‘Reading the Room’ is a movement-research workshop running from February – June 2021 and forms part of my 2020 a-n Development Bursary activity.
My original proposal was to run in-person monthly movement workshops alongside attending dance classes – allowing time and space to develop the choreographic aspect of my practice. Due to the global pandemic I’ve had to adapt this activity to the online space. At first I was hoping that in-person activity would be allowed to resume if I waited it out. Months went by and I became increasingly frustrated, and like many, my practice sidelined.
In light of these events, I realised that I had become too reliant on the physical workshop/rehearsal space in my practice and began to consider what the digital framework might offer. Having spent the last year teaching, socialising and exercising via computer-mediated communication, I’ve become interested in how body language and social cues have further adapted to the digital realm.
Similarly, within recent live works and collaborations, I’ve been thinking about how artists activate/initiate a live performance in the gallery context. The audience usually relies upon vocal or gestural cues to prompt them that a performance is about to begin, or indeed, the performer(s) await the physical presence of the audience.
Thinking about the video call as a site of performance, what movements or cues do we look for to synchronize with fellow participants? The webcam often compromises non-verbal cues such as facial expressions and hand gestures, as well as disembodying the voice from the body when the camera freezes. In these spaces of communication, we often miss many of the physical conversational cues such as subtle eye movements, vocal intonations and shifts in weight which tell us someone wants to or is about to speak. Meeting in these spaces is our way to connect remotely, but ultimately control is given over to the apparatuses and their technological glitches. There is additional research to be done here in regard to accessibility and ethical practice.
And so these questions are the starting point for ‘Reading the Room’, which will consist of 7 sessions across 5 months. I will be working with Amelia Tan, Kirstin Halliday, Rachel Coleman & Sara Stenbaek and the sessions will be documented via session recordings, screengrabs, text and WhatsApp conversations with participants. I have also been attending weekly online dance classes since January 2021, developing not only my movement vocabulary but also exploring this hybrid of moving in physical and digital space.
I look forward to sharing more soon.