The conclusion of my development work for 2016, was a series of tutorials with Harry Blackett of An Endless Supply. I took to the studio, a pile of notes and sketches from my SRT classes, which I edited down and formulated into a small fold-up pamphlet.
Identifying connecting strands throughout this process has been a hugely beneficial component of my development. I connected the language of process defined in my studio with Darryl Georgiou, to that of movement and motion within the SRT classes with Polly Hudson. Learning how to use inDesign as a programme for refining and designing my visual output, I started to notice the similarities between the tools used within digital software, and the tools I had devised for my new approach to movement. The process of anchoring, and defining points to pivot or orientate objects on the page, resonated with the ways I would physically manipulate and maneuver my body during dance.
By the end of my sessions I had designed a folding pamphlet which was sent to Rope Press in Birmingham, to be riso-printed. The new knowledge and approaches to space (studio) movement (SRT) and output (design) have woven together seamlessly to equip me with a new set of tools to work with in 2017, and a printed document that I will utilise as a proposition for the development of future work. The layers of practice, and cross over between new disciplines has enabled a much deeper understanding of my self-directed practice, and will broker further conversations with practitioners through the dissemination of this work:
Studio visits and mentor sessions with Darryl Georgiou formed another strand of my development this year. Darryl is familiar with my practice, and has supported the development of my work via opportunities to work with his MA students at Coventry University.
The studio is a relatively new place for me. I have inhabited my current zone for just over 12-months, prior to that I would work nomadically. Following a residency at The New Art Gallery Walsall, it became apparent that my work would advance well with a space to deposit and process material. Fortunately Darryl made a studio visit with me at Walsall, and so there was a pertinent link between conversations. Still very much an ‘in-progress’ site, my studio acts as a waiting room for working, and I am keen to develop a more productive and experimental space that can ‘house’ the development of new, self-directed work.
During a visit in the summer, Darryl interviewed me whilst we discussed recent works, and the conversation was recorded and documented with photographs. I have compiled a short precis of what we discussed, and have found this short cut-up approach a beneficial way of articulating my ideas. The piece can be viewed here:
Skinner Releasing Technique (SRT) is an innovative approach to dance and movement training developed by Joan Skinner in the early 1960s. SRT utilizes image-guided floor work to ease tension and promote an effortless kind of moving, integrated with alignment of the whole self. Tactile exercises are used to give the imagery immediate kinesthetic effect; spontaneous movement is frequently evoked by imagery and movement studies. SRT smoothly integrates technical growth with creative process. Through the 1970s, Releasing technique was taught by Joan and the American Contemporary Dance Company, primarily in Seattle, Washington. The work continues to be taught and practiced today, deeply influencing many contemporary movement artists.
The first part of my funded activity was a 5-day intensive SRT residential course led by Polly Hudson. Set in a small rural retreat in Wales, lodging in hand built cabins, eating produce grown on site I took part in seven 2-hour workshops within a small group of around 10 practitioners. Amongst the class were professional dancers, voice and acting coaches, and individuals who connected with the work via yoga practice. There is informative content online, concerning the origin and facilitation of SRT here:
Further funded opportunities were to maximise the training opportunity, including design tutorials I was to receive following the residential. Across the 5-days I kept detailed notes and sketches (an integral part of the SRT process) with a view to produce a small publication that would act as a reference point and stimulus for further work. Looking back on the process I have been reflecting what SRT meant to me as a (visual) artist, and how it connects to my practice:
My work is rooted in process, and attempts to portray the making and presentation of art as an ongoing process. This notion of process resonates with motion, movement and flux, and I find the way that I make and present work, often rests precariously in a nebulous state. Reliant on variable factors, the presentation of my work switches back and forth between differing points of focus and attention. I could say that perhaps I choreograph my actions, setting conditions, whilst dancing between evolving states. These ideas sit close to the ways in which I would define SRT; a series of techniques for reinventing movement and response to the physicality of ones body, and the spaces it inhabits.
The process starts slowly, laying on the floor after gentle rolling and stretching of the limbs, inhaling and exhaling the energy encapsulated within mind and body. Following spoken prompts, the body is led through different activity and movement, with invited shifts and changes to disrupt the pattern or flow that might be establishing. The technique embraces polarities and opposition – celebrating transition and liminality. As direction or motion emerges, it may be spun off, slowed down and bounced against – flux, suspension and uncertainty is harnessed and released in a fluid, ephemeral and almost weightless-weighted way.
Body graphics and partner work are core components within the work. I really enjoy the term body graphic, as it suggests a systematic way of aligning and informing the physical body. Working in pairs, we were often led through ritualistic preparation of limbs and energy – enabling an open a free application of movement. There is a strong focus on visualisation and language within the work, either through descriptions of imagined materials and states, or the suggestion of presence through contact and physical connection. Walking out of a SRT class is as if one is equipped with new instruments that promote a more intuitive and authentic approach to moving the body.
The writing and drawing that takes place at the end of each class, presents a meditative opportunity to redraw pertinent feelings and ideas that emerge during the deep state of motion. I used these exercises as an attempt to harness an inventory of prompts and suggestions that could be used again after the session – an index of reminders. Drawing is not a process I utilise within my practice, however an unusual visual language started to emerge through my sketches – and I am intrigued and excited to develop this mode of representing movement and direction in a visual way.
The visual work I produced during the sessions, was taken on to the next stage of my training, and used as material for working with An Endless Supply, to design a small publication. I will write about that process in further posts. I also scheduled funding to receive mentor support from Darryl Georgiou, across a series of studio visits, assisted by Rebekah Tolley. These visits assisted in defining some of my processes and looked at the methods for ‘housing’ my work in a systematic way. This notion of ‘housing’ or containing links in closely with what I sensed during the SRT process. That the body contains a huge range of potential, and that alternative ways of ‘programming’ or instructing this potential can lead to new modes of operation or function.
Although not a dance practitioner, my work deals with movement and the navigation of space, particularly focusing on the codes and patterns of activity we develop in reaction to an environment. I began to explore the idea of mis-performance during a residency at A3 projects in March 2015, under the steer of Simon Poulter – aka Viral Info. Poulter instructed exploration between two texts during the 5-day residency, the first James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (I selected only one page at random and stuck to it) and the other being A Users Guide To Demanding The Impossible:
I resonated with the quote lifted below, and used this as an instructing notion for much of my work during 2015:
There are things that your body wants to do, things that you know are right, and yet the social norms manage to shape our bodies into “good behaviour”, rigid and regimented. (Mis)performing is simply having the courage (from the french coeur meaning literally from the heart) to let our bodies do what they want to do.
From this point on, the body, my body, and the way it behaved, was a focal point for further residency commissions that I was awarded during the year, including The New Art Gallery Walsall May-Jun 2015:
Still wading through a franticly busy 2015, I was selected to perform in Florence Peake’s ReMake at Vivid Projects Birmingham Oct 2015. A weekend schedule curated by Polly Hudson, formed part of a wider series of events and happenings within Vivid’s 9-evenings programme:
This was my introduction to Polly’s practice, and her work as a dancer and teacher. As part of the training leading up to ReMake, I took part in a 2-hour Skinner Release Technique (SRT) class at Dance Exchange Birmingham . I walked out of the class feeling as if I belonged to a new body, and the following days – working and performing with Florence Peake and a team of dancers – were revelatory in terms of the way I moved and connected with my immediate environment.
Having being so deeply struck by the impact of this work, I was adamant that I would pursue further opportunities to develop this process within my work – both as an experimental research tool, and a performative output within my work. I was invited by Polly to consider a 5-day intensive programme in Wales in August 2016, and so this was placed on my list of development needs for the following year:
Reflections upon three strands of professional development funded by a-n, to further key areas of practice which I established in 2015:
Firstly I am building upon a relationship developed with artist-educator Darryl Georgiou, whom I worked with during 2015. Darryl invited me as visiting artist to work with his MA Contemporary Arts Practice students at Coventry University, and subsequently I curated two live art salons with a group of international students. Darryl also provided me with studio visits during my residency at The New Art Gallery, Walsall May-Jun 2015, and so has an informed awareness of my art making and conceptual references. Darryl is going to be delivering two further studio visits and mentor sessions to review my work over the last 12-months, and explore opportunities for future progression.
The second part of my development is an intensive 5-day dance and movement residential at Felinganol, Wales. Facilitated by Polly Hudson, the course covers elements of the Skinner Release Technique, which I was introduced to whilst performing in Florence Peake’s Remake at Vivid Projects, Birmingham Oct 2015. The approach explores ways of moving and manipulating the body, with a focus on partner working and body graphics.
The final part of my funded activity is a series of four tutorials with An Endless Supply. The Birmingham based artist-designers will provide training in the use of inDesign, as a way of editing and publishing documentation of my live, movement based work.