Friday, September 15, 2017

Choreographic Residency: Week 9

Greetings from Singapore.  I'm writing you from across the Pacific Ocean in Singapore.  I'm on tour with an outdoor aerial spectacle theatre company performing for the Grand Prix.  It's a fun gig, but cars are loud... Anyway, on my flight to Singapore from LAX, I flew across the boundary that I’ve been so obsessed with lately, the California shore.  At midnight on Saturday, I perched over my window seat and saw the huge ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier, lit in its glory, bidding me adieu. I thought, wow, in a month from today, I’ll be performing about a mile north of that site. Mission organization.

I've been working tirelessly in airports, my hotel room, airplanes, and cafes organizing this event.  I've sent out a call for performers and have gathered a few dozen artists to help me on this project.  I'm super excited about it.  I've been quite busy, possibly even too busy to write a proper posting.  But let me leave you with the work of Ai Weiwei, someone who has been creating compelling work surrounding the topic of displacement and the plight of refugees. His influence on my creative audacity is monumental.  Here are a few of his projects that directly relate to what I'm interested in exploring while at the Annenberg Community Beach House.  Oh, and lastly, here is the event info. RSVP here if you haven't already done so.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Choreographic Residency: Week 8

Today is Labor Day, and I'm in Santa Maria, CA (my hometown) for a family reunion of sorts that my father helped start a long, long time ago.  My father immigrated to America in 1933.  I mentioned this earlier in a previous post about the treacherous venture across the Pacific he took to get here. He came here in a large steam boat of Filipino men, landing somewhere in Northern California.  A few of those men were some of his friends and family from the area of Loon (pronounced: loh'ohn). When they came to America, this group of friends and family hailing from Loon sought solidarity and community.  They created a network of friends that met every Labor Day.  It started off as a small party with just about a dozen men, and now, almost 100 years later, has grown to an organization of over 500 members and attendees.  I spent this holiday with my family and friends contemplating how large it has become... and perhaps how distant we've come from our immigrant, founding fathers.  

I think my dad would be proud of me now, continuing to research the work of his histories and unspoken narratives.  


I am thinking of changing the title of this work to Out of Bounds. Somehow I don't think LUCID is appropriate anymore.  I thought of two titles that I'm going to share with you, whoever you (the reader) are:

  • I thought of "The Lines Between Us and Them" after reading about Alejandro Inaritu's VR installation simulating what it's like to cross the Mexican-American border, now on view at LACMA, called Carne y Arena.  I just scored some tickets, excited to see how it might influence the work.
  • Then I thought it was too on-the-nose, title-wise, so then, "The Grey Between Us" came to mind.  I likened of us/them to a Venn diagram.  I thought of the boundaries that categorized one entity from another, and where they overlapped.  These boundaries then led me to think of the title I think I'm going to stick with:

It as a sports connotation, which I don't know yet how it relates to the work.  Somehow, changing the title to this is liberating my process.  Excited to explore with this in mind.  

Images by Andrew Mandinach 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Choreographic Residency: Week 7

I performed a new work at homeLA last week.  It was a huge learning experience as far as navigating the line between conversation and performance.  I will be sure to apply these skills to the performance at the Annenberg Community Beach House.  

The title of my work was Reverie, Regret; Revisited.  I added two words "reverie" and "regret" because I felt the original title "Revisited" was a copout  for a more meaningful name.  I like the prefix "re" because it applies to the meaning "again" or "backward," which lends itself to support my interest with memory.  

Reverie because I'm a dreamer, an American Dreamer.  I've mentioned before that I'm a first generation American and how my father has kept me conscious of how there are more opportunities in America.  More about my father later when I discuss what I did for Labor day...  

Regret because I am often apologetic for things I shouldn't be apologetic for.  I think it has to do with the pressure of pleasing others or striving for perfection.  Reverie and regret are two things I do often... 

As the audience walked up to the carport, the site I chose for my performance at homeLA: Larchmont on August 26, I asked spectators if they could help me build a wall with the cardboard boxes.  I then asked if they could remove boxes from the middle of the wall and add it on top, sort of like Jenga.  Then I asked them if they could fasten/secure the wall with masking tape.  What emerged was a community involved project where they were working together for a common goal.  

I have been playing with the idea of blurring the line between conversation and performance.  As people immersed themselves in the space, I engaged in conversation.  I felt comfortable to leave them when they began working together to build and fasten the wall.  I then went into the carport and began interacting with the contact microphones on the cardboard walls/floors.  I really enjoy the effect of looping, distorting, and echoing the sounds created by the movement vibrations on the cardboard. The amplification and alteration of these sounds creates a reconstruction of memory and experience.  I'm excited to further explore this at the beach house.

photos by Andrew Mandinach

A little bit of feedback I got from people was that it was short and I can take my time in moments...  I get it; I'm anxious.  I think every section in this dance could probably be 15 minutes in length -- there are 3 sections.  The entire work was about 20 minutes.  I was rushing because I was worried about people losing interest.  This is me trying to prevent regretting an experience.  I will take my time.  I must take my time.

I came across a preying mantis at a boutique a few weeks back.  It was on my shoulder, of all places.  The woman working there thought it was a pin, and when I looked down, I saw the mantis on my shoulder.  How it got there, I have no idea.  Somehow, it landed on me. It chose me.  I read up on it and when one comes across a preying mantis, it usually is a reminder to slow down and breathe.  I needed that.  In addition, I was gardening in my front yard last week and I was propagating some succulents, casually, and as I grabbed the plant, a preying mantis emerged onto my hand.  Omen.  I will take my time.  Breathe.  

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Choreographic Residency: Week 6

I am sharing with you a blog post for the homeLA.  I have many projects coming up, so I might be utilizing this blog to help organise my thoughts.

The performance is this Saturday, August 26.  There are 3 performance: 4pm, 5pm, 6pm.  Get your tickets here:

The first homeLA performance I created was RAKED, a ritual performance that displays the construction and deconstruction of a powder covered hill, at Rose Hill in September 2016.  The work pays homage to the histories of my migrant parents, who immigrated to America to tend to the land by working in fields.  RAKED is a work that brought me back to my California roots as a child of immigrants.  Almost a year later, I’m returning to homeLA with similar interests, inquiries, and commitment to my home.  RAKED is about labor, love, and loss, and how the land and the bodies are infused with trauma — my work often involves thematic displays of physical, mental, and emotional trauma.  In this work at homeLA, Revisited, themes of the migrant plight have emerged in an unexpected way.

This year, I received the Annenberg Beach House Choreographic Residency.  The 3-month long residency culminates in a performance at the beach, on the beach.  Faced with the challenge of creating a work ON the beach, I grappled with how my work, trauma-based physicality, belongs on the beach.  I found myself perplexed by the task of dancing on the beach, a place where all I wanted to do is sunbathe and relax. Long story short, as the waves were crashing against my brown shins, the image of the drowned Syrian boy that washed up the shore of Greece a few years back came to mind.  Sorry to be graphic, but I thought this may be where trauma meets shores.  
Coincidentally, I began conceptualizing my work at homeLA // Larchmont.  I came across a bunch of little brick-size cardboard boxes that I knew I wanted to use as material for this work.  I started building a wall.  Perhaps this was a little more obvious, but I thought of how borders, walls, and shores may serve as sites of trauma.  

My research for both these projects have included meditating at the shore, traveling to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, revisiting the Grapes of Wrath, and chats with my mother about being a migrant worker.  I have been meeting with friends, colleagues, and mentors discussing the topic of refugees and immigrants in relation to art and performance.  I think thoughtful and creative work is emerging from the tension created in this current political climate — in a world where heated rhetoric creates division between left and right, white and black, and us and them… 

With these projects, both the Annenberg Community Beach House Choreographic Residency and homeLA, I am confronted with issues where I’m exploring otherness and the call to action through the power of the image and symbols.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Choreographic Residency: Week 5

Hello California, I'm back.  My trip to NYC was much needed and now, as much as I want to relax, I have to get back into the swing of things.  I'm not sure if I already shared this, but I have a lot of projects coming this fall.  I'm going to list them here:

  • And of course the Annenberg Community Beach House Choreographic Residency project.  I have finally solidified the showcase performance: Sunday, Oct 8, 5pm-630pm.
With these projects back to back to back to back, I'm having a hard time compartmentalizing them.  My mind is looking at all the projects like a big nebulous of creativity with no clear distinction or separation between the works.  For my sanity and clarity, I am devoting and scheduling specific times to work on each individual project.  With that said, I am noticing a through-line or connective tissue that binds these works together.  Some common themes:
  • Borders, boundaries, barriers 
  • Traveling/promenade performance
  • Binaries, polarities, contradictions

Choreographic Residency: Week 4

Please note, this post is a week late... Consider it a #latergram, for those Instagramers out there. Also, this is a #repost because I couldn't figure out how to adjust the font size in the earlier post

I'm out here in NYC merging research and leisure by going to immersive shows and museums.  I'm making reconnections with old friends and mentors.  I'm going to music festivals and going to rooftop brunches in drag.  No big deal; I am living.

And while my life here in NY is incredibly exciting, I cannot wait to return to LA.  The exciting thing about NYC is it's true, there's so much to do.  I have multiple "New York moments" daily.  Whether I'm taking a cab from Brooklyn to Manhattan and swooning over the striking sunset amidst the towering landscape, or taken by surprise by a street performer in the subway, New York really is a magical place -- especially in the summer.

I got the opportunity to watch Sleep No More, an immersive, site-specific theatrical performance that takes place in the McKittrick Hotel in the Chelsea District.  I've always been inspired by the show since I saw it during my first blizzard around that polar vortex time in 2013.  Once I got my ticket from the box office, I was asked to enter the performance space and watch my step.  Ensued a dark maze-like hallway that winds and turns until I entered a speakeasy bar with crooning singers.  The transportation and transformation of space awed me instantly.  I know that this is something I want to explore at the beach.  How, without walls in a expansive sandy beach, can I transport people and transform space?  Make the audience MOVE.  Furthermore, the audience was given masks and asked to never take them off during the performance.  The steward instructing us how to navigate throughout the space also provided insight on how the work should be viewed.  This is something I need to consider while creating performances in alternative spaces -- it's not like a traditional theatre where people know their assigned seat and watch quietly until the lights go out. The performance is 3 hours long and happens throughout the 4-5 floors of the abandoned hotel and the audience has the agency to roam and choose their own destiny.  The masks provide an anonymity for the spectator and creates a voyeuristic approach to entering the immersive performance.

During this last trip, I got to see the show twice: once with my partner and the other with my best friend -- I have friends in the show, so I got discounted tickets (insert winking smiley emoji here).  This time, while watching the show, I made a conscious effort to focus on the audience and how they engaged and interacted with the space and the performers.  I noticed that personalities shined as people would push their way to the front as others stayed behind.  I noticed that lust and desire was heightened because the masks, and perhaps the heavy-poured libations had in the bar before and during the show.  I noticed audience members' body language change when the performers got closer in proximity.  I love how the many spaces throughout the performance site offered the audience to explore and get lost.

I'm going to continue speaking about my influences from the past trip in NYC:

I saw Frank Ocean, an American R&B singer known for his idiosyncratic style, at the summer music festival Panorama NYC.  Now, I understand this seems more fun than research, but I believe art is entertainment, to some degree... and boy was this ARTISTIC.

Frank Ocean is elusive.  You never know when he's going to drop an album or make a surprise appearance.  His album Blonde is a cult classic, featuring tracks inspired by Brian Eno, incorporating ambient sounds with disruptive melodies and abrupt time-signature shifts.  His fascination with distorting and digitizing the human voice is artistically employed throughout the album, not to disguise vocal blemishes as many other contemporary pop songs do, but rather to display the disconnect from human connection in our internet and screen driven world.  I can go on and on about how much I love this artist and this album... OK, now about my experience at the show.  As thousands and thousands of fans rushed their way to the main stage, I pushed my way forward to get a decent view of Frank Ocean.  After all, I traveled cross-country to see him.  As they were setting up, there was an insane surround-sound setup that had different audio outputs all around us.  When Frank walked onto the stage, the audience roared as he put a cassette tape into the player, projecting it into the back left side of the auditorium. To further the nostalgic reverie, Spike Jonez comes on stage recording him with an old camcorder.  Now, you're probably wondering, how does this apply to the residency, Jay?  You just went to a music festival to live out your young adult life.  So what? Well... I'll tell you what.  I learned how to frame and curate experiences from this performance.  I learned with simple nostalgic cues and ideas, you can create impactful moments.

Ok, one last bit of inspiration, I promise.  I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the Rei Kawakubo/Comme de Garçon: The Art of the In-Between.  

The exhibit was phenomenal.  It was ethereal and pushed boundaries of beauty by distorting the silhouette and presenting familiar things in peculiar ways.  By working with simple binaries, like life and death or self and other, Kawakubo creates beautiful designs that inspire me to push myself as an avant-garde artist.  Some dichotomies I'm interested in exploring for this residency are bound and free, past and future, and self and other.   

Altogether, these 3 seemingly disparate, fun, and entertaining experiences I had in NY are a directly and indirectly affecting my creative path for this choreographic residency at the beach house. From immersive theatre engaging audiences, to activating nostalgic memories, to whimsical polarities; my journey as a creative individual cannot be removed from my experiences and my histories.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Choreographic Residency: Week 3

I am writing this third week's blog entry 2500 miles cross country in NYC in a friend's apartment in Bed Stuy looking out the window overlooking some beautiful Brooklyn brownstones. Last week, I took my mother -- a feeble, yet surprisingly agile, Philippine immigrant woman whose english is limited -- to The Statue of Liberty. My mother never imagined coming to America as a child, let alone see the Statue of Liberty, a symbolic monument that welcomed immigrants as they arrived to the US amidst a striking NY cityscape. She, Lady Liberty, was spectacular. My mother and I could not believe our eyes as we took the ferry down to Liberty Island and stood beneath her in awe. We found ourselves amazed by the scale and detail of the colossal giant.

I had to explain to my mother the symbolic meaning behind the monumental gift from France, and she was surprised the statue purpose served as a beacon of light for newcomers entering the country. Together, my mom and I read the sonnet engraved at the bottom of the pedestal by Emma Lazarus.

The New Colossus 
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" 

As my mother and I stood there, we couldn't help but be baffled by the current administration and their policies fueled by fear and xenophobia.  With Muslim bans and border walls, is this symbolic statue still a representation of America's open arms for refugees? Is she still the "mother of exiles?"  

This is not the first time, however, that the US has turned away refugees or immigrants.  We refused Jews entry into our country even with credible visas.  We had a Japanese registry and internment camp.  The following article paints a cyclical portrait of How America’s rejection of Jews fleeing Nazi Germany haunts our refugee policy today.

A few weeks back, I wrote about how I had difficulty connecting physical, emotional, and mental trauma to the beach.  Being here in NYC is giving me perspective and further information on how symbols and borders can serve as sites of trauma and healing.