Three Years Later: Part One

July 30, 2014

Oh, hello. I have been attempting to write this one post throughout the month. I word crunch/craft, then delete, then try a new approach...all which points me to believing that I've made the stakes unnecessarily high, or that maybe this is just touchy feel-y territory that will never feel properly articulated until something like ten years from now.

Who wants to wait ten years from now?

So, I'll just jump in. This is a photo of Ben with our friends' French Bulldog, Sophie. It's probably a good place to begin, though entirely irrelevant to this post:

It's a blog:
I began blogging publicly just over three years ago. It started with a month-long series of posts (which I have yet to reformat) called 30 Days of Awesome, for which I did something fun every day in an attempt to feel more happiness. Because, I was really depressed. I'd spent six years actively trying to balance making a living with making performance. Sometimes I was successful at this juggling, and sometimes less so. I made money through a combination of teaching dance and theater, nannying, and waiting tables. I spent the rest of my time hoping that I'd be able to climb the grant ladder. Meaning, rehearsing and thinking up projects. In 2011 I received my first significant grant to make an evening-length work, and decided that This Was It: a pivotal opportunity to show audiences and colleagues that I could make great things! Unsurprisingly, this high-stakes mentality led to a whole host of horrible anxiety and self-doubt, especially as I threw work and planning a wedding into the mix. I second-guessed ideas, I panicked at rehearsal, and I generally didn't sleep, since I was continually imagined what THEY would say after viewing my performance disaster. I hated the piece because I hated the experience-- made only worse when a friend was hit by a car leaving the performance one night. He eventually died. A couple weeks later the new manager at the restaurant where I worked fired me without warning or reason, other than the advice that I should really smile more. And this pretty much felt like the ULTIMATE failure, because I'm an unfortunately dedicated people pleaser/rule follower. I was all how wasn't I smiling more?, rather than recognizing a bat shit crazy person when I saw one. My anxiety turned to depression, and there I was, sad, broke, and burnt out. Also, hellllo shame: I was convinced that every artist I knew was talking about my massive failure. Probably in groups. Probably accompanied by head shakes of disbelief as to how anything could have been so awful.

Ob la di:
After stumbling upon this article and realizing how burnt out on art making I was, I decided to take a break. Which felt like giving up. I'd studied classical voice for 10 years, majored in theater, then made dance-based performance-- WHO WAS I WITHOUT THESE THINGS NOW????? I felt suddenly skill-less. How would I find a career without first knowing Excel? What did I like, other than making art? Did I even like making art? Why didn't I have any hobbies?

Though I've been extremely lucky in the friend department, I've had less success at having close, honest relationships with other artists-- the kind where we talk about the good and the hard of making art, and what we're figuring out along the way. Why? The usual suspects: feeling self-conscious about my work, assuming that everyone else has it figured out, forgetting that this is even an option. But in 2012, this was a big part of what helped me get back on my feet (along with tending to my depression with therapy and exercise). If you've read this blog, I'm sort of a broken record of love for the people who let me interview them, formally and informally. Breaking out of my isolation banished any lingering jealously I felt towards other artists. I benefitted from the resources they shared, and started advocating for their projects. I became something of a Jealous Curator. Not only did this introduce me to a whole new community of people, it helped me remember what I loved-- creative people, their work, community-making. I thought and wrote a lot about smarter ways of making art. It turns out that someone got into my head and wrote an extremely articulate version of many of the things I've been pondering-- you can download and read it for free over here

[Continued, soon!]

Experiments and Failure

July 18, 2014

Whether playing catch with lemons or putting 100 choreographers into 4x4 foot spaces, the summer has been full of experimental Open Field projects. I constantly wonder if people will show up to participate and watch these events. When they do, I wonder where they come from and who these people are. How did they know to bring their mitt for the catch game? Obviously I credit the internet (and of course the Walker) with a certain amount of promotional assistance, but sometimes I think that word-of-mouth and the spectacle of action on the field are far more powerful. Regardless: they came! we shared! the experiment worked!

And sometimes it doesn't quite, and this is valuable, too. One thing I will certainly take a way from this work and apply to my own art practice is the importance of looking at outcome with a certain amount of objectivity: it's not personal, it's an experiment. Open Field is made possible by an amazing team of people that take on the grunt work and brainstorming of each programming day. Maybe sharing the responsibility is a way of taking failure less personally and even examining what failure means in the first place. This can only be a great thing-- when we feel safer taking risks, we risk more often.

Earlier this week I sat down to chat with dance makers Monica Thomas and Theresa Madaus for an article I wrote about their performance trio, Mad King Thomas. I've gushed before about the gobs of respect and admiration I have for these ladies (including third group member Tara King), both as artists and humans. Their work never stays complacent; it's always taking big risks. How do they do this without continually high blood pressure? Theresa talked about two important tools for moving their work forward:

1) Framing each project as an experiment
2) Allowing space for failure


I'd add to this: a safety net of people who remind you that you're great, regardless of whether the experiment flops or not (and maybe a few good collaborators to share the risk with).

What helps you feel comfortable with risk-taking? What was your biggest flop?

Art Geeking

July 10, 2014

Chris Holman rehearses 4x4 =100 Dancing Outside. Photo by Laurie Van Wieren. 
Salad greens and 100 choreographers-- I'm in my art geek happy space this week, thanks to projects by Alison Knowles and Laurie Van Wieren. You can read more about them over here

Summertime Goals

July 7, 2014

It's a list that hopefully allows space for a messy combination of leisure and productivity:
  • Enjoy summer things: boats, invented cocktails on the porch, bike rides, cabin time, the farmer's market
  • Soak in the last two months of Open Field & BE FULLY PRESENT 
  • Occasionally weed in the back yard
  • Read those two books on money-- maybe over the above-mentioned cocktail
  • Write the grant you keep debating (you'll be glad you gave it a shot later)
  • Book some studio space
  • Move more, think less

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