Traces of the Enmeshment - The River Home
A performance and a research project that explores meaning
>>> video of entire show on YouTube or watch below
Before the Performance
I am engaging with a topic, the earth and my/our relationship to it. I am partly interested in discovering what my relationship really is, a psychological insightfulness that i seek to gain and partly to understand why we have the environmental issues that we have, why people, i, are not living differently to be better stewards of the earth, live more responsibly. I am observing an intuitive process, where the topic exists, has a presence, a constant background presence, in my mind, in my body mind. This state is similar to procrastination, in a way, where we know of a task but don't take any action toward it, yet it constantly fills our thinking and sensing and we imagine what we could or should be doing.
I then begin sensing the space, the context within which the dance will take place. In this case i am not worrying about the sound, other artists are taking care of that. They are doing this in ways that make sense to me, that align with my way of approaching the topic. I used to think that if other people contributed to my piece their voices would muddle my message. And that might very well be, but in the context of a collaborative piece, i have learned to allow all things to happen. Even if an audience member were to behave disrespectfully it would still contribute to the topic, the piece, because it would point to some of the social issues that we are facing regarding respect toward one another. Ironically by their disrespect they would add to my attempt at bringing across a message that spoke about people's disrespect for one another. In a way, anything goes, because everything immediately belongs; but that theory doesn't hold up completely. Of course my meditation can be disrupted, and what i am creating can be destroyed. The message might still hold in some ways, but the particular experience that i am creating for and with audiences together would be significantly disrupted.
So we have intuitively brought elements of the performance together. A fractured assembly of projections, that spill out into the ceiling and onto the floor. The 3 projected fields, from 3 projects, are overlapping to create an abstract river. This matches our project title. The title is chosen intuitively. It is what came to mind when we talked about the earth. When Carl and i met we very quickly came up with ideas around enmeshment and water, rivers, homes. He was very impressed by rivers and i have been thinking a lot about enmeshment and how our attempts at splitting, isolating, and dividing, parsing things out is a dangerous and unrealistic practice that leads to a very non-functional world view and living practice. Separation from other life forms shows us in an idealized position, floating 'above' and in 'unaffectedness', which is illusory.
The main projection is very standard on a projection screen such as the museum uses all the time. I realized that we create a site specific event, because we do not completely change the existing space and work with what we have, trying to make sense between the space and our intent. This is something important that needs to be realized by the choreographer, i believe, in order for the work to be cohesive in it's message. Every piece is a site specific piece. The space within which we perform is always present, even if we create new works in blackbox theaters. In the case of Cameron art museum, i would say that we have a lot of very dominant elements that we have to take into consideration. A museum in general is a space of selection. It is a highly artificial space. It has however, and very strongly reflects, the rules of the mainstream society. The museum is very elitist in it's presentation and structure. And, ironically for our topic, we have to have every bit of natural material that we bring into the space approved by the museum. The museum and the space we are creating is already showing the artificiality and the separation from nature.
The top projection is slightly angled, illuminating the ceiling, and overlaps the main projection at it's top left corner by a quarter. The third projection overlaps down low at the bottom left corner by maybe an eighth. It illuminates parts of the musicians/sound artists, who are set up in the corner and along two sides of the room, and most importantly it creates a performance area for myself on the floor that is positioned diagonally, stretched, and is distorted. That already signifies a distorted world view.
The performer lives in a projection of the natural world. The floor in the museum is made of an exotic hardwood, that we need to be careful not to damage. The wood we walk on is dead. Cared for in it's dead state.
The space has very large windows out onto a fractured environment: trees and grass, flowers, plants, streets cutting through the space that come from a major 5-point intersection. For the beginning of the performance we chose to close the curtains, which we have decided to slowly open for the last 8th of the performance, washing out the projections, flooding the space with daylight and encouraging people to watch the real space, and not the projected reality that mesmerizes us with it's beauty and it's strange two dimensionality. Opening the curtains reveals the real fishbowl situation that we have here with walls and glass windows giving us a space that is very climate controlled and 'safe' from the world outside. I am sure that the perimeter gets sprayed with pesticides. Keeping everything away from us. We don't share space but with a select few.
When looking through my belongings to get all kinds of recording equipment for this project, i noticed some yarn, and i intuitively had picked it up to take with me to rehearsals. There i began using it to create a sort of horizontal spider web, about 3 feet of the ground, stringing the thread over some chair backs that i positioned around the edge of the lit performance space: 4 chairs, perhaps signifying the four mayor directions West, East, South and North, or the 4 corners of a room, a square concept that is overlayed onto nature. Once i string the thread up i can step over the lines and i can move underneath then, but i can no longer just walk through the space . An upper realm is more difficult to reach than the lower realm, which forces me to move horizontally while in a laying down position. Like a lizard, snake, or by making myself smaller. The lines are thin, light green and hard to see.
I started to play with pieces of paper. The floor is dark and the paper white. The paper, which is made from dead trees, will show the projected images of trees and rustling leaves much better, it is brighter, more clear. We display and symbolize living trees by means of projections of trees and with the help of dead trees in the form of paper. Nothing is just allowed to be itself, everything is changed, or killed, translated into some other representation of the real thing and then this representation is cherished, adored, celebrated. This is completely sick. It is twisted to deal with the world in this way. We are thrice removed. The question is if the audience will see the irony or continue to accept the strangeness of our reality as 'normal'.
I want people to contribute. First, to realize that they are always contributing, even when they are doing 'nothing' and are merely observing. Then to actually meditate on their contribution, and thirdly to actively contribute to the performance. We are offering several ways to interact: audiences should enter a meditative mindset that matches the performers mindset, attention and focus, for creating the performance around this topic. Audiences can engage with the space, sitting, laying down, by moving around or responding to the sound through dance. Audiences are encouraged to write down thoughts onto sheets of paper and placing them in the space. From a local business i have a ton of wood circles, which are cut-offs from other projects. The circles are birch plywood pieces that would otherwise go into the trash. I am going to bring them in addition to paper to be written on. Circles and papers will be placed around the room, into the projected performance area. I assume that they will more or less cover the floor and also form an abstract scene of deforestation.
Everything is what it is. Observe and describe it. By describing you will see the meaning that it is tethered to.
During the Performance:
I will be videotaping the performance and i am recording my voice. I will be speaking constantly, quietly so people don't hear it but loudly enough for the little recorder that is clipped to the front of my shirt to pick up my words. Hopefully this will work,... as tests have shown some issues with rustling of my shirt and hair against the microphone. I will be trying to speak in a stream of consciousness style. Not editing my words for context, if that is possible, and trying to channel honestly what my brain is coming up with and what i am feeling. Leaving things unfiltered, if i can. Can I verbalize in the moment of doing what i am experiencing? I am investigating here, as good as i can, the relationship between thought and movement.
After the performance:
this is part of the next phase of choreographic practice, and, already part of a new artistic project ( a film for the symposium next week) as well.
I will spend the following week looking back at the video of the performance, and editing my recorded voice from the performance over the video to see what i said at what point in time. This leads into a choreographic process, which defines specific choices of movement and focuses on the creation of subtext to be given to a dancer that might dance this role. If another dancer is to dance this piece, and if i want to be able to more or less recreate this performance and 'reproduce' this piece's particular messages, i need to become more aware of what it is I am doing in this performance and what everything means. In order to become more clear about my messages, in order to extract the findings of this research, i need to engage closely with everything and analyze what has happened. In order for a dancer to dance this piece, she needs to not just copy movements, but understand what these movements are motivated by, which will significantly add to the communicability of the messages of the piece. In my experience, thought is visible in movement. If the dancer thinks of other things or simply performs empty, thoughtless movements, the audience can see this. I can see this. If thought and movement don't sink up, the message is muddled and confusing, the message will become something else or highly abstracted.
This process, this way of working, is a choice. It is not essential to choreography, which can be done in uncountable ways, but it is a core part of my process, through which I seek to gain conscious knowledge. I will be analyzing what the movements mean. Where they come from or how they are causing, or are affected by, my thoughts. Simply, i want to see how words and movements sink up and relate to one another.
I will be recording a few additional tracks of myself speaking as I am watching this video, giving stream of consciousness feedback about what i see, hear, experience when engaging with the video of the movements, sounds and words from the performance. Further text will be layered on top. Analyses and philosophy, inspiration and images from rehearsal and research that relate to the ideas explored.
For the video i am making for the symposium presentation next week, i will choose a 10-15 minute section of the 90 minutes of performance. This section will speak to most of the major components of my artistic approach: iterative layers of intuitive, performative, and analytical processes of choreographic creation around a specific topic. Audience feedback is part of this process and their responses will most likely be included in this film. I will try to focus on all aspects of bodily movement: expressions of the body's parts and whole, shapes the body makes, micro movements, dynamics of movement, hand gestures, facial expressions, translations through the space, relations to the space and to others, directions and direction changes, speeds, repetitions and mirrorings, patterns, breath cycles, levels and level changes, interaction and resonance between body, environment, others, and sound. I will identify questions and answers gained from this artistic investigation/research and include them into the sound of this film. This film will be presented on Saturday, April 29 for the PFS Symposium. It might contain a live component.
Some conclusions can be drawn now. Although most will have to wait until after the symposium.
This project shows the layered nature of my work and of my process. I compare it to an onion. Every performance/piece exists on many layers/levels and by going through additional rounds of intuition and analysis more layers are revealed as well as added to the piece.
There is a visual layer, an auditory layer. A dynamic layer. Several meaning layers. Abstract layers, concrete layers, spatial layers, body layers, texture layers, tactile layers, emotional layers, affect layers, time layers, interactive layers, psychological layers, mathematical layers, ... Endless. I am interested in seeing the many layers and becoming consciously aware of them.
DURING THE PERFORMANCE
I realized during the performance that things changed because of my relationship with audiences and with performing. I wanted to speak the entire time and so I had clipped a microphone to my shirt, but I found myself mute the entire time. Improvisation needed to happen in silence. The choreographic determination of what I was doing and what it meant would take place to a large extend after the improvisational phase, when I have had time to repeat the movements and analyze them for their emotional or narrative content and their motivational origins. Things just move too fast and the pressure to perform, to offer something cohesive, something interesting was overwhelming. I couldn't turn this performance into the kind of research project I had hoped. I could do this in a studio, by myself, when I am not observed by people who I am hoping might invite us again to do a performance at their venue, etc.
So, despite some serious technical shortcomings, my phone stopping to record in the middle of the event, my other camera also not working, etc, I will be receiving some video footage pretty soon from the museum and from other participants and audience members. Then I can spend time watching what I have done and how audiences reacted to everything that was going on.
I was thinking about my Tracing Gesture project a lot though, the entire time. It was happening for me on some level. I just couldn't verbalize things at the same time. I was worried that audiences were going to be distracted by my talking as well, since that was not part of the piece and performance but part of my research.
Audiences wrote statements and drew pictures which they contributed to the performance. I will be analyzing them as well.
CHOREOGRAPHIC MOMENT BY MOMENT ANALYSIS/FEEDBACK
How do I distill meaning from events? Largely at first by describing what it is I am seeing.
Logocentrism: regarding words and language as a fundamental expression of an external reality (especially applied as a negative term to traditional Western thought by postmodernist critics).
THOUGHTS attending and participating:
Anytime we attend a performance we are also actively shaping it, through our attentiveness, state of mind, bodily posture, energy, emotional state, etc... An audience member is a source of action for the performer, and of course also for the other audience members. A performance is a reciprocal event, and every person and every element in the space plays its role toward the shaping of the experience and the potential meanings that emerge, or are let go of, for each individual during that time. A performance is a meditation on a common experience.
We, the Slow Ear Ensemble and Karola Luettringhaus, are offering a topic and a concept from which we are beginning this experience: As part of Earth Day, we are creating a performative experience entitled “Traces of the Enmeshment: The River Home”. With this work we wish to ignite thought around human beings' positionings in relationship to every thing that makes up this planet and life on it. Since this performance is taking place within a clear context, Earth Day, the performers are asking each person that enters the space to contemplate their personal relationship to the earth, “where does the I end and the earth begin?”.
We invite you to be open to observations, interpretations or perhaps also to let go of meaning altogether. Each of us comes from unique backgrounds and lives lived and each of our journeys might be very different during the 90 minutes we spend together in common artistic meditation, during the performance. Whatever comes up for you is something that belongs to the topic and the many issues we face surrounding our relationship to/with/as the earth. Each performer has a unique starting point, or a philosophy, or an opinion from which to start their performance. The performance for the performer, as well as for you the audience member, is an investigation, an improvisation, an inquiry into what we are manifesting.
You are invited to listen to our journey and you will inevitably be affected by what each and everyone of us in the space is doing.
You are invited to interact with us, or with one another, if you see the need for this: within the context of the topic and the moment we are creating together; your interaction should be kind, and mindful of the context we are in. We look forward to experiencing what each person contributes.
In case this is all very new to you and you don't know how to act after reading this long text: here are some possibilities and starting points:
EARTH DAY Performance at CAMERON ART MUSEUM
This is an experimental, collaborative Improv Project between Karola Luettringhaus with Alban Elved Dance Company and Carl Kruger with the Slow Ear Ensemble.
The focus of the project is the contemplation and celebration of earthly phenomena, cycles and seasons.
ARTIST STATEMENTS FOR THIS EARTH DAY PROJECT
"For Earth Day: My starting point for this performance is a trust in the animacy and intelligence of all matter while regarding anthropocentrism as an unrealistic and problematic model for a healthy earth, rather a more interconnected relationship and enmeshment seems to be at play." - Karola Luettringhaus
etc..., if you want...
PERFORMANCE CONCEPT DESCRIPTION:
For Earth Day we would like to bring attention to the ways in which we relate to our bodies. How our bodies move and perceive.
Our planet is commonly viewed as being separate from us. We go "into nature". We are "on earth". We lose connection "to nature". We invest in saving "our world". However, there are other ways of thinking about positioning ourselves. Indigenous thinkers such as Vanessa Watts and spiritual thinkers such as Sadhguru express that we "are" nature. We are ultimately and unchangeably interconnected with what we call "the environment". That which we exhale the trees inhale, and that which the trees exhale, we in turn inhale. Cycles of interdependence. The trees are the external parts of our lungs and vice versa. We are enmeshed. If it is on earth, it is somehow part of us, no matter what it looks like. The awareness of enmeshment begins within us. We are biomes, our gut alone, for example, is made up of several pounds of microbes that in part constitute our immune system.
Movement, sound, and image will begin from this concept of enmeshment. Our billions of living cells are micro analogous reflections of the macro natural world that ordered them over the millennia. This optionally participatory event is part audio, visual, and movement performance, part living spectacle encapsulating the biomes we live in, and that live in us. The audio component is mixed live with sounds of the space, and the people within it. They are sounds from the enmeshment: bodily physicality, the overhead lights, the curtains, the doors, floors, intestinal gurgles, water, voices, blood flow, breath, radio signals, heartbeat, moving skin, Earth tones, electrical currents, traffic, hair; all these meet the creativity of the musicians and their instruments: acoustic and electronic. The performers explore this enmeshment with everything and everyone non-human. We are part of the body of the Earth.
KAROLA LUETTRINGHAUS/ALBANELVED DANCE CO.
I was born and grew up in Berlin, Germany. I received a BFA in Choreography and Modern Dance from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and an MA in Scenic Design and Scenography from the Technische Universität Berlin. I completed an MA in Performance Studies at UC Davis where I am currently a PhD Candidate in the Performance Studies Program, writing my dissertation on "Tracing Gesture: Emergence and Signification in the Choreographic Process". I currently split my time between Germany, North Carolina, and Mexico.
I create interdisciplinary expressions in choreography, scene design, visual art, lighting, sound, and film. Generally speaking, I think of my performative and movement research as an interrogation into the WHY's and HOW's of life, about society, and our systems of organization and cooperation. I am driven to become aware of the mechanisms of violence that we continue to reinscribe through our ways of thinking, interacting, and moving. I seek to create performance experiences that allow for an expansion of our expressive potential and an investigation of societal and personal psychological constrictions.
SLOW EAR ENSEMBLE
Wilmington, NC's Slow Ear Ensemble is an improvisational group of local experimental musicians comprised of Carl Kruger (https://www.discogs.com/artist/225915-Carl-Kruger), Phil Zampino (http://www.squidco.com), Sean Hart (https://youtu.be/t-PpryYE2EE), Grant Stewart (https://soundcloud.com/subterrene/) and Allison Parker (https://www.youtube.com@allison5 ).
An active part of Alban Elved Dance Company's the SARUS Festival and our common project "Solstice Cycles" in Wilmington since 2015, our visuals accompanied performances and reflect their name as their drone based soundscapes evolve, subtly pulse and expand using live instrumentation, modular synthesizers, and manipulated sample sources. Their appearances yield immersive aural experiences to the patient and sound curious.