This entry is a reflection on my Make a Start residency at LGI for ‘Destiny State’ in December 2022.
Standing at a slight distance to the experience, I now recognise the major outcomes as being;
– The continued development of a technique which considers ‘the opposite’. This is a technique for generating material as well as an exercise for perception and awareness. A technique for production as well as training.
– The beginning sketches of a new ‘world’ which will host a work (potentially for a solo body).
– The invaluable opportunity to reconnect with the industry in Naarm/Melbourne after having been elsewhere. The pleasure of remembering and feeling supported by past experiences.
– Practising how to engage with a residency in a way that is supportive for my artistic process and well-being (This was my first residency through a production house or company).
The ‘opposite’ practice (trying to find a name for this practice but struggling)
This practice is (de)centred around ‘the attempt to arrive at places of opposition, as a method to induce destabilisation and drop-us-off somewhere previously un-locatable, somewhere in-between’. I link the movements which occur when engaging in this technique to the agency of ‘the minor gesture’, in reference to Erin Mannings’ text; ‘A Minor Gesture’. Minor gestures are the forces which contend with major gestures. When considering ‘the major gesture’, it can be regarded to have a great gravitational pull; it’s an element of seduction, stagnation, empty promises and vague, mass movement. It can be likened to neurotypicality, Capitalism and whiteness. The minor gesture has an ungraspable, undetectable nature. It is an activator, holding the imperative task of guiding the event in a direction which opposes and offsets the command of the major.
During this residency I (temporarily) consolidated a series of ‘opposite exercises’ to set in motion this destabilisation. We repeated the same series of exercises on multiple occasions in varying spaces, with some common people and some new participants each time. The exercises progress in demand, beginning with linear responses to then requiring multiple layers of reflection and decision making. It was very exciting to observe the different strategies of approaching ‘the opposite’, and the ‘mirror effect’ it had on revealing how differently we were perceiving the situation to begin with. The exercises are designed to saturate you, expose the hierarchy of your perception and highlight politics surrounding how we categorise what we perceive. The suspension created by not being able to ever fully accomplish anything, the ‘fuel of no solution’, is what generates something offset, something new.
I have to say, engaging with this technique is truly disruptive. Throughout this residency I often found myself bearingless and unable to anchor any thoughts or material. I think this is an extremely valuable state to be able to access, but perhaps in smaller doses!
A list of the exercises developed so far:
OPPOSITE IMPROV (between bodies)
OPPOSITE IMPROVE (between bodies and world)
The ‘Destiny State’ world
This world was born (22/12/22) from fragments of recent artistic endeavours being assembled together through my deciding to (mostly) attempt the opposite. As a result, the 20-minute proposal was potentially a bit abject — ‘luckily’ this is something which I aspire for in my work. The un-graspability of what this was or is or will be is what makes me feel proud that the minor gesture is in action! As juicy as I find the abject/ungraspable combo, it did require a lot of trust to not abandon. You can’t imagine where you might arrive, and therefore you are unable to prepare for your time there.
Spending time with a community which I miss and love
Whilst in residence at LGI I was able to share my practice with the community on three occasions; through an ‘On The Table’ session at Dancehouse, by opening my rehearsal at LGI one day and during a formal showing at the end of my residency. These were very precious experiences for me, a great practice in facilitating a group, but also to understand how my material resonates with different communities across the globe. As well as these three occasions, I also invited past collaborators Emily Laursen, Alexandra Dobson and Ruby English to join me for part of the residence. They all performed in a previous production of mine; ‘Dark Points’ (2019), and it was very joyous to be able to share space and knowledge amongst one another again.
How to do a residency
Meditate, trust, be patient and don’t pull things towards you or push them away.
Here is a link to the documentation of a recent film I made in which I employed the ‘opposite technique’ to make most choices.
– by Thalia Livingstone
(1) Manning, Erin, “Introduction: In a Minor Key” In The Minor Gesture, (New York: USA: Duke University Press, 2016).
Based in Naarm, Ruby English is an emerging contemporary dance artist who has recently completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Victorian College of the Arts. She is currently intrigued by the inevitable communication of the body to its exteriors and investigating how that narrative can be distorted. Amidst and beyond her training, Ruby has worked with artists through collaborative, company and directorial processes. In 2020, she began making as an independent artist predominately exploring collaborations with both musicians and videographers. Ruby has performed for choreographers including Amrita Hepi, Rachel Coulson, Adam wheeler, Amber McCartney, Alice Lee Holland, Alice Dixon, Caroline Meaden and Daniel Riley.
Em Laursen (they/them) was a member of YellowWheel from 2015-2018 and graduated from the VCA in 2021 with a BFA in Dance. Em enjoys working in improvisational and live states of vigour, both in the mind and the body. . They were the recipient of the Phillip Adams Award in 2020 and have since worked with Rebecca Jensen, Jo Lloyd and Phillip Adams. Em loves witnessing ‘attempts’ in bodies, the environment, and being within the dance community.
Alex Dobson is a contemporary dance artist and choreographer currently based in Narrm (Melbourne) Australia. They have performed and been in development of works for independents Zoë Bastin and Alisdair Macendoe, and companies Phillip Adams BalletLab and Tasdance with Jo Lloyd. Dobson has choreographed, danced, and shown work at Dancehouse Emerging Choreographers’ Program 2021, Adelaide Fringe Festival 2020, Tempo Dance Festival 2020 (with collective DIANGLE), and Melbourne Fringe Festival 2018, 2019. Dobson’s movement practice engages with contemporary dance and performance forms, endeavouring to encourage emancipatory engagement from audiences.