I have completed my first week back. The beginning of my second semester of the three year MFA at Ohio State University. It took me all week to wrap my brain around the new schedule, the rigor, the brain clenching and ear bleeding thought and the work, but I’m back now.
This week I sweated. I moved and cried. I saw Berlin’s performance at the Wex, I spoke about emergent strategies from Adrienne Marie Brown’s “Emergent Strategies.” I spoke about words and writing and agency in dance and begun the look at three new non-precious projects I will begin. I’ve also met a whole new cohort of MFA first-year theater students which is so exciting and different to look into the eyes of a discipline so close yet literally so far, it’s a 20-minute walk to the other side of campus and this week was usually through the 20-degree snow. The MFA audition was also this week which just seems like way too much for our first week back, but we did it. I demonstrated and it was really fun to see and help in some way. 🙂
I’ve confronted my ego and my ideas of empathy and self this week and those ladies are tricky. This quote from Parker Palmer has stuck with me all week since reading it Monday and has seeped into other readings about community, pedagogy, Foucault’s ideas of panopticism and discipline, Hartman’s “Scenes of Subjection” and Fusco’s “Bodies that Were Not Ours,” Washington’s “Medical Apartheid” and Butlers super dense “Bodies that Matter.” I’m not sure I’m quite ready for that last one, but we will get there.
“Power works from the outside in, but authority works from the inside out. We are mistaken when we seek authority outside ourselves, in sources ranging from the subtle skills of group process to that less than subtle method of social control called grading. This view of teaching turns the theater into a cop on the corner, trying to keep things moving amicably and by consent but always having recourse to the coercive power of the law.”
Authority is granted to people who are perceived as authoring their own words, their own actions, their own lives, rather than playing a scripted role at great remove from their own hearts. When teachers depend on the coercive powers of law or technique they have no authority at all.
Parker Palmer, “The Courage to Teach”
Light and shadow is resonating with me. What you see and what you don’t see. There are parts hidden, always; Andre Zachary mentioned this Monday. During our portrait study we shared details about people in the class that were chosen or curated creating a lens the audience would see through. Each person’s world is curated by themselves. Facebook and Instagram profiles are curated to project a certain persona. The news is curated. I curate my children’s world as much as I can. I curate my work, my blog, my fashion (if you can call it that), my food. Choices are the curation of life. Ideas of protection, mediation, filtering and triangulation come up for me when thinking about a curated life, either the life you curate for yourself or the life someone else’s perspective has curated of your life.
My intermedia lab group ended up creating our Portrait Project with me at the center. There were ideas of interviews, auditions, interrogations and being put in situations where I was told my truths were being questioned. The social experiment of it was interesting to me. My team mates were to ask questions of me that I didn’t know before hand so I would have to really think about the answer and upon answering the question they would say, “Interesting,” in a way akin to an interrogation. The fascinating part was even though I knew they meant no ill will and we had set the project up like this I questioned my answers. Which is absurd because there was no reason the truth of the answers could be questioned.
The conceptual and social commentary in our Viewings spark some particular feelings right now. Jerome Bel’s “Veronique,” Antonia Baehr’s “LAUGH”, Amara Tabor Smith’s “House/Full” and Michelle Ellsworth’s “The Rehearsal Artist,” along with Andre Zachary’s examples of process in Monday’s class and our subsequent discussions of mapping/notation with him in Laban today. These all create a web of discourse linking the viewer to the artist in different ways. I’m interested in the word “affect” right now as well and I think there is something of that in here. Zachary links his dancers through his new dissection of language through process. Ellsworth, Bel and Baehr are linking the audience, performer and artist by prompting the viewer to question what is happening and why it’s happening. Smith is linking her work with different areas of Oakland giving it a sense of place and mapping automatically linking it to people watching but also the communities in those places.
Process can be concept. Process is full of context. Process can be performance. The behind the scenes is often more interesting to me than the performance, but in these works they have weaved process into the performance. The process is happening as it unfolds, the audience is processing and will continue to process after. The artists are saying something. Speaking out is resonating with me right now and these choreographers did that in a way that speaks on many levels, in many different contexts and cross culturally. What are you going to say and what makes this the moment you are going to say it? These choreographers are speaking out, sometimes more subtly than others, but even if you don’t get it immediately, you can feel it.
Even though this is probably half wrong, there is something really satisfying about completing my first five measures of Structured Labanotation.