Emily Johnson


Doris Duke Artist Award, 2014
Dance

Minneapolis, MN

Emily Johnson is an artist who makes body-based work with her company, Catalyst. Originally from Alaska, she is of Yup’ik descent and has created work that considers the experience of sensing and seeing performance. Her dances function as installations, engaging audiences within and through an environment — interacting with a place's architecture, history, and role in community. She created a trilogy of works over 7 years in response to displacement and feeling disconnected from place, people, ceremony, and tradition: The Thank-you Bar (2009), Niicugni (2012), and SHORE (2015). Honors include: Guggenheim Fellowship, Bessie Award, Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, Creative Capital, Map Fund, Joyce Award, McKnight Foundation, Doris Duke Residency to Build Demand for the Arts, fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Minnesota, and inaugural Fellow at the Robert Rauschenberg Residency. Her current project, Then a Cunning Voice and a Night We Spend Gazing at Stars, is a multi-year project dedicated to building an all-night outdoor performance gathering. The project includes: making quilts, performance, storytelling, song, and stargazing.

  • Photo Credit: Cameron Wittig
  • Photo Credit: Tracy Rector and Melissa Ponder
    Emily Johnson
  • Emily Johnson- SHORE: Minneapolis (2015): http://vimeo.com/115875336
    SHORE: Minneapolis (2015)
  • Emily Johnson- Niicugni (2012) : http://vimeo.com/71909205
    Niicugni (2012)
  • Emily Johnson- A smile dance for two (2010): http://vimeo.com/16554767
    A smile dance for two (2010)
  • Photo Credit: Ian Douglas
    SHORE in Lenapehoking (NYC, 2015)
  • Photo Credit: Ian Douglas
    SHORE in Lenapehoking (NYC, 2015)
  • Photo Credit: Cameron Wittig
    SHORE (2014)
  • Photo Credit: Ian Douglas
    Niicugni (2012)
  • The Thank-You Bar (2010)
  • Photo Credit: Erin Westover
    SHORE: Minneapolis (2015)
  • Photo Credit: Jonathan Godoy
    Stargazing

What fuels your impulse to make creative work?

I need to connect with people, communities, and place. This is how I start: I dance and make dances because the known and unknown are juicy. I make performance because I like to delve in to what I do not know about the world with my body—the one thing I have known my whole life. Dancing brings my cells simultaneously to the past, present, and future. It’s a shaking up of what I think I know. It’s a transformation. I trust the conscious and subconscious stories in our bodies, in our collective memories. I trust in lifetimes of memories that can be passed from one reality to another. I trust the senses. And it’s all from our BODIES. Our bodies are EVERYTHING. They hold EVERYTHING, and they are also the EVERYTHING, possible. I see dance in our still bodies, in the blood flowing through them. I see dance in the cycle of seasons, in construction outside, people walking, traffic. It’s the conversation between the performances I make and the movement in the world that is exciting to me. How do my performances exist in relation to birds flying by? To the harvest of salmon? In your memory? In the world of the everyday sublime; the boring, normal, or even nasty, evil parts?