I am spending January 2015 at Middlebury College in Vermont to participate in Phase I of the Movement Matters Residency. I am working alongside two other finalists, Kate Speer and Makeda Thomas. We are each developing research proposals with our own team of professors from across the curriculum to investigate “how human bodies literally and metaphorically shape our physical and political worlds.” During this month of development, we are being considered for a 2-year residency beginning in September 2015.
Movement Matters is part of a 44-month institutional exploration that “seeks to foster artistic creation and curricular development at the pedagogical nexus of embodied learning and scholarly interests with a special emphasis on increasing global understanding.” The Movement Matters Steering Committee selected the other finalists and I from a pool of applicants from the United States and abroad. This program is made possible by a major performing arts grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Feel free to follow the research process on this page!
Research and Questions
In my work as a dance artist, I make efforts to honor diversity and create spaces for inclusion in regard to race, gender, sexuality, ability, and class by using improvisational methods that begin with tasks, scores, directives, images, and metaphors with which each participant has their own experience and from which a spectrum of unpredictable movement possibilities emerge. We can encounter tenderness, vulnerability, disruption, messy intersections, contradiction, curiosity, skepticism, fear, and hope. These methods also offer a meaningful way to generate choreographic material that draws from the personal experiences of the people with which I am working. Through this practice-based research, the moving body can act as the site to abstract what is familiar and be guided by intuition and impulse to try and access the subconscious. We then have the opportunity to notice or interrupt physical and mental habits. These noticings and interruptions can help us follow tangential information that lead us into liminal zones and offer the possibility of uncovering new information related to identity, perception, and being in our contemporary, global circumstance. Among our percolating questions are, how might these spaces help us uncover or offer tools for self discovery, building community, navigating disagreement, establishing and re-negotiating boundaries, and recognizing structures of mobility, oppression, and privilege? How might these ‘heightened’ experiences offer us anchorage in our modern moment of rapidity, acceleration, and high productivity? How do these experiences alter our approach to academic pursuits and creative interests, as well as our daily lives, that help us engage in the world with full bodied listening and arrive at more nuanced understandings?
Working Title/Mission from Professor Owens
— moving bodies to process difference; embodying movement to produce differently —
we build coalitions of challenge and acceptance, working through the dialectic of mirror and reflection, but liberating them from each other. We mirror free from reflection, following movements of the other, getting out of our heads and into our bodies. By learning into the other, we create a richer understanding and experience of the body, our own and of others. We reflect free from mirrors, drawing these new embodied sensations and knowledges into a space safe for creative imagining, sheltered from the hungry eyes demanding immediate product. In this tug of war, we push and pull our bodies, our minds across and through disciplinary and institutional boundaries. –Linus Owens
Master Class in Gaga movement language
January 14 | 11-12:30p | Mahaney Center for the Arts Room 110
No prior dance experience necessary!
For more information click here.
Movement Matters Winter Term Final Presentations
January 26 | 10:30-12:30p | Mahaney Center for the Arts Room 110
For more information click here.
Gaga Community Class
January 15 | 4-5p | MCA 109
Sunday, January 18 | 5-6:30p | MCA 110
Facilitation of improvisational explorations drawing from contemporary dance and theater practices with possibility of group discussion related to Movement Matters Residency lines of inquiry. For more information on methods used:
Experiments w/Jonathan Miller-Lane and Maree ReMalia
Monday, January 12 & 19 | 4-5p | MCA 109
Movement explorations investigating the embodied nature of difficult dialogues.
Improvisation Facilitation and Video Project Experiment
Tuesday, January 20 | 4-7p | MCA 109
Participants will be part of improvisational explorations, movement generation, and a video project experiment that may be included in the Movement Matters final presentation.
Improvisation Facilitation with Queer Alliance
Thurday, January 30 | 4-5p | MCA 109
Meet “Team ReMalia”
Professor Merrill “Mez” Baker-Médard
Associate Professor of Environmental Studies
B.A. Smith College; Ph.D. University of California Berkeley
Areas of Interest: Interdisciplinary research focused on the intersection of human geography, conservation science, environmental politics, and gender studies.
Professor Susan Burch
Associate Professor of American Studies
BA history and Soviet Studies Colorado College
MA and PhD American and Soviet history Georgetown University
Research and teaching subjects “at the margins” draws Burch’s attention, and particularly the historical impact of race, ethnicity, disability, gender, and material culture on lived experiences in America, Russia, and beyond. For more details about her work see her cv and a sample of her publications.
Professor Karin M. Gottshall
Visiting Lecturer in English and American Literatures
BA Sarah Lawrence College; MFA Vermont College
Her first poetry collection, Crocus (2007), won the Poets Out Loud Prize and was published by Fordham University Press. Her poems introduce beautifully strange yet familiar worlds. She lives in Vermont and teaches at Middlebury College.
Professor Jonathan Miller-Lane
Associate Professor of Education Studies
BA Middle Eastern and African History; M.Ed. The George Washington University
Ph.D. Secondary Education University of Washington in Seattle
What makes education in a democracy different from education in a totalitarian state? How do we prepare students in a democracy for a democracy?How should a liberal arts education shape our responses? These questions form the focus of my teaching and scholarship.
Professor Linus Owens
Associate Professor of Sociology
Linus Owens thinks about movements, places, and the conflicts that bring them together and push them apart. His books include both academic – Cracking Under Pressure: Narrating Decline in the Amsterdam Squatters’ Movement (Amsterdam University Press & Penn State University Press, 2009) – and popular – Lost in the Supermarket: An Indie Rock Cookbook (Soft Skull Press, 2008).
Collective Materials and Resources
Borderlands La Frontera: The New Mestiza
pgs. 77-87, 53-64
Van Der Kolk, M.D., Bessel. The Body Keeps the Score
Why a Generation of Adoptees is Returning to South Korea
by Maggie Jones
The Problem with the New York Times Magazine Piece
by Steve Haruch
What Heroin Addiction Tells Us About Changing Bad Habits
By Alex Spigel, NPR
Practice as Research: Approaches to Creative Arts Enquiry
Edited by Estelle Barrett and Barbara Bolt
“The condition of invention – the state of being that allows a state of becoming to emerge – is a perception, or recognition, of the ambiguity of appearances. Invention begins when what signifies exceeds its signification – when what means one thing, or conventionally functions in one role, discloses other possibilities.” — Paul Carter in Practice as Research
Interest: The Ethics of Invention
by Paul Carter
Chamber: Experiencing Masculine Identity Through Dance Improvisation
by Shaun McLeod
Choreographing Difference: The Body and Identity in Contemporary Dance
by Ann Cooper Albright
Choreographer Tere O’Connor on dance writing, under contents click: Tere O’Connor
From Professor Baker-Médard
“Now I want to make one simple point here, and that is about what one might call the power geometry of it all; the power geometry of time-space compression. For different social groups, and different individuals, are placed in very distinct ways in relation to these flows and interconnections. This point concerns not merely the issue of who moves and who doesn’t, although that is an important element of it; it is also about power in relation to the flows and the movement. Different social groups have distinct relationships to this anyway differentiated mobility: some people are more in charge of it than others; some initiate flows and movement, others don’t; some are more on the receiving-end of it than others; some are effectively imprisoned by it.” – Doreen Massey
Calling All Artists: The Climate Movement Needs You
, The Grist
Environmentalist and founder of 350.org, Bill McKibben, views artists as “antibodies of the cultural bloodstream” and key to social movement vitality:
[Artists] sense trouble early, and rally to isolate and expose and defeat it, to bring to bear the human power for love and beauty and meaning against the worst results of carelessness and greed and stupidity. So when art both of great worth, and in great quantities, begins to cluster around an issue, it means that civilization has identified it finally as a threat. Artists and scientists perform this function most reliably; politicians are a lagging indicator.
Spatializing Feminism: Geographic Perspectives by Linda McDowell
EJ films (global interconnections health/env)
e.g. Population control largely inspired by western environmentalists notion of scarcity – policies funded/supported by US, UK and other countries in the Global North
- “Population Control: UK aid funds forced sterilisation of India’s poor”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Egy4drxs8l8
- “They Took My Choice Away”- sterilization: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STxk6PfxzDg
Gender-focused interesting film
“Codes of Gender” (2009). Director: Jhally. English.
From Professor Burch
Universal Design for Learning
Eli Clare, segment from “The Mountain,” in Exile and Pride: http://eliclare.com/books/exile-and-pride/exile-and-pride-excerpt#mou
Audio file of this reading can be accessed here: http://eliclare.com/wp-content/themes/wpremix/images/Exile%20and%20Pride%20Audio%20File%202.mp3]
Another great piece by Eli is “Gaping, Gawking, Staring,” Public Reading, 2008 Chicago Public Radio. http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/archives/audio/amp/2008/10/amp_amp_20081010-gawkinggaping.mp3.mp3
Alison Kafer, Feminist, Queer, Crip [especially the Introduction, “Bodies of Nature: The Environmental Politics of Disability,” and “Accessible Futures, Future Coalitions”
Mia Mingus on Ableism: https://leavingevidence.wordpress.com/tag/ableism/
Blog I wrote for the National Archives about my current project: http://blogs.archives.gov/online-public-access/?p=8962
Segment from Smithsonian exhibit the fabulous Katherine Ott curated and that I got to tag along with: on “interdependence”: http://everybody.si.edu/people/interdependence
And another piece I like to share with students in critical disability studies classes, which connects to identities, coalition, and dancing as a political and community claiming: Sami Schalk, “Coming to Claim Crip: Disidentification with/in Disability Studies,” Disability Studies Quarterly 33, No. 2 (2013). http://dsq-sds.org/article/view/3705/3240
Less text-y sources that continue to teach me:
** Clip from Examined Life:
Tom Olin photos example:
Riva Lehrer art: http://www.rivalehrerart.com
From Professor Gottshall
From Professor Owens
Video of the protest from finals week last month:
From Professor Miller-Lane
Teaching Constructive Disagreement for A Loyal Opposition, Somatically.
Week 1 team member responses to questions from 1 on 1 meetings
Wishes for potential objectives/outcomes:
My ultimate personal wish is to feel more at home in my body, and like my brain is a better collaborator with my body (this is the feeling I long for, even though in most ways I see the distinction as false–the brain IS the body, and vice versa). I want to feel my art more deeply in my body and my breath and be able to encourage my students to do this, as well. I want to be more observant of my senses and the way my body intersects with the world and with others and find more ways to translate/replicate this experience through words. I want to be able to inspire my students to make these explorations, too.
I am interested in following what you said about being self aware/mirror and the “up” being a safe zone and the reminding to come down, and the act of listening or being listened to. Also, what you said about poetry being a physical act and how can we relate this to movement/our research? What are the distinctions and overlaps between writing and moving?
I don’t understand the perception that poetry is a cerebral exercise. Poetry is so closely aligned with music, so obsessed with rhythm and breath. Great poems invite us into the sensory experience of the poet through image and metaphor, and are themselves sensual experiences in their cadences and rhythms. Poems are like magic spells or lullabies: they use the sounds we make with our mouths to create change in the physical world. They have bodies, just as we do: unlike prose, whose shape is inconsequential (because it is written to convey the information housed within its words), poetry uses its shape–lines, stanzas, even negative space–as a meaningful tool. Each poem has its own posture, its own way of moving, its own stance.
How might attempts to create democratic movement spaces relate to your research on these topics? What connections might be drawn between what we have been discussing/doing and the above mentioned topics?
What this brings up for me is how deeply global most environmental problems are these days. Ones consumption of an everyday product (food, clothing, gadgets etc.) in one country is inextricably linked the physical, emotional, spiritual health of people and places in many other places across the globe. Another layer of contradiction is while the resources (both physical..natural resources, and services…people’s labor) that are congealed in a product that has hypermobility, people themselves are rendered highly immobile by politico-legal structures. E.g. The resources Nike sneaker comes from literally dozens of countries around the globe, rubber tappers in Indonesia, Brazilian cow herders, and Chinese factory workers mobility however is highly limited.
Cool way folks are looking (spatially) at these interconnections are : http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2012/05/03/sourcemap-nice-app-for-tracking-the-supply-chain-for-your-laptop-or-tuna-or-nutella/#.VK8C5Fq2pX2
However, the above stuff is reflecting on perhaps a different theme than what you are interested in? In the classroom – I’m interested in democratizing knowledge, de-centering myself as a knower in order to help students step into their own power as knowledge producers.
I am interested in your reflection comment on fear pushing against hope/hope pushing against fear and exploring/following the experiential-ness vs. just seeing.
Part of what has been so magical about the collaboration so far is the explicit acknowledgment that some of this is just terrifying: the call to move out of strictly intellectual space that’s deeply familiar but from where faculty members typically invoke authority, status, employment, community, sense of purpose… And it’s exhilarating for exactly the same reasons and more. I’m finding this exhilaration filled with hope (or perhaps another way of saying it is that hope propels the whole work). Exploring the unknown, recognizing that we are not fully alone in this process… it’s already revealing fears that scuttle underneath the surface all the time. Will this hurt or cause harm? What do they really think of me/what will they really think of me? Can I trust them? Will they trust me? Do I really belong here? [Fear pushing against hope]. And then the generosity of the group comes closer: the smile, the knowing nod, the mirroring of a movement, the invitation to tell a different story. [Hope pushing against fear]
experiential-ness vs. just seeing: I live with a disability that often isn’t legible to outsiders; I also inhabit multiple locations and identities of privilege that muddle and sometimes obscure my disability (and my identity as a disabled person). Often it’s a context that brings my disability to the fore: on-the-spot writing activities that involve extended hand-on-pen and pen-on-paper work or typing by hand, as just two examples, produce a disconnect because these are tasks I often can’t do without sparking considerable pain that can last for days and weeks. It often then turns to oral expression (my spoken explanations and/or requests for more inclusive options…and my use of voice recognition software). People who don’t know me –and some who do–usually are surprised to find that I’m disabled. Expressions like “you don’t look disabled” are pretty common (and troubling). Skepticism also travels in these exchanges (‘but you were able to type for a while yesterday…”).
So it’s from this personal lived place, and from anti-racist work and other social justice work, that framings like “visible” and “invisible” identities seem inadequate to me. I don’t mean to suggest that “I’ve figured it out” or that I have other framings that capture all I yearn to convey: to the contrary. But as much wiser folks continue to show us, “who we are” and how groups and individuals are understood has never been contained solely to a visual dimension. As just one illustration: how any of us communicate (literally in which languages or forms of communication, with which accents, using which vocabulary and at what pace…) involves sounds even when visual languages are used… and these sounds are interpreted and experienced by others. In very basic ways: during our time in the practice room if/when our group members close our eyes/cordon off vision we still are experiencing (and often judging and interpreting) one another. Some of this is legible, some of it not, but they all hold meaning. Does that make sense?
Experiment on the Embodied Learner with student participants
led by Professor Miller-Lane and Maree | 1.12.15
About Authentic Movement (Susan Bauer was my teacher)
“Mirror neurons allow us to grasp the minds of others not through conceptual reasoning but through direct simulation. By feeling, not by thinking. The discovery is shaking up numerous scientific disciplines, shifting the understanding of culture, empathy, philosophy, language, imitation, autism and psychotherapy.”
Based on a conversation we had about Aikido/Gaga and sending/receiving from far, I thought Professor Miller-Lane might enjoy seeing choreographer William Forsythe’s Improvisational Technology videos and maybe his sychronous objects site that aims to expose the choreographic mind.
Video Experiment with Pittsburgh Collaborators
Collaboration with Jil Stifel, David Cherry, Blaine Siegel
Sound by David Bernabo
Collaboration with Middlebury student, Demetrius Borge playing with the same prompts
Extension of Multiple Bodies Project and Movement Matters Research
Ideas for location from Pittsburgh-based visual artist/collaborator, Blaine Siegel: So I am always fascinated by what I call “soft zones” “neglected spaces” “spaces of other”. I am referring to areas that are man made but neglected and not used but usually exist side by side with heavily trafficked areas. Next to freeway passes or commercial zones. I have been trying to figure a way to use these areas of desolation. Abandoned malls and the like. I have attached an ariel photo of Pittsburgh Mills Mall, the zones highlighted are areas that always catch my eye when I drive by…I think that they are a possibility for a locale for what you and Jil have been speaking of. The interior of the mall is vast and sad as well, nobody goes out to this mall and large sections are just existing.
Performer/Choreographer/Collaborator, Jil Stifel’s notes from our conversation discussing the experiment and explaining project to videographer, David Cherry.
Here are some notes that I took today while talking with Maree.
Although technology makes it easier for us to connect globally it can simultaneously make it harder for us to connect locally.
Something about heightened states, body level states, where are we aware of our self(selves) Perhaps these body moments exist as antithesis to our virtual lives?
Also, something about the created virtual self verses the live self.
For the shoot I think we are dealing with the theme of the individual verses the crowd and finding the quiet body level moments of heightened awareness juxtaposed against a setting that shows the sprawl of modernity.
Maree’s notes and the score:
The video is black and white, the camera shoots as a partner. Also the camera could get bored and wander to looking at a foot, the sky, etc. Although It’s probably good to have wide shots also depending upon how things end up looking, maybe better for editing. Let me know if you want me to do something that I can repeat so that you can edit various shots together, see below for an example.
choose three words from this list
Feel each word independently on a body level then begin to get mixed up. The words can layer. Quiet and internal moments are OK. Seek those places feel them then move back into the word dance. End.
We could use some time-lapse, like if I am fairly still in a triangle of earth between on ramps/off ramps and the cars are moving very quickly around me. This is one idea I had that could show the individual verses the crowd and a sense of local loneliness also the choreography of the vehicles, and rapidity verses the stillness or quietness of body level experience.
In response to talk with Professor Owens
Yvonne Rainer’s No Manifesto
NO to spectacle.
No to virtuosity.
No to transformations and magic and make-believe.
No to the glamour and transcendency of the star image.
No to the heroic.
No to the anti-heroic.
No to trash imagery.
No to involvement of performer or spectator,
No to style.
No to camp.
No to seduction of spectator by the wiles of the performer.
No to eccentricity.
No to moving or being moved.
Involving Various Populations in a Dance Projects
Trash Dance by Allison Orr and collaborators
Can We Talk About This
Pharell Williams 24 Hours of Happy