Academic journal article Centro Journal

Noemí Segarra and PISO Proyecto: In Movement, in Process, in Transit

Academic journal article Centro Journal

Noemí Segarra and PISO Proyecto: In Movement, in Process, in Transit

Article excerpt

We know ourselves as part and as crowd, in an unknown that does not terrify. We cry our cry of poetry. Our boats are open, and we sail them for everyone.

-Édouard Glissant, Poetics of Relation

El conectar parece la urgencia-por un bien común-¿será?

-Noemí Segarra, "De andar en la Loíza y en la ciudad que habito"

In Poetics of Relation, by writer and theorist Édouard Glissant (Martinique 1928-Paris 2011), the author's understanding of individual and collective knowledge stems from his personal Caribbean and colonial context, a tangled history of lived experiences that flow from movement and transnational cultural interactions. For Glissant, this explosive archipelago is "...one of the places in the world where Relation presents itself most visibly..." (Glissant 1997: 33). By Relation he means shared knowledge and "...the possibility for each one at every moment to be both solidary and solitary there" (Glissant 1997: 8, 131). In contrast to the Mediterranean, an inner sea, Glissant sees the Caribbean as a "sea that diffracts" (Glissant 1997: 33).

Diffraction describes what happened to the movement art practice of Noemí Segarra (b. 1971, San Juan, Puerto Rico) when she returned to her native Puerto Rico in 2009. Like a strong wave of energy coming in contact with the island, her body passed through openings and bended around obstructions, moving the still waters behind them. For Segarra, relation is the creation of meeting and entry points, in the body and in society, to build deeper understandings and shared knowledge over time. She investigates how displacement, which could be described by Glissant's phrase, "...confirming us in ourselves and joining us to an elsewhere..." shapes relation between the personal and the collective (Glissant 1997: 196). For Glissant and Segarra, relation exists at the intersection of the known and the unknown.

Glissant's ideas related to a poetics of relation in the Caribbean- "uncertain paths," "rooted and open," "multilingualism," "the balance between the present moment and duration," "giving-on-and-with"-resonate with Segarra's intuitive practice (Glissant 1997: 32, 34-5, 192). PISO proyecto, an on-going project she started in 2011, in San Juan, is a variable, unpredictable journey of process and transformation that negates the notion of a "final product" (Segarra in discussion with the author, 4 August 2015). It is rooted in the body and open to consensual sharing wherever it manifests itself. It involves corporeal improvisation in neglected public areas, and relations between body, environment, collaborators and the public through listening, observing and co-creating. In Puerto Rico's fragmented cultural landscape, PISO proyecto connects a broad spectrum of people on and off the island, and it motivates them to resist complacent spaces and plunge into a collective sense of responsibility. Segarra's intention is to make this praxis of creative agency and decision-making a viable lifestyle, particularly in Puerto Rico, to alter the island's culture of depersonalization and assimilation, alienation and immobility.

PISO proyecto is a multilingual platform. Segarra's externally focused languages-body movement, space, sound, objects, photography, video, and texts in English and Spanish-document and communicate the project on the internet. In Puerto Rico, artists are their own historians. There is limited writing and recording of the island's prolific and diverse art scene, and it is often interrupted, short-lived or difficult to access. While some artists have extensive physical archives, few document the development of their conceptual process over time and share it publicly. Segarra is one of them. She has diligently archived her movement art practice in physical and virtual formats for the last six years, thus preserving a slice of a present moment for the passage of time. Throughout this text, I have included quotes by Segarra, however, she says, "I express myself best through movement" (Segarra in discussion with the author, 4 August 2015). …

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