Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The state of my practice. August 2009.

State the problem in words as clearly as possible

The past 6 months have given me a bunch of nuggets to consider moving forward with my practice. They've come through informal and formal talks with other artists, attending local performances, a performance opportunity accepted and one turned down, receiving my first grant, reconnecting with dorkbot.

Let's do this in order listed above. Can I boil down to 1-2 sentences? It's an oblique strategy, so I'll try and not cry if I babble:

1) informal talks w/ other artists: Artists in Portland like to chat over coffee, food, booze, whatever. I've been inspired by the artists I've met who aren't afraid to do the work that is involved if you are serious about having a long-term, sustainable practice.

2) formal talks w/ other artists: ISEA2009 in Belfast introduced me to many artists who are hungry for an opportunity to discuss their practice with others. It's high time that we insist on reconfiguring the professional conference/symposium structure so that we can share our experiences and ideas during the short time we have together. The big theme from participatory practices was about control.

3) attending shows in Portland: There are some really talented artists in Portland. Their work stands up to the globally respected artists I have seen elsewhere. I find alot of what I've seen more interesting and more fully considered, actually. This one is linked to no.1

4) accepted performance opportunity: at YogaShala in June. Was fantastic to start thinking about how to involve other artists in my work. Also, how it can work when the elements of audio, video, and live acts are more fragmented or disperse.

5) turned down performance opp: Manor of Art at Milepost 5 was an amazing show and inspiring to have such a large dedicated space to the arts. It would have depressed me to work in a former nursing home! and my work needed some incubation and evolution time before I show it again.

6) grant received: for professional development conference travel. Encouraging to get support from local arts agency so early in my life in Portland, and the conference surpassed my expectations as far as connecting with possible opportunities to present, collaborate on new projects, and hopefully bring international artists doing sympathetic work to Portland.

7) dorkbot presentation & meetings: I need to work on my presentation skills! But the playful supportive environment of dorkbot is breathing new life into my interest in converting my tool into an open source platform. Work on this has already started, maybe I can have something running by end of year? Exciting thought.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Performance prep.

I am prepping for my first show in Portland tomorrow night as part of An Evening of Light & Shadows, a fundraiser for the New Oregon Interview Series. As with any show, there are alot of moveable parts. I also have 3 performer technician assistants for this show and this has presented me with the new challenge of how to give direction to others!

In come the Oblique Strategies:

Balance the consistency principle with the inconsistency principle

That is exactly what I need to tell them to do. Thanks once more, Brian Eno! You have the answers to everything.

I will post a reflection on the experience once it's over.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

backblog - Rehearsin' w. Katsura.

One of the mailing lists that I'm on mentioned that today is Ada Lovelace Day! And there is a website where you can sign a pledge to blog about women in technology today. I was trying to think of someone to write about when it dawned on me that this was a good excuse to finally blog about this wonderful experience I had right before I left London in January.

This post is a reflection on a studio session I had with dancer, Katsura Isobe. We had been talking for many months about our interests in interdisciplinary performance and had been trying to get together to try some things out. This post is also pretty stream of consciousness and not heavily edited.

And now, here is the video from my newly created Vimeo channel under "Lena Optic". Trying it out, open to feedback about other video programs on the Web.

Experimenting with two. from Lena Optic on Vimeo.

We kept things simple for this rehearsal due to time and technology constraints, and since by January I was feeling quite strongly that the program I had created in Isadora for my final MA performance was truly a prototype for things to come. We used it simply to mix layers of sound. Katsura and I share a couple of things in common that I think make working with her interesting:

1) We are both exploring sound more and more in our work. How we can use our primary mediums (video and movement) as the starting point for sound. How our understanding of space through our video and movement work inspires certain sounds to come out.

2) We are both interested in generating a performance from the space and moment we are in at the time of the performance. Simply punctuating and drawing from what we have at hand, and through this exploration, transforming the space and our relationship to it. I think this inspired a very raw, unfiltered quality to the work. At the moment, it also means the performances are very minimalist, however I have a sense that this might be because we were working in a very sparse dance studio. It will be interesting to see how this changes in different spaces and how much of it is a fundamental quality of our work.

Watching the video again, I was struck at how the performance space is transformed again through the lens. The size of the room constrained where I could place the camera. However, we were performing in a much broader space than the camera is recording. The cropping of the video frame adds an interesting level of composition that is completely accidental, but at times really lovely.

I also love how it's often unclear where the sounds are coming from. Are they recorded? Was that intentional? Is that a sample? Where are we exactly?

Other things I learned about working with another performer:
- I really need to develop simple triggers for other artists to be able to control which pieces of their live performance are recorded and to allow them to play off their recorded and live presence themselves without me dictating some of this because I'm the only one who knows how to press all the right buttons.

- My first time viewing this footage, I was struck by some passages where Katsura and I are being really playful. Not in a silly way, but not overly serious. We almost look like a silent film with these awkward movements, etc. I immediately knew that it would be amazing to work with her in a non-traditional performance space. Somewhere that we could just play in, maybe in different parts of a building. Sometimes meeting, sometimes in totally different spaces. This continues with my interest in soft/gentle/subtle sounds and wanting to try gentle performances that people just happen upon. This also comes from a shared interest in working in non-theatre space. I think it would be really rewarding to do this and hope at some point that we circle back around to this idea and try it out for a festival or something like this.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday thoughts.

Today's oblique strategy

Trust in the you of now.

I'm in my 'dance clothes' today, since it's Monday and tonight is improv class. I noticed this morning that I really love wearing my dance clothes. They're starting to feel like my 'work clothes.' I feel a sense of focus and motivation to do something productive and artistic when I put my dance clothes on. It's as if I'm going to do something more useful because I'm in clothes that are loose fitting enough for me to move in any way that I need to. It makes me believe that I need to do a physical warm up and movement series before I can get any other work done.
It reminds me of the Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp. Of course, she actually *is* a dancer, so it would make sense that her rituals in the studio are part of her creative practice. I'm also reminded of the conversation with Katsura about learning being a full body experience.

I've always found release in my free form dancing moments:

- when I was a child, I'd shut the doors to the living room and dance around in my 'dance clothes' from that era (turtleneck, thick tights) for hours on end. The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Salsoul Orchestra, Tijuana Brass, Saturday Night Fever, K-tel compilations...

- teen years the movement centered mostly on singing and laughing endlessly with my friends. Laughter is a real workout. 'dance clothes' were grubby men's suit jackets and torn jeans from the thrift store.

- college/20s saw me at the goth club 1-3 times per week in 'my spot' on the dancefloor for hours in my own swirly little world. 'dance clothes' were big big boots and lots of black but no corsets or other constricting garments that were popular with the goth scene.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tuesday Oblique Strategy.

This is already starting to feel like a horoscope and today's strategy is just to fortune cookie like:

don't be frightened to display your talents

Have I shown you my tricky magic show? Watch:

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Simple Subtraction, evening edition.

Monday Night Improv found me in the middle of my first contact improvisation class. I hadn't fully made the connection that I'd mostly been doing solo improvisation, maybe interacting with other dancers, but definitely not much actual contact with other dancers in the class.

And in keeping with the day's oblique strategy, the instructor had us do the bulk of the class with our eyes closed! After alot of time with a partner, we were told to go off on a solo exploration of the space with our eyes closed. By the end I was stunned at what a good sense of the layout of the room and my proximity to others had become. This was mainly due to SOUND. I also tend to move very slowly, and counter-intuitively felt more free to have phrases that involved alot of rapid movement and traveling across the room. There was a pliability to the air that made me not afraid of crashing into anyone. When an encounter happened, I couldn't help but feel like I was being attacked by zombies....but in a fun way.

So! Improv lesson of the day:

simple subtraction of one element leads to the amplification of others.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Today's Oblique Strategy

I was introduced to Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt's Oblique Strategiesat the beginning of my MA last year in a workshop with FrenchMottershead.I was Already a fan of Eno's music, but hadn't come across these cards before. My pals at Medialab Prado showed me that you can get them as a widget for the macintosh dashboard! So now I start most days with an Oblique Strategy.

I'm going to post them here...frequently, and would love to hear what they're inspired in thoughts, actions, daydreams, visions, etc. for you. It's just fine if the reaction isn't immediate. I'm a strong believer in the power of suggestion to have an echoing/ripple effect for days, months, years to come. So share whenever seems appropriate.

Here is today's strategy:

simple subtraction

My first, uncreative take on this is related to a little blizzard of application activity that has come my way:

1) 500 word abstract for a round table that I would like to run at next year's International Symposium on Electronic Art. I'd like to run a round table to discuss how electronic artists can use - and are using - our position as non-traditional performers to question and redefine our relationship with our audiences. I've taken a pretty radical position on this topic which I think would be a useful bookend for a discussion of the spectrum of possibilities open to artists.

The obvious application of the oblique strategy? I have loads of thoughts and some writing related to this, so it's just a matter of pulling out the most relevant parts and creating a clear abstract.

2) Call for work for Trampoline's Radiator Festival in January. Would love to do a site-specific iteration of opticnoodling there and the timing is perfect. This would be a great opportunity to revisit the setup I created for my MA and see what it's like to use it in a space that isn't dedicated to art.

The obvious application of the oblique strategy? Is twofold: I decided that I was going to pitch my opticnoodling performance as is. I have so many ideas for ways in which I would like to evolve it and other performances I would like to try to do. However, reading the call for work, I think opticnoodling in its current incarnation would be a lovely addition to the festival. I also need to edit the footage from the last performances into a show reel! What is editing if not subtraction?

3) Application for a job in Portland that has nothing to do with my art practice, so I won't go into details here. The ways in which it is related is that it would set me up with a solid position before relocation, which would calm my nerves about this big move before it happens.

The oblique strategy? It is again just a matter of some slight repositionings and elegant editing of words, imagery, etc.

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