From Afar On A Hill

7 October 2015 | 7:05 pm | Gillian O'Meagher

While the topic of resettlement is currently receiving widespread media attention, this project has been in development for years.

“I finished my law degree a couple of years ago (Lawson works as a lawyer in London) and I also became qualified as a lawyer in Western Australia last year, so I’ve always been interested in the legal aspect of this.” She cites media reference to refugees being illegal as rubbish - “You know of course they’re not” - and discusses the rules that underpin the system of immigration and how we treat refugees. “Although I’m an artist, I was coming at it from a slightly more academic point of view.”

In keeping with this, Watson consulted with sociologist and academic Farida Fozdar, as well as Steve Bull of pvi collective. A fascinating discussion follows on little known aspects of the immigration process. As Watson points out, “If you’re disabled, or people with disabled children, you’re far less likely to be resettled, because you need to be able bodied. And that to me was just dire, because you’re talking about a humanitarian program.” 

So how to get this into a performance? “I come from a choreographic background,” says Watson, “so my work has always been movement based, and now I call it more performance. So we started out really without very much movement at all—now it moves through different genres. 

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“I worked with a French-Austrian political theatre group called Superamas, and they work with dancers, but they also have vast changes in form throughout their work and the treatment of how they put across their content, and that was sort of one of the things that stayed with me.”

Initiated as part of Copenhagen’s Dansehallerne SPOT ON platform in 2013 and developed at PICA in 2014, the work started with two female performers, then a third, and also Chris Cobilis (sound designer performing in the work). Participatory elements see the audience interact in a way that may place them in a position of judgment.

Of the current incarnation of From Afar On A Hill: “The work has movement, it has performance, it has audience interaction, and really for the subject matter I felt like that was the best form of treatment—it would try to give the audience a visceral experience of this, rather than just having them sit down and watch a dance work.”

During the process, she says the team discussed ideas, information Farida Fozdar gave them, and articles Watson forwarded. “So we’ve tried to refine a lot of that information. At one point, the work was educative, and then we’ve gone in this full circle of thinking about how much political change can artwork actually make? I guess the answer in the end is none necessarily, but at the same time that’s how I understand the world and that’s how I understand the issue, so its enabled us to do a lot of research, put that into performance, and find out how that effects an audience.”

From Afar On A Hill runs at PICA until Saturday, October 10. For more info, head to

Originally published in X-Press Magazine