For Violet Juno, the artist-in-residence this week at the university’s Marion Kleinau theater, language can be interpreted in different ways.
Juno has visited the university for residency periods since 2005. Her performance “(I’m Still Here) Language Has Left the Building” at 8 p.m. Friday, which is free for the public, deals with the relationship between language as well as the absence of it, she said.
“In my life, sometimes I literally don’t have the word,” Juno said. “All these languages are competing and there’s just no word there. And what is that like, when you’re searching for something you can’t find?”
Juno said students have told her the themes she deals with resonate with them from different angles, from struggles with the English language to struggles with cultural issues.
Juno’s performance uses minimal props, but she uses her words to paint the audience a picture, she said. Juno said she wants the audience to use personal experience to interpret the show.
“Everybody brings their personal history into the theater with them,” Juno said. “That’s the beauty of performance. It’s not just what I bring to the stage; it’s what everybody brings to that moment.”
Juno said the audience is crucial to the show.
“People always think, ‘Oh, it doesn’t really matter if I go to see this show or not, because it exists without me,’” she said. “The truth is, it does matter. This show does not happen without these people who are going to come see it.”
Juno said she meets with students during her residency to discuss their performing styles, and she takes them out to do special projects in the community.
One such project is known as a site-specific performance, in which Juno and students take props to a public location and use the natural look and props to create meaningful images, she said.
Juno took students to Little Grassy Lake this year. The lake holds emotional value for some communication majors, said Andrea Baldwin, Kleinau Theater publicity director. Baldwin said often times speech communication majors hang out at the lake.
“We staged a series of site-specific performances right there on the beach,” Juno said. “We brought out costumes and props and created performance there, right in the real world.”
After the photo shoot on the beach, Juno and students look at the images they took and create slideshows with the images. The slideshow will be presented to the public Saturday, she said.
“One of the things that happens when you create artwork from documentation is that there are a million different stories that can be told,” Juno said.
The site-specific performances are part of the series she refers to as the Reversicon. Juno said a reversicon is a dictionary that lists entries by definition rather than word, and she wants to use these images to evoke emotions for viewers.
Juno has held site-specific performances all across the world, ranging from a creek bed in Missouri to an underground train yard in Glasglow, Scotland, according to her website.
She said some of the themes students found while working at Little Grassy Lake were journey, discovery, surprise and the relationship between the natural world and the man-made world. “One part of (the performance) was building an altar of props on the rocks,” she said. “There’s some traditions of building structures out of rocks on beaches for different purposes. It’s part of this bigger picture.”
Baldwin said the passion she saw in Juno’s work was an important theme for her. She saw Juno for the first time two-and-a half years ago in San Francisco.
“It’s very clear that with the choices that she makes on stage that she loves what she does,” Baldwin said. “This is very important to her.”
Baldwin said audiences should come into Juno’s performance with an open mind.
“It’s different every single time, depending on where you are in life,” Baldwin said. “She understands that. She creates shows in thinking about the audience.”