I was fortunate enough to be able to do a workshop on the weekend at Critical Path with the always inspirational British dancer and choreographer Wendy Houstoun. Highly discursive and imaginative, the workshop focused on talk, reflection, and critical appraisal of performance making, niggling at the edges of the what constitutes the "urge to do something, and the forms that this takes." Curly, impossible questions thrown around, chewed through, and savored by a group of diverse, generous, and fascinating artist peers. Frankly, we don't to do things like this nearly enough, caught up in the day to day balancing act that comprises art-making and survival. The time out to wrestle with unanswerable questions, and to take the time to push these to their edges was both a pleasure and a privilege. Sustenance for the creative soul.
What is narrative? What is abstraction? What do we deem to be movement? What do we deem to be dancing? How might we face, and even embrace failure? How can we engage with in-between spaces, with "words that wobble" (Siri Hustvedt, A Plea for Eros, 2006)? Which places would your art practice occupy, but just doesn't? How can we avoid cosy certainties, and always be thinking beings moving onstage? What is movement? What is choreography? What is an ideal time? What is an ideal process? What are the limits of what we can imagine? How can we imagine beyond these limits, and what forms might this take? Must we take ourselves so seriously? Must we always tread so lightly, be so funny, or reach so obsessively for irony?
A richly provocative beginning to the new year.
As part of the sessions, we engaged in several extended hypotheticals - a group discussion of an imaginary work that we joyously (and occasionally viciously) deconstructed; another piece of movement that exists purely within language, in which we dance together in an increasingly chaotic described performance work that pushed the limits of language's ability to account for action, intimacy, and relationships. On the second day, we each proposed hypothetical manifestos, and while mine is more playful than insightful, I thought that it might be worth recording here, if only for fun. The model is of course Yvonne Rainer's famous 'No Manifesto' (1965).
Death to classical ballet, classic cars and classic cricket catches! Death to ambiguity and mirror neurons! Long live to-do lists! Long live manifestos! Death to anti-aging and anti-oxidants! Long live subtlety and sea spray! Death to concrete, jackhammers, and ear plugs! Death to darkness, dark curtains, and fluorescent lighting! Long live flickers and wobbles! Death to firm grips on reality and razor sharp wits! Death to humidity and air conditioning! Long live sympathy and death to identification! Death to tarquet and skeletons! Long live jellyfish and salt and pepper squid! Long live fish sauce, focus, stumbling and stammering! Long live the smells of coriander and melting plastic! Death to idiocy, intervals, and idiosyncrasies! Death to performing with children or animals! Long live pausations, hesitations, and fumbles! Death to alcohol and long live drinking! Long live excess, editing, and redundancy! Long live silliness, chaos, and confusion! Long live lunch!
Photo by Heidrun Lohr, from CMI (A Certain Maritime Incident) by version 1.0