Saturday, 11 October 2008

Paradox in Blended Realities

... Estaban got to his feet and looked straight ahead. 'Age is not the problem Senorita. The problem is you are too beautiful for my resistance.' Tahi smiled and felt her face grow hot. It was the first time anyone but her dad had called her beautiful. 'Did you not feel my admiration when you was hanging out the sheets?' He looked down at her and grinned. 'Doesn't mean you can kiss me,' she said, trying to frown. 'I'm very sad at this point. The Maori he open my heart and the memories come back. I want a woman to take them from me.' 'Why do men think sex makes problems go away?' she asked.

'Because beauty and pain they should always be together. That is duende,' said Estaban. Sitting back down he grabbed the bottle and sculled back the last tarry remnants of wine ...

Extract from 'Estaban' by Briar Grace-Smith Sept 2008

In this quote above, two disparate persons come together to share in a moment of insight into the sublime - past memory and present paradox - beauty and pain. I included this quote very kindly provided for me by Sylvie Haisman, with permission from a fellow colleague in the same course. The piece was written recently so the Duende is very much current. Duality of emotion surfaces as a veiled aspect of the dueting in the corner of the main entrance to Wellington Railway Station in these latest video posts. I say 'veiled' because I am convinced that we keep our feelings in public places for the most part, under wraps. How to express, in a commuter crowd at rush-hour, these sentiments associated with that excess of passion so driven by the Duende? My belief, and I have said this in earlier posts, is that it is possible to feel these emotions and possess these insights without giving way necessarily, to an outward show of that internal turmoil. People do it all around us, all the time. I maintain that far from the Duende dwelling only in that rarefied atmosphere of traditional Spanish narrative, whether it be realized in dance or text, the essence of the Duende surfaces in the events of the everyday. The mundanity of the everyday conceals a multiplicity of moments which for each of us, at any given time or place, can be elevated beyond the routine. I am interested in expressing traits of the Duende evident through the poignancy in our apparent inability to stay close and present with another person or place - in the everyday. Emergence of this condition is there to be recognized on a daily basis, because we ourselves, are inevitably located in the everyday.

I have consistently aired the intention to work with almost, discarded moments of feeling and recognition - we churlishly throw away our sensing of inexplicable perception slips occurring out of the corner of our eye - events witnessed in passing as we hurry on our way to the next engagement - which hopefully, will be clear and unambiguous. So my dance deals with ambiguity and paradox, with back-eddies and corners near to, yet almost invisible from the mainstream of movement in this Station space. (image above, the SL Entrance corner which figures in the RL dance videos below. There is a mixed-reality reversal here. I could have referred first, to the Real Life corner. Which is real? ... paradox in blended realities).

I like corners. They both create and define that duality for me, offering up an irony existing in a constrained space which is both a haven and a trap - an enclave which provides a sheltered view - outward. So there is a circling within a contained fractal space, a fraction of the wider environment - a point of purchase in the stream of humanity. This is how I see where we are dancing and like a tidbit of unusual flotsam found at the tideline, we are stumbled into by the people hurrying on the edge of the crowd. You can see the doubletake. The unspoken question, the '... what the ...?' From a corner one can make forays out, into the flood and be tossed back again. Commuter detritus?

I have made work in my last sessions in the real life Station which are careful interventionist expeditions, breaking out and away from these corners. These studies will figure in my next post. For the moment, these two video studies below, 'Cutouts' and 'Leaving and the little death' are firmly located in the corner of the entrance.

In 'Cutouts' I have returned to pursuing black and white as a basis for creating quiet, understated micro-dramas, easily missed. Can the Duende exist here? I have asked this question above and in earlier posts. I am honestly not sure but I think, yes! Rather than define the Duende through obvious expressions of passion in our movement I have tried to tone this down in the dance itself although keeping a semblance of propriety emotion, while introducing a certain tension at the editing stage. 'Cutouts' is introduced through the flow of commuters at the entrance, resembling, with their white outlines, moving cutouts which I have been creating in my SL Station. I have used the 'extract' filter in Final Cut to create this ambiguity in the people and background. I have kept initially, the saturation of colour largely intact to denote that sense of normality in the main crowd flow (as distinct from our corner which is unashamedly black and white). This disappears, when the crowd quickly becomes black and white too - perception viewed from our dancing perspective - looking outward while inwardly preoccupied with the intimacy of the moment. Fiona and Sylvie are engaged here in a conversation which is laced with a certain tension in their improvisation coming from a connection which is not quite mutual. Sylvie seems to have a hidden agenda. We are never quite clear as to what exactly this may be. This is what I am looking for. Ambiguity. Sylvie appears to be playing with Fiona, (there is a sense of a desire to control Fiona) while Fiona simply seems to want to attain and maintain a connection. Small tensions. I think this is enhanced by the lack of distracting colour. The footage is grainier and I think the conversation is grittier for it.

I have used sound devised by Craig Agnew (Nelson musician/composer/lecturer at NMIT) here. We have been experimenting with abstract and minor key riffs to introduce into the work. I wanted another layer of sound over and above the Station sounds, to imply an extra voice in the conversation of the duet. I explored several choices before settling on this sound addtion.

In 'Leaving and the little death' I have kept the use of the Pleasantville effect to reduce the saturation of colour selectively and I have layered in myself rolling in the middle of the crowd flow, as a third party to the dialogue of movement expressed by Fiona and Sylvie. Am I 'the little death' here? Perhaps. I wanted to suggest that sense of a minor chord in the duet. A falling away into an unknown place. Here I have brought in another sample of Craig Agnew`s sounds which is localised around my movement.

I think that both of these studies are working more successfully as micro-dramas with the combination of close-up intimacy and contrast/desaturated colour. There is a sense of a story unfolding about perhaps something which is to be lost. A falling down.

*I have added these Second Life Station images as a current update on the commuter crowd in the Station. I am planning now on manipulating these images in such a way as to explore more sense of disquiet in the space. I will post the developments as they emerge. At this point in my thinking, I am beginning to explore the idea of using Second Life cutouts enlarged to real life human proportions and mounting these in the real life Station.