GROWTH / DEPTH / FOCUS IN A LIGHT SPACE OF PLAY
I am really enjoying the experience of the focus closing in, going deeper into one or two things as
the research organically emerges from a spiralling investigation. It is becoming apparent to me
how powerful it is to not have the pressures of making a razzle-dazzle show coming down on the
sense of play that is flourishing. It feels as though the making space is expansive and wide and
that the research can go wherever the fuck it wants to in the time that it wants to take.
In chats with Alys Longley I have been reminded of the idea that your tools become your work and
your work becomes your tools. I’m experiencing a desire to get really clear about the things that I
am working with, to be continuously questioning my relationship to those things, why it is that I
make the choice to bring certain things into the making space and to be refining those materials
more and more as the research calls for them to serve purpose deeply and clearly. I am also
working on my capacity to totally ditch something if it sux.
I get excited about the ever-growing mind map in this regard, a tool that I’m developing from a
realisation that my journal was doing nothing for my non-linear thought patterns. The journal has
got to be the most prescribed tool for a researching artist. Every artist I know writes their ideas in a
journal, it’s a totally embedded assumption that the journal should be the first landing point for
ideas. It is written into course outline assessments across all arts institutions in New Zealand and I
am questioning how damaging it might be for those whose thoughts tend to splatter, fragment,
refract, reflect, weave, spiral, float, collide, wind, re-wind, re-visit, re-present.
In response to last week’s challenge of finding it difficult to work creatively in the space, I have
been thinking about ways to close space down, create intimacy and give more darkness. I made a
few shapes and configurations with confetti, in an attempt to define space, close in, become
smaller. It was pretty but didn’t really work for me and I ended up avoiding it all day! I’m definitely
interested in the confetti as a material though, because it’s fun and is a signifier for partying and
celebration, and therefore may have the potential to take the heaviness and seriousness out of
I also attempted to make a hut out of chairs and the yellow fabric that I found in my car, in the hope that I would feel more comfortable while recording my “speaking in Sacredspace” at the end of the day. I’m thinking about how to create space that feels intimate and safe. It was an epic fail though, a super lame attempt, totally uncomfortable, the colour was far too light and there just wasn’t enough fabric to work with. Still really keen on hut-making though, so will continue to refine this task.
Water is becoming endlessly interesting as the lens closes in to a micro-focus. It has a presence at both philosophical and methodological levels. It is a metaphor to be inspired by (a philosophy unto itself), as well as a material to play with. My friend Emily came into the studio today and before we got working we had a lengthy discussion about her personal history with water rituals and how it is that this history might interface with the work. Due to her Catholic upbringing, Emily had much to offer in this regard, and we had much discussion around the idea of water being able to remember and hold the energy of that which it comes into contact with. She brought my attention to transubstantiation and various water rituals such as Palm Sunday and the washing of the feet.
We decided to have a play with the idea of TOUTOU, a Māori term referring to the frequent dipping of something into water or liquid. I filled up a large bucket of water and asked Emily to submerge her head into the bucket repeatedly and evenly for a time. My interest in this was twofold and tied into the idea of relationality as opposed to judging the task or measuring its validity as a watchable performance:
What might this experience be like for Emily as she builds a relationship with the water over time?
What might this be like to witness as I build my relationship with Emily and her experience of completing this task over time?
As I observed Emily go through the experience of repetitive head-dunking and tried to connect with her as a friend and not a tool without life force, the most powerful thing emerging for me was watching her adjust to the task as her relationship with the water settled. I was watching her conquer something. Initially her breathing was uneven, her body energy was cautious and her face had this beautiful expression of uncertainty as it coped with the sensations of the water. I loved this state of uncertainty so much and found such beauty in seeing Emily in this vulnerable open state. As time progressed her breathing settled into a consistent rhythmic pattern and her energy felt strong and empowered, in turn resulting in the witnessing experience becoming calming and meditative. The bubbling sound of the water made as Emily breathed out was also a really great point of interest.
After completing the task, I asked Emily to speak as freely as possible about the experience:
To begin with it was uncomfortable as my face went in for the first time, losing my senses, sight going, and water filling my ears.
It was disorienting and gave me a sense of nothingness.
Then it started to take me back to memories of water, I thought about summer and swimming.
There’s an image of my competitive swimming days of cap and goggles.
Also lots of memories about having to tape my ear up every time I bathed and swam as a child due to a hole in my ear drum.
Relaxation, focusing on breath, relaxing ritualistically.
Don’t panic, don’t stress.
Finding when to breathe.
Isolated, a feeling of being alone, which is to do with the loss of senses.
Feeling cleansed, re-set, re-awaken.
Before Emily had to leave we tried a HAURAHI exercise, or DEW. I asked her to lie down comfortably on the floor with a towel over her eyes so that she couldn't see as I sprayed light mists of water onto her skin. While I did so, I asked her to speak freely about the sensation of the spritzing. As time moved on the exercise somehow became the starting point for a much deeper conversation around art-making and practice for Emily, and where her thoughts and emotions are currently sitting with the idea of making public work. I found her sharing to be a really interesting insight into how some recent dance graduates and emerging artists may be feeling about the industry they are expected to engage with.
In this instance, the sensation of dew had become an opening for voicing a concern and I’m now interested in exploring more deeply the relationship between sensation and conversation. The dew had become the talking stick and essentially Emily was now speaking in Sacredspace. How might I work with the senses more to encourage freely-moving dialogue….
GENERAL NOTES OF REFLECTION:
Sitting in the vulnerability of the research being transparent and exposed to community at the earliest stages of investigation is becoming empowering and fruitful both for personal growth and for the growth of the work. I have nothing to prove.
Tasks are becoming more and more interesting for their capacity to offer an experience for the doer. I am training myself into how to observe a task as an experience rather than for its potentiality as a performance.
The holistic relationships between all things in the making space, the spiritual and material space between things, continues to be of interest. Connection is at the core of this work.
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