Project Description

Free As Air

A six-week collaborative workshop, to devise a performance on the subject of air

Free As Air was a collaboratively devised performance work taking on the subject of air. From air looms and flying machines to the preservation of the upper atmosphere we found a route to uncovering what matters to the individual, to society, and to the ecology that surrounds and supports us. Free As Air was sponsored in part by the Mellon Elemental Arts Initiative at Pomona College, California.

Karen worked for six weeks with undergraduate students of the Five College Theatre and Dance Department which is based at Pomona College in Claremont, 35 miles east of Los Angeles. We started generating performance material with nothing but the idea of air. The performance work was composed by participating students with Karen directing their attention and proposing performance directives. Karen looked for areas of research to inspire them towards generating material about air and to see where it lead. Students identified and interviewed experts within the college community according to their own interests.

With a primary focus on theme of air (as a requirement of the Mellon Elemental Arts Initiative funding), this collaborative workshop to create a performance work in sound, image, spoken word, and movement took the concerns of its participants as its starting point. A performance was created from the personal histories of each participant as well as research, both academic (fact-based, historical) and practice-based (physical, studio-based investigation), into thematically connected areas of inquiry. Looking to personal experience as offering pathways to the concerns of the wider world we found a route to uncovering what matters to the individual as well as to society and the ecology that surrounds and supports us.

The air itself is one vast library, on whose pages are forever written all that man has ever said or woman whispered. —Charles Babbage, The Ninth Bridgewater Treatise, 2nd ed. (London: John Murray, 1838), 111-12.


14 October – 24 November 2013, Pomona College, Claremont, California



Free as Air, an interview with Karen Christopher.