I’ll start off by ending the cliff-hanger on the critiques from last week! I’m writing from my workbook notes and memory; so apologies if everything’s not spot on. Each performer came away with notes written from the discussions had after their piece.
The pieces were all like doodles, drawings and works in progress as opposed to finished works.
It was a really useful exercise for me - seeing how other people related to and discussed the movements.
I hope that Julia, Jenny and Phebe got something out of it too!
Come up with a short action or series of movements or dance incorporating one or several balloons. It can be up to 5mins long.
You can inflate, pop, deflate, fill or interact with them any way that you want.
It can be sad, happy, funny, odd, scientific… your choice.
Present it to the group and discuss in critique format.
Key words: describe, analyse and interpret
One person (not in the group being critiqued) will take notes for each critique.
The producers talk about the work addressing the following questions:
- what made you choose these materials and moves?
- did you have a desired effect/were you aiming to explore something in particular?
- were there any references to existing works/ideas/philosophies or things in real life (ie: clowns, nihilism, movies)
- what did you think was successful?
The group will take turns speaking in a circle, talking about what they took away from the work.
Everyone must say something. No value judgements, all observation and interpretation.
The group will further analyse the work, adding their own interpretations and giving constructive criticism or ideas for further developments or alternative readings.
- positive comments and constructive criticism are encouraged
- what do you think this is about or what mood is being put across by this work?
- does it remind you of anything you have experienced? Ie: analogy/metaphor
- ask questions of the maker, be open to discussion and small tangents
- Possible interpretations? Connections?
- What formal principles are engaged by the work ie: timing, drama, contrast, rhythm, balance, spatial concerns, repetition, harmony
Julia began her drawing by gathering a herd of balloons - about 20 of them - into a group in front of her. She began at the end of the space, butted against the far wall of the performance space.
At first she lay on the floor behind them, doing quiet roly-poly’s slowly towards the audience - she’d pause to gather any balloon escapees with an outstretched foot or arm, regrouping and then coming closer like an mist of optimism or a terrible attempt at camouflaged sneak attack on the audience.
It was quite uncanny how the height of the balloons at times completely hid her form behind them.
As Julia got to the middle of the room, she changed tack. Standing in a low stance and seeming to pet the balloons, she coaxed them back into the group as they caught air currents and attempted to billow away in different directions. Her gentle taps and the stretching a pulling of her body in opposing directions conveyed a sense of emotional labour in my mind.
The closer Julia got, the more chaotic and desperate her movements became. There was a tragic/comic desperation in her movements as she tried to ferret the balloons beneath her body - like a squirrel storing nuts. Contrasting with her graceful, slow movements from earlier these ones became clumsy and jagged; there was no sense of premeditation in them. It became simultaneously a space of amped up tension and a releasing of tension in the looseness of the movements.
With her body pressure bearing down on them, some of the balloons flicked out from under Julia - scudding along the floor and out of her reach. A sense of resignation from her came across as the first balloon became too far gone to recollect. The audience shared a sense of empathy for her - each of us tried to push balloons back to within Julia’s reach.
At the close of her piece, Julia clambered with her feet atop a balloon, hands balancing her on the floor and head down. There was an impressive amount of give in the balloon - the pop coming at an unexpected moment, despite us all holding our breaths in anticipation.
The work made me think of the pressure that we are under the futility of the effort to ‘have it all’. to achieve and manage the multiple elements - both mundane and magical - that make up every day life.
It was generally agreed upon that it made us all think about herding cats! Or multitasking and trying to do too much.
Phebe’s work incorporated a small bunch of balloons - all inflated to different sizes. Gripping them gently in one hand above her head, she began inflating and deflating one pursed in her lips.
Her movements travelled on a vertical scale - mimicking the balloon as it was filled or emptied of air. The controlled yet gentle gracefulness in her movements reflected the lightness and stretch in the materials and played on that embedded cultural memory of balloons as being something that rise and fall; helium-filled or no.
A range of floor work was involved and she dutifully played with each balloon in order of scale. Phebe seemed to maintain a set rule about keeping the bouncing balloon above her head, which I quite liked.
Once the final balloon was inflated, Phebe sat on the ground in a small nest of balloons to tie the final knot. Gravity kept the objects in place while she seemed to examine, cradle and affectionately ‘boop’ each balloon above her head.
Seeing the balloon bopping above her head made me think of thought bubbles - an idea being mulled over, teased out and growing.
The repetition and measured aspects of her piece contrasted with the playfulness of the material. Her work was contemplative and playful, with a slightly meditative feel to it.
Jenny bravely went first, settling herself amongst a flotilla of already inflated balloons.
She began by stretching her face, pulling at her cheeks in the same way that one stretches out a balloon before inflating it. This worked to highlight the similarities between the foreign material and the human body.
She inflated a balloon, then allowed it to deflate - she repeated this action several times. The sound was a key element of Jenny’s performance. The back draft of the performers breath racing past her face and rustling her hair. It made me think of bodily pressure, air pressure and the value of breath.
Jenny toyed with 4 uninflated balloons for several minutes. She stretched them to sit over her finger tips and make grotesque, bulbous fingertips which she splayed and tapped on the floor. The hollow floppy noises emanating from them were comical and slightly unnerving.
In an interesting and unexpected development, Jenny incorporated a pen into the performance, using it to create a pin hole in the sphincter of the balloon - allowing a controlled deflation of sorts. After a couple of attempts - the first two popped - she managed to wriggle her fingers into the partially inflated balloons and repeat the finger-tip tapping from earlier.
Her actions were exploratory and determined. There was a palpable sense of frustration when the materials didn’t behave as intended - two balloons popping in her efforts to make finger sized entry points. She seemed well in control of her facial expressions - a quizzical expression remained fixed across her tilted head as she went through the actions.
Once she had released her fingers from their bulbous yellow sheaths, Jenny went about re-inflating one of them using the new entry point. The impossibility of each task tied nicely into some of our prior discussions of failure and the setting of impossible tasks for ones self.
Jenny’s use of the balloons like bodily extensions or adornments made me think about jewellery and its relationship as a performative object.
Jewellery/props as performance
Uncannily tying into this thought-strand, I stopped in at The National on Wednesday and had a really good conversation with Caroline about balloons, jewellery and performance.
I had this picture in my head of the way that some contemporary jewellery (for example work by Lisa Walker) is almost unwearable, and one needs to alter the way you move your body and interact with space to wear it. The object becomes an extension of self and seems to take on a life of its own or effect the way you hold yourself.
I first met Caroline while she was running Host A Brooch - a fantastic project that changed the way I understood contemporary jewellery.
I feel as though people in the dance community would be able to wrap their heads around this a tad easier than most.
There are some really interesting relationships set up between art/music/jewellery/performance. An example that Caroline put me onto is Lisa Walker’s collaboration with Chicks on Speed at City Gallery in Wellington 2013 - check it out for badass babes and jewellery/installation mash ups.
I am keen next week to incorporate a sausage-string of balloons like a necklace-cum-body-extension and see how it effects my strategies of self and movement….
Curating Under Pressure
This week, I have spent a couple of days (with another one to go) at the Curating Under Pressure symposium - an international meeting of curators, writers, artists and enablers to discuss the practicalities, problems and philosophies about curating art in post-disaster scenarios.
There’s been a lot of talks, panel discussions and group thinking. It’s been intensely engaging, but also quite emotionally heavy - dredging up past experiences of the last 5 years and examining them in a public context.
I feel that curating and choreographing are similar practices. They’re both about enabling, arranging and encouraging conversation between (literal or figurative) bodies of work.
I was intrigued by the intuitive and bodily response I had to Tim Veling’s series of photos Support Structures which is on show at the School of Fine Arts Gallery at Ilam currently.
It put me in mind of VALIE EXPORT’s series Body Configurations 1976.
Her inserting of her body alongside architectural structures in an absurd yet poetic exploration of how the personal fits into the ideological and socio-political landscape.
As a side project I wonder if I could re-perform them in sites around the city - giving a ChCh perspective by using sites that are ones of conflict (the town hall, road cones, around the STILL existing fence on High St with the messages of protest on them…). It might be a little late; though I do think that a continued engagement with the cityscape as a political site is important.
Perhaps I’ll hope for fine weather and a helpful photographer minion for a few hours next week!
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