Latitudinal Conversations (2013)

Don Asker, Helen Herbertson (co-author)

About this exposition

In this project we examine the process of creating performance. 'Latitudinal Conversations' documents conversation and thoughtful reflection between two choreographers over two years. It includes periods when conversation extends into body-centred field and studio work, where thoughtful voices and bodies ‘talking’ are intertwined. It is multi-modal in form exploring the intersection of kinaesthetic, sonic (including vocalisations), and visual image data. The project takes an emergent methods approach, trusting the particular nature of the participants’ interests and curiosity to provide impetus and direction. It is an endeavour that eschews final determination and conclusions in favour of an unfolding dialogue that allows two individual perspectives to intersect and find points of differentiation and resonance. What ‘emerges’ are insights into the drivers and motivations of these particular practices, making transparent many of the tacit or underlying methods, values, and assumptions of the choreographers. The research underlines the cyclical and continuous processing of experience, thoughtful reflection and awareness, and potential for action in the future. In this process notions of embodiment and the capacity of the situated body to kindle metaphors are reappraised.
typeresearch exposition
affiliationFaculty of VCA University of Melbourne
published inJournal for Artistic Research

comments: 2 (last entry by Alys Longley - 20/01/2014 at 12:40)
Ami Skanberg Dahlstedt 23/12/2013 at 11:00

The exposition is a very generous and intimate invitation into the artists' creative processes. It strives to equally connect movement with the description of movement, reflection with the description of reflection, body with the description of body, composition with the description of composition, rhythm with the description of rhythm.The text unfolds at the same time as the artistic piece unfolds.
It is an example of how to try to merge theory and practice on equal terms. It is similar to a logbook. The text does not push itself out from the computer screen, pauses and then proceeds, somewhat hesitatingly.
The text finds its structure as in a dance improvisation. I recognize, experience and sense the exposition as a dance piece. This text is of great importance for dance-makers, dance-thinkers, improvisers, choreographers, and performers. I also think it is valuable for fields such as performance theory, visual arts, music improvisation and performance philosophy. It stimulates my own thinking about dance, an artform often hard to grasp in words. I appreciate and can relate to the experimentation with form in the text, how it is set up in different columns – with various personal charges at each corner, quotes by philosophers in the middle, processed ideas of the artists during the project, videos, photos and audio files to the right, shorter sentences about different phases in an artistic work to the left - it is beneficial to explore.
The working methods are familiar, which is interesting when we problematize who (class, race) and what (ballet, contact improvisation, new dance, Asian dance) is dominating the world. How can it possibly be familiar, as we have never met and geographically we live very far from each other? The description of the work (from the inside) is rare, and therefore very important. I cannot stress enough the importance of the spreading of knowledge of and the recognition and identification of working methods for dance. It creates kinship among improvisers, composers and performers.
There is more speed to certain questions and I longed to see more play with that speed. The text wishes somehow to liberate the dancer/artist. From the very beginning the authors humbly wish to reject definition, which I have taken into consideration when reading the text. I miss some clarification of this particular position, however. Why is it needed and why was it chosen? Where is the problem? The questions could be more loud. I suppose because the text loudly appreciates silence, there is a collision here. The importance of silence of space, mind, body - why is it important? A lot of art is created in the midst of chaos and noise.

“Familiar patterns can be easily interrupted and entry to different cultural and geographic spaces negotiated”. Is this a conclusion, something that was discovered in this project? How? How do movements change and interact in “the natural world”? There were plastic bottles, and rusty gear in the photos. It would be interesting with a comment on whether the authors invited these artificial objects as well into this “natural world”.
“As I’m getting older its about a body, moving, still moving, and what that means to be kind of calling on the things that it knows and still calling on the things that it doesn’t know … endlessly finding ways to dig in to what’s possible with the body” (Helen)
It would be valuable with an extension of this. The position of the aging dancer in a very youthful dance community? There is an obscurity here, what does its presence in this text mean? Does it relate to the female dancer´s working situation, the lack of a room of one's own? Because of the intimacy and subjectivity in the text there is space for deepening this question as well.
This is important, like a manifesto: “For example in the eyes of many in our society an artistic practise serves no purpose, and as others would claim, it is not art if it does. We find ourselves in a world of plural values, confronting the question of purpose or function of our dance. “Individuals within communities live subject to complex networks of interdependencies”
Is the author referring to the performers or to the community they encountered in the wetlands? If the exposition fights for the justification of the body, I lack some aggression, some political statements, manifestos, anger, frustration, and failure. I found one more clear manifesto in the text: “Helen: It's my most powerful tool to express myself; to express what it is to be a person on the planet; its a way to stay connected to the world”

I get very curious of the practise and I enjoyed very much all of the video clips and the voices. For example the video of Salisbury in the window; not only is the shot beautiful, as a dance practitioner I read it with my own embodied knowledge. I sense the communication and I see the movement in Salisbury´s spine, because I myself have the physical experience, a unique perspective. I see movement where others might see stillness. How can that be described? Physical literacy. I enjoy Herbertson's walking spiral. I appreciate Mortiss' shapes. I read the silence as integrity and a definite choice. However, one of Asker´s dances is all but silent, a great exception. I savore the experienced performers. All clips are treasures in this context.
Regarding ethical issues, in one instance indigenous people are mentioned as the practise happened near the site of an indigenous hunters´ vantage point. I would like to hear a comment on how the community in the wetlands reacted on the authors' presence. I would like to see more reflection on this matter, as it is something that is lacking in many artists work. The gap is defined. What did you do about it? What can be done? The reaction/resonance of the site/community is described through the performer´s bodies, but how was then the reaction/resonance from the site/community, by the performers' presence?

”We found ourselves in a landscape that bore traces of Aboriginal and colonial occupations and our own understandings and sense of responsibility surfaced. The spaces occupied were diverse and their boundaries fluid and undefined. The experiences of moving between, of being in between, or in different space or place included shifts in physical and emotional state,the traces of which lingered in our body memories. The affective aspects of our experience and its residues could be rekindled as visual, aural, haptic, and kinesthetic memories – bodily sensations that brought a sense of association between past and present.”

The text is very important and rare in the field of dance. It is an honest and profound experimentation in finding a way of transcribing or transforming the process and practise of dance into words. It connects with theory in a graspable way. It could serve as an alternative and a connection between faculties. Thank you.

Alys Longley 20/01/2014 at 12:40

This submission documents a series of around one particular creative
process (Latitudinal Conversations as Praxis). This element of the submission
evokes thinking around artistic research in relation to place, and the interplay
between space, choreography and embodiment in generating knowledge.
Discussions on the creative project are accompanied by more general thoughts on
creative practice as knowledge and the contradictions, challenges and possibilities
embedded in it. I think this submission would be relevant to practitioners of
choreography, dance in education, somatic studies, practice led research and site specific work.

This exposition has great intellectual potential in its combination of specific and
general thinking around practice-led research. This article follows a meandering style wherein different registers of writing move beside and across each other. It is an innovative exposition in terms of its format – combining multiple registers of writing and media in a consideration of practice-led choreographic research.

The research is contextualized by literature from a very wide net of writers from art,
somatics, philosophy, psychology, and qualitative research. New insights arise in the way it moves between a particular world of artistic praxis in relation to literature from a variety of contextual fields. Is the conversational nature of the project its method? I do find the ambiguity and porousness of this exposition endows this research with a poetic quality and a sense of looseness that enables a space of listening or tuning in my encounter with it. The artistic work it conveys through its latitudinal conversations, still and moving images, sound fragments and musings on creative research contain innovative textures and insights.

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