Hello again! The middle of the semester is upon us, and the Columbia graduate students at Arthaus are in the final facilitator-led classes. Currently, we are working on two realms of performance: the archetype of the clown and the world of object theater. As we dive deeper into these forms and explore their endless possibilities, I am finding both surprise and trouble in the work.
To start with the surprise: I find I resonate deeply with the object theater module. As a dance artist, my work is mostly centered around the body, the stories I can tell through movement, and the relationship of bodies in space. So when we began our work with materials and objects, I resisted slightly at the beginning. Our first encounter with this form was through materials: plastic sheets, rice, pasta, aluminum foil, clay, and soil. I got to work with my fellow Chicago cohort member, Sophia, with soil as our material. We were asked to interact with the material, to see how we could bring life into it, and to explore ways to use the material as an element in a story called “the Lindworm.” Sophia and I began by choosing a moment from the story and imagining how to use the soil as prop, character, setting, and texture. We then developed a small vignette in which we scraped away at pile of dirt as a metaphor for the descaling of the Dragon in the story. We are still working on it, adding different materials and sound to amplify the moment of the story. What we’re producing is something I am very proud of and excited about, it’s opened the door to new possibilities for my future creative work.
The process opened me up to a state of child-like play I had not tapped into for a long time. For the majority of my artistic and academic career, my work has been product-oriented, driven by standards that divorced me from this freedom, but this process made me remember what it felt like to play again. It unlocked embodied memories and sensations that bring different perspective to the work. Though our discussions during the process, we talked about how important this play state is to creation and performance. It is a key part of what we do as artists: to play, to explore, and to be curious like a child. From there, the imagination and the creativity flows, boundless and free. This is the place to do the work. Looking forward, I am interested to see how I can bring materials and objects into my thesis project. It will be interesting to see how worlds and perspectives can be opened, how space can change, how story can be textured though interaction with materials. Updates are definitely to follow.
Now for the trouble: finding a similar resonance with the red nose clown mask has been more difficult than expected. While I claim to be a fun and funny person, I feel like I fall short with this particular mask. The red nose clown demands a very particular state, one that is truthful, open, and vulnerable. While all the masks we have studied are challenging in their own ways, the clown presents a different challenge, a challenge to simply be, and nothing else. This is where I fall short. I over-complicate the action and do too much, and it’s a struggle to try and release that. While I am still wresting with the mask, I find this work to be insanely entertaining when watching my colleagues. When the red nose is put on by some of my classmates, I see them transform into something beautiful, funny, sad, frustrating, and ultimately, human. They open up spaces and worlds I never would have thought possible with just a red nose, and it is deeply inspiring. As we get closer to module presentations, I hope to find my clown and see what lies under that red nose.
I am excited and scared as we push forward to the end of classes and the beginning of thesis work. While this chapter is coming to a close, the next chapter is blank, waiting to be filled with possibilities, exploration, and play.
Until next time. – G