THE UN-DOING OF OLD SPACE
In a recent lecture at the Undisciplining Dance Symposium held here in Auckland, André Lepecki
contextualised western dance practices within a larger ominous framework of neo-liberal discipline
and power. Given the state of the world, the intense level of political taming and control of civilian
bodies, and the over-saturation and hyper-visibility of all information, the making of dance and
images becomes problematic, and Lepecki advocates for the necessity for us to take a break
from image-making so that we may re-legislate our lives through our imaginations….
An enormous call, but something that really resonated with me and echoed some of my recent
feelings and intuitions to just stop making stuff. Stuff. Extraneous stuff. To be thrown in with all the
other extraneous stuff out there. Stuff that at the end of the day is perhaps just temporary illusions
and/or fleeting referential images of empowerment and/or exaltations of The Artist to be packaged
and put through the consumerist machine. Is there another, more politically profound way for me to
use my imagination?
In attempting to rock my own art-boat, or perhaps take a closer look at the dark body of sea that
precariously keeps the art-boat afloat, or perhaps to transform the whole boat/sea picture into
something else entirely, I search for a paradigm upheaval - a more radical time-space for my
practice to occupy, in which I might be, as Lepecki puts it, “re-legislated” completely. Somewhere in
which my practices might be able to offer more than just small bursts of staged referential imagery, smoke and mirrors, detached middle-class musings.
MOVING TOWARD RADICAL TIME-SPACE
Moving forward I want my practices to share the same energy that I wish for the world - a warm
and inclusive yet challenging energy-space where difference can flourish and be voiced safely. I
am not at all interested in cold spaces. I am not at all interested in discipline and/or the disciplining
of bodies. I am not at all interested in ignoring people who are different to me. I want to transform
individualist art-making into something more profoundly communal in this overly individualistic
capitalist world. I want all people that I engage with in my art, my classrooms, my life, to be able to
sit comfortably within their own self-determined truths. I want all people to be seen. I want all
bodies to be welcome. I want to be completely open and attune to the rhythms of the relationships
that my practice and my life depend on. I want to sink so deeply into the crevices of those
relationships that I lose my current time-space. I want to dive wholeheartedly into the potentiality of
social-shared- space. I want the relationships to become the artwork.
People of the pacific have spent thousands of years researching ways in which to safely nurture
and tend to relationships, to ensure that we can meet each other safely in our difference. A radical,
politically relevant relational time-space that I am currently embracing for this research is the
Oceanic/Moana Nui notion of Le Vā. I really bloody love this concept. The vā refers to the
relational space between one another, a space of negotiation that must be acknowledged, nurtured
and cared for in order for communities of difference to maintain wellness and harmony.
“Vā is the space between, the betweenness, not empty space, not space that separates but
space that relates, that holds separate entities and things together in the Unity-that- is-All, the space that is context, giving meaning to things. The meanings change as the relationships/the contexts change. A well-known Samoan expression is; 'Ia teu le vā’, cherish/nurse/care for the vā, the relationships. This is crucial in communal cultures that value group unity more than individualism: who perceive the individual person/creature/thing in terms of group, in terms of vā relationships.”
- Wendt, 1996.
The ocean has often been used as a metaphor for the vā space, and I enjoy the description that
artist Pilimilose Manu offers, which was shared to him by his grandmother.
"The Ocean is a metaphor for the Va…the ocean that separates and the ocean that creates; a space which separates islands and creates individuality and creating connections to those islands. The sea reaches out and touches each islands shores, therefore the sea creates a sacred space of connection. So care for the Va; it is what connects each one of us".
- Manu, 2013.
RITUAL TIME-SPACE METHODOLOGY
During my time at the MAP residency, I am interested in developing tools that can be used to
open, activate, heighten, hold and nurture the Vā space between myself and other people that
might engage with this research. Refiti (2009) says that Samoan choreographer Lemi Ponifasio
suggests rituals readily activate this vā opening. To start with, I will develop ritual/ceremonial
practices through experimenting with things such as:
Architecture (how to house the ritual)
Gifting / Manaakitanga
Waiata / Song / Dance / Expression
Writing reflectively and reflexively
DAY 1: SELF-RITUALISING
There is not much space in my life. I move from one thing to the next to the next with not much
time for reflection, processing, preparation. This is the case for most mothers I know, and many
others. This climate is challenging. Today I arrived in the studio late and under-prepared, so I spent
the 1st half of my day trying to ground myself, trying to anchor into this research space, trying to
become clear. I found it really difficult at first, then luxurious, expansive, and almost emotional. Val
smith was online and there with me, offering some gentle and helpful provocations for clarity and
After some “morning pages” writing, and then some faffing and rolling around on the floor to try and get into some bodytime, there was a knock at the door and it was Kristian. I had invited Kristian into the space to come and play. This play turned out to be 3 hours and 3 coffees across the road at Odette’s, connecting deeply about practice, refining both of our current interests and ideas, laughing, re-opening the idiosyncratic space that we share, ritualising our relationship with hot drinks. This was valuable research.
Among much depth and detail, this ritual offered back some potent simplicity. Kristian asked me:
What are you actually doing?
Who are your rituals/ceremonies for?
Where have the people come from?
Consider the prior set up?
Kristian walked me back over to the studios and then departed on his scooter. I entered the studio
with a different energy. I tried to make the room as dark as possible. It was time to open up sacred
space, to have a ceremony of 1.
I anointed myself with oil to mark the occasion through scent.
I brought more consciousness to the space through karakia.
I welcomed my ancestors into the room through the placement of a photo of my grandmother in the space.
I took the talking stick and spoke, addressing how I was feeling, then I closed with karakia:
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