Movement Research Festival Fall 2016 | Jimena Paz: “I want to hear performers talk!”
Festival curators invited Jimena Paz to create a score for participating festival artists as part of the performances at Danspace Project December 1–3, 2016. See below for Jimena Paz’s score and the artists’ written responses.
Click here to view video excerpts of artists’ live performances.
Part of Movement Research Fall Festival 2016 curated by Carolyn Hall, Omagbitse Omagbemi, and Kayvon Pourazar.
Jimena Paz’s invitation for Spoken Structure
I want to hear performers talk!
It seems there is a more substantial space/platform for Choreographers to express their ideas about what they do, in writing, interviews, reviews…etc.
How often do we hear/read about performers expressing themselves in our field?
Rather than talking exclusively about techniques or practices that inform performing I want to ask about what do we not know about performing? Is there an unknown/unconscious element to what we do?
How do the two (practice and the unknown) weave into each other and what about it keeps us at it.
I found an essay by García Lorca that could serve as a departure point for my question(s).
“Theory and Play of the Duende”
“The duende….Where is the duende? Through the empty archway a wind of the spirit enters, blowing insistently over the heads of the dead, in search of new landscapes and unknown accents: a wind with the odour of a child’s saliva, crushed grass, and medusa’s veil, announcing the endless baptism of freshly created things.”
- García Lorca
DUENDE Invitation Responses
La Magia y el Duende
I was waiting to enter a building to see a performance…nearby, on the street I saw a four or five year old child dancing, she was wearing a helmet. Her mother and her younger brother were a few feet away, the mother was busy unlocking her bike and attending to the younger child. An unrecognizable emotion: What is this dance doing? What is this dance that seems meant to be felt and not seen?
Duende is a spanish word. Duende is this mysterious thing that disturbs skill and talent, it cannot be captured with precision, it wrecks the stability of form and the reassurance preparation gives you.
Garcia Lorca said (quote) All the arts are capable of duende, but where it finds greatest range, naturally, is in music, dance and spoken poetry, for these arts require a living body to interpret them, being forms that are born, die, and open their contours against an exact present. (end of quote)
This exact present, the dance I was witnessing, ended, it could not be prolonged, she stopped and her mother helped her climb on a bike. I don’t know her name, I couldn’t see her face. The tangible analogue for my memory is a helmet (instead of program notes) and the dance, a blurry, sharp, unintentional beauty. It was beautiful and also, somehow, it aches in me. It could not be repeated.
(quote) Duende loves the rim of the wound and ( that ) draws near places where forms fuse together into a yearning superior to their visible expression. (end of quote)
I still wonder about the child’s dance, its magic, a dance undoubtedly personal, unscripted, and yes, profoundly mortal. Aliveness has no recipe though we try to invoke/invite her with dutiful work. Maybe we got it all wrong and we are lost in the meandering of working, trying to acquire something that only erupts Manifesting a final appearance before it goes away.
But what a thrill to have my eyes closed now. I feel this unknown emotion is ancient blood. The girl’s dance finds its way in.
hi, I am Saúl. I will be performing later on this evening.
It is weird (it feels weird) to speak to you before I take on the stage tonight. Coming here I was thinking why/how it always feels like I am going to my own funeral every time. Can I cancel? Can I quit before even trying? Do I have to give in?
Sometimes it feels like it’s a matter of life or death — live or die. Sometimes it feels it’s neither but just a place in between, where vulnerability cannot be held or let go but only be exposed.
Why do I put myself through this? why is it that what I do seeks its own separate and suicidal life from me. why does it want to control me and then let me go.. set me free. what is it that I do..
Only in service to you
Can I feel the most free
My brain powers down
I do not move from intellect
I can taste everything
But I do not try to define it
My love is boundless
Fear, a distant memory
I’m alert, prowling
Is this what a shaman is?
Sometimes this feeling doesn’t happen
It isn’t an automatic state just in the doing
The trick is to get out of my own way
Everyday provides a different answer
Maybe that’s where the practice comes in
Through the years, slowly picking away at all the things that aren’t in service to you
But then I come back home
Much like a child
And I greet my purest self
You go, you enter.
You take off your shoes of course.
Then you enter.
You can’t really know your body.
You inquire about the day. Was it eggs and toast, or an apple and coffee?
You must practice the mantra: You are here for a reason: known.
Take your inventory: your tired body, your laundry list, your ancient injury, your excitement, your rage, your constant state of stress from the recent efforts to make anything great: again. And the threat to the future of good: unknown.
And you leave them at the door. Then seeing the calico colored mess you’ve made, you sweep it up, and put it back on. They might be of use.
You remember the limitations you had yesterday and push them away.
You listen to the space and the things provided to you.
Understand and create a structure with these things, knowing that it will be re- and deconstructed a thousand times. Keep the pieces in your pocket.
You allow the haunting memories of all the places where you’ve met the edge. Let it crash down on your chest like heavy feathers.
You must follow, knowing and at the same time: blind.
You must lead, and know that fear is nipping and gaining speed.
At least the dust is a bit unsettled now making the air move in such a way: seen.
You can see your outline there, once where you were still.
You must remember this is not a solitary journey.
Try to stay confused, and calm.
You buy in.
You take it by the balls.
You are the recorded day.
Quick thoughts on the X Factor…
The article Jimena introduced to us was written about this mysterious force, called “duende” by the author, which can be the very essence of great live performance or the magical X factor which great performers are supposed to possess.
According to the article, “ the arrival of the duende presupposes a radical change to all the old kinds of form brings totally unknown and fresh sensations, with the qualities of a newly created rose, miraculous, generating an almost religious enthusiasm.”
It sounds quite cool. And we, as dancers, kind of know what it feels like.
And I was thinking if there is any alternate and simpler word for the mysterious force, aka “duende”. Hmmm…
How about “super activated and awakened life force”? It’s not catchy but this is closest to my understanding of the magical X factor.
We all have the life force within us, which makes us live our life.
But then, when it successfully gets activated by being touched by unknown spirits and invisible energy, maybe it becomes something magical?
And if so, our practices as dancers… like the ones we saw in the film earlier tonight are supporting the life force awakening process in somehow??
Somatic practices I’ve done in recent years are designed with an aim to empty self or to bridge internal and external realms. By emptying self, I want a body accessible for anything to arrive, come and go. And ideally, the life force gets activated by those unnamable elements passing through a body, and makes the body very alive in the every moment when you dance.
I imagine this life force to be different from energy, passion, will or a sense of self, which involves subject.
Although my life force wants to be awakened, I want to liberate my body from myself at the same time.
I want to cultivate a strong sense of presence, but want to be free from a sense of myself.
It sounds confusing…!
After all, we don’t know what it is…but we know it’s there.
And I wonder if we can practice the life force activation by watching dance performances, too. All we need to do is to get rid of all unnecessary expectation, assumption, empty ourselves as much as possible…then let the dance touch your life force and let it penetrate your body. I’m curious what happens to our body when we watch a dance that way!
Heather Olson Trovato
In everyday life, there is an expectation that people must be organized emotionally.
We must be measured.
We must exhibit self-control, not make a scene, not cry in public, “roll with it” when things go wrong, choose our words carefully…
This is the social contract. For the most part, we need it. Without it would be chaos. We are social beings, and the health of our personal relationships, more or less, require this contract.
But, for many people (maybe all of us — deep down) staying emotionally organized and measured is a struggle.
For me, performing is a release from this struggle. It is a release from manners.
It is a state in which all of one’s conflicting thoughts and feelings can be allowed to rise to the surface and crash into one another — felt and shown without shame — shame can be shown without shame.
Performing is a place stripped of organized emotions or thoughts or behaviors; an alternate universe where being overly sensitive is a plus, instead of a problem.
A performer is simultaneously the most powerful superhero and the most powerless refugee, she is in total control and at total mercy, she is the happiest she could possibly be and filled with the most despair.
Dancing is a release from the strain and limitation of having to communicate through words. I often find words too exacting to fully express the human experience. Dancing isn’t limited by words. It’s a million thoughts all at once.
When I am performing, I have a desire to move the audience. I want to open up a channel between them and me for non-verbal communication. Personally, I’ve never been convinced by the worried conversation about the audience being passive. I feel it’s my job to try to get them to have an experience, even if they at sitting in the dark, in a seat that’s bolted to the floor, looking up at a proscenium stage.
That set up sounds boring, but it doesn’t have to be.
Maybe just by performing you can bring them with you, up onto the stage, in their minds. Get them to feel their human experience — sublime and horrid — by dancing.
It has never occurred to me to write directly to you. i never knew how to address you and even now I think I may have gotten you all wrong. but I’m glad to try.
I’m wondering why you’ve been away so long.
So many times recently it felt like you were close. but you evaded me.
I like when you’re here
You used to seem so free to join me. it was effortless and without worry. and maybe my awareness of your hiatus is your resistance. and that I can understand. this annoying neediness. wanting to desire you to want you but being so miserable when you can’t be here. i get it.
I know you’ll show when I stop whining but I’ve been so lucky to have you to be conscious of you and maybe I should really be writing some long overdue thank you note for the times we’ve had.
I do thank you. but I’ve got a few more whines.
I realize in my frustration when you did not show up for this situation that this isn’t really your turf. these concerns are not yours but instead you wait for our friend the pessimist to carve out some path for you.
You remind me that I don’t want to be consumed in the mall. but the viewpoint bares down consistently and constantly with what looks like more sparkly cushy benefits.
You remind me in those times you reared around and my knees shook my belly squirmed in pain and I broke into a cold sweat as if to say –no R you can’t just chill the fuck out. you’re allergic– so painful my only choice is to try to understand the parameters of that aversion.
Every time something is not quite the thing
It’s not easy what you’ve given me. trying to dodge that hot branding iron that once it’s seared your skin the only way to deal is with some flashy clever spotlight on it to say –yes I am branded, you assholes–
You aren’t concerned with the branding. it makes no sense to you. you much more easily accept that the work is never mine or theirs or anybodies and only exists between all these relationships.
I steer clear of the mark because I want more room for you.
You only come when I’m convinced
I’m glad you didn’t show. if only to help me understand that to self represent for the sake of being made more visible isn’t our way and anything that proposes to get me there isn’t something you’ll participate in. your criteria is so much more.
For that I thank you. i know you’re right. i would rather go on barely visible in my unmarked skin than to fill an empty proposal of my own guilt and shame. where wanting to be the anarchist in a room full of them is impossible. and our work can’t take that won’t stomach that.
So thank you my dearest most mysterious. i am nothing without you and please and always take your time.
it’s the query at the source of existence
how the two weave together
chaos and order do not oppose
they are lovers, my body their nest
we make practice of the unknown
the process is vulgar
the mess is infinite
a constant march into darkness
the color of shame
trust that resists
love that surrenders
the smell of the snake
the cycle continues
something is offered
something is revealed
all in service of something, much greater
to be obeyed, to be honored
show up, get out of the way
we echo wisdom that precedes us
they were, so we can be too, fear divers
we study the inherent strength of vulnerability
the future of justice depends on it
and we work and
we’re fucked when we rely on others for gratification
yet at the same time, we need each other
grief needs a witness
she’s complex, that beast inside
and she’s hungry
that’s what keeps at it
to do what you love
it is a necessity
but for now, unfortunately, it’s still a privilege
the engine of it all
April Matthis with Kaneza Schaal
armor. y. “E.” armory.
successful transformation even if it’s a little bit frightening
something super extreme and subversive
because it’s not just simple…
it feels like
like it takes a while for me to get to the point where
I can go out and stunt on them
but it is work that I am willing to do
whatever happens I wanna be ready
I wanna get in shape
but i need lipstick
in the perfect world
in the perfect world
in the perfect world there is no overhead lighting
no florescent lights
it’s all warm yellow
florescent lighting make me sad
when i see bars closing and the bar stools are stacked up on top of the tables it’s sad because there is nowhere else to go
I don’t want to drink
that’s the least attractive thing to do
I gotta be ready for the… revolution
i would rather have natural light
or have it be a little dark
better than have that ugly corporate office overhead light
what also makes me sad is Deli’s in midtown
any kind of food court situation where there is a hot bar and someone making juices and there is the salad area, and the ramen area, and the international chocolates area
i hate all of that
i’m always looking for a bar or coffee shop with a wooden interior
natural light with lots of windows
there is something great about being able to manufacture your own BEAUTY
the way these internet celebrities do surgery and make up and make themselves really PRETTY
I do take a lot of selfies
I just don’t want to involve other people in my narcissism
if I took a body shot I would hashtag Slim Thick
(slow sing song) Diamond pear shape pear shape collective selfie actions collective imagination vote diamond shape pear shape collective action
international club scene
Paris is Beautiful
places to be photographed at night
couches that turn you on
like if you didn’t get
laid in a bathroom
and get head from a 20 year old boy man
it wouldn’t matter because you could fuck the whole couch it’s just so beautiful
that kind of couch
oh my god
what what what am I supposed to do with that
god damn it
and look what? why? why so pretty.
and this is. this is disrespectful. and
look at this. don’t you want to punch yourself. don’t you want to punch a wall.
look at this jacket.
like what eeeeeeeh
why would you ever wear anything else if you had a jacket like that
like what if you didn’t comprise… what if you were like this is how it is
this is how I take MY son to school
this is who his mother is
this is how we talk about fairness in housing, in my ostrich jacket and heels
this is an investment
this is an investment property
this silk, this silk white suit, this tie
this I’m going to pass down to my children
he likes clothes too
he likes to look smart
but he doesn’t like fashion
he doesn’t like worn out knees
if it’s gonna burn to the ground
i’m gonna look good
I mean it
eventually I get to the point where
nothing around me [in my closet] is bullshit
I will have no choice but to…
and by default everything will be great
I’d have my button and then and I’d usually have a beret and I had like a uniform
I stylishly mean business
but not in a corporate way
like in AntiCorporate way
like I can look professional
but in my way
like there are going to be some decent lines
I need my tools
be just as extreme
and go to battle him
to battle him
and be un noticed because I’m just another freak
As a performer, the unknown can be the scariest and most exciting element of a performance. I approach process as an experiment in the unknown, attempting to make that something that I cannot imagine. I don’t often want to create something I can think of. I enjoy creating situations through which I stumble into something unimaginable, something only the ineffable accidents of experimentation may lead to.
This idea, of welcoming the accidental, is influenced by numerous artists — Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, David Brick, Andrew Simonet, Amy Smith. I once had the delight of hearing Keith Hennessey muse on his own influence around this from Sarah Shelton-Mann’s practice of re-staging the accidental.
Recently I have thought of myself moreso as a collector — a sort of hybrid wildlife biologist artist, studying fauna and flora, meditating on the systems of organisms, carting a trunk of treasures, drawings and jars, notes and speculations. This of course, is a romantic whim of course, and, if I let myself get carred away with this, then I would liken myself to Pierre Arronax or Captain Nemo from Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
My recent collections are that of discarded, trash, foam cushions soaked in decades of my grandfather’s cigarette smoke, gallons of shopping bags pulled from under the kitchen sink, old towels meant for mopping… These literal trash collections manifested after an experience last April, having confronted trash in a metaphorical sense. I traveled across the country and watched a loved one wither in a mental breakdown that lasted months… they unraveled… they had been unraveling… A few of my family members and I were able to help him to immediate medical attention, and now, thankfully, he is slowly recovering from this skitsoeffective breakdown. I am still deeply concerned for him, it will be a lifelong pursuit for him to learn how to manage whatever this is. Since, I have gone over and over the signs leading up to this incident in my head many times, signs that many of my family members had not picked up on… this meltdown made sense out of some of his absurd and alarming behaviour over the past years, and made me question if this unraveling had been something slowly happening since we were teenagers. I couldn’t not return to NYC the next week, back to my practice unchanged. I have learned, in a very real way, that some things that may be discarded can be the most important things, signals, moments. Now, at risk of becoming a hoarder, I listen to the trash of the process, and I now consciously collect and reveal the parts of a process that I would usually discard.
I have begun to think of this process as monster construction. A book called ‘The Coming Boogie Woogie’* has been hugely influential to this idea — a collection of conflicting definitions surrounding performance and process, or, co-authored by many, ‘your field guide to the apocalypse’. One author’s reflection in a passage titled ghosts/monsters is that the monsters we find in Hollywood are too often made of recombined elements of the known, created from human understanding. A reanimated human corpse, a robot…. Always created within human understanding. They write, that if we truly encountered a monster, or an alien species, that they would be so from another ontology that we wouldn’t even ‘have the brains to get scared or run for our lives, because why should we?’ it would be ‘so totally useless for us to fantasize about what they could do, since their vocabulary of action might have zero compatibility with ours.’
Of course, some of the most monstrous things are among us. Disease, mental illness, addiction, war, poverty, namely the way the government deals in all of these. Monsters are things of reality and also of nightmares… but sometimes, in romantic novels or in Star Trek, monsters are often monsters because they are misunderstood… in these aspects they can be more similar to dreams.
Now, when I say that I aim to create work that is unimaginable, I mean that my work has become a monstrous pile of collections built from my life, the subconscious, and things I couldn’t found through safety and orientation. If I am successful in this, this mound is both beautiful and twisted. It dreams of a potential way of existence and reflects the deeply fucked up state of the now. Every once and a while it creates a whole new context that is only operating of itself. Something that when met, recalibrates the room. If I can create a monster from a parallel universe, then through that piece I can see the world anew. This process of sifting, collecting, constructing, letting live, is listening. The act of being available to what is not listened to. This is the act of presence. And this is the act of being present not only in art, but in life. It leads to learning and growing, which is at a constant meeting of the unknown.