Category Archives: Collaboration

Cat, the Lady of the Manor

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Lady of the Manor first manifested on Sunday, while Cat, Latai and Vicki were playing around in the Bundanon homestead. Cat had come from getting her portrait taken by Doris for her portraiture project, with her face painted in white, and it became fun to shoot against the fireplace in the Bundanon museum. Helen asked if the people from the Bundanon Trust know that they were were there, taking photos, and Cat said they did and were very amused.

Aside from there being photos of Cat in front of thr fireplace in the homestead, there were also photos of Cat in the studio, in front of the Arthur Boyd painting that was on display. Helen points out that the painted face makes it appear to be part of the painting, “but also it looks like there’s an ownership role.”

“There were no preconceived ideas, it was just my face was painted,” Cat shares during the regroup. “(The painted face) deconstructs the body, it’s a reference to Western theater and this character kind of emerged. The river experience today is the next step and hopefully something will come of that.”

The “river experience” involved some shots taken of Cat with her face paint on, but in a bikini and sarong, with a bowl of fruit in the river, and Latai as her manservant. You can refer to this page for pictures.

Helen comments that Cat is “Sort of bringing an artifice to the natural landscape,” and at some point, she transforms from the Lady of the Manor to the Island girl serving the man. Cat agrees, laughing “Yeah, the gender roles keep shifting.”

Other comments from the group were how into the character Latai was and how it helped transform the character of the Lady of the manor (and how dedicated: even when the chair in the river was falling backwards, Latai stayed true to her character and didn’t let go of the sweet potatoes she was holding. Doris also pointed out that the presence of the fruit bowl is like a classic still life, still tying the idea of the Lady of the Manor to painting. In some some of the shots, though it also looks like she’s also wearing too much sunscreen.

Cat says she’s still playing with the idea of the exoticized image and the flatness of it. She’ll see where it goes.


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Make Like A Rhinoceros

Monday, November 21, 2011

Aside from the Bower Bird discovery, another incident that impressed the Bundanon dance lab participants during the Tuesday afternoon walk was the herd of cattle that didn’t seem keen on allowing us to cross the paddock and when the bull, in all its majesty, looked straight at us suspiciously, and some of us started to panic quite audibly, Leigh Warren put his arms up in front of his head and said, “Quick, make like a rhinoceros!!” This obviously did not deter the cows and bull, nor did it make them want to charge, but it did disperse the nature nerves as we cracked up in laughter.

In honor of Leigh, Vicki rounded up the Bundanon educational exchange program schoolkids and got them to do some site specific movement with her. She brought them to a nice wooded area beside the bower bird nests (both real and Latai’s) and asked them to stand behind a tree, like hiding. At her signal, the kids should start jumping up and down (like some of our favorite animals in the paddock – not the cows) but from behind the tree. Then, when they got tired, or just felt like it, to “Make like a rhinoceros.” She asked one boy to wear the yellow gloves from her kitchen.

The kids, all visual arts students, were all quite game, but most likely not aware that they just did a “Leigh Warren choreography right there,” as Cat put it. And despite herself, Vicki finally got to orchestrate a collaboration of her initiative.

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Make Like A Rhinoceros from Critical Path on Vimeo.

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Bower Envy

Sunday, November 20, 2011

On the first Tuesday that we were here, after much discussion in the studio, everyone was excited to take a walk around Bundanon and make our way to the river. We went up the amphitheatre and down again, and crossed a few paddocks before deciding to leave the river to be found another day.

(See photos of the walk here
See photos of the river here and here)

A few meters down from amphitheatre, we found a bower bird’s bower, and most of us were quite flabbergasted to see it because we had never actually seen a bower bird’s bower before. It was just as I read in those nature books in our grade school library – the circular reshaping of the grass, the soft bed in the center, the scattering of blue objects in the center. In this bower, there were a couple of blue feathers, some blue paper and a bottle top.


Latai had been bringing around a blue tarpaulin, basically playing around with it, creating images with the imposed object in the space. When she saw the bower bird, she decided to create her own bower with her tarp, hoping to make the bower bird envious.

On Sunday morning, Latai set up her bower beside the bower bird’s nest and included a lot of “found objects” around the house – including a chair Simon found by the river, a couple of mugs, a tea towel and a canister from the kitchen, Doris’ bathing suit and Alfira’s bikini top, which, when reported missing, Vicki responded with a straight face, “Your swimmers are missing? Since when?” Leigh also sacrificed his Prostate Cancer Awareness bangle to the bower bird, and the next day, they found that the bower bird had taken that and placed it in his own bower, as well as a washing peg and bits of paper, in effect fulfilling Latai’s intention to make the bower bird jealous. That Sunday before he left for Adelaide, they recorded Leigh doing a David Attenborough commentary on this special breed of bower bird.

Latai took the bower down on Monday, after showing it to the students engaged in the Bundanon education program, who were scheduled to visit on Monday at 1pm. They kept bits of blue paper and disposable objects in case the bower bird would like them. When Helen checked on the bower bird the next day, she was happy to report that the bower bird had indeed taken all the othe objects from the bower and placed into his own.

Latai talking about her bower to the Bundanon educational exchange students

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The Gift of Movement

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While a lot of the experiments have been visually driven, there is some movement happening here at the Bundanon Dance Lab. On Friday afternoon, Leigh got all the participants to pair up for a movement exercise. The idea was for each person to come up with a movement gesture or phrase and “gift” it to their partner, who then receives the movement into their body, sort of doing it over and over until they’ve completely “accepted” the “gift.” And then, once part of their body vocabulary, to transform it into something that appeal to them.

Doris, Fu Kuen and Jerome gamely joined this exercise (while I, the dancer among the facilitators, did not), and partnered up with Ly Ly, Simon and Vicki respectively. Doris and Ly Ly didn’t quite understand the exercise and were passing imaginary objects to each other, on the subject of “gifting.” It was like watching them play catch with unknown energies and it was actually really fun to watch, though Leigh had to reinform them of what the exercise was really about. Doubtful though if the others did get the real purpose of the exercise as both Fu Kuen and Simon, and Vicki and Jerome were mirroring each other and not really “gifting.” Cat and Rhiannon also seemed to be finding some sort of movement, though it was not clear where the movement began and where it became reprocessing. Fortunately, this was addressed with better explanation from Leigh the next day.

Interesting movement exchange did happen on Friday, with Latai and Fitri, to the point where Latai had danced away from Ly Ly, in her pursuit of reprocessing Fitri’s movement into her own body and coming up with something new.

On Saturday morning, Leigh gave a nice warm up that mobilized several points of the body, making sure that the body was ready for movement for that day, and asked the group to pair up with somebody new. Before I could disappear, Vicki was beside me like a kangaroo. At the end of the exchange, Leigh asked each pair to present what they came up with.

Leigh and Ly Ly started the presentation, with Leigh showing us the movement Ly Ly gifted him and then the movement it turned into. You could see the difference of styles with the juxtaposition of original movement with transformed movement, and how each were very Leigh and very Ly Ly.

Vicki and I went next. I gave a simple weaving of the arms around my crown, my eyes, my chest and waist, to which Vicki applied her whole body, incorporating rhythms and jumps. She taught me an interesting opposition exercise which was meant for Fitri, and I slowed down and speeded up the movements, and gave it different directions, though I think the original was eons better. Alfira was supposed to join us, but time had run out for us to receive her movement phrase.

Cat and Latai performed their transformed movements together, and they seemed to be doing the same movement, but with different qualities: Latai’s was softer, with an almost melting into herself effect, while Cat’s was strong and aggressive. The contrast was quite awesome.

Rhiannon and Jerome did a mirroring exercise with their hands, and it was interesting how each “understood” the movement that they shared.

Fitri and Simon were “Two turtles who fall in love.” They stood far away from each other at opposite sides of the room and slowly made their way to the floor and crawled towards each other, waiting for “What’s next?” before Fitri gave a loud laugh and scramble to standing position, signaling the end of the exercise.

The next day, after Leigh warmed us up for the last time, new pairings were formed and performed. Simon and Latai were this time gecko and turtle, respectively – Latai has been gifting the same movement to all her movement partners to see how they receive them. It is based on a gecko, which Latai has adopted as her symbol (or as far as how I understand it) with a head accent that is traditionally an improvisational gesture in Tongan dance. In return, Simon taught Latai the turtle movement and they looked sweetly like two animals making their way to dry land, and away from the rising sea levels.

Rhiannon and Ly Ly exploded in their own spaces, sharing very volatile bursts of movement with each other. Jerome and Cat played around with similar movements that grew away from each other then pulled together when you least expected it.

Fitri and Vicki both shared very similar movements as well and made a little skit of walking “same” (same arm same leg moving together) and “different” (arms and legs in opposition). Vicki had a running commentary all the while she and Fitri moved through the space with their different strides.

This piqued everyone’s interest so much that all started to move same and different strides, and would even attempt it randomly for the rest of the day.

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Empathy For Those Under the Ice

Thursday, November 17, 2011

After the initial ice experiment under the trees by the Writer’s cottage, the participants regrouped and discussed impressions and concerns.

Vicki says that she was pretending to be an oppressor and “really enjoyed my role, I must admit.” She notes that Latai’s position (with her hands bound behind her back with rope) was “loaded. The other positions were like science experiments.” She also talks about how when Cat was sitting in the chair, her head was not fully supported and Fitri had to move her arms at some point.

Latai says that when the ice was swinging, there were moments of recovery. “On the same spot, it’s relentless. But the music was soothing.”

Latai is primarily concerned with the effects of the experiment on the participants. “Is it necessary to push that boundary of the person?” she asks. “Is it necessary to make you feel like you’re losing your mind?”

Leigh agrees that there is some involvement in the part that you play, and maybe this kind of boundary pushing is indeed necessary. He says actors can get too involved with the work, and mentions how Doris Day does mostly comedy because she can really get carried away with the role
“What you want to convey doesn’t have to have the same danger,” he warns.

Rhiannon asked what the people would be wearing. From her own experience, she thinks that if there was more bare skin, “you’d have more multiple points of contact.” Latai has been thinking of using the naked body and using binding techniques. Though having seen Cat and Rhiannon in the heavy clothing caught her interest also.

Leigh has a list of observations made during the experiment and promises to send this list to Latai.

Simon admits that he tried his head first and couldn’t go on with it, that he couldn’t cope with the sense of loss of control. Later he tried his feet, which he felt had more to do with Latai’s bigger picture of the sea rising.

Doris suggests the idea of the audience getting their feet wet as well, so that they can also feel that discomfort. She also asks Latai if she intends to go on with the bonding, given that it can look perversely disturbing.

Latai says she’s seduced by some ideas concerning bondage. Leigh affirms that the binding had a somewhat religious aspect to it.

Latai also discusses how she wishes to impact the audience in another way. “I mean, would they see what their choices do to other people. Did anybody have empathy with anybody?” Vicki says she didn’t, and how it would be difficult to empathize with anyone presenting themselves as a spectacle. Leigh comments that needing to pay someone to go under the ice changes it, and Vicki half jokes that they’ll have to be paid, “Because nobody in their right mind would do this voluntarily… Except us…”

To this, Latai agrees and says she feels as if the stakes have to be dangerously high. She asks if this will create more feeling for the subject or just serve to demonize the audience?

Leigh tells her it’s good that we should discuss what happened today, but not expect to solve the problems of the performance yet.

Doris shares how her father underwent water torture which furthers interest in Latai, because the point is how the body is shaped under these conditions.

Fitri shares that she was quite comfortable until Ron started asking if she was feeling all right. Suddenly started feeeling the oppression of the ice. With her eyes open, she could see what she was dealing with, but still easier to see what she was dealing with.

Vicki poses, what if everyone did it everyday? She adds that in performance, if wetting the feet is out of the question, Latai could “offer the people an ice cube to hold.”

Fitri contributes that there is a sinister idea that ice blocks are suspended from a tree, as that’s usually where people are hanged. Rhiannon reiterates that there is something odd about having ice on the landscape.

Vicki suggestd that it could also be helpful to discover the everyday tasks that can be done alternatively to address the situation, an everyday mundane event. Simon pitches in about using objects that are washed up and not organic from the sea. Jerome shares an experience where his home was flooded, prompting Vicki to suggest an “alternate task is to take stock what’s in your house floating around.”

Saturday, November 19, 2011

There were new rules for the ice experiment on the evening of Saturday. There will be silence (broken sometimes by people walking in late), addressing the concern that it should feel like there aren’t people around, and an external voice changed the experience of being under the ice. Latai was going to bind people, and Cat offered to do the experiment topless.

Doris helped Latai string up the blocks of ice on the beams over the welcome platform outside the Dorothy Potter dance studio. Inside the studio, Doris set up the projector to produce the only light in the area while Jerome set up some very ambient music. In contrast to the contrapuntal music that he played earlier, this was more of a drone of sound, serving the eerieness and creepiness of the moment.

Ly Ly and Cat started out under the ice, both lying supine. The ice hit Ly Ly’s forehead, while Cat was receiving her cold drops on her bare chest. Cat’s hands were bound in front of her while Latai bound Ly Ly’s feet. They were joined by Rhiannon, who lay down on her stomach, exposing her back. She pushed the top of her dress down to feel the impact of the ice on more bare skin. Her arms were tied behind her.

Fitri sat down under a block of ice, crouched forward so that the ice hit the nape of her neck. Later, she would lie on her back to receive the ice full on in her face. Latai tied her own hands behind her back and sat in a similar way beside Fitri, but topless. When Cat got up, Latai moved to her block of ice and lay on her side, to receive the drops on her neck.

Everyone agreed that the darkness, the music and the new setting changed the situation of the experiment, there were more allusions to torture and pain, and definitely more, much more empathy (Maybe except from Margie who stood over each participant and, devoid of emotion, snapped photos, more concerned with the shots she took than with the bodies at her feet). Leigh Warren called them “Very brave girls.”

At one point, Latai would look up from her position on her side, and she must have just been checking on everyone, but the visual image she gave off was as if she were in a desperate amount of pain.

Ly Ly, who stayed there the longest, and didn’t get up even after people would ask her if she were okay (because she was shivering like crazy) likened the experience to having an operation. The first time she had an operation, she was very brave, but the second time, she was scared to go under the knife because she knew what to expect. In this instance, she probably would think twice about going under the ice again.

Although it was indeed very cold, while they were under the ice, it became less about the cold and more about “being in a vulnerable state.” Fitri wasn’t bound, but it she felt very afraid of being under the ice this time around, whereas she was “a superhuman” (Vicki Van Hout 2011) the other day.

I took several photos but have decided not to post them all, and sent them to Latai for her use. If any of the participants in the experiment would like copies of these photos, please just let me know.

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Finding the river

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These photos are from Friday, November 18, our attempt to find the river after failing to find it last Tuesday. We almost also didn’t find the river again, but Margie’s determination saw us through.

At the river, which was more a happy respite from the confines of the Dorothy Potter dance studio, several ideas came dinging into people’s brains and the river inspired several ideas that people are working on, as we speak (they’re actually down at the river right now while I’m here blogging). Cat is working on a bunch of site specific photographs. Vicki is bringing her imposed objects to the river and trying to get a sense of how it works. Rhiannon is picking up examples of her architecture-drawing-movement relationships during the walks to and from the river and in the river itself.

Fitri has been planning to capture images/film of people standing still on the paddock, like trees, and suddenly (or slowly) dropping to the ground like falling timber, and the river inspired her to have the same kind of recording of imagery but in the river. Jerome asked everyone who would be interested to help record some percussion in the river (see images here).

Simon thought to push this further and discussed with Jerome if they could take some of the sand back to Bundanon artists center, in one of the visual arts studios where Jerome set up his recording gear. Last Saturday, November 19, they did their experiments with the sand, creating interesting sounds with moving sticks in the contained sand and with Ly Ly banging on a bottle of wine. Simon feels that it was also the act of taking the environment into the performance that was as important as making this music.

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String Theory

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The proposal: Each participant holds a roll of the same kind of red string. The first to go ties the end to an object on the landscape, then stretches the string out to an another point on the landscape and attaches it there and so on, until their string comes to its end. The next person ties their string to the end of the previous line and continues along as they see fit. As all the rolls of string is consumed, the group returns to the Dorothy Potter studio to discuss their thoughts on the activity.

Doris thanks everyone for participating and shares how very interesting it was to watch the variety of shapes and dimensions the activity provided, very informative.

Cat says she observed how the string interestingly changed function, particularly how it had changed for Latai, from the function it served all that came before her.

Latai shares that the act of observing was equally important to the person being observed, “The way they were doing it and the sites they were applying it to. There were many ways you could read it.” Initially, she says, they were just lines and boundaries between people depending where you were, then transforming into a “subtle or covert violence in where the strings were being placed.” There were “Really rich moments, and multiple readings of the action.”

Vicki says she felt violent when she wrapped the string around grass, and she wanted to let the string go where it wanted to. She couldn’t go through with that, however, as it “felt a little bit out of control. Funny how you can have an attachment to how you feel about it.”

Latai also notes that the way you applied the string depended on how the one who went before you did it.

“And interesting how we chose to be next,” Vicki adds.

Doris adds that how the knots connected also informed the exercise in both process and practice.

Simon shares that what he found interesting was the relationship of the people with the strings. “When it ran out, was it relief? Or sadness that the string was gone? And how they got rid of it (the thing that held the string when it was rolled up, what do you call that? – Joelle) or kept it in your pocket.”

Latai mentions how she appreciated Rhiannon and Leigh’s handover, how it was a “very delicate, precious thing.”

“Like an offering,” Simon agrees.

“As with the handover from Doris to, ” Vicki adds, “Like handing over a secret.”

“There was also the ownership of the string,” Simon raises, “Having this object and seeing what you’re gonna do with it, and working with another dimension. Seeing how people reacted, when it’s your turn, you’re just, ‘Take it in your hands and run!’ But also the aspect of time, Do I do this really quickly or slowly, is this gonna end or not? It really tested my patience. Then, when it ran out, shit!

Latai she likes how the string worked well with the architecture of the Bundanon Artist’s Centre, and Jerome liked how it worked in the open space. “In an open space, you have to ask where to connect? The environment forces you to find strategies to connect to the next, and what’s available for you.”

Cat says they should go out again and document where the string goes and where they connect to, “Kind of a mind map.”

Rhiannon finds interesting the differences between the long and short distances, “where the string went into the curvy things.”

Ly Ly says she observed that it was like drawing on paper, and wonders what could have happened if they created the idea for the string first. Vicki tells her that her bit of string “looks like it was flying, like it came from nowhere,” animating “that whole space.”

From a videographer’s perspective, Vicki shared that from a certain distance, you couldn’t see the line, describing the bearer of the string as a “this charismatic being that everyone was following you and you couldn’t see why.” Vicki was first trying to see the string, then, failing that, decided to see the people, and therefore saw, “The decision and the space, the handover, the intimacy. Later it became how to frame you.” She says it was “Satisfying as a movement premise.”

Ly Ly adds that it was as much what happened to the string as what they were doing to it. When Margie started to cover the string, the string was still there but underground, transforming somehow.”

Rhiannon agrees how external tools came into play, how the soil became the object you were working with.

Margie likes the “Visibility and non-visibility of it, the sense of focus as to whether it’s there or not there.”

Ly Ly also comments on Vicki’s movement, how she paralleled the movement of the string while taking the video.

Leigh asks the group if this provoked an idea or a tier of an idea they would like to explore, and to drive this forward, maybe something will spring from the exercise. He suggests to go beyond the string to see what might be there to explore.

Jerome discusses the relationship of the people with the string, how people follow the line, jump over it, how the line dissected the space, etc. Rhiannon adds where the people would stand, and “how they would stand in that area near the holder of the string.”

Cat talks about her own relationship to the string, of the “marginal events in that space. Now when I pass that area, I think of what happened there.
It’s just a focusing of the space.”

“Of activating it,” Vicki nods.

“When the trajectory first started, it was very straight and linear, a kind of insecurity, where can we attack and occupy,” Fu Kuen comments. “When walked into the field, it became a materiality of the string. It became something else, became decoration. The whole string property changed.
Intimate and very subjective because of the way the string was used to make another reality rather than be subjected to the architecture. When you started to wrap nature, it became like a ritual and really took on a different subjectivity.

“By the time you reached Margie, you began to deny it, cast it out of bounds. In a way, it was a dissolved dissolution. I didn’t expect that when we went into the fields, that it would take this character.”

Jerome asks the group if anyone wanted another roll.

Simon says he did, and wanted to go back to the tractor. “String had another impact on the area,” he observes. “We chose this space, but there was another area that you could discover.”

Jerome then poses, what if the string was not red, what if it was clear? How would this affect how it was used? Doris replies that she chose red because she wanted it to be visible. “So it’s interesting what Vicki said that it disappears.”

Margie talks of the term of “the red line,” how things are not defined and delineated. She also spent time taking different shots with different thicknesses, playing with a different sharpness, and planned to condense this sharpness, and experiment on reframing and rescaling.

Rhiannon comments on how the joining of the string was an actual frame, “the distance it captures.”

Fitri suggests that they start to do the whole process again but in the fields where there aren’t any fixed objects. What happened was they began with a place full of fixed solid objects so there were lots of choices, very different from going into the fields. It would also be interesting, she says, to attach the string to oneself and attach the string to everyone, and find slackness and tautness, and a whole different set of intimacy. They could also try to now retrace the line that’s there and just walk that path and see how it feels and see he responses to it now that everything is in place.

Vicki responds that she “would like to do that in my time, might generate some movement.” She’s thinking of imposing objects into the space and how they belong in the space, speaking of “How we have a relationship to the things that are no longer there.”

“The string is an alien force,” Vicki observes, “I didn’t differentiate the trees from the houses, they are here but just different.” Simon jokes about the difference being the spider welcoming you to the country. Vicki laughs then says, “The birds don’t differentiate between the house and the trees.”

Simon then talks about, in his country, walking into a new environment, he talks to the place and makes sure that it’s okay to move into the enviroment.

Vicki talks of the juxtaposition of the unnatural and the natural in this environment, but more that she has lost a movement focus. I’m creating images but don’t know how to get it to resonate in my body, there’s no physical response. The images have some line or something I can follow, but needs to have a purpose, have a physical response. I don’t want to just respond to the line.

Leigh assures her that not knowing how is important. “You can’t know if you wish to go somewhere, if you want to discover something. Maybe it’s a process you go through, people are lending to us this particular pathway. There may be a physical response for someone else to transform. It’s not a line in space, not from the body, but maybe a process within this particular grouping of people, maybe that moment will arrive.”

“The purpose is communication that may inspire that thing you speak,” Leigh continues. “It may not be immediate, it may in time or in distant time trigger something. But for now, you collected something, and some time later it makes sense. The purpose may come much later.”

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