Plymouth tangle

Working on an artist residency with students at Plymouth University’s School of Humanities and Performing Arts gives a glimpse into their preoccupations and thought processes. These students are having their eyes opened in various ways as a result of the courses they have embarked on and the enthusiasm is palpable in those students who are taking advantage of this moment in their lives and are, in the company of their peers, seeing with new eyes in unexpected ways.

As part of the residency I organised, students worked with combinations and permutations of material generation and methods of collaboration comprising both field and studio research. In addition they participated in sessions with invited guests: a workshop with performance writer Mary Paterson, a presentation on lighting design by Martin Langthorne, alternate modes of attention introduced by Eilon Morris through a series of polyrhythmic exercises, and appropriation of musical structure with musician Boris Hauf. One student said: “thanks for the ‘holy shit’ moment, Boris” and another “it’s like I put on glasses and now I can see.” This same effect of increased awareness and sensation and perspective shift was happening in large and small ways every day.

We engaged in practical work mixed with critical attention and reflection which work hand in hand to increase each individual’s understanding of their own discipline and their own relationship to the work of making live performance.

When a group of four asked could they use the 100-metre rope from my performance (miles & miles with Sophie Grodin) for one of their own I was delighted to agree and their own delight at the prospect of having this resource was testament to the commitment and joy they were finding in the realisation of their own ideas.

There’s plenty of cloudy thought around, and sometimes a lack of interest, but mixing theory with practice and simply getting them to try things out, more often than not, the result was an engagement with material and a new relationship to the work of making performance. My goal was to help them find ways to make work that speaks about what is important to them in particular. Through identifying their own interests they begin to discover clarity, flow, and the energy and enthusiasm needed to spark and support creative work.

Tags: Plymouth University, residency, workshop

Posted on Monday, 15 May 2017 by Karen Christopher

Loops in the brain that tangle and untangle

He asked me whether I ever looked back in my notebook. He was watching me write in it and he wanted to make the point that what I was doing was pointless and that perhaps I should not waste my time that way. He was sure that my answer to his question: do you ever go back and read what you write would be "no". I said yes and he was incredulous saying: "I never did when I wrote a notebook and so I stopped."

I thought of him just now as I was walking, because I'd mused about an idea that had come to me for something to do in a workshop. A new idea, I thought. I had been so glad about this new idea. I went through my notebook to add it to what I'd written a couple of months before for that same workshop but there it was, a note (in my own handwriting) of that same idea. I was having it again for the first time.

When I got home from the walk I cleared a block in the sink and answered some emails and sent a few tweets for the upcoming performance in Aberystwyth at which point I remembered the plan to write something down. I flexed my brain looking for it. I relaxed it. I poked a stick into the inner layers. I couldn't remember what it had been. Nothing at all came to mind. So empty.

When, as I continued to clear a few things in advance of my trip, I turned the radio on and heard a woman who takes care of elephants talking about writing a diary to keep track of developments, the memory of this internal conversation about the notebook and the memory and the workshop exercise came flowing back to me. Now I've written it down. It's all there now. Every curling loop of it.


Tags: walking, untangling, questions, workshop

Posted on Tuesday, 25 November 2014 by Karen Christopher

Look Both Ways

Utopia is on the horizon. When I walk two steps, it takes two steps back. I walk ten steps and it is ten steps further away. What is utopia for?
It is for this, for walking.

--Eduardo Galleano

It's a workshop to compose a question. The question will start a process of discovery. The question will be inspiring or lead into a brick wall, a question will launch a ship or take you down a dark alley. These questions are to provoke a response, these will not be neutral questions, these are questions that influence an answer. They are leading questions. We are looking for leading questions. They function as agents that stimulate a reaction, development, or change, something that causes fermentation. It is a workshop to find a question that takes the form of a walk during which we hope to compose this question or to find it. Among other things we weave a weft through the warp of attention drawn by future train passengers silently standing all facing departure boards at Euston station. Or are we the warp. Just because we continue passing doesn't mean we aren't for those moments the stability around which the weave is made visible.

We listen, we watch, we dissassemble and assemble. We hover a bit here or there to write. We radiate: this is the moment that we have.

I am standing in the middle of a dance performed by travelers, by pigeons, by plastic shopping bags, the sirens from ambulances, the beep beep of taxis, an indeciferable roar, the confessions of trees, the conversations of men--into phones, a blizzard of seeds, a pram with a balloon attached, a bank slip, a long beard, a caravan of wheeled suitcases. So many hands pressing plastic close to the faces. Calling, calling, calling.

Tags: walking, pigeons, Beyond Glorious, workshop

Posted on Friday, 31 May 2013 by Karen Christopher