michael j. morris


Integration of Art and Life

Integration.

Balance. Integration.

Connection. Balance. Integration.

Art. Life. Love. Loving. Identity. Multi-media. Interdisciplinary. Integration.

These are the things that I am thinking about. I feel as if most of the time these things become areas of my life or parts of my life, competing and conflicting and challenging one another rather than a more fluid, connected, integrated flow of living.  I’m sure there is a rich field of precedents in the various arts of artists who have managed this sort of integration of life and art. We looked at many of them in my seminar course in Winter with Ann Hamilton and Michael Mercil. But if I were to make a sweeping generalization, this integration mainly came about (the most effectively, in my opinion) when the definition of “art” was opened to a broad place, and the activities of living became the art. Political activism as art. Ecological activities and humanitarian aid as art. Service aesthetics, in which an activity normally associated with the service industries were appropriated as art practices. In an even broader generalization, the art became ways in which people interact. Social living became the art. And there’s something beautiful about that. That is part of what I see at work in the Love Art Lab with Elizabeth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle. Their relationship with one another, their love, their activism in areas like same-sex equality, violence against sex workers, and anti-way politics, becomes their art in magical and creative ways. I am so inspired by this.

And yet when I’ve been aware of dance artists who have danced this line, they become separated from the “dance world,” from dance techniques, dance history, the evolution of this form. They become removed from concert dance, and “traditional” ways of making. And there’s a part of me that is not ready to lose those connections. As I delve deeper into graduate school, I am submerging myself in those areas of study and research. I am going deep into dance history and dance and aesthetic theories, investigations of the body, etc. But also away from things like “performativity.” I still care about sharing work, displaying work, but its the experience of the dancer, the person dancing the piece . . . I feel myself continuing to get farther away from concerns like fabricated expression and anything artificial. I think for a while now I have not been able to separate what I do on stage (or in a studio, or anywhere else) from “real life.” I am interested in it being a real experience that is in turn witnessed, and we as a community of people, of dancer and spectators, are some how benefited by the sharing of that experience. I’m not sure if this is making any sense, and it feels a bit tangential, but it’s where my mind is going with this speculation. When I performed “Red Monster” in May, it was not “pretend.” It was actually me standing in front of a room of people, without a shirt on, revealing my body, taking measure of it, tracing and touching the parts of my body that I am sometimes ashamed of, and in doing so in front of this room of people, actually engaging with that discomfort and shame. The piece involves a fantasy of an Other . . . maybe in a more vulnerable version of the piece I will not imagine an Other, but actually find someone in the audience who will fill that role. But the fantasy was real in that I was really envisioning that person, really generating those experiences of desire and shame, really fantasizing about having sex with that person as I unzipped my pants and moved as if masturbating [IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE PIECE, I apologize if this makes no sense. You can see a video of it on my youtube account here]. And the piece was about the distance between self and the Other . . . the Other is intended to be absent from that moment. So even though it does lapse into fantasy, the piece is about lapsing into fantasy. If that makes sense. And when the piece was over and I went and sat down in the audience, I had actually done those things in front of viewers.

This is beginning to lapse into my thoughts on the choreography of identity, or choreographing identity. The short, muddled version of that notion is that we know ourselves and our situation in the world first and foremost through our bodies and the movement of our bodies. Corporeal identity (what I am calling the way in which our identity is known and expressed through our bodies) becomes something of a loop, perceiving who we are through our bodies, then contributing to that identity by our conscious and subconscious decisions and directions for how we move, behave, and take physical action in the world. The way we move, the way in which we do things, both expresses and contributes to that corporeal identity. I am also interested in the somatic notion of the memory of the body. I haven’t gone very deep into this investigation, but somatic forms such as Rolfing and Feldenkrais (as well as others) posit that the body carries its history, its memory, in its structure and thus behavior. The way in which we do things, the condition of our bones and muscles and neuromuscular interfacing, represents that which has come before, the history that we carry in our bodies. I am interested in how this might relate to a dance practice. How does the experience of dancing “Red Monster” continue to “live” in my body as part of its history, and thus part of my identity? In very literal ways, I have scars from some dances that I performed (importantly, both my own choreography and the choreography of others); there are literally marks that reveal how my body (and thus my Self) has been changed by this practice. Because of my dance training, I exist in my body differently than someone without the same training. I am aware of my physical abilities and limitations in a different way. This has an effect on my perception of self, my self-identity. I am curious about more subtle ways, like how repetition in the rehearsal process might build strength or weakness, tension or release, in joints and muscles and tendons and ligaments, in the structure and thus behavior of my body. How does that choreography continue to “live” in my body? And in even more subtle ways, like style of movement, movement qualities, etc. I had an amazing experience this past quarter studying modern technique with CoCo Loupe, who was one of my first modern dance teachers when I was in high school. Close to ten years later, my body had an understanding, a memory, of her way of moving. I don’t perform it perfectly, but my body remembered it, because it was part of my early training. I don’t know how to quantify that observation as data, but experientially I was aware of how that way of moving had continued to live in my body, my identity.

Dancing, and choreography, then, takes on an almost sacred quality, because we are literally constructing and deconstructing our bodies/Selves in/through what it is we are doing as dance artists. When I take a class or dance my own work or the work of another choreographer, I am taking that experience, that real experience, into my body as part of its history. It becomes part of the way I exist, part of my corporeal identity, my Self.

And maybe that’s a clue to the kind of art/life integration that I began this post speculating. When talking to my brother yesterday, he mentioned the possibility of the solution being one of “ritual,” in which dancing and training and stylization and ways of moving take on an important role in living, in personal or social life. The dancing becomes more than theater, more than spectacle, more takes on a sacredness that reflects the work I observe being done in the individuals involved. And it alludes to taking on spiritual significance as well.  

That’s all I have time for at the moment. I hope to return to this speculation/contemplation/integration soon.

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Reflecting on the Spring Quarter

The spring quarter is almost complete. Two informal showings today, and I will be off into my summer. For a day, at least. Wednesday I start a two-week intensive Labanotation Teacher Certification Course. Which then segues straight into the summer quarter. But the schedule will have  bit more breathing room.

Perhaps my largest project this quarter was in my History, Theory, Literature of Choreography course. I decided to do a queer analysis of choreography by Frederick Ashton. Originally it was my intention to analyze two ballets, The Dream and Sylvia, but after in-barking on the analysis of The Dream, I found it so rich in “queer potential” that the emphasis of the research became The Dream alone. 

My primary interest in this research was to consider the potential contribution of Frederick Ashton’s choreography to queer culture, or for his choreography’s queer contribution to dance culture. It also came primarily as a response to Jane Desmond’s assertion of the centrality of dance history and queer theory to one another in her book Dancing Desires: Choreographing Sexualities On & Off The Stage. She writes:

“. . . to understand dance history and dance practices, we must analyze them in relation to histories of sexualities. Conversely, it suggests that the analysis of dance, as a form of material symbolic bodily practice, should be of critical importance to gay and lesbian studies and the ‘queer theory.’ Until now neither analytical approach has received much attention from dance studies scholars or from those in gay/lesbian studies . . . What happens to the writing of dance history and criticism when issues of sexuality and sexual identity become central? And what happens to our considerations of queer theory and to gay and lesbian studies when a dancing body takes center stage? What do we see that we didn’t see before? What questions do we ask that were heretofore unspeakable, unnameable, or unthinkable? What analytical tools will we need to formulate these questions and to develop provisional answers? In what ways might these initiatives reshape our readings of past histories and give rise to new ones? . . . This claim for the necessary intersection of sexuality studies and dance studies is based on two assertions: first, that issues of sexuality, and especially of non-normative sexuality, are not merely relevant to but play a constitutive and under recognized role in dance history; and second, that dance provides a privileged arena for the bodily enactment of sexuality’s semiotics and should thus be positioned at the center, not the periphery, of sexuality studies.”

These ideas were a central point of departure for this research. When I first became aware of Ashton’s sexuality, I was struck by the fact that his work (like so many other choreographers) is not discussed in relationship to his queer identity. It is not that I was interested in establishing a causal relationship between his autobiography and the content of his choreography, nor even speculating about his intentions for his own work. Instead, having become aware of his queer identity, I was interested in how one might interpret his ballet through a queer lens, and how this interpretation might reveal a relationship to queer culture.

In the paper, I attempt to situate The Dream in relationship to the queer culture, such as the relationship of the term “fairy” in the late 19th century and early-to-mid (to present?) 20th century describing an overtly effeminate man who was assumed to solicit male sexual partners (as opposed to “normal men” who abide by the socially expected behavior of masculinity). I also situate the ballet in relationship to the Radical Fairy movement of the 1970s that evolved out of the social politics of gay activists such as Harry Hay. Besides this “cultural situation” of the subject matter of Ashton’s ballet, the paper is primarily a choreographic analysis, looking at the narrative, character development, relationship of characters to one another, individual movement vocabulary, and use of partnering as it relates to the notion of “queer,” or a subversion of the normative or heteronormative.

While I would love to post the whole paper here, as it represents a significant investment in my own research, I will resist the urge. If you are very interested in this analysis, just let me know and I’ll try to find a way for you to read it.

Another significant portion of research this quarter has been in the are of Labanotation. In addition to pursuing my Elementary Labanotation Certification (almost done), I did the work of reading/learning two pieces of choreography in my Intermediate Labanotation course. We learned from score: Yvonne Rainer’s  “Trio A” and three versions of the Sylph’s variation in act II of La Sylphide (the versions were from 1849, 1865, and a version considered current to today). These were in vastly different dancing styles which necessitated different methods for employing the notation system. But more importantly (to me) they addressed a certain kind of hunger in the study of dance history. Too often in studying dance history, our primary points of access are through watching (visual) and reading/lectures (linguistic). Rarely do we have the opportunity to embody seminal dance works from the past. Both of these pieces represent profound periods in the history of dance, La Sylphide representing the Bournonville ballet tradition and the Romantic ballet, “Trio A” representing the 1960’s Judson/post-modern shift in American dance. Not only did we have the opportunity to understand the meaning of these periods in our bodies, but they were made to co-exist within our bodies, disparate styles and periods collapsed into a singular corporeal experience.

I want to briefly describe my experiences of each of these pieces. “Trio A” was surprising in many ways. The first was the extreme complexity of the notation for this piece. “Trio A,” along with most of the work that came out of the Judson group, is considered pedestrian, anti-thetical to traditional theater and concert dance. For me, having read and written about this work, it has always seemed as if it would be simple. The notation revealed that it is not; it is incredibly specific. This quality revealed itself further as we interpreted the notation and learned/practiced the piece. It demanded so much concentration which gave it an almost intense, meditative quality. As it became familiar, it retained this quality of a moving meditation. Some of the directives in the score have to do with evenness of tempo, phrasing, and dynamics. Nothing is to be emphasized, nothing should be given more importance than anything else. And like Rainer’s “NO Manifesto” (below), it is a run-on sentence, nothing repeating, just streaming along in a similar fashion. I feel this quality, the meditativeness, the almost effortless physicality (paired with intense mental focus) infecting the way I approach other movement material as well.

“NO Manifesto:

“NO to spectacle no to virtuosity no to transformations and magic and make-believe no to the glamour and transcendence of the star image no to the heroic no to the anti-heroic no to trash imagery no to involvement of performer or spectator no to style no to camp no to seduction of spectator by the wiles of the performer no to eccentricity no to moving or being moved.”

“Trio A” was meant to embody these ideas. You can see how they translate in Rainer’s performance in the video below:

La Sylphide was more difficult for me. The notation was specific but not as specific as “Trio A.” It made assumptions of certain stylistic understanding. Because my ballet training is not in Bournonville, these assumptions were lost on me. The learning took far more time. The most interesting part of this process was recognizing the relationship of one historical interpretation of the choreography to others, how movements were rearranged, cut, reversed, sped up, or slowed down, etc. It raised questions (that have come up throughout this year) about the nature of choreographic information. If the steps change, what is it that makes each “version” the same ballet? What is the choreography beyond the steps? What is necessary to its integrity? Etc.

I tried to find a video of this variation, but I couldn’t find the exact section on youtube. 

One of my most interesting courses was a Somatics survey taught by Abby Yager. The goals for this course were for practicing a deep listening to the body, cultivating a appreciation and understanding of the Self through this awareness of the body, and the development of a personal somatic practice based on one’s sense of one’s own body. This sort of information feeds directly into a central research interest of mine, the relationship of the body to identity, the embodied nature of existence and experience, and the relationship of a dance practice to the development (or choreography) of identity. I am interested in how these investigations might synthesize in my creative practice and choreography, how choreography might come out of this kind of self awareness, or how I might consciously consider the practice of choreography as a shaping of individual identity through its engagement of the body. In a larger scope, I am interested how individual identity comes out of the way we “choreograph” ourselves, how our conscious and subconscious choices of the ways we handle ourselves physically come to define us for ourselves and others. I am interested in how a cultivated awareness or “deep listening” of the body might contribute to this choreography of identity. The modalities explored in this course (Qi’Gong, Alexander technique, Yoga, Trager, experiential anatomy, Klein technique, etc.) have offered me a wide range of approaches to this sort of research.

This quarter I also produced a solo-in-progress entitled “Red Monster.” It was partially inspired by Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red, and evolved (for me) as an investigation of the ways in which shame and desire transform us (me) into monsters. I just posted a video of this piece on youtube. I don’t think it is an ideal performance (15 May 2009, as part of SIP, the first year dance MFA’s informal showing), for many reasons, but it does offer a look at what I have been exploring choreographically. I may continue to work on this piece. I’ll keep you posted on its evolution.

Here at the end of the quarter I also made several trips to Cincinnati where my twin brother lives. These trips were mostly about seeing art, but this past weekend I attended an event called Dance_MF, which was essentially a huge late-night dance party at Northside Tavern. It is a monthly event, and this was my first time there. It brought several things to mind. The first was a fairly simple observation, something that I have observed before in “dance floor” situations: individuals are far more likely to dance around one another or even in reference to one another than they are to actually dance with another person, by which I mean share any sort of physical contact. It’s always struck me as a disparity, that a social situation primarily characterized by its intense physicality is more based on a visual engagement than one of connected physicality. This is indicative of a larger social disparity with which I’ve been discontented for some time: despite the fact that we are embodied, corporeal creatures, our engagement with one another or knowledge of one another as human beings is more based on our visual interpretations of one another than our actual physical engagement. This strikes me as odd, in culture at large, but especially on a dance floor. I wonder if this awareness has emerged from my dance/choreographic life. To consider a three-to-four hour dance “composition” or “improvisation” in which the participants rarely touch one another feels either boring, ill-crafted, or a very specific social statement. What happens when we engage with life as art, social behavior as composition? How might “society” become a comment on society within the confines of the dance floor?

It also made me think of Jonathan Bollen’s article “Queer Kinesthesia: Performativity on the Dance Floor” (a portion of which can be read here). I’ll try to summarize this article sometime soon.

Another curious effect of this event was an awareness of myself as a “transgender presence.” I decided to wear a dress to the dance (an evolution of wearing skirts and heels and other traditionally female articles of clothing and accessories), not in an attempt to be female, but as an interpretation/expression/expansion of masculinity/my own identity as not being relegated to the narrow expression of identity traditionally associated with masculinity and maleness. At some point during the evening, I became aware of how much the population on the dance floor respected the gender binary. I do not identify as transgender, but in my transgression of traditional male expression, I became a kind of symbol of transgender. Which was an interesting dynamic on a dance floor, not to mention an interesting evolution in my perception of self.

And that’s my reflection on the spring quarter.



Queer presence in creative process and spirituality

My thoughts are scattered (as usual?), but I felt the need to situate a few disparate-but-related speculations together here for my own reflection and articulation.

I have recently been reading an anthology entitled ReCreations: Religion and Spirituality in the Lives of Queer People. It is a collection of essays and other writings of queer people, mostly in first-person, describing their journeys through various religions, faiths, and spirituality, and the relationship of these journeys to their sexual identities. It is in no way a prescriptive anthology; no one seems to offer concrete “answers” or absolutes of what it means to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, etc. in any specific spiritual path. The emphasis seems to be the act of sharing, a recognition of the diversity of related paths. It’s been an inspiring read. Connell O’Donovan wrote in his essay “My Journey into Faerie and What I Found There” (regarding his experiences in the Radical Faerie movement): 

“I have come to this place to lose myself and find myself, to heal from old wounds, to be vulnerable, to (re)claim the heroism of my childhood, to find power (the kind that is unrelated to the prevelant ‘power over’ paradigm), to be extraordinary (not merely queer), to remember Magick, to learn to spread my wings and fly free, to encounter ecstasy, to fuck and be fucked, to embrace my mortality (the authenticity of bodies), to make peace with decay, to love and be beloved, to remember what I wanted to become.” I found this to be a provocative and inspiring statement/manifesto of faith.

Maybe one day I’ll write my own journey of faith and sexuality. If nothing else, reading this book has brought the path of my journey into focus, into memory, into a new context of my present life. The reality is that the “two journeys” were really one journey of identity; faith and sexuality are both part of the question of who one is. Neither evolved or developed separate from the other, and each served as stimulation for the other. What has come out of that is a more unified spiritual, sexual, creative, embodied Self.

Queer identity has also come up twice this week in relationship to dance and creative process. In my History, Theory, Literature of Choreography, we have been looking at the work of Frederick Ashton. While reading some of the required course readings, I came across this article: “Gender, Sexuality, and Community” by Alastair Macaulay. In all that I had read and seen about Ashton, I had not yet come across any mention of his sexuality. It reminded me of a tension discussed by Jane Desmond in her introduction to the anthology Dancing Desires: Choreographing Sexualities On and Off the Stage. She addressed concern that the fields of dance history and queer theory rarely ever addressed one another, when it is clear that the two have an intimately intertwined history. Macaulay writes:

“No one will be shocked now to hear that Ashton was homosexual. But it was not mentioned – was not in good taste to mention – in discussions of Ashton’s work during his lifetime. Still, the fact is that when we speak of the ballets of George Balanchine or Marius Petipa, we automatically connect their vision of women and womanhood and partnering to the fact that these men were married more than once, and to their heterosexual world view. It is time that we began to ask equivalent questions about Ashton’s choreography.”

It makes me curious about the presence of queer identity in Ashton’s choreography, or how his choreography might be “read” from a queer perspective. I have a final research paper for this class, and I am considering proposing a choreographic analysis of Ashton’s The Dream and Sylvia from a queer perspective. I may address some issues of biography where appropriate, but I more than making connections between his homosexuality and the material of his choreography, I am interested in how one, knowing or not knowing of Ashton’s sexual orientation, might read his work as queer. I am curious how I might read it differently now knowing of his homosexuality. I remember hearing Meredith Monk’s music differently after learning of her lesbianism. Maybe that’s not very evolved of me, maybe it would be better to engage with each artist’s work as the work of a unique individual without assumptions of cultural, social, racial identity. But I remembering a sense of understanding, of experiencing something more in common with the music that had already moved me so deeply (in regards to Monk). I wonder if I might have a similar experience with Ashton’s choreography.

In a more personal experience of “queer presence in creative process,” this year I had the unique experience of collaborating on the creation of a new piece of choreography entitled “Observing Solitude.” I generally do not choreograph collaboratively, so already this experience was unique. It was made even more so by our process. The piece began with my authoring a lengthy libretto detailing the progression of the choreography, then my collaborator interpreting this libretto into choreography and performance. I was never in the studio with her or the piece; in fact, I have not even yet seen the finished version of it. But last week I heard from her that the piece was finished and had been performed, and I had the most unique emotional reaction to this news. It is not uncommon for my work to be deeply personal to me, to feel an almost maternal relationship towards my choreography. This piece was no different, coming from a deep introspection of the nature of recognizing one’s own solitude. But this time I share this “parenthood” with my collaborator. We created this piece together; it is a genetic hybrid of both of us, a result of neither she nor I alone, but the two us of together. Beyond the profound sense of shared-parenthood associated with this piece (reinforced by such synchronicities as the rehearsal period being almost exactly nine months, etc.), it strikes me as notable that this piece is was produced by myself, a homosexual man, and my collaborator, a gay woman. I can’t even really explain the relevance of this point, except that it feels as if it carries socio-political-artistic relevance, a creative act between a gay man and a lesbian. I wonder what might be gleaned from an analysis of the piece with an awareness of it as the collaborative creation of queer artists . . .

That’s all for now.

Oh, and come see SIP this Friday night. I am presenting my solo-in-progress “Red Monster”. It is an exploration of how shame and desire (might) transform us into monsters, among other things. There will be a lot of other exciting works-in-progress by my peers and colleagues from the first year MFAs in the department of dance at OSU. 7pm in Sullivant Hall, Studio 1. Free and open to the public.



These Pleasures Instead of Others

Not being a believer in the concept of “should” or “should not,” I can hardly say that I should be doing other things. There is certainly work to get done that I am neglecting in favor of other pleasures. I am presenting a paper on the negotiation of gender in the choreography of Bronislava Nijinska at the 2009 Midwest Slavic Studies Conference in April, and that paper is still in need of revision. It will serve as a component of a panel in which I am participating entitled “Aspects of the Ballets Russes,” with colleague Hannah Kosstrin. 

There is also the work of the new solo I am choreographing entitled “Red Monster,” which I discussed in an earlier post. I am not sure when this piece will be premiered, but there is an adjudicated concert at OSU in June, and the adjudication is on 4 April. I may attempt to have the piece presentable by then.

But instead, I have given myself over to other pleasures. The pleasures of today include perusing the Fall Ready-to-Wear lines and reading Nico Muhly’s blog

I have recently become obsessed with Muhly’s music. I heard the soundtrack for The Reader and became smitten. Then I explored some of his earlier works, and today purchased Mothertongue in its entirety from iTunes. I recommend all of his work. It bounces around personal references like Meredith Monk, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and Arvo Pärt. Today, it is my only listening pleasure.

The Fall lines. I have to say, as always, I am mostly disappointed by the men’s lines (not to mention the larger philosophical objection to lines like “men” and “women”). I don’t know why it is that for the most part the bodies of men are somehow perceived and displayed as shapeless. I don’t know how anyone can examine the male form and come to the conclusion that it is composition of loosely tapered cylinders. Yet that seems to be implied by so many collections of jackets and coats and slacks. And there’s something else: the forms are all so . . . closed. Guarded. Shielded. Prada even made a comment about her line being about survival and strength. And I just want to shout, “It’s been done!” Men portrayed as strong survivors? groundbreaking. So I suppose I’ll begin by sharing the few pieces for men that struck me, then follow with the far more interesting women’s lines:

costume_national_fall09_001

costume national

hermes_fall09_001

hermes

hermes_fall09_002

hermes

Oh, that was it for the men.
Onto women’s (also see previous post with a few images): 

prada_fall09_0011

prada

prada_fall09_002

prada

lacroix_fall09_001

christian lacroix

philip_lim_001

philip lim

philip_lim_002

philip lim

akris_fall09_0011

akris

verawang_fall09_001

vera wang

verawang_fall09_002

vera wang

dior_fall09_001

christian dior

So lovely. I should say that all images are from style.com

I hope you enjoy my pleasures for today. Perhaps I will begin to give attention to Nijinska and “Red Monster” this evening. Or perhaps tomorrow.



Red Monster

I started work on a new solo today. I’m not sure what it is for as far as its final presentation, but it is loosely inspired by Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse, which is an interpretation of a myth written by the poet Stesichoros about a little red monster named Geryon who was killed by Herakles. The piece (I think) is a further exploration of shame and desire, themes that seem to make their way in and out of my work. It is thus far very Butoh driven, and has already brought me to my own edge of “grotesque.” After only one studio session, I’m both exhilarated and a little terrified. I may be asking more of myself than I can give (as a performer), but I’m also not sure it is the kind of piece that I want to translate onto another body, into another person. Beyond its literary inspiration, it is also a very personal question of my own monstrosity (it is synchonicitous that I am working on the “Monster Partitur” piece in two weeks . . . I don’t think this piece is asking the same questions or moving about the same subject, but there are common themes: monstrosity, the grotesque, the misshapen, etc.). 

From Autobiography of Red:
 “XI. RIGHT
Are there many little boys who think they are a
Monster? But in my case I am right said Geryon to the
Dog they were sitting on the bluffs The dog regarded him
Joyfully” 

I think I am questioning the grotesqueness of the body and of desire, the things that make me (us?) monster(s). Which is fitting into a larger question in my research concerning the recognition or construction of identity in/through movement, and how this process relates to dance as an art form.

I don’t think I have much more to say about this new piece yet, it’s still so new and raw and unexplained. But I just felt like I needed to write something about it, having just spent an hour in the studio working with it. 

I never know who’s reading, but if you are reading and feel like writing, I’m curious when you have felt like a monster, and what made you feel that way. If you care to share.