Studio Porte Bleue

Theater is a schizophrenic experience.

Studio Porte Bleue reading.
Studio Porte Bleue reading series.

Colin Lalonde, Montreal-based performer and artistic director, is producing a new performance project about the cloud—yes, the one that promises to be available everywhere and house all of your family pictures! I met Lalonde during my Master’s studies at the University of Warwick (UK). Also, we have been regular collaborators for Unlisted: a performance series, both in Belgrade (Serbia) and Pittsburgh, PA (USA). Lalonde generously gave me  five minutes of his buzzing time to discuss the recent project phmrl.DATA,  as well as describe the process of starting a multidisciplinary performance studio in Montreal.

How did phmrl.Data develop from idea to production?

Like a lot of my projects I had the idea for form before the idea for the piece came. phmrl.DATA’s inspiration came from taking part of a conference on performance curation where one of the speakers was asking us all yes and no questions. I noticed that people seemed to get an odd joy from sharing this information in public. I then connected that to my growing interest in how we behave online and thought it would be interesting to write a piece that was simultaneously a pitch for a data-mining company and an act of data-mining itself. So I recruited Kelly O’Toole and we started research on big-data, writing and piecing the performance together in rehearsals.

phmrl.DATA Flyer.
Studio Porte Bleue’s latest production.

-Why do you have an interest in big data?

I guess you could say I’m interested in big data because big data seems to be very interested in me. I felt somewhat ignorant to trends that are increasingly having major effects on our lives. Living in the times that we do, most of us spend an immense amount of time online, we have GPS enabled smartphones, and have sensors that track insane amounts of data in our cars. All that data is being used to make decisions that have pronounced effects on all of our lives. The most obvious for me is getting information from Google or Facebook that Google and Facebook have determined is of interest for me. These trends in some ways raise serious questions as to the role of free will for individuals. There’s so much potential for good in big-data but there are some serious red flags to ponder on.

Colin Lalonde and Juan Aldape in Pittsburgh for Unlisted:a performance series.
Colin Lalonde (r) and Juan M. Aldape (l) in Pittsburgh for Unlisted:a performance series. Photo: Yinzerspielen

-How does performance help address the concerns or promises of big data?

Essentially phmrl.DATA is a participatory performance where spectators view a pitch by the phmrl.DATA team convincing them to join their “large net platform” where all the world’s data will be concentrated. The pitch is then interspersed with questioning of the audience, which acts as a tool for the company to collect everyone’s data. The idea being that we already give so much information online (which is ultra public), so how does that act feel in person and in a more intimate public? We hope that this uncomfortable feeling and dissonance to what is being said by the characters leads to some questioning of our current state of affairs regarding privacy and the Internet.

-What are the limits of the project to deal with issues about big data?

We have a fairly large scope for the project. It acts mainly as an introduction to technologies and anecdotes about big-data as well as its promises. We speak about past big-data projects like Google’s Flu Trends that tracks where the flu virus is spreading through the aggregation of search terms. We also talk about future trends in big data such as Facebook’s app that listens to what you’re watching on tv and the radio through the microphone on your smartphone. The piece really dances a fine line between being almost documentary theatre and sci-fi satire.

-Can you describe the development of SPB and your role within the project?

Studio Porte Bleue was my way of putting into practice all of the amazing experiences I had had over the past few years outside of Montreal, while living in Ottawa and traveling the world with the likes of you and the others in our Masters. I’m the artistic director of the company, so with a small indie company that essentially means I do everything that needs doing. In this case it was a bit too much as I literally wrote, directed, produced, and performed the piece. It was a bit all consuming and continues to be.

– How do you switch between the roles of artistic director, writer, actor and director?

I’m a collaborative artist by nature so I find it depends on the people I’m collaborating with and how I’m going to adapt for each individual project. The main challenge I’m discovering is letting go in some cases, I’m negotiating a project for November where I will be producing and performing in the piece and having a visiting artist direct. So I’m figuring out how to get out of her way and just do the nitty-gritty of producing and leaving out the early artistic planning which has to be owned by the director or the show will just be artistic soup.

-It’s almost a year since you started SPB, how’s the first year going? What are some of the challenges of managing the studio?

It’s going well! I’m happy with our progress, we’re creating interesting work and having the kind of connection with our audience that I think is unique and is genuinely respectful and constructive. My main challenge is working on multiple shows at one time. It is a bit of a schizophrenic experience.

-What other projects do you have lined up for the upcoming year?

This summer we’re inviting Chris Bell to stay with us and work on three performances with us. We’ll be working on one that explores labor and oral histories, we will be developing a show where he will be cooking for and eating with the audience while discussing the fall of Yugoslavia, and finally in November we’ll be presenting a piece on Jack Kerouac. All very different and all very exciting. And as always I’m thinking of what will be next.

You can keep up with Colin Lalonde and all other Studio Porte Bleue productions via Facebook or their blog.

Chris Bell

Chris Bell on Performance, Community and Labour

I’ve been privy to know about Chris Bell’s performance projects through a shared Master’s program experience in England. Upon returning to the US, I enjoyed learning about Chris’ recent work with the Minnesota Life College. He started and is currently facilitating The Community Living Program (CLP) Improv Club. The performance club is hosting a performance-based lecture June 19 at 6:15pm in the Minnesota Life College courtyard. I’ve asked Chris to take a couple of minutes to talk about his experience with the improvisation club.

Chriss Bell
Chris Bell in Cloneen, Ireland for A PerFarmance Project

-What do you do for the Minnesota Life College?
I am the out-going Program Assistant for the Community Life Program (CLP). The CLP works with alumni of the Minnesota Life College, a non-profit that provides an invaluable college experience for young adults on the autism spectrum. My main job function as the Program Assistant was to provide access to enriching community activities, both on- and off- campus.

-Why did you start a performance class?
The idea of starting a performance class first came up during my initial interview. However, it wasn’t until I started having conversations with the members that I realized how much of a demand there was for a performance-based club. From this demand, I founded the CLP Improv Club to meet once a week.

-What has been the most rewarding experience?
The most rewarding part of the experience has been watching the members develop as leaders. I took a weekend vacation in late March, and while I was away the members conducted a peer-led CLP Improv Cub. I thrive off of the moment when the student develops the confidence to make their own way.

Chris Bell working in Cloneen, Ireland
Chris Bell working.

-What has been the most challenging experience?
The most challenging part of the experience has been renegotiating my relationship with a more traditional aesthetic framework. A standard way to teach improv is to focus on keeping the actions/reactions fast and to avoid dwelling on the next move you’re going to make in the process of building a dramatic sequence. This mantra of don’t over-think and keep it fast is challenged when you’re working with individuals on the autism spectrum, but challenged in the best possible way because it redefines improvs traditional relationship to duration.

-What type of preparation goes into your classes?
At first, every class was very different. I was trying an assortment of physical/vocal warm-ups and improv games to see what was most beneficial for the group. Following two months of experimenting with approaches to the classes, I found it to be the most beneficial when I would worry less about what I was going to do and focusing more on asking the members, “What do you want to lead today?”

-Do you find that the more you lead classes the less you prepare?
Actually, I found it to be the other way around. I found myself preparing more when I was the one leading the class. Since I’ve moved to peer-led approach to the class, I’ve spent less time preparing.

-What are you up to in the coming months? Any projects?
I’ll be concluding my time at the Minnesota Life College with a performance-based lecture focusing on the similarities between co-existing within an improv classroom and within in a community. In early July I’ll be leaving Minnesota for a five month International Artist Residency with Studio Porte Bleue in Montreal, Canada. I’ll be working with performance practitioner/researcher Colin Lalonde in the development of three projects, each engaging, in different ways, with reconfiguring the traditional audience experience.

Chris Bell’s directed work for Unlisted. Pittsburgh, PA.

Learn more about Chris’ projects.

Showing with Molly Heller and Facial Expressions

Molly Heller, close friend and project collaborator, stopped by Minneapolis in March. She joined us for an intimate showing as part of a small residency exchange. molly_heller_showing flyer

Molly, Melissa and I met in 2008! We collaborated on a series of projects that resulted in creatively fruitful productions. In 2009, we were awarded first place in the Audiences Awarding Artists show  at the Sugar Space for the performance Prison of Form. The award stipend and free use of studio space helped us produce an evening-length work, titled The Grey Area.

The Grey Area 2009 Flyer

Reunions are always a treat. Molly coming to Minneapolis was an excellent opportunity to catch up and talk about her recent projects, the challenges of being in academia and balancing creative work with private life. In particular, the showing was a suitable time to see how our individual movement styles have shifted, evolved and crystalized over time.

Molly Heller Grips
Photo Melissa Aldape

Our movement have similar, but identifiable differences. Molly’s current movement qualities orbit around intimate tensions. She places great emphasis on straining her body to exhausting limits, all while inviting audiences to partake in the exhaustion.  Now, the invitation does result in participatory exchange. Rather, she is keen to create experiences that relay felt emotions across the immediate space. Especially, her current preoccupation is with “presence.” Molly’s current occupation is refreshing.

Photo Manny Palad

Her keen emphasis on charging space is uniquely  invigorating. She employs guttural textures to create perpetual forces that build upon each other, but does limit the experience to the abstract use of time, space and energy. There’s a personal quirk to her movement! She uses a range of full facial movement to create kilter emotions. They are spasmatic, funny, disgusting and revelatory. Incorporating grimace into performance is something new for Molly.

Molly hardly incorporated her face in performance when we first met. Upon meeting,  she had some aversion to using look and gaze in her creative expression. Instead, her expressions were invariably removed. While her movement has always combined a full-range of technical expression, there was something absent. In works like Vanities Faire the face was eerily neglected. Its affect was the epitome of postmodern dance. It was a postmodern photograph in motion. There was a simplification to the expression. Glossy eyes were always open and gazing beyond the immediate space, looking for something beyond the performance. Even in performance like $, a 2009 production with musical accompaniment from Rick Ross, there was an aversion to the visage. Then again, it was the very absence of facial expressions that was offsetting, creating  an aesthetic estrangement.

Molly Heller Vanities Faire

You can keep up with Molly’s projects and upcoming showings on her website or see her her regular appearances  at Mudson, Salt Lake City’s works-in-progress monthly dance showing.

Photo Sarah Parker


Going West

I’m excited to announce officially that I accepted an offer from the University of California at Berkeley (aka Cal) and will be starting my doctoral studies this fall. I am grateful to join an excellent group of people in the Performance Studies program.


Joining the Latino Advisory Council at Mixed Blood Theatre

Photo credits: Sun Serpent, Childsplay 2011, Tempe AZ. Ricky Araiza, Andrea Morales, Andres Alcala. Photo by Heather Hill.

About a week ago, I was invited to join the Latino Advisory Council (LAC). LAC exists to advise Mixed Blood Theatre on ways of engaging Latino/a audiences in Minneapolis.  This volunteer group, comprised of members from diverse community organizations, guides efforts that make Mixed Blood Theatre the premiere stop for Latino theatre audiences.

I am honored to join such a respectable cultural organization. Prior to arriving in Minneapolis, I performed a general web search and found Mixed Blood. Instantly, I was struck by their commitment to postcolonial discourse through the arts, as well as their dedication to making the performing arts accessible to all members of the community. In particular,  their ongoing selection of polyglot shows and Radical hospitality is noteworthy. For example, their upcoming bilingual show, Sun Serpent, will be a refreshing addition to standard monolingual programming found in most places. Likewise, their approach to hospitality tumbles exclusionist models by providing obtainable performance experiences.  Simply put, all shows are free. If audience members desire a guaranteed a seat, all they have to do is pay in advance. Mixed Blood’s initiatives are truly respectable.

Choreographic Reflections 2013

The year is rapidly coming to an end. However, I am just starting to tune into the happenings of the year. I arrived back in the US, but I did not even get a chance to critically reflect on the choreographic seriousness of the turn.

It has been over eight months since we left Cloneen, Ireland. The weight of which I recently felt when we received a holiday card from the one and only Paddy O’Brian. Reading that card brought back many memories. Also, it settled into my mind and body the manner in which I grew to understand the value of auto-ethnographic processes.



Performance at the Walker Art Center!

Did you miss Choreographer’s Evening? Are you not living in Minneapolis? Thanks to the wonderful videographers at the Walker Art Center, I now have documentation of Cacartels, Cacaffeine, Cucumbia. This is the latest work-in-progress.

Cacarterls, Cacaffeine, Cucumbia is a fragmented dance-theatre solo performance. In the first half, I experiment by breaking down Mexican social dance idioms and music. The second half is a fast-paced, lamenting monolog about the intimate aspects of the Mexico-US relationship.

This performance was selected as part of the 2013 Choreographer’s Evening curated show at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

This particular piece is dedicated to: Walking Theory(TkH), based in Belgrade, Serbia; Svetlana Boym and her contribution of the offmodern concept; and my cousin, Juanito, who committed suicide last July the night before my return-flight to Mexico.

The seeds for the concept were planted during a showing at the work-in-progress series Mudson, Spring of 2011; the initial idea was called Future Step/Paso. Thematically it dealt with the admixture of movement and music of Latino America. While some of the music structure and movement qualities remained the same, the overall textures and themes of the work changed drastically.

An Analysis of a Review

Aaron Wood’s recent review of the Arrivals/Departures exhibit (Gallery Stroll take-two, 19 Feb) triggers a splurging of synaptic discharges when the article is read. There are many issues brought up about dance that are critical to address. In particular, he discusses the relationship between dances, exhibition venues and screenings; remembering past performances while watching a dance in the present time; the boredom in watching performances that resemble others; and feeling left short-handed by the choreographer. What follow in this article are some of my impressions and reactions to the Wood’s various lines of inquiry. There’s much at stake in taking on an assortment of aspects in one rebuttal—in particular, carpal tunnel for my hands—but in earnest I will try since I can’t help but observe that the review highlights more about dance audiences/enthusiasts. In the next four points, Pluralities and Bubbles; Body as Archive; Screen Aesthetics; and On Essences, I address some of the most pressing questions that an exegesis of his review prompts. In this textual criticism, I respond to Wood’s written analysis of his experience as well as actual experience itself. I hope we can ascertain some of the complex underpinnings of watching and attending dance exhibitions and performances for enthusiast as well as practitioner. Ultimately, I hope to instigate a conversation that might shed insight on the presuppositions of how we each  differently watch and feature dance, on screen and on “live” bodies.

Pluralities and Bubbles

Just as there are many layers in the lamenting review, there are plenty in the exhibition experience. Let’s address those layers now. In the section below I argue that Wood brings in his own unique perspective, questions he had already been contemplating, and then focuses on a small portion of the exhibit that do not satisfactorily bring answers to his questions or reassure his pre-supposed viewpoints. Therefore, in my opinion, the review lacks holistic consideration.

To begin with, Wood’s prognosis catches plural manifestations of various practice(s). In one instance, Wood observes the admixture of screen and dance, and in the other dance and exhibition. I am immediately propelled to acknowledge that indeed the term practice(s)—the emphasis on the plural—is be more apt to concretise and frame what is occurring within the gallery. The Rio Gallery is indeed vast and expansive, “superlative” is the descriptor Wood uses. Using the gallery space—once a  train station—to showcase dances complicates the singular viewership that we generally expect of a dance event. While the gallery stroll highlights live performances, with breathing bodies performing in the space, it is only one materialised aspect of the many overlapping layers that can be highlighted by an exhibition. Other layers that are given substance to include the static screen displays performing throughout the day. The sounds excite the passerby. This soundscape is not necessarily rendered in romanticised ideal, it can be intrusive. For example, the security guard that is at the Rio Gallery everyday observes the non-responsive phases of the dances in the middle of the day and in between the galleries. Wood’s  eyes and embodied experience  are one of many individual experiences of the event.  Indeed, many layers and relationships between dance(s), venue and screening, abound in the event. However, these intersecting elements are rendered connected in Woods own experience, and penultimately in the written review.

Peter Sloterdijk’s spherelogical framework, particularly his ideas about bubbles, helps discover these various stratums, as Wood describes in his review. Sloterdijk’s spherelogical concept addresses human and between human “spaces of co-existence.” Bubbles, in particular, refers to the micro-spheres where experience originates. Wood’s descriptive analysis of the gallery experience captures the various micro-spheres with which he is entering into the space. Within his unique bubble, we observe he brings in his dance practice by asking and reflecting on two guiding questions. First, Wood  considers, “ I have been questioning the state in which our art form exists and where it is heading. I can’t help but wonder if every idea has already been explored.”  Secondarily he asks, “Another question I have been seeking an answer for is how much longer will I tolerate, with complete boredom, the use of still images in dance?”  In Sloterdijk terms, we could say that there are several  personal bubbles overlapping within the gallery bubble that Wood is trying to speak to in his review. Between the two guiding questions, the space and the written reflection, Wood focuses only  two of the seventeen screenings so as to“[steer] clear of standing on a soap box for an erroneous amount of time.”  Interestingly, from this bubble framework, Wood’s aggregate review only catches one fraction, a micro-bubble, of the many overlapping spheres of the exhibition. Writing about each screen dance and each  of the seventeen performances will take much time and might require too much time of the person reading the review—it is painstakingly difficult to write about micro-micro bubbles. Which leads me to the consider the excitations that occur when Wood’s personal sphere interacts with the spheres of the event. While we can focus and plainly state that indeed the review captures a small portion of the entire bubbles that overlap and don’t overlap during Woods experience,  these detectable fizzing and foaming bubbles yield some puzzling observations of dance and screen dances as watchable events.

A literary analysis of the two guiding concerns per questions that serve as the springboard for the review—once more, dance’s state and still images— reveals challenging state(s) of affairs for dance(s) as a event(s). The tragedy of the review—I use tragedy in the Mexican Telenovela sense where I am exaggerating for purpose—is failing to recognise the ability that we as dance expectants  and enthusiasts are coming into the gallery space with a particular habitus in dance watching. One dominant tradition of watching dance in the USA, with it’s pronounced emphasis on body and movement, is following the linearity of one notion in concert event format; even in a la round theatre events we sit and watch as one concept unfolds before our eyes. We generally engage dance performance events as localised, linear, and modal (i.e., A,B, A1), as apposed to displaced, multivariable and non-mono-modal (G,X,@). Interestingly, when we recall dance performances we recall clustered relations and connections; most of the time not following how the idea started to how it logically ended. Yet, despite the infusion of ‘conceptual’ dance from the 1990s and the subsequent disapproval against it, we persistently watch a performance to expect an overt clarity in linear ideas that make sense to us. While Bojana Cvejic´ and Ana Vujanovic assert that choreographies of today—they make this remark in 2010—are able to write without the body and produce bodily expressions without movement, I propose that it is not just the  choreographer that writes and produces. The spectator writes and produces her/his ideas about choreography when watching the dance event. This audience writing and producing is evident in the review.

While I am eager to find out why Wood uses  the phrase “enthusiast”, instead of practitioner, I think the review reveals how both dance and screen performances are bondage to retinal and aesthetic consumption; demanding that the dance cater to individual desires. To request…no, demand of all dances in the ARRIVALS/DEPARTURE gallery conform to one ideological aesthetic and, in this case, grande movement narratives approvable by the audience is über cognitive-colonial thinking in action. Wood insists, “Anderson is on a path to finding a deepened sense of visual abstraction but has yet to realize her full potential. I will be anticipating the day it happens.” Now, by spotlighting the remark I don’t intend to suggest that one cannot express the subjective experience of watching the dance and feeling bored; the emotive response is valid, furthermore encouraged. I am referring to the de facto imposition of the idea that the dance should have give us, as a “dance enthusiasts”, something we find it lacking. An honest and more important question would be, “What  factors contributed to my lack of engagement with this particular dance/practice at this moment and not with what I want it to be?” Taking the time and length  to write about such complex bubbles interacting with each other we reveal plural dimensions to the Arrivals/Departure gallery as well as how we watch and can dance for ourselves.

In contrast to being fussy with what we see, we can emancipate our dance enthusiast expectations. We can view the dance event as an iteration across choreographic panorama processes. In The Elastic Lines Between Curation, Performance and Research (forthcoming), Colin Lalonde and myself contend that Erin Manning’s notion of spatial elasticity captures the elongated textures of the in-betweenness or interval of movement. From this elastic perspective, the curatorial event appears as a potentiality of the initial performance being exhibited. Furthermore, we state that the spectator watching the dance and dance exhibit is a part of that elasticated process. From an elastic prism, we could argue Wood is participating in the choreographic endeavour as a participant of an unfolding event. As such, we afford new possible modes of engaging the materialised exhibit at hand. For example, we as dance viewer of the gallery pieces have digital tools to document our immediate experience, a la record a response with voice and video recorder or smartphone. We can record ourselves responding on site by sitting, dancing, chatting, making faces; in real time capturing the affect of the watching experience. In my choreographic practice, with Performance Mapping Project, bodily reactions are documented with video to capture the immediacies of the ineffable moment of being in a new place with new experiences. Recording the spatialization of our immediate experience in a gallery provides alternative approaches to the plural experiences/bubbles present in the dance event and to the documentation of the subject in a dance event. I make this suggestion because I find Wood at fault for lacking innovation by engaging in a dance review with the same standard practice of a written format, as he finds the dance pieces he watches lacking in innovative formats (i.e., still images).

Body as archive

One of the most poignant elements of the review is the pronounced documentation and address of bodily memories. Specifically, Wood discerns the multiple experiences of remembering performances in the past by looking at performances in the present at the ARRIVALS/DEPARTURE gallery. This experience deserves due attention. I will address the issues of seeing reiterations of dances by way of Andre Lepecki’s notions of archiving.

Surely we can ask…what is it exactly that triggered Wood’s kinaesthetic memory? Even without going into the deep realms of psychoanalysis—investigating Wood’s conscious interaction with the subconscious—or all the more into phenomenological embodied theory, we deduce that the dance practitioners being exhibited at the gallery have the capacity to linger and, also, extract abstract historical moments in time. Wood captures one moment, ” Sam Hanson’s dance film ‘When We Were Young,’ reminded me of a performance art piece I saw when I was 18 and on a theatre trip to Minneapolis.” [Damn you Milan Kundera, Sam Hanson’s gesture is mightier than himself!] Wood continues with poignant words,” […] but I can’t help but feel those ideas don’t seem to matter now given that their explorations have become one in the same in my memory.” Surprisingly, Wood’s revelatory remark causes, at least for me, disorientation. I find it shocking that Wood says, ” I wonder how often we as audience members walk away from an experience feeling as though we have been there and seen that.” Immediately, a substantial questions comes to mind, “Why should people continue to support repertory dance companies?” It is indisputable that when audiences see repertory performances, the performances have been seen and done. No?

Unhesitatingly we can assert there is validity in preservation. The themes and gestures which persist across time, geography and culture, just as topics of love, disappointment and passion, are eternally evoked in a myriad of ways through varied artistic genres—ad infinitum. Are there, then, variant manifestations to the manner in which repetition and repertory is revealed? When we inspect Hanson’s performance effect on Wood—and the manner in which Wood documents it—we catch sight of a fortuitous, accidental dance incident. Hanson, I assume, had no idea about the Minnesota artist Wood saw when he was 18. If he did, Wood is one fortunate audience member. We can say that there is a difference between intentional resemblance—the likes of what Repertory Dance Theatre performs—and accidental incidents—the unintended affect that Hanson had on Wood. Even so, accidental incidents have value as they uncloak what Andre Lepecki discerns the body as a site for archiving, with a will to archive, exposing the afterlives of dances.

Lepecki maintains that in recent years choreographers in the Europe and the US have taken an affinity with actively engaging the re-creation and re-enactments dance of the twentieth century which are both well-known and obscure. Lepecki purports this shift of turning and returning to works has paradoxically been one of the “significant hallmarks of contemporary experimental choreography.” Significant about Lepecki’s observance is the carrying forward of this “returning as experimentation” idea as a leading into one of the facets of contemporaneity: will to archive. Lepecki builds on Ramsay Burt’s proposal that re-enactments of the early twenty-first century focus on “an active (rather than reactive) and generative (rather than imitative) approach to ‘historical material’ led dance re-enactments to resist ‘the disciplinary and controlling structures of repressive, representational regimes’.”  By focusing on the active and generative engaged re-enactments—but in contrast to Burt’s idea of the inevitable failures that come when trying to be faithful—Lepecki asserts, “[R]e-enactments, as ‘will to archive,’ invest in creative re-turns precisely in order to find, foreground, and produce (or invent, or ‘make,’ as Foucault proposed) difference.” A rather simple observance of how many songs use the word love and how many artists paint mountain landscapes, exposes what Lepecki remarks is “ not as paranoid-melancholic compulsions to repeat but as singular modes of politicizing time and economies of authorship.” At least for dance and dancers,  by using the body as an archival apparatus—constantly “there and done that”  with endless transmutability and patience—we keep inventing.  Take for example the work of Richard Move. Move recreates Martha Graham’s performances; from solo dances choreographed by Martha to re-enactments of Martha herself in interviews! Move’s archival gesture exposes the collapsibility of time and space. Richard is Martha. Martha is Richard. In the ARRIVALS/DEPARTURE exhibition, Sam is Minnesota. Minnesota is Sam. I feel to excited about this transmutation in re-enactment that I made a video of myself performing a still image of Move. [youtube=]

Ultimately, I conclude that the sensation that Wood has seen something similar before, does not alone make Hanson or Anderson’s pieces worthless, or lacking craft and in no way speaks to any actual evaluation of the pieces itself. More worthwhile would be to situate the piece in context to how others employ similar techniques and compare the execution of said articulation.

Screen aesthetics

Now, I will briefly deal with one confusing element in the review and with two questions that Wood asks concerning the element of the screen. Again, we detect more being said about the viewer than what is being reviewed.

Particularly confusing about Wood’s description of Anderson’s work, is that it is unclear as to differences and similarities in how Wood sees the live performance The Windy Gap and the visual screendance work. Is there a difference in the materiality of the final rendering? How do two interrelated projects change, because they are intermodal, one live and one screen? Can we use the same metrics to analyses the effect?  A reading of the differences and similarities in how we experience, watch and write about screendance versus live bodies is necessary.

Watching a performance requires a different engagement than sitting in front of a flat LCD screen or printed QR codes, while at the same time trigger memory recalls—as occurs in live dance performance. While again Wood makes references of seeing similar experiences in the past—without ever being specific—it does highlight the potentiality for screen performances to be similar to a live performance. Is it possible that the memory cannot distinguish between watching a human and watching a human on a screen? I certainly think this is true. I mean the HBO series The Wire had me broken-hearted for two years. I still can’t believe Marlo gets away! Frankly, Wood’s review comes across as trying to be acutely critical of a performance event with multiple lines of engagement, but in actuality demonstrates nothing about the performances themselves; we learn about obtuse connections based on one specific aesthetic taste.

To  Wood’s long anticipated question, “How long do I have to tolerate still images in dance?”, I say individuals do not have to tolerate them. Wood is free to turn away at any moment during a show. We can see a light show/music/performance by Ghostland Observatory! Even more, if Wood really desires to see something under the “dance” umbrella he can fly to Australia to see Chunky Move dance company; as of recent, they combine a lot of responsive digital environments to their performances. More importantly, a critique does not simply say, “This was a bad choice.” Not even a step more developed to say, “It is unfilled and it should have done this instead.” Rather than make a complaint or demand from  the most important and elevated viewer in the audience—the one with a pen—a valuable critique provides detailed, thoughtful and useful information to the artist, the discipline and the dialogue. Each audience member has a different aesthetic and it is not for the audience member to demand their preference unless one is A) Simon, from American Idol ruthlessly judging artists to conform to his standards on his show, or B) the director or funding body with a real stake and influence in the production. Wood’s aesthetics cannot dictate what an artist “should” do. Instead, Wood can evaluate a piece by providing his perspective of why the particular method was employed to what aim, and give reasons why it was ineffective for him as a viewer, by considering the context of the piece, location or other elements. Better yet, it can compare with examples of this method when used in other instances as effective, or how other artists effectively produce a similar aim. This provides a point of engagement, comparison and contrast as well as his opinion in a way that reasonably acknowledges he is one of many unique viewers.

However, he hints at engaging in potentialities to the larger dance-making community with his question, “What is the next step we can take as art makers to abstract the visual environment through which we interact, see, and connect?” Look at my QR code exhibit or check out the Performance Mapping Project ( How terrible, terrible  our plight as practitioners and enthusiasts of dance – C’est tragique! people using images in their projects. However, if Wood’s questions are about demanding innovative uses of visual environment, I find that children’s museums are generally at the forefront; kids have the shortest attention span. We should be concerned about craft over novelty. Focusing on the craft or method of constructing a performance and the resulting effect, le mise en scene, gives us an avenue to engage the arc of the performance being experienced. If we are not careful to take inventory of the varying strategies, before writing, our analysis can be convoluted or empty.

Generally, I can’t help but take away that Wood’s experiential thirst during his exhibit attendance yearns for something in particular. Identifying the textures of those craving leads me to my final point.

On Essences

In this last point I deal with the authorial demands of the viewer when watching the dance, as well as Petra Sabisch’s conception of the manner in which choreography—as a concept—can perform.

Reading the review reminds of a confounding situation. A tourist goes to rural Nepal, and when hungry, asks the local shop keeper where the nearest McDonald’s is located. The most explicit abandon for quality analysis of a performance review is giving any substance to the statement, “However, I think this was in excess.” It’s abhorring how so much emphasis is placed on what Wood would have liked to see, than on what is and what is not. Strikingly, and perplexingly, one such moment absorbed Wood very much,  “I reflected on the images in my  personal memory bank and questioned if they belong to me.” Wood continues beautifully, “[…] if there are any images from another person’s bank that I have inserted myself into but now catalogue as my own.” Unfortunately, the astonishing moment is squandered away in thirsting for a binary equation. Instead of asking what is the experience of being spatially displaced, Wood strays away in the fancy of the imaginary asking questions about what would happen if the projections became absorbed and minimised. Wood is no longer participating in the actual performance; he is participating in a self-production in the mind—which is a fantastical abstraction to consider and deserves due attention. However, if indeed Wood, as a dance enthusiast, desires “raw” and “daring abandoned feast”, he can see another notable project and local company, Raw Moves. Raw Moves is perfect to fulfil Wood’s desire of  “raw-er”, “explosive movement” and a wanton disregard for utterly slower choreoconcepts—all of the cognitive capital buzzwords we love to consume. I say all of this only to state that, at least at a discursive level—as happens when one writes a review—a different mode on engagement requires a different mode of analysis. It is imperative to look at the ARRIVALS/DEPARTURE exhibit, and its associated components, with different lenses because it is an autonomous event. If Wood makes the connection in himself, as the interlocutor—between and across the performances—then an auto-ethnographic review of his experience would be revelatory. What starts to happen when we shift the perspective on the performance event as a recognisable form that needs definition, and instead, consider it a temporary state that is evented with each audience attendant? Investigating these questions will require that I employ and consider Petra Sabisch’s 2010 publication.

In Choreographing Relations, Sabisch’s focus—at least at one level—is an investigation of a shifted conceptual understanding of contemporary choreography. Importantly, she attempts to expand the philosophical understanding of the ontology of choreography by placing attention on “What can choreography do?”—instead of trying to define and limiting choreography to what it is. Sabisch elucidates, “By shifting the focus from an inventory of the empirically given to the potential of choreography, a potential which encompasses the capacity of creating new relations, a stable demarcation of the object of choreography can be deviated from.” Deviation from delimiting perspectives has a direct practical operation. Looking at the moment when Wood observes Anderson choosing to project herself dancing the original solo we see materializing the singular moment of the choreography’s potentiality from its inception. When we follow the developing relational thread of the choreography (Anderson dancing solo> Corado García learning the solo> Corado García performing the solo>), we see the iterative, alternative and plural ways of seeing and investigating an initial idea. While this mode of seeing dances is difficult to transition into, because we are consumed by our singular ways of watching performance, we have the potentiality and capacity to begin to switch.

As dance practitioners and enthusiasts we have the capacity to code-switch. This is the term linguists use to describe the phenomena of using two or more languages in conversation to index and process a variety of information in a given conversation. This conceptual mode on communication is useful to adopt to use when we talk about the varied ways we can watch a dance. In one instance we see the material aspect of the performance. Simultaneously, we mediate the immediate experience through a matrix of experiences. We are present while at the same time suspending ourselves out of way and making time and space the temporal performance. The specific space between switching codes is fascinating and has space for experimentation. For me, the moment when someone looks over the shoulder of another person while watching a screendance on a phone is that new moment of switching into new ways of seeing and code switching; it is a moment where we are invited out of our immediate kinesphere by leaning over and looking inward at the our hands—and other’s hands—holding the digital screenstage.

I am left with the looming idea that statements of Wood’s experience  do not clarify or identify the gallery event itself. Rather, it is Wood’s ideology that is made visible. What do we make of this revelation? Because this is everybody’s practice, I am thankful Wood shared his singular experience with all of us. The exciting part is to now engage Wood’s experiential sphere and understand how it dynamically relates to the clustering of ideas sparked in the exhibition, a sphere with its own complexities.

Temporary Wrap Up

In the above four points I hope I have shown that indeed there is nothing wrong  with “the state” in which dance practices exist. Rather, there are both old and new politics of seeing. Contemporary dance practice(s), however, encourage us to look at our experience as the spectator—one can read Jacque Rancière’s The Emancipated Spectator for more on this topic across various other disciplines. When I saw the Arrivals/Departure on 16th of January before its opening, I was excited that by gallerizing dances and the different modes of watching dance the exhibit challenges perceptions of dance enthusiasts  attempting to confine un-confinable practice(s)—ligatures of empirical thinking which exhaust its very potentials(s).

I confess that a hermeneutical analysis of Wood’s review, which would include talking to him in person, trying to figure out the process of him writing his response, taking pictures after he left the exhibit, interviewing others who heard his initial criticism, would better engage his position. I hope I have given enough substance to clarify my claims. If something is  not clear, I welcome a fiery response.

Lastly, still lingering is the issue of curating the exhibition. Wood’s comments about understanding “the difficult challenge of bringing together all the constituent parts of stagescape” supports an email I sent to loveDancemore. I would like to deal with the curatorial dimensions concerning dance(s), performance and choreography. While Wood gives practical, production comments, like considerations for spacing, light sources and distinct audience pathways, these remarks bring up elephantine questions about the practice(s) of curating performances. Thank you for indirectly supporting my appeal! A drink on me—credit is due where credit is due.

To end, I share my bubble while writing this analysis. I include a picture of myself writing the response, a quote from Tupac, ” if ya kickin’ this shit from your heart, you can go wherever the heart wants you to go” and a recommendation of link to the band Hello Seahorse! (

Photo on 2013-03-01 at 15.08