Christian Noelle Charles

My artistic practice is an evolving exploration of identity, radical self-love and self-worth. Growing up as a Black woman in the United States, it was necessary for me to develop an additional, intersectional awareness of how my gender, my body, and my race are read in varied surroundings, my technique, the way I held myself, and how I moved with others. Living and working in Glasgow, Scotland over the past 7 years, I have been tremendously inspired by its small, yet growing Black community. In Glasgow, individuals from all over the African and Caribbean diaspora have come together in solidarity to live, create, and reflect our own unique Black experiences and identities. Witnessing the power of our love has inspired me to develop expressive work that, first and foremost, highlights our joy. Work that is colorful, expressive, and celebratory of the multiplicity of our Black expression.

The Jerwood New Work Fund will support an intimate experimental dance performance called WHAT A FEELING ACT II: a live performance programmed for Take Me Somewhere Festival (14th October 2023) at Tramway. Inspired by the film Flashdance™ (1983) and ‘America’s Next Top Model’ (2003), I will be framing the space as a spotlight arena and creating an atmosphere of a live audition. During this 20-minute performance, the audience who are in proximity to the performer auditioning, will become part of a judging panel.

The research for this performance comes from the conversations with Female Creatives of Black Heritage in Scotland, ones who I interviewed for ACT I and will continue to have these conversations with performers who have experienced going through auditions working with directors and producers; what they felt during the process of being categorised and chosen; and how it impacted their journey and artistic process. My recent Johannesburg residency will influence this performance with its history in relation to conversations on topics of identity politics, categorization, tokenism, intimacy and closure, redefining hurdles in realizing the position of Black people in society. These are themes that develop a vulnerability that I personally find difficult, because they are hurdles to reach a position of understanding oneself while pitching yourself. This will reflect on easing the space for Black female creatives in Scotland trying to make it in the art world, saying “You are not alone, if I can make it through this process, so can you!”

Christian Noelle Charles, Image by Matthew Arthur Williams, 2023