I am Jo Shapland

I am a mature performer, dancer, choreographer, filmmaker, installation artist, fine artist and compulsive self-documenter. I have over thirty years professional experience of devising and presenting dance performances and installations. My work is rooted in landscape. It is developed and presented in spaces ranging from ruined farm-buildings to traditional proscenium theatres, from natural wilderness to urban architectural interiors. I have wide experience of collaborating with artists from a broad spectrum of disciplines and bring them into both my own and freelance projects. I constantly seek out and research the body through international workshops and placements. In 1998 I established Man Troi as an identity and vehicle for the presentation of my work in the public domain.

JoShapland - photog Jerry Hyde

My Wales…….

I have lived and worked in Wales since 1993, and have a deep connection to its cultural life and wild places.

“In any culture other than our own it would be felt and understood as natural that water, wind, stones, and leaves all ‘speak’ to us, as do birds and beasts, making our experience of the sensuous world about us that of a living, sacred organism without a split.” Misha Norland

What is it about Wales? It is the biodiversity of the wild places. The quiet calm, the clear spring water and skies full of stars. An ancient wildness steeped in the resonance of history and herstory- embedded into the landscape. It leaves me wishing to uncover, delve, reveal. In those ancient rocks, myriad mosses, sessile oaks, gushing waterfalls and rhythmic tides there is something about lineage, layers, true source material that speaks if I quieten myself enough. …elemental cycles of birth, growth, deterioration and death… This is beyond landscape – it is vitality itself manifesting as visuality, colour density, height and depth, reverberating texture  …intense quietude from which anything can spring. Such as this is rooted in my bodymind, and when I am with it, I know that raindrops are about to patter upon the roof a moment before they do, a shaft of sunlight is about to appear a moment before it does…

My landscape………

My father was a modern architect. I grew up in a modern house that he designed. His ideas and subsequent domestic environment were a strong influence. As a mature adult I rebelled with absolute necessity to find my own means of communication and approach to life. I now cultivate a marriage of my own versions of modernism and neo-romanticism.

I have worked, and continue to do so, as a life model. It is these periods of painfully slow time-sensitive embodied and mindful periods of reflection whilst under the gaze of others that allows me to consider and influence my ideas as an artist. I ‘perform’ life model on the pedestal from which I step off, fall, dress and undress.

My body is my practice…

I originally trained as a contemporary dancer. I now practice a psychophysical training that includes Aerial Dance and Asian martial and meditation arts, particularly yoga, kalarippayattu, t’ai chi chuan and qi gong. Continued training and personal development is integral to my artistic development. The holistic approaches to my body work are central to my creative, choreographic, kinaesthetic self. I practice an authentic movement discipline in the landscape alone and with others as a process for sourcing reference material. I have wide experience of collaborating with artists from a broad spectrum of disciplines and bring them into both my own and freelance projects.

I am fascinated by and have made work with defunct lo-fi and simple analogue technologies: piezo triggers, Theremins, an electronic waveform generator, early photographic processing techniques, super 8 film.

I have a Heath Robinson approach to complex theories such as quantum physics, electron-positron annihilation and string theory and purposefully layer this naivity with arcane symbols.

From an ordered and constructed background, I have emerged as a performance gardener. I work in and with nature. I am constantly cultivating my body and mind. I communicate my ideas using pre-linguistic expression and presence. And to counter this I weed out over-seriousness and compost personal subtle self-deprecation and Dada-esque humour. I also love to sing, dance and shout.

My practice is time-based.

My performances are time-based autobiographies.

My work is site-sensitive.

My practice is both interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary.

My practice is the unraveling of intricate processes.

My process…….. 

I use gut reaction, intuition to research material and communicate my ideas through a base pre-linguistic means. I look beneath the surface and between the cracks to access a primal but not primitive expression. My performances are ephemeral and physical artworks that embody a perpetual state of subtle physical kinaesthetic transformation centered on personal experience. I research the ‘spirit of place’ or ‘genius loci’. I contextualise my practice through this research across the disciplines of visual art, film and music. I use this to inform my physical and imaginative relationship to my working environments. I embody and reconstruct the histories and her-stories of place.

I shuffle, develop, rebuild, find shadows, give momentary expression of place, make physical marks. I trace on objects, materials and bodies. I create archive and archaeological memory. I frame a delicate presence. I write a palimpsest of the visible, the remembered and the imagined. I create a chronological and choreographed process to frame space and to frame time. I weave a documentation to trigger and create work.

My ……..method

  • Engaging with the natural landscape as a cyclical and reproductive source of inspiration
  • Being an active listener to recognize, engage with lateral thought
  • Juxtaposing material randomly
  • Shuffling paradoxes to let what wants to be said reveal itself
  • Removing myself to let material slow cook
  • Being an archive pruner and confidently weeding through past histories to recycle or discard

 Contextualising my practice……

My inter-multi-disciplinary work is informed by and researched from broad contextual references including and in particular:

The self-portraits of Frida Kahlo

The sexual unpicking and relentless delving of the work of Louise Bourgeois

Guiseppe Penone’s methods “to find the form within the material, not to find the material within the form” (Penone, 1996)

The simple abstractions and musicality of silence and stillness of John Cage and Merce Cunningham

The visions and maverick nature of William Blake

Andrej Tarkovsky sculpting in time

Alvar Aalto’s natural patterns in nature and revealing the potential in materials

The Active Listening and specificity within Phillip Zarrilli work

The wellspring of creative energy pouring from work at Gardzienice Theatre Association

The cradle of form and tradition in Noh Theatre

This disparate grouping reflects; my holistic outlook: my continuing state of curiosity: my insatiable curiosity: my love of diversity: my love of individuality: my fickle and capricious nature: my dyspraxia: my anti-rational and anti-materialist sympathies: my ever-widening sky………….


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