Emily Johnson is an artist and writer who makes body-based work. Originally from Alaska, she is currently based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Since 1998 she has created work that considers the experience of sensing and seeing performance. Her dances function as installations, engaging audiences within and through a space and environment—interacting with a place's architecture, history, and role in community. Her work is currently supported by Creative Capital, Map Fund, a Joyce Award, the McKnight Foundation, and The Doris Duke Residency to Build Demand for the Arts. Emily is a current Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Minnesota, a 2014 Fellow at the Robert Rauschenberg Residency, a 2012 Headlands Center for the Arts and MacDowell Artist in Residence, a Native Arts and Cultures Fellow (2011), a MANCC Choreographer Fellow (2009/2010/2012/2014), a MAP Fund Grant recipient (2009/2010/2012/2013), and McKnight Fellow (2009). She received a 2012 New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award for Outstanding Performance for her work, The Thank-you Bar, at New York Live Arts. Her recent work, Niicugni, just finished its US tour to Florida State University/MANCC/Seven Days of Opening Nights, MassMOCA, Coil Festival/PS122/Baryshnikov Arts Center, Redfern Arts Center at Keene State, Arizona State University, Tigertail, Northrop Auditorium, PICA, and Bunnell Street Gallery (AK). Her current work, SHORE - which is equal parts feast, volunteerism, story, and performance - is in development and premieres in June 2014.
Emily grew up in her native Alaska playing basketball and running long distance. At 18 she left rural life, moved to Minneapolis, and quite by accident, learned to become a choreographer and performer. For the past 18 years, city living has swirled around her, dragging her away from the physical space of Alaska and the summer and fall family rituals of hunting and fishing, then smoking, drying, canning and freezing food. She is pulled back when Midwesterners and others her if she lived in an igloo (myth), if she has an Eskimo name (no), and if it is OK to say the word "Eskimo" (rarely). She is of Yup'ik descent, though she does not speak the language – yet. Emotionally, she is tied to the landscape of South Central Alaska where she was born and to the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta where her family is from.
Her work includes commissions by the performance and visual arts departments at the Walker Art Center, PS122, Northrop, Out North, Franconia Sculpture Park, Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, and the McKnight Foundation. Venues that have presented her work include the Walker Art Center, The TBA Festival, ODC Theater, New York Live Arts, DiverseWorks, Northrop Auditorium, The Dance Center at Columbia College, Vermont Performance Lab, PS122, Franconia Sculpture Park, Links Hall, Dance Umbrella, Velocity, and OutNorth. She has toured with Scuba and NPN and self-presented in numerous venues including Dance Theater Workshop, Rogue Buddha Art Gallery in Minneapolis, and The Que'Ana Bar in Clam Gulch, Alaska. She has embarked on performance projects in Montreal and St. Petersburg, Russia and her dance films have screened at the Walker, DTW, Chicago Cultural Center and university film festivals. She is co-curator of THIS IS DISPLACEMENT, a visual art exhibit featuring the work of forty-six artists from nineteen Tribal Nations, which toured from 2009 – 2001. She published an exhibit catalogue of the same name in 2011.
Emily has made large cast dances for public spaces with people of varied genders, ages, cultures and physical abilities. She has collaborated with musicians, visual and video artists, sculptors, writers and geothermal scientists. She takes inspiration from the annual migration of salmon who swim upstream for thousands of miles because they must. She has watched these salmon swim up waterfalls and believes humans are also called to do amazing things. She has been told that she makes dance for "dance-lovers" and for "people-who-generally-don't-like-dance." She would like to think this is true; that her dances are for every body and that maybe they enlighten small aspects of our existence.