When Carol stepped into – out of the light – Ruth Gibson

At the Somatics & Technology Conference, University of Chichester one afternoon in June of 2012 I was inside a black box theatre watching a Performance/ Lecture ‘Revolve’ by Carol Brown, Margie Medlin & Ann Niemetz. During the performance I was struck by a particular moment in the dance that has stayed with me to this day. I noticed Carol shift into and out of the light.

Carol was so present in that particular moment I was gripped by it – there was something different about her energy in that split second and I was sure something had gone wrong. It was part of the performance that I felt the most attached to and there was something capricious yet delicious about it and that moment has remained clearly, etched in my memory ever since. When Carol came off stage I went to look at her super suit ( a circulation map of wires and accelerometers….) and congratulated her on her performance and plucked up the courage to ask her straight away whether at that particular moment in the performance she had made a mistake. She said yes she had made a mistake and the mistake to me was beautiful.

Artists are funny creatures, relishing the chance to subvert, twist, coax, displace, offset, interfere, irritate, exploit. We embrace inaccuracies, develop wrong information so that new forms can coalesce and new languages thrive.

Writing these notes has made me think of brain sneezes and machine freezes and the problems of ‘the impatient dancer’

I read an article by Elly Parsons in Wallpaper Magazine last week about Eleesha Brennan’s ‘Polyphonic Playground’.

The dancers interact with the frame with fingers, foreheads and feet – and timing is everything. Not only would the audience see a wrong move, but we’d hear it.

There is no right or wrong in the pedagogy of Skinner Releasing Technique SRT yet there is a right and a wrong way of teaching it. For example: the teacher does not deliver instructions ‘up’ or ‘down’ or say ‘think’ or ‘concentrate’ but encourages with verbs such as ‘ascend’ and ‘descend’ ‘focus’, ‘gather your attention to’, ’cultivate’. If a teacher may happen to say ‘left’ or ‘right’ they would probably be more likely to say ‘east’ or ‘west’.

What is interesting is that the technique is careful to nurture those who studying it by taking them to certain limits of their imagination and often to dance through an alpha state – this takes a skilled teacher, one that can hold the room and cradle the class so that the environment is safe enough for the students to take risks. These experiences can feel incredible and exuberant at times and they also can feel awkward and utterly disappointing. This ambiguity is typical of how we as humans may come to the technique differently from one day to another, one teacher to another.

After teaching two SRT classes on our first Error Network day I invited the group to write or draw, which is customary after class, two quite different responses; one participant had never noticed their feet in the same way before, how soft they were, and another found it difficult to imagine a soft cushion when they were feeling cold. This information is useful for a teacher in that for the next class they will mention to bring warm clothing and reiterate if lying on the floor in stillness for periods of time to don extra layers.

If an image doesn’t take hold or the student is cold and tired then at least they are acknowledging the fact and sensing this. They are allowed to do nothing, ‘not do’, they are in ‘process’. ‘Awareness’ Joan (Skinner) would say, is a key principle, where the only constant is change.

The moment Carol stepped into and out of the light seemed a suspended state, an aura around her, an air of ‘not doing’ which was captivating, not a pregnant pause, not for effect. Her psycho-physical self shifted a gear and an energy, a force became visible somehow – in tune with her body and her surroundings, with her improv collaborators and the electrical apparatus around her. Because of her not doing, something else happened – from ‘going wrong’ there was in that split second a patience.

During the artistic process a plethora of images are produced — often unused in the finished product and thus never reaching the public domain. These experimental images are part of the technical exploration process, provoking new pathways to visualisations — by-products of research, they can signify significant leaps of invention and potential thinking. They are often mistakes, unintended and reveal a part of the artists’ practice which would have remained hidden from view forever — allowing glimpses into the making processes bringing focus and attention to the peripheral and the liminal, the mistakes, the anomalies.

Here are a couple of visualisations and mistakes we have as Gibson/Martelli created in the motion capture studio, studies of the dancing body in game-engine environments, one a very early work where the skinning and rigging misalign and another where yellow signifies gaps in data. The images in part are derived from our practice which is concerned with figures & landscape in virtual worlds.

The making of SwanQuake
The making of ‘SwanQuake’


The making of Big Bob - Ruth Rolling
The making of ‘Ruth Rolling’

Any artwork falls short of the artist’s intention; Samuel Beckett famously wrote “fidelity to failure” and the potentiality of failing. But what kind of failure is OK?

How can we make a work with failure built in? How can we make a work where something that is not supposed to happen can happen, the unintended intention.

Happy accidents, forced & unforced error.

Politics of Imperfection

Art of the Accident

Beautiful Decay

Museum of Failure

Handle your mistakes with care

…some examples of colleagues who craft the glitch.

Jon Satrom

‘For me, making art is as much creative problem creating as it is creative problem solving. I’m interested in the moments that yank us out of a particular context. Those moments spark awareness; or, at least, provoke us to consider systems at play. A hiccup, a stock-market crash, or a glitch marks a threshold—sometimes jarring, sometimes volatile, sometimes transcendental. ‘ 

& Gordon Cheung

I saw stock listings as a dense metaphor… mapping the torrential streams of capital around the world’

Carol Brown

Revolve – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZLs0z-0ChY&feature=youtu.be

‘Regarding the Nature of Process in the Skinner Releasing Technique’ by Robert Davidson, 1979 – http://www.skinnerreleasingnetwork.org/sites/skinnerreleasingnetwork.localhost/files/nature_of_process.pdf

Samuel Beckett – Three Dialogues with George Duthuit

Posted by Ruth Gibson