Thursday, 6 September 2007

Small conversations in Opera House Lane East. Wellington City. NZ Aotearoa. July 07


Dharan said...

Yes my first feeling in watching it is one of discomfort, sort of embarrased for the passers by - if I didn't know you personally and i wasn't already familiar with this genre, as a stranger I would likely feel quite uncomfortable about how to respond to this unexpected phenomena in the street or railway station!

So I'd definitely encourage dialogue with your 'strangers' to engage them in it in some way, other wise it could just be seen as a couple of odd intellectuals who have nothing better to do than do weird stuff in Wellington (and there's already plenty of those!!)
They might talk to some one later or not but you would never know and that 'gift' of feedback for feed-forward is lost. Art comes alive when its interactive.

nomads.hat said...

I think that levels of embarrassment thing are worth noting, but not an issue I need to take seriously as long as I consider I am being ethically correct. Everyone responds in very different ways and it is this diversity of reaction that I am inquisitive about and the substance of my investigation.

The whole idea of course, is that we are behaving in ways which grab people`s attention. Either from a distance seen through a sea of people, or from quite an intimate proximity. Equally, the concept with which I am working is about investigating what may constitute 'engagement' and 'dialogue' with strangers through body language. This connection does not have to be verbal (at this stage). I am exploring notions about how we relate to one another in public spaces in the least little ways.
I am not necessarily after clear, verbal articulation of that connection. At this time, this is not a focus for me although if it were to occur it would be just as important as the other responses.
I am fascinated about what may be very small, tenuous connections, barely registered. What is the smallest 'conversation' that you can have without it crossing the line into indifference? So what we are doing can already be interpreted as 'interactive'. I am not concerned with clarity - but ambiguity.

Talking with several people who have done their MA`s recently, their feelings are that in fact I should absolutely not follow up any sense of checking on what people see, feel, understand about what I am doing. Instead I should just be investigating the event of the engagement itself. Interesting.
As for intellectuals behaving weirdly - I take that as a compliment and wish there were more of it around! As for the need to be 'intellectual', naturally, to validate my MA work I need to be able to demonstrate academic rigour in the pursuit of my research project.

Dharan said...

Yeah good dialogue bro.

I am sufficiently loose in my psyche to be comfortable with some one dancing in the streets and alleys. I am interested in the bridge that can be made in one's perception about such phenomena. Momentary discomfort is probably only one of a variety of emotions stirred by encountering street dancers. I personally really like it because its so unexpected. I was imagining how strangers to it might feel. Emotions evolve when they are expressed.

Yes we can just say whatever happens for them is fine, but you don't know how they receive it! As a 'performer' I would be curious - are you?
'ie. very small, tenuous connections, barely registered. What is the smallest 'conversation' that you can have without it crossing the line into indifference? So what we are doing can already be interpreted as 'interactive'. I am not concerned with clarity - but ambiguity'.

Aha! - the interaction is happening right here despite my not having 'been there' - thats the gift of the net!

Its that distance and separateness/ isolation of the 'performer' and 'receiver' that I would seek to bridge in some way, hence my initial comments. I'm a communicator and the value of 'art' for me comes alive through a dialogue, whether verbal or not. But where is your 'smallest conversation' happening - just in your respective minds and feelings? The gap is still there, the gift of the opportunity for them to respond perhaps via a facilitated 'conversation' is lost. There's our differences I guess - I like the verbal conversation too, to accompany the visual and felt experience.

Blog on baby!

nomads.hat said...

Hey, good skills bro. (Colloquial academic speak). Yes, I remember you watched me dance (movement to sound dialogue) with that Chinese gentleman playing the erhu outside Opera House (cooincidentally) a few years back - and we were thrown money! Now there is a conversation.

'Emotions evolve when they are expressed'.

Yes, I consider the quality and nature of the engagement that we have in danced dialogue with people on the street, driven to some extent, by the passer-by, by emotions - or the lack of them. This is 'read' or registered by us some of the time in the moment, but also captured on digital video, so is not just happening as you suggest, in our respective minds and feelings. The evidence of a response is recorded to be speculated over later. Meetings with strangers in informal situations are rarely facilitated. You could say that I am making work about that gap - what is lost. So some of this very subtle dialoguing is documented. As for knowing what they are thinking, I am not sure that this is important.

As a performer, yes, I am curious, but perhaps my curiosity is centred in that moment of connection, with the richness of that gap in all its vagueries - the not-knowing. Clearly, what we are achieving in the street is a two-way interactivity. But in this day of manic pursuit for clarity, transparency, ( I use this word contextually elsewhere in this blog) accountability, communication, responsibility, the reality is that often none of these things are clearly achieved in a given context or moment. I am grabbing sneak-peeks into what is left. The ambiguity of ambivalence, covert glances, studied indifference; the failure to clearly express a reaction in the moment of encounter - as well as transparent responses.

This is because I am making work about that, as you so aptly put it,
'distance and separateness/isolation' between the performer and 'receiver'. The work is about that lack of a bridge and the resultant, truncated dialogue which emerges. A comment on, if you will, ways in which strangers meet and converse with strangers in an urban environment. I come back to Marc Augé`s comment, '... the lonely contractuality of everyday life ...'(see other topics in this blog) in settings which are typified by what he called, 'supermodernity'- places dominated by not so much passive nouns, but 'doing' verbs - places of 'transit', with everything which that word implies, which discourage a sense of belonging. Is not an aspect of life that we are to one another, even family (or perhaps especially family) and friends, a stranger? And often, a stranger to ourselves. So you could say that my work in downtown Wellington or Nelson is a contemporary metaphor for a stranger in a strange land.

nomads.hat said...

It is interesting to note too, that in a world where so many apparently value clarity in communication, how hard that is to come by. A very post-structuralist attitude - one could call it cynical - is that it is in fact not possible to speak 'truly'. The process of speaking, hearing, assimilating is too open to subjective interpretation to arrive at a definitive 'truth', after the process of communication is over. So nothing is absolute.
In the latest Time magazine, Sept 17, 2007, in an article called, 'Words don`t mean what they mean', the Harvard psychologist, Steven Pinker explains why, 'speaking plainly is not all its cracked up to be'.

'Why don`t people just say what they mean? The reason is that conversational partners are not modems downloading information into each other`s brains ...' There are a host of variables constantly and simultaneously at work at the moment of meeting and thereafter during the ensuing dialogue, which alter, a) what we say and b) how we respond, from a menu of options. (Did I just quote that we are not like modems?) And even though we might not like to admit it, we tend to respond differently to each person we meet - out of necessity, in the process of relating/empathizing, rather than through any kind of flawed consistency apparent in moving from one person to the next.

Pinker goes on to say, 'Whenever you speak to someone, you are presuming the two of you have a certain degree of familiarity ...' or perhaps a curiosity which over-rides a lack of familiarity,
'... - which your words might alter. So every sentence has to do two things at once: convey a message and continue to negotiate that relationship'.

I maintain that even though as human beings we have a common ground of life-in-the-world and as a result, there are undeniable locations of innate, shared consciousness; there are also places we occupy individually where , when we meet someone, that essence of difference between us, that 'otherness' in each other`s presence requires negotiation and we each of us, pull out our 'map' with which we chart a course through the meeting-space encounter. Always communication is sought, but is often elusive.

Pinker finishes his article with,
'Language is a window into human nature, but it is also a fistula, an open wound through which we`re exposed to an infectious world. It`s not surprising that we sheathe our words in politeness and innuendo and other forms of doublespeak'.

So to follow up for 'feedback' as I have done in my previous performance work (you have been present I think) is not necessarily a recipe for clarity.

Perhaps an opportunity for, 'Hi, I am doing my Masters in dance and video and I am investigating concepts around notions of identity and engagement with the public in urban environs. What did you think? How did you feel when you saw us? When you come back into this space again, tomorrow, will you remember and look for us? Did you feel engaged? What did you think about the level of engagement we shared, because we did not speak to one another? All of this might prove useful. The project is young.

What do I gain from having done this verbal post-mortem? Perhaps affirmation for the event having taken place? Perhaps like this process, to share in ideas and notions of social import - 'identity' has been high on the list of individual, national and international discourse for some time now. Who am I? How do I relate to others? (and perhaps the lesser-covered, Who or What is the other?) How do they relate to me? Do I mind? Does it matter?