I’m Sarah A.O. – Anna has been kind enough to invite me to blog on Move the Frame on a regular basis. So, yes, i’m thrilled to be here! I guess you could say i’m a dance blogger. You could also say that i’m a choreographer, and dancefilm-maker, as well as newmedia lover/developer. You could also say that I am a lumberjack, but you, my friend, would be wrong on that last one. My company, the A.O. Movement Collective, is a contemporary dance co. based in NY, in love with and dabbling in many things: the aesthetics of mess, epic work, new media programs, and dancefilm being some of them. My blog, the Urgent Artist, is a digital space for some of those ideas and questions, as well as a space for anyone who “lives by their art” to throw down some good old fashioned knowledge, questions, or heartaches. I also work as a producer/editor for reels4artists, a video production company for the arts, and as an artist services intern at Dance Theater Workshop. But enough about all that.
Since Anna approached me about writing for her blog, i’ve been thinking about how to structure my time and space here. Do i blog theory, or about performances and screenings, or maybe turn my attention to the economics of dancefilm versus performance? I find them all vast and interesting, but luckily there’s a fairly easy answer already in place.
I’m just about to start pre-production (or, technical pre-production – we’ve been working on the choreography for a while now) on a dancefilm that i’m making with the AOMC. What i’ll do in the next few months is blog a mix of production journal, preview, and theory/subvisc that goes along with it. However, before we get started on that, before i can even start talking about the dance, much less the dancefilm, i thought it might be helpful to offer up a few basic ideas and vocabularies that i seem to return to a lot in my work and in my blogging. To throw them out like this (some more than others) is problematic, partially because some of them are controversial ideas, and i’m sure that i can’t really explain where i stand exactly in one short paragraph. But i’ll try to be as clear as i can, and if you want more info about any of it, feel free to let me know, or search for it on the Urgent Artist.
1. Vocab: “Subviscera” – Okay, so here’s a simple one. You have the text of a book, and then you have the subtext, right? So while the viscera refers to the dance or the dancefilm’s movement on a purely formal level (anatomy, space, time, texture, relation, etc.) the subviscera, or “subvisc” is all the information that lies below that. For most works (i would argue for all works, but that’s another post), this is a MASSIVE amount of information. We’re talking everything from themes of the work to specific “meanings” of movements or relationships to details about how the work was first envisioned, or how it has changed over time. I see it as falling into two main categories: information about how the dance was made (process, evolution, etc), and about the dance itself (themes, interpretations, scholarship, etc.) I’ve always believed that the subvisc was every bit as important as the viscera, and a lot of the newmedia work that i do investigates ways to record or interact with a piece’s subvisc. Yum!
2. Clarification: “Epic Work” – A biggie, so to speak. For the last year or so, i’ve been consistently obsessed with epic work, both in terms of looking at other people’s and making my own. In fact, i’m moderating the next Artist Salon at Chez Bushwick on the 25th and we’ll be screening and discussing the very topic. It’s my professional opinion that you should come (which i’m sure Anna and I will both blog about more in the coming week) and if you’re interested in showing work, just send us an email. Anyway – to clarify (and we’ll get into the juice of it later) by “epic work” i am usually referring both to the themes and to the length of the work. The length or mass of the work meaning that it’s longer, denser, or somehow encompassing more than the average dance piece or film. The themes of the work meaning “epic” in it’s literary or filmic sense – using the structures of a hero, a journey, a long span of time or subject, lists, epithets, and cultural parallels. Regardless, i’m interested in epic work, partly because it’s what i’m drawn to, as you’ll notice by the length of this, and most subsequent posts. I’m not interested in works that are clear or simple for the sake of clarity, ease, or entertainment. I’m not even really that interested in works that are “clean” or “well made”, although they are certainly very lovely to watch. I’m interested in works that encompass many many complex things very fully, convey the mess of human interaction, and aren’t self-limiting in their quest to be easily watched, or even watchable in one sitting. I want works that evolve me as a watcher, maker, and human because i have to somehow grow or expand to experience them. So there’s that.
3. Idea: “Anti-ephemeralism” – Oh what a can of worms. To generalize grandly: it is of my opinion that most of the dance world’s problems right now stem from the fact that “dance is ephemeral”. While, on one hand, this is what makes dance unique from other art forms, it’s also what makes dance nearly impossible to study without a physical experience of it. This makes dance not only inaccessible, but puts it on it’s death bead economically, because no one is watching (contemporary) dance right now but dancers. So. I as a choreographer and as a newmedia artist am interested in the refutation of the ephemeral as a given for dance. Which is not to say that i think all dance shouldn’t be ephemeral, i just think that it’s high time we stop using it as an excuse, or assuming that it has to be. More on this later.
Those are the big three right now, or at least, that’s what’s hitting me as i sit trying to think about how to introduce myself to you. What else can i say? I’m an artist. I’m deeply invested and in love with the making of things and cultivating of communities, and i’m really excited to have the chance to interact with all of you through this blog!
Next week i’ll give you some background on the piece we’re making and all that jazz, and then from there on out we’ll be following along with the production of the piece as it happens. Always feel free to email me, always feel free to ask questions, and ALWAYS feel free to argue!