Tuesday, August 15, 2017

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.

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