Mapping the Affective Landscape
Book 3 from August 9th to September 6th 2018
Chapter 7: Acts of Founding
At the close of the week of Founding, I gather the ‘somethings’ found by this month’s resident artists:
Greta Mendez; Peter Hagan; Petra Johnson; He Jixing; Dava Wing/Qingwa/Frog; Wu Jiayu; Courtney Mackedanz, Wu Meng, He Xuemei and He Xiudong:
‘Originally, …… a gathering of people, and a place where they would meet to resolve their affairs’ was described as a thing (Ingold, 2007; 5). Can any of the ‘things’ found: things that belong to this place as they contribute to its existence, synthesize into a transformed construction of site to the same extent that they contribute to changes in the trajectories of those who gathered here? Founding is always a reaction to something already there; it frames some new point of view. This essay speculates on as it describes how a gathering of artists can become an intensity, a ‘we’ of sorts.
Saturday, 11th August 2018: Qilin Dance performance
Within hours of her arrival, Wu Jiayu encounters the movements she had studied at the department for folk dance at Xinghai Conservatory of Music some years ago and, for the first time in her life, she sees these movements in their context. This ‘quivering of a trajectory’ leads to the filming of seven short stories about movements: circling movements; relational movements; reflected movements; humorous movements. Films in which, in her own words, she found herself.
Like the multifaceted being it celebrates, the Qilin Dance performance acted as a catalyst for the rest of us too. On one level, the rehearsals for the dance at Lijiang Studio facilitated encounters between artists and local performers, mostly children and teenagers: a warming up to each other. An afternoon that gave both newcomer and local the promise of encounters with a familiar face on future walks through the village.
For Courtney, the social aspect of the Qilin performance led to a trip into the mountains with a local Matsutake mushroom dealer. Apart from that, findings of a stick, a stone, some moss and a leaf led to a surprising change in her working methods, with slowness and an emphasis on non-verbal language taking centre stage.
For Qingwa/Frog, who is also a performer in the dance - she dances the crane, a parallel being to earthbound deer - the event sparks of a new project:
a book of illustrations with instructions and guidelines on how to make a Qilin Dance.
In my own work too, which this year had focussed on plants and by extension on movement without doubt, a change occurred. Animals re-entered my explorations of affective energies, in this instance: waiting. ‘My every step as I pace to and fro at the bus stop finds itself faithfully re-enacted albeit with a delay by XiaoLi, the dog. As a consequence, the slightest movement made in my ‘now’ stretches to include her now and the anticipated now of a passing vehicle. This pas de deux takes away the buoyancy with which I usually while away waiting time: the dance between the fluttering of my skirt and its shadow caused by abrupt movements.’
When asked about his relationship to the Qilin Dance, He Jixing who together with Jay Brown, He Erge and He Wenzhao had organised the performance at the official opening of He Wenzhao’s studio in Ciman Village on the opposite side of Lahihai, replied, ‘My role is Qilin Fan’: Fan standing for both food (Chinese) and dedication (English).
Wu Meng had opened the last shared studio session with the question ‘How do I record my walking route without using technology? If botanists move the earth to paper through writing, drawing and photography, how does the performer move the earth onto the stage? How do I record my body? ’ In this context, Frog/Qingwa’s response in form of an exposition of the four-dimensional world acts as a catalyst for a new question, ‘What influences the relationship between the shadow (us) and the manifestation of our heartbeat, our walking, our chanting in a four-dimensional world? Do rhythm and cadence act the way light does in casting shadows?’
Back in Shanghai, my grandson and I negotiate a large puddle. As we wait next to it for the traffic light to turn green, the puddle draws my attention. Across it’s surface floats the upper half of a nearby skyscraper. I search for the solid, the repetition of planes, the three-dimensional body whose reflection lies at my feet and marvel at the ingenuity and persistence of all those inquisitive people that had noted this phenomenon and eventually – by sharing their questions, their skills and their knowledge across time - succeeded in making mirrors.
Founding as a synthesis of what happened before
The previous residency had ended
with the sudden death of nine puppies.
Taking on board the sense of a recent tragedy but refusing to hear any of the details, Greta drew on the skills of He Xiudong, Frog/ Qingwa, WuMeng, He Jixing and evoked the uncanny of that night with her interpretation of unrequited loss of life on a local as well as a global scale.
In response to the prompt: ‘What questions are better asked from here than elsewhere?’
Peter contributed a new set of questions that could only emerge here and did so in a text I do not wish to summarise, so I invite you to read the attached pdf.
Founding as a staking out of ground for future events
In my continuing work with the plant world, the last week of the residency saw the harvesting of beans for seed rather than consumption. And whilst I had been reluctant to acknowledge the beginning of autumn through smells, textures and colours; the rattle made by the bean pods as I took them off their stalks gave me a thrill.
In this context, the question Greta had raised on the day of her arrival, ’What if we treat every encounter with change, with the unfamiliar, the new, the other, the ungraspable, the invisible as a celebration?’ provides an answer. As in the Qilin dance, by re-affirming delicacy, tenderness as well as voluptuousness, the art of pleasure is re-appropriated from other, commoditised futures. Pleasure: thoughtfulness; a sense of an argument reaching back in time; a dipping of toes into the uncanny.
In such a world, you might have an intense conversation about frogs over lunch; in such a world inquisitiveness allows for some form of contact and unexpected glimpses of recognition.
Ingold, T. (2007) Lines Routledge, London