During summer appearances in San Francisco, Tere O’Connor, Judith Butler and Claudia La Rocco all discussed notions of entanglement – O’Connor in relation to a dance work’s composition, Butler speaking of norms and La Rocco considering artistic response to creative work of any genre. These encounters refreshed the way I watch and consider performance. Here are some of the more important scribbles from my notebook:
Tere O’Connor in Conversation with Margaret Jenkins
On July 2, Margaret Jenkins hosted a conversation with Tere O’Connor as part of CHIME Across Borders. As a mentor, O’Connor is working with Christy Funsch, Monique Jenkinson and Lisa Townsend for the 2013 iteration of the program.
As a full time tenured professor at a Tier 1 research institution (University of Illinois), he is treated like a scientist. He teaches part of the year and the rest of the year he makes new work, his research.
O’Connor dove right into big questions about dance:
What is dance?
“The dance is a document of entanglement.”
“Dance is more about unfixed consciousness than language. The dance is a constellation, a stitching together of consciousness.”
On dance and making meaning:
“No dance is legible.”
“Dance is debilitated by translation.”
“Dance is grammar with no verbs.”
On meaning making from a dance, O’Connor thinks if you “Pull the words out of someone’s mouth, those are the right words.”
“Language and dance do different things… Dance is a multiplication and layering.”
O’Connor discussed “unviable structures”, structures that occur versus structures that are built. He embraces what he calls the “beautiful messiness.” The accident of what happens to you in life.
On encountering and experiencing dance:
“There are people who feel safe about ambiguity and the unknown, and the people who don’t…what dance does or doesn’t do for people is personal.”
“There is no single authorship in dance. It’s a convergence…The viewer finishes the dance.”
On dance writing:
“Dance writing is a process of re-choreographing…What are the intrinsic poetics of a work? The philosophical threads in dialog with culture?”
“Dance is an action of ongoingness and erasure. Try not taking notes.”
Judith Butler on Gender and Performativity
Dance Discourse Project #16 on July 18 at CounterPulse featured theorist Judith Butler responding to contemporary Bay Area performance. Julie Phelps interviewed Butler and moderated discussion with performances by DavEnd, Xandra Ibarra and Hentyle Yapp. (Listen to the podcast here.)
Here’s what Butler had to say:
“Where are we specifically when we talk about performance? It has the ability to traverse and transform space. Theater is on the stage. Performance moves on and off the stage.”
Like O’Connor, Butler also talks about co-authorship of performance. “How one is regarded is part what is presented and part what is received by the spectator.”
Sima Belmar, PhD candidate at U.C. Berkeley asked Butler specifically “What about dance?” Butler responded, describing dance as “A bodily dimension of communication…For example movement is both part of talking and a precondition of talking.”
On norms and performing gender:
“We all emerge in the world entangled in a web of norms.”
“How are we crafting ourselves in daily life? Can you be gendered without being a body artist?”
Following Yapp and Ibarra’s performance, Butler highlighted the labor of existing within norms – the effort, the time and toll it takes to keep up appearances. “What fails to satisfy regard?” she asks. What does not live up to assumptions and expectations?
“The failure to achieve the norms is hilarity and liberation. The point is the failure.”
Writing Workshop with Claudia La Rocco
I invited writer Claudia La Rocco, currently in residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts, to spend the afternoon August 3 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts leading a writing workshop for the YBCA:You program.
La Rocco’s workshop prompted plenty of questions. “Critical writing, creative writing, performance texts: are they really such different creatures? Does a dancer have a particular way of approaching language? What about a writer who spends so much of her time watching dancers?”
The workshop was a no timepiece zone. For three hours phones were off and watches removed.
We considered our relationships to writing and movement and then spent time alternating both writing and moving. “What is the relationship of writing and states?” La Rocco asked. We thought about writing as a social act and also practiced being judicious, writing what was “important” as we defined that for ourselves.
Attendees also participated in a Bruce Nauman exercise which challenged perceptions of time and what it means to concentrate on a single task and truly be with someone or, by extension, with a work of art. (Something different happens encountering art without the audio guide or someone telling you what to think, prescribing the point, directing attention.)
We practiced noticing for a whole spacious hour. The exercise was simple and difficult. It all felt very luxurious, this time and space and care for noticing.
Time Warped by Claudia Hammond
Being immersed in dance, this time-based art, I’ve also picked up Claudia Hammond’s book Time Warped. Let me know if you read along and share your summer dance notebook here!