Deer Dancer Talk by Hanna Tuulikki

Join Edinburgh Printmakers for a special artist talk by Hanna Tuulikki. The event will explore the ideas and inspiration behind Deer Dancer, a major solo exhibition commissioned by EP. Tuulikki will speak about her research into dances from around the world and their relationship to various ecologies, from the Caledonian pinewoods of Scotland and the royal deer forests of the British Isles, to the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and Mexico. Discussing her process, she will share aspects of her multifaceted practice, focusing on her collaborations with traditon-bearers, academics, makers and performers.


Deer Dancer investigates the mimesis of deer, specifically representations within dance from across cultures. The work examines how the imitation of deer behaviour constructs 'wilderness' as the site for the cultivation of hetero-masculinity in 'gender performance' and how hunting mythologies shape and impact real ecologies. Exploring these interconnections, Deer Dancer is described as “an explicit, contemporary, life-crisis ritual for a damaged planet.”

Please note this event is free but ticketed. You can book your place here.

Edinburgh Printmakers
Castle Mills, 1 Dundee Street 

19 September 2019
6-7pm, Free Event.

About Deer Dancer


Deer Dancer explores how the imitation of deer behaviour constructs 'wilderness' as the site for the cultivation of hetero-masculinity in 'gender performance' and how hunting mythologies shape and impact real ecologies. Having premiered at Edinburgh Art Festival 2019, Deer Dancer was initially be realised as a two-channel film and sound installation featuring music and costumed choreography, alongside a series of visual score print works. In 2020/2021, it will be developed for live performance.

The project has grown out of a period of research into three traditional dances, their ecological roots and associated mytho-poetic and cultural contexts: the Deer Dance of the indigenous Yaqui of Sonora, Mexico, and their Pascua Yaqui descendants in Arizona, USA; the Highland Fling of the Scottish Highlands; and the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance of Staffordshire, England. This has been further informed by experiential research into hunting practices – deer stalking and animal tracking – and by direct observation of deer in their habitat. Additionally, the archaeological discovery at Star Carr – a Mesolithic site in North Yorkshire – of a number of red deer frontlets worn as ritual headdresses, offers an interesting prehistoric parallel to these dances practiced today.


As traces of hunting rites, how are these dances to be understood within a contemporary context? How does the mimesis of male deer behaviours, from the capering of the fawn, to the bravado, display and aggression of the rutting stag, inform a 'performance' of masculinity by male dancers? What are the implications of these gendered performances in society today? Exploring the tacit and cultural knowledge embodied in the dances, Tuulikki has created a suite of visual scores – innovative debossed prints that track the dance steps, replacing human foot-prints with deer hoof-prints.


Dissolving human:animal binaries, this blend of dance notation with animal tracks forms the basis of a choreography that features within a two channel film. At the heart of the performance is an assemblage of five hydrid, stag-men characters: theMonarch, Warrior, Young Buck, Fool, and Old Sage.

Filmed in a black box theatre space, each character is performed by Tuulikki and soundtracked by a layered vocal composition. Cross cutting between two screens, intricate costumes and props appear piece by piece on Tuulikki's body, constructing each character. We then encounter the five stag-men in an imaginarywilderness world: the monarch asserts his dominance, bellowing and displaying; the warrior, highly alert, tracks and hunts, defending himself on attack; the young buck, lustful, cocksure and trigger-happy, challenges anyone in his close proximity; the conflicted fool wrestles with his hobby stag which appears to push and pull him into battle; and, the old sage, a ghost, relives his life as a forester, attending to the trees.


One by one they take a bow and the deer dance commences. With movements that signify both the deer rut and a pre-hunt ritual, the stag-men face one another, performing their dance, drawing their weapons. In a perpetual loop of learned behaviour and appropriation, the stag-men are condemned to self-destruct. Exploring the interconnections between the crisis of masculinity and the crisis of ecology, Deer Dancer is an explicit contemporary life-crisis ritual for a damaged planet.