In the spirit of last month’s post, I thought I would share something else I have been working on for school. I would love to post a video of some of the work that I’ve been creating in the studio, but unfortunately, my self-video skills are not quite on point. My most recent self-recording turned out to be mostly of shot of a wall. Ooops!
So in lieu of a video, I’m going to share some of my thinking about my work these days. I am currently working on a large-scale interdisciplinary project. I am developing the various components of the work by following several inquiries… several trails of interest that are exciting to me in some way. This is certainly not a cohesive representation of my current artistic vision, but it is a glimpse into some creative roads.
So here’s where I’m at:
I started a 30-Day Inquiry that began as two independent questions: Is dance functional for the witness?; What’s up with folk music? My questions actually began a little with a little more precise language, but this was at the core of my inquiry. Consciously, I felt like I was investigating two separate trains of thought, but ultimately, one question seemed to be the answer to the other.
I found the inquiry process a great way to dig into one of the themes of my work, but without the self-imposed pressure to “make” something out of my discoveries along the way. I felt more like a sleuth, following a lead, than an artist looking for creative connections. This has been a liberating process to do along side my other creative investigations that I have directly applied to my time in the studio. I am excited to continue this type of inquiry process alongside my more active making practice, as I move forward in my creative journey.
In this inquiry, I attempted to define functionality. I never got to a precise definition. But my look into a definition helped me to see that perhaps “functional” wasn’t even the term I was interested in. Initially, I was inspired by the Arts & Crafts Movement of the 1890s/1900s. (I’m still really interested in this artistic era, and it continues to feel really relevant to my personal aesthetic and creative inspirations.) I was excited about their interest in simplicity, and reaction against industrialization. There was an interest in the handmade and in taking inspiration from the organic world/the natural environment. There was an emphasis in constructing functional items, like wooden chairs, wall paper, etc. After speaking more about this era with one of my professors, I’m reminded that there was also interest in beauty – clean lines and a clarity of design in an interest to tap into an inherent beauty. I was interested in this movement as a way to make art and beauty a part of everyday life, and to make it in a way that honored the work of the craftsman/artist and served the needs of the recipient/witness of the work. There was both a simplicity (clean lines in wooden furniture) and ornateness (decorative floral wall paper) that I appreciated. Clean and beautiful.
I boiled this interest down to a matter of “functionality”, and I was interested in how to create functionality in dance, or how it was already present. What I realized was that I am in fact interested in work that speaks to the needs of both the maker and the witness. And I am interested in simplicity as well as ornateness and beauty stemming from the organic world. But I am not necessarily interested in exploring the “function” of dance. Something about looking for dance’s functionality ended up feeling like I was looking for ways to justify its importance, which is not at all my interest. I am of the mind that art is inherently valuable, as a created object in the world.
As I dug into folk music alongside my exploration of functionality, my discoveries about folk music came to be a response to my questions of functional dance. In talking with a classmate Jenna Bean Veatch and my folk music ‘expert’, Layton Guenther, I found some important connections between folk music, folk dance and building community. And if folk music and dance are in fact functional, then it seems that community documentation and community building are their function. This also aligns with my interest in community arts practices. Layton described folk music as the antidote to self-consciousness, and both Layton and Jenna described folk traditions as a space that invited everyone in. Watching short documentaries on folkstream.net underscored the points that these practices allowed everyone to feel welcome, absent of the pressures of “perfecting” the form. Instead folk traditions focus on community story telling, strengthening connections amongst community members and self-expression. These are also common tenets of community arts practices, and specifically interesting to my practice.
This inquiry process has led me to look at the ways in which I want to specifically invite the witnesses into the experience. This has inspired some of the audience interaction that I have been experimenting with my movement practice. They have also sparked me to look into more precise study of folk music and dance traditions, and see how I might incorporate them directly into my work or take inspiration from their principles to inform my work.
So when my professor asked “do you see yourself as a folk dancer? Folk choreographer?”, I am beginning to think that, maybe yes, maybe I do. Hmmm… now to articulating, embodying a folk choreographer.
Here are some of the resources that I’ve found exciting in this semester:
A Close Up with the Hollywood Reporter: Comedy Actress Roundtable with Amy Schumer, Kate McKinnon and More (find it on Youtube)
Geography: Art/Race/Exile by Ralph Lemon
Do What Ignites Your Soul, podcast episode on Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert (find it on iTunes)
American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs [film]
Simply Happy, podcast episode on TED Radio Hour Podcast (find it on iTunes)
High Fidelity [film]
What's Your Number? [film]
Tiny: A Story About Living Small [film]
Home Sweet Home song by The Strumbellas (find it on Spotify)
This Must Be the Place song by The Lumineers (find it on Spotify)
Farm, Ca. song by Jana Hunter (find it on Spotify)
The Road to Home song by Amy MacDonald (find it on Youtube)
Origami Instructions (find it on Youtube)
The attached video is not the work that I've described in this post, but it is an exercise I worked on and had some fun with!