07 July 2020

July 2020 Update

Thoughts for the Day: Repetition as an act of recognition and agency, and as a call to resistance and creative action in everyday existence and the creative process. 

Four months into quarantine, I am noticing the moments of my day that repeat themselves and how I register or identify the image I recognize as being in and of that moment…. as representing that reoccurring moment. It could be standing at a door, looking out, and seeing a particular view, in the morning). I recognize that moment as repeating other similar ones –whether or not of the same moment in time a day later or days, weeks, years apart—and I am suddenly standing at the near end of an accumulation, a series of flipbook images that are similar but slightly different, yet are of the same essential moment visually, emotionally, spatially, of the similar sensorial repertoire. It becomes clear to me that I am constructing my own filmstrip of images on a timeline that I begin to edit together as my life, my day… this is the movie I edit together that is my life, that gives me identity and an illusion of consistency, of being one person. I give to it my style, my esthetics, my poetics, even in the recognition of the most mundane and banal of these daily acts. 

This process becomes then a metaphor or model for how groups, families, cultures, institutions form their identities, and how we then “buy in” to those collective and intricately merged, interdependent movies or stories. In our polarized political climate, we see the collision of stories, the story as propaganda and as last-ditch defense for survival of a way of life. I think of the White Supremacists, the racists, the Republicans, and the construction of stories to support the greed of the few, the last vision of white Christian domination. I am filled with rage, hatred, and despair. 

Can we ever step outside those constructed stories, either at a personal level or in a broader cultural sphere? Recognize something that is unfamiliar and does not have to be tagged on to another accumulation, but instead a radical or understated break from that constructed continuum?? To improvise is a beginning… to slow down, be disinterested, or to step aside, watch, wait, pause, be still… dare to be confused, disoriented.

This need to shake the day has been “Trumped” (pardon the pun) by the colossal folly of our country’s mishandling of the pandemic. My homebound comfort zone becomes the refuge, the buffer from daily newscasts of the idiocies of the times. But in my creative zone, I permit myself long spells of not knowing, of pursuing an inkling, of laying the tracks of a new vision, improvising for camera as a way of wheedling my way into an unknown that surprises me, so that I can stand before myself in wonder and share that wonder with the world. My screen is my little window out of this cell I inhabit. 

I wrote this for our local monthly paper when asked to comment on how I as an artist am addressing current issues in my art. “Since quarantine in mid-March, I’ve felt compelled to make videos that address themes of the pandemic in order to feel less isolated, useless and helpless, and to channel my rage.  In my home studio, I work with greenscreen, camera, editing software, painting and text to transpose my dancing figure onto the screen and create little worlds with and for it, often playing multiple roles, cloning myself, and montaging found vintage films to evoke aspects of the vulnerable body, of doctors coping with overwhelming challenges, and the frightening isolation we all are feeling during these strange times.”

I added this when asked to address the challenges of teaching dance online:  I am in touch with numerous dance institutions and they are rapidly developing the video technology to hold class on-line.This, of course, assumes students have both the internet access and the space to move and follow an instructor from a distance in their own homes. Some of basic dance technique can be taught in place, within a limited space. But dance is about motion in space as well, and that's where it becomes very problematic. Also, there is an extraordinary kinesthetic empathy that is activated within a live dance class, and dancers learn by seeing and feeling the bodies around them as much as by watching an instructor. The opportunity during this pandemic is to encourage autonomy and self-reliance among students, i.e. giving them assignments to take movement into alternative spaces such as a backyard, a street, an open parking lot. Have iPhone, will travel! Dance composition could really open up this way, involving site-specific choreography that students conceive of and perform in any space. Screendance is ahead of the curve; it already has gone on-line, with dance, camera work and video editing software becoming choreographic components to produce dances specifically for the screen. These dance works, then, are prime and ready to be seen by on-line audience globally, with new forms of dissemination, distribution, marketing and audience reception. For all these options, the scheduling and on-line means of mentorship and feedback becomes very important, so masterful and effective distance teaching can take place. Both teachers and students are experiencing a very significant learning curve! 

Side note: Since the advent of film and then video, dance has undergone a huge revolution in how dances are preserved and passed on from one generation to the next. In the early 70's, I often learned my first dances off old films. With the proliferation of video cameras, dancers now assume they will be learning much movement off video. Dancers are born mimics and learn by imitation, taking even a crude video off a flat screen and embodying it to bring it to life again. To see and to feel become one, and that experience is communicated in the moment with the power of projection and a generous energy moving outwards to the eye and body of the beholder. 



"Everything you love will probably be lost, but in the end, love will return in another way."—Franz Kafka

Recent works:
I’ve moved between small-scale one-offs and longer series of short pieces. Some have been inspired by music, (Schoenberg’s piano pieces, Bach’s Goldberg Variations, Schubert’s choral music, Dukas's' "The Sorceror's Apprentice"), some by poems that come to me at unexpected moments and that center myself (my digitized figure on the screen) within the pandemic as outside observer and/or participant in the trenches. I’ve also been returning to materials in my archives and doing remakes or second takes. In the meantime, I have videos being streamed on-line: “Cornered (Detainee’s Lament) “appears during the same week in both the Dance Films Association’s NY Dance on Camera Festival and ADF’s Movies by Movers. A lecture for the Bay View Assn. that was to be presented live on July 24 will be on-line instead. The Dance of Wellness.

Bach/Muybridge (Accumulation & Retrograde): https://vimeo.com/434519696

Clonal Renderings 7: Pandemic Portfolio:

Bach Remix:

Pandemic Paint Box:

Scramble Theory 101:

Andante:  password: Kim

Tree Town, Quiet Town

From the Frying Pan…  password: cast-iron

Five Pieces in Exile from the World:

Three Videopoems for the Pandemic: 

the artist and his models (the 1200 poses): password: burst mode