown and I believe we cannot voyage without clear missions and mantras. And yes, there are absolutely intersections between Indigenous ceremony and mission space travel here - this is the nature of Break Horizons.
When I was in the Banff Cultural Leadership program, we talked about the incomprehensible utility of embodied values, missions and mandates. That without them or ideological structures that ground the peoples working on the project, we will absolutely fail because there was no clear ignition and no sustained trajectory.
For me, I have used mantras in all areas of my life including business, artistic practice and athletic coaching. In roller derby I would get the athletes to have 3 markers which would compose their mantras. For example, jammers might have 3 markers of execution such as, elbows in, small lateral movement and drive. This would become their mantra and could evolve over the season if we needed it to. We even assigned physical signals for their markers, because embodying a mantra amplifies its power.
Mantras gave skaters groundedness when they were struggling because it gave them agency and power to know they could pull themselves out of a situation. It was motivating for the skater, insurance for the coaching staff and it centered their safety whilst celebrating their accomplishments.
Having mantras and methods to hold artists, colleagues, athletes and really anyone we ask to journey into our cosmos and make an investment, is integral to create non-hierarchical, decolonial and anti-neo capitalistic processes. I will not ask anyone for their greatest resource, their time, without doing my due diligence of creating structures that can hold them.
For me it would be like asking your figure skating pairs partner to do a jump without clarifying which one.
And that's ridiculously unsafe practice and I ain't ever going to engage in a process that inherently disrespects people to that degree and positions them for failure so spectacularly.
Creating a collective, a productions company is the creating of a safe space for people to gather, bear witness, build bonds and nourish their own leadership abilities. If I don't create clear gathering spaces the team is having to wait for me, which creates a dictator-esque power dynamic because I hold them back by withholding information. Effective leadership and operative communication to have sustained knowledge dissemination.
Naming the collective is an embedded practice to reinvest in the productions mantra, a reinforced communication of what we're collaboratively working to achieve. So that when we're flailing, we have tools to distill our decision making, find solid ground and centre ourselves to recalibrate.
When people are struggling, they can usually only hold 3 clear ideas within themselves. In baseball my mantra was only ever 3 markers and when I was down in the count, I'd knock two of those off and my mantra was just one bullet point. One thing I could focus on when a 60 mph baseball was coming at me high and inside. This practice gave me the ability to dig in and focus explicitly when I found myself in challenging situations.
On a tournament down south, my Pa was giving me a pre-game rallying speech, we needed a W and I needed some energy and my Dad told us the story of a team named, "Tough Enough." That there was this team that had the capacity to grind it out and find the ignition they needed to get themselves out of losing situations - they were tough enough to do that.
I sat under this tree, getting some respite from the heat of the Washington sun, envisioning myself being tough enough to push on. Now did this team really exist, I'm not sure, do I still think about them, absolutely.
Names and titles have inherent power. Many Indigenous nations have naming ceremonies for many reasons. I have my Syilx name, Senklip (Coyote) and I can't share how I got that on here, that's my protocol. But names are a tethering, they totem us to a place in space and help connect us in collaborative processes.
For Kamloopa I named the team of artists working on it “The Fire Company" and they were given creative credits. The mantra for Kamloopa was to ignite the fire that lives within Indigenous women, femmes and peoples. Whenever we got lost or voyaged out too far, we used this mantra to tether us back towards the fire.
As I work on draft 3 f0r Break this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about what this ceremonial teams needs and what our name should be, what are we pivoting around, activating and as I was orbiting around some theories it came to me:
The Healing Company.
The ceremony is grounded in a healing lodge and is about nourishing the relations between one another, the Universe and ultimately ourselves. We will need a company of people to conjure, innovate and create a ceremony that heals wounds from all times if we are to have any hope of environmental peace. The mantra for Break is to unshackle ourselves from the prisons we’ve created and we are going to need this Healing Company to accomplish that.
Deep love and excitement for you all too meet and bear witness to the talents and strengths of the Healing Company,
Take a listen and lemmie know what ya think! Limelet to the Canada Council for awarding me with a Digital Original prize.
The second half of season 2 will be out soon!
p.p. s here is a picture from one of my fave actors Gary Sinise from one of my fave movies Apollo 13. Whose mission drastically changed but became one of the greatest collaborations of trust, innovation and nimbleness in the history of western space exploration.