Monday, March 17, 2008

Flock & Tumble - Screens and bodies

A large performance event, Flock & Tumble is scheduled for the first weekend in November at AudioCinema (226 Se Madison St in Portland). A large, empty warehouse, 12 sound-makers (performers), 4 channels of pre-recorded sound, 4 video projections of the dancers Linda Austin, Wooly Mammoth and others, with clothes by Diana Lang. At this point, I am working with 5 sections - an opening "tumble", three "flock" sections ("Flock", "Swarm" and "Torus") and a closing "tumble". Loosely speaking, (that is, as far as I know) a tumble consists of actions which are passed sequentially from one performer to another, while the flocks use rules of behavior taken from animals (birds, insects and fish) to create clusters of activity. The dancers perform only in screenal space - projected onto the walls.

What does it mean to dance on a screen? Why are the dancers in this piece separated from the activities in “real time”? Perhaps simply to create this space for “unreal time”. I have been interested in the possibility of simultaneous frames which “open up” the edges of actual space into alternate ones. With the emphasis on the plural. These are not spaces to lose the sense of the body (as in the typical cinematic experience of "suspension of disbelief” - though these videos will clearly draw on filmic inspirations. I have been noticing the movement of bodies in films which exist on (or across) the edges of “realism” - the carefully choreographed actions in Bresson’s prime output. The way sitting down, turning the head, placing a hand on a bench can be both completely normal and totally stylized. He achieved this hyper-awareness by filming many, many takes of the same seemingly unimportant movement. On the 40th take, the actor finally reaches an appropriate level of automatism. “Don’t we complete most of our actions in a kind of automatism?” he asks.

Another very different film has informed my thoughts - a Japanese yakuza flick called “Branded to Kill” which takes the stylized choreography of genre-specific conventions - the gunfight, the chase scene, the violent death - and twists them into dance. Falling back into a spinning office chair, the wounded man spins around not once but three times, calling attention to the falseness of the entire construct. Calling attention to the beauty of pure movement which fights against the story while furthering it. There’s something about this fighting and flowing which can exist together. Maybe we can call it “Suspension of belief”...

Bodies will be multiplied by four, though not mirrored. Staggered flashes. Where does the individual movement exist in this multiplicity? How does the body contribute to the larger pattern? How does the repetition of movement create sequential pattern? These are questions I leave to the dancers, as authorities on the subject. Perhaps it can spark a conversation. I would like that.

Music has been underway since December, though I have to imagine much of the final result. In combining live activity with recorded sound, I want these elements to coexist, sharing space. I imagine voice to be a primary tool of the performers, while the recorded compositions are "instrumental" for now (concrete and electronic sounds).

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