On urban streets, Brandy Leary's 'Glaciology' is a performance sculpture that mimicks the movement of glaciers. photo credit Anandam Dancetheatre

A\J: How do you describe yourself as an artist?

Brandy Leary: I am a dancer, choreographer, feminist, ritual and pop culture researcher, community activator, collaborator, activist, curator, educator and space maker working in Toronto and nomadically in Europe, US and India. I create works collaboratively with a core group of artists in very horizontal creative relationships and these works range in diversity from small intimate theatre performances, site specific explorations and large scale works of durational public art with huge amounts of artists. 



What does spirituality mean to you? 

BL: To me spirituality is a way of knowing yourself and examining your relationships to others and the world. It can be an ethical context that you move with. For me it comes with lots of faith, which often artistically manifests as intuition. It also comes with hope, which is a radical place to work from. 


Does spirituality play a role in your art? 

BL: Yes – the works I create root themselves in ritual structures and at their core are an examination of how we are present with each other, how transformation is performed rather than preconstructed. 


What compels you to focus on nature? 

BL: An activation in my cells when I am in the natural landscape, a knowingness and a non-separateness that creates an awareness of body and landscape as indistinct, different elements and expressions of the same source. A drop into a different experience of time. My politics around the devastation of ecosphere as the embodied visual field of the ongoing historical and contemporary processes of colonialism, capitalism and globalization is also a motivator.

The work we have been creating sees the direct impact of these forces as being played out in our natural environments, in our landscapes and as an extension of that, in our own bodies and in how our bodies relate to each other and the world 


What role does hope play in your art? 

BL: I believe hope is radical and creates strength…and though much of the work I create with my collaborators takes on political and current contemporary concerns. It all moves from a position of hope. Hope is what provides imagination and vision that things can be different, that things can change, that you can contribute to change. I believe hope is responsible for humanity’s incredible ability to continue going on. 


Stephen Bede Scharper, a columnist for the Toronto Star, is an associate professor with the Centre for Environment at the University of Toronto. He is author of Redeeming the Time: A Political Theology of the Environment and co-editor of The Natural City: Re-Envisioning the Built Environment.

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