Last night plus xtras

Final showing Fri 24th April  Say No To Research 

The final event of the series was a public show and tell. Its all on the video below.  I tried to bring some clarity to the question of research and its connection to the archive and knowledge acquisition/making – all still at a rudimentary level.  Also included a performance ‘How to be'(with Margaret Blay) and a couple of tests -‘curb grind’ and ‘its a long way from what can be imagined to what might appear’ (with Bob Munden).

The research question has some value I think for choreographers in NZ in that (for choreographers) the connection to the archive is flimsy yet it still has this unavoidable and often overbearing impact on what gets made.  Also understanding the forces that are at play might assist in going somewhere else in terms of alternative forms of knowledge and performance practice.  Perhaps even more so as some artists work for a post colonial way, which seems the most exciting given our position in the Pacific and the vitality of Maori choreographers.

Below are 3 separate sections which I’m posting with the idea that they expose parts of what I’m up too in awkward yet ultimately I’m hoping, productive ways.

Part 1

Summing up again (Nothing I write is original. Its all gleaned from other sources.).

Invention vs innovation  I want to take the idea of what art might become a little further. In relation to the question of research my current feeling is that by adopting a research approach no matter how ‘reworked for disciplinary relevance’ this might be the implications and legacy of research ensure that it can only ever innovate in relation to established knowledge. Which is all good.

So art making becomes a means of incrementally building shared knowledge.

I’m looking for something more wayward, that can pose ethical and political questions in a chaotic and troublesome way.

It seems to me that the implications of art making – here I’m talking about the stuff that is made on a daily basis – is too frightening. Too frightening in that each expression or sign both conjures a meaningful realm and is in action in that which remains hidden or obscured by form. What’s going on is unknown, it’s unimaginable, volatile, and out of control.  It’s no wonder we shy away from the implications of art.  (As soon as I endeavour to talk about anything other than what’s ‘present’ the words just turn into rubbish – … still working on this) 

As an alternative to this discord artists accept a reduced product – a more palatable,stable version that can fit the current environment. (Its a pragmatic approach – at least there is something recognizable to work with.) 

The tamed work innovates without unsettling.

What would happen if the artists went for the full play – like rollicking puppies practicing evisceration, garroting and hamstringing?

Invention not innovation is what appeals to me – crazy, unjustifiable, life affirming, energetic inventions – inventions that take on all the resources of thought and practice, plus the demands of all that remains active yet obscured.

Just like all artist do – and then

So how would this be different?

More play is required here to allow art to flip or catapult or become more jagged and I’ll fitting.

Tidy justifiable research isn’t the only challenge here. A broader picture is required – what can art do or what might it become if the full energy of its genesis was untethered? This is the energy of composition that is the daily grind of artists (and, I would argue others too).

What’s the role of this art making activity – beyond a reflexive engagement with form and a desire to uncover the obscured – how can this role be re-imagined and radicalized?

How about art that goes past studio tinkering or muddling, sidesteps activism and social engagement and takes on the fury it co produces – a shake up of the market, globalization, art profiles and innovation is already sitting in the work – a willingness to take on this inherent collapse.

Can a different role for art be imagined – not a new system or fashion to overlay for all to adhere to but that every action or project finds it’s own role through its own process – singular in form and application.

(None of this is satisfying yet – too wordy and vague, and whats this going to turn into in practice?) 


Part 2

Forecourt – a proposal in response to the call for papers by CRUAT(University of Auckland): International Applied Theatre Symposium: The Performance of Hope

Hope, like freedom is an ontological need. Hope is the desire to dream, the desire to change, the desire to improve human existence. As Freire says, hopelessness is “but hope that has lost its bearings”.

This fourth international symposium hosted by CRUAT continues our interrogation of the links between applied theatre and critical hope. We situate this debate within our understanding of the potential for applied theatre to create spaces for those regularly denied full citizenship. When applied theatre provides opportunities to participate in thinking and talking about the world to those denied these rights, it is a force against the anti-democratic practices of global capitalism; it is a performance of hope and resistance. This symposium celebrates theatre’s potential to realise hope and possibility in communities of despair, disenfranchisement and disadvantage.

Proposal: To host a performance that engages with the concept of hope and citizenship via an exploration of the everyday as a site of radical instability.

Performance description:

One performer/host

A seat for two – the seat is bespoke and beautifully crafted

A broadsheet of printed material (100+ copies)

Some form of identification that links the performer to the forecourt. Uniform, name badge, branded t shirt?

This event takes place in the forecourt of a major institution for example a gallery, university or sports stadium. The seat for two people is erected just outside of the legal limits of the institution. The performer then sits and waits to be approached.

At this stage the situation is ambiguous whereby the attendant could be understood in a number of different ways – as a street hawker, silent protester, evangelist, social activist, street person, council employed research assistant, or artist.

The performer sits directly across from the institution allowing the space between to become a site of contemplation. The appeal of the institution is one of the questions being explored here – what is it that attracts a visitor and how is the notion of hope overtly or indirectly enmeshed in this attraction. Does it have to do with betterment, escape/transformation, success, progress or simply the fulfilment of daily duties?

The ridiculous scale difference between the performer and the institutional architecture is designed to shout the unavoidable demands of our normative experience that gives rise to a complicit and compliant citizenship.

When the performer is approached by passers-by they engage with them. The artists primary function is to attend to the forecourt and to use this process to ‘sit alongside’ interested passers-by. The performer is not attempting to unsettle or interfere.

The performer has three key strategies to work with.

  • To offer the passers-by a seat

  • To gift the broadsheet to the visitor. The paper contains information as to the institution, including a layout, current activities , closing times, toilet locations, parking facilities, eateries etc. The forecourt project is also detailed.

  • To assist the visitor to find their destination

How does this project activate hope towards an alternative notion of citizenship?

The above description outlines the shape and activities of the work. The potential of the project is seen to lie in attending to activities that are already underway – the activities of the everyday, here situated in the forecourt. The work examines the idea that these ‘invisible’ everyday actions are unstable, incomplete compositions. The idea is that the process of conjuring a familiar world is a creative one strewn with volatility on a scale that is as radical as can be conceived. Proposed here is the idea that within the minor actions of getting to and across the forecourt lies the expression of unrestrained difference.

This sitting alongside daily activities is considered as an example of ontological hope arising through an exploration of the genesis of an always singular world. The hope lies in the potential for something other to emerge through that which is already under way – being the most familiar and mundane activities of daily life or in this case the negotiation of a forecourt.

The hope that is being conceived here is still in composition, and as such without limit or definition. It has to do with what might appear and how this potential might be considered to be ethical and with this political. Its from this unfolding of the everyday as the site of the unknown that an alternative concept of citizenship starts to be imagined.

Sitting behind the scenes in this work is a slow questioning of what constitutes an aesthetic gesture.

Could a gesture that sat outside of the lineage that stretches from the archive through the process of artistic knowledge acquisition via the institution be a viable aesthetic force? To explore this Forecourt takes the slippery non gestures of daily activity as its aesthetic vocabulary. The experimental push here is for an a aesthetics that works with or without acknowledgement. Aesthetics in this situation would have to do with affect and sensory movement as a by product of the genesis of form, one not restricted to the creative output of artists, but expanded to consider all form as an expression of aesthetic force.

(Research – this project hosts an incomplete test site. I’m always figuring things out in public or at least partly – so each test doesn’t really work as a tidy summary or gesture. They are more a material collection of hunches including current and past to tinker with. I like this as a format for art – it becomes a gathering of things for others to reuse. This can include all aspects of a work its thinking, its status, materials, supplementary writing and on – so that it becomes something in motion – more like an esoteric swap meet. The cultural claims made by and for projects are in many ways their least interesting aspects. The good stuff is in what’s not being shown, or in the bits that have been tidied over or forgotten. All that’s hidden away by clarity and good design. By thinking of work as a resource in motion hopefully the disregarded aspects of a situation can be recalled. )

Part 3  

Support, generosity and a model for engagement with other dance communities. 

Off topic(sort of) – the rite of spring, a missed opportunity

Min Kyoung Lee and Joao Martins are currently in New Zealand presenting their version of ‘The Rite of Spring’. I was involved in Auckland as a lighting assistant.

I feel like the Auckland community has missed an opportunity to fully support this project and in the process think about how such visits contribute to local practice. (Wellington and Dunedin still have a chance as they are next on the tour).

The work is a fine example of current European dance – of which we see only fleeting examples. Most touring works are large scale, budget driven projects by celebrated choreographers. In contrast Min and Joao’s work is a small scale event, generous, demanding and refined. Direct in its approach the work bears a strong sense of the choreographers style and creative interests, which in turn give the work a broad appeal allowing those with limited experience of this genre to participate.

I’m interested in this project for a variety of reasons, which includes its aesthetic contribution. Of equal importance is that this work also offers a model for how choreographers and dancers might gain access to the worldwide community of dance practitioners. This issue of contact with international communities has been debated for years with no progress ever being made. My proposal is simple – invite small scale events (like this one) to come here as our guests and fully host them, offering support and some financial assistance. In return, and as part of this process, look to initiate an exchange whereby similar small scale works from here are then invited back to Europe, again with some modest financial support. No extras, no marketing managers or bragging about how good kiwis are – just the cost of the project and the people, where the focus was on the work, other artists and the engaged community. In the case of Min and Joao’s project I imagine a small amount of financial support would have made a real difference (see update note below). Potentially a substantial return for the dance community in terms of artistic input and exchange for only a modest investment.

I think the key points are the scale of the work and the presence of an existing connection through Min being from here (and Korea). Small scale works are relatively inexpensive to host. More importantly the existing connection (via Min) means that she already has an understanding of local practise and is therefore well equipped to bridge the gap in terms of vocabulary, knowledge and introductory support that would allow locals full access and understanding of the work.

It feels like a missed opportunity. If we had given our full support I think a much richer experience would have evolved whereby Min and Joao could have participated in exchanges alongside the performance. Workshops discussions, round tables etc – all the usual yet still productive support activities.

Its important to note that this is not the first time this has happened – in fact such visits are relatively frequent. The problem is is that they are so taxing on the artists that they vow never to return. Some persistent artists like Alexa Wilson continue to make such offers through their visit to NZ however these too are frequently overlooked or under supported. (There are many examples of similar visits and/or performances – all of which could have been supported more generously).

What’s the point here?

My point is that these type of visits present the basis for a model of dance exchange that is generous, inclusive, inexpensive and exciting. If we were to find a small amount of cash we could host guests in an appropriate manner and in return the NZ scene benefits enormously. This could have been the case here.

If we were to take up this type of work as a model, we could afford to host a programme of continuous exchange and in the process support artists to join the wider international dance scene. Local artists want and need more to work with, they want to know what’s going on elsewhere and to be part of it.

Ironically these loosely described aims are exactly what arts funders want. More international contact and profile, more ‘rigour’, more sharing of resources. The only difference here is that its not at the scale of an international marketing campaign, its small and local and because of this its able to maintain its purpose and integrity. No full scale expo shouting here – just artists getting on with it at a level that we can afford.

A final note. I think its important to state that in no way am I suggesting that local artists with their own practices, concerns and aesthetic perspectives should feel pressured to take up practices from elsewhere, and follow the international trends. That’s not the point – its about joining in in a manner that is constructive, inclusive and dignified.

Update. A couple of points. A substantial amount of support was generated for this project in Auckland, mostly through the efforts of Paul Young (plus others I’m sure). Also I never asked Min and Joao if they actually needed more support, financial or otherwise.

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