pestilence last days

If I’m looking for acceptable, believable excuses, then lack of internet at home, necessary for late-night bed blogging, and an on-going crappiness with internet at Cibo are amenable to this patheticness. Other more feasible excuses include lack of interest compounded by the above two, and a sense of pause or finishing in my life.

Friday night was the last rehearsal of pestilence. Daniel and I worked in the afternoon for some hours on the six sections and returned in the darkness with Alison to video it all till past midnight. We dance well at night, something fragile in the world, a timelessness, not awake, nor tired, not hungry nor sated, and minutes, hours speed past.

I was walking home this afternoon along Gouger St, past the entire block of former car dealers and other nondescript warehouse industry, white painted film-set uprights, all now fenced off for some, I imagine, gentrification-of-the-West-End project, or perhaps multi-story carparks. In the weak sun I thought it was necessary to blog in hindsight these last couple of weeks, something otherwise missing from this long and unusual project.

It was a project unlike any other, not the least for not having a end-of-project showing of some type (and Friday night while feeling in our bodies like a performance, was… something other), and further for the lack of methods I’ve used in other projects, or more precisely maybe, a lack of my usual obsessive analysing and daily preparation.

I just couldn’t bring myself to do that again this time. I couldn’t find any satisfaction in any of the texts I’d read in preparation, I couldn’t drag anything from this, I desperately didn’t want to repeat myself, and yet had no idea how to make something I’d not done before.

The day before, we revisited the Holbein stuff, grab-bite-drop, which came from all the people…, and has been sitting there doing nothing for about a month. With unusual application, we managed to relearn them and add in extra bits for some 1 1/2 minutes of madness. Choreography of a type. It was fun to do and injected some life into us, and terror, and bruises, swellings, numb funny bones, abrasions and other expected menaces of falling over.

And then the Tarantella. Tannhauser. Ecstatic, desperate wild and transcendental dancing, how to choreograph without steps, how to remain together, how to endure this for what feels like an eternity.

I’ve started editing the dvd of Friday night, and… it’s not usual for me to spend too much time watching my stuff after I’ve finished, I need to remember it in a way from inside, unlike perhaps when I’m not performing in it. But I’ll have to watch it somewhat in the next week, and make some statements, vague, blind gropings for what this piece could be if it was to be finished in some manner. So perhaps to write them here also.


pestilence day 14

Obviously today I am completely distracted and nervous and managed to do little except lie on the floor spontaneously falling asleep, inbetween working on the abjection stuff and going through most of the scenes we have already. I won’t be rehearsing till later this week for reasons to do with aforementioned nervousness.

Anyway, until I return from a small holiday, here are some photos of flowers, Lilies.

pestilence day 13

Friday, rehearsal 13, night and darkness. Daniel and I seem to work rather well when the building creaks and groans, possums scurry in through rotten guttering, dust and the rot of building disease fall from the rafters in a gentle drizzle. The darkness is eerie, and we turn off man lights, warm ourselves with the bar heater, cluster around laptop, chocolate and notebooks and entertain ourselves past the witching hour.

Abjection. Yes, we finally got it, all nine or so minutes after a couple of walk-talk-throughs and then it became … fun. There is a skeleton of motion which is largely the same, cycles of repetition that unintentionally came from both the improvisations and the editing of video. But that’s not the scene. Retching, gagging, mouths running with saliva, eyes watering, involuntary bodily noises and shudders, mess and the smell of spit, fingers probing noses, ears, mouths, asses, the taste of other orifices, tongues licking and biting feet and anything that can be reached, this is the choreography, the fun in the scene.

I spent the previous night and Friday morning reading Baurdillard and Foucault, and watching some of epidemic again, preparation for the night. In the end only one scene was played with, a description of the Black Plague as it ravaged a town in 14th Century Italy. We reduced his description down to the bones, bodies dragged to mass graves, thrown in piles, dogs digging up and devouring the barely inhumed corpses, the contagiousness of breath, crosses marking the stricken.

It’s fun to do this as improvisation and then tailor it, talk and watch the video – the camera in my MacBook Pro is exceptional, it seems to have a noticeably wide lens and is so receptive in low light mmm… perfect for recording rehearsal stuff and not wanting to lug a video camera around.

So we have much of the second section of the work in some state of existence, and a couple of bits of the first half. Monday we’re going to spend most of the time going over this and hopefully it’ll all come together and be something.

pestilence day 12

Inadvertently, Daniel and i have spent all of this week working on the one scene that came from Kristeva’s abjection, over and over until our brains were fried. I don’t know an easy or simple or fast or effective way to learn complex stuff from video and retain it. Today we were repeatedly mocked by our inability to remember what comes next, finding ourselves with toes in mouths pondering just whether we fell to the left one more time or perhaps stuck a finger in an ear again.

It’s not just the complexity of the skeleton of the scene that is causing our eyes to water and brains to drone, “lalalalalalala!!!! I can’t hear you!!!” and bodies to seize in moments of catalepsy when we try to endure one more attempt, it’s that everything is so similar and for some reason we are always on our left sides.

We have though, only been working methodically on this scene this week, and it is currently around ten minutes of very intricate movement, a shadow of monadologie and the delirium of learning improvisation from video. So therein lies the imperative to make sure we burp and fart often and laugh a lot and go for coffee, and remember the moment when we spat copiously in our hands, rubbed them together then, while rubbing our spit in our eyes vigorously, we realised ArtsSA is paying us to do this.

No more of this though. Henceforth, we just reiterate what we know and don’t spend too much time fretting over forty or so small phrases. Friday brings another night rehearsal, when the gloom and hysteria seep a little too close and the old building shudders of its own life.

I have all my books with me again. For the first time in four years, all my possessions are in one place, here in a small cottage in Adelaide, near the Central Markets. Unpacked mostly still, I did burrow around like a truffle pig in a couple of them for sundry oddments… books. My belongings total six large and heavy boxes of books and a suitcase of clothes. (Other boxes, a couple for additional things not so important.) Two books surfaced I’m now reading in an exemplarily cursory manner, Baudrillard’s Symbolic Exchange and Death, which was the heart of this work, failed to stimulate me in Melbourne, was injudiciously packed away, resurfaced and caused me to go, “Oooh!!! Rather good!”, and Foucault’s Birth of the Clinic which I read by staring blankly at the page and turning it every minute or so, hoping his style of writing, which I find reads like a pompous twat droning, will miraculously appeal to me.

Other things for tomorrow night: Lars von Trier’s Epidemic, still. Bodily detritus, necessitating reading Foucault, other things I hope engender fun, mania, bouts of terror, involuntary bodily functions… I burp in public now. Loudly.

pestilence days 5-11

Night rehearsals.

I’ve been slack at blogging this project. It’s taken me an awful lot of methodical, patient, slogging to get this piece to happen for me. I can say I’m tired all I want and creatively a little empty but nonetheless, I have to do something now and have an aversion to tardy approaches to rehearsals.

Last week has been a slow process, much talking and thinking, eating, smoking, chocolate, water, a lot of the week was spent working on the scene from Kristeva’s abjection, and taking a break on Friday, we returned Saturday night when it was dark and empty to try some things.

What was left on Monday from this was something that will come together into a couple of sections of the piece.

This week has been a return to early stuff, Kristeva’s abjection and the corporeal stuff we were doing in the first week. Today we got to a point where we’ve learnt most of it, and it’s possibly far too long, though speed and recklessness could help. A few more things to learn tomorrow and to make sure we know it in some form so we can decide what needs to go. I love cutting things, it’s the best part, callously destroying hours or days of work, being merciless and dispassionate. Shame I’m a sentimentalist and leave too much in.

We have another night rehearsal on Friday, and I promise to try harder to blog more, every day even.

pestilence day 3 & 4

Friday and Monday and the weekend at the library.

I’ve been struggling somewhat with this piece, possibly because I’ve been making or researching work since July last year and I’m feeling rather bereft of ideas and creativity and … a little burnt out also, would rather just get up, go to class, go to another class, go for a run, do yoga, do some reading, repeat. And also I’ve found the original ideas for this work, as a third part of extermination and hell and as a study in disease coming from Baudrillard is not quite what I’m thinking of right now.

I spent the weekend at the State Library experiencing disappointment because it’s not the one in Melbourne and have failed in finding almost all the books I was looking for, but reading Kristeva (avoiding the psychoanalytic stuff) and then going back to dancing plagues and manias which led me to Hans Holbein the Younger and his woodcut cycle of the Dance of Death.

Daniel and I spent Friday working on a scene that comes from Lars von Trier’s Epidemic which ends with Daniel in a trace in hysterics. Somehow this set the tone for the entire piece and after seeing Gabrielle’s development Witch/Red on Saturday I started to feel more determined and ready to be submerged in this for the next few weeks. Also it led me to listening to Wagner, which I have no idea where this will go.

Today Daniel and I started with something we played with in all the people i can remember sleeping with… we called ‘grab bite drop’, which is pretty much what we do. So working with Holbein’s woodcuts we spent the day grabbing, pulling, pushing, twisting hair and skin and limbs and biting sensitive places then shoving each other to the floor, maybe to bite a little more. Much saliva and drool was exchanged. Many limbs and joints were squashed, bruises are likely to appear tomorrow. The hardest thing though was getting up over and over, and wondering how some people can do it with such ease.

So the piece is moving more towards Kristeva’s idea of abjection, wherein disease and the manifestations of illness are seen as a part of the horror and revulsion of this. A bit of a discussion of bodily fluids and detritus, and then an evening at Cibo with Gala looking at videos of the Tarantella dance, the ballet and folk dance versions. I started to think it is beginning to make sense and then remember everything I need to do, but it doesn’t feel as empty as it did last week.

pestilence day 1 & 2

There is a reason for not blogging day one of rehearsals and it has to do with being delightfully waylaid by someone. However, yesterday Daniel and I started rehearsals for pestilence, which is supposed to be the third work in a series that began with extermination and followed with hell but perhaps is something else.

I started to read Baudrillard’s Symbolic Exchange and Death again and found after all the theory I was reading last year, Judith Butler and so on, it just didn’t feel substantial enough. So I thought I’d go to Foucault who has always been something of a silent partner in this stuff, and found him a bit boring to read, which I remembered from the first time. Lucky I stumbled back onto Julia Kristeva and began reading Powers of Horror again.

And then while rifling through all my DVDs looking for some Cantonese Opera, some unfinished stuff from hell, I came across Lars von Trier’s Epidemic, and Daniel and I have been watching much of it today and last night.

Also we have been expectorated much drool and spittle, and are having much disturbing fun in Dancecraft’s studios, and experiencing much abjection.

But more profoundly, it was a word that was a crossroads, a bridge, and that took into account [accounted for] Céline’s interest in borderline states: idiocy, rot [rottenness], people’s violence, anger … being mired in vomit, all sorts of phenomena that have to do simultaneously with disgust and fascination.

…I realized that in a certain number of clinical states that we see now, and that we perhaps a bit hastily refer to as “borderline,” the subjects are neither in the classic category of neurosis nor in the more or less classic category of psychosis, but find themselves between two chairs in a way, and what characterizes them is an extreme fragility of their boundaries.

By that I mean corporeal boundaries, for example, the skin, which becomes the locus of different symptoms and somatizations. This can also be different places, borders, or frontiers, of the body, the different orifices, the mouth, sexual organs, the anus, but also ears, eyes, etc. And also the limits [boundaries] between the self [ego, moi] and the other. The borderline [person] is often extremely sensitive to all sorts of threats and challenges to his integrity in terms of the other … creates a sort of territory between the two, which he often inhabits with a feeling of unworthiness or even deterioration [indignity or even rot].

— Julia Kristeva in conversation with Sylvère Lotringer

monadologie days 1, 2, & 3

I am at Swinburne. I have an office. It’s half way to the first floor (or second if you’re counting that way). Out the window that doesn’t open but would like to are trees and old red brick buildings. It feels Academic. Below me is a café with good coffee and bad food (I think I saw an organic shop near the train station (That would be Glenferrie if you would care to stalk me)). Above me are two floors of people whose names start with Dr and Prof, and who say things like, “Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics … cool!”. I feel remarkable stupid.

And, I have a new laptop for the duration, a special little MacBook that seems to like omitting letters, I think I’m not used to the keyboard yet. And! Playtime with fun stuff. And! 1Gb ethernet line.

So, amidst currently chatting with Daniel who is in KL airport on an 13 hour stopover, and Gala who is in Adelaide, I’m trying to make some kind of sense of all this, both intellectually and practically. The practicalities for the duration of the residency are doing class each day, rehearsing with Bonnie and Luke, and being at the Centre. Which means 12 hour days are likely, and working out a schedule that allows for minimal amounts of pain is going to be very important.

I started with Bonnie yesterday in Napier St, lots of memories of playing in the upstairs studio, and a slow process of remembering the tools of improvisation. I have I think an feeling of what the piece could be. Usually a work has a colour, an ambience, something I grope my way towards, and this is … well, yeah, black.

Yesterday and today I was reading Modeling Formation of the Solar System, an introduction to the equations that describe ellipses, orbital elements, eccentricity, and on to 2- and 3- body problems. It’s nice to be thinking in this way, to have to make myself understand, and what I was saying to someone in Adelaide, for my brain to feel like it’s not cruising but is, like a muscle aching from exertion, experiencing pain.

This came about from one of the papers that grabbed my attention when I was doing some pre-residency research a few weeks ago. Dr Sarah Maddison’s Gap Formation in the Dust Layers of 3D Protoplanetary Disks. I suppose I can see a similarity in methodology in how such astrophysical modeling occurs, compared to how I consider assembling rules and so on in the formation of tasks or choreography. (Interesting how language has failed me lately, as if I no longer have the words to describe what I’m thinking). This in turn, at the limit of my understanding led to the above introductory modeling, and a bunch of questions.

What is: Smooth Particle Hydrodynamics? Shakura & Sunyaev Viscosity Parameter? Epstein drag regime? And so today to a late afternoon conversation with Dr Sarah Maddison on her work. She was very coherent in explaining these and other aspects of her research to me, and obviously really passionate about it too, and I’ve come away with several books that are going to keep me occupied for ideally years but probably can be thought of as rather lascivious summer reading.

So what else am I thinking of?

My reason for dancing was seeing the Frankfurt Ballet, and also too my reason for choreographing. My earliest works were simply derived from reading interviews with him, harvesting his references to collaborators, eating like a carnivore on any elaboration of processes, wallowing in all of this and trying to make something from that. As an aside, it’s an interesting approach to read a description of how a work was made and from these artifacts alone make a new piece.

When I was working with Gala and Bonnie on temperance last year I started thinking again about this approach to making what could be described as pure movement (in reality, I’ve found that the approaches to making anything from abstract movement to utter theatre are fundamentally the same, but for the moment I’m thinking of what is dance in a recognisable sense), and amidst references to Leibniz, the Age of Reason and other things, again went back to William Forsythe.

This time, it was a work I’ve never seen, but through descriptions of and imagining I have, like Roland Barthes’ Japan in Empire of Signs, a conjured memory of ALIE/N A(C)TION that is more real than the real thing. I think rather than explain my continued attraction to this work, reading Dana Caspersen’s piece on working with Bill does much better.

There is then multiple strands that are far from having commonality living here, how to make literal representations of research that exists on scales far outside those of human senses, the history of astronomy and science since the Age of Reason both as events within themselves and as manifestations of the insatiable human curiosity to know things for the sake of knowing, evolving a system of choreographing that is not shackled to steps and counts, then also perhaps a very abstract response to the research here that is so impenetrable, and …

The cycle of works of extermination, hell, pestilence all coming from Jean Baudrillard’s text Symbolic Exchange and Death is concerned specifically with the dehumanising of individuals, the diminishment of human rights. While I was making all the people i can remember sleeping with… it occurred to me that is it very easy to criticise existing norms, but much harder to imagine new ones, and then to live them. In being especially obtuse here, and also feeling as if in a void, one of the things that attracts me to science is this imagining of a world bigger than this, to go beyond what is already here, and perhaps in doing so to in a very real sense cause a new world to evolve.