Olivia Shortt: An ode to all the strange things I love

We are delighted to have Anishinaabe-Irish classical and contemporary saxophonist and noise-maker Olivia Shortt enliven the festival for two evenings with her works-in-progress Second Hand (formerly known as Echoes), as part of Animikiig Creators Unit, and her latest solo piece My Holographic Nightmares.

“[Second Hand] is a continuation of the development of the first version that I presented last year. I’ve been able to take time to explore and add onto this very personal piece, which is inspired by my family and a want to connect more deeply with the stories old to me about my ancestors.”

Tonight, Olivia presents an excerpt of My Holographic Nightmares with dramaturgical support of Patti Shaughnessy. As the name might suggest, the piece comes from “a place of weirdness, funny moments, and the silly things that come into my brain when I have my artist cap on.” While Second Hand has a more serious nature, this new piece is a companion piece to balance it out. “Inspired by the weird aspects of my personality, including my magpie-like attraction to shiny things and my desire to create eccentric noises with my mouth, this piece is an ode to all the strange things I love and enjoy as an artist.”

Bringing both pieces to the festival, Olivia believes this is an opportunity to showcase multiple parts of her personality: “I’m a weird person and I think both my works reflect that in serious and funny ways. I don’t like to prescribe ideas onto an audience and hope that they are able to see themselves in my fragmented works.”

“I’m still figuring out my process for the creation of my projects and I feel safe in the space that Native Earth has provided” Returning for the second time, “I feel at home performing in Weesageechak.”

Don’t miss Olivia Shortt’s “partially fictional, partially imagined, and partially nonsensical” My Holographic Nightmares today – Wednesday November 21st.


More about Olivia Shortt

What piece are you looking forward to seeing at W31?
I’m very excited to see Maura García’s They Are Still Talking. I met Maura while participating as a member of the 2018 artequity cohort. We did training together in New Orleans, LA. I have always had a soft spot for dancers and think they are some of the most incredible artists and most interesting creators. That’s why I’m also excited to see Aria Evans’ In The Abyss.

Who is your Indigenous role model? How do they inspire you?
I recently met Tio’tia:ke (Montreal) based superhero Nadine St. Louis. In spending just a couple of hours with her, I learned a lot about the Indigenous arts scene. She was introduced to me by one of my other heroes, Cole Alvis. It’s difficult to pin down one person as I keep meeting amazing people who take the time to connect me and support me as I need it. Some of my other role models include Signal Theatre and Nightswimming’s Brittany Ryan and independent theatre artist Yolanda Bonnell. Whenever I need inspiration, I look to the community surrounding me.

Do you have any advice for young Indigenous creators just coming onto the scene?
Find your community: whether that means other theatre artists, people who love to knit, or friends who are good at writing grants and are willing to teach you. The best thing in my life is my community. I love my friends and colleagues, and they are always there for me.

Having some kind of support and people to talk to are the most crucial aspects of my artistic practice and I don’t think I would be where I am without them. Always find your community and be loyal to them and love them fearlessly.

What are your thoughts on addressing political topics through Indigenous art?
Being alive and Indigenous is an act of addressing politics in itself: Indigenous people still aren’t being treated equitably or with respect here on Turtle Island or elsewhere.

What does art mean to you?
Art is any creative medium that can be used to create a space for you inner voices to come out and exist in the same space as an audience. Art is the choice to be vulnerable in front of others and share them a piece of you.

What are you craving right now?
Equity in the arts. Equity in classical and experimental music. Equity in programming choices. Transparency from arts organizations claiming to understand the needs of today’s audience and today’s artists. Understanding and compassion from those in charge of arts organizations.

More POC / non-binary / womxn / Indigenous / queer / neurodiverse / deaf / non-cis-white-male people put into positions of power.

What is coming up next for you?
I am an organizer of the Toronto Creative Music Lab going into its fourth edition (June 2019), and we’re planning a lot around what will happen during the workshop itself (ex. panel discussions, events, performances, etc). I’m so excited for how this year’s workshop will shape up and am very proud of the work we’ve done so far on it!