Physically and conceptually the work investigated ideals of beauty, ability and identity based in socially imagined perfections of form and singularities that rarely exist in actual bodies. The work examined difference as a virtue, finding the unique beauty in the idiosyncrasy and transmutability of each individual performer. Much of the process also addressed the extension of subjectivity into the material world through bodies’ relationships with objects, clothing, and other bodies. In the meetings between performers we highlighted the synergistic necessity and intersubjective complexity of difference, implicitly proposing that the audience re-consider their own definitions, constructions and limitations of identity, beauty and empowerment.
Intention of this Paper
This paper looks at issues of perception and duration in the creation process and various performances of Dances for Non/Fictional Bodies and their effects for the viewer. In particular I examine the project’s attempt to present variations of the same performance material in a variety of different viewing contexts with different mobilizations of the viewer’s gaze and disciplinary expectations. I articulate ways that durational strategies for mobilizing performers’ experience and affecting viewers’ perception were utilized in the creation of the work and look at how these processes established varyingsensory modes for both performers and audience and their relations to each other in performance. I propose that various presentational contexts afforded differences in the audience’s relation to time and perceptual experience and theorize how these differences were instrumental in offering audiences a variety of embodied aesthetic experiences.
I will be drawing on the work of a number of theorists to help me think through the perception/reception of the piece. Henri Bergson’s concepts of perception, memory, duration and attentive recognition and Gilles Deleuze extension of these ideas offer useful ways of conceiving the reception of cultural and aesthetic images. I will attempt to extend Laura Marks’ very useful mobilization of these theories in terms of film reception into the experience of live performance. André Lepecki’s appropriations of the ‘slower ontology’ of recent modes of contemporary dance and the concept of the ‘still act’ are both helpful in thinking through relations to time and the political potential of these relations. Alva Noë and James Gibson’s ideas on enactive perception; Susan Leigh Foster’s work on the mechanics of kinesthetic experience and performance theorist Erika Fischer-Lichte’s work on material performativity help me to think through some of the specifics physical mechanics of how these various relations to time may function.
The Artistic Team
For the primary aspects of Dances for Non/Fictional Bodies I collaborated with an international team of 6 performers, including performers with and without disabilities and a wide range of technical skills. They were: Jörg Müller (FR), dancer, musician and Juggler; Claire Cunningham (Scotland) Crutch Dancer, Aerialist, Vocalist and Advocate/Speaker on arts and disability issues; Maria Francesca Scaroni (Italy), Dancer Performer; David Toole (UK) Dancer and Performer; Bridge Markland; (Berlin) Drag Artist, Dancer and Performer; and Composer/MusicianMathias Herrmann (Berlin). Celebrated performance artist/author Guillermo Gomez-Peña also participated in a role that we named Dramaturge/Provocateur; experimental videographer Yoann Trellu made wonderful video imagery that became quite central to the work; our UC Davis “Costume Whisperer”, Kaino Hopper and Berlin costume and scenic designer Daniela Petrozzi contributed many magical objects and structures that informed the work immensely.
Multiple Presentational Modes
Dances for Non/Fictional Bodies was envisioned from the beginning as having a number of different manifestations and was conceived in an interdisciplinary, modular format, allowing for the piece to be broken into sub-sections capable of being adapted to a variety of different presentational contexts, spaces and presenting budgets, as well as allowing for the work to produce a variety of documents and archives to be presented in visual or digital art contexts. This was motivated both by my personal interest in exploring the differences in presentational contexts and by the hope that flexibility might yield more possibilities for the work to be seen. These iterations included:
- A STAGED VERSION – A full-evening interdisciplinary performance work with 6 performers lasting 120 minutes
- 2 GALLERY/INSTALLATION VERSIONS – several longer, time-based live-art installations with the same performers lasting 3 to 4 hours
- A COMMUNITY OUTDOOR INSTALLATION PERFORMANCE – A larger site-specific, community-based installation event including material developed with a group of 16 local artists in San Francisco using methodologies from our initial explorations.
- ACTVITIES & WORKSHOPS – Gravity also offered several supplementary participatory/community activities, including physically inclusive classes and workshops addressing collaboration, dance/performance and the body; a film showing and a symposium on interdisciplinary live art and physical diversity.
The project spanned over three years from initial planning stages to final performances. Initial rehearsal residencies and workshops began in Berlin in the fall of 2009 with a major residency and initial workshop presentations at the Mondavi Center at the University of California, Davis in the Spring of 2010. The development of the work continued with a two-month creation residency at Uferstudios in Berlin in the fall of2010 culminating in a rolling world premiere in Potsdam and Berlin, Germany in December of 2010 and in February of 2011 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. While in residence at YBCA the work was presented both as a staged work in the Center’s ‘Forum’ theater space, and as an installation in the Center’s Visual Art Gallery and Lobby. The piece was also co-produced and presented by Tigertail Productions/Florida Dance Association, (Miami), DA DA Fest (Liverpool,UK), and Performance Art Dance Laboratory (San Diego).
A central concern in Dances for Non/Fictional Bodies, and in fact much of my work in recent years has involved different strategies of dealing with time. Coming from a fairly traditional training in dance and theater, my earliest concerns as a maker were that I should never bore an audience. Anything that I presented should hold their attention, rapt and unconscious of the passing of time for the duration of the event. To look at one’s watch during a performance was the surest sign that the artist had failed. Adding a healthy dose of rock-and-roll aesthetics, and a four-year stint working in the French circus, I found myself creating dense, multi-layered, action-packed spectacle that attempted to hold attention almost literally by brute force. Occasional interruptions in the pace were justified only in order to hold attention through longer trajectories by creating rhythmic variation or to give the audience (and the dancers) a chance to catch their breath. At the foundation of these values a mastery of the viewer’s attention was never questioned as being of the utmost importance.
In this framing of time the audience member mobilizes a kind of attention that expects to be drawn into a sensorially engaging chain of events andunderstands that the beginning and end of this event are not chosen by them. They are implicitly absolved of responsibility for choosing how long to be in relation to the spectacle, but carry a certain expectation that their attention will be rewarded with engagement, pleasure, intellectual stimulation. They can complain or grumble about it being too long or short, but they will come into the space and sit and watch from beginning to end and clap when it is finished. While they are in fact free to leave whenever they want, the act of leaving has social resonance in that it is perceived as judgment and or rejection of the proposition of the performance. The general structure of this type of event is usually related to, or rooted in, a sequence of cause and effect relations or a linear narrative that resembles what Gilles Deleuze refers to as action images in his works on cinema (Deleuze Cinema 1)Deleuze Cinema 1)The action image tends to represent a stable sequential space wherein events progress logically from situation to situation changed by recognizable actions [page] he posits the Action image as the main staple of commercial Hollywood film that tends toward positioning viewers as passive consumers of an entertainment commodity.
Deleuze’s critique of the action image is reminiscent of Guy Debord’scritique in The Society of the Spectacle. Debord’s lament of the fetishistic commodification of time by industrial capitalism and the concomitant loss of what he somewhat sentimentally names cyclical time remain central and useful in Marxist and Situationist critique of contemporary culture. With an appreciation of Debord I would like to borrow and twist his naming and critique of ‘Spectacular Time’ (Debord, 112) and name the practice of time I have articulated above as ‘Spectacle Time’ in relation to my own experience of performance. While I want to draw on Debord’s Marxist/Situationist critique of the spectacular commodity, I want to leave a little space for slippage as I find that in my post 1968, post Berlin wall world, my practices exist alongside of, partially reliant on and inevitably penetrated by regimes of commodification and subjectification . I want the concept of spectacle time to hold a sense of usefulness as a tactic for addressing a certain kind of popular audience. I want it to retain an awareness of Debord’s critique of “Spectacular Time” without carrying with it the full ideological weight of that critique. I want to be able to reverse critiques of performance as subjecting the performer to the objectifying gaze of the viewer and to embrace a considered mobilization of spectacle time as an empowering and useful tool for commanding the attention of a broad(er), popular public.*
*My collaborative work with Maria Scaroni Symmetry Study #14: (re)presentation is a good example of one potential mobilization of spectacle time. While the work embraces a variety of durational strategies and addresses sophisticated issues of embodiment, it presents images in such a way as to draw viewers into rapt attention using a variety of spectacular strategies including subtle narrative structures, haptically visual erotics, film and emotionally suggestive music. As of this writing the count on internet viewings of the trailer for Study #14 is approaching 300,000 viewers.
Dancing Slower - 'Still-Acts'
Perhaps because of my own interdisciplinary, intercontinental migrations in recent years I began to be aware of large variations in the attention of audiences as I crossed national, cultural, and disciplinary borders. The cultural constructed-ness of attention and therefore the potential for deconstructing or re-structuring of practices of attention began to intrigue me. In 2001, having worked almost exclusively in a 500-seat circus tent in France for three years (truly a setting for spectacle time) I found myself longing for the patience and attention to physical nuance that was afforded by performing choreographic work in small black box theaters or studio settings. In my next creation, fallen, one of my stated process goals was to not be afraid of boring an audience. I was pleasantly surprised that even as I took more time to let images resonate, my audiences did not report less engagement with the work, but more engagement on more levels. Encouraged, I continued in this vein, allowing myself greater latitudes of choice in how I used time in my work. Of course these realizations were not unique or arrived at in isolation. Work that I was seeing and theory that I was reading both affirmed the possibility and suggested the importance of a shift in how body-based performance might exist in time. Choreographers such as Jerome Bel and Meg Stuart were utilizing time in very different ways. Dance scholar André Lepecki, writing in Exhausting Dance about recent slowing tendencies in contemporary dance borrows from Gaston Bachelard to refer to this recent dance’s “slower ontology” (Lepecki, 15) and propose that the endless flows of modern dance might be seen as emblematic of other products of modernism such as colonialism and global capitalist exploitation. Lepecki borrows the concept of the “still-act” from anthropologist Nadia Seremetakis (15) that suggests that the slowing down of dance (and modernist activity in general) in order to ask what it is actually accomplishing might not be such a bad thing. In Lepecki’s word’s “The still acts because it interrogates economies of time…” (15)
Time and Agency
In my own experience, merely slowing down performance has not always seemed productive either. Painfully enduring several time-based events that felt rooted in the determination to provoke the viewer simply by out-waiting them, I began to ask myself about the dynamics of my engagement and look at why I could be very patient and engaged with some durational experiments and not with others. I asked myself how I might create my own relation to time when watching another’s work, or what kind of action I might take to maintain my own sense of agency when in a less than satisfying durational experience. My work, Performance Research Experiment #1 with Jörg Müller addressed this issue by offering a structure wherein audience members were able to influence the duration of each section of the piece, effectively choosing for themselves (and not inconsequentially for each other) how long to remain present with a given performance action. In performing this work in a variety of settings, ranging from a street theater festival in Marseilles to a small experimental dance space in San Francisco some patterns of attention and engagement revealed themselves. 15 year old youths in a banlieue of Marseilles demonstrated much less patience for, or interest in, the work than middle aged gay men in San Francisco. Americans in general signaled their lack of engagement sooner than German audiences. But in every situation, the work had the effect of prompting audiences to become aware of their own attention and its dynamics, and gave them effective means of shaping their own viewing experience and that of other viewers, often provoking spontaneous discussion between audience members and complicating individuals understanding of possible modes of attending to performance; revealing that multiple durations might exist in proximity or simultaneous to one another. A variety of audience members in multiple situations consistently reported that their engagement with the material was increased when they experienced choice and agency as to how (or how long) they experienced the work.
Time Theory – Duration
Bergson’s notion of duree or duration, which is central to Deleuze notion of time-image cinema, depends upon a person experiencing the passing of time.[Marks 63]
Theorist Henri Bergson wrote extensively about duration as a central facet of experience(Bergson). Deleuze, describing Bergson’s use of the term (durée in the French) cites Bergson’s example of taking a walk and sitting by the side of a river where you watch a river flow by and a bird fly over as you sit there for a while. Each of these events is a duration and has duration relative to the other. While you sit you see an object in the water pass you which forms a unit of your experience of time. The time the bird takes to pass through your range of vision is a different singular section of time, and each of them layers over the other singular experience of the time that you are sitting. (Deleuze Bergsonism) Different than measured clock time, each of these durations can be experienced as a single unit of time or as part of a greater whole and each one references each of the others in a different way, our experience and the various movements of the universe sliding througheach other. Deleuze muses on Bergson’s ambivalence throughout his career, from one work to the next, on whether time is unified or multiple. Is it all one big duration with only little sections of time like eddies in the river, moving back and forth within it? Or is there no all-encompassing unified durational whole?
In a performance context the question of whether time is metaphysically passing at a different rate for one viewer than another may also in fact be what Bergson might have called a ‘false problem’, but my experience of duration in various performance contexts does seem variable and malleable. In the works that followed Performance Research Experiment #1 I began to address this malleability of duration and the ways that each performer’s sense of duration(s) might interweave to create a larger singular duration in the work.
Precursor – The Symmetry Project
Much of my thinking about durational practice has been shaped by work and conversations with my collaborator, artist and dancer Maria Francesca Scaroni. In our series of works together, The Symmetry Project, issues of duration and differences in the attention afforded by various time and space frames were central to our ongoing investigation. A desire to address more subtle energies and states in, around and between bodies and an interest in experiences that took muck longer arcs of time to develop pushed us to try a variety of experiments ranging from the capturing of 1/1000 of a second with the camera of collaborator Sven Hagolani to a four hour long symmetrical trance state in a visual art gallery, and the folding in of time afforded by Regina Teich’s editing of two hours of shooting (and god knows how many hours of editing) into a 5 minute digital video work. Within the Symmetry Project we were experimenting with creating local systems of duration within each work asking ourselves how we might use different presentational contexts to foreground a variety of concerns regarding embodied experience and culture. While there is not space in this document to detail the experiments of The Symmetry Project much of the methodology that we used and thinking that informed us in Dances For Non/Fictional Bodies was developed in there.
Researching Time, Attention and Performance in the Dances for Non/Fictional Bodies Process
As we began our first major rehearsal process at UC Davis, time was of the essence so to speak. Time framed most things that we did. Many durations layered each other in our minds and bodies: a seven-week working period; daily rehearsals of four to six hours; and several research exercises whose primary organizational element was a time frame.
One of our primary repeated experiments was an exercise examining the dynamics of performance, based in Erving Goffman’s definition of performance as, “…all the activity of an individual which occurs during a period marked by his continuous presence before a particular set of observers and which has some influence on the observers.” (Goffman, 22) (my emphasis ) In this exercise, which I have been developing as a teaching and training tool for several years, participants work in duets with one participant ‘performing’ and the other participant constituting that ‘performance’ through the act of observing for a specific period of time. In our process we worked with 30 minute and one-hour durations of observing, where the only framing of the experience was the time and the agreement to observe and remain physically present before that observer. I gave instructions to the ‘performers’ to investigate various actions and states ranging from the most banal to those that might be engaging or entertaining to the observer. Both parties were instructed to monitor the effects of various activities and to register and report on levels of attention, their awareness of time and any other effects of being observed/observing. My collaborators and I tried to test the boundaries of what might be ‘performed’ in the exercise. Some tried to sleep in front of the observer, or ignore them while carrying out mundane or purely functional tasks such as reading a book, eating or using the toilet. Some ‘performers’ played with engaging the observer directly by performing for them, either displaying skills or entertaining tricks or telling stories, engaging the observer in conversation or making physical contact or inviting them into physical activity.
Much of my intention with this exercise was to examine the effects of the observer’s gaze on each of the participants. I have written about this in some detail in my Masters thesis, drawing on disability theorists Lennard Davis, William Ian Miller and Rosemarie Garland Thompson about the effects of visibility on experiences of physical difference or disability. In each of their writing they affirm the ‘unsettling’ (Miller, x) physically affecting quality (Davis)of these visual exchanges and suggest the possibility of change in viewers’ experience of otherness that Garland-Thompson even goes so far as to name ‘visual activism’.(Garland-Thomson, 193) While this was one of the primary foci of our original work, here I want to think a bit more through the effects of time on the participants’ relation in this exercise.
In Matter and Memory Bergson describes what he calls ‘attentive recognition’ which he proposes as one of the primary interactions between memory and perception. I find this concept to be quite useful in thinking about what transpires over time between a viewer and a performer.
“…attentive recognition is a kind of circuit, in which the external object yields to us deeper and deeper parts of itself, as our memory adopts a correspondingly higher degreeof tension in order to project recollections towards it.” (Bergson, 145)
As I understand Bergson’s meaning, the act of attentive recognition needs time to be produced. The ‘circuit’ is amplified through the durational continuation of perception and memory. For Bergson all perceptual experience is made meaningful through comparison of perceptions with memory. Each moment of perception is constantly folding into memory to support and be projected into each next moment of perception. This accreting body of memories and the ‘tension’ between memory and perception require time to develop and they also shape our subjective experience of time into particular durations or arcs of awareness. The more time we spend in this tension, the richer a reservoir of memory we have to make choices with, in relation to the object of our observation.
Perhaps I should take a moment to clearly state that these exercises were not coming out of any Bergsonian theorizing or time. I had not read any Bergson at the point that we were doing these exercises. Our intention to take more time came from an intuitive sense that staying in these extended attentive states with each other was affording interesting experiences on the part of each participant. Nuanced details of behavior became noticeable even in the most mundane activities. The ‘performers’ gift of permission to observe them allowed for the reception of details of physical experience not often accessible in normal social relations. Our interrogation of ‘economies of time’ produced more nuanced qualities of attentive recognition. My collaborators reported surprise at their levels of engagement with the observation of simple tasks. Their sense of time often passed more quickly than they had imagined. At least in our research mode, our attention to, and recognition of, each other was greatly enhanced. Whether or not we could translate these effects to a paying audience in our performance remained to be seen. Looking back through the filter of a Bergsonian reading of these activities now though, I see that these periods of attentive recognition between observer and performer also helped to form subjective experiences of duration. These experiences of duration began to be useful in structuring our choices and experiences throughout the creation process.
Another of our time-based exploratory devising activities is something I call an “Open Set” of improvisation, a period of time ranging from 30 minutes to 2 hours wherein we would improvise activities ranging from dancing, or creating physical images to executing mundane tasks or interactions exploring our thematic interests. These “Open Sets” might have prompts or constraints as open as “change costumes at least three times” or, “ Do exactly what you did in the last Set to the extent that this is possible,” or “create an ideal score/sequence of events for yourself and then execute it, negotiating and incorporating intersections and contradictions with other peoples scores as you encounter them.” One of the most useful constraints, and one that we continued to return to was “Spend half of your time watching someone else.” This constraint could be described as prompting the performer to alternate between the role of subject and object* in the transaction of attentive recognition as well as requiring them to become aware of each span of attention as a duration within the larger durational system. In our experience, the attention that we began to pay to our own perception made that perception available to others as an object of performance in and of itself. The layers of duration in perception and memory began to intersect each other, not so much in linear sequences, but in structures more like what Walter Benjamin refers to as a non-linear ‘constellation’ of events (Benjamin and Tiedemann) or Gilles Deleuze describes as a crystal image, wherein, “…the original point at which actual and virtual image reflect each other produces, in turn, a widening circuit of actual and virtual images like a hall of mirrors.” (Deleuze Cinema 2-the Time Image, 76) If we could successfully draw our audience into this crystalline constellation we might enable them to also engage in a deepening attentive recognition of our actions.
*This alternation builds on the already complex notion of subject and object in a performance transaction. Laura Mulvey has positioned the performer as an observed body that is objectified by the viewer’s (ostensibly male) gaze, whilemore recently critics such as Amelia Jones propose the possibility of body based art to “overtly solicit spectatorial desires (in order to) unhinge the very deep structures and assumptions embedded in the formalist model of art evaluation.” (Jones, 1998).
Guillermo Gomez-Peña's 'Radical Pedagogy' and ‘Installation Time.’
Guillermo Gómez-Peña, our resident dramaturge/provocateur proposed another performance exercise from his ‘Radical Pedagogy’ work that helped us to develop a different sense of time than the kind of attention grabbing ‘Spectacle time’ that most of us as performers had been trained in. Guillermo referred to this exercise as the Triptych, In the exercise one performer would choose something from our supply of objects and costumes and would take a position based on the object, intuitively striking a ‘pose’ that felt potent or meaningful to them. A second performer would also choose an object and join them, responding to the first position and extending or complementing or resisting it. Eventually a third would join the sculptural construction as well. Guillermo would ask us to then remove ourselves or play with replacing one of the original participants after they left. Within the exercise Guillermo asked us to find a physical tone that was not moving too much, but was allowing the construction to ‘breathe’, without moving out of it. As I embodied these different constructions or scenes I could feel a desire to move once the initial relationship had been established.
Guillermo commented that he had often watched dancers respond this way. Echoing the critique articulated earlier in this essay, in his opinion dancers were conditioned always to be moving and often did not rest in images or relationships in performance long enough for them to resonate and be received by the viewer. As we repeated this exercise over time I found myself beginning to have a new sense of how long I could be in a particular type of physical relation. It was important to feel the quality of the position or relationship breathing, that it should not be stiff or frozen. I began to sense that stillness allowed for the deepening and intensifying of the recognition of the relation by an outside observer. Bergson’s model of the way that perception and memory work in tandem helps me to think about how longer durations of time might facilitate this deepening experience. As I view Bridge or David in their black gloves feeling Maria’s body through the yellow raincoat. The image is first perceived, felt, ‘read’ and then each subsequent awareness of that interaction is re-read or re-felt through the growing body of previous moments. Each little shift in the relation is read in contrast/comparison with the last one. If Bridge has gently approached Maria to make the first contact then the continuation of the contact will be felt through the filter of that initial gentleness. If a new action is not felt to negate it, that initial gentleness will extend and intensify, confirming my initial appraisal of the act over time. If on the other hand, Bridge’s quality or action shifts quickly, the original quality is questioned or supplanted. As in Bergson’s model each new perception is experienced in dialog with the growing reservoir of memory and in turn becomes a part of that memory.
Clearly some attention must also be paid to point at which the information begins to fatigue or decay. Like most situations of resonance, vibration or oscillation begins to diminish with time. Asking ourselves how long an image would continue to resonate visually became key to our choices around the duration of each activity.
As we continued to work and went back from these exercises of Guillermo’s to our own “Open-Set” improvisations I could feel a different sense of time available to me. Moments when I would normally have allowed a relationship to morph or pass on to another action I would feel through the current action and stay with it, allowing it to breathe enough to stay alive without moving on to something else. It is very much my sense that this sense of ‘time’ is informed by Guillermo’s having come out of the Visual Art based performance world. I therefore want to call this sort of time ‘Installation Time’. It trusts that our perception of an image can re-cycle against itself in relative stillness and against each new moment of our own perception of it.
UC Davis - "U"Club Installation
Our first exploration of installation time was a three-hour durational presentation in the studios of the University Club at UC Davis. This first installation was very exploratory. It was our first public performance of the material and we left ourselves free to improvise with images and material we had been working with.
The evening began with all five performers lying still on the floor and after several minutes slowly, one by one getting up and taking off or putting on clothing and taking up objects and slowly transforming from their “non/fictional’ self to some form of “fictional body”. Maria Scaroni donned a yellow raincoat and roller skates and skated throughout the building, intermittently passing through the main performance space of the University Club and then being sighted out side the space through the large windows facing the street and courtyard. David Toole put on fake black costume glasses literally framing and drawing our attention to his gaze. He wore a set of thick black protective industrial gloves and proceeded to be drawn through the space as if in alternation between his gaze and the gloves. His vision fixing on an object (which might also be a person) and then his desire to touch the thing he had fixed his gaze on pulling him across the space and eventually into contact with it. Jörg Müller walked into the audience and invited the spectators to hold hands with him and each other. This developed on this first night into a 15 or 20-minute extended contact dance with one spectator. Claire Cunningham retreated to the kitchen space behind the main U-club playing space and began an extended exploration in a Silver HazMat suit with a small Godzilla doll and a string of Christmas lights. I sat in pajamas and read books about bodies to the audience. The audience, encouraged by Guillermo and several volunteers followed different performers through different rooms, their own movement activating and shaping their perceptions. Their own movement through the night creating unique image sequences and building individual reservoirs of memory with which to engage the next moment’s perception.
All of these images required a certain amount of time to really develop. Without the container of the installation as a durational concept we would not have felt the freedom to explore at the pace and in the detail that we did. Invoking installation-time we freed ourselves from total responsibility for rewarding the attention of the audience. Each of the above mentioned images would remain in the work for the entire scope of the project, but each would be changed and morphed by each of the different time contexts that we presented the piece in.
At the end of three hours the performers and viewers stood in a circle surrounding me and illuminated by a string of Christmas lights that had earlier illuminated Claire in the kitchen with her Godzilla puppet. The lights now powered by a generator attached to my bicycle generator - an odd and slightly ironic glowing ritual space that nonetheless resonated with echoes of summer camp campfires and perhaps even older circles in nights long past. This group image, which would not ever repeat again in our many iterations of this material was a collaboratively created by the audience and us coming together to close the many durations of time that we had each flowed through in one final act of moving and perceiving each other.
First Staged Iteration – Mondavi Studio Theater
Following this first invocation of installation time we went on to stage the material in a 50 minute presentation as the second act of a two-part evening in the Studio Theater at the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Arts. This performance carried with it echoes of our experiments with duration, but very different constraints, associations and expectations were engaged by the more standard theatrical context. Although the audience was seated on two sides creating multiple viewing angles and allowing them to see each other, they were not invited to stand or change locations during the work. We did, however, play with the expectations of spectacle-time, first by being already present in the space as the audience entered and found their seats. Secondly, we took many of the same actions on the stage that we had in the installation and while we didn’t take as much time as we had in the installation, we pressed the boundaries of how long an audience in Davis, California is used to watching subtle yet focused activity at a dance event. In our initial outing we had all flexed some durational muscles that helped us as a group to feel more confident about allowing images on the stage to last longer than we might have before. Our visual address of the audience also remained. They could see us seeing them and this reflexive seeing and being seen was accentuated by the less experimental theatrical setting. The possibilities of attentive recognition that I have previously outlined remained and the density of the durational experiment seemed to fold into the staged event. Bergson talks about how memory ‘contracts’ to bring itself into contact with the present moment and I have a sense of this having taken place in our work. The hours of patient watching contracted into moments on stage that folded all of that previous experience into itself to give a rich sense of density to the present moment for both performer and audience. So while we trimmed and tightened our work and selected and shaped images to respond to a more spectacular context I believe we began to bring the contracted tension of our previous installation-time experiment into the spectacle-time frame, forcing it also to oscillate and deepen the audience’s attention.