Land/Escapes Film

“Land/Escapes” considers the present-day responsibilities of settlers. Two queer immigrant settlers build, play, melt, and devolve in fantastical lands and amidst crumbling colonial estates. Cycling and stunted, these occupiers of unceded lands ask “Where do we go?”


Artist Statement

“Land/Escapes” is a short dance film born from a conversation between J Dellecave and Zavé Martohardjono about the potential of dance to arise from de-colonized sensation, desire, remembering, and story-making. The film aims to reckon with, but not resolve or absolve, the co-choreographers’ immigrant settler bodies’ political history and political responsibilities to collective futures as occupiers of unceded indigenous territory.

Together, the three artists considered the not-yet, the liminal nature of their settler positions on still-occupied land, and the fact that the land is not-yet returned to its millions of indigenous stewards. Alongside researching the indigenous history of the Catskills, the artists grappled with their contradictory relationships to the North American lands their ancestors colonized, settled, and immigrated to. 


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Photo credit: Julia C Liu.

During a two-week residency, filmmaker Julia C Liu joined J and Zavé to talk through their immigrant ancestries and settler realities — as Taiwanese-American, Italian-American, and Indonesian-Italian-American people, respectively. Over daily kitchen table conversations, the artists discussed a question posed to Zavé during a performance art conference by artist Alicia Grullon and Decolonize This Place members: What happens when the land is returned? 

“Land/Escapes” grew through conversation, collective and collaborative writing sessions, editing feedback sessions, and post-production into a multi-vocal, fantastical, luscious, and multi-layered film. 

Directed cinematically by Julia, J and Zavé created outdoor choreographic improvisations which fill the scenes. The choreographic approach of “Land/Escapes” developed over several years of movement collaboration between Zavé and J who shared an improvisational dance practice since 2015. Whether choreographing performance together or just moving together in the studio, Zavé and J share an improvisation-based dance practice motivated by a set of considerations: Rather than direct our bodies or our collaborator’s body to move, can we listen deeply to break from, and deconstruct, socialized movement and learned or conditioned, colonized impulses? Can we listen for ancestral knowledge and memory in our muscles, bones, and fluids to divine rather than design choreography?

In a previous, live performance iteration of “Land/Escapes” created in 2018, J and Zavé improvised with the architecture of a beach-side hotel in Lenape territory, also known as the Rockaways, with the horizon line where ocean meets sky. Tuning into themselves and working as a duet, their live performance iteration of “Land/Escapes” involved the surrounds as a third dance partner. In the Catskills, the choreographers used the same tuning in practice to dialogue with and respond to the physical environment. At the Kaaterskill waterfalls, the duet dance resonates with the water. In another scene, J and Zavé kick around gravel in an empty parking lot. Responding to materials, natural and man-made, the dance improvisations in “Land/Escape” converse with built environments and natural ones alike.

“Land/Escapes” was shot entirely in a two-week process on residency in the Catskills and was directed, filmed, and edited by Julia C Liu. Zavé and J co-conceptualized, co-choreographed, co-wrote, and performed alongside one another in the film. In a collective process, J, Julia, and Zavé co-created storyboards and planned production. Zavé designed and constructed the costumes and recorded field sound recordings that pepper the film’s soundscape. The post-production process was also approached collectively with an expanded team — musician Aviva Jaye joined Julia, J, and Zavé to compose songs for the film’s soundtrack and perform in voice as an omniscient narrator. Folding in Aviva’s music, vocals, and song-writing, the artists continued and grew conversations about their settler/occupier positions on unceded Lenapehoking, Canarsie, Narragansett, and Wampanoag territories. 

Media Press Kit

Artist Bios 

Aviva Jaye (Composer, Musician) is a performing artist & composer primarily creating music, wielding voice, keys, harp, guitar & ukulele. She combines acoustic & electronic elements to unlock a portal for listeners to venture, exploring the dimensions of empathy, self-awareness, social justice & futurism. Her interdisciplinary work includes theatre, dance, paper arts & poetry. Recent projects include We Can Change the Country by Darius Jones (Roulette); featured artist for Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit; composer for the play LORDES (New Ohio Theater); live music for [GET WELL SOON] you black + bluised by Nic Kay (Abrons Art Center); music direction + performance for “Four Questions”, a Pride production (LaMama); featured artist at The Public’s Civic Salon series and Artist-In-Residence at Guildhall (East Hampton). | @avivajaye

Julia C Liu (Director, Cinematography, Editor) is a Providence based filmmaker seeking to promote diversity in front of and behind the lens. She strives for meaningful, creative collaborations and healthy work environments on all her projects. Her narrative directorial debut DRIVING WHILE BLACK MAGIC screened at Urbanworld and the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival. She is a contributing director to the NYTimes Op-Doc Series and an honoree of the 2021 DOC NYC 40 Under 40. Liu is the Director of Photography and Executive Producer of the Netflix original WHITE HOT: THE RISE & FALL OF ABERCROMBIE & FITCH, and has lensed other documentaries such as WE ARE: THE BROOKLYN SAINTS, UNFINISHED BUSINESS, TAKE YOUR PILLS, WALK AGAINST FEAR: JAMES MEREDITH, and JAGGED. Liu is a member of the International Cinematographers Guild, an associate member of the Society of Camera Operators and a graduate of Brown University. | @jucliu

J Dellecave (Concept, Performer, Writer) is an interdisciplinary performance maker, scholar, and educator concerned with how bodily experience intersects with external fields of social, cultural, and political knowledge. They are currently Assistant Professor of the Practice in Theatre and Performance Studies at Brown University, where they are working on their book manuscript Activating the Insides: Embodied Arts and 21st Century U.S. Imperial Violence. J holds a PhD in Critical Dance Studies from the University of California, Riverside and an MA in Performance Studies from New York University, and a BFA in Dance from Temple University.

zavé martohardjono (Concept, Performer, Writer, Costumes) is a queer, trans, Indonesian-American artist working in performance, dance, installation, video, and poetry. Dwelling in their ancestors’ mythologies, with dreams of a more just future, they make work that contends with the political histories our bodies carry. zavé’s performance work has been presented at the 92Y, BAAD!, Bronx Museum of the Arts, Center for Performance Research, El Museo del Barrio, Gibney, HERE Arts, Issue Project Room, The Kennedy Center, Storm King Art Center, the Wild Project, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Boston Center for the Arts, Tufts University, and elsewhere. They participated in 2022 Movement Research GPS Exchange Program in Skopje, North Macedonia, 2021 NYPL Dance Research Fellowship, 2020 Gibney Dance in Process residency, 2019 Movement Research AIR program, and participated in LMCC’s 2017-2018 Workspace Residency. Their work has been written about in Hyperallergic, The New York Times, Brooklyn Rail, BOMB Magazine, and CultureBot. | @zavozavito

• October 2, 2022

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