Monday, June 9, 2008

Day 1 - Identify the Probem(s)

So here we go - day one of my Kloster-woman mini tirade/educational exposition of hypermedia.

Before we get into the technology, bodies, or theory of what hypermedia consists of, it's important to understand where my perceived need for it comes from. Why does PMD (postmodern dance - i'll use this here to represent the time period that i'm referring to, not necessarily the specific values or artists) need it? What is this new technology attempting to save us from? What problems does it attempt to address?

Ultimately, from status and stagnancy in our work, and from the eventual unspeakable:
having to stop making work.

1. People don't know what to do with PMD.

People don’t know where to place postmodern dance. While we as a dance community existing in academia may have taken classes in dance history, or at least been educated through asides in dance classes about lineage and styles, people outside the dance community who find themselves viewing dance may not have ever been exposed to this.
New choreographers attempt to redefine what postmodern dance is at a very rapid pace through the self-proclaimed authenticity of their own new work; even if choreographers don’t acknowledge that their work is in response to work in their near historical proximity, postmodern dance is founded on the tenet of breaking with what came before and defining one’s own unique style and outlook. The dance community may be aware of how to contextually view new work, but a non-dancer would have trouble tracking the constant evolution and re-definition of the genre. This leads to problem #2:

2. We make dances primarily for an audience of "dance people".

While i don't think that there's anything particularly criminal about this - why not make art for the specific niche of people that will understand it to the fullest extent? - i think that staying in this place as an entire arts community is actually really hurting us, an inherent weakness that we've yet to address. Many people who are not writers read books, many people who can’t act see theater, and many people who can’t operate a camera or write a screenplay see movies. When non-dance people continually feel that they “don’t get” what they are seeing in a dance performance, thy begin to lose interest with why PMD is important or interesting. Why is this?

3. Ephemerality and permanence.

How many times have we herd the phrase "dance is ephemeral"? Since January, nine. I counted. Ephemerality becomes the excuse for why dance can't be studied, becomes the reason why it's hard to pin down, becomes the nail in dance's economic coffin. Why? Because it actually is. While there are certainly aspects of the ephemeral nature of dance that are extremly positive and exciting, dance's ephemeral nature is the major roadblock for the majority of "non-dance-people" who "don't get it". The audience member is put in the position of not only having to come to terms with an entirely new foreign vocabulary and mode of thought, but also to remember as much as they can about what they are seeing, in the time span of a single piece, sometimes only minutes long. "Some postmodern dance is emotionally resonant with many viewers but some, like a movement equivalent of Joyce’s cryptic Ulysses, requires investigation and study... [audiences then] flat out feel like they “don’t get it” and are provided no way to work towards their idea of what “getting it” might entail. They think that they are supposed to take something from the performance that they have never been told how to understand or appreciate, and feel lost, overwhelmed, and put out by something that they would have, at one point, been excited to be a part of. We then get the view of postmodern dance as cryptic and self-indulgent because we as choreographers are uninterested in or unwilling to teach the audience how to watch what we give them. Additionally, we have yet to create a way to convey to our audiences everything that we are able to see in it as its creators...It is not only interesting, but crucial, to involve the audience beyond the performance and in so doing, create some sort of support system so that the audience has evidence and consciousness of the ongoing process of watching, processing, and understanding a dance piece." (Thesis, 4-5)

3. "as long as the audience can connect to something – one movement – anything, that’s fine with me.”

This is killing modern dance. While the sentiment is on target (that the audience doesn't have to understand or feel attachment to every thing that happens, but hopefully moments will feel important, clear, and moving to them even if the whole is cryptic or dense) the widespread adoption of this tenet is (and i'll say it again) KILLING us. Think about it: if you went to see a dance piece, and you took one thing away from the entire (let's say hour long) performance, wouldn't you want your money back? I would.
Why are we as choreographers settling for “one thing”? It seems inherently compromising to our work, and even more unfair to our audiences. It is a cop out to say that we are satisfied with a singular thing resonating with our audiences. What we really want is for our audiences to understand that there are many things at play in each performance, in each piece, and even in each singular movement, and that any one or combination of those meanings or understandings that they see is inherently right. So perhaps the problem isn’t that audiences aren’t able to “see one thing” in a performance - perhaps out problem is that, as choreographers, this is all we’ve asked them to do. Theo and i were talking about how a characteristic of postmodern work (of many forms) is a lack of caring. He writes:

"The post-modern mindset (identical to hipster mindset) finds caring to be the greatest human weakness, as it renders one victim to heartbreak. The result is a body of work, or a culture of individuals, containing no heart, who care about nothing, and who's pieces are merely illustrations of aloofness. After all, how can anything fail in a world where all rules are meaningless constructs?"

Let's just put it out there: i Care about my work. i Care about the meaning(s) emotions(s) interpretation(s) and ideologies that are present in my work. And i, the choreographer, CARE that you, the audience, see and connect as many of them as humanly possible.

4. "If we tell people how to look at our work, it cheapens the work and makes it less artistic"

again my friends,
When we educate our audiences in how to look at dance, how to understand connections between visceral movement and subvisceral components (subvisc = “The implicit meanings and themes inherent in the viscera of a dance performance.” just like subtext = “The implicit meaning or theme of a literary text”), we simply give them tools to work harder as viewers with. As we give our audiences tools to work harder, we set the standard for ourselves as choreographers higher and higher. If our audiences are working harder, then we better damn well be making work that takes more and more ability, more and more understanding and craft at watching, to watch.

5. For PMD, Product is not equal to Process.

So looking back today (6/10) i realized that this was the one point that this post was missing, so i'm adding it in in hindsight. In dance (and i have always felt this way) performance, to me, is not an acceptable (or at least highly problematic) translation or representation of the process to the audience. Now, i know that the point of performance isn't really to show the audience the process; the point is to show the final cumulation of what you've been making. However, it's always seemed so unfair, un-encompassing, and simply untruthful that the performance never really shows all the gems and excitement of the process, which to me (and i would argue many other dancers) is always the
best part. The dance isn't the performance. The dance is the preparation, invention, audition, context, rehearsal, revision, interaction, showing, reworking, performance, feedback, reaction, and all the emotions and logic associated with those steps of the process. So why are we showing the audience the dance instead of the dance?

and last,

6. The PMD economy is failing, in free fall, kaputz, dead, done, dying.

"I am always surprised at the number of dancers and choreographers I talk to who seem to feel no need to rebel against this system in hopes of changing it. I have often felt the pull of multiple jobs, and my desire to make dance a livable profession comes from my desire to have more time to devote to the work that I love and find important – the making of dances. If dance artists were able to devote their entire work life to dance making rather than downwards of 15 hours a week, then the subtleties and sophistication of the work at hand would increase dramatically. It is important for me to express that this goal then seems to be not entirely an economic one, but an effort to make a shift in the was that artists are able to produce and enrich their work and themselves as artists. By talking about it economically, we are not invalidating the artistic and invaluable nature of our work, only looking at our creative processes realistically within the system in which they function." (Thesis, 9)

The DTW blog recently had a discussion about the need for artists to embrace marketing here, and it's exciting to know that (even while some artists remain adamantly opposed to letting marketing have a place in their artistic vision) many artists are beginning to look into both mainstream and alternative methods with which to propagate and support their art.

These are the main problems that my "hypermedia solution" is attempting to address.
In the coming days, I'll lay down some of the theory that the program is built on, talk about the process of making and programing it, and post some samples of the program here as well. I would love as many comments and challenges as you care to leave - the only way that i keep developing this work is through the constant evolution of it via feedback of other creative artists and audience members.

More tomorrow!


Vivi said...

Sarah dear,

Perhaps you should dance, see a show (maybe even ballet!) and open your beautiful eyes and wonderful mind to all the shitty and wonderful work available. Don't be so scared of the dance world. It's going to be okay, I promise you.
In simple words: I suggest you do some more research before you go ahead with this revolution.

With love,

P.S. When I make work (this may be true for most people) I want my audience to think. But, really, it doesn't matter what I want because the audience will think. We are thinking animals. Even if we were squirrels or lemurs sitting in the audience, we would still have thoughts.

From Laurel:

what is going on?
you must leave the isolation of DC and come to your goddamn intellectual community. you're losing your damn mind. this is not opposition, this is concern coming form your community to break free of the chains that are wrapped so tight around your darling mind (and perhaps body since I'm down with the fact that thy are one in the same.) Question: what has spawned all these jaded opinions of something you love so much? Where is the love?
We're all about the love. even if it doesn't seem so, we're just defensive people. how could we not be? we're bearing our souls to all of society; to anyone who will stop and listen/see/cry/throw up. It's beautiful. It's glorious. Bask in the sweet ecstasy of personal creation.
people are infuriating, but they are capable of much. one cannot put anything past anyone, including thought. thought is what makes us the creatures we are. maybe some thoughts are not as complex as others, but they are quite valid. even if it's coming from the gut, there was some part of the body paying attention. fabulous.
p.s. creation is beautiful because you can give yourself completely to strangers. why ask for anything in return? simply make and do. you are more than capable of both.

Vivi said...

PPPS. I don't think the future of dance is writing. I think the future of dance is dance.
Laurel seconds that.

Vivi said...

From Laurel:
I have absolutely no interest whatsoever, as a creative human, to educate anyone else at how to look at what I create. You say that we give them tools to work harder. I give people who are kind enough to take a moment and include themselves in my tiny world and refuse to set any standards, - or hierarchy of the thought process. To demand that my "audience" take away specific themes, emotions, or philosophies is beyond my own power and intellect. I am not a sorcerer. I am merely someone who does not know how to express myself in any other way than movement.

From Vivi:
Enjoy perspective. Embrace differences. Adore subjectivism.

From Laurel:
Wallow in the marsh of blatant uneducated intolerable opinion.

Sarah A.O. Rosner/The AOMC said...

Thanks for responding guys!
I think - and i really do mean this - that i'm more in agreement with you than you think! I'm not so jaded and not so angry, simply dissatisfied with the "rules" i was working under and excited to have the opportunity to define those rules to fit my work best. I know it's going to be okay, but I also know that the way it will be okay is for me to put what I feel out there, let it get digested and spit back, and then see where i am and repeat.

I don't want it to seem like i'm not giving the audience credit - i LOVE them for being there, and i realize that they are capable of thoughts emotions and interpretations that far surpass what i could begin to intend.
These aren't really the people that i'm talking about. I think much of who this is directed at is those evasive "non-dance-people", and because of that i think what i'm saying needs to be considered a little differently. Can a non-dance-person (let's say he's average joe, high school footballer and now electrician) come and see a dance and understand it, be moved by it, and take something away from it that is entirely his? ABSOLUTELY. It is inevitable, as you say Vivi, that he will have thoughts watching it, and therefore have some sort of reaction.
But. This ISN'T what happens, because average joe isn't coming to see modern dance. As i've been told numerous times this year, one of the purposes of dance is to entertain, to put "asses in seats" to quote theo and jeremy. So isn't this just a tool to do that?

Do you see what i'm trying to address? I'm not sure if i'm being clear.

I'm not suggesting that we narrowly channel our audiences into thinking one way about a piece or taking away specific things, but instead just having the basic tools to add to their own "natural" perception of the performance. We know ways to see dance that include our "natural" reactions - space, time, context, etc. Why not share that knowledge?

Does this make sense, or am i missing what you're saying completely? Oh, and for the record: I'm pretty sure that the future of dance is in fact dance (as you say), I'm just not sure that the future of MY dance is the dance we know.

Vivi said...

Dear small god,

"I'm not sure that the future of MY dance is the dance we know." Okay, is what you're working on beneficial only to yourself? I'm not sure I get it. When are you talking about your own work and career and when are you talking about the general dance community?


P.S. We know that you love your audience.

Sarah A.O. Rosner/The AOMC said...

Hm. good question.
This ties in to the Big Question of the summer for me - what is my (and my work's) relationship to my audience? Is the dance for me or for them, or both, and how? I don't have any answers that i'm satisfied with yet.

I'm making the hypermedia based on what I want to best show MY work. But i'm also making it with the greater dance community in mind (as per my interviews with all of you at the beginning of the year), as well as the non-dance-people-not-yet-but-potential-audience in mind (as part of this is an attempt to involve them in our world). Maybe the best way to say it is that i'm making it for me and my audience (potential and current) but that i believe it could hold value for the greater dance community (in part because it is so modular and customizable) so i see it as part of my job to keep myself aware of it's potential outside of my own work.

Good question. I have to think about it more.