Thursday, May 14, 2009

I'm now a few months into twice-weekly rehearsals with Linda Austin, building material for our movement/sound/video performance, along with the dancers Anne Furfey, Rebecca Harrison, Kajanne Pepper and Lucy Yim. This is the first time I've started a dance/sound collaboration from the very beginning and it's been fascinating to observe processes for constructing. Linda uses a number of methods for improvising, gathering and remembering sequences, utilizing a combination of technical means (video-taping and re-watching) along with individual and group memory. It's been a tangible luxury to develop all the components of the piece simultaneously and interdependently.

I've been recognizing the importance, in various creative ventures, of just "getting something out there". I've never been one to plan something and then attempt to match reality with that already complete mental conception. The movement towards action begins with an impulse, an image, a dynamic, etc. This impulse is the trigger for improvisation which places something before our senses - a thing which can be examined, revised, tweaked and adjusted. Within performance practice, there's the interesting opportunity to incorporating the filters of each participant. For example, Linda might perform an improvisation, instructing the dancers to "catch" movements and to assemble them into a phrase. We watch each of these phrases as solos and as a quartet, begin working with the quartet, making changes in timing and moving towards ever finer adjustments. Within an hour, we have several minutes of new material to expand, shelve or discard...
I'm interested in producing video material in a similar way, through group improvisation and play - within situational contexts rather than strictly movement-based concerns. Working with a set of materials and methods, unpredictable things may happen, and I can videotape continuously. Combing through this stockpile of material, I can select images or sequences which have strength, and refine the procedures for another session of taping.

Since I've been painting again, these procedures for "getting things out there" seem not so different from approaching a blank canvas, making a gesture, observing, reacting, making another gesture, obscuring, erasing. I suppose it's all very old-fashioned. This approach has its dangers for me as well, largely the problem of becoming attached to material just because it has been externalized, diminishing the possibility of change. There is an addictive freshness to the blank canvas, the equal possibility of all options. The rupture of the first mark which immediately begins to close off or determine future gestures.
As I was yielding the brush yesterday, I was listening to an interview on NPR about O.C.D. behavior, a disorder which makes extreme this fear of the determining consequences of action. A man who was literally paralyzed by the fear of "something bad" which might happen as a result of his actions. But of course, even non-action is an action... Putting material into the world requires a certain fearlessness, combined with clear observation and a willingness to change at any point.

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