Translations: Between Images, Words and Movement

The ability to explore multiple subjectivities if only for a brief time is refreshing and enriching. I had the opportunity these past few months to step outside of my studio practice and engage in a couple of inter-disciplinary collaborations. One was with movement and the other with words. Both were special and revealing in many ways. It is amazing how many connections one can draw by merely looking at the world through a different lens. Our materials and modes are a medium to converse, connect, collaborate and add to the richness that surrounds us. 

Dance and movement:

Dara Larson, a fellow artist and I were approached by Sumana Mandala, the creative director of a Bharathanatyam (classical Indian) dance group- Stage Sanchaar. She wanted to create a dance production along with her fellow dancers from Austin, Texas, inspired by our artwork. The theme chosen was "change" in all its permutations. My works Archetypes and Negotiate were included and reinterpreted in a different context and it seemed like they found new meaning when juxtaposed with movement and music. The end result was a multilayered conversation on how we all choose to navigate change.  Moving bodies, stomping feet, geometrical poses and mudras (hand signs) combined with the rhythm of vocal dance notations and music seemed to envelop the small theater with energy. The connection between all the bodies in the space- audience and performers alike, was palpable and powerful and came close to what could be described as an "art-happening".

Poetry:

Usha Akella an exceptional poet and long time friend asked me to collaborate with her on an upcoming magazine issue she was co-editing. This particular issue is based on Ekphrastic poetry by diaspora poets. Ekphrasis is in itself an inter-disciplinary construct as it asks the poet to respond to a visual artwork. After sending out calls to several artists and poets in the Indian diaspora, an issue on Muse India, an online literary magazine was published. Perusing through the issue, looking at visuals and poetic responses I am so impressed by the potential of such collaboration between artists and writers.  

In both these instances I am struck by how "craft" can be used to communicate. Whether it is coded movement or word-smithing, each practice relies on a certain "language" or skill specific to their particular discipline no matter what the subject is. It was interesting to see line, shape, color, composition, balance, rhythm, symbol - all recognizably visual tools to me, being used by dancers and writers. As a visual artist, I was stunned at the height an idea could reach when given free reign regardless of the medium we choose. 

"Collaboration" is an area which is often discussed in recent years, especially in the visual arts. These two collaborations reminded me of true potential. As artists we often struggle to retain our voice and we know conceptually that we need to let go of authorship once the work is out there in the world and let it connect with the audience. However, it is rare that we actually see the results and the power of how an artwork impacts and grows within others. I feel grateful for these opportunities which gave me an insight into how the audience views my work and actually experience creative responses to it. 

Here are links to Stage Sanchaar, Muse India: diaspora issue, Dara Laron's website:

Stage Sanchaar

Muse India: Literary Journal

Dara Larson

Embrace: A conversation about change (dance performance)

Redline- Community

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to hear and document Redline artists talk about their work in an "in-house" professional development exercise to practice public speaking. Each artist had 3 minutes to explain their work and got 3 minutes of feedback on their presentation skills. This was the brainchild of our fabulous AIR coordinator and fellow mentor: Dara Larson. It was a fantastic exercise in articulating our thoughts behind our work in concise yet descriptive ways. 

Some of us may have been excited, some may have been nervous or terrified but by the end of it, we all seemed to have bonded through this act of sharing- of work, thoughts, struggles and quests. It is always so wonderful to hear about the thoughts, processes, intent and research that goes into an artist's work. Everyone of us walked away feeling relieved that its over but also a little bit more empowered and invigorated by our connection to each other.

Featured below is work by current Redline emerging artists-

Learn more about Redline Milwaukee at http://www.redlineartmke.org/

Skully Gustavson

Skully Gustavson

Natalie Schmitting

Natalie Schmitting

Jody Emery

Jody Emery

Katie Ryan

Katie Ryan

Miles Buss

Miles Buss

Cynthia Brinich- Lanlois

Cynthia Brinich- Lanlois

Jamie Bruchman

Jamie Bruchman

Nina Ghanbarzadeh

Nina Ghanbarzadeh

Luke Farley  

Luke Farley

 

Carley Huibregtse

Carley Huibregtse

Sue Lawton

Sue Lawton

Latitude (work in progress)

Latitude is defined as "the angular distance of a place north or south of the earth's equator, or of a celestial object north or south of the celestial equator, usually expressed in degrees and minutes."or "scope for freedom of action or thought"

In Latitude I continue my exploration in memory and place . The shapes are digital photographs, fragmented, rearranged and transferred onto paper that has red thread embedded in them. I continue these threads outside of the picture plane to create  arrangements that allude to place and mapping.  (Image at the end of this post) In this work the word latitude refers to both the geography as well as the latitude I take with the images I fragment.

I am always going back and forth between making and research and forming a dialogue between the two. One philosopher that I continue to be inspired by is Walter Benjamin. I came across this short passage by him that I absolute love. He has a way of finding words to describe so many abstract feelings and thoughts. Enjoy!

Walter Benjamin: Excavation and Memory

Language has unmistakably made plain that memory is not an instrument for exploring the past, but rather a medium. It is the medium of that which is experienced, just as the earth is the medium in which ancient cities lie buried. He who seeks to approach his own buried past must conduct himself like a man digging. Above all, he must not be afraid to return again and again to the same matter; to scatter it as one scatters earth, to turn it over as one turns over soil. For the ”matter itself” is no more than the strata which yield their long-sought secrets only to the most meticulous investigation. That is to say, they yield those images that, severed from all earlier associations, reside as treasures in the sober rooms of our later insights––like torsos in a collector’s gallery. It is undoubtedly useful to plan excavations methodically. Yet no less indispensable is the cautious probing of the spade in the dark loam. And the man who merely makes an inventory of his findings, while failing to establish the exact location of where in today’s ground the ancient treasures have been stored up, cheats himself of his richest prize. In this sense, for authentic memories, it is far less important that the investigator report on them than that he mark, quite precisely, the site where he gained possession of them. Epic and rhapsodic in the strictest sense, genuine memory must therefore yield an image of the person who remembers, in the same way a good archaeological report not only informs us about the strata from which its findings originate, but also gives an account of the strata which first had to be broken through.

Written ca. 1932; unpublished in Benjamin’s lifetime. Gesammelte Schriften, IV, 400–401. Translated by Rodney Livingstone, on the basis of a prior version by Edmund Jephcott. Fra Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Vol. 2, part 2 (1931–1934), ”Ibizan Sequence”, 1932, ed. by Marcus Paul Bullock, Michael William Jennings, Howard Eiland, and Gary Smith, Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005 (paper), p. 576 

 

Looking

I love those moments when we notice the cycle of how we influence each other just by being us and how we could possibly surround ourselves with people and events that might enhance growth.

If there was one thing that I would identify while walking through Joanna Poehlman's show at Redline, its her continuous act of looking, with intense observation, examination and attention to detail. She says she never gets bored. How can you when you develop such an immense interest in each and every detail that surrounds you? I see the same sense of observation in Kyoung Ae Cho's macro photographs of natural things that surround her. Frost on leaves, insects resting on branches, winter decay and dormant life. I often notice that I look more when I am behind a lens. Something about the tunnel vision that it provides, brings everything in focus and I start to observe more intensely within a frame the camera provides. 

Recently I needed to get an artwork framed and went to a local small business. As I was waiting to get my framed picture wrapped, I became enthralled with the movement of the person wrapping it. It was like a dance. Smooth and graceful with absolutely no waste of time, energy an efficiency. The whole process probably took a minute as he cut of masking tape and brown paper with a speed that I had never seen before and folds that were sharp and precise. However the acts linger in my mind as if in slow motion that seems to last forever.

I caught myself intuitively looking and it was breathtaking. Yes, how is it possible to get bored when there is so much to look at- both actively and intuitively. The picture below is of shadows cast by branches on a wall near Redline. The visual was strong enough for me to put down my bags in 20 degree weather, take out my camera and capture the moment.