Friday, February 19, 2010
I remembered Whitehead's performance again this week when I watched the following video trailer on YouTube for Céleste Boursier-Mougenot's installation at The Curve in the Barbican Centre, London.
There's something brilliant about the interaction between the finch, the twig and the guitar and the sensitivity of the guitar to the slight twitches and fidgets of these almost weightless birds.
Another memorable piece of sound art involving electric guitars is Christian Marclay's Guitar Drag, a piece that evokes the harmonic and destructive exuberance of a rock concert with the threat and dread of an amateur video recording of a crime.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
One runner told of a mantra his older brother, also a runner, had told him which he's pondered ever since he began running. Here it is: Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Say you're running and you start to think, Man this hurts, I can't take it anymore. The hurt part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand any more is up to the runner himself. This pretty much sums up the most important aspect of marathon running.Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, vii
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Monday, February 08, 2010
This semester I'm teaching a module called Improvisation: Spontaneous Performance. This is the second time I've taught it and this year I've asked students to create weekly blog entries as a way of writing drafts for the Reflective Journal they need to submit at the end of the semester. The first entries are starting to roll in and there's the beginnings of some interesting material. Already I'm feeling like I want to put some of my own thoughts up, which I've started to do. Here's my second entry, written today (the actual blog the students write isn't publicly accessible):
I'm sitting in the National Library today reading The Theater of the Bauhaus by Walter Gropius. The final chapter, by Oskar Schlemmer has some interesting material that seems relevant to our investigations into improvisation. Schlemmer writes that from the early days of the Bauhaus the artists involved sensed that the impulse for creative theatre was "the play instinct" (der Spieltraub). (82) This, he explains is "the un-self-conscious and naive pleasure in shaping and producing, without asking questions about use or uselessness, sense or nonsense, good or bad." (82) That strikes me as a good description of what I hope we will be doing in many of the workshops in this module: 'shaping' and 'producing' without worrying about the usefulness or the sense of what we are doing, but taking pleasure in the playfulness. However, Schlemmer goes on to describe how this developed at the Bauhaus:
"We might say that during the course of its development, this state of naivete, which is the womb of the play instinct, is generally followed by a period of reflection, doubt and criticism, something that in turn can easily bring about the destruction of the original state, unless a second and, as it were, skeptical kind of naivete tempers this critical phase. Today we have become much more aware of ourselves. A sense for standards and constants has arisen out of the unconscious and the chaotic." (82)
I think Schlemmer's idea of a 'skeptical kind of naivete' is helpful here when thinking about how, in this module, we can maintain a sense of naive playfulness but also engage in reflection and criticism about that playfulness without destroying it. The hope then is, that a sense of constants (which in our case would be the development of techniques, habits and understandings) would emerge.
Just some ideas. If you have the time or inclination, let me know what you think.
Walter Gropius (ed) The Theater of the Bauhaus. Trans. Arthur S. Wensinger. London: Eyre Methuen, 1979.