Thursday, 22 January 2009

Remixing via the body

Notes on remixing the exhibition; Past Performance.... , Blank Gallery, November 25th 2008.
I spent a day in situ with the exhibition looking for ways to integrate and respond to the work with a moving, body based vocabulary. I was struck by several diverse ideas; that of the pioneer spirit that first established America; a memory from all the cowboy films I'd seen of shoot outs and cowboys; how they get shot down but rise up in time for the next film; Lazarus like. Cowboys themselves as icons of America, and homelessness within a city in which real estate is maximum; how do the homeless find a comfortable , safe place to sleep in that city?, and from the film in the exhibition, an image of a man searching for matches in his pocket I became fascinated by the possibility of finding that which we loose; the parts of our bodies that we loose, the bits of life that pass by unnoticed, and the question of how, through movement, through tracking into the body, we might re- find these parts; these lost matches.
The film, text and sound installation that made up the exhibition conjured an image of the place but what struck me most were presence and abscense of the people who move, like ants through it, leaving only traces on Manhattan. Manhattan, an icon of modernity; the city is like a machine ( a monster) that is far more "important" than the individual lives passing through it, transcient ghosts who hardly scratch the surface of the concrete, brick, iron city,let alone challenge it's status and hierarchy enough to produce change.
My first response was to take a stick of charcol and draw outlines of my moving body on the blank gallery walls, then to trace around images from the film; creating shadow like pictures of where the body has been. Then I created a loop of movement instructions that would structure the improvisation. These were:
Cowboy stance, turn and draw.
Cowboy dying
Finding total fluidity within the body, following the body; tracking movement.
Sleeping on a chair ( homeless)
Standing in the corner under a drawing of a Dunces cap.
The challenge I set myself was that I was to be always in the present moment and if, I drifted into repetition,sleep, or habitual movement, I would "jump cut" -in the body, to one of the next instruction points. As the performance, which lasted an hour, progressed I became immersed in a kind of "wild animal " body, one that did not obey normal (tame) body convention but found unlived moments between set movement instructions - perhaps I found the matches. I travelled in my imagination to many parts of the space, my inner body and the city, absorbing the fumes and dirt; paying homage to the monster and returning empty.