Shared Practice with Myfanwy Hunter and Chelsea Byrne, started out as two separate collaborations, but has ended up being more relational. We have developed both a way of getting to know each other creatively and personally that is easy and generative. I have fed this collaborative work into my solo practice. It has also been feeding into each different dyadic collaborative session, with me as a link. I wonder if I could share this with other artists as a non-generic concept or formula to use in collaborations. Each dyad has generated some particular material with the imprint of the other inside of it.
One of the main strands of material that has stuck around came from Myfanwy sharing with me the practice of Ho-hup, a Korean rhythmic form, which translates loosely to breath-like-movement or breath-like-rhythm. It can be: long, long, short or long, short, long, or short, long, long, depending on how you organise it. (You’ll hear us working with it in the audio-visual file on the right.) So we have used this as a jumping off point rather than formally doing the ho-hup practice. Paying attention to the concept of rhythm connects us. In addition, the physicality of the rhythm is a focal point. It is initiated by bending the knees, which drops the centre of mass, which initiates a swinging movement of the arms back and up, in order for them to swing down and make the percussive strike. It is cyclical, like breath; it relies on releasing into gravity and once started, it is momentous and reflexive.
The workshop in which Myfanwy learned about this form, was not so much about learning the form (which would take many years), but was about making music from many influences. Art from cultures outside of one’s own or even from outside of one’s discipline can create access points for new creations.
Miwon Kwon wrote in “One Place After Another: Site Specific Art and Locational Identity”:
“Difference understood [...] as variety of social and cultural categories is an underlying presumption of community-based art today, which seeks to become evermore inclusive of this variety at the expense of a rigorous and self-critical examination of the primary driving force that seems to define the field— the idealized Spector of community.”
While Kwon’s frame of reference for this particular chapter is Hal Foster’s “ The Artsist as Ethnographer,” I don’t truly have a frame of reference as an ethnographer, but feel myself more as a poet looking out at my community/environment from the inside.
This reminds me of an essay by James Redfield (possibly a questionable reference):
“Poetry is not really a way of knowing, but rather a way of making something out of whatever one does know. [..The poet] has no responsibility to tell us what he does not know. Since his poem is built around his knowledge, his knowledge is always (in principle) adequate to the poem he is trying to write.”
At the end of this essay he writes:
“The poet comes to his own experience as a stranger and finds his own speaking of it strange. This is perhaps an inner ethnography, and exploration of the mastery of the self, which draws attention to its own inadequacy as it wrestles and dances towards adequate speech.”
This semester I have been seeking to meet and join a “community” as a way to interact with a broader world outside of the VCA community. At the moment, I am realising that working, even simply one-on-one with someone outside of my discipline expands my reach into the broader world.
In addition to getting to know each other, this reaching into the broader world has been one of the main pursuits of my work with Chelsea. Reaching into the broader world, or to put it more specifically, taking our practice in the public eye, has been one way we have explored our habitual ways of dancing and relating.
For a long time, I have been inspired and influenced by Jennnifer Monson, who I knew, worked with, and took a couple of workshops with in Vermont and New York City in the 90s and early aughts. In the documentary New York Dance: States of Performance, she says:
“My dance work often pulls together things that [...] resonate with how I experience myself as [...] [both] a human and [...] something that’s wild or natural. And those are terms that we embody in this kind of conflict in the dancing. So I think that’s sort of the center of where my dance work comes from: [...] trying to figure out ways of understanding or knowing or evoking those kinds of contradictions.”
In talking about several different projects where she followed the migratory pathways of different animals over several years, she said:
“I think my work is really research and process based, so I wanted to see if I put my body on the same trajectory as this migratory bird, what’s gonna happen? So we just set out on this vast project and along the way, I kept learning… about my process, my own experience, my own understanding of things. It became much more about driving in the car, shopping in the supermarket, and choosing a campsite… Those were the parts I wasn’t thinking about when I started the project. I wanted to sleep next to the tide, see it come in and out of all day, and be awake for sunrise and sunset and be in tune with these natural cycles, which I think is really important but I also began to see the importance of all the cultural ways we understand and know the world. And there’s always this blending. […] To be aware of this blending is what I’m trying to get at in my work.”
I am interested in this “blending” or integration of life and practice and performance. In the sessions with Chelsea, part of our “warm-up” has been a social catching up. It is a warming up to each other as we had only met a couple of times before embarking on our weekly sessions. We have shaped our practice sessions, but haven’t wanted to suppress our chattiness mostly because it felt organic, we did it with awareness, and it seemed we both needed and enjoyed having a chat. However, as we discussed it we realised we need to change up this mode before it became habitual and interfered with what we wanted to accomplish.
During one session, we made a clear parameter of no chatting. At a certain point, we ended up chatting again. We then decided to move outside. During this outdoor session, we both noticed that the chatter was absolutely a non-issue. Being outside gave us a kind of focus because it was, essentially, a potential performance with people all around who were potential witnesses. And we were more engaged in a practice-performance of observation and being observed. Practicing outdoors can be a tool for both exposing habit by allowing you to observe yourself in a dynamic environment, as well as helping you to change habitual patterning.
Over his career Daniel Buren utilised the pattern of stripes as what he calls “visual tools.”Originally, he started with stripes in the 60s as a way to “flatten the canvas” or to make it less “expressive.” This is similar to what Yvonne Rainer was working on around the same period, utilising pedestrian movement or codified dance movement in a non-spectacular, almost pedestrian way in order to upset traditional notions of composition. He has said, “Being always the same, it has the quality of a tool,” and “the visual tool is no longer a work to be seen, or to be beheld, but is the element that permits you to see of behold something else.”
Though we had not danced together before, Chelsea and I have both studied with Rosalind Crisp and Helen Herbertson through the VCA Master of Dance course. We utilised tools, exercises, and strategies learned in our common studies. This enabled us to have a common language, a jumping off place, and/or a home base to return to when we felt off track. Rosalind Crisp has likened her “tools,” to scales, geared toward what she calls “choreographic improvisation,” and a way of working with the materiality of the body. These scales/tools are a way to know one’s own body by visiting and revisiting them regularly. The concept of home-base has come forward in this work as it did last semester in Helen Herbertson’s classes and as it has in my past work with various somatic and spiritual practices, like yoga and the Alexander Technique.
Having a home-base, various touchstones, or even a point of departure is important to me on many levels both creatively and personally. In these shared practices, I am exploring the materiality of my body in different environments. Now, going forward, I am working on taking these shared practices into performance.