Thoughts after OPENLAB’s session on Friday 13th March 2015: “A Sequence of Events: Doing, Thinking… and Then Watching… and Then… ”

by Sharon Drummond – Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (

“#ds353 – Uninspired” by Sharon Drummond – Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (

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.

To Change the Atmosphere: Is This Possible?

To change the atmosphere. Is this possible? Perhaps it is in the act of trying that something shifts in how one approaches this idea.

On March 6th, we strived to change the atmosphere. Not only to shape or choreograph the space, although this might have appeared to be the case, but to physically change the scientific make up of the room. A heavy task. But in trying to deeply understand this notion, I feel we got closer to it.

This began with acknowledging a sense of atmosphere inside us, the atmosphere within the body. What drives us to move, or just to remain upright suspended against gravity, how our thoughts meet inside.

We built up this idea by moving however we felt. For me, this brought up the question of judgment within recognising repetition of my own movement patterns. Antonio offered that to move with this frustration, is practising the same task, how you feel. Together, we followed Antonio’s thoughts to embrace natural pathways and open the mind to a place of receiving and offering. After all, we don’t know if changing a body’s atmosphere is a feasible task. But there’s something in this thought that makes me wonder about the choreographic or compositional nature of humans within societal groups, within countries, within the earth’s atmosphere. Could the term ‘creatures of habit’ be challenged with ‘creatures of composition’, in that we find solace in familiarity, but thrive on change?

Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts.

Eve Stainton

OPENLAB sessions on Friday 27th February and 6th March 2015: “Atmosphere(s) 1 & 2”

On Friday 27th of February I was in the studio with Inés Alonso. On Friday 6th of March I was in the studio with Eve Stainton. My proposition for both days was to explore the concept of atmosphere(s) within the setting of the OPENLAB sessions.

Obviously, the concept of atmosphere within art and performance isn’t new. In fact, my dictionary gives a 2nd definition of atmosphere as “the pervading tone or mood of a place, situation, or creative work,” and atmosphere is a term many dance artists use.

I have to say that I was twice unoriginal, because the notion of using atmospheres re-appeared in my practice after preparing with Robert Vesty an experimental piece, titled A Piece for Two (lovers), which we performed at the Dancing Economies conference at Royal Holloway, University of London, a few weeks ago.

Our piece was based on a question I asked Rob and which I set for him and myself as a choreographic challenge:

How could we, possibly, make a piece for two lovers; being one of them myself, and the other one my beloved partner…

A piece which is real, rather than a performative mannerism…

A piece which, therefore, has never been performed before…

A piece that doesn’t need to be rehearsed and that in fact takes both lovers by surprise, without being an improvised piece…

A piece that has a set choreography, yet at the same time it is different each time it is performed…

A piece that shows the full trust a lover has in his beloved and in the intentions behind his actions…

And, of course, a piece which isn’t longer than 15 min?

The idea behind (or before) this question was that we could secretly make scores for each other. Each score would be passed on to the other person in the form of a soundtrack to be listened to with headphones. Only this person would listen to the score made for her. This person having to be the interpreter of the score and doing so for the very first time at the same moment of the first performance of the piece.

I don’t want to go into great detail about A Piece for Two, but let’s simply say that the idea of making pieces that aren’t rehearsed but happen for the first time in front of an audience, and are not improvised at the same time, is one which lately entertains me. Making a soundtrack as a score is one of the possible methodologies to work around this concept and I can see the potential to make all kinds of unrehearsed choreographies following this method.

However, how can I make soundtracks which are both efficient and effective in the enabling of such pieces? The fact is that they need to be efficient and effective as these pieces are unrehearsed. These soundtracks as scores need to give as much information as possible in the minimum amount of time and, at the same time, they need to (more or less) successfully enable the execution of the actions that they direct.

So, coming back to the theme of the last two OPENLAB sessions; after performing A Piece for Two (lovers), Rob and I discussed how we had approached the challenge of making a score for the other. Both Rob and I used at different points music as background for the instructions we were giving to each other. Rob said that what he was trying to do by using sound was to create different kinds of atmospheres that affected laterally, i.e. tacitly or even unconsciously, my performance.

I am now considering how to make other soundtracks as choreographic scores and I’m wondering about how to maybe prepare a group performers to respond to atmospheric instructions, and what kind of instructions (maybe using sound/music is just one possibility) can be employed to create one atmosphere or another.

The last two OPENLAB sessions were, therefore, influenced by this. I proposed my interest with the idea of using atmospheres by trying to perceive them first.

My approach of exploring atmospheres was by bringing together the figurative meaning of the word atmosphere with its literal meaning.

a door, a man and space

“Door of the traveler” by B. S. Wise
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Atmosphere comes from the Greek words atmos, meaning vapour, and sphaira, meaning ball or globe.

Atmosphere is principally the name given to the envelope of gases surrounding the Earth or other celestial objects; not just of planets but also of asteroids, comets and even stars.

Within a much more “domestic” setting, atmosphere refers to the air (a kind of air) in any particular place.

This applies very well for the environment which we as humans inhabit. We, humans, live on the surface of the Earth, wrapped by its atmosphere. Still grounded because of gravity but erected with our crowns pointing directly upwards. We are creatures of ground, longing for lightness, and so we make ourselves believe that we exist in space, occupying different empty places.

We occupy rooms, landscapes, regions, fields, countries, moments… always in relation to the different spaces created by their boundaries, physical boundaries or perceived boundaries. Even ourselves, occupying a place in space, are spacious. Our own body as counter-space or as inner spaces. We can relate therefore to all those spaces and perceived them as empty. Inner space, intimate space, kinesphere, indoor space, outdoor space, spaces in which we are and spaces beyond the limits of the space in which we are…

All those spaces empty but not… because they are filled with atmosphere.

Atmosphere is therefore a metaphor for what is there but is invisible. Can we then smell it? Can we taste it in the air like when you enter to a mouldy room?

How can we tune with the ethereal… can we miss it? Can we smell the things that don’t smell? Or it is simply as obvious as gravity… always so present that we don’t even realise it exists unless we think about it.

Maybe that’s why also sound can create atmospheres… it has to do with the air and what isn’t seen (or obviously perceived).

Is it deceiving? Is it subjective? Would we agree? Would you need to be extra sensitive?

When I think about art works defined as atmospheric I always imagine quite, tranquil and time-taking kind of works, but what about the busy, noisy and fast-paced works? They must have their own atmosphere, right? Maybe atmospheres, as thin as they are, are very delicate and need of all our undivided attention to be perceived.

Go there, go, and feel the new atmosphere in which you are by changing your place in space.