Precipice Fund Project Update: Random Access Tape / Stream Room

Stream Room is a collaborative multi-channel musique concrète sound installation by deepwhitesound, an online label of free experimental audio. Hundreds of micro-compositions produced by dozens of international sound artists and musicians are randomly sequenced and broadcast via wi-fi to handmade streaming units. Each collected composition is designed to be played simultaneously as an immersive sound installation, recently exhibited at FalseFront in Northeast Portland.

streamroom-03The result is a cacophonous, randomized bombast of disparate experimental recordings, playing over and against each other, an aural metaphor of the chaotic and over-stimulating nature of the internet itself. The discord of battling sound sources and quickly transitioned content creates a type of meditative experience. Rather than aiming to reach transcendence through minimalism, senses are bombarded and inundated in a type of maximalism. The dissonant nature of the installation draws allusions to the overwhelming qualities of the internet, social media and the information age. Stream Room serves as an appraisal of this condition, an errant signal celebrated, a space for enthralled annihilation.

Random Access Tape is a 30-minute, two-sided audio cassette that serves as documentation of the project, a physical artifact from the first iteration of this never repeatable, randomized exhibition.Random Access Tape is distributed under the Creative Commons license, which encourages free redistribution and attribution of the tape, to organizations, individuals, collectives and broadcast centers who wish to aid in making the work available to the public. The physical and non-commercial circulation of work designed for digital, streaming media is a symbolic gesture meant to call attention to the very real and present role of digital media in the delivery of innovative artistic endeavors and to further the idea that free art is not forgettable art.

streamroom-01Stream Room and Random Access Tape are produced by DB Amorin for deepwhitesound, with support from a grant provided by the Precipice Fund. Visuals and printed media design by Dana Paresa. Programming consultation by Matthew McVickar.

deepwhitesound (DWS) is an international online label of experimental audio operating since 2005. Featuring multidisciplinary sound art, experimental music and composition from disparate geographic locations, deepwhitesound supports the diffusion of media and digital distribution. All work featured is offered without charge as full-release, artist-constructed digital downloads under the Creative Commons license. deepwhitesound values diverse local and net-based community, using social media as a platform for collaborative projects and communication between artists, organizers and curators.

For more information, please visit:

streamroom.deepwhitesound.com

randomaccesstape.deepwhitesound.com

www.deepwhitesound.com

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Random Access Tape / Stream Room

Precipice Fund Project Update: SENSINGFEELINGPERCEIVING / Exquisite Corpus

Exquisite Corpus was a collaboratively designed and facilitated workshop that provided visual and interdisciplinary artists interested in materials of performance–time, space, presence, physicality and voice–a rigorous place to study, experiment and practice. The project was made possible with the support of a grant from the Precipice Fund.

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RESPONSES from PARTICIPANTS AROUND the question: What would you like someone else to explore in their performance?

“Follow your own interest. This can pertain to anything we have explored in class-going deeper into past homework assignments or anything else that has come up”:

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agency. choices. Curiosity. Motivation – what motivates a person (you or someone else) to perform? – explore this.

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Two parts:

1.  I’d be curious to see to being ‘on’ or ‘performing’ at 100%, 10%, and neutral.

2.  I’d also be curious to see being ‘off’ or ‘not performing’ at 100%, 10%, and neutral.

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This being performed in relationship to an object.

The object has personal meaning to the performer.

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What does it mean to blend, or show a range from being on to off, to go from neutral, to performing, to then not performing, in a performance?

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We are so accustomed to frontal, face-to-face communication. I’d like to know more about ways of sensing, feeling, perceiving, connecting with, and communicating with the audience when performing with your back

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I am curious whether or not self consciousness is the same thing as being in a performance state.

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I wonder if performance can ever be turned “off”.

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I am curious about presence and awareness, that internal measurement of sensing your own presence and the presence of others, when you’re “on” in terms of performing. What breaks that sense of awareness and presence? Are you able to hold it? Do you forget you are “on” while performing and if you forget but still engaged with others or the space, does that mean you are still “on”?

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What are the ways in which an audience’s attention is directed?

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I am curious about how one can stay “free” within their performance to make choices that both surprise themselves (and keep them interested) as well as keeping the performance “fresh” for the audience.

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Precipice Fund Project Update: Arresting Power

Arresting Power: Resisting Police Violence in Portland, Oregon is a feature-length documentary film that provides a historical and political analysis of the role of the police in contemporary society and the history of policing in the United States through personal storytelling as well as interviews with community organizers past and present. It provides a framework for understanding the systems of social control in Portland with its history of exclusion laws, racial profiling, red-lining, gentrification practices and policing along lines of race and class. It serves to uncover Portland’s unique history of police relations and community response. The project was supported by a grant from the Precipice Fund.

ARRESTING POWER: Resisting Police Violence in Portland, Oregon

DIRECTED BY: JODI DARBY, JULIE PERINI and  ERIN YANKE

US, 2014, 90 minutes

ARRESTING POWER Trailer

Precipice Fund Project Update: FRONT

FRONT provides a print-based representation of Portland dance artists while fostering conversations between local creators and national and international peers in the field of contemporary dance. The publication serves as a design-forward visual object as much as a collection of critical writing on dance. On November 22, FRONT released the fourth edition of its annual newsprint publication dedicated to contemporary dance, the production and printing of which was supported by a Precipice Fund grant.

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ED4: BUOY focuses on dance practices and processes untethered from performance presentation and emphasizes conversations between West Coast dance makers. The newly released publication pays homage to two champions of the social potential surrounding performance: Performance Works NorthWest (PDX) and AUNTS (NYC). A brand new section, Notes from the Field presents a trove of artifacts from the creative lives of contemporary dance makers. From Houston, Rachel Cook of DiverseWorks delves into her curatorial vantage in a commissioned essay, while FRONT offers a glimpse into its recent Resource Room Residency at PICA.

 Hosted by Ristretto Roasters on Couch, the release party for ED4: BUOY was attended by friends from Portland’s arts communities as well as passersby and members of the media new to FRONT. Since the release, FRONT has mailed BUOY to contributors across the US and abroad and sent out a number of mail orders—notably for archival purposes in the libraries of Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. In the coming months, FRONT will participate in the Publication Fair via Publication Studio (12/14, Ace Cleaners) and have on-site presence at the American Realness festival and bookstore (1/8-1/18/15, Abrons Art Center, NYC).

FRONT ED4: BUOY FEATURES WRITING FROM:

LINDA AUSTIN/PERFORMANCE WORKS NORTHWEST (PDX)

ALLIE HANKINS (PDX)

KAJ-ANNE PEPPER (PDX)

LAURA/LARRY ARRINGTON (SF)

AUNTS (NYC)

CHRISTINE BONANSEA (SF)

RACHEL COOK (HOUSTON)

JESSE HEWIT (SF)

MONIQUE JENKINSON (SF)

SIRIOL JOYNER (ABERYSTWYTH)

HANA VAN DER KOLK (LA)

TAISHA PAGGETT (LA)

QUEEN SHMOOQUAN (SEA)

KATE WALLICH (SEA)

 

+MANY MORE

Get a BUOY today!
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Precipice Fund Project Update: Weird Shift Storefront

Supported by a grant from the Precipice Fund, the Weird Shift Storefront was open for six months in 2014, from April through October. In that time, they hosted more than 25 events, displayed the work of 15 artists/non-artists directly, and featured over 16 presenters in the various evenings, workshops, and our signature “Micro-Talk” sessions, at which anyone who wanted to could come and share their marginalia research to a curious and eager audience. With 30 hours of regular open time per week, in addition to those events, Weird Shift was able to showcase visual, performance, video, and sound art from Portland-based, national, and international artists. Weird Shift Storefront made a space available that anyone could enter, not just an “art” crowd, and think, discuss, and experience different ways of sharing interesting material with other people.

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Precipice Fund Project Update: Resident Residency

Supported by a grant from the Precipice Fund, Resident Residency invited artists to participate in their respective neighborhood association meetings as a context for developing participatory public artworks. Over the past year, six artists-in-residence worked as organizers, researchers, activists and fellow neighbors to create projects that were engaging, playful, and thought provoking in their own Portland neighborhoods.

At the end of the project, Resident Residency published a book documenting the project. The book includes writing and project documentation from each of this year’s six artists, an essay by Travis Nikolai, and a group interview about the idea and practice of Resident Residency:

Portland Neighborhood Map

“The artists of Resident Residency … recode our perceptions of where and what we call home. They draw us outside of ourselves, outside of our homes, by constructing reasons to linger in spots just beyond the boundaries of our personal property. They make us loiter. And whilst loitering create circumstances in which we exchange our peculiarities or partake jointly of the idiosyncrasies of our surroundings. In Linda Wysong’s “Sabin Now and Then”, the exchange is a formal one, where longtime residents relate watershed moments in the neighborhood’s history. In Khris Soden’s “Buckman Wonder Wander”, smaller changes and personal places are examined on a casual stroll. Ariana Jacob’s “Piedmont Neighborhood Walk Swap” turns the dérive inward as she pairs residents off for walks in ways designed to burst our “filter bubble”: the phenomenon, heightened by information age over-saturation, to seek out that which is already attuned to our particular sensibilities. Mack McFarland and Katy Asher’s piece Tug O’ War: North Portland Knockdown is less verbal but offers discourse through physical competition where audiences can know one another through victories, losses, bumps and bruises. Last, Krista Connerly’s “Reprieve From Infinite Bustle” creates an intimate exchange through shared silence in the vulnerability of a communal nap in a public place. By activating audiences through varied forms of personal exchange in spaces often delineated by private reverie, the artists endeavor to make us distinctly aware of the boundaries we place around our communal spaces, ourselves, and each other.”

- Excerpt from Where is a Place by Travis Nikolai, an essay in the Resident Residency Book

For more information and documentation of Resident Residency, please visit residentresidency.org

 

 

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Precipice Fund Project Updates: Stream Room, M.A.S.S., and Spreading Rumours

As part of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts’ Regional Regranting Program, with additional lead funding from the Calligram Foundation, the Precipice Fund was instituted last year as a grantmaking initiative designed to serve independent and collaborative visual art projects, programs, and spaces in Portland, Oregon. Administered by PICA, the program is now in its second year, with the newest round of awards (2014-15) to be announced in early December.

In the meantime, 2013-14 grantees have been busy executing their Precipice-funded projects, which span exhibitions, gallery spaces, performances, publications, residencies, workshops, free schools, televised plays, sound installations, an experimental film and media festival, web-based curatorial explorations, and political interventions in public space.

Below are updates on three active projects: Stream Room, M.A.S.S., and Spreading Rumors. Please scroll to the end of the post for images from Spreading Rumors’ most recent interventions.

Stream Room by deepwhitesound

Exhibition Artists: Dana Paresa, Matthew McVickar, DB Amorin 

http://streamroom.deepwhitesound.com/

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Hundreds of micro-compositions produced by dozens of international sound artists and musicians are randomly sequenced and broadcast via wi-fi to handmade streaming units. Each collected composition is designed to be played simultaneously as an immersive sound installation.

The result is a cacophonous, randomized bombast of disparate experimental compositions, playing over and against each other, an aural metaphor of the chaotic and over-stimulating nature of the internet itself. The discord of battling sound sources and quickly transitioned content creates a type of meditative experience. Rather than aiming to reach transcendence through minimalism, senses are bombarded and inundated in a type of maximalism. The dissonant nature of the installation draws allusions to the overwhelming qualities of the internet, social media and the information age.

Stream Room serves as an appraisal of this condition, an errant signal celebrated, a space for enthralled annihilation. On view through November 2nd at FalseFront (also a 2013 Precipice Fund grantee), 4518 NE 32nd Ave.

M.A.S.S. IX

www.mass-series.info

M.A.S.S. Curatorial Collective announces M.A.S.S. IX, the latest edition of their interdisciplinary events series at Alberta Abbey, featuring performances from Grouper, White Gourd, and writer Tyler Brewington.

Saturday, November 1
7:00 PM doors; 8:00 pm performances
Alberta Abbey, 126 NE Alberta St, Portland
[email protected]

About: M.A.S.S. (an ambiguous acronym) is a bimonthly music & performance series set in the beautifully resonant 350-capacity sanctuary of Alberta Abbey, a historic church turned mixed-use venue. Using exceptional sound engineering and equipment provided by Tim Westcott (SIX music series), the series aims to provide a contemplative environment for group and/or anonymous reflection, while cross-pollinating local and non-local artists, musicians, writers, and performers.

Spreading Rumors

Project Artists / Collaborators: Garrick Imatani, Ariana Jacob, Anna Gray + Ryan Wilson Paulsen
Images of Participating Artists’ Work: (see below): Confetti (“No Jail”):
Calder Gray Paulsen; Confetti (“overseer – officer”): Joel Sjerven; Confetti (“reasonable and necessary force?”): Maddy Freman; signs by Sharita Towne and Stephanie Syjuko.

Spreading Rumors is a series of collaboratively produced experimental project platforms designed to create new modes of distribution for artistic and political purposes, and to intervene in existing communication circuits. These forms are activated by invited local and national artists and activists and targeted at strategic publics throughout the city of Portland. The series aims to create more space within Portland’s art community to support the production and sharing of explicitly political artwork, as we have noticed a lack of discourse around this work. Spreading Rumors will consist of four platforms, each using a different form designed by the collaborative team and with aesthetic and conceptual content by invited artists, writers and activists.

Spreading Rumors was recently featured on two blog posts from “MLK in Motion”:

http://mlkinmotion.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/mlk-travels-on-black-americas-main-street/
http://mlkinmotion.wordpress.com/2014/10/13/i-cant-remember-what-this-used-to-be/

 

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Precipice Fund Project Update: C.O.P.S.

C.O.P.S. (The Conceptual Oregon Performance School) is a free, artist-run, experimental summer school, with a focus on contemporary art and performance strategies. Its mandate is to engage participants in the methodologies, critical theory, and dialogue surrounding the discipline, while investigating its social and cultural role. Participants will experiment with a myriad of contemporary performance strategies, based upon formal and informal lectures, seminar-based dialogue, and structured group critique.

Supported by a grant from the Precipice Fund, the C.O.P.S. 2014 season took place over three summer weekends, with daily sessions  hosted by visiting artist/instructor teams, who gave lectures, assisted in marathon critiques with students, and facilitated collaborative projects that culminated in an exhibition at ROCKSBOXCONTEMPORARYFINEART.

 

C.O.P.S. (CONCEPTUAL OREGON PERFORMANCE SCHOOL)

Many Many Women as read by Many Many Men – C.O.P.S. – Session 3 – A Collaboration

Web: www.conceptualoregonperformanceschool.com & www.rocksboxfineart.com

Vimeo: C.O.P.S.SCHOOL

Facebook: conceptualoregon.performanceschool

Instagram: conceptualorperformanceschool

Audience Response to Super Nature by BodyCartography at TBA:14

Typically, my favorite parts of a dance performance are the costumes, the sleek bodies and the elegant presentation of precision. I appreciate the way the body can move within the limits of choreography, but I frequently feel so distant from the dancers. The space between me and performer, whether it is a few rows of auditorium chairs or several hundred rows in a stadium setting, is almost always enough for my attention to wane. I can easily drift away from the present moment as the dancers express passion and energy between one another on stage. My experience with the installation Super Nature by BodyCartography Project was quite the opposite. When I entered into the installation space, I felt an immediate responsibility to engage. I was immersed, intrigued and invigorated. I was part of the installation, and my energy collided with the performer’s energy in a way that made me feel relevant and alive. I want audiences to feel enveloped by the work, reflective and engaged by the performers or the experience. The directors of BodyCartography Project describe this installation as an opportunity to train audiences to be present and available with their emotions when they engage with a performance.

BodyCartography Project describes Super Nature on their website:

An intimate installation functions as part one. It is built for a gallery space and an audience of one. In an empty gallery, one member of the public meets one performer and has a non-verbal interaction. Both performer and audience have agency to transform the energy of the space through their behavior and social interaction, sometimes very subtle and sometimes extreme. The evening length theater work functions as part two.

I have not experienced the evening length theater work, and this post only considers part one of the work, an intimate installation which was installed at THE WORKS at Fashion Tech in Portland, OR as part of PICA’s annual TBA festival. For those of you who didn’t experience the Works this year, Fashion Tech is a 30,000 sq. ft. warehouse that once housed an interior design supplier. Super Nature was installed in a small, cinder block room that was most recently used as a studio for a spray paint artist. The space has a large vent coming down from the ceiling for ventilation and a heavy, sliding wooden door that leads into one of the main hallways of the building. BodyCartography Project installed a wooden floor painted white and had the walls painted a warm gray. The room had one light and speakers installed.

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Otto in the Installation, photo by Chelsea Petrakis for PICA

During the installation, a single audience member is asked by a docent to “please remove your shoes and turn off your cell phone, feel free to be anywhere in the space and when the installation is finished, I will come open the door for you.” The exact language of these instructions is important for creating ambiguity and not dictating the audiences viewing response. Next, the docent opens the door, and audience of one enters the space to find a solitary performer. After approximately 15 minutes, the docent comes to open the door for them. When I served as docent for this piece, I waited for the participant to naturally emerge from the space before I closed the door behind them. If someone had nervous energy or expressed feelings of anxiety, I stated explicitly that they could leave the installation at any point if they felt uncomfortable. Uncomfortable interactions can lead to empathetic reactions that are sometimes unreachable in other realms; however, it is important that nobody feels trapped during the installation.

Super Nature is unique because both the performer and the audience member are alone in their role, and the performance is an interaction that unfolds, dependent on the energies of both people in the room. The tension between the social and intuitive body creates an immediate confusion about the role of the audience member. The experience questions whether the audience is a participant, a spectator, a collaborator or a witness to the performance. In my experience, I felt a nonverbal invitation to exchange with the performer. I felt agency to affect the situation, and I felt responsible to respond to the performer in ways that I would not under different spatial (ie. a larger room) or social dimensions (ie. more audience members). The relationship that Super Nature builds between audience and performer is special because of the metaphorical light that shines on the solitary audience member. From my perspective, the audience member is part observer, part participant and part collaborator.

As part of TBA’s public conversation series hosted at PICA’s downtown office, Olive Bieringa (co-director of BCP), Otto Ramstad (co-director of BCP) and Michael Sakamoto discussed the installation in terms of its intended impact on the audience. Sakamoto, artist and faculty advisor in the MFA-Interdisciplinary Arts program at Goddard College, describes his experience with the installation as if he were “being danced.” He felt there was an immediate meeting of a shared moment during which he “was being danced.” His ultimate takeaway was the dialogue with himself that happened as a result of the experience with the performer. When the audience enters the space, they have to choose where to be, how to respond, and how they want to absorb or reflect on the situation. Some feel enlightened and inspired after leaving the space, others feel disquieted or uncomfortable with the silence or close proximity between performer and audience. Ideally, this piece opens up the sense of discovery for the audience and gives the audience a space to practice reflexiveness in their own body.

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Roz (left) and Olive (right), photo by Chelsea Petrakis for PICA

I spoke with a lot of people after they exited the installation, and frequently, people felt like voyeurs or had strong empathetic reactions, both physical and mental. I wondered why, in this more intimate setting, people felt specifically like voyeurs especially when compared to a more traditional setting where audience members are exclusively spectators. As an audience member at a stage performance, I have frequently felt myself disappearing into the crowd, but in this installation, my position as the audience member was more within myself than it is in a big theater. In some instances, audience members felt the desire to disappear and not disturb the performer. The option to disappear or interact is a spectrum for each person who enters the space, and some people may experience a moment where their relationship to the performer shifts. For many people, this shift came close to the end of their time in the installation when they began to open up their metaphysical energy to the experience. This type of experience gives the audience and the performer the opportunity to learn something new about themselves in relation to a stranger. Regardless of what behavior the audience chooses to enact, they affect the performer, and in a sense, the distribution of agency during the performance is constantly in flux. In some cases, audience members felt like they had little to no agency to transform the environment.

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Anna (left) and Roz (right), photo by Chelsea Petrakis for PICA

After people exited the installation, I tried to give them a subtle, nonverbal invitation to share with me about their experience. Many people responded to the invitation, and I have transcripts of a few conversations to share with you. I tried my best to respect people’s need to be with themselves directly after the installation, and as a result, some of my conversations occurred hours after the audience member’s experience with Super Nature. Each of the following interviews took place in Fashion Tech where the project was installed, and all participants gave consent to be recorded. All names have been changed for the privacy of the individual.

Conversation with John from France
Right after he came out of the installation

John: There’s this thing about a relationship with someone, with the body, we’re just breathing the same air. Because she’s a dancer, she has a very different body, and it renews the gaze that I have on the body.

Roz: Was there a breakthrough moment for you in the piece?

J: It was just a tidal wave, it was coming, and it was disappearing, coming and disappearing. The fact that you can change your orientation in the room is making it like real life. You don’t have to feel the gaze of other people in the audience. This big, deep, profound intimacy with someone that you don’t know, that you probably will not know after this experience, it’s just great.

Conversation with Sophia from Portland
Right after she came out of the installation

Roz: How was the experience for you?

Sophia: It just feels really good. I just really enjoy when I connect with somebody.

R: Did you feel like you connected with her [the performer]?

S: Oh yeah. We rolled around on the ground some. It’s a thing of trust. It’s all about that. Letting you understand. Every other person who is in there is going to have a different bond or reaction. Some [audiencers] might be like “stay away from me” and freak out or just watch. Some will want to be with you, whatever you’re going through.

R: What about the interaction made you feel like you had connected [with the performer]?

S: I don’t know. It’s just about accepting somebody. It’s like, “Okay, you can lean on me, and I can lean on you.” Then there was a big smile. There were moments with eyes closed. There was a lot of allowances. I don’t do a lot of contact stuff, it’s weird.

R: Me neither, I’ve never done it before this experience.

S: I’ve seen so much dance in my life, and I have a lot of dancer friends. It’s nice to experience. I need more of that. It’s not my thing. I just like to learn other things, letting go.

R: Would you consider practicing contact dance after this experience?

S: Oh yeah, oh yeah. I should start going to Conduit [dance studio in Portland]. I need to roll around with people more. I like the lighting. The space makes you feel like you can just be.

R: And be however you want.

S: Yeah, you can be light. It’s just so beautiful. I’m really glad I came down.

Conversation with Emma from Portland 
Immediately after she came out of the installation

Emma: By coincidence, I was standing in this corner right before it was over. When you started to open the door, the weight [used as part of the door’s opening system]…



Roz: Oh no…

E: And then I realized, I thought it was coming down from space, but it was actually connected to the door. It was really interesting. I could tell it was ending and for some reason I had just put myself in that corner at the very end. It was a neat coincidence.

R: I’m glad you didn’t get hurt. I ended in that same corner once, too. I almost got hit with the weight, too.



E: [laughter], that was interesting. It felt like a complete closing in that sense.

R: What other experiences did you have there?

E: Well, it was interesting because it was so intimate that there was quite a bit of discomfort. I think I felt a little uncomfortable because the performer/viewer relationship is somewhat upset. Not upset, but it wasn’t as clear.

R: How did you respond to that ambiguity?

E: Well, I just kind of went with it. I found when he was on the ground, I sat on the ground because I didn’t want to be over. That felt too hierarchical. In a sense, I kind of moved around a bit in relation to his movements.

R: Did it make you feel like you would like to move around in a larger theater setting? To gain different vantage points?



E: Well, I’m not a dancer. I did kind of have a sense of where it would be interesting to mimic and respond to his movements.

R: Did you?

E: I didn’t really. Except, I moved up and down. I thought, “oh, that looks like my yoga pose, I could do that…I could do that.”

R: What held you back from doing those things you were feeling?



E: Being in this place [gestures towards the building and larger space around her].

R: Being in the audience role…

E: Right, you’re not supposed to move. Right? I mean, I moved around a little bit. Also, when you do it, you don’t see the other person as much.

R: Totally.



E: So, that was kind of interesting, too. I’m not sure where the word cartography comes from because I didn’t really feel there was a lot of mapping going on.

R: This project is called Super Nature and the artists are called BodyCartography Project.

E: Oh, okay. Yes. The soundtrack was interesting. So industrial. So hot. I feel so bad for the guy. There’s no air. That’s not a heady discussion. I expected it would be more tactile. But, it wasn’t.

R: Do you think you had agency to make it tactile, or not?

E: I didn’t feel like I did.

R: Interesting.

E: Because of the spotlight. And because of his movements, they were very dance movements. They weren’t pedestrian movements at all. So, you had a sense that he was being a modern dancer and you were in a small room watching him. I felt that I had a certain agency, but not…if his movements were different, I would feel more agency.

R: Thanks for your reflections.

E: It was interesting, thanks a lot.

After TBA, the first participant at the Portland installation asked to share feedback about the experience via email. Here are his remarks:

Hello my name is Andre Middleton, Community Services Coordinator for the Regional Arts and Culture Council, and I was fortunate to the be the first participant in the BodyCartography Project’s Super Nature performance at the 2014 PICA TBA festival. I knew very little about this participatory performance experience outside of what I read in the description.

Let me start by saying that the stark grey walls of the room in which it took place were very prison like. As I entered the room and the door was closed behind me I felt as if I had stepped through a portal that removed me from the world at large. The silence that enveloped me soon gave way to an atmospheric rumbling that came from a single speaker suspended from the ceiling. The lone male figure in the room seemed poised, almost coiled with potential energy. I was unsure if I or he was to be the instigator of the performance so I started to move. I can’t recall how I moved, but I do recall that I wanted to avoid limiting myself within the space. I wanted to have the right to touch all the walls, I wanted to break down my personal bubble and therefore establish a presence within his as well. As we moved closer, the normal walls we often build around ourselves were shattered as we touched. In an instant I thought about the taboos of male on male contact. I wanted to let the dancer know that he was welcome in my space, so I didn’t retreat from his touch. I also wanted to acknowledge his contact so I simply rotated my hand as we continued to move now in tandem. When we parted it was not a separation of sorts but the next phase of the dance. soon our eyes made contact. In a way, this next phase was even more intimate than our physical contact. Our gaze lingered for what felt like an eternity. By the time our eyes parted it felt right, not rushed or hurried. Our bodies had somewhere else to go and of course our eyes followed.

After talking with audience members, I realized that there are a lot more outcomes and variables to this installation than I thought after experiencing it myself, and I wondered how the directors have decided to measure success for the piece.

The following quotes come from an email correspondence that I had with Olive and Anna, one of the performers, after they left Portland and returned to Minneapolis. My goal was to give the performers a platform for describing their intentions during the installation, to share the vulnerability and practice that goes into such a performance.

Email between Roz and Olive from September 25, 2014:

Roz: During the public conversation at PICA’s downtown office, you described your work in terms of creating opportunities to form relationships. Can you explain how a relationship develops between the audience and the performer in Super Nature?

Olive: I’m interested in engagement. I’m interested in identifying the moments we feel connection with each other. I’m interested in how a changing relationship, in this case between performer and audience, can manifest in a dance. I’m interested in how our attention can be deeply focused on this feedback loop between ourselves and another person and the information passing between us. I’m interested in the gap of attention that this provides thereby allowing the unknown potential of our body to unfold. I’m interested in how we can be present with each other.

In the Super Nature installation, we get to practice being present with a complete stranger. Practice being vulnerable. Practice feeling our own inner melodrama. As an audience and performer I need this practice.

We had considered the installation as a potential training for our audiences before coming to the Super Nature stage show.

R: You jokingly mentioned during the workshop that you were trying to get the word in the dictionary, how do you define “audiencing”?



O:  Audiencing – verb, to practice being an audience, to be in the practice of being an audience???

I’m interested in the active engagement of our audiences. The job of viewing or experiencing good art work is not a passive role of consumption. How do we honor peoples time when they make the effort to come out and see our work? By honoring the choices they make while experiencing it [the work]. By giving audiences agency. By letting them have enough space to create connection and meaning. With the Super Nature installation I’m interested in creating an opportunity to practice audiencing in a tight frame where we can all feel the causal effect of our actions. It is a dense feedback loop.

R: Do you think it is possible to define a successful audience in Super Nature? A successful performer? How are the parameters for success different for this installation than they would be for the same piece performed on a large stage with 200 onlookers in chairs.



O: A successful audience for the installation is someone who is up for the challenge of being present with a stranger. For some people the room is too claustrophobic, or their expectation of seeing something “good” gets in the way of their ability to perceive what is happening.

A successful performer for the installation is someone who can attend to themselves and the audience and allow the performance to unfold in the space in-between. Inviting their whole body to be seen, 360 degrees, in detail. Receptivity and transparency are critical. Finding the balance between doing and being is where the dance begins.

We don’t perform exactly the space piece on stage for 200 people. The Super Nature stage work is a radical ecological melodrama with fifteen performers onstage, a live sound score by Zeena Parkins and mobile set design my Emmett Ramstad.  The installation is a close up with the same performers and content unfolding in an improvised frame. In both versions we have attempted to choreograph empathy. This plays out very differently with the different scale of each work.

Performer of Super Nature, Anna, also responded via email on October 1, 2014:

Roz: Do you think it is possible to define a successful audience in Super Nature? A successful performer? How are the parameters for success different for this installation than they would be for the same piece performed on a large stage with 200 onlookers in chairs.

Anna: I don’t think there is a specific successfulness. There I feel like my natural sense of evaluation after a run, as the performer, goes to a thinking that is similar to that of my pedestrian life, remembering what I offered, rethinking their ideas with more space and objectivity, I feel like I have less of the Merde-like blasé or the learned confidence I might feel in another performance setting, I do feel a bit more of that with the stage version. But I also feel or remind myself that it is one small, and first encounter, as I might remind myself when first meeting someone. There is a desire to put forward the best things, in this area; the openness, an ease in mutual understanding translated through physicality and the body, a certain honesty, but it’s a two way street, and there are many factors that might interfere with my desire. The important thing is just the exchange, or the meeting, or the opportunity. I think it would be the same for the audience, though without some of the preparation and fore-warning, which might come as both a hindrance and a benefit.

Photo 4

Roz (left) and Olive (right), photo by Chelsea Petrakis for PICA

In their email correspondence with me, Olive and Anna both describe a necessary openness from the audience and the performer that is key to the work’s success on a performance-to-performance basis. The movers are trained in choreography that aims to induce empathy and highlight the kinesthesia in the audience, but as Anna describes, the intention is not always met. People experience this artwork by engaging or not-engaging from the perspective of an audience, within this experience is an inner dialogue and an outer interaction which becomes the artwork. No documentation or final product is necessary. In my experience, the level of intimacy and openness that I was able to achieve with the performer was genuine and felt like the most authentic response I have ever had to a dance performance. I attribute that authenticity to the performer’s capacity to meet me halfway. This setting provides a space where audience expectations can be deconstructed through movement, quiet observation or dramatic nonverbal communication. This piece allows the willing audience member to engage directly with the energy of a stranger and experiment with how that energy is affected by their presence. Each person who enters the room, audience and performer, have a responsibility to respect the emotional atmosphere of the other and help each other find comfort in the discomfort of the unknown.

Essay and transcriptions by Roz Crews. Roz is currently a student in the Art and Social Practice MFA program at Portland State University.
You can email her at [email protected]

 

 

Dance Party Evelyn, Chanticleer

there was a breeze of disco in the air and men in jumpsuits and high heels, while a rush of disco undercurrent washed all in gathered glamour. Upon the still waters of a tranquil culture, the liquid color explosion of Evelyn splashed all in neon invention. Where are the stylish jet setters of Portland? Some wonder as they watch the pleasantly rotund denizens often seen comporting themselves amidst donut shops. My friend they were there. At Evelyn. In the night racing through dance and changing the face of the night. They mingled in scintillating outfits, stitched with mirrors, dripping with bangles, sleek in leathers. Women wore shoes of tangerine while men dressed as bashed disco balls flew past on roller skates. Outside the sonic umbrella of force field party music, the outside terrace gathered those who contrived to light a cigarette and mix. Ideas and gossip flew on tingling wings of informative instance. There was light. Faces and visages revealed themselves. Beautiful eyes. Strong chins. Lush hair. There were the elbows and shoulders of a crowd in full swing, permitting one to navigate their modest yet fabulous midst, just barely. The art of tomorrow careening through their blood, the songs of beyond dancing in their minds, this bunch of gathered beauty and humor and sly what-have-you impressed upon me the thought that tomorrow will be forward fabulous, retro informed and stellar. huzzahs in multitude to you beautiful ones and twos….   Hugh Gallagher