Thoughts on Community

Thoughts on Community:

The word community is very loosely defined. According to Webster a community can be based on a shared interest, a common location, common characteristic, common policy, common economic interest or some other kind of perceived similarity between parts.

This set of definitions speaks to community as a kind of grouping of individuals based on likeness (in this way one could call a grouping of triangles a “community” on the basis that they are the same shape…even if they are different colors, have different histories and are made of different materials).

This kind of definition is what we use to identify a “black community“, a “native community“, a “queer community“, or a “feminist community“.

Through this lens a community can be seen as a kind of categorization of people. The “Visual
Arts “
Community” are people who are interested in “Visual Arts”. The “Dance ” are people who like to dance. There may be infinite ways that the individuals in the differ but the fact that they share one or more characteristic makes them “same” enough to classify within a group. This understanding of community places the emphasis on static identities of individuals and does not account for the fluidity and multiplicity of individual identities, the constant flux of relationship or the continually shifting dynamics of community life.

It seems appropriate to visualize community as a physical network, as in a series of connections between people (a web of entities). A network, as a model of community, can take on many shapes and form many different kinds of relationships. Networks such as ecosystems and nervous systems illustrate the importance of diversity and dynamic change in the perpetuation of a living process. The transfer of nutrients and information from one area to another is useless if the elements of the system are the same. This is a fundamental principle of biodiversity.

Another way that community is defined by Webster is as a group of people oriented around a common goal. For example, everyone who wants better public education forms a “community” (regardless of the ways that they think it should happen) or everyone who thinks that the United States should not go to war forms a “community” (regardless of their reasoning or their personal connection to the issue).

In these terms the shared “goal” or end result of the creates the means by which people within the community relate. In this understanding the would have no reason to exist if the goal were ever to be reached. Certain values may arise out of this grouping of people in the process of their shared experience, helping to maintain a kind of shared sense of purpose (a reason to work together, to support each other). In this definition the relationships are a bi-product of a common goal.

Both definitions of community (one based on likeness and the other based on an end product) place the importance on fixed points (a static identity or a final goal) rather than the distance between (the dynamic relationships or shared process). I would like to propose a definition of community that is not defined solely by the existence of connections between entities, but rather by the quality of

connection between the parts. This shift in definition acknowledges a spectrum of likenesses and differences within a community as well as the malleable and resilient process of interpersonal connection.

If “art” is, in it’s purest form, a means of communication, then artists act very much like synapses between nerves in a nervous system. The passing of information from one person to another plays a critical role in the formation and perpetuation of social networks. As I am considering the relevance of the word “community” in the world of “art” I have become particularly interested in the ways that “art” ca981541_10151790910684190_325012800_on facilitate and mediate this connection between perceived “parts” (individuals, social realms, ideas, identities). When the connections are fluid and responsive the organism (community) is able to continue a dynamic living process because of the complex interweaving of systems, not despite them.

 

The Love Project

The dominant capitalist narrative tells us that time equals money. If our culture believes that time is a quantifiable resource that can hold monetary value then it is possible that we also have a cultural tendency to equate our own sense of social worth (lovability) with the time we spend laboring for profit and therefore the amount of money that we have. If this is true, our individual sense of self worth can be considered a product of the ratio of time spent over money earned. Time, as a social construct, is a resource which can be exploited for capital gain. Time is therefore a desirable commodity which can be exchanged for social value or “love”.

What is the value system that we reference when we judge our self worth? In pursuing this research I decided that taking the time to meet with my friends every Sunday for two hours to talk about the meaning of love was a radical act of performance which resisted the commodification of our bodies by commercial forces. Part of this process has been an attempt of finding our own definitions of the word “love” amidst the cacophony of external messages which infiltrate our daily lived experience.

The concept of this work is looking at cultural perceptions of the word “love” in it’s various manifestations in the ways that it affects our choices about the way we live, act and construct belief systems around value. The idea of personal verses dominant social narrative is used in the piece by referring to love songs written by the ensemble members that are the source of the choreographic material. These stories are interrupted by a commercialized push to commodify time and the body as raw material for profitable gain.

The year long process of this work has been an experiment in integrating somatic and performance practice in order to generate a repertory of experiences into which we can invite an audience. The somatic aspects have included bodywork, sensory deprivation, visualization and other body based techniques. Performance practices have included Grotowski movement theater techniques, viewpoints-based training, authentic movement exercises as well as various other forms of dance which I have collected from contemporary performance trainings. I am learning about being simultaneously a choreographer, writer, somatic facilitator and organizer. It has been a challenge which has brought me repeated back to questions of surrender, control, leadership and the creative process.

One of our base sets of material comes from an assignment stemming from Growtowski plastique work. The assignment that I gave the ensemble was to generate one “profitable movement” or movement that makes you money, and one “habitual love” movement, or gesture which a person finds themselves performing habitually within intimate or romantic settings. In juxtaposing these two categories of movement and putting them on “conveyer belts” of repetition, questions arise about the possibility of authenticity and presence within an industrialized context. There is a tension between prescribed social gesture and spontaneous “real” moments. The aim of this inquiry is to experience polarities of habit and spontaneity, power and vulnerability, physical material and imagination in the ways that they are expressed in the body. In generating a diversity of physical definitions of the word “love”, hopefully we can find resistance against the commodification of our bodies and energy by external power systems that would govern our behavior.

I am making this piece because I think that it is important for people to know what their motivations are behind the things that they are doing. I especially think that we are to talk about love as our highest value, that it is important to do the work of questioning what that world really means within the context that we exist. Who determines what we do for “love”? This project has been a laboratory to discover different things that love can be. I hope that the performance will serve as a petri dish in which to see various examples of the things that love can be in real time.

Presence Investigating presence within profitable movements utilizing repetition (Grotowski plastique work)
Presence
Investigating presence within profitable movements utilizing repetition (Grotowski plastique work)