The goal is to enable sudden, intimate conversations on subjects that are not frequently discussed, sparking exchange
between people who normally don’t have a chance to engage
with each other. At the end of this section is a 5-minute
period when participants are invited to discuss freely with the
people at their table.
Final Circle (5 minutes): Participants are asked to gather back
into the large circle and use the hand gestures from the first
section to answer a final series of yes/no/maybe questions.
These questions focus on how the place or situation where
people feel at home relates to their families’ national origins,
their birthplace and their current place of residence.
For the latest realiza-tion of “Knotunknot”
in Berlin I worked
with Tomaso Carnetto,
Director of the Academy for Visual Arts in
Frankfurt. Together we
expanded the project
to include a new element of choreographed
dialogue: a graphic
translation of the participant’s actions.
Before the event, each
table was covered with
a thick layer of paint,
which was then hidden
by a piece of paper on the top of the table. During the conversations the participants, without being aware of it, created a series
of images through their contact with the tables. As participants
moved toward and away from each other, as they gestured
and expressed with their hands, they left traces that documented the motion on the tables. What emerged was 25 visual
documents that were both a record of action and objects of contemplation. The images offered complex layers of meaning that
were neither concrete nor immediately evident. They allowed
for a re-ordering of people’s embodied experiences.
Immediately after the event,
we lay these paintings in a line
on the floor. As participants
shared the free food and drink
offered to all, they spent a long
time moving between different
pictures, talking together and
re-coding their experience of
the “Knotunknot” process.
photo by Marion Borriss
PUBLIC DIALOGUE ON VIOLENCE
The Design: I began this project
by considering a question posed
by the anthropologist Paul
Farmer in his article “On Suffering
and Structural Violence: A View
from Below” (Daedalus 125.1
“By what mechanisms do
social forces ranging from poverty to racism become embodied
as individual experience?”
“Violence: Recode” addresses
this question by using physical postures to bring into relief how
individuals shape and are shaped by systems of structural violence (i.e., political, economic and cultural systems that cause
avoidable harm such as racism or sexism). The choreographic
strategies used in this project allow participants to experience
how we, as individuals, help to maintain or dismantle these
damaging structures through the use of our own bodies.
The project “Violence: Recode” can be seen as a choreographic action that is developing in relation to a line of balletic
history. Postures and placement were historically used in aristocratic courts, where the balletic form originated, to indicate
tribal formalities and allegiances. Similarly, the postures in this
project are placed in counterpoint with a changing series of
descriptions that function like picture titles. The alignment created between posture and title illuminates where individuals
have placed themselves, both in body and mind, in relationship
to systems of structural violence. This counterpoint also provides a visceral awareness of how these systems have literally
become embodied as individual experience.
The first edition of “Violence: Recode” was commissioned by
Lyndon State College in Vermont as part of Lyndon’s Year of
Social Justice. I worked with students from the college to create a series of set postures, questions and titles that I used to
structure the event.
These events are open to the public and flexible in terms of
the number of participants. At Lyndon State College the event,
initially titled “Like This…” included students from the college
and members of the community as participants. As with “
Knotunknot”, I work with local networks and partners to recruit
from diverse groups in the community.
The Space: The event begins with participants seated in
two long lines of chairs that face each other about 10 feet
apart. Lines of orange gaffer tape on the floor connect each
chair to an opposite chair. Behind each line of chairs is a video
screen where slides of images and sentences appear that
serve as a visual score. The score guides the participants
photo by Josiah Schlee