Move, Then Observe

January 19, 2015


19 days into the year and I've been thinking quite a bit about my word for the year: motion. For starters, it's been about physical activity after a rather sedentary fall. I started regularly back to the gym in December and it was a huge mood booster (no surprise) and energizer. I mostly walk the track at the Y, thinking or listening to podcasts. Then I take a weekly yoga class or two and a Latin dance class (total entertainment since I lack rhythmic nuance) or I go into the studio to improvise. On days when the gym doesn't fit into my schedule (or into our car sharing schedule), I do quick yoga sessions at home. It's all become a good, nearly daily, habit. It's a relief to let my brain wander and rest from projects, and to manufacture some endorphins (HELL YES). And as I've experienced in the past, getting physical activity makes me more productive in other realms of my life...for instance, artistically.

Over the 3 plus years that I've been writing in this space I've been wrestling with how I want art  to fit into my life. In 2011 I was pretty sure I wanted a permanent break from art making-- it was feeling lonely, exhausting and expensive. In late 2012 we had our first Small Art, and I got excited about how these events were creating community, giving artists an opportunity to cross-pollinate audiences and ideas across disciplines-- and how these events required minimal funding/space/technical equipment. This led to making and presenting my own work in a similar way in 2013 and 14. But when I got done with my Small Dances project (March of last year), I was pretty tired of running rehearsals and heading up both the artistic and producer ends of things simultaneously (it sounds like such a great idea to switch venues for each performance, until you're rigging lights and worrying about spacing and sight lines each night, oh and selling tickets..). Open Field was just the break I needed: a chance to focus on presenting other artists, rather than my own artistic work, and (more importantly) an opportunity to work with a big team of people on making something happen. Resources outside of my own! Heck yes.

I've written that I wholeheartedly consumed the Open Field kool-aid. Working on a community-centered, participatory art project made me reconsider the importance of traditional venues and performance forms. Instead, I became more hooked on finding inclusive ways to bring people together and actively engage them around ideas or experiences.

So I've been thinking a lot about where participation and performance come together. This is a hard thing to research-- it takes time and money...and doesn't give you money. I have a lot of ideas as to how it might happen, but nothing concrete yet. So meanwhile I've been trying to focus less on obstacles and specifics and just get to work making something. Again: motion. This month motion has meant diving into rehearsals for BLUEPRINT PROJECT (which actually won't be performed until November), and making a little experiment for this month's 9x22 Dance/Lab. Rehearsals mean that something is happening. Even if I'm not doing my best word, I'm doing work. It's so good to move this muscle rather than wait to come up with a genius idea/project, because making art is nearly impossible: there's nothing neat or linear about it; it takes loads of practice. At this point I'm not making things with a focus (necessarily) on career; I'm making it because I like how hard it is, and how different it is from everything else I do in my day. It's like doing a crossword or eating broccoli.

Almost every creative person I know struggles with the balance between big picture and small, thinking and acting, grant writing and throwing themselves into the process. The thing that's been helpful for me to remember is that if I'm thinking too hard, I should probably just act. You know, when you're circling around and around an idea and not really landing just right on a solution? Just take some kind of action. It doesn't have to be the thing, it just has to be something. Move, then observe-- don't try to do both at the same time. 

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