I first met Olivia when she was just a freshman in college. In the past 4ish years, I have watched her artistry blossom, and it has been a beautiful process to witness. I have yet to encounter anyone who believes that she is still in college, and I could not possibly be more thrilled that she agreed to be a part of ...that's what she said this year, thereby allowing me to truly pull out the intergenerational nature of the project in addition to adding a really valid and eloquent voice to the mix of artists. Olivia is so multidimensional both as a human and as an artist. This interview only gives the slightest peak into the Olivia that I am lucky to know - so read it, but then make sure you come to the show and buy her a drink afterward. She is undoubtedly one of the most interesting people you could chat over wine with.
UNEARTHING THE MULTIFACETED IDENTITY OF: OLIVIA BLAISDELL
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN CREATING WORK, AND IN WHAT CONTEXT?
In terms of dance, I first choreographed in my senior year of high school (2016) and have continued to make work for Boston University’s Dance Theatre Group for the past two years. In terms of photography, I have been an amateur photographer my whole life, but really started getting serious in 2016.
WHAT TENDS TO BE YOUR INSPIRATION OR CATALYST FOR CREATION?
I’ve noticed that my greatest inspirations stem from real life situations and experiences - things that have happened to me, or have happened to my friends, or have happened to everyone. For example, I have made dances about playing the Wii video game, about being the only gay person at cotillion, and about how people sit a foot away from you on an empty beach.
WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP TO THE BOSTON DANCE COMMUNITY? WHAT DO YOU SEE AS STRENGTHS OR WEAKNESSES FOR THE COMMUNITY?
I have been a part of the Boston dance community since January 2017. My photography started to become known around then, and I also joined Kairos Dance Theater. The Boston dance community is small. Everyone knows each other and it is easy to learn what performances and projects are happening. But, being a photographer, I have noticed there is a lack of attendance and physical support at performances. It seems that there are smaller sub-groups in the larger dance community and these sub-groups support the companies in that smaller group. However, in the future I would like to see some of these boundaries dissolve. I feel apart of the community as a photographer, but not as a dancer.
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR COMMUNITY?
I consider my community to be my closest friends. My closest friends come from Dance Theatre Group, from people in the Boston dance community, from high school, and from academic classes.
YOUR PIECE FOR TWSS IS ABOUT IDENTITY. HOW HAVE YOU CHOSEN TO APPROACH THIS TOPIC?
Identity has been a huge, general topic that many of my pieces have addressed. I have grown frustrated trying to belong to a community that I feel doesn’t/won’t accept me. Maybe due to anxiety? But also where does this anxiety stem from? I created a piece about making your own Mii on the Wii game console a year ago and wanted to continue the project, but with the Sims video game. I always found something so creepy and fun about being able to create lives for these fake characters and illustrating a life with no consequences.
YOU HAVE PARTICIPATED IN TWSS IN A NUMBER OF WAYS OVER THE YEARS: AS A DANCER IN THE FIRST SEASON, RESIDENT PHOTOGRAPHER BEGINNING IN THE SECOND SEASON, AND NOW AS A CHOREOGRAPHER AND DANCER IN THE THIRD SEASON. WHAT GROWTH HAVE YOU NOTICED IN THE PROJECT OVER TIME? HOW MMIGHT YOU DESCRIBE YOUR EXPERIENCE OF THE PROJECT, GIVEN HOW MANY LENSES YOU'VE BEEN ABLE TO VIEW IT FROM?
I have noticed a change in the ~vibe~ of the project over time. The first season really emphasized diverse identities and backgrounds, the second season included many different genres of dance, and the third season is a glimpse into a world of really powerful women. Through this, I see a progression of you, Kristin. It might be the “fuck grants” attitude, but it seems that you have really found a community that supports you, and it doesn’t matter who the fuck cares.
WHAT HAS BEEN MOST GRATIFYING ABOUT THIS CURRENT SEASON OF TWSS?
Maybe I am biased because I am a choreographer, but getting to know the other choreographers and feeling that I am a part of an awesome group feels perfect. Additionally, I get to choreograph on some super talented, kind friends.
WHAT OTHER OPPORTUNITIES HAVE YOU BEEN EXPLORING IN BOSTON?
I have been granted more opportunities to photograph Boston dance performances which has allowed me to grow as an artist. I have also dipped my foot in photographing pole dance which will hopefully allow me to immerse myself in this community as a photographer and pole dancer.
WHERE CAN WE LEARN MORE ABOUT YOU AND YOUR WORK? WHAT'S NEXT?
My website is www.halfasianlens.com, but I tend to keep my Instagram more up to date (@halfasianlens).
WHAT SUPPORT DO YOU NEED MOST IN ORDER TO CONTINUE TO GROW AS AN ARTIST?
I mean obviously monetary support is awesome, especially because I graduate from college this year and have no idea what I am going to do. BUT most importantly, I need encouragement and validity from my community.
ARTISTS LIKE OLIVIA AND PROJECTS LIKE "...THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID" ARE IMPOSSIBLE TO SUPPORT WITHOUT THE FINANCIAL GENEROSITY OF INDIVIDUALS LIKE YOU. PLEASE CONSIDER MAKING A DONATION OF $5-$500 BY FEBRUARY 21 TO KEEP CREATIVITY THRIVING IN THE CITY OF BOSTON.
WRITTEN BY: KRISTIN WAGNER
Published February 10, 2020
Photos by Kristin Wagner (deeply edited by Olivia Blaisdell herself!)
This blog contains contributions from several women with who we are grateful to work. Head over to our TEAM page to learn more about who we are; scan our archives to learn more about what we think.
Top Cover Photo: "shell" by I.J. Chan, Image by Haley Abram Photography