Academic journal article About Performance

P4: Performance Making in Alice

Academic journal article About Performance

P4: Performance Making in Alice

Article excerpt

Shortly after arriving in Alice Springs in late 2000 to participate in TripleAlice 2 (TA2), I found myself lying on the floor in the Araluen Centre, taking care of a troublesome and long term back injury, wondering how to contribute to the pending workshop laboratory. Stimulated by my work with European dancer and director, Frank van de Ven, the previous year in TripleAlice 1, on a series of performance improvisations for video called 6 vertebrae, as well as by my own practice of performance making (see Snow 2002, 1995), and my teaching of the methodologies of making performance to students, I decided to offer a workshop in making performance.

The initiator of the project, Tess de Quincey, had all along expressed her wish for performance collaborations in TripleAlice-she had set up three laboratories of writers, visual artists and performers after all-but little had happened in this way in TA1. Admittedly there was Tess's work with poet Martin Harrison, and with visual artists Kim Mahood, Pam Lofts and Julia White, which featured in the installation part of Skyhammer, the May 2000 performance in Sydney which issued from TA1 ; and my own work with Frank which also figured in the Skyhammer installation, but it seemed to me that TA1 had been primarily a large BodyWeather training workshop with little time or scope for detailed cross investigation.

The key question for me in 2000, then, was how to facilitate possibilities for collaboration among artists of very different backgrounds and experiences who had come to TA2, many with little or no idea of BodyWeather. (Mindful also that, as Frank says, collaboration in Europe is something you do with your enemies). But before I describe the performance projects, or p4s, as they came to be known, a few words on BodyWeather, and a couple on TripleAlice.


I have written extensively about BodyWeather elsewhere (Snow 2003). Utilising what I termed an empirical phenomenology, which takes the experiences of living bodies as primary, and thus enshrines the bodily experiences of practitioners as necessary for an adequate account of what a performance practice actually consists in, I proposed that BodyWeather practice could be understood as an imaging of in-betweenness. Imaging, in that each detailed micro- and macro-process could be explicated as a twin process: an imagining, which is already corporeal, and an enacting which is continuously reimagined. In-betweenness, in that embodiment for these practitioners invariably relies on a detailed sensitivity towards, and corporeal instantiating of, the multiple relations that exist between bodies and other bodies, bodies and selves, parts of bodies, and bodies and worlds. In this sense practitioners identify, register, access and embody networks of intercorporeal relations as they live, train, develop performative material, and perform. Here, I would like to trace out a few threads from that longer work, which will situate the discussion of performance making which follows.

There are numerous social, discursive and material contexts of BodyWeather, and it is difficult to discuss the practice in Australia without continuing reference to its Japanese shadow and its manifestations in Europe and the US. Suffice to say, briefly, that it emerged with the work of butoh dancer Min Tanaka in Japan in the 1970s. Tanaka was originally a solo dancer who improvised with the environment, but he was profoundly influenced by his contact with Tatsumi Hijikata, the architect of ankoku butoh as a 'dance of utter darkness', and he regards himself as a "legitimate son of...Hijikata" (Tanaka 1986b: 155)

As the name appears to imply, BodyWeather practice investigates the intersections of bodies and their environments; where environment as 'weather' is not simply nature and its forces, but rather the whole world in all its dimensions. As Tanaka claims, "we had better regard our body not as an independent entity but as a medium resonating with the world with a rather complex and multi-level frequency" (Tanaka 1980:61). …

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