Karen
Christopher

Loops in the brain that tangle and untangle

He asked me whether I ever looked back in my notebook. He was watching me write in it and he wanted to make the point that what I was doing was pointless and that perhaps I should not waste my time that way. He was sure that my answer to his question: do you ever go back and read what you write would be "no". I said yes and he was incredulous saying: "I never did when I wrote a notebook and so I stopped."

I thought of him just now as I was walking, because I'd mused about an idea that had come to me for something to do in a workshop. A new idea, I thought. I had been so glad about this new idea. I went through my notebook to add it to what I'd written a couple of months before for that same workshop but there it was, a note (in my own handwriting) of that same idea. I was having it again for the first time.

When I got home from the walk I cleared a block in the sink and answered some emails and sent a few tweets for the upcoming performance in Aberystwyth at which point I remembered the plan to write something down. I flexed my brain looking for it. I relaxed it. I poked a stick into the inner layers. I couldn't remember what it had been. Nothing at all came to mind. So empty.

When, as I continued to clear a few things in advance of my trip, I turned the radio on and heard a woman who takes care of elephants talking about writing a diary to keep track of developments, the memory of this internal conversation about the notebook and the memory and the workshop exercise came flowing back to me. Now I've written it down. It's all there now. Every curling loop of it.

 

Tags: walking, untangling, questions, workshop

Posted on Tuesday, 25 November 2014 by Karen Christopher

Was the order meticulously planned for these spillages to happen at certain times?

Tom, a 3rd year student at University of Falmouth, was writing his dissertation around the idea of the compositional ordering of a performance piece and was very interested in the way that we chose to order and compose the various "micro-elements" within Control Signal. He wrote: At the beginning of the piece the different elements seemed quite clearly defined around the edges and did not appear to relate to each other in any obvious way. However as the performance went on they slowly began to spill over into each other. I particularly remember the first moment that "Ethel Rosenberg" was mentioned and the way that that sort of seeped/trickled/conducted into the other elements of the piece, almost like electricity, making connections in my brain which began to join all of these individual elements together.
Fantastic!

His question was: how much "control" did you exercise over this spilling over. Was the order meticulously planned for these spillages to happen at certain times? Or do you feel that this was this more something that was out of your "control"?

I responded that it was, as he put it, meticulously planned, but it was also intuitively felt. The style in which we worked on the performance meant that there was a lot of trial and error and finding out how to place little, time-released capsules here and there at the beginning and through the middle so that when certain big ideas are brought out it feels like there's already a history for them to rest on or little dormant ideas to activate. It causes the piece to assemble inside the heads of the audience. I think of it as little bits of dried moss that spring to life when watered.

Another student asked a related question during the post-show discussion. He asked about how the idea of translating internal thoughts into live versions of material related to the fragmentary nature of how the various bits arrived during the show. I think sequencing the material is the most important thing we do. And this has specifically to do with how to convey thoughts in the practical world, how to convey what sits inside our heads and makes sense within the tumult of information that sits in there amongst all of the things we know or think about. Translating that into material that conveys the complexity of thought as we experience it internally into something that can be shared with other people, even people we've never met, is a tricky business. It is easy if the thoughts can be generalised and concretised but if we want them to be re-assembled inside the heads of each audience member according to their own inclinations then it is a delicate balance. Maybe it's like those model ships inside bottles. It shouldn't be possible, but it is. It's a way of making the reading of the show belong to the audience and in this way it becomes their own set of ideas because they participate in the mantling (opposite of dismantling?) of it (the "set" of ideas).

Tags: Sophie Grodin, questions, Performance Centre, Falmouth, duet, Control Signal

Posted on Thursday, 14 August 2014 by Karen Christopher

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