Friday, October 28, 2011

Sept. 25 after 7:30 Show

A: Amazing piece. It was overwhelmingly physically and emotionally. I thought it mimicked our culture and society – some people were leaders and followers. Some people rise up, and some stay low. The level of hierarchy in the piece was overwhelming. It was personal because I dealt with that cultural impact being a foreigner. We all deal with the emotional contact with people you don’t know on a daily basis. It’s powerful to be able to experience that in art, translate it, and enjoy it and question where you belong. At the end, we are the same. We are equal. There are no boundaries, we’re human and we are here doing this together and that keeps our world turning. Keeping ourselves grounded in a piece like this keeps artists driving and working.

A: I think it’s effective that participation was initiated and then we had direct contact. It made me feel more open to direct contact because it was subtle and I was decided before it became more constant.

Noemie Lafrance: We got feedback and built on it. The first week we started with everyone dancing and so then you could see who the dancers were and that didn’t help make it gradual. Also, it didn’t leave the space for audience participation such as the lying down section.

A: It made it so my first interaction was internal and allowed it to grow into external participation.

A: I also liked that you couldn’t tell who the dancers were right away. The majority people involved looked like someone normal standing next to you. It read as a concept of what we see in society. Someone initiates something and lots of people follow and the question is why? Did you follow because you thought you were supposed to, or because you were moved? Or did you not follow at all? Did you follow and start a movement of your own? I saw people began to create their own movements and those contributed to the overall piece and picture. That was powerful.

NL: That is somewhere we want to bring it. I’ve been giving the dancers the directions to follow the audience, but there is still tension on their side. They don’t feel as if they have full permission yet. We are trying to develop that vein even more. I’m interested in the audience participation in the creation of the work and how they can add to it or change it.

A: I saw lots of layering of levels, with performance, ideas in the piece, boundaries, and with drama and theater techniques. I was confused by the moment where you wanted the audience to be a part dramatic and work shopping process. This means the audience has to internalize the creative process that you go through with the dancers making the piece. That was part of the dynamic tension I felt. At first, I wasn’t so sure whether I wanted to participate. As I was doing it, I was asking myself, why am I doing this? Why is this valuable? Why do I as an audience member participate in participating? What is changing in my experience with that? I’m looking at those dynamics. You are trying to re-establish in this media and technology driven age an interactive one on one piece and creating a presence in a performance instead of being a passive audience. That’s when I can see the tension.

NL: Yesterday most comments were about “do I conform or do I not conform”. It’s less tonight. I’m interested in hearing about the value in joining or in participating. Is it a value/choice because you value that? As I said yesterday, we make a lot of choices in our lives that are not based on the value and experience. I’m pondering several questions: Will I have a better experience if I participate? Will I be able to express myself? What is the value of participating?

A: There is lots of pressure of relational aesthetics to participate as you become a part of the environment as part of the current mode we’re in right now. That comes into play with your performative work instead of something that you did in your performative work Agora. We did not have audience participate. The audience watched the participation of all these scenarios, but weren’t part of the active process. It seems like you’re dealing with the tension of the audience and not audience and trying to make the performative space a part of the environment. I applaud you for it. It’s interesting to be on the other end and become a part of that dramatic process.

A: I love the ability to not distinguish between audience and dancers. I felt the purpose was to have joy of self expression and participation in group activity. I was invited when I had direct eye contact from another participant and also when there was a silence and a look from one side to another. I felt responsive to those areas of invitation. As I moved around the space, there was more and more direction. I was excited about participating in directive activity and not having to think or choose. It became hectic and I was worried about keeping up, but I still had a good time.

NL: I saw that you lied down very early. I don’t know how may people noticed. Did you do that purposely?

A: I saw someone else do it, so I did it. That’s the participation and invitation part without really exposing a whole lot, or risking a lot.

NL: It’s a darker area and it was interesting that you very gently lied down. It’s different than stepping into the center, but it is still a statement.

A: I had questions of permission. Do I have permission to be here? When I find permission I find expression. So that question was big for me. At what point am I permitted to engage in the activity?

NL: Would it be only permission that would give you freedom of expression?

A: I thought it was clear when there was invitation or when it was permission. I was interested in finding out if there were things that we were not permitted to do. That’s my curiosity. The invitation and directions were clear and I asked myself should I follow. I wondered what happens if I don’t. It becomes stigmatized. What happens and are you okay with not confirming and that becomes a part of the larger idea? Do you want people to not participate and some to participate? Do you want everyone to participate in this thing when invited? Is it important for me to know your intentions and important for me to respect them? What’s important here? Is my experience and what I want right now and that experience could be oh shit I’m right in the middle okay? Is that okay not just for me but also for the person who was creating this? Was that interesting to you to also say and do no in addition to doing the yes?

A: It’s interesting to me to be able to see the response of being either I object or I want to do, and I’m trying to find responses of people objecting. It’s the same idea I brought up in yesterday’s work – If you do what mama says or do the opposite of what mama says, you’re still doing in relation to mama. There may be other options and to go against our two options and then there’s more. It’s interesting we and you question whether I’m giving you permission, in a way you can do whatever you want. It’s all of those kinds of things.

A: Knowing and working as a dancer it was interesting for me to see every person in this piece and space as someone who has value. Not only artistic values, but also seeing it as people who can be hurt. From a little kid running around to someone who is lying down. If we see it as a community where everyone has a role, and everyone is vulnerable. People can get hurt if they are not watching, that was a motivator that community aspect brought the piece together. I enjoyed that portion.

A: Aside from psychology, it was nice to be invited to feel the result of the nice patterning and the voices going on, the dynamics and energy build up. The patterns and it being built up. When we did the talking and people were talking, I was unclear. I just started saying anything I wanted. It wasn’t clear who we were following – it could have been more free. It was unclear where individual space would be, one could just dive in, but I don’t know how you are set up with your group to deal with that.

NL: It’s new that we gave the dancers permission to follow the audience’s lead, not their own lead necessary. If someone offers something you’re offering another form to develop. - I want that form to be acted out. So then maybe lots of people lie down, and there is a carpet of people. It requires the dancers on the spot to collectively agree. But it’s possible.

Zoe Scheiber (Dancer): It happens a few times that we picked up the audience’s movements. The Macarena affected some people. The clapping also developed. Also, someone naturally started the humming section. I had to decide if I wanted to join. Eventually I followed. It broke down naturally. So, yes it did happen a little more this show

NL: Many ideas were done some nights, but became too complicated. We change them all the time.

ZS (D): There was also a general ‘Mmmhmmm’

A: Along with psychology, there were 2 moments provided anxiety – the dancers walked over and put their hands on shoulders – that group scooted to the corner – you were chosen and you’re able to kneel, but why weren’t others and it made me nervous. I remember thinking oh man I am happy to be kneeling right now. Then Fabio had people run, no no I need more and giving directions – they’re not doing it right and made me nervous.

NL: In Home, we have moments were people are writing things together and they were told to go faster and that people got so stressed out.

A: Interesting & why we check our backs but it was wonderful that we didn’t know who was who, ata certain point I recognized some audience and their walk and attention. What would it be like if it wasn’t easy for me to identify the dancers? And we started so late, and I was standing in ront and I though whoa, what about if this is it right now? It was fantastic that it began slowly and fantastic. With little openness and more direction. I was unsure at first, but then said why not,. My inner dialogue was interesting and deciding how far I wanted to go and where I held back, it was provocative.

NL: I’m interested in that internal dialogue. It’s something important about the way we make decisions, expecially on a collective decisions. We rarely make collective decisions in this society. Often we make more individual decisions, but this wants to explore the collective or corporation if you’re following or not, if you affect the group make decisions in relationship to the group

A: What have you decided is specific enough and open enough that increases your own juggling of the frame, and shaping what you really want to do in this piece?

NL: The order is the main thing, the structure has opened, the 5 word thing we developed in rehearsal as a performative thing we’re doing it ourselves. I thought why just do it ourselves? We want people to participate so we should participate with others. I didn’t want to tell anyone anything at first, I wanted them to guess everything. It wasn’t working, people expressed the need for individual contacts o I took them and changed them and went up to people as a secret, and also leaving people out of that. People desire to do it because others are doing it, but if you’re asked then you don’t want to.

A: My girlfriend was asked to join, and no one asked me. I wanted to know why she got involved. Finally a dancer saw that I was very confused and lost. She said, I can find a dancer to come and let you in if you want. I felt very left out until then.

A: I felt like I eavesdropped and think about my sentence before asked. I appreciated to be able to prep – it didn’t feel incorrect.

A: You [Noemie] said our society has an individual, but not collective mentality, and the part I felt you’re participating no matter what – so I wasn’t worried about when, but where is this going and how I want to be in it as it goes. When I was curious was when I became more active. I got the most into it during the down and pulled together part – That’s the only time that I felt like a collective mind state. I did because this clear progression and a goal. It was funny because a rhythm was happening and moving while this rhythm that was happening. It was obvious and funny. They all pulled together to push me into a collective mindset. I laughed first, but then right away I just started screaming, That’s what moved me into this collective mind state, was the humor and how obvious it all was. I was able to see the goal. I could help get to the goal.

NL: It’s a narrative, the first week we had everyone kneel and everyone scream. It opened the whole room and everyone got to scream. We gave it up for the narrative of two groups formed out of nothing and something to scream at. It’s becoming clearer that there are two groups.

A: I was intriguing by you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, but an audience member turned the table and made you question what you’re supposed to do. It exposed a vulnerability in the performer now because they not only looking like but they are part of the audience. Will they conform or follow the parameters? They follow this gray zone, so now we almost had the upper hand and the performer was lost except for what you set out. The light bulb went off – wow this wasn’t how I felt watching it only, but at the same time you can think about how the performer felt and how uneasy it felt as a performer because it continues to change.

Dancer: Last week everyone was so eager, yesterday we expected the audience to participate. We have to go off the audience, but not expect you and move on. Strange balance between performing what we know and are going to do and reacting towards the audience, not depending on you – it’s different between every audience. How much should we take or give.

NL: I keep telling them to leave time. Time is space for the audience. If you don’t have time then you are just looking at the show and you’re not asking yourself those questions. In this show, it was a smaller crowd and made it was very delicate compared to others that had large groups. Those were harder to see and felt massive. I liked the delicate nature and quality.

Heather Hammond (dancer): It was like being anonymous. In a large city, you can get away with anonymous and doing things you may not ordinarily do. But, in a small town you are aware. That changes behavior and group dynamics.

NL: I did tell them I’d tell them how many people would come before the show. That got lost in the shows, but we adjusted.

A: I’d like to elaborate on two things that came up earlier. The first, about needing permission and the second is interaction between dancer and audiences. As an audience member I made the choice to watch the audience. Already barriers are being broken down. In a box space, that naturally happens. Sometimes I thought I don’t have to watch the action and what is happening. I can watch other people and their reactions. I felt that allowed the two groups to blend.

NL: I think it is fascinating to watch the audience.

HH (D): That’s almost a third kind of participation. We have actively doing it, disengagement and then making the choice to sit out but watch…or going against, or making your own…

A: I had a strange moment of being thrilled to be in a space as a dancer and I felt people watching me as if I were a performer. I had a strange experience and participation as an observer aware of my space and aware of people watching me. It was thrilling. Also, testing the transitions and becoming clear and getting those to work – the first walkers, what if I just stand in your way. I enjoyed the running

Jennifer Carlson (Dancer): The audience is amazingly influence. You may be questioning should I join, and we’re questioning whether or not this is going to work between us. Will this work? Are we going to get where we are going? You brought up, were there things we didn’t have permission to do, and we did it? There is no ‘do whatever you want to do’, but there were lots of things that didn’t go the way we imagined them to. The playing field gets leveled quickly.

Emma Lovewell (dancer): Tonight I ran into more people that were unwillingly doing things –I went up to this woman and said, Okay this is what we’re going to do - I said ‘Okay, we’re going to make this five word phrase, anything – the sky is really blue today or whatever and you’ll say it and walk back and forth. Then we’ll do it together. She said ‘I think silence is better’ and I said Perfect! Let’s go! But she kept changing her sentence to ‘I don’t want to participate’, ‘I’d rather be watching’, ‘I don’t want to do this’ but she’s doing it and telling me. I’m saying this over and over again with her the whole time.

NL: She found a place to express herself.

ZS (D): My person grabbed my hand, and I said oh, you’re very sly. I did it for the fun of it, but then it became this thing. It was interesting because I thought, do I want to hold his hand.

A: Did anyone say no?

NL & Dancers: Oh yes.

A: I found many things that accidently worked out. I accidently laid down wrong and put my head in a woman’s lap. It could have been really awkward but she was very nice and pushed my hair out of my face. I stood up and lied back down and she cradled my head. It’s shocking, but amazing when people react in ways you’re not expecting at all.

NL: I love how the beginning worked when people lied down and created a setting for people sitting. It made them a part of it and it clicked.

Teresa Kochis (Dancer): During the channel, there were people along the wall, 3 people in the channel, and a line of audience and dancers – then a space and another line of people. It’s the 4 lines - it wasn’t even planned! It was great to see the spatial arrangement people agreed to without even prompting.

ZS (D): I was on that side when people were walking, and I had to decide if I have to cross the room. Do I want to? Should I time it?

A: Is the documentation always a part?

NL: It’s another component, and definitely adds multiple layers.

Sept. 25th after 6:30 Show

Noemie Lafrance: What did you enjoy, or would have changed? Were there moments you wanted to participate but felt held back?

A: People walking back and forth and humming, making noise. When we became participants things changed. It was exciting and the more we got into the more fun it was. I began to see the creativity.

A: I was happy to watch my grand daughter steal the stole.

A: I enjoyed hearing the inner monologue of the street walker walking past. It’s like you’re listening to what’s in their head.

A: Some people said it reminded them of the subway. Was that a breaking point for you that you decided you are in?

A: There wasn’t a distinct moment. Since I’ve seen your previous work, I wasn’t expecting a moment.

A: The moment of eye contact was very beautiful and connecting and joyful. Then it was less about witnessing something external. The little girl was beautiful. The instructions and permission allowed us to become active in a very boundary way. The eye contact made the bridge and the instructions made it manageable.

NL: It’s interesting because the people lying down part, we normally wait. Some people propose themselves to lie down. He did. It’s interesting that sometimes the audience is thinking about putting themselves in that place and taking advantage of the offer. Did anyone feel like they should do something? You were debating? What stopped you?

A: I’m a journalist, so I tried to stay removed. Story of my life. Stay objective.

A: I found myself wearing a different hat than I normally do. This time I decided to go with instructions. It was refreshing, sometimes frustrating, but overall it was more active. I saw a lot of parallels to Agora.

After 9/24 Shows Conversation

Tiffany Watson (Dancer): You are able to make decision based on and have an artistic choice and get involved – there’s something really beneficial about being on the side that you don’t get when you are right in the center.

John Cooper: You explained that perfectly. In a way it’s that forgivable frustration from the performance. It’s not so much about following a script. It’s about having a social awareness where you can respond to the individual, and that’s what stems from the performance.

Noemie Lafrance: That’s beginning to happen, but it’s still a challenge. It’s another thing we have to break, because if the dancers become so into the roles of audience members and retreat into the walls then that middle space becomes where the open performance space I want to avoid that and have the space feel balanced. I get worried when the space opens up like that. I think the performers have to strategize where they make their decisions – If you go and lie down in that open space then you are conforming to the fact that that is the performance space, but that’s a problem because you should be working on erasing that space and making it disappear.

JC: Normally the performance space is defined by walls, but now you are creating a performance space defined by lines of sight. The ring that is formed creates the sheer desire to see and then moves people into these clear shapes.

NL: We could use that more – last week when she was moving in the corner because they were waiting and she was doing it so long, but it was just a simple butt movement and it’s a funny thing that everyone is a heard going over there, but it didn’t work this time, the audience was forming a ring and it was clear they wanted to establish – that’s their power – is to establish the performance space in the middle.

David Sutcliffe (Dancer): Do you think that when the performance becomes more polished and people start knowing the cues better that it’ll become quicker and create that anticipation?

NL: Certain things are moving too fast, because we are getting the jist of it and moving through things. He knew the show, because he had been there, but it’s so different now. That being so, would you be able to know what was going to happen?

JC: No, I had no idea. Well, perhaps, I recognized some forms, but I didn’t know how they would transform.

NL: But interpreted differently those forms are just something else.

JC: I suppose, in my perspective, because I saw it last time, the reason I didn’t participate besides of just doing something on my own is because I have this position to think about what is going on and what’s happening, and knowing that my part of the performance is participating in the conversation after where I feel more comfortable participating – or do I give that position up to experience a more qualitative or organic movement, or conformity or non-conformity, and my thought was no - I value the position that I took as an outsider, as a witness, to me more enjoyable – it’s not contrary, because that’s one thing this performance furnished me with - This is what I mean about conformity and non-conformity, because it sounds a bit like if you don’t conform then you’re being rude or arrogant.

Tiffany Watson (dancer) I think you don’t realize that you’re contribution and what you were doing and your choices. You were making a contribution that was valuable. She noticed you and actually thought you were a part of the piece.

A: Yeah, I thought he was the anchor because he reminded me of the part with the TV, the guy talking about the TV - he had an Ipad a lot, not during, but felt like he was a counterpart or the anchor of the performance.

TW (D): But it is because people are actually looking everywhere. You’re not just looking at the center what I understand is that it shouldn’t . The audience becomes part of the show. It shouldn’t be that the audience is on the outside and the performance is in the center. It’s not only in one form, but spread out and infused.

NL: I am tempted to do a square around sooner because it gets people off the safety zone, wall – it’s the farthest you can retreat to and maybe it’s because I’m the creator – I’m always antsy about the people on the wall, get out of it. And maybe that doesn’t help or change the piece in a positive way.
I like the moment we had in another version where they are combing the audience. As an audience member you are not doing anything, but you are being subject to and that is a subtle line of participation And I can’t recreate it because now everyone is following us everywhere and if I do it too early, then I reveal the dancers which ruins the rest of the experience. It’s tricky because certain elements are good in some performances and not in others. I would the dancers eliminate the creation of the performance space as soon as it is created, but it’s hard because dancers can’t fill it because it’s obvious that it is the dancers again.

DS (D): One of the moments I feel worked well was the ‘left, right, left’ moments. It feels like the space becomes more scattered with bodies dispersed more evenly. It seems there is a communal direction, but I don’t think you want to build to that too quickly.

NL: I thought ‘left right left’ worked better last week, Last week more people did it and it felt like it was the whole room. And I don’t know if we are starting it too early or not waiting long enough, but there were definitely some people looking at me and wondering if they should move.

TW (D): I don’t know either, As a dancer we keep hearing different feedback – some people were nervous and now we don’t know what to think. I had a different approach to it this week, it felt different.

NL: Things we tried to repeat from last week to this week got stale. Last week there was a lot of stress on that you have to be totally incognito. No one can know that you are a performer. It worked and was spooky. No one knew except five people and things kept happening and it was so impossible to tell. very interesting tension, but now it feels like it came back because of the invitation and it became imbalanced. The separation that happened when we were screaming, I think that wasn’t working

A: It was a great moment because it was annoying and then you really wanted to do it. Not because you were asked, but because you really wanted to scream. As an audience member you wanted to participate, and figured well they’re going to ask me anyway. Then after it turned into a hum, and was so hard to tell where it was coming from because of the acoustics of the room.

NL: Last week there wasn’t the divide between the up and the down. So it was a big group. There were too many down, and all the down have to move – in order for it to really work everyone has to move. If you can manage to get all the down on one side, then you have a larger impact of the two groups that are formed. Also, I think the dancers were getting too excited about participating again.

A: The audience was also becoming too excited – there were many audience members that were not touched that went down. Everyone was cooperating by then.

NL: Even in the beginning with the puzzle, it’s only supposed to be three dancers and then all the dancers began to do it, and became obvious. We had only 3 and to do until the audience and it’s very different when it happens that way.

Zoe Scheiber (Dancer): The space felt larger. I know I joined in because everyone in that part was over there and I wanted to draw attention to my area and spread it out.

NL: We need to close that space and bring everyone’s attention elsewhere. We don’t want to fill that space, we want to say no that is not the performance space – You are the performance. By agreeing to that circle we are agreeing to the audience. It’s a power play, by saying we will perform in the hole you made then they get the power and we are forced to perform instead of them performing because we are following what they did and the more that happens the more the space is being created – but if we deny it and perform elsewhere then we close the space, they participate and we gain the power back.

ZS (D): Then you also bring back that curiosity and attention.

TW (D): I think a couple people joined in readily as though you couldn’t tell that she wasn’t a performer. I wonder how you could play with that and use it.

NL: An audience member who wasn’t a dancer lied down and looked a lot like a performer. The people that stand out are so important.

JC (D): Depending on how you structure it. You can frame the participation, If you act on your own will then you’re crazy and equally you can play it if you approach it with aggression then you have the capacity to avert all these feelings of infantile desires and feelings of shame and need. The other way is dependant on which performer approached me – it could be determined by what they say and how they greet me. If someone says, would you be so kind as to join me? If not, you are being incredibly rude.

NL: That’s a nice way of manipulating the ones who are standing back. Different people Some will participate for the experience, or some are crazy and over participate, but some participate just to be polite. Then there are exhibitions who will take advantage of the opportunity and be excited.

Tatyana Okshteyn (Black & White Gallery): In the beginning I didn’t want to do the movements and I was running away, but then I was drawn in. Especially the ‘right, left, right’ portion because there was another audience member that pulled me in. He was very natural and not professional. It was less intimidating to work with an audience member rather then doing it beside a professional.

NL: That one day, when you started to do the right left right, there were a lot of people.

TO: For me rhythm is very important, but if I don’t get it then I really pull back until I find it. I want to follow what I’m hearing, but at one point I decided to say forget it.

NL: It’s funny because the dancers are saying ‘right left right’ but it’s actually not the correct feet.

TO: Yes, the text is funny and for me that is the best part of the programming. It’s a nice balance because it’s deceivingly not singing and using the voice, and for me that is totally new and done very well. I like artists using text in their art and adding another layer to the work.

NL: It’s nice to see the audience be engaged and saying things.

TO: I felt like the sound quality is something to be aware of. It changes the performance. The sounds called cold-poetry from 20s-30s, and they used text in their work. This for me, was the most interesting part as a new addition

NL: They use text a lot in dance and dance theater, but it’s not normally used as music – I’m trying to use it as music. Sometimes they use poetry and text incorporated in the music, and many other things.

TO: So, do you feel that everyday is different?

NL: Yes, every week is different, but I preferred was last weekend.

TO: This weekend is much calmer. There are some subtle things are different and it’s a different piece.

NL: Last week was mysterious. This was enthusiastic. 4:30 was almost childish, but I felt like the 5:30 show last week was sophisticated. She said someone from the audience taught her.

TO: I was intimidated from following the dancers and thought I wouldn’t get it, but I decided to follow him.

NL: The whole room did the movements – everyone. The voice and movement were all there. Everyone was smiling inside saying they were doing it. Now, because people know the dancers a little bit more – when you don’t know who is who then choreography can be taught by the audience to other audience members. This time the dancers were more forward and inviting.

JC: It’s great to come back. It’s an amazing thing to come and see a performance twice and have a different experience every time. It’s a bit more complicated tonight.

NL: It is more complicated because I’ve been giving it a lot of thought. My goal tonight was to make the experience more complex for the audience members. We tried more basic things to make people participate. Can we create these two groups and have them participate with each other? Then, we worked past that to make three groups and make the end choreography orchestrated? How can the level of complexity grow so that the audience can do it?

Sept. 24th after 6:30 Show

Bertie Ferdman: To begin, I’d like to get your reactions from your experiences and what you saw. Any thoughts or changes you’d like to share?

A: Initially it felt like we were being begged to enter or do something. Any movement you take everyone is looking at you. It was a beautiful way to bring us in because by using the simple things to establish vocabulary. By the end, I felt like I had to do this.

Dancer: It’s really exciting every show we’re getting all this new information from the audience. It’s different to be inside. You’re just as much a part of the show as we are.

A: I still don’t know exactly who the permanent cast was, because my person doesn’t have all black on – their lying down. How do I control myself, because I didn’t want to jump in. I don’t want to destroy something here, what’s the vocabulary here?

A: I thought it was an exercise in conformity. I wanted to be a nonconformist and resist, but felt a lot of pressure to conform.

A: I was against conforming, but when we were all in that corner, I just gave up. I felt by non-conforming you’re standing out and performing more than others.

Noemie Lafrance: It’s interesting that the non-conforming was coming back this show. The first week no one participated and non-conformity was the big theme. People thought ‘you want us to join, but it’s obvious, so we don’t want to’. It was people being stubborn and going against what we were doing. Last week it was a merge - you couldn’t distinguish any lines of performer or audience member. This week it’s tipping to the other side. There is so much conformity that it is coming back to this desire to not conform. What if I don’t conform, what will that do?

A: Can you tell us how many are permanent?

NL: 17

A: And how many here tonight?

NL: About 80

A: I was doing the coat check, and there were 105 bags that were in there.

NL: So maybe there were closer to 100. We had a show last week that was over 120. That show was different. You couldn’t see anything or tell who was the performers.

BF: Did anyone feel different when they participated? Or felt non conformist and observing? Was participating observing and was observing participating?

A: By the end everyone was reading the room and it’s such a skill I think New Yorkers have. By the end when you were deciding whether or not to join, everyone was waiting and seeing what the group’s behavior was. It was set up well in the beginning because of this level of paranoia with everyone walking and uncertainty. By the end people made choices to conform or not conform because they could read the room and make decisions quickly.

A: I want to see total anarchy break out. During the ‘coming through’ section, I wanted to say ‘walking, walking’ and wondered if more people would go against it.

NL: Last week this part, should be different. The idea is different because when people are making lines, and as we go back in and out it’s ironic because people that don’t want to participate are now being turned into lines. The more participation there is, the less it works because everyone is just following us back and forth.

NL: There was a group that blocked last week. I told the dancers if someone does something then you can follow it because then you can do more in different directions. It’s difficult because they have to hear you and catch up. There’s the question of time, if there is more time then people could catch up. That is the idea we’d like to follow.

A: It’s hard to balance the chaos and spontaneity of space and choreography.

NL: Interesting to observe how obedient people are, and they want to do what they are told. Even though inside you are thinking ‘I’m not going to do it.’ The idea of ‘if you do what mama says’ or ‘you go against what mama says’, either way you are still working in relationship to mama. Doing against is also relative, but breaking out is another world and taking over. I’m waiting for the moment for the entire audience take over- it’d have to come from a real strength. There are some people who are on the edge, and willing to do stuff. I wonder if the dancers are following the audience members if it may validate the statement the audience member is making, and in turn to help it grow.

A: So NY to think that participating is conforming and not-participating is not-conforming. I kept wondering what would other age groups do? Would they have these barriers? What if we brought a group of five year olds in here?

A: Lots of different factors will affect it - the number of people and size of the space will dictate whether a Saturday night or Sunday afternoon. If you come alone or with a group of friends. With a group you may do more or less.

A: I have think about the daily commute; we are all so trained and conditioned. We go forward then we back up. Cattle herding and crowd control is typical of America. I’m told to go left, I go left.

A: Our unconscious living of moving forward and walking through our day. Until you get to the end and say I want a drink, or I need to go have lunch. Your unconscious living continues until you specifically break from it – it happened in this piece.

A: What do you think has changed that has brought it to this level of participation?

NL: The order of our sequences changed and also the biggest element that made the jump is that you couldn’t tell who the dancers were. The first shows we just had the dancers jump in and do stuff. So, then the audience members saw the dancers and then there’s no reason to participate. Now, we have groups of dancers; Some groups are visible and some are acting as audience. When they participate they are always acting as if other dancers told them to do stuff. We opened up a puzzle with people lying down that didn’t exist in the first week. That’s the start of this openness. I asked the dancers to wait until the audience a member participates in this. It can take a while, but it’s worth it. It begins to break the wall. Also, as the insiders we start to see things we don’t know. Especially 5:30 last week, an obvious audience member was participating. After that everyone began participating. It created confusion and uncertainty of who is who.

Jennifer Carlson (dancer): The piece also became more personal. We had individual connections and having real moments.

A: That’s where I made my switch, because when someone asked me on an individual level, then I’m willing.

NL: My first idea was to have it happen naturally. Naturally it would grow and people would join. The feedback said people liked the touch on the shoulders. It helped to know people wanted to be asked personally and have one on one. They want to feel like it’s approved.

Tiffany Watson (dancer): One person was participating who was an audience member. I don’t think people recognized that because she was just doing everything the dancers were doing.

NL: I’m curious to hear from John, because you were at the first week.

John Cooper: It was clear to me that the performers had become far more skilled about what they were doing. That reassured me. It gave the performance slickness that in hindsight it was lacking before. I noticed conformity that has come up again and again. While it’s a good place to start, I think it doesn’t do the piece justice. It simplifies it too much. I’m wondering what is at stake with this idea of conformity? When an audience member is required to make a decision about whether to participate or not, what comes into play or factors in that decision? Is it going to be purely to enter into this simple dialect of conformity or non-conformity, performer audience. Or will they participate to avoid being anti-NY non-conformer? Are they going to join in because it’s the easiest? Or are they going to join in because they think by participating they’ll come into position of a more desirable form of behavior than standing outside? In other words, do they see in the role of a performer a set of non-arbitrary actions? It’s not that they’re arbitrary or for the sake of politeness and ease. I stood in the corner for almost all the performance. The corners were real special places in the space. They give you a critical distance to the object far more than the performer, but no one seemed to identify and occupy that space. I ‘d be interested to hear about reactions about if they though by entering into the performance brought them into strategies, experiences, vocabulary, rules, attention, or critical thinking that was particular special in some way or a simple arbitrariness in conformity, or non-arbitrariness in nonconformity?

JC: What is at stake in participating or not participating? I’m suggesting, not a simple matter of conformity or non-conformity, but what’s at stake is the status of the language – the moves, the responses, the kneeling down, or the form of expression and what is that giving to people? How can we interpret that language, what is the content?

A: The point I settled the most as a participant and observer, was walking in the circle after the turning part had stop and our group continued walking. We were in the corners and we had all these perspectives. We knew we were conforming. We knew what we were doing. We were not being guided by dancers, but we had a job and that job was very settling.

ZS (D): The part we call chaos to unison, I went to a group and the audience just started creating their own movement. Then the strong group came by and said We’re going to win. I got confused, on the edge with my group, confused chaos, I can’t get my beat or my arms, but they were so strong. They were having fun and thinking ‘What are we doing’, but in the end they won.

NL: That is part of the Darwinist exercise we’re doing. It’s survival of the fittest and we didn’t tell the audience the premise. We told them you’re doing these 4 counts movements. However, once the different groups are formed, if you persist then one group will take over. We know it, so we do it.

ZS (D): They were so involved, that they didn’t know what was happening, so they won. To your question about conformity, it’s not conformity or non conformity, it’s human impulse that’s related to something that’s what creates these ‘Wild’ people, they’re not contemplating much at all just vibing and something happens.

BF: John said to me, you no longer choose you are being watched by someone else – you’re a performer either way. You’re stuck no matter what. Everyone is hyper aware. Someone is watching someone and someone is watching you, even if you are in the corner.

A: I enjoyed the slow start. It was condensed in that moment. No one knew what to look it. My favorite part was looking around, and watching what others were looking at. I don’t think that performance ever lost that element. No matter how involved people became it was fun to see reactions and who chose to participate and how they chose to define themselves. You could see how they’re defining the performance itself. There’s enough time and space for that. It’s unique.

JC: John mentioned what’s at stake, but I think its individual for everyone. There’s no single answer. You’re experience is at stake. Your choices to either stand in the corner and watch or participate, what you gaining in your experience?

NL: In life we very rarely appreciate our experience as our top priority. Its how much money am I going to get, how much time am I going to save? It’s rare that your experience, It’s interesting to think, is that a choice for a sake of having a better experience. Is there a choice being made based on your self expression? Your desire to self express freely? , or to contribute to creatively to an organism. That’s at sake – organisms and how they warp and change. How can you have an effect on it, and does it matter? I’d like to answer these questions, but the questions of conformity and non-conformity are the dominating questions. I’d like for them to lower and people to think my experience is important to me right now. Can I impact this thing? Can I be creative?

A: That brings us back to the conformity question and what was at stake. I was hanging back out of sheer will to be different. When I joined I thought ‘I want experiences and to try it’, but the deeper side wanted me to do something totally against the grain and off the wall altogether.

NL: What stopped you?

A: Peer pressure, conformity.

NL: You think it’s not your self and your own judgment?

A: Isn’t that what conformity is?

A: If you had more time, do you think you’d get over it?

NL: Pressure from the inside and from the outside are two different things. The peer pressure would be from us to have you conform with us. Or the conformity like I want to be like other people and I don’t want to be different or crazy and do something off the wall.

A: I didn’t know what the rules were. If I do ‘blocking blocking’ in my area I wouldn’t be a spectacle in front of these people. How much would I rock the boat of what is choreographed and end up being the asshole?

NL: If you are given the attention in that moment and we follow you then we validate this idea. You may start feeling powerful and like you’re succeeding. You may want to do something else and maybe other people may want to do something else?

BF: Are the performers allowed to surprise each other? Are performers allowed to do anything total off kilter?

NL: They are now. It’s still very fresh. It’s starting to happen. Tonight’s show, the puzzle wasn’t what it was supposed to be and they started following each other. That is something we can introduce. We can be radical. It’s the start of something that can be kind of scary, but exciting.

Sept. 24th after 5:30 Show

Bertie Ferdman: This is the second time I saw it and the first time I saw it I wanted to figure out where the dancers were. So, I’m curious what are you looking at or for?

A: Eye contact – I was watching for who was making eye contact and thinking maybe they were a performer.

BF: So you were looking for eye contact that would identify people as performers?

A: Yes

BF: Did you figure it out?

A: Sort of. Also, I looked for facial expressions. You could tell the ones that felt more comfortable, who was here for the first time and who has been doing the movements.

Zoe Schieber (dancer): Did you feel more comfortable when you saw an audience member participating?

A: It took a while, not initially. I felt like I wasn’t part of it until someone directly involved me.

Noemie Lafrance: Did you feel before that you were restrained by your internal boundaries? If you weren’t listening to your internal boundaries would you have joined? Were you tempted?

A: I would have retreated into the wall if it was up to me.

BF: Were you looking for something to happen? And if so, did something happen and did it matter?

A: It doesn’t matter and it didn’t matter. I enjoyed seeing where it went and watching people’s faces and choices.

BF: Where it went?

A: I don’t know, the show probably goes somewhere different every time.

BF: Was there a show? Are you content with coming?

A: Yes. I was looking for something, but I don’t know.

A: Collectively, when everyone danced, that was the turning point where my internal boundaries were gone. And everyone felt comfortable.

NL: At the very end? At the 1,2,3,4 part?

BF: Did you ever feel if you participate then you’re being observed, so then I don’t want to do that? You go to watch others, so did you feel pressured since you were going to be observed?

A: There was an ‘oh shit’ moment, when I wondered if we were supposed to be participating. I just wanted to watch!

BF: Were there things that you wanted to happen, but didn’t happen? What would you have added or changed?

A: More dance moves more the dancers.

NL: So in a way then, you didn’t feel satisfied and the participation didn’t give you license to move?

A: I enjoyed it, but it felt like an exercise in participation instead of the whole thing being a dance experience.

BF: Did others feel this way?

A: I’ve been to many, and I enjoy the audience participation. I assume everyone is a dancer. I would like to see the technique and some larger dance moves above and beyond the crowd.

A: I like the opposite because then there isn’t the threat of being shown up or left out. It’s safe and playful. But there was a shifting moment where everyone was out here, and people out there were humming. It felt like the performers were the audience. They were very much watching what everyone else was doing. It was such an interesting flip to see all of a sudden.

A: It was a grand social experiment. How to get people to do stuff is the installation side. I think we’re gullible. I’d say it’s on the dance side, but definitely more on the installation side, which is great.

A: From the get go I’d feel more able to participate if the space felt like a different place. It felt like a part of the gallery and thus we’re all casual. If it was almost like a ritualistic entry way and then I’d feel less like my normal personality and maybe more willing to participate.

Sept. 24th after 4:30 Show

Bertie Ferdman: This is the first time I saw the performance, but I saw videos. My 7 year old kept asking me, ‘when will the show start?’ – ‘no no, when will the show start?’ So my question to you is Did the show ever start?

A: I think when people began lying down, that was it because it seemed strange people would lie down in a space like that. That activity let me know started when the performance.

BF: So you felt that the show started when something strange or different began happening? Would you guys agree?

A: I thought the performance began when people began being loud. It was a noticeable change in the performance. The raise in the voices was jarring. So, that’s when it started.

BF: So that’s a show because you noticed it happened? Or because everyone is coordinated?

A: I don’t know if I would define this as a “show” – to start with defining the experience, me I think of a show as a formal presentation on a stage

A: Something that has boundaries and is on a stage, has an audience and you don’t stay after. This felt more on the scale of an Alan Capro thing happening instead of a show.

A: The first thing I said, have you ever walked into a space and you’ve been looked at by so many different people that you feel like you are the show? In a way, it’s like as soon as you walk in everyone is ready and everyone is the show. You’re watching your environment as soon as your environment started.

A: That’s the question you’re always asking as a performer. If no one is there to take it is it a show? If I’m not performing for anyone, is it a show? If we’re all in the show and no one is watching the show, is it a show? If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there. Were there moments where you wanted to be a part of the show? I saw five airplanes and a helicopter cross and I thought – why isn’t anyone else watching it?

A: When people began laying down? I saw a dance raise her arm – it was so obvious but it’s too strong of a difference for me to participate immediately. I want to watch, and not perform, on my day off.

A: So, how did that evolve and when? I wasn’t sure of when or if I was supposed to lie down. It took me a while to get into the performance. The beginning was meditative, and it was a nice way to be introduced to the piece.

A: To be fair, once they created a pattern and were head to head – there was a pattern that needed to be completed. It was an invitation to me.

Noemie Lafrance: This is the first time you’ve seen the show?

A: Yes

NL: I’m not sure that everyone would have noticed that. It was partially created that way with a strong demand to ask you to lie down in the beginning.

A: It felt like there was no time, I wanted there to be more time to establish the pattern.

A: Have you had anyone be a total anarchist?

NL: Yes, yes we have.

A: I felt that I held up the anarchist part of the bargain. When someone came up to me and said ‘Can I teach you four moves?’ I said ‘No’. I felt like someone should inhabit another part of the space, and I normally play along, I’m a dancer too, but I felt like we were watching an experiment in heard mentality and not everyone should be a part of the heard. I didn’t want to be a part of the heard. So when Fabio asked me to perform four different moves, I realized and said to him – ‘You can’t leave until I start dancing, Can you?’. I just wanted him to stay there and be my personal entertainment. If this is a microcosm of the human psychology and our relationships to each other - Shouldn’t someone hold down the fort?

A: I wanted to yell ‘Ban fracking now’ over the group! With a heard of people and an important message it’s an important opportunity. So, I’m saying it now.

A: I wanted to yell out as well, and had a really strong temptation to initiate. I did a few small things, but they quickly disintegrated.

BF: To pause on the topic of initiating things, did anyone feel as if they initiated something? Or feel an urge to initiate movements? To me, it felt like if you’re in it, then nothing was happening. It’s like living life if I’m living life then I can’t observe it. So then it’s just happening and that’s what I do everyday. At one point did you think I do don’t want to be in it because then I can’t experience it? It’s about spectatorship and participants.

A: You can always be a spectator even while you’re participating, but the view you get is different. It’s not a bad thing, I joined the line and I study history I thought of the big picture, but I noticed things happening and people moving how they move and that’s also observation that I wouldn’t normally see.

A: When I joined in, it was easier because I felt like I knew what I was doing and can just follow. It’s easy to participate. When I was standing out on the outside, other people are moving and I didn’t know what was going to happen. It was more difficult then because more things were happening and I continued to question what I should be doing next. On the other hand in the movement I could just continued going back and forth and not think about anything else. It was lighter on the inside.

A: A challenge for future shows would be to create a dynamic explosion to push it into a complete show and then push back into another social experiment. It was great to watch the subtle change and watch it change into a performance and show. To watch it go one step further and change from a room full of people into a show and then back again into a room of people would be amazing. I’d challenge you to push it to include those shifts. I desire that because I’m in theater

NL: I desire it as well, but the thing that challenges us is that once we begin performing we reveal the dancers. This enters a different realm of performance. I value your feedback and we had moments like that in previous shows but it felt strange and off-putting to people.

A: It’s ostracizing because suddenly they feel like assholes, because they were participating and then they are standing around thinking oh I can’t do that.

NL: It’s hard to plan because you don’t know how people are going to react. Walking in lines doesn’t work when there are too few people or it depends on where they are located. People were sitting before the show, and that changes the way we change it. Every little thing changes everything.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What does it look like when these people say 'us'?

What I saw at two performances of the White Box Project on September 10th and 24th was this: the spontaneous creation of a social organism. A kinetic organism, sustained by relations of mutual trust, co-operation, interest, respect, enthusiasm and collaboration. These relations were carefully choreographed by deceptively simple-looking forms. From what I 
remember of the 24th September performance, some of these forms were: speaking quietly,
speaking with a raised voice, walking along a fixed route between two walls at an increasing speed whilst talking, lying down gravely flat and straight, assembling in attentive circles around supine performers, shuffling along the perimeter of the courtyard, walking or running around it in switching directions—and so on. I think an exhaustive and ordered list is worth making—it would be part of the archive—though here is perhaps not the place to attempt it. Nevertheless I want to point to the subtle complexity of this performance’s logic, its accurate execution by a group of skilled lead performers and its deft development in response to the thoughts of public collaborators over a number of weeks.  

I think the White Box Project is a critical, social work of art. It flexes, tests itself, experiments, makes room for change, and accepts the incompleteness of process. It takes the social conventions of the proscenium theater—the passive / active, consumer / consumed, work / leisure divide between performers and audience—and asks everyone to reinterpret their roles. It does this testingly through a vocabulary of movement which was just about within the bounds of decency and permissibility tolerated, at least, by the participants of the two performances I saw. The forms of group movement offered by the piece created a small self-elected society in which it was, for the half hour duration of the work, normal to participate democratically. This sense of normalness was partly created by the few who acted differently: especially by those who participated with an individual expressiveness over and above the norm. In the two performances I saw two individuals stood out as abnormally interesting personae—for their self-fashioning and investiture as much as their actions and speech. But there were also those who opted out and whose position was uncertain, ambiguous, potentially a bit divisive. They were attracted especially to the security of corners.

Did the willingness of most people to participate speak to a basic shared desire to enter into relations—sometimes with only vague associations attached—with each other? Was there a sort of latent collaborative spirit waiting under the cover of conversing friendship groups and lone individuals in a courtyard in Williamsburg? A collaborative spirit that basically desired a form to express itself? And a spirit that found—perhaps with a little tentative persuasion—just such a form in the choreography of the White Box Project?

I think so. I think what the choreography unfolded was the organic shape of a shared class identity. I think the choreography described the limits within which a public desired to know itself, to incorporate others and to experience this feeling of incorporation and its possibilities for action.

Some more of the choreography: screaming all together at the top of everybody’s voice, kneeling at a touch upon the shoulder, assembling in groups along opposing walls and moving in formation towards an opposite group. Do these shared choreographic forms represent essential ways in which humans experience their co-operative relations with one another? Or do they represent a crowd in Williamsburg, in evenings in September, a crowd with histories, money, tastes, beliefs, desires, looks, fears, bodies, names? In short, I think, the White Box Project asks: What does it look like when these people say ‘us’?

John Cooper