Artistic Homelessness

In writing this, I began to consider my time as a dancer in Germany.  I was happy "keeping busy" artistically while in Germany, but after pondering more deeply the idea of "artistic homelessness," I feel even more thankful for my time there.  As a dance teacher and choreographer working traditionally, I am so dependent on outside resources.  To teach and choreograph as I normally have done, I need students, space, dancers, costumes, lighting designers, etc. etc.  I've always envied Scott in that he is never dependent on anything or anyone but himself for his productivity, though he would quickly point out the shortcomings of this approach.

 Now I see that I experienced a kind of artistic homelessness.  Scott and I knew pretty quickly that we would not be in Germany long-term, so the thought of trying to get started as I normally would have never even occurred to me.  The totality of the change of "context" for me gave me the opportunity to flush out/ process many ideas that I've actually had for a long, long time.  Before moving to Germany, I kept busy doing what I was comfortable with and never worked out my frustrations and dilemmas with the concert/ institutional dance world.  

I feel miles away from that world now.  And, since I've realized the benefit of this homelessness I want to remain slow to re-imagine the future.  Since I see our artistic futures dependent upon a collaborative company of artists, the future is even more unpredictable.  I only scraped the surface of what I was thinking and reading about; I just hope that I can continue to press deeper.  I'm excited and ready to get working again - without a roof over my head.

 

Life from Little

Driving around our little town this summer I started to notice the quirkiest little urban gardens.  "Quirky," probably isn't even the right word; these gardens were ugly.  There is nothing idyllic about them at all.  One of them is my dad's who grew tomatoes all summer long in this dry, weed-overrun lot behind his house.  I wish I had taken a picture of it because at one point there was a neighbor's sofa and a kid's pink inflatable pool unceremoniously discarded behind it.  My dad, ever the one for efficiency over beauty, had taken Safeway plastic bags to tie up the vines to the tomato cages.  I saw another such quirky garden planted in the tiny dirt space next to the front door in a large apartment complex.  I don't remember any of the details about this garden except that there was an entire row of corn growing in it!  And our neighboring apartment complex has a little community garden set up behind a row of dumpsters in the parking lot.  

Through the days of feeling sorry for myself this summer because of yet another transition occupying all of my time, these gardens reminded me of how life can happen even in the most inhospitable of environments.

Scattered Crowd

I'm not sure, but I think I remember hearing William Forsythe say in an interview that economic realities at least in part led him to his ideas for Choreographic Objects.  Any institution can commission one of his installations - installations which do not require extensive rehearsal time, dancers' payments or theatre, lighting, sound or travel expenses, etc. Referring back to my post on Miwon Kwon's book, William Forsythe's installations seem to be precisely what Kwon is troubled by.  The installations go up from institution to institution making both them and Forsythe money with seemingly no concern for any enduring relationship to the site or the community.  For me, however, I see Forsythe's installations as a possible answer to Kwon's call for a process of double-mediation.

White Bouncy Castle

This past Saturday we made a trip to Frankfurt to see William Forsythe's choreographic installation, White Bouncy CastleWhite Bouncy Castle is exactly that: a massively over sized white bounce house in the shape of a castle.  This installation is of one of perhaps two dozen "choreographic objects" (his term) that are manifestations of his recent investigation into the idea of choreography as a set of organizing principles that can be detached from the body. His idea is to explore all the possible "sites" of choreographic action and to alter its traditionally ephemeral nature to allow for sustained investigation of these "fixed" principles.  He asks: "Are we perhaps at the point in the evolution of choreography where a distinction between the establishment of its ideas and its traditional forms of enactment must be made? Not out of any dissatisfaction with the tradition, but rather in an effort to alter the temporal condition of the ideas incumbent in the acts, to make the organizing principles visibly persist. Could it be conceivable that the ideas now seen as bound to a sentient expression are indeed able to exist in another durable, intelligible state?"

Scott and I found White Bouncy Castle a very simple yet effective realization of this inquiry.  Its size, its location in a large converted train depot, the theater lights booming in on the "stage," the original score wafting in from overhead speakers and the audience peeking in from the castle's arched doorway helped to transform what could be considered a common children's play place into something more.  According to Forsythe, the choreography that appears is a result of the movements and the "social absurdity" created from the destabilization of the environment.

For me, as someone who has been increasingly disillusioned with traditional choreography and as someone intrigued with the idea of bringing people into a visceral experience, Forsythe's ideas are compelling and worth further investigation.  Very cool that his work is somewhat more accessible to me here in Germany.  (By the way, I think this was our daughter's favorite choreographic work ever.)

 

A Sense of Place

"Errance, desert, exile, the outside.  How can we conquer the loss of ourselves and go to the heart of the anonymous dispersion, indefinite, albeit never negligent, how can we enter into a space without place, in a time without begetting, in 'the proximity of that which flees unity,' in an 'experience of that which is without harmony and without accord?"  

- Peter Pal Pelbart

Over the last few months I have been working through UCLA Art Professor Miwon Kwon's book,  One Place After Another: Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity.  The book takes a historical look at site-specific work from right after the wake of Minimalism in the 1960s to the present day site-oriented art practices.

Conversation Piece

I am half way through a fascinating read: Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art, by Grant Kester.  In the first chapter, "The Eyes of the Vulgar," Kester traces the history of avant-garde art from the particular view point of this tradition's assigning of value to the "intelligibility of the work of art."  He summarizes his thoughts as follows: "Thus we encounter in the modern avant-garde a series of strategies designed to anchor the meaning of the work of art so thoroughly in the recalcitrant individuality of the artist, and to frustrate existing norms and expectations so completely, as to render it utterly unpalatable to the appropriate powers of consumer culture.  The act of semantic resistance gradually becomes an end in itself and one of the defining characteristics of avant-garde art."  His description of the evolution of modern avant-garde art from this perspective is what I found really interesting.  (His point in laying this theoretical framework in this chapter is to later talk about process art as art work that creates a place for "discursive exchange and negotiation.")