Excerpts from an exchange between Dean Moss and Joshua Lubin-Levy, PhD candidate in Performance Studies at NYU, on the Nameless forest residency showing August 27, at The Kitchen.
Aug 30, 2010
So I loved revisiting this work with you all – and it of course has changed little since I last saw it so it was great to see it in a space with an audience.
I think the obsession people had over the audience/performer interaction was interesting. It seemed to suck up all the focus. I was trying to think about how that might take away from the dancers work on stage. I think it is definitely a matter of focus. What I loved most about being a participant last time was the way that the dancers would sit with me and guide me in the process of watching (like when they asked me “do you think this is right? Can only boys play with guns?”). I guess it’s that old theater trick – when you don’t know what to do on stage, watch the people who are talking.
At the same time, the moments that the performance became about the very intimate interaction I was having with a dancer despite there being a capital P Performance occurring onstage was so exciting. I think intimate is a key word. It was baffling that people on stage were so concerned with “seeing” the dancers when the dancers were sitting and performing RIGHT NEXT TO THEM. So the micro-performances that happen aren’t something I would want to see disappear.
From the outside the most interesting thing to watch was the way dancers squeezed in between audience members and caused this miniature choreography of bodies on the side lines.
And it also made me think that it is very important how the audience is welcomed into the space. The dancers giving tours was slightly awkward in the way it was performed (a little uncertain, not wanting to disturb the audience members) and the same goes for asking people to sit on stage. It made me feel like even the dancers weren’t sure if they wanted audience members on stage. I think Sarah’s note about scripting those interactions might be great. At the same time, just a little work on that performance in terms of acting, avoiding upward inflections in speech and performing it as though this is the most natural and normal way for the space to be would create a different environment for the audience to enter in to. It could be this immediate welcome and intimate interaction with the performers that really opens the audience up to a new experience in the theater. How are people greeted?
I definitely had the feeling the women were slightly under-used seeing it on the big stage. Then you said a brilliant thing: that the women are framing devices. So much clicked when you said that. I think in our hyper-vigilant gender-equality age that’s a great phrase to hold on to. The boy-centric material is so powerful and present. I thought when they started to bring in the girls they did get a little performative – they slowed down, started using their facial expressions more and got a little sentimental. I didn’t love that as it seemed to imply there was a love-narrative I was supposed to be following.
The mushiness of the moves (curved limbs moving through space, bodies kind of colliding and pushing each other, nothing too rigid) all gave me such a great sense of psychoanalysis – like the bodies were impacting each other but also mirroring each other and becoming each other. It was beautiful.
I’d be curious to see how it looks when you have the photojournalism images in place – I wondered if the metaphor would appear too literal. At first, I actually wanted the voice over in that section to be more muffled or chopped up so I had to work harder to hear the reporter’s voice. In other words – does it make it seem like the whole piece is a commentary on war? I don’t think it does, but it was something I thought about so thought I’d throw it out there.
So there’s a bunch of notes – but overall the focus on such a male-dominated world, the violence and the psychoanalytic component of Sungmyung Chun’s work is so vivid in the work you have created it is awesome. I say psychoanalysis in this very accessible and real and emotional and intelligent way (not too academic or cold). I mean it in this way that the bodies on stage have this extra-narrative or physical/psychic impact and reflection on each other. It’s a really deep and precarious balance and the forceful inclusion of the audience in that process is jarring and exciting as well. It brings us all into complicity and complacency and responsibility. Even just seeing the audience on stage and sitting in the audience outside and having to see my potential self reflected in the different experiences of the audience members is a really intriguing.
All the best,
August 31, 2010
Thank you so much. It’s fantastic and so useful.
Since the showing I have changed the master metaphor for the work from the performance/performer gravitating to the onstage audience to form a pedestrian generalized community, to the performance/performer initiating the onstage audience through ritualized activities into its own secret society. In other words the work would function as a rite of passage for the audience participants. This change in the master metaphor would allow for the artificial and formal elements to be heightened (and limited), as in the speaking, and help solve balance and focus issues. It would also give freedom to more directly control the onstage audience experience. The women can then really become even more clearly facilitators/framing devices, not only shapers of male behavior but the interface between them and the onstage audience. It would then seem best that the fourth wall is really solid. That the view from the seats resembles surveillance and that the “performance” is not presented in relation to front or proscenium at all.
Thanks for providing me a thought catalyst.