Posts Tagged: creativity

Wallace Collection Late

📷 Original image from BNF Paris (French National Library)

Engraving by Francois Boucher after Antoine Watteau, ​Woman on swing seen from the back, 1728

 

On the warm evening of 20 April, I had the chance to facilitate a workshop during the Late event of the Wallace Collection in Marylebone.

The specific theme of the night was Europe : A Bridge to the Continent. All the activities and performances were bearing a connection with Europe, which mirrored the collection.

 


I soon came up with the idea of a creative writing activity. I have had a keen interest in linguistics for a long time and learning new words is a constant thrill and one of my most enjoyed mental food.

I also wanted to offer an activity where participants would feel free to write whatever was coming through their pencil and from where they would leave with something: a new word, but also hopefully a little sense of thrill and calm after a few minutes of simply indulging into writing.

The event took place in the landing of the gallery’s staircase, within a striking architecture and bathing into a soft light.

 

The activity was based on European words with no direct translation into English (around 50). The participants were invited to pick a paper where a word – in one of the many languages from Europe – was written. From there, they could create a personal piece of writing. The words were written vertically so that the participant could write an acrostic – where each letter of one word forms one letter of each line.

This allowed the merging of words from other European languages with English words. The choice of acrostics is the reason why the workshop was called Am Stram Gram Pic & Pic Acrostic, which is a play on words in France, just like Eenie Meenie Miney Mo.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, I had displayed cards with details of works of art from the Wallace Collection, from which the participants could draw inspiration, if necessary.

I was grateful to present the activity with my friend Kelly Roberts, who is a drama facilitator, spoken words artist, poet and part of the Shut Down Collective. She shares the same passion for words as I do and is always keen to engage in workshops that bring people into a creative zone.

We were lucky to receive so many responses and eager to read each of them. It was indeed a beautiful sight when people were unfolding their paper, discovering the word, having a seat and taking the time and the headspace to compose, pouring their ideas and then being open to share it with us.

The pieces were displayed throughout the evening on a screen and I have been collecting all of them into a book. I am currently finalizing the editing.

📖 Coming up soon!

I am also hoping to facilitate this activity again in another context, gathering a variety of written pieces and sharing a privileged moment of creativity.

Finally, I  would simply like to thank Nancy Ncube (L&P producer of SDD) for her constant support and her attention to my project, as well as Rosemary Cronin (artist and curator of the event) for her feedback and for offering me a chance to share my practice.

 

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Workshop with Matthias Sperling – 1st February 2018

‘What will change when science discovers exactly how our bodies give rise to our minds?’

This is the central question that we were working with a couple of weeks ago during Matthias Sperling’s workshop. The workshop was divided into two sections; in the first half, we discussed his work Now That We Know and in the second half we participated in Loop Atlas, which featured in the larger body of work at Siobhan Davies Dance, material / rearranged / to be in 2017.

Sperling’s two pieces of work inform one another. Now That We Know is a performance lecture piece which imagines that science has proven the relationship between the mind and the body. In a similar strain, Loop Atlas focuses on the idea of looping. Looping is a movement process pioneered by Deborah Hay which lets your body be your movement mentor rather than your mind. In this blog post I’ll be looking at Loop Atlas as I found that its content gave me a lot of food for thought!

Loop Atlas uses different choreographic approaches to investigate the mind-body dichotomy. In Matthias’s workshop we as dance artists were given a space to experiment with this idea. The workshop unearthed some ambitious questions not just about choreography but embodied experience at large. Will there ever be a time when our bodies are truly in sync with our minds? Or is there a time when our bodies take charge? When I’m walking to a familiar destination, when I am a pedestrian, my body is leading me there. My mind is indulging itself somewhere else; it is listening to music or zoning out at whether that is a pigeon or a boot in the distance. My body’s activity brings a lot of shame to my languid mind.

But when we’re in a dance studio this relationship changes in some instances. Dancers are trained to be aware of every body part’s function, from their neck to their right toe. And we engage our minds to do this – our mind is the puppeteer and the body is the puppet. However, there is always an opportunity to let our mind and body forget what we have been rehearsed to believe. Although it sounds unusual, it generates a really productive and fresh outlook as you become a blank canvas for experimentation.

In unconventional performance spaces, I would say that both the mind and body are working cooperatively towards creating and producing movement in new areas. During Matthias’s workshop, I had a heightened awareness of my mind and body where I was very focussed on the activity of each. But, as much as movement is about bodily awareness, it is also to do with forgetfulness and solitude. In a workshop such as this, we need to forget that the philosopher Descartes said the body cannot think without the mind. You really have to detach yourself from the philosophy that the two are separate. For me, I have a dance background, but I also have a lot of experience in the Early Modern and the Renaissance period. This might seem an odd combination, but the two have refreshing links which I stumbled upon unexpectedly. Matthias’s preposition (that I present at the top of this post) that the body gives rise to the mind resonated with me a great deal. Early Modern philosophy is pre-Descartes and it is rooted in the idea that the mind and body are one. In very general terms, the experience of the mind is the experience of the corporeal body. With this in mind, has history come full circle where we have returned to this viewpoint? During Matthias’s choreographic tasks, I remember moving on bodily impulse. Barely can I remember changing my movement because my mind thought it was time to. I will admit that there were odd moments when I could sense my mind overtaking, but I would just suppress the urge and let it go. I became quite comfortable in letting my body do the work and this kind of hypnosis was cleansing and relaxing.

When I walk a familiar route, my mind gives rise to my body. Unfamiliar spaces have a tendency to reinstate the mind’s control. And of course, this is the reason why as Next Choreography students we are always moving around the studio to find different spaces to work in so we can see what limitations they pose on the body and the mind. We are always debating the very nature of movement; whether it is detached from consciousness, or whether it thrives on bodily impulse, and it was great to participate in a workshop which really got us thinking about the origins of movement.

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Reflecting on the Festival and Next Choreography

And so the end of Next Choreography 2016 -17 has come, and what a year it has been !

The Festival was a vibrant, welcoming and slightly hectic day of dance, creativity and ummm cake … lots of cake. I was taken aback about how open minded and willing to participate the audience were, especially throughout the ‘welcome dance’ and the interesting lift experience.

I am overwhelmed by what I have learnt and achieved on the NC course at Siobhan Davies Dance, and so grateful to have this enriching opportunity. If you are interested in creating, meeting new people and up for a challenge I would highly recommend the NC course for next year. It is so much more than dance and choreography, so don’t let a lack of experience put you off – we had people from a whole host of different backgrounds from drama to art, which only made our experience more valuable. My perception of dance and choreography will never be the same again and I am so glad for this !

Thank you SDD so much and I can’t wait to join YAAG next year.

 

Festival 2 Festival 3 Festival 4
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Next Choreography Festival Rehearsals – With Martin Hargreaves

The NC festival rehearsals are in full swing, with only 3 weeks to go ! We have be running all over the Siobhan Davies building: from dancing in the lift, the changing rooms, the parlour and even outside in the court yard (let’s be grateful for the sunny weather over the past few days !). The Festival is looking to be a busy day, with a huge variety of choreographic pieces, art work, soundscapes and installations. The audience will also be welcomed to get involved with a workshop and several participatory pieces.

The NC cohort have also been working on an ensemble piece with guest artist Martin Hargreaves. This is focussing on the principle ideas of Signature, Theft & Translation and to what extent are these possibilities or what happens when we use these ideas within dance or choreography. Martin asked us to all devise a short phrase of movement, words or drawing which represented each of these words. Surprisingly, the greatest challenge for us as we approached this task was defining these words. Many of us soon realised that our personal ‘signature’  within movement, is perhaps also theft; we acquire gestures and habits from others and subconsciously are always ‘stealing’ –  we can never dance in a vacuum, as such. ‘Translation’ we decided felt less intentional or destructive than ‘Theft’, which to us symbolised taking movement or art that isn’t ours. Not simply copying, but also claiming ownership of it. Problems surrounding cultural appropriation were also stirred up with the idea of ‘Theft’ and how certain dance styles become appropriated by the mainstream media, with little regard to the original origins. Subsequent to devising our individual three pieces, we then worked in groups to combine our work. This lead to even more layers of watching other groups, recreating, remembering and recollecting their work, until we had several ‘meta’ works, all of which are intricate copies, translations and memories of other people’s work. And yes, it made our brains ache too when we did it!

The NC team have one more rehearsal with Martin this thursday before the dress run in two weeks time. I am interested to see how the piece will be finished, and if there are any more layers can add to the piece. By it’s nature, the spontaneity of the piece is a key element, so I am hoping that it won’t be a ‘finished’ or ‘polished’ piece as such, but rather a continuous exploration, even on the day itself.

If you’re keen to see this work, or simply have a passion for creativity, dance and community make sure you come to the NC Festival on Sunday 9th July at Siobhan Davies Dance.

Look forward to seeing you there !

Thank you,

Stella

Photo by Gorm Ashurst

Photo by Gorm Ashurst

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Copy and Pasting images in movement – With Lea Anderson

Pictures in fashion magazines look weird enough. But what if you cut off half the picture then recreated it ? This was the main focus of our NC session today, led by the amazing Lea Anderson.

Initially, the task seemed simple – look at the picture, copy it. Soon enough we realised the intricacy and precision involved in copying an image – the focus of the subject, the angle, the position of the feet, hands, shoulders, the expressions. To add to the complexity, the photos had all been cut and pasted in various ways – some were just the faces of models, others a knee and a hand, one was just feet. This left us with the freedom to decide what to do with the rest of the body if it was not specified in the photo.

The most startling result of this session was watching how different everyone one’s responses were. We worked in pairs, and everyone followed the same set of images in the exact same order. Yet, each pair has such completely contrasting ideas and methods of copying. Despite this, we could all identify the images each pair did, and when one pair were stuck and asked ‘Which picture comes next?’, we all knew exactly where in the sequence the pair were and which picture came after it. The images could be clearly seen in each pair but the transitions and context of them were completely individual.

This idea of sequence and identifying patterns has left me wondering at what point does one image end and another begin ? Can we ever copy ? What is it about each image that made it recognisable in the different pairs ?

Thank you Lea !

Stella

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Composition of objects

image1

Last Thursday, we were given a task to experiment with composing 5 objects we brought from home, as well as items Charlotte had brought in for us to use i.e. paper clips, post-it notes, pencils etc.

I didn’t really think about what I was composing but I knew I wanted to started from the corner and let the composition ‘grow’, after some tweaking and re-arranging I realised that this composition was a very strong reflection of me, my mind and my view on my life in recent times.

When everyone was finished composing we all looked at and discussed each others and found there was a sense of personality and an individual way of thinking and creating in everyone’s composition. Even though I found mine to be personal to me more than a reflection on how I work, I have realised that everything I create is always personal to me or something that is important to me. When creating a physical work, I like to work from the outside in, which shows from when I started working from the corners in this picture.

While looking at my composition, keywords were thrown out and there were a few that really stuck out to me: Frantic, placed, danger. I found it interesting that ‘placed’ was suggested between frantic and danger because even though I placed everything carefully down so that nothing would fall or move, I found the only objects to be purposely placed were the post-it notes and hand gel. As you can see, they are separated from everything and not connected to anything, for me this was a representation of myself. A feeling of vulnerability but also safety as it is separated from everything but cannot be harmed. The charger and lead, water bottle, and vaseline were a representation of my life, symbols for things that keep me alive, things I rely on, (the charger and lead – to stay connected and attached to people, the water bottle – health, vaseline – cleanliness, looking after myself), the paper clips being attached to the lead and clip is a representation that these are things I never want to let go of or lose. The pencils are the major thoughts and situations that invade my mind, even the green folder attachments represent the loose ends that are in the back of my mind but are still clear to me.

It’s honestly really scary to me how much the composition told me about myself because during the creative process, it was all subconscious and once I stopped and had a really good look at what I had been doing, it was only then I saw how much it related back to me. This task felt was very therapeutic and has actually helped me understand myself better surprisingly.

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Cultivating curiosity

After many months of preparations and recruitment, Next Choreography has started! The group met for the first time last tuesday evening and we started out by making our own manifesto for the year to come – as a group what feels important to us? what are the guidelines/frameworks that we will hope to live by? The process of constructing this brought up some interesting and I think useful conversations about care, support, space for failure and vulnerability, space for making a mess and getting lost – seeing these as essential ingredients for creativity to thrive.

As facilitator of the course, for me, my strongest aims for this course are about cultivating curiosity. If each person in the group walks away at the end of the year with a clearer idea about what their practice is, what it is that they’re really really curious about, hungry to keep investigating it and a few tools in their pockets to help with that journey, then I will be happy.

Tonight the group are going to do Walking Stories – my most recent piece of artistic work – a choreographed group audio walk for green spaces. Let’s see how that goes down!

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