ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Noelle Marie
Noelle Marie is a creative and academic that has centered her life around the intersection of narrative and performative praxis with cultural theory. Most interested in re-memory, indigenization, and intergenerational language, she pursues storytelling through fictive writing and movement artistry. She uses these dual forms to better understand the diasporic, post-colonized life, and how it has affected her as a Filipina American.
Noelle is intensely focused on the value of historical selves and all the ways in which the intersection of history and the present collide to inform and mold who we are. It is important; however, to note how this has not always been the case. She wasn’t always invested in her identity as a Filipina. Further, she not only did not care for any bridging back, but she held a repulsion toward the fostering of any sort of community within the Philippine diaspora scattered throughout the U.S.
To be fair, she did not grow up with Filipinos. Jumping between South Central and the High Desert of Southern California, she spent most of her young years in predominant Black and Latino communities. She never realized how this environment would come to influence her until she took the time to sit deeply with her upbringing and consider the ways those formative years informed her.
For a very long time, she had been a competitive street dancer. She started as a Krumper in intermediate school then shifted over to Locking and Hip Hop during her early college years before finally settling into Waacking and Punking as her primary styles. Then, when she made a shift toward the academic and literary arts, she found her work stilted by a roadblock. The problem, she soon discovered, was this: for much of her life, she identified as a minority in America. This identity was apparent (she now realized) in her dancing as a vehicle to belong and in all of her academic and literary work, all of which consistently took place in urban environments and hosted a cast of ambiguous brown and black characters. She never fully formed these characters, which is to say, in many ways, she made caricatures by refusing to solidify identities for them. This was because many of her characters reflected the faces and personalities of the people she had watched all around her growing up. None of them, however, matched her.
As she looks back at this in hindsight, it is incredible to fathom the self-erasure at work. Even in her imagination, her own reflection was never considered worthy of a primary spotlight position, no matter if the work were fantastical or fictional. Noelle then departed on a journey to reclaim that sense of self, working heavily through the ruminations required to parse through one’s many layers of identity. She began writing short pieces of prose with the pointed intention to focus on Filipino-American identity. Those shorts then became short stories, then long form short stories, to a novel (of which she’s been crafting for nearly five years now and has awarded her multiple fellowships and residencies) covering the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines during WWII. While she works on this novel, she’s finally departed enough to claim the right to produce work that isn’t pointedly on the post-colonial existence, work that isn’t trying to educate its audience of historical value and cultural authenticity. She’s also working on a novella of abstract prose and has begun her first plunge into directorial work as the founder of Gunita Collective.
Through this collective, Noelle hopes to continue the process of heuristic study, inviting a diverse range of artists to come in and consider the journey, the process in discovering and conversing with self, the process toward finding home, the process of reclaiming one’s identity. She aims to continue to partner with various artists and collectives, and aims to eventually travel with the collective, gaining experiences by the diverse interaction of many, all scattered throughout the diaspora.