I’m about to head into my second week of Dance Marathon performances at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, presented in association with Traverse Theatre and Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre. We (bluemouth) are getting some great responses and reviews while working with some really amazing and talented people. To follow all developments – including reviews, audience responses and photos, head on over to bluemouth’s Twitter and Facebook pages.
Above is a (slightly remixed) excerpt from the Rhubarb 2011 Festival performance of ‘Salle du Rêve / Centre for Sleep and Dream Studies’ with Angela Rawlings and Ciara Adams (voices) and myself (laptop). The first 3 minutes or so consists of an improv the three of us did at the end of the evening. The ‘sleep dream questionnaire’ heard throughout this excerpt was administered to individual audience members, one at a time, in an intimate setting next door to the bar/dance floor. Co-presented by Bluemouth Inc Presents last February (2011) at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Toronto.
Doing shows in New York is tough for independent theatre companies like Bluemouth Inc. Competition for audience is relentless, equipment rentals are prohibitively expensive (it’s often cheaper to just buy the gear outright), and with such minimal institutional arts funding, it’s really all about cultivating the rarest of warm, fuzzy long-term relationships with deeply-pocketed people who share your inspiration and passion for giving audiences the wildest, craziest immersive experiences anyone can imagine.
Dance Marathon aspires to be that kind of experience. Manhattan is a tough market, so many thanks to Martin Denton for his reviewon nytheatre.com(January 6).
Dance Marathon NYC was presented by Incubator Arts Project’s Other Forces festival and the Performance Project @ University Settlement. Dance Marathon was originally created with support from the Harbourfront Centre’s Fresh Ground new works commissioning program (Toronto, 2009)
Avoid the compartmentalization of creative impulses by throwing an office party. Encourage all creative ideas from all the different projects to mingle, flirt and mess around with each other on top of the photocopier. A rainforest brainstorm session begins.
Developing the sonics for a new Salle de Rêve / Centre for Sleep and Dream Studies performance at Rhubarb next month (Feb 26 @ 9 pm, Buddies in Bad Times). Lots of pushing and pulling and stepping through impulses, textural changes and scrambled checklists, line by line, clip by clip, sample by sample – until an impulse to release the accelerator in mid intersection occurs. Turn the car around (when did we leave the office party, by the way?). Head for a road you almost went down years ago. A National Exit Strategy re-mix set planned for a gig at the Drake Hotel 3 years ago, but which no one ever heard due to last-minute MIDI trigger failure – an old framework applied to new materials; new materials tossed into a speeding cab with old materials, tearing off across town in search of address scribbled in crayon on bar napkin. Beautiful cross-pollinations, co-adaptations and rainforest metaphors come spewing out of the photocopy machine.
Interviewed by Hannah Dean on CKLN this morning about tonight’s FINGER performance at SoundPlay (8 pm, Theatre Direct’s Christie Studio, Artscape Wychwood Barns, 601 Christie #170, Toronto). Some really good conversational threads emerging about the re-defining of performance in the age of electroacoustic/digital technology; the role of the body in laptop-driven performance; the struggle to accept ‘liveness’ as something which itself accepts (and even embraces) technical failure as a deep-seated echo of ‘the sacrifice’ in ritual and spectacle. It’s the uncomfortable thrill audiences receive in watching someone fuck up onstage. A moment like that is truly alive – because in that moment, artifice and representation fall apart. Reality smashes the window and forces everyone to improvise until balance and control are restored. Ultimately, that same audience also wants to be captivated by virtuosity.
Hannah asked me to name my influences…who else does this kind of work? For some reason, I thought of Bob Ostertag’s writing (Human Bodies, Computer Music and others) and his acknowledgement that tension and struggle are key themes in all of his work. Isn’t a performance largely about witnessing a personal, physical struggle of some kind? To make all the right moves in the heat of a moment; to lose oneself to (or to give oneself over to) the music that’s being made in the moment. I couldn’t help but also think about the stage craft of Bryan Ruryck.
One last question – what, if anything, in this FINGER show is structured? Other than our assigned, physical tasks during the show, it’s only the timeline that Cam’s (McKittrick) computer follows as it collects, parses and conditions streams of data generated by our physical interactions with the sensors and materials of the show. This ‘brain’ runs along with us in the background like a ghost – somewhat reminiscent of the ‘ghost electronics’ compositions of Morton Subotnick. The system runs imperceptibly deep in the background, inaudible itself but forever modulating the audio-visual consequences of my/our physical activity – even to the point where (potentially) the system decides to punch-out for the day and leave me/us hanging in the wind?
The next likely stop with all this – the drum kit and National Exit Strategy.
When is a house a home? Or when is it not? And when or how does a structure (like even a cardboard box in an underpass) become a ‘home’ anyway? On the surface, the owner or occupant moulds the house to their needs (through renovations, decorations, routines and rituals), while the house secretly moulds the occupants to its needs. HABIT@ seeks a deeper understanding of this experience. FINGER opens up a cardboard box in order to figure out what makes a house a home.
Ingredients: 1 cardboard box
a handful of sensor technology
several digital recall devices
machines for crunching data
small things (including fingers)
…and one cat.
Although New York designer Omar Zubair and I had already generated a nice collection of sonic gestures and textures over the past few months (including a generous donation of Icelandic soundscape recordings by Toronto poet Angela Rawlings) , the incredibly focused acoustics of this half-mile long tunnel steered us in a more austere direction. As over 70 people descended the ladder one at a time from street level down into the tunnel, I mashed up vintage Hawaiian music with the soundtracks of Jean Painlevé’s early aquatic documentaries. A large video projection of Jean Painlevé’s films spanned the tunnel’s curved brick ceiling and enveloped the waiting audience.
With the actors leading the audience by flashlight, the play unfolds down the entire length of the tunnel. Long, deep and slow moving wedges of sound slowly rise and follow the audience as they move towards a dead end. In setting and adjusting sound levels I would leave the mixer station and walk halfway down the tunnel, only to discover that volume level of the music was not changing at all. Higher frequency content would naturally disappear with distance, leaving only a juggernaut of low end to continue soaring down through the tunnel. Speaking and Ciara Adam’s singing at one end of the tunnel were clearly audible at the other end. We hardly needed amplification at all.