Now and then I have to continue asking myself, “why did I start OPENLAB and what is its present purpose.”
As a shared laboratory for self-professional (or self-personal) development, OL has changed because the constellations of people visiting and participating always changes and because we all change throughout our processes as performing artists (or ‘performing’ individuals).
In answering those questions above, welcoming at the same time the fact that everything changes, I come to notice things. Asking and answering those questions taket time and effort but, at the same time, help me to realise which things, from those I notice, could be addressed to help the lab to change accordingly.
Does the lab still covers my needs? What about other people’s needs? Does it create a space within which my curiosity is able to dwell and reverb?
I guess it all comes in cycles…
Today’s session started with me saying something like this:
I want to propose a sequence of events; this events being proposed as different activities that would frame our practice but that are not meant to serve as the content of our practice. This may be a contradiction on itself, but I’d like to offer a frame which doesn’t frame you (and maybe I should have added, “and it’s up to you to make sense within that frame without trying to understand the frame as a series of tasks to understand” but I didn’t add it).
I think my way of dealing with this idea of offering a frame which doesn’t frame is important for me right now. I would like to offer a freedom that neither scares nor blocks, therefore a frame within which to operate, within which to orientate oneself, is necessary (or so I believe). At the same time, I think this frame has to offer a blank canvas, so there is still a relative space within which to get lost (even if just only at a smaller scale within the larger order of things).
I’m in the process of developing this. It will need some clarity in my intention and make mind space to sit and work it out… even if ti is a new template or draft, a new step within the ongoing work-in-progress in which I’m immersed.
I’m writing this after having had some correspondence with Laura Doehler about Shared Practice and OPENLAB and the ways we operate differently but with a common ethos and purpose.
With Laura’s permission I’d like to share some extracts from this. I am not entirely sure whether this will be interesting for you to read (the reality is I’m not entirely sure anything I write here is interesting for anyone to read but the important thing is that it’s written in case it ever becomes material of any interest for anybody).
Some words/thoughts that Laura shared with me:
Antonio’s lab is different [to the work we undertake in the Shared Training/Practice] but we like our differences – they accomplish each other – and we [have] ended up taking each others classes. Antonio has come during the Trip Encounter and we have been going to his lab. … We do get along very well and inspire each other with our work and research at the moment. I believe we would like a bit more of each others work because it works well together, I think.
The difference between our formats is that we, Shared Training/ Practice, propose a space where people follow their own enquiries entirely. Our facilitation lies in proposing different spatial and dynamic stages so that people spatially and dynamically share a journey, but HOW [this is done] is entirely up to them. We keep time as a means to encourage focus and we mention ‘palettes’ – which are like reminders on how time can be used in case people are at loss about how to access independent work and would like a little guide. It is pretty much the same every session, only that each facilitator slightly changes the kind of palette they propose – however, the palette is in the background so people can access it or leave it quite freely.
Antonio speaks his mind: his thoughts, his enquiries; and he encourages people to develop a moving body but also a moving mind – to not only follow is propositions, like one would in an improvisation class, but to consider and define a more personal enquiry about performance. However, it is still linked to his proposition of subject and, by talking it through, he continues to guide one’s journey. So when coming to Antonio’s class I still follow someone’s directions to quite a large extend. Although I enjoy his directions very much, and also I know I can make it my own at any time and I feel free to do so.
So, I suppose the degree of how much structure and guidance we propose, as well as how much independence we give, varies. However, the bottom line is: we [both] want people to use the time and space we provide to do research and develop in performance, to reflect on the why and how and what for, and we hope to do this regularly [emphasis added].
Those words from Laura triggered in me the following response:
It is true that OPENLAB and the Shared Practice/Training, which you [Doehler] and the girls [Fernanda Muñoz-Newsome, Tania Soubry and Anne-Gaëlle Thiriot] propose, are quite different… but I think they are two strategies with a very similar purpose.
[I think] I also try to propose a space where people follow their own enquiries entirely although I do it by creating a frame that frees them from having to figure out what (which could become haunting) and how (which could become very cerebral… although I welcome the cerebral too, yet there are ways and ways of being cerebral) and they can focus just on it… the doing, the performing. Maybe, I see it in this way because I think the enquiry that isn’t addressed so often for performers to undertake is on performing itself, and not necessarily on the subjects or content that would ‘tint’ their performing… but performing in all its possible forms… and in a way each person does its own idiosyncratic performing. This is the only way I can understand how to propose a self-directing training/practice for performers that will potentially feed their performing practice independently of whether they create their own work or they perform in works choreographed or just directed by others, improvising or performing set material, or anything in between [all of those].
Do I succeed? Probably not entirely but I don’t think I fail either. In any case, this question isn’t useful unless it allows us to continue to move forwards with our experiments.
When I have to chose the content for myself (when for example I followed your shared practice) this feels very difficult to me. For this reason, I like it but still I found it very difficult… I struggle with going into doing it and I used the time thinking about it, and it brings me to a place of performer as maker/choreographer/director/etcetera. I appreciate it and I found it useful, but I also know that I would find it more useful if I could go deeper into it by having more time… I would love to create also an environment that allows this, and that at the same time allows the possibility for individuals to exchange, to collaborate, to put themselves as a help for the others and not just develop their own work, but finding new ways of creating shared practices (not only in space and time, but in common knowledge).
I think this [creating an environment like this] will need resources, space and time, and the possibilities of the performers to be committed beyond to the feeling of what they feel they get immediately. Making things by yourself are time consuming and frustrating (learning has this potentiality to frustrate, when you can’t really do it). I think that if we want a space like that the performers will have to be paid for it… just a thought.
I think OPENLAB is a frame that enables a part of what I’d like to share within the limitations that a 2-hour long practice, once a week, has… I know that it’s very much about me talking and sharing my process ‘live’ and proposing it as a way for others to use it… or not, abuse it… or not, misuse it… or not, confuse it… or not, forget it… or not, manipulate it… or not, re-posses it… or not, distort it… or not, etc. but there is a constant and open invitation to any other person that comes to the lab to facilitate it too.
For me in the end what I want to share is also this state in which you can operate whether you’re told little or a lot about what you should be doing but that you make it work for yourself; daring to do even when you don’t know what you are doing or what you are ask about; learning to be OK with not knowing, not understanding, etc. and still make something out of it.
I’m still working on better ways to do this and I have a few ideas I want to try this year but this ideas will mean I need to sit down more mindfully and plan a bit.
I’m now losing track of what I’m trying to say so maybe I should stop.
I’m also thinking I could use this text to add in the OL’s archive.