Friday, February 27, 2009

13 variations on a Car Crash

Here's some initial work that we're doing on the spot we're calling "13 variations on a Car Crash".

I've been a little hesitant about showing it until we're a little farther along, in part because of similar reasons to Lillie's rock solo. I think dance like this is dangerous (or, at least, it feels dangerous for me as the choreographer to be pursuing it), becuase it gets so close to acting and miming. As i said at CB on wed, i have no interest in acting out a car crash (or 13 of them) - instead i'm trying to cultivate a non-human ability into the body and anatomically explore trauma via the tool slow motion. Which is all said and good in my head of PoMo reasoning, but makes very little difference for someone who's just watching it.

That being said, all the feedback i've gotten on it is incredibly positive and excited. I'm really looking forward to working with cristina and cory more on this - really refining it and getting it right on the mark. I'm also excited to incorporate more of the cast, as we're expanding it from a duet to more of a group thing, though the focus will remain on cory and cristina's action.

Anyway, here it is, and would love to hear anything that comes up for you watching it.
We'll be premiering it as a work in process as part of the RAW showings at one of the NYU Studios on April 12th @ 11. Mark your calendar! Save the date! And always wear your seatbelt.

Artist Salon Re-Hash Part 1: Defining the Epic

So my program on wed @ Chez Bushwick went really well in my opinion - supper under attended, but interesting and fun nonetheless - and we got into some really great conversations by the end. I'm really grateful that Anna invited me to moderate it - it helped me solidify and test out everything that's been rambling around in my head for the past year or so

Since a lot of you couldn't come, i wanted to post some sort of doug-fox-inspired guide to/artifact of the presentation and discussion. Stick with me, it's going to be a long one.
Shocker, i know.
I'm going to break it down into a few separate posts to make it a little more manageable. I'll serialize it, if you will (for those of you who were there and get how clever i'm being.)

Here's a basic outline of what we talked about, broken down with the media samples to go along.

How does one define "epic work"?

While some might stick to the literary definition, others jump to the vernacular understanding - long, dense, hard to get through. Though the definitions are clearly different and quite specific, I actually don't think it aids us a great deal to split hairs between them. What ends up happening (and you'll see this as we go) is that there's so much overlap that what matters is knowing the definitions, not necessarily following them. So let's define!

The literary definition of "epic" (according to wiki - full article here) is as follows:
a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily concerning a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation.
Additionally, traditional epic literature contains these nine characteristics:
  1. opens in media res
  2. The setting is vast, covering many nations, the world, or the universe.
  3. begins with an invocation to a muse
  4. starts with a statement of the theme
  5. the use of epithets.
  6. includes long lists.
  7. features long and formal speeches.
  8. shows divine intervention on human affairs.
  9. "Star" heroes that embody the values of the civilization.
Now, these are clearly definitions of a traditional epic, and as Ben pointed out near the end, most of what I'm looking at are postmodern epics. However, keeping these nine characteristics in mind can help us examine how pieces and works are epic and how they relate to each other, even if their epic-ness is derived from being in contrast or negation of one of the categories.

We can also look at the genre of film to get a slightly different definition. Epic Films are
"a genre of film which places emphasis on human drama on a grand scale. They are more ambitious in scope than other genres which helps to differentiate them from similar genres such as the period piece or adventure film. This often entails high production values, a sweeping musical score by an acclaimed film composer, and an ensemble cast of bankable stars, placing them among the most expensive of films to produce" (wiki).

And then there's this vernacular understanding. "Epic" as long, big, never ending, dense, a journey, a quest, a search. Also, "Epic" as "awesome", historically reinforced, precidented. It leads to a confusion of terms and an esssentializing of what the epic really is. Take this for example, from wiki:

"Many refer to any film that is "long" (over two hours) as an epic, and as such a definition of an epic film (especially among today's films) is a matter of dispute among many. As Roger Ebert put it, in his "Great Movies" article on Lawrence of Arabia:[3]

"The word epic in recent years has become synonymous with big budget B picture. What you realize watching Lawrence of Arabia is that the word epic refers not to the cost or the elaborate production, but to the size of the ideas and vision. Werner Herzog's 'Aguirre: The Wrath of God' didn't cost as much as the catering in 'Pearl Harbor,' but it is an epic, and 'Pearl Harbor' is not.""

However, i think this essentializing and cross-meaning can be a great thing, becuase it means that more and more things are becoming entwined in the eipc conversation.

Now, when i was trying to map out how to speak about all these different artists and their individual yet collective epic natures, i grappled a bit with what direction to come at it all from. In terms of their definitions? In terms of why they are made? In terms of how they are recieved?

In the end, i decided to look at these works through the skeleton of five categories, which to me represent the main attractions (both as a audience and a creator) to epic work. I'll lay them out here, and then go into detail using the artists at hand as an example in a post to follow.

1. Humans are attracted to epic work becuase we are "World Builders".
We create order, structure, and relationships everywhere we go - most notably in our societies and lives. It then is only logical that we are driven to re-create these world-structures in our art, and that we find it satisfying to watch or experience these world in the art of others. Main examples: Myst and Ulysses.

2. On the completly other end of the line (so far that if you make the line a circle the two end up being right next to each other) is the idea that life isn't clean or organized - it's messy, crude, confusing, and infinately complex. Any art that mirrors this complexity may end up being epic in scope. The epic is a mirror to the complexity and largeness of life. Main examples: Ulysses and Sara Rudner.

3. Creating epic work is a process that, for the creator, involves not being able to contain or process the whole work at once. This nessitates the artist's creation of new strategies, processes, and medias, not to mention whole ways of thinking. In this way, epic work is an evolutionary tool for artists, pushing them to evolve their art and art making in ways that are distinctly different from other processes. Main examples: Sara Rudner and my work.

4. Epic work is inherently lends itself to a plethora of marketing posibilities. In our current economy, specifically in the arts, there's a constant focus on reduction and simplification. However, if we look to mainstream culture, we see that things like epic movies (lord of the rings, the matrix) and epic books (Harry Potter) are a commanding presence. Additionally, serialization (Deadwood, the wire, etc.) provides veiwers with a new watching format for the epic. Epic work provides artists with a way to go more in depth and yeild a greater return, and at the same time can be more engrossing and exciting for veiwers and audiences to watch. Main examples: my work and the Matrix.

5. One of the main reasons that epic work is so engrosing to us as audience members is its subtextual (or subvisceral, subaural, etc) abilities and nature. The fact that we can not only take the work at surface level, but are also encouraged to go inside of it to explore on our own, and as a collective group of schollars and thinkers makes the work in a constant state of dialouge with other works, people, and ideas around it. Due to this interconnectivity, we not only experience the work, but all the other works that it is communicating with. Main examples: Girl Talk, Sara Rudner, Ulysses, my work, and the Matrix.

So those are the big five!
In the next few days i'll be posting a more detailed post for each categories, with media examples so you can get a better sense of what i'm talking about. I also want to reserve a post at the end to bring up some of the (amazingly exciting) ideas that came up in our discussion as well. As always, questions and comments are welcome at any stage of the process.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Very Very Cute.

Like the title says, cute city.
Reminds me of all the Busby Berkly talk that was going on during the Dance on Camera Festival. Can't embed, but check it (and his other work too!) here.

Reminder: Artist Salon TONIGHT @ Chez Bushwick

Hey all, just a reminder for you to come on down (up? over?) to Chez Bushwick at 7 to see my program on Epic Work.  I'm really excited to share it - i've been doing a ton of research and interviews over the last few weeks to prep for it!

For those of you that can't make it, i'll try to get some short version (gross.) posted here with some links within the next few days.  If you have any questions, or insights to add that you want me to bring up tonight in liu of your presence, just leave 'em in the comments section of this post and i'll do my best.

Hope to see you there!

Slow-Mo Fix of the Day

If you're as much of a slow-mo junkie as i am, then you're going to dig one of Doug Fox's most recent posts on the Kinetic Interface.  It features the new MIMS video - "Move" - a gorgeous HD (dare i say, distinguished and understated?) new video. Rest of the post is great too!

Check it out here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Save SAES dance!

For any of you who read this blog and are also connected to the realm of SAES (St. Andrew's Episcopal High School) some major things just happened that you need to be aware of and reacting to. To put it in the shortest way possible: no more middle school dance program, no more dance as part of the arts curriculum (only as elective P.E.). This from a school that prides itself on its "four pillars" of education. Guess that when the economy gets bad, the programs that produce alums that can't donate the big bucks are the first to go...

Anyway. I'll probably talk more about this later, but for now, check out the new blog that we'll be using as a base to gather and network information, and then organize our next step. Even if you're not a SAES alum, i think it's something worth being aware of. First they take our government funding, then our education systems...

Anyway. I can't take this any more. I'm going to try to sleep off the impending sense of impending doom. Check the blog HERE and organize towards action!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Also also also!


Check it out: Anna Brady Nuse has been kind enough to invite me to become a contributor to her film/dance/dancefilm/screendance blog Move The Frame. I'm already on to my second post (but the first one was the basic intro to me and my work and, let's face it, you already know all that) - check it out here. I'll be writing every week, following the production of our first section of the film - Julia's solo "Glass Tree in Harlem" - so add it to your RSS if it's not there already!

Your Mind-Blow of the Day: Blaise Aguera speaks @ TED

So i found this after Julia PT mentioned geeking out to it and suggested I look it up. It's part of the TED talks, which never cease to excite and inspire me. It took me a few days to get around to watching it, but i just did, and WOW! completely mind blowing and exciting! This type of inter-information-sharing is something that excites me not only because it's a new and interesting technology, but because it really facilitates an exchange of human knowledge and experience. Things like this make me think that all those people (my friends being some of them) who talk about a "coming together of minds" in the impending 2012 might have a point...

Check it out, and make sure you watch all the way through.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dancefilm - points for a fresh concept

So. Success so far at keeping the blogging going while adding another job to my life: not so hot.
But! (fear not, gentle reader and all that jazz) I'm getting my camera back today, and will be able to post some rehearsal footage soon, which gives me the same feeling as this too-good-to-be-true spring we're experiencing in NY. Also, i'm developing strategies for coping. For instance, posting some great dancefilm from time to time that i think is interesting.

Take this one, for example. 

I came across it on dance-tech, and thought that it was a pretty fresh concept and well-edited to boot, even if it gets a little too effecty (in my opinion) by the end.  I like how the film takes the liberty to utilize multiple sets and modes of "story telling" What do you think? 

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Call for collaborators: SIDEsubTEN

Here's an email i just sent out to some of the artsy folk in my life. Consider yourself invited! Send submissions to

Hi Friends!

i hope you are all enjoying the feels-like-spring weather!
I am in the process of recruiting a team of ten artists to each take part creating a side project that i'm working on (thus the SIDE and the TEN part), and emailing you because you were on my mind as a possible collaborator!
I know that all of you are busy busy creators, but check this out and see if it's something you'd be interested in - i think it would be a lot of fun!

Here's the deal:
I'm working with the lovely Julia PT in creating a beautiful plastic-bag-tossing solo that is the end section of the new piece i'm working on.
We have about forty separate phrases of movement, each ranging from one to five seconds in length (so a lot of little clips).
We are arranging them in a certain way for our version of the piece, but are excited by the simplicity of the structure, and want to use this as an opportunity to engage other artists. I am excited by this idea of having the solo in the piece as is, and then also having ten other versions of it. These versions, which would not be included in my piece, would act as a sub-layer (subvisc, if you speak my language - that would be the "sub" part) of information to the solo - a group of interpretations of one set of ideas that could be shown separately as just these eleven works (mine plus the ten of yours). I'm really excited by this idea, and see options in front of us like a gallery showing or a web-centric-gallery where we could show all eleven.
We'd like to invite you to take the forty phrases that we have, use as many or as few as you want, and make your own work out of it. Ours is a movement/film version, but we're excited to integrate as many different mediums and media as possible - drawing, music, painting, sculpture, dance-tech, film, writing, dance, theater, photography, and all the lovely things that i'm not even thinking of yet. All you ask is that you use our raw material as a starting point to make your own related-but-original work. The options are literally limitless. Come in to the studio with us, "capture" our phrases in any way you want, and then go to town. All we ask is that you make the final projects available for a joint showing/showings!

If this sounds like something you'd be interested in (or even just hearing a little more about) email me and give me a general idea of what you'd like to do - just the general medium(s) and any ideas that might be popping up - don't worry, i won't hold you to them. At this point, i think ten sounds like a manageable number, so we'll see what the response is like. If we get way over ten, we'll figure out some application, but for the time being, just email me to voice interest.

Also, feel free to pass this on to friends and artists you think might be interested.
We can't wait to work with you!

Best, Sarah A.O.
Hope that starts the ideas pinging...let me know if you have any questions!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Kinetic Cinema with Doug Fox @ Chez Bushwick

So i know you don't have plans for next Wednesday yet (not because you're not cool, but just because it's Wednesday, and it's still a week away) so allow me to suggest a fun after school activity: Doug Fox's go at Kinetic Cinema at Chez Bushwick.

If you're not yet hip to the Kinetic Cinema series (or even if you are), i highly suggest you come check it out. The program, designed and curated by Anna Brady Nuse (director of Movement Media at Pentacle, "Move the Frame" blog creator, and a dancefilm maker herself) is described as "the intersection of dance and the moving image". Every third Wednesday, she invites someone new to put together a program of dancefilms and other media that have inspired them. One of the things that i love about this series is the acknowladgement that talking about dancefilm naturally involves talking about film that isn't dance, dances that aren't on screen, and all types of media that falls somewhere in between. The result is programs that are as diverse as the are interesting - and every month it's a whole new perspective.

This month, Doug Fox (creator of Great Dance) is going to present a bunch of dance-related animations. Here's part of the press release:
The program will feature over fifteen clips from video and film animations, theatrical movie releases, TV commercials, music videos, performances and installations, and student projects. Among the highlighted animation techniques will include hand-drawn 2D animation, 3D animation, live-action and computer graphics, stop-motion, rotoscoping, motion graphics, real-time performance animation, machinima and other animation styles.

This program builds on Fox's online guide to "50 Dance and Movement Animations," which he published in January 2009 on Great Dance. He has interviewed many of the artists, animators, directors, choreographers and dancers who participated in the production of the videos which will be screened and he will share insights from these conversations during the Q & A section of the program.
Doug has a preview of what he'll be screening available on his blog - i started watching, but then decided to save it for Wednesday so it will be more of a surprise. I'm excited for all of them, particularly this one - technology i'd pretty much trade my soul for. It holds the ability to capture that best impossible moment in movement that goes by too quickly to capture or hold on to. Maybe I love it because it's where the ephemeral and i meet back up post hypermedia, or maybe it's just my undying love of the matrix trilogy.

Anyway. Hope to see you there!


Date/Time: February 11, 2009 7-9pm

Tickets: $10 at the door, no reservations.

Location: Chez Bushwick, 304 Boerum St., Buzzer #11, Brooklyn, NY 11206.

Phone: 718.418.4405


Trains: L to Morgan Street