Artists with OI: Matt Shilcock

Photo: Dean Walsh

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Matt Shilcock, I am a contemporary dancer and performing artist from Adelaide, South Australia. I have been creating and performing dance theatre works in festivals and locations around the world over the last 10 years. I predominately perform Contemporary Dance, but living with OI, I occasionally, jokingly, refer to what I do as ‘break dancing’.

My dance and choreographically practice is heavily influenced by what ever injuries and fracture (past and present) that I am dealing with and how I adapt my movement to care for these injuries and integrate my mobility aids. Living with OI, naturally, fractures happen frequently. Often I need to improvise mid performance to adapt to whatever my body is dealing with. Each performance within a season can be vastly different to the night before.

Why do you do what you do?

Originally, because dance classes are cheaper than physiotherapy, but dance has given me a better understanding of and relationship to my body and environment. Through dance I’ve gained a great movement vocabulary to assist me to prevent injuries and to sustainably keep going on with life when I have fractures.

Photography: Micheal K. Chin

What themes do you pursue?

Themes that I like to explore in my work include Shamanism, Alternative Healing, Medieval Alchemy and Trauma. For me, it’s important that art is a healing and empowering process for the artist and audience.

What kind of work do you most enjoy doing?

My favourite is improvised durational work. My longest work was a 6 hour “living sculpture” in a small gallery. I enjoy the endurance challenge of durational work and exploring the mediative state that comes from long periods of practice.

Photography: Tom Jones

What role does the artist have in society?

I feel that the Artist’s role in society is that of a ‘liminal persona’. Liminal, referring to the space in between two things (eg. an open doorway – the threshold between two rooms, or the inside and outside). I feel that artists ‘empty’ themselves through their craft, becoming a vessel for their audience to interpret, relate and project themselves on a work, allowing them to process some aspect of their own individuality. In this way, the role the artist (or their work) is to hold up a mirror to society. The work I make, or the ‘mirror’ I hold up, will not allows reflect something that is conventionally pleasing to look at, but like eating our vegetables, sometimes the most unpleasant experience (the bitterest taste, the sharpest smell, the ugly painting, the painful dance) is the one that is the most beneficial to us.


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