Five Minutes with Jo Fong and Sonia Hughes

We grabbed a cup of tea with artists Jo Fong and Sonia Hughes to find out more about the work they’re presenting at undisciplined and what they’re looking forward to seeing at the festival.

Artists Jo Fong (left) and Sonia Hughes.

“The art of listening isn’t new and the art of taking a moment to be in the moment is too rare.” Jo Fong.

South East Dance: You’re hosting a series of events at undisciplined this year, many offering people an opportunity to take part in the simple acts of having a chat, eating and going for walk. What role do you hope these moments will play in the festival?

Sonia: to hopefully power boost those informal chats that always happen in and around festivals, attach them to the work somehow that is being showcased, maybe.

Jo: Free things as far as festivals go seems essential. 

South East Dance: Your work together often involves creating space for conversation, how can this be seen as an artistic act?

Jo: Ooh, sounds like a question about what is art…It feels like moments to come together are a glue, a way towards how the next bit goes. This time is tricky for the arts and artists (has it ever been easy?) and for everyone. I’ve described our work as all sorts of things: talking and listening, moving and connecting, attending and holding. Recently I described it as anti-loneliness work and even working towards non-violent communication. The art of listening isn’t new and the art of taking a moment to be in the moment is too rare. The art of not being on our spreadsheets and screens. Something effortless. Societies and people change at pace and this way stemmed from wanting to hear things from outside my knowledge or experience and see things through a new lens.  Or even simpler, to practice being with people.

Sonia: what Jo said.

South East Dance: What excites you about presenting work and meeting people in Brighton?

Jo: Me and Sonia have been developing an idea for a show called Nettles: How to Disagree? It’s not made yet. We’re hoping our undisciplined time in Brighton will be a place to push the idea forwards a bit. It’ll be low key but also rather pointed if needed. I’ve held some Kitchen Tables at South East Dance before in 2017. At the time, Sonia was supporting me on the thinking around what became a body of work called Ways of Being Together. We will probably fail a bit, yet we will also learn a great deal from how it goes wrong. I’m up for that. It’s daunting sharing something unformed but it will certainly be live. 

Sonia: I’m looking forward to a bit of puncturing, in all sorts of ways - for me and the people who come. 

South East Dance: Sonia, you are also presenting your live installation I am from Reykjavik at undisciplined, in which you will build a shelter and invite people to meet you while you’re doing it. What was your inspiration for the piece?

Sonia: No real inspiration. Just what is going on in my life, what do I need to sort out.  A concatenation of events which starts with imperialism and lands in my body and the undoing of all that. In a way I don’t like talking about it because I hope the work holds it all in there. I’m not meaning to be vague: it’s an action of resistance and release, which I need. 

South East Dance: I am from Reykjavik has been touring UK and European festivals since summer 2021. What have you noticed if anything about how your piece has been received in those different spaces and places.

Sonia: I don’t really know how it is received really, I know how I feel. I feel better if it is in solidarity with something or if it is a direct opposition to something. I like it if it becomes a convivial space with people I want to be convivial with. 

South East Dance: The undisciplined programme presents work representing a deliberately broad range of perspectives, which piece are you most looking forward to seeing and why?

Jo: this question is too difficult. Of course, I’ve been a Wendy Houstoun fan since I first saw her on a stage in Utrecht in the early 90s. There are some artists who lead the way, Wendy is thorough and she will be premiering WATCH IT so I’ll be there. Thick and Tight won’t be performing this time but they’ll be in dialogue with Corali so I’m keen to hear about how this goes. From what I can gather of their work, my impression is mighty skill, crafted within an inch of its life, political and hilarious at the same time.  

Sonia: I am interested in Starving Dingoes, I feel in a state of slowness and I’m intrigued by the notion of living furiously and passionately. It’s the opposite of my current mode.

Jo: I want to see every show while I'm in Brighton. I’d like to recommend that people take a punt, come with an open mind. undisciplined sees it all a bit differently.

Jo Fong is Creative Associate with the Wales Millennium Centre and Sonia Hughes is Associate Artist for FiNN (Arctic Arts Festival).

undisciplined events