The unofficially official Towson MFA Youtube channel is live AND we posted our first video! We had all hands on deck for a Jesse-led exercise moving through “a day at the office”.
A pensive shot for a pensive day thinking about how to guide an audience through a performative experience using Towson’s campus as a backdrop. What I’m wondering is how to give this seemingly boring, unsexy location new life by looking at its past lives and navigating the present. I have this bad habit of often overlooking my immediate surroundings in favor of the flashy, fresh, new thing (see Grass is Greener Syndrome). What is it like to stay put for a while and really take in what’s going on here?
The model on the table is a rough construction of one of the most intriguing sites on campus (to me) re-imagined as a battlefield processional complete with rope bridge. In the photo, I’m probably explaining one of the my many ideas for sectioning off space giving the audience a choice between different paths to take.
The business of mapping paths begins! I’ve already downloaded the Map My Run app and have brushed up on my navigational skills through Staying Found, the complete compass and map handbook by June Fleming.
Navigational tips? Leave them in the comments!
Proxemics is a term coined by Edward T. Hall describing the study of the “personal bubble” or the amount of space that people feel necessary to set between themselves and others. Hall felt this study was not only valuable in interpersonal communication but directly connected “the organization of space in [their] houses and buildings, and ultimately the layout of [their] towns”. Hall was especially interested in identifying cultural differences in relation to personal space. He used biometric concepts (smell, touch, temperature, etc) to organize and explore the ways people interacted in space and invented a pictorial and numerical system to note variations in interaction. The video below gives a brief overview of his work in proxemics.
Interestingly, I was first introduced to the concept of proxemics through a book on improvisational choreography titled The Intimate Act of Choreography by Lynne Anne Blom and L. Tarin Chaplin. In the book, Blom and Chaplin cover many ways to consider space including stage space, geometry, environment, floor pattern, personal space, and many others. They write about considering space an active participant within the choreography and also address how choreography can violate dancer’s sense of personal space by forcing other dancers into closer proximity than they would allow outside of the studio.
Hall, Edward T. (1966). The Hidden Dimension. Anchor Books.
The “Grass is Greener” Syndrome is a very fitting way to describe the constant nagging feeling that there is always something better somewhere else. Rather than feeling safe and secure in the current space, a person experiencing the syndrome feels that there is more and better in every other space and place around, the anxiety of making the wrong choice to stay put, fears of compromise and commitment turning to oppressive sacrifice. When experiencing this, the perception is that another space, another place will provide everything wanted, needed, valued, and all the issues that currently plague will fade away.
What’s interesting to me in light of site-specific performance is the transformative power of fantasy and perception. The space itself doesn’t change . Perception can be rooted in perfectionism and idealizations that will never be met. The projection of fantasy image onto a space becomes more prevalent than reality. Never being able to live up to the standards set, the space always disheartens and disappoints. How do you view something you already think you know with fresh eyes, letting it be exactly what it is?
As a note “Grass is Greener” Syndrome is a close relative of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), which is a newer term added to the dictionary in 2013. It’s defined as “the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out – that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you’’. More specifically, it refers to people who obsessively check social media so they don’t feel out of the loop. “It drives you to keep running around the digital hamster wheel to feel okay with yourself.”
One way to combat both “Grass is Greener” and FOMO? Gratitude.
Photo credit and other ways to overcome both: The Balanced Life
Watch the water dance. No, actually don’t watch it. Listen to the water dance. Imagine that the wind is not blowing the hardest it has been all week. Imagine each molecule has its own purpose explained as it hits the pavement with a slap. The kids, the visitors supply the background, the context, for the journey from river to stream to this stream. This stream. This stream of variation, variant energy, multiplicity of reason, action and reaction and release down the drain, down the tubes, down below, downtown where fear is there even as it is being remade into promise.
The Fountain at GM Plaza
A short study I filmed as part of research about site-specific performance and urban environments.
As I’ve started working through The Intimate Act of Choreography by Blom and Chaplin, I can’t stop thinking about the potential of hands, the potential of isolating any body part and discovering how much I don’t know about it. The hands are especially interesting to me because many cultures believe the hands hold innate healing powers, beliefs that go back many centuries. An example of this are Mudras, which are hand positions that are said to influence the energy of your physical, emotional, and spiritual body. The Mudras were practiced in the East by many spiritual leaders including Buddha and are still used in meditation and yoga practices today. At Forever Conscious, they outline some of the most common ones including Gyan Mudra, which brings peace, calm, and knowledge.
Also included here is an excerpt of a piece by Pina Bausch, which demonstrates isolating the hands in dance. It reminds me a bit of Trisha Brown’s Accumulations in it’s repetition and progression but is far less mathematically structured.
I’ve started scouting locations for my next project, which uses Detroit’s landscape to inspire and provide structural basis for site-specific performance. During some of my theoretical research I came across a quote by Michel de Certeau, a French scholar who combined history, psychoanalysis, philosophy, and the social sciences.
“space is a practiced place. Thus the street geometrically defined by urban planning is transformed into a space by walkers. In the same way, an act of reading is the space produced by the practice of a particular place: a written text, i.e.: a place constituted by a system of signs. ” – Michel de Certeau
A place holds potential for activation by others but remains neutral until it is acted upon. At least, that’s what I’m gathering. It reminds me of what I find so exciting about a blank stage: anything can happen if you make it so. The walking space can be transformed into the jumping space. The waiting space can be transformed into the love space and so on forever.
As the performance date approaches fest, I’ve been deep in rehearsal for In Light of. Sometimes with the constant repetition, it’s hard for the material to stay fresh, which is why I like to try look at it from all angles. Since in the piece we turn many lamps on and off, I’ve created THE LIGHT PLAYLIST: every song I can think of that refers to light. You can find the entire playlist on my Youtube channel. Quick hits are below.
and much more…