Kara Bullock

A photo of Kara Bullock
Kara Bullock | Photo: Courtesy of Kara Bullock

Kara Bullock

Month of the Artist celebrates the valuable contributions artists make to Alberta

Kara Bullock is a movement-based artist of Filipina and German heritage. She has received training from a range of institutions including studying dance at the Ailey School in New York City, apprenticing with Amber Funk-Barton’s company, the Response, in Vancouver, studying Intro to Conflict Resolution at Mount Royal University, and taking part in Momo Movement’s Inclusive and Accessible Movement Teacher Training.

Highlights in her teaching have been working with Dubasov Movement and Wellness and collaborating with visual artist Tia Halliday on a movement workshop at the Calgary Chinese Citizens Elderly Association in Calgary. She will be developing a solo work about boy bands, premiered at To the Awe in Calgary, while in residence at the DJD Dance Centre this fall. 

Find her on Facebook and check out her website karabslomorad.tumblr.com.

How do you describe yourself as an artist?

I describe myself as a value driven artist. I value slowness. I value imperfection. I value failure. I move towards these values with vulnerability.

What this means is that relationships are more important to me than a finished product and, that I question what a finished product even is. I make space for imperfection in myself. When I find a crack in the armour of my ego driven artist identity, I nourish it, I open it, I let it become the work. When I fail, I ask myself how I failed and according to what standards. What do I take from this experience? Are these standards important to me? Or are they the imposed standards used to determine success from a capitalist point of view? What standards can I work with and what can I not?

Being an artist to me means being inquisitive; in fact, I feel like a researcher more than a dancer. I use the materials of dance to mine for stories and to express ideas I find perplexing, resonant or meaningful.

The body is my location for art, and I include my mind and spirit in this definition of body. My body holds memory, story, trauma, judgement, joy, and everything in between. Showing the “in between” to other people is where the creative juices start to flow for me. The best part is when I have this reflected back to me by audiences, by participants in the classes I teach and with my collaborators: that a space has been created where they recognize their memories, stories and expressions.

What does living a creative life mean to you?

To me, living a creative life means every part of my life is governed by something bigger than the material, what I see, what I can touch. Living a creative life is about tapping into intuition and learning to follow it.

The practical side of my brain is already well versed. Logic and practicality are essentials that I must follow, but how do I notice and cultivate awareness around the intuitive impulse to express? It means bringing in the use of criticality and discernment, because I also cannot walk around this world doing and saying whatever comes to mind, nor is it necessarily helpful to do this when in the literal act of creating work. (Although sometimes it is!)

A creative life is one I have observed is open to all people, not just those who follow an artistic path. The creative life for me is one that transcends compartmentalizing of my routines and roles. It takes a great deal of listening, working in collaboration with others, daily practice, and being willing to go through with complete overhaul from time to time. I find myself constantly assessing what is working and what is not, challenging what I believe is possible, and allowing myself to be led to areas I am uncomfortable with. To me, living a creative life is ultimately all about serving the world I am in with the resources and gifts that I have, cultivating those gifts and resources, and giving space for others to do the same.

What do you love about Calgary and what is one place you go to find inspiration in Calgary?

What attracted me to Calgary as a transplant from Vancouver was initially the Bow River. I love the water. When passing through on a tour, I walked along the Bow River and thought “I could live here”. I also love the amount of sun Calgary gets! I was attracted to the wide-open spaces of Calgary and the surrounding area. I felt that there was a lot more physical space to explore and grow into, as well as more space in the artistic community to create and do whatever I wanted.

For artists and entrepreneurs, Calgary can be a blank canvas, with opportunity to build from the ground up. The Bow River is still a place I go to find inspiration, to reflect on the history of the land, the stories it carries, and my role as an artist and storyteller on the land.

If you could do one thing this year to make Calgary a better place to live, what would it be?

I would have every resident of Calgary initiate and build one new relationship with an Indigenous Knowledge Keeper or Elder in which they become further educated on the history of the Indigenous Peoples of Treaty 7 pre contact with settlers, post contact, and colonization. I think it is important that this relationship be entered into with humility, that it be one on one, and personal so that everyone feels the impact of what they learn and how it relates to them. I would have each Knowledge Keeper or Elder be compensated for their time and labour.

What piece of advice would you give to an emerging artist?

Find people who support you the way you need to be supported. (Discover how you need to be supported). Try to let go of your ego and being the best; at the same time strive to be diligent and rigorous. Know that there are as many ways to make art as there are artists. Your voice is needed. Do not look down on teaching to support yourself; use teaching others to grow your practice, your community, and your audience. Healing yourself from fears and traumas, trusting your intuition and following all your impulses to try new things are worth the time. Pursuing whatever is of interest to you is all a part of your artistic practice even if it seems unrelated.

What are you currently working on?

Right now, my husband and I are working on a performance called this is a prayer which is a hybrid music and dance work, exploring ritual and protest in art. I am preparing to teach a six-week workshop to seniors outdoors to encourage confidence in their physical bodies, creativity, and expression.  I am preparing for a residency exploring a new solo work called One Human Boy Band at the DJD Dance Centre, premiered in Calgary at To the Awe. I am also interested in re-calibrating my body physically and have been taking time to pursue training in Pilates, Gyrotonic, Feldenkrais, and Chekhov Technique.

About Alberta’s Month of the Artist

September is the Month of the Artist in Alberta, an annual celebration of artists and the value they bring to the province, both socially and economically.

Dedicated by the Government of Alberta, the Month of the Artist is a way to say thank you for making the province a better place to live.

Calgary Arts Development is pleased to share the stories of artists who choose to live and work in Calgary.

Have a story to share? Email us at submissions@calgaryartsdevelopment.com.

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