Human Interaction

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During the performance, there was guided movement. Audiences did not simply sit and watch; they became part of the performance with their presence in the small space. The performers moved people around during certain parts of the dance and sculpted the space to move around in while also creating more space for human interaction with one another.

At one point in the performance, the dancers picked out each audience member person by person and began dancing with them in a stationary swaying motion, then told them to keep moving as they went off to pick out more audience members. Eventually, the entire room was swaying and created this living organism inside this room - all moving breathing bodies encased in red light and aural sounds from the live cellist and singer.

Another point of human contact was at the end - when all the audience members were guided into holding hands as the dancers integrated everyone from being scattered about the room into a large connected circle. Two of the dancers moved towards the cairn and set the rocks they were holding onto it - signaling the audiences to do the same. So, one by one and soon in groups, the people in the audience walked over to the cairn and gave back the rock that was given to them to keep their hands warm at the beginning of the performance. In this way, everyone gave a little piece of themselves, their energy, to the performance and the space while simultaneously getting to keep the memory of the experience but also give back to nature what they temporarily took. I thought this was a beautiful metaphor for life and death - how our bodies are a loan from the earth. We borrow them to keep warm and live and house our spirits during our lifetime, but then we give our bodies back once we die.

Tree Process

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I began with ideas of a stump with a hollow in the side so that the dancers could sit on top of it, or curl up inside the tree. However, I did not have the time to construct something like that, and the driftwood Anna had for me to use spoke in a different way to me. Upon first seeing the wood, all my previous thoughts about what I was going to make went out the window, and I let the material inform how I was going to build because each piece was so unique.

I got the wood over to the studio in Regis and, by chance, found another piece of driftwood in the free pile in the wood assembly room that was bigger than all the others Anna gave me. I began with that piece and the other large pieces Anna had and started the base of the tree. I was frustrated at first, because the log was rotted out and anytime I placed a screw in it, the wood crumbled and didn't hold. I eventually found a place to screw the wood together.

Piece by piece, I built the tree. I did not try to plan ahead other than laying out the pieces from big to small. I let each piece of wood and its shape in relation to what I was slowly creating inform me where to put it. After 4 hours I finally managed to get the majority of the wood screwed together. But the tree was still only about 5 feet tall. I wanted it to take up more space.

My friend Nichole helped me out - (she was the lighting designer for Barefoot). She noticed they had trimmed the branches of the trees over by Midwest Mountaineering, and we walked over there one night and grabbed a few of the twisted branches and stored them in Regis East. The next night, we moved all the branches and the 5' driftwood tree over to the installation and performance space across the street and I showed it to Anna. She agreed that it needed to be taller, so I played around with some of the branches to see which one fit. We chose one of the branches from the conifer trees and I tied it with twine to the back of the tree. It took up a lot of space and made the tree taller and have more presence even though it was just a branch.

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I finished the tree by tying a bone to one of the branches, and placing other bones and wood pieces around and on the tree.

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It didn't turn out the way I originally planned; the dancers couldn't sit on it, or crawl into it. However, the tree did have a lot of personality and did allow itself to be interacted with - the dancers kept sand in a bowl behind it and also used the tree's various branches and niches to hold the raven mask during different parts of the performance.

It was really cool to see this tree come to life out of wood that was once apart of other living trees. It wasn't actually alive, but because we made it so, its personality came out and helped further the notion of the human mark - I, a human, made the tree. However, it was because of my relationship with nature and my imitation of nature's creation that the form came to be.

Cairn Process

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A cairn is a pile of rocks made by a human. It is a marker - in history it was sometimes used as a landmark, or sometimes it was created to mark a burial site. In the context of this performance, we used it as a representation and symbol of the idea of the human marker. It marked our presence and intentions behind exploring what it meant to make our mark in nature by only using nature as the medium through which to get this point across.

For me, it became more than a marker - it became the process of life. I had to devise ways to find the rocks, transport them, store them, arrange and display them, upkeep them, then re-distribute them back to nature after the performance was finished. Not only did I become aware and go through this process, I also became aware of the mark of nature and its process - I made the cairn because I assembled the rocks, but I didn't make the rocks. While I can label and mark the cairn (a symbol of a mark) as my own creation, that's only recognized in our culture. The cairn itself represents this performance's mark by our cultural standards, and my creating it represents my own mark as a human being living and moving and using resources. Yet, it is no more a possession of mine than is my own body - the cairn went back to the earth as I will one day.

The cairn was also continuously changing. It was never the same from one performance to the next, as we rearranged the rocks before, during, and after each performance. Each rock's relation to one another changed the shape of the cairn overall, and became a mark of everyone who visited the space as each human helped shape the cairn and make their own mark by placing rocks they carried onto it each night.

In the end, it was like saying goodbye to an old friend. I had gone through this process and this journey with these rocks. I had carried them on my back as I biked with them, I had carried them by hand in backs and driven with them, I had carted them around and had to pick up and handle every single rock every time i had to store them or re-arrange them. Then I placed them in a different spot from where I got them and created another kind of cairn - one that represented our mark not only of a performance gone by, but also a mark of the students who were here at this moment in time. Remnants of the cairns from our performance now form a new cairn somewhere on campus to mark our place in this university. It's all natural, and it's not permanent.

Cairn 2.4.JPG

Sculpture Designs

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I sat in and watched the dancers rehearse before I started designing so I could brainstorm on what I wanted to make. I mapped out all my ideas and I came down to two ideas based on availability of time and on Anna's wishes for the piece - a pile of rocks (the cairn), and a stump/tree/perch. In addition to these sculptures, Anna asked me to make a "portal" through which the audiences could enter and exit the space.

I kept in mind the following ideas for these sculptures from my brainstorming:
- Not overpowering the space but rather complimenting it
- Abstract yet suggestive
- Dual use of design - neutral yet changeable to fit the mood - designs that can
be comforting, bare, full of life, dead, and imposing depending on the mood of
the dance
- Natural yet clean - do not clutter the space, but it's okay to be a little messy
since it is natural for things to be imperfect
- Interactive pieces - sculptures for the dancers to play on and use, not static.
- How to display these things in space - what do they sit on, how big are
they/levels

In the end, the portal fit into the door perfectly. I used a 2x4 frame and painted it black then stretched white fabric over it and stapled that to the frame. The fabric was white so we could project an image onto the flat surface, and it was stretchy so people could stretch it open to walk through it. It ended up looking like a vaginal opening leading into a womb - much to Anna's delight as it fit in well with the feminine mood to the piece.

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Here's the projector stand I had to build in addition to the portal in order to hang the projector from it to project a movie of the ocean with a full moon reflecting in it.

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The tree was bare, and accomplished many of my original ideas for what it had to accomplish. It was somewhat abstract since it was all made out of driftwood, bones, and a single branch, yet still suggested and resembled a tree due to its size. It helped break up the space and created levels - it was tall and skinny in contrast to the short, stout cairn on the opposite side of the space. It was neutral, yet changed according to the mood of the scene and the relation of the dancers and audience to it and the lighting. It looked especially dry and bare and dead during the desert scene because of the bones; it looked menacing during the mountain scene because of the red light on it; and it looked alive and comforting because of its form and the cool blue lighting on it during the rain scene.


The cairn became the mark of the human since it was strategically placed by us, and since it was added to and taken from every night as audiences added rocks to it, and as I took them back at the end of the performance to heat them up and start over again. Not only that, but they were real rocks in the space. We didn't simply create a hollow core then put rocks on the outer surface to make it seem like it was a solid rock pile; it actually was a giant rock pile. The presence of each rock and the process behind acquiring, moving, storing, and placing them (not to mention their origins and how they were created by nature) gave the cairn a lot of character and helped to ground the space.

Meet with Anna

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I met with Anna in December after I found out I could work on Barefoot as part of my class with Diane and she caught me up with her project's progress since I last met with them for the Art Squish a few months prior.

Because we only had a few weeks before the show, she asked me to design and build just two or three sculptures for the space that the performers could integrate into the performance they were already starting to create and practice. Anna gave me a copy of "the Flow", which was a chart outlining and sequencing the mood and setting changes through the dance piece, which was what they started working on. The flow worked as follows:

Arrival - the audience arrives and takes off coats and shoes, goes through a portal, is handed a small, warm rock to hold, and proceeds into the space.
Ocean/Womb - seaweed, fetal position, underwater, waves
Washing up on Shore - Raven enters
Curious - raven explores the beach
Encounter - Movers encounter one another, contact, paint each other with clay
Storm - Raven conjures a storm and audiences are moved around the space
Mountain - Raven lands, dance with audience begins, moment of suspension
Volcano - Dancers rumble audiences and shake them
Sunrise - Singer moves through the space and sings
Desert - Shrivel, dryness, parched
Rain - Slow pattering at first, becomes a torrent
River - Everyone invited to put rocks onto the cairn
Departing - people leave the space

From this flow chart, and after talking with Anna about her ideas for the space, I had to design some sculptures that could perform multiple roles including: integrating into the dance, allowing the space to be broken up and more visually pleasing, and allowing the dancers and audiences to interact with and around them.

Art Squish

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Anna and I began talking about ways I could be apart of her project last semester. Unfortunately, until I was able to include my work for her project as work for one of my classes, as well, I wasn't able to dedicate much time.

The first time I met with others on the project was at, what Anna called, the Art Squish. About five of us including Anna met at Rarig in one of the studios on the 5th floor last semester before I knew I was going to actually create a piece for the performance (and before Anna even knew what the performance was going to be). We all brought various natural materials to squish around and make art with. We had clay, bones, sand, dirt, leaves, sticks, ochre, and water as we sculpted and painted on brown paper and newspaper. We talked about nature and the human point of connection to it - through the feet (which is how Barefoot got it's name). Each of us worked on separate art pieces and found, in the end, that we all had similar themes in common while thinking about the human, nature relationship: trees, circles, feet, water, and small mounds (cairns).

We cleaned up and that was the first and last time I met with the group before I knew I was going to be more heavily involved.

Barefoot Recap and Overall Success

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The performance was a huge success. Every night the space was filled with at least 15 audience members - which was the original maximum we put onto how many audiences to have per show. The most we had was on closing night with a whopping 40 people not including the performers in the tiny little performance and installation room.

In the end, I built a portal, a cairn, and a tree, aided in tech week by coming in and hanging and focusing lights, and helped out with all five live performances by resetting and supervising different processes. Musicians, poets, dancers, performers, technicians, stitchers, and sculptors all collaborated to create this piece and together put in hundreds of hours to put it on for two nights.

The following posts will be a recap of my experience with the project - detailing some of the moments from the performances that I thought were relevant to our class - the biological body, while others will go more in depth into some of the process work and creation of the performance from a sculptor's point of view.

Tree - 3

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Tree 3.1.jpg

Another shot of the tree lit by light from the mountain scene in the performance.

Tree - 2

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After collecting the driftwood from Anna, I began assembling it piece by piece based on the individual sizes, the weight, and the composition of the wood. It was difficult working with the base of the tree because the large vertical piece was pretty rotted out and the screws weren't holding it very well. I eventually found a few places where they stuck, though, and I continued assembling piece by piece as the tree informed me how it wanted to look as I went through the process of building it.

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Here's the tree after I assembled all the main pieces.

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Here it is in the performance and installation space. It was only about 5 feet tall, so I wanted to add on a branch to help fill it out and make it have more of a presence. You can see the branches we were working with in the background.

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After picking out a branch, I tied it with twine to the tree and added the bones from Anna at the base and the one hanging off the side.

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A close up of the base.

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The finished tree with the Raven mask hanging off of it.

Poster!

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The poster for Barefoot! Spread the word and reserve your seat!

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Recent Assets

  • Projector Stand 1.1.jpg
  • Portal 2.2.jpg
  • Portal 2.1.jpg
  • Cairn 2.4.JPG
  • Cairn 1.1.JPG
  • Tree 3.1.jpg
  • Tree 2.5.jpg
  • Tree 2.4.JPG
  • Tree 2.3.jpg
  • Tree 2.2.jpg

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