michael j. morris


Cloud of Interests

This week I read an article by Alexandra Carter entitled  “Destabilizing the Discipline: Critical debates about History and their Impact on the Study of Dance.” In it she describes history not as neat boxes of knowledge but as clouds of “dispersing interplay” of discourses. My life, art, and interests feel a bit like that right now. I feel as if I have several large foci with small shifting bolts of connective tissue (big ‘ole mixed metaphor) linking them together. Some of these are illustrated in my tag cloud, others are not so concrete as to have a “tag” attached to them. I feel like I am trying to figure out how they all relate, how they inform or reinforce one another, and how the work I am doing might adequately address/serve/interrogate all of these interests.

At the heart of it all is the body. There is the subject of my arching research interests, that of situating the body as the site of the perception, negotiation, and demonstration of identity, and how this state is considered within the choreographic process. Specifically I am interested in considering movement material generated by the body as the extension of personal identity, and examining how the physical practice of movement material constitutes not only the construction of dance but also the construction of personal identity.

From here I am already aware of the paths that connect to other interests. One that seems to be of increasing centrality is the expansion of the notion of the body. This comes up in my yoga teaching, in the paper I wrote about Synchronous Objects, and in the ideas I have surrounding the work of Love Art Laboratory, Sexecology, and Ecosexuality. In yoga I privilege the body as the site of perception. The sage Abhinavagupta wrote: “Nothing perceived is independent of perception, and perception differs not from the perceiver; therefore the [perceived] universe is nothing but the perceiver.” If perception is a physical activity, as Mark Johnson, George Lakoff, and Alva Noë (among others, I am sure) have suggested, and if perception is the unity between the subject and the object (that which is “external” of self, the perceived universe), then the body take on far more importance as the site not only of the subject, but the subjective universe. This is perhaps not a profound recognition, but I think it may have profound implications. Our experience of the world can no longer be entirely considered as a subject moving through an external landscape; instead, the subject (and thus the body) becomes implicated in the “external” world. I think this may be the connection point to Sexecology/Ecosexulaity. The foundation of my understanding of these radical, fabulous, and beautiful notions as they have evolved out of the collaborative work of Annie Sprinkle and Elizabeth Stephens is that one looks to find sexual (thus bodily) content in the natural environment. I think this recognition of the body as already implicated in environmental situation by virtue of its role as the creative/perceptual site for the subjective universe offers a natural extension to the exploration of sexuality in that environment. For more about my ideas surrounding sexecology/ecosexuality, see my earlier post. Going back to my yoga practice/yoga teaching, part of the way in which I understand yoga is a kind of alchemy of self, the “splendor of recognition,” the recognition being that Self is not separate from the universe in which it occurs, consciousness is the substance by which we create our own universe, Self is not fixed, nor is the universe, nor is the body, and that by cultivating this awareness of the body/Self/universe in our yoga practice, we are substantially transforming not only ourselves, but our consciousness, and thus the universe in which we live.

Adjacent (but connected) to these interest is the piece that I am working on right now, Autumn Quartet, with Erik Abbott-Main, Eric Falck, and Amanda Platt. This piece has been in process since September, and I am still not quite sure I understand it yet. There are so many blog posts writing specifically about this piece, I don’t want to be redundant, but the major ideas that have emerged from this process are: the relationship between intimacy and violence, undressing/redressing the body, shifting power dynamics, indeterminacy/agency (as created by the structure for the piece being an algorithmic score), the integration of life and art . . . those are the main ideas. Recently I’ve become interested in how this piece relates to sex, the presence or implication of sex in the piece even in the absence of actual sexual action. As I listened to Jiz Lee and Tommy Midas discuss sex in a couple of docu-porns by Madison Young, I was reminded of this dance. I’m still not quite sure what the connections are, but I think they are there. Part of how I am interrogating those connections is by bringing that text, that language, into the process, into the studio. I am situating it into my commentary on the work here on my blog, and in the sound score for the piece. [On a side note, I follow both Jiz Lee and Madison Young on Twitter, and it was an exhilarating surprise to have both of them tweet about my using that text in this piece]. I think as I watched footage of a run-through of the piece, I also began to make aesthetic associations with several films, a few that I have been thinking about since the start of the piece, and one that I had not considered. The last couple of scenes in Perfume: The Story of a Murderer have always been iconic moments for me, and as I looked at this dance, I recognized images that directly relate to those scenes, namely the wild flurry of bodies in various states of undress, and the biting, consuming, eating of a person. In case you haven’t seen the film, I don’t want to go into too much detail, but it was a new connection for me.

Other points of interest branch out from this piece. I am in a course looking at the history and theory of post-modern and contemporary dance this quarter, and in considering what it is I would like to research for this class, this piece has suggested several points: the utilization of undressing as choreography, its reasoning, its perception, etc.; the explication of violence in choreography in post-modern dance: this has interested me for a while. Much of dance has an intrinsically masochistic quality to it. It is difficult, demanding, and often damaging to the body, in small, overlooked ways. I am interested in tracing the expansion of explicit physical violence in choreography, and considering how it might be indicative of an explication of the intrinsic violence, masochism, and even sadism  of dance practices. I am also considering writing my paper on Love Art Laboratory, Sexecology/Ecosexuality, as a component of this course, as the destabilization of fixed parameters of the body might be considered essentially post-structuralist, i.e., essentially post-modernist.

I have been feeling hungry for Butoh lately. Butoh has been the most transformative, fulfilling, actualizing physical practice of my life. Studying with Yoshito and Kazuo Ohno in Yokohama in 2006 was a formative experience for my dancing life. And yet ever since I came to grad school, the time and attention I have made available for a Butoh practice has been non-existant. I regret this, and at the same time I’m not sure of the solution. And yet all of these things, the body as the site of identity, the situation of the subjective universe, subliminal and explicit violence, these are all aspects that I find that Butoh can address.

I’m interested in applying notions of queer theory to choreographic practice, subverting the assumed normative roles of choreographer and dancer, without reverting to the post-modern model of dancers generating movement/choreographer structuring that movement. While that suggests the (perhaps illusion?) of a democratic process, I don’t know if it has substantially subverted those roles. Again, I think of statements made by Jiz Lee in “Thin Line Between Art and Sex” about being a “switch,” the fluidity of roles, leading and following, and how that sexual perspective might inform not only dance practices (as reflected in forms such as Contact Improvisation), but also choreographic methodologies. Truly, I am fascinated by Jiz’s ideas. They have addressed a whole spectrum of concepts that I have wanted to explore for a while and to which I have not yet given my attention. Jiz also wrote an article in a publication called ArtXX looking at the relationship between cognitive science and queer porn. I just ordered my issue; can’t wait to read it.

Which leads to the last interest that I might address here, and that has to do with a notion I’ve considered as “Sexual epistemology,” or ways of knowing that emerge from sexuality, sex, sexual identity, etc. This sense of considering choreographic process from the perspective of “switch” as suggested by a kind of sexual identity could be considered a kind of sexual epistemology. I am curious about what modalities or methodologies might be suggested by other sexual topics, like penetration/non-penetration, arousal, auto-erotic behavior, kink, etc. I have been interested in how the “sex-positive movement” might address or inform academia, or even more specifically, dance in academia. There has been some acknowledgement of sexual dynamics as playing a role in dance practices, but I question whether these have been acknowledged through as “sex-positive” lens. Carol Queen defines sex-positive as follows: “It’s the cultural philosophy that understands sexuality as a potentially positive force in one’s life, and it can, of course, be contrasted with sex-negativity, which sees sex as problematic, disruptive, dangerous. Sex-positivity allows for and in fact celebrates sexual diversity, differing desires and relationships structures, and individual choices based on consent” (quoted from her article “The Necessary Revolution: Sex-Positive Feminism in the Post-Barnard Era.”). How might our acknowledgement, treatment, and even utilization of sexual understanding affect dance practices in a positive way? I don’t know, but it is a budding interest of mine.

I’m not sure of all the ways in which these interests relate. Nor am I sure of how to give attention to all or any of these during the difficult and demanding period of grad school, but even just by articulating them and cataloguing them here on my blog I feel that I have served the process in some way.

On to other things.



Autumn Quartet: Bite images, etc.

These were taken last week after our rehearsal. I wasn’t certain whether I would post them, but as I read back through the various posts describing this process, it feels very removed from the bodies themselves. Something about these images brings the process back to a very physical place. I think of them as art integrating with life. Lingering bite mark after rehearsal.

I have also been working on integrating various text into what we’ve been working with as our soundscape. First were the previously shared quotes from Tommy Midas in Madison Young‘s “Fluid: Men Redefining Sexuality.” Now I have made connections to quotes by Jiz Lee in another of Madison Young’s docu-porns, “Thin Line Between Art and Sex.” I’ll transcribe those below:

“I think that there are a lot of similarities between art and sex, particularly with dance.”

[referencing Contact Improvisation]: “It’s about inter-relating with another person, or more than one person, in such a way that it’s improvisational, you’re taking cues from them and what they’re doing, and what they’re going to do next. You know, anticipating what they might do next, or what they might want next. There’s also a level of, like, a follower and a leader sometimes, so sometimes there’ll be, like, someone kind of, like, following, and the other person takes cues off of that, or visa versa, and they switch at any moment . . . I feel like it relates to sex because you can start off in one way and then decide, oh, actually, I’ll let you lead for a second, and I’ll take that cue.”

“It was called the Undress Project, and so I was dancing naked on stage, and it wasn’t sexualized, and actually they found out that wearing a little bit amount of clothing, like even rehearsing in bras and underwear, was more tantalizing and titillating than just being completely naked. And there was a real beauty and zen-like quality to performing completely bare and being exposed, and seeing that our bodies were this kind of functioning machine, where they eat and piss and shit and eat again, and they age and they sag and they live and die . . .”

“I found myself being kind of upset being on stage and being naked and people seeing, like, ‘Oh, that’s a woman,’ and you know, like, the size of my hips and you can see my boobs and to be . . . by a lot of reviewers being, like, ‘She this, and she that,’ and actually I identify as gender queer, so . . . and I had been packing, binding, and identifying as trans for a while, so it was an interesting transition to be okay with my body and be okay with what other people thought about my body.”

“So I got very comfortable with myself naked, moving naked, being seen by others and however they wanted to see me.”

I have also been considering the format in which this piece might be seen by outside observers. I have been questioning the necessity of having any sort of formal or informal performance/presentation since the start of the process, and I still have questions about the implications of presentation for this work. In so many ways, this piece really is about and for the four of us as a practice in which we engage, a dance intended more for the kinesthetic, spatial, and interpersonal experience of being inside of it rather than the visual experience of seeing the piece. And yet there is a sense in which the piece might . . . want to be shared? So I have been considering the possibility of personal invitations, inviting specific individuals to witness our practice, week by week rather than any sort of epitomizing performance experience. I haven’t quite figured out the details or viability of this approach, but it does seem like a way to continue to maintain a sense of intimacy in the process, emphasizing the interpersonal rather than the spectacle. I think.

That is my creative update on the Autumn Quartet. There are so many other thing about which I feel compelled to write . . . how the this piece is beginning to feel implicated in the post-modern period through its inclusion of undressing (I’m thinking again of David Gordon’s Random Breakfast, and Anna Halprin’s Parades and Changes). Maybe that will be the paper I write for “The History and Theory of Postmodern/Contemporary Dance” this quarter. In any event, the work of reading and writing and teaching now requires my attention.



Autumn Quartet: Edges
9 January, 2010, 6:08 pm
Filed under: creative process | Tags: , ,

I suppose this has been a theme in my work since I created “Shades of the Edged Existence.” That piece was exploring our essential isolation as individual subjects, the nature of love and loss in an existence in which we are always only ever on the outside of one another. There was a brief action at the end of the duet I dance with Deder Gordon in in which she scratched and pounded my chest, as if trying to get inside; I wonder if the biting is just a further continuation of that action?

Maybe there’s an intrinsic violence to intimacy. The desire to get inside of something that is essentially closed off. The desire, the impulse to be inside, connotes violence. Clearly, after this week’s rehearsal, violence is a direction in which this piece could move. There were so many moments pregnant with potential conflict, combat even. And yet it was never my intention to create a violent piece, and community of intimate violence. It was my desire to create a piece that cultivated knowing, and in knowing, loving. So where to next? I think our direction may have something to do with softening the edges that we have found. Our limits, the outer boundaries of possibility within the action, within the algorithm, that we found this week lend themselves to violence. What might happen if we softened there, came to those places and rather than crashing up against them, biting as if to tear through them, we softened, leaned, listened against them, bit as if assuring love, as if promising not to break through, but to press into. What would that look like? What if we were to infuse this piece with softness and listening, with choices based on reaction or response rather than as action or provocation? How might it change?



From “Fluid: Men Redefining Sexuality”

When I was in San Francisco, I had the opportunity to meet Madison Young, the owner/founder of Femina Potens Art Gallery, a porn star, award winning director, published writer, and sexual educator. She is something of a super-hero. She is iconic to me of a sex-positive social/cultural/political figure. After returning home, I began to explore the range of some of her work. I came across a docu-porn she directed entitled “Fluid: Men Redefining Sexuality.” I think it a a fascinating blending of individual interviews, cultural reflection/commentary, and queer porn. I recommend it.

But this is not going to be a porn review. Instead I wanted to share a few quotes from one of the individuals featured in the film. He made several statements that I found striking when I first watched “Fluid,” but recently his words have been haunting me a bit. To be frank, on some small level they seem related to the process being explored in the piece I’ve been working on, “Autumn Quartet.”  This week I left rehearsal a bit beaten up, bruised, with dark red/purple bite marks. I’m sure there is a whole exegesis that might take place surrounding the violent nature of some aspects of this piece, completely woven into what seems essentially to be a dancing exploration of interpersonal intimacy. It’s this conflation of intimacy and violence that brought Midas’ words to mind. I decided to post them here as a way of bringing them into my thinking in this process:

“I definitely identify as queer, I definitely identify as a boy. I hate that, like, ‘man’ word. It’s really gross to me. I feel like there’s a separate, like, gender for, like, ‘boy.’”

“I love getting just as deep and dark in, like, the psyche as I can with all kinds of those different labels, I guess . . . little boy kind of stuff, and, like, ‘momma’s boy’ and ‘daddy’s boy,’ that kind of stuff gets me really hot. And it does feel like some sort of a reclamation, where I’m not forced into this, like, male, masculine role that has all the weight of, you know, destroying the world and bombing and killing and raping humanity, but has more of a fun, playful innocence that I may have grown out of it at some point, in some ways, been over-exposed to, but it’s kind of like a re-kindling of it for me.”

“I’ve had some really explosive relationships that were almost borderline abusive that . . . I actually burned out, and I had my most intense lover, who literally would, you know, drag me into the middle of 24th Street, ripping my clothes off in a wedding dress and fucking the shit out of me in public and throwing fists in every direction, so I was basically trying to run and she’s like . . . I feel like I’m constantly trying to find that again, that just wild, crazy, untouchable, like, no-holds-barred, and wherever it comes from, whether that person is male or female or whatever, just the wildest, craziest, and I find myself falling into those relationships, sexual and otherwise, as often as possible.”

“I’m all about this group thing, it’s super exciting for me. I’ve had a lot of really hot queer, per se,  group experiences that end in, like, everyone’s had all these weird ‘firsts’ and we’re, like, hugging and crying and covered in each other’s blood and it’s just, like, fucking awesome. And those are, like, the ones that I yearn for the most.”

* * * * *

After I went home last night, I thought of further contextualization for sharing these quotes. To be clear: these are not my fantasies. By sharing Tommy Midas’ words, I don’t mean to imply that these are these ways that I think or feel, or even that these are goals of mine for myself/this piece. But I find what he said poignant; the words stayed with me. To be frank, I initially found the last two quotes disturbing, the implication of violence and romance. I don’t aspire to pain, nor to transforming abuse into passion. And yet there is something about this dance (and other dances . . . I’m thinking about “click here for slideshow”),walking around badly bruised the week following a rehearsal . . . doesn’t that imply a fluidity between masochism and passion? Why do we/I do this thing (dance) that leaves us bruised? Are these wounds indicative of harm or are they simply traces of action, even passion? I’m not sure. I still cringe a little when I read those last two quotes, and yet because of that they haunt me.



Autumn Quartet: Next Phase
6 January, 2010, 11:23 am
Filed under: creative process, Dance | Tags: , , ,

Tonight I am beginning work again with the “Autumn Quartet” that I began in September. The piece has reached a certain identity at this point. It is consistently twenty minutes. We know the material well, we know the algorithm by which it is driven, and we are continuing to know one another. The question over this break (the last month almost) has been, “where will it go next?” These are my thoughts about that. I wish I had time to elaborate and explain each of these ideas in context, but this quarter already feels like it is dragging me behind it. So, for context, find “Autumn Quartet” in the tag cloud to the left and refer to the related posts:

I’m interested in pushing the limits of what we are doing in a lot of ways, making the piece more of what it already is, and finding places to ask what else it might be. These are some of my specific areas of interest:

-The biting: We bite each other in this piece. And I am interested in more . . . ferocity in this biting. But I don’t want to use that word. It has so much implication, connotation. What are the formal qualities in which I am interested? Longer, harder . . . The question becomes, “What is the biting?” It was inspired by the vampire craze in pop culture. But what does it mean to us, to this piece, in this context? What function does it serve? Something like “biting as a way of knowing, a means of exploration.” Something like KNOW(TOUCH)ME(YOU)(MY/YOUR BODY) (which, recently became historically situated for me as relating to a portion of Anna Halprin’s Ceremony of Us), but with our teeth. Not just doing the action, but noticing what each person feels like in between my teeth, noticing if I can feel the layers of tissue through the pressure of my bite, staying with the bite long enough to notice, to recognize, to learn, to recall something of the person that I am biting (and perhaps myself as well . . .)

-Undressing each other: We strip throughout this piece, but an option that is given in the algorithm that is rarely enacted is the action of undressing someone else. I wonder what would happen if at the end, in which we have ended up wearing one another’s clothing, rather than undressing ourselves and returning articles of clothing to their rightful owners, we located our own clothing and removed it from the other person’s body. Undressing each other, and what that might add/reveal to/of the piece.

-Finding the danger/risk: this is a notion presented to me by Bebe Miller last spring, and is discussed by Anne Bogart. I’m interested in pushing the limits of the algorithm, finding what choices we might make that radically alter the piece and our experience of it while still “following the rules.” Examples of this might be the evening in which Eric Falck did not respond to my biting. He just laid there, unresponsive, as I bit him long and hard again and again. This choice was completely within the algorithm, but dramatically shifted the form, content, and tone of the piece. Another idea I have had is making choices of things/actions/phrases within the piece that one will not do, from the beginning personalizing the algorithm to reflect this choice. Etc. I am interested in how the piece might take on new forms/structures/personalities/atmospheres as we continue to probe the outer limits of the algorithm, rather than staying near the predictable.

-I am especially interested in cultivating increased awareness of/in this piece, and of ourselves in the piece. Questions such as (as these questions may constitute an exegesis to be enacted after a run-through/each run-through, deepening our understanding of what we are doing, who we are, and what possibilities there may be through this process of questioning):

-What does it feel like to dance these phrases, do these actions? What are you thinking while you are doing?

-What leads you to make the choices you are making?

-Why do you bite when you bite?

-Can you sense the space between yourself and everyone else as a volume throughout the piece? Do you know what everyone else is doing while you are doing? And how does that change what and how you are doing? What is the physical attention of the piece?

-How do you feel about the other three during the dance?

-How do you feel about yourself during the dance? Who are you (not who are you pretending to be) in this piece right now (EMPHASIZING that the answer will be different with each run-through, because we change and the piece itself changes, thus our answers change)?

-What are you censoring, and why? (both in the dance itself and in the exegesis)

-I am interested in Erik’s suggestion of doing “the piece” without the rules, just to see what happens. This might be the foundation for an improvisation, perhaps post-exegesis/as exegsis.

-What would be scary about stripping to nudity ion this dance? What’s intimidating about being naked together? How might that change with an audience? When in the dance might nudity occur?

Those are my questions as of now. Excited to see where it goes. Off to class now.



Autumn Quartet: The Dance/Our Lives

We ran the piece twice Thursday night. It came in almost exactly 20 minutes both times. I’m not quite sure how that happened, but it works for me. To briefly describe what the choreography is as of now:

-a collection of set movement material (two long phrases, and several tasks)
-an algorithmic improvisational score that determines the structure of the piece (I may share the score here at some point . . . right now that feels like too much information)
-a set way of beginning and ending, and a momentum that carries through the enactment of the score. The decisions are different every time we do it, but it facilitates the accomplishment of certain things: we all get undressed. we all get redressed. in between, we dance phrases, make angry gestures, strip for one another, bite one another, roll around a bit, etc.
-there is a sound score at the moment, a mashup I did from a playlist that we’ve been using in rehearsal:
“Intro Versailles” by Reitzell/Beggs from the Marie Antoinette soundtrack
“Caddis” by ISAN from “Lucky Cat”
“Poker Face (Space Cowboy Remix)” by Lady Gaga from “Poker Face (remixes)”
“Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga (single)
“Gwely Mernans” by Aphex Twins from Drukqs
then back to “Intro Versailles” by Reitzell/Beggs from the Marie Antoinette soundtrack

I think I am finally beginning to understand what it is that we’re doing. It just took talking to CoCo for a little bit. She helped me connect several “dots” that have littered my creative landscape for quite some time: the violent action and the integration of life and dance. These are very new ideas, but I’ll try to get them down somehow.

For years now I have had a mounting interest in violent actions of the body, for lots of reasons: their irreversibility, their potency for kinesthetic empathy, the fact that they cannot be faked, not really. And, on some level that I perhaps have not admitted before, because they leave a mark. A kind of testimony to the fact that the action was real, a real, visible, tangible effect on the body, a mark of how it is retained. This may have found a ready expression in my Lady Gaga “I Like It Rough” solo in CoCo’s “click here for slideshow or 6-8 character limit,” (early version of that solo can be seen here), the bruises finally fading over a week later. I’ve had lots of questions over the years about “why the violence?” Talking to CoCo last night about the new piece I am making, I think I finally have a bit more of an answer.

In thinking about the integration of life and dance, I have for years been concerned about the fact that dance is an art that lives in the body, the individual person. I’ve always had a discomfort surrounding the “theatrical” aspects that come into dance, the characterization element, the idea that what we do in the dance is somehow separate from who we are as real people. I think that was part of what first attracted me to Butoh, the emphasis on the cultivation of an inner experience that then emerges as the dance. It isn’t something that is put on, nor can it be taken off. In the more theatrical heritages of dance (I’m thinking a bit of story ballets, etc., but maybe even into more contemporary dance theater), the character is something that is put on, it is pretend, an impersonation. I think there is a place for dance of that nature . . . but it is becoming further and further removed from my experience/interest in dance. I think what interests me is the actuality of the action in the body, actions taken by realm people with realm ramifications in the body (and thus, perhaps, who they are). This is part of what I’m interested in researching for my dissertation (if I am accepted to the Ph.D. program to which I’ve applied), the ramifications of the choreographic process for the construction of individual personal identity through the body. At the heart of this is not only the assertion that the body is the site of identity, but also that dance action is an actual occurrence within the body. We are actually doing what we are doing/dancing. And that action is thus part of our “real” lives, who we really are, our identity. Even if a dancer is “playing a character” or putting on a role for a dance, the actions taken in that part are still real, they emerge from and have an effect on the body/the individual. I think this is the fundamental awareness that has provoked my passion for figuring out the integration of life and dance, the fact that the two are not two, they are one, dance and life all comprising experience that is lived in the body. The conceptualization of the two as somehow separate is something reinforced (maybe) by “dance as profession” versus “personal life.” Or maybe it comes from the theatrical heritage, that dance is something like theater in which fiction is enacted. But while fiction may be enacted, the way in which it is executed in the body is not fiction, it is real action taken in the actual body/person with real ramifications (this can be said for theater as well).

So how does this relate to the violent action, or this new piece I am making?

The violent action may have been an entry point into the speculation for me. The action that overtly, audaciously, has real effect on the body, irreversible, unable to be faked, emphasizing the “realness” of the dance. I still have a lot of interest in this, but now this has expanded a bit; I’m finding other ways to explore the dance as reality in the body, thus reality in the lives of the dancers. In this piece, we dance phrase material. It has its effect on our lived and living bodies, the way each of us move. The more familiar it becomes, the more that way of moving is integrated into our bodies, the more it changes the way we move “naturally” (loaded word, I know; what I mean is something like the ways of moving that occur easily, consciously and subconsciously, in the body), thus potentially changing aspects of who we are. There is floor work, some that borders on violent, and it leaves marks on and in our bodies. We undress, and it is our actual bodies being uncovered; it isn’t faked. We bite one another, and it is really our teeth pressing into flesh, our real flesh in one another’s mouths, in between one another’s teeth. We take off our clothes and we put on one another’s (real) clothes. These are all ways I think of this dance privileging/emphasizing the fact that it is not separate from our lives, from who we are, from the actual lived experience of our bodies, and the community of our bodies.

But it isn’t only the dance extending into (real) life, but life extending into the dance via the choreographic structure. There are discrete components of prescribed movement material, and a multiple page algorithmic improvisational score for the dance, but the choices are made by us in relation to one another. Those relationships are not (cannot?) be separate from the (personal) relationships that we have created with one another. When I choose to strip for Amanda or bite Erik or roll around on the floor with Eric, those choices are made both within the context of the dance/movement/structure and our lives. And even more subtly, there are the ways we relate in the dance beyond our structural choices. The ways we look at one another, the ways we react to one another, the way we laugh or talk or adjust for one another during the piece, even the “rules” (of the algorithm) that we choose to break. All of it is not separate from who we are to one another.

 

Okay.

I think I’ve run out of words. But that’s where this piece is, where my thoughts are.

Tonight I’m going to see the Resident and Visiting Artist Concert being put on by the OSU Department of Dance. I’ve seen some of the work and heard great things about the other work. I’m looking forward to it.



Visiting the Love Art Laboratory

I found out this morning that I have received funding for a research trip to San Francisco in December, to view work by and interview Love Art Lab (Annie Sprinkle and Elizabeth Stephens). The hope is that I will write something for publication or conference presentation based on the research I do on this trip. I can hardly wrap my head around the fact that I’ll be there meeting them/talking to them about their work/seeing their work in less than a month. I have thrived on their work remotely for so long . . . I can hardly imagine preparing myself for first-hand engagement.

These are the (unfiltered) ideas I am interested in talking to them about:

-The implications for perspectives of the body in their work, both their larger project of Love Art Laboratory, the projects they have done year by year, and their recent evolution into “Sexecology” (the intersection of sexology and ecology). What does it mean that the whole Love Art Lab project is centered around the chakra system, which is a distillation of energy centers within the body (the body as the starting place for this project, via the work of artist Linda Montano)? What does it mean that these projects are predominantly performative (or artifacts of the performative), which situates the body at the (intersecting) center of political activism, environmentalism, interpersonal relationship, sexual identity, etc.?

-What does intersecting “sexology” (the study of sexual behavior, predominantly in humans) and “ecology” (the branch of biology dealing with the relations of interactions between organisms and their environment; environmental science) say about how we view the body, organizations/relationships of bodies (people), etc.?

-What kind of progressive “body cultures” or cultures for progressive perspectives of the body are furthered in their work (this might address anything from clothing trends, body modification such as tattoos or piercings, exploring the boundaries between the private and the public as it relates to revelation of the body and bodily (even sexual) acts, etc.)?

-How does their work illustrate a conflation of art, life, and love? How has that functioned, the art seeming to be so entangled with the personal relationship between the artists (collaborators and wives)? How does that affect/direct the content of the work? How does the relationship serve as material in the art, and how does the art serve as a component of the personal relationship? Where is the line between public and private? What gets put into the art, and what stays out of it? What comes into the relationship, and what has to stay “in the studio,” as it were? To whatever degree the art functions as a profession, how does that affect the art or the relationship? I am fascinated by artist relationships, specifically in which both the relationship and the art are collaborative. I am fascinated by relationships emerging from the creative process (re: “click here for slideshow or 6-8 character limit“; “Autumn Quartet“), how art furthers relationships, how relationships function as material for art, etc.

-On some (utopian, idealistic) level, I think I am looking to Annie and Beth as gurus of sustainable integration. That isn’t fair and I know it, but their work integrates so much: personal, public, professional, creative, political, sexual, ecological, etc. etc. etc. And somehow, from the remote observer, it seems to be working. I need this to be answered . . . disillusioned, nuanced, confirmed, whatever. The most difficult part of the creative life (for me) is the integration. I am interested in Fluxus artists. I am interested in early post-modernism, and how they worked so hard to dissolve the boundary between art and life, and at the same time I am interested in maintaining my connection to the art form, to the history of dance, the technique and craft and practice of it. I don’t want to integrate dance and life simply by considering my daily mundane life (the walking to and from school, drinking coffee, reading and writing papers, washing dishes, folding clothes, seeing friends, etc.) dancing (which it is); I want to maintain a dancing practice, a connection to dancing history and technique without those things feeling remote from the rest of life . . . by which I think I mean (predominantly) relationships. I mean cooking and cleaning and other life experiences as well, but I think the conflict I find most of all is the amount of time that the “dancing life” demands infringing on the quality and quantity of time I can spend nurturing and fostering human connection. The irony is that my art form is predominantly social; we do it in groups of people.

I should say that between the project I just completed with CoCo Loupe, Eric Falck, and Jeff Fouch (“click here for slideshow or 6-8 character limit”) and the project I am working on with Erik Abbott-Main, Eric Falck, and Amanda Platt, I feel nearer to this “integrated living” than I have (in quite some time)(ever). And yet I feel like (I hope) Annie and Beth can say something to this.

 

That’s all I have time for. Ecstatic to have funding. Can’t wait to be in San Francisco.



Ballistic creative update

I don’t have time for paragraphs today. Or maybe even sentences. But I have these little snippets of info pertaining to the dances in which I am involved. Here we go:

Jeff said this and it feels true: “click here for slideshow or 6-8 character limit” almost feels too intimate to share. It’s been our little secret since June, and now doing it in front of people . . . well, it feels very different.

I felt really unstable (physically, emotionally, contextually) last night during our piece. I think so much shifted so quickly from the private to the public. I hope to find my ease and grounding by tonight. This is such amazingly familiar material, it’s been living in my body for months . . . and yet that quickly, given all these intersecting/shifting contexts, it changed.

The dancing feels like loving, in both projects, and the loving is complicated as loving often is.

Even though it was necessary, it feels strange to think of Erik and Amanda rehearsing the “autumn quartet” without Eric and I last night (we were at dress rehearsal for “Anthro(pop)ology II”), almost as strange as Eric and I rehearsing without them last week. It almost feels illicit when the dance is so tangled up in interpersonal intimacy.

I saw Anna Sullivan’s new piece for “Anthro(pop)ology II” last night and I was stunned, amazed, horrified, and elevated, all at once. I think it is wonderful. Shocking. I didn’t feel that there was anything about it that was not fucked up, and somehow it embodied that condition so completely . . . it’s sexy and dark and twisted at parts, athletic at parts, lots of skin, lots of touching and contact and an exciting sound score . . . I am so happy to be dancing in a show with this piece.

So come see the show!

“Anthro(pop)ology II opens on Friday, November 13th and closes Sunday, November 15th. Friday & Saturday shows at 8 pm, Sunday matinee 3 pm. Buy your tickets early at www.amerifluff.com

Anthro(pop)ology is an on-going theatrical series of collaborations between edgy performance art groups committed to creating works that think and frolic outside the box. Each group presents a sharply honed 30 minute performance that showcases its unique artistic panache while at the same time re-enforcing a playful, unifying agenda aimed at critiquing pop culture superficialities, incongruities, and/or injustices.
Anthro(pop)ology II includes premiere performances by Anatomical Scenario Movement Theatre, TUPACO Dance, and cocoloupedance.

purchase tickets at www.amerifluff.com



Lady Gaga “Bad Romance”
12 November, 2009, 5:45 pm
Filed under: art, creative process, culture | Tags: , , ,

I somehow felt that I was keeping something from you.

By not telling you.

How completely OBSESSED I am

with Lady Gaga’s new “Bad Romance” video:

I wish I could tell you why. Besides the fact that I seem to be moving deeper into a worship of Gaga. And maybe for today it is simply enough to admit that I am obsessed with this video/song. And I would be lying if I tried to imagine that this won’t somehow enter the creative process.

Maybe we’ll wear diamonds.
Or Alexander McQueen.
And we’ll undress.
And dance.
To Gaga.

There is a music mash-up happening . . . I’m not sure if it is “for” the piece or just for “rehearsals.” But it goes like this:

“Intro Versailles” by Reitzell/Beggs from the Marie Antoinette soundtrack
“Caddis” by ISAN from “Lucky Cat”
“Poker Face (Space Cowboy Remix)” by Lady Gaga from “Poker Face (remixes)”
“Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga (single)
“Gwely Mernans” by Aphex Twins from Drukqs

We’ll see what that turns into.



Continued thoughts on Autumn Quartet
10 November, 2009, 12:39 pm
Filed under: art, Dance | Tags: ,

This is more of my pure brainstorming. It may not make any sense to anyone except the dancers with whom I’m working (maybe not even to them), but it is part of the process, and that’s part of what I try to do here: unveil the process.

Raw. Unedited.

“I am at odds with the piece I am making right now . . .

Or perhaps I am not at odds. I feel completely lost inside of it.

Not completely lost . . . as if there is something I know fairly certainly about it, and that thing is elusive behind all these other ideas. I know that there is this thing I know about it, but as soon as I try to look at it directly, define or describe it, it evaporates.

I know what the piece is not . . . when I see it.

There is movement material. Set material, material that I generated and have transmitted to the other dancers, that we will continue to refine. (By refine, do I mean make it look more like the way that I do it, or want to do it? What does that say about power dynamics?)

There are actions in which I am interested:

-Biting

-undressing/redressing

-touching/feeling/exploring bodies

If choreography is something like:

-the movement material/content of the piece, and

-the structure or organization of that movement

Then I have movement/content with no apparent structure.

Except this crazy notion of “relationships/interpersonal intimacy” as choreographic structure . . .

But this is so elusive.

How do the relationships literally effect the performance/sequence/spatial/temporal organization of the material? How do the relationships decide/dictate who does what/when/with whom/where?

As soon as I begin to contemplate what structures emerge from the relationships, it feels more like structures that the relationships influence rather than the relationships being the structure . . .

How am I thinking of structures?

Maybe an improvised structure involving these elements:

-“new phrase+long phrase” (ends with angry gestures)

-“face phrase+” (ends with flop on side, stay there until someone bites)

-biting (as of now this is only at the end of the “face phrase”)

-undressing (this could happen at any point? Undressing self or someone else, completely or in part)
-when can someone undress themselves:
-in response to “angry gestures,” marching in a circle
-after/during a “biting scene” (at the end of the “face phrase” side flop)
-walking forward from the starting position

-when can someone undress someone else:
-after/during a “biting scene” (at the end of the “face phrase”)
-how much agency remains with the person being undressed? Can they discont

-redressing (this can only take place after everyone is in their “final state” of undress, whatever we decide that is, and can only be putting on articles of clothing that are not the ones with which you began)

-touching (?)(I am thinking about any two people being able to engage in KNOW(TOUCH)ME(YOU)(MY/YOUR BODY) at any point during the piece . . . but this may have to have more stipulations . . . like, only once both people are in a “final state of undress”)

-starting positions/walking forward (this can be returned to at any point)

-To what degree can the movement phrases be done in part?
-Movement material phrases can be done in their entirety from beginning to end
-Can someone join someone else who is already doing a movement phrase? Or do they have to begin that phrase at the beginning in order to create canon/differentiation of roles (if two or more people get to a “terminal point” at the same time, the piece stagnates)
-Movement phrases can begin somewhat simultaneously, and timing inside of the phrase can fluctuate (negotiated by those inside of it)
-Movement phrases can be abandoned in response to “angry gestures” or to enact a “biting scene” at the end of a face phrase

-I think I feel that the “hand sliding game+side flop” is interchangeable with “angry gestures;” both are fairly terminal . . . although I think angry gestures can be abandoned . . . maybe . . . unless angry gestures is a demand for someone to undress . . .

Is that a viable structure? When someone does angry gestures, someone has to respond by undressing . . . and the person doing angry gestures has to keep doing angry gestures until someone responds by undressing . . . after someone begins to undress, the person doing angry gestures can continue to demand the undressing or discontinue at any point . . .

This creates a shifting power dynamic . . . the person doing angry gestures is “stuck” there, under the decisive power of the group . . . the group negotiates who will undress . . . then the person undressing is under the power of the person doing angry gestures

This makes me think (in a much more reserved fashion) of the way we negotiate the reading exercises . . . a polite waiting on one another, waiting for someone to decide to read, and once you begin reading, you read to the end . . . also, the exchange of agency in

I feel that undressing in response to angry gestures might have to always involve marching in a circle around the angry gestures person . . . that circling as another enactment of a power dynamic . . .

When did power dynamics become so ingratiated in this idea of relationships/intimacy?

Maybe the power is paired with trust? Is that what I’m working towards?