I initiated my research by questioning the relationship between space and affect: How do I affect space, and how does it affect me? This porousness between self and space led to an understanding that the body is not contained, and neither is an identity, but both are somewhat ‘spongy’ in their interaction with various agents, whether these agents are identifiable or not. I defined space and ‘something to be entered’, and considered three categories for exploration: personal, collective, and virtual space.
I positioned my improvisation practice at the centre of this exploration. I started with personal space, and upheld the principle of working ‘immanently’, whereby the material and content would be emergent, or of the process and its natural modes of becoming. The content was discoverable through its own generative process of improvisation of attuning to the present moment. For me, this disconnects the emergent content from the ambition of the ego, and a conscious mode of creativity. What I’m more interested in the HOW of creation itself. What influences each movement, each choice, and a way of being within the world of the work?
I started with attempting to ‘enter’ personal space. How? How can you enter yourself? I used my meditation/improvisation practice from first year on ‘emptying perception and activating projection’. The emptying process is an attempt to physically ‘leave your familiar perception’ through duration, exhaustion, and dismantling habit. The residual projection is what shoots out from some other consideration of the body and the imagination: to project from the unconscious, or as close to it as possible.
What was the dance telling me about inner desires, influences, and absorbed affects of personal history, and cultural conditioning?
To answer this, or get a bit closer, I had to find a way of capturing this stuff I was projecting all over the studio – this ephemeral material. Aligning with the current space of my culture, I decided to make a selfie. The character captured in this selfie was not ‘me’ in a sense of how I box in my identity, but she is a character composed of the unconscious detritus that lies dormant to my faculties of attention. She is intrinsically tied to the affects of space, including virtual space, and her online behavior, her camera work, and her audio recordings capture something of her essence. Her and I spoke to each other through the intermediary of technology.
We used a camera.
We used an audio recorder.
We used a laptop.
SCHPANDO was born.
I let her loose for a while, and tried not to subject her to judgement or analysis. Her parts were a composition of character traits both invented, exhumed, and historical.
She is a REpresentation of self, she is total reflexivity, and she is very attuned to affect, following it like a pen mark.
My practice as the performer became allowing this unconscious stuff to be witnessed. Practicing the razor’s edge between internal attention and projected performance. Once you try to access the subconscious you’re already stepping into consciousness. How could I just be in the work, and let it be seen? For me it came down to holding the space of attention with a ‘framework’ of moving and identifying the present moment. Of moving and talking. Of pointing towards a vanishing gesture with a word, and vice versa, as soon as they emerged and just before they dissolved. This practice was a distraction that consumed my entire focus, and mentality, so getting good at it was the only thing the allowed me to do it in performance, and with witnesses. I failed, and failed often.
I knew what I was trying to do: let the space affect me, as I affect it, and observe it.
I made these two videos. They are emergences of SCHPANDO. They revealed to me some of her characteristics, some of her words, and her way of pushing through my mind and body.
I attempted editing as a choreographic consideration in how to combine video clips, audio bites, and their sequence in time.
For my presentation at the Winter Residency, I let the moving and talking inform moving and typing, in a stream of text projected onto a screen. I used this technique to communicate the content of my presentation, and develop a single choreographic directive: a 1-2 sentence directive that provided a movement container for improvisation. A point of departure. A catapult for the body.
In New York the directive was: Up to go Down, Down to go Up. Here is some video evidence of working with this directive:
At the Winter Residency I performed to a soundtrack of my own voice: thoughts from a previous movement meditation, a historical soundtrack, and the voice of SCHPANDO (the manifestation of an escaping thought). Here I am working with the overdub in-studio, which culminated in the piece This Desiring Pony. I am listening to this past voice, while participating in a present movement, and noticing the dissonance between the two. Noticing yourself, as you notice yourself.
This voice, and these text directives, informed how I would bring the work into collaboration with other artists. I made an exhibition called SPACEBODIES which included This Desiring Pony, and the work of other Transart students, faculty, and alumni dealing with space as an immaterial force. The trial run took place at the Judson Gym in New York on Sunday, January 10th, 2016, and will happen again with the addition of new artists for the Triennale on August 6th, 2016 at Uferstudios.
My exploration of the voice, the audio guide, and the choreographic directive led me to completing and presenting a trio I began last year called Rafters. It included two collaborators, Alicia Grant and Julia Male, who I worked with extensively in first year, sharing a mode of working with structured improvisation. Here’s the video:
After the New York residency, my advisors challenged me with two things:
1) Can you talk and dance at the same time?
2) In the writing and MFA context of your work, how can you incorporate academic research?
The answer to 1) is YES, but I hadn’t let anyone watch me do it, I’d only used audio recordings
The answer to 2) is: PREPARATION. What am I filling my head with to affect my movements and thought space? What texts am I reading just before I engage in my practice? Can this way of preparing produce an atmosphere that affects the outcome? I think yes.
So I tried talking, dancing, and academic preparation for work-in-progress showings in Toronto on February 26-28, 2016. I structured the performance in the following way: read a text related to my research, initiate my practice of talking and moving with the audio recorder on for 10 minutes, when the timer goes off declare a one sentence choreographic directive, give the audio recorder to the technician and have them play it back (in an empty room while I changed into SCHPANDO), re-enter the space as SCHPANDO, listen and activate the movement directive until the recording ends.
This took away my ability to edit the audio material before dancing to it. Instead, the work was in the preparing and the doing. The live practice itself, in relation to others, and in relation to the live witness. The space we produced collectively, became an active participant/ agent in determining the content of the performance.
I continued deploying this live-ness to moving, thinking, and writing to produce my thesis paper. The draft was an impossibly long diatribe. How could I edit the thing?
I decided to maintain the live-ness of the writing process IN the editing process itself. I set up three performances. I selected three sections of my paper that related to one choreographic directive per section. I projected a video of the scrolling text, and instructed the audience to help me edit, and appropriate the words: to induce the body into this thinking process with me. How do the words move? What do they DO?
I provided paper and pens to the audience, and invited them to come up to the laptop if they desired, to ‘troll me’, along with SCHPANDO, and edit, provoke, and question the text. I included all of their voices in my final paper. I also included the voices of my advisors, other artists, research quotes, and all three of my own: my outer voice, my inner voice, and SCHPANDO: the undercurrent.
What became apparent was that the paper was alive. The editing was not a reductive action, but a continuation of the thought process, ever-expanding and proliferating. The paper entered virtual space: an extension from reality, an inclusion of multiple agencies, an inclusion of personalities mediated by technology, and an endlessness of process, connections, nodes, and reaching outward.
The paper lives beyond its words. In the edit performances I included a looping video, an image, and an atmospheric sound loop. These other components were collected while working, and they point towards the thought space I was in while making the text.
The words in the paper are tied to the performance, the space they produce, the space that produces them, and the present space of culture. The words embody a way of being that is particular to this culture (in which I live) at this time. Because this practice is connected to a way of being, it extends into other traditions of art, including Post-Internet, and Live Art. In future research I’d like to continue into these territories, and also attempt situating the work in an alien (to me) field that is outside the my familiar culture. I want to find out if there are new languages, or ways of relating, that might emerge. In my presentation at the Summer residency, I will immerse myself in the unfamiliarity of Berlin culture before my final performance.