way way way back in APRIL (!!!!!!!!), Emily Leap and I sat down and wrote a letter to the three people who would later be our Portland guest artists for the June Residency and the TBA premiere that’s happening in 2 weeks. We wanted to give them some kind of something that would let them start to understand us and get let in on some of the things this project has been doing and thinking about.
It’s now last August, and reading this letter is INSANE because everything happened and collided and crashed and blossomed and got blown up, while we were working in Europe…but somehow some of this stuff is totally still at the core of what we’re doing, so…lalala scenario scenario….here’s the letter:
Dear Portland Guests Roya, Keyon, and Taka:
We are two (Emily and Jesse) of the core-ish group of artists working on Keith Hennessy’s work, Turbulence (a dance about the ecnomy), and we wanted to reach out and say hi, maybe shed a teeny bit of context on where the project has been, and what some of our thoughts and feelings and experiences have been, making dance and performance about “the economy.” This letter is in no way meant to prescribe anything about your up coming expereince, or ours for that matter, but more a way to just say “welcome” and give a little background.
So, hello! We are particularly glad that you all are joining us because the dynamic of a rotating crew of guests has become, for us, a really interesting/challenging/contested/fruitful part of engaging with this work. There have been questions on the table as to what kind of investment and familiarity we core folks are supposed to have with the project, and it seems that, at this point, we do kind of keep leaning toward destabilizing whatever static answers we might come up with in regards to this. So, thank you for being inherent catalysts, game-changers, and just new collaborators. It will be rare, in this letter, for us to speak on behalf of the group, as this is not a group defined by its coherence and we two are certainly not here to give you “the answer” to what this is all about, but we think we can honestly say that every person who has collaborated with us so far has left a solid mark of presence on what the piece now is, what it was, and what it’ll inevitably become. The long and short: we’re glad you’re going to join us.
But, so, what is it exactly that you’re joining? And how is it possible, really, to join, as equal collaborators, a project that’s been in creation, with a core group, for a year and a half? Well, we’re writing this email so that you can begin to find your answers to these questions, but also to let you know how much we’re all still looking for those answers ourselves.
Still, there are some things that we know that you don’t, and for sure we have that to share with you. We’ll start with a kind of an introduction of what is maybe a core with a bit of scoliosis. We are Emily, Jesse, Larry, Jassem, Jorge, Julie, Gabriel, Jupiter and, of course, Keith. Some of the words we use to describe ourselves, in no particular order, are maker, dancer, trapeze artist, yogini, singer, waiter, writer, administrator, cook, shaman, faerie, go-go dancer, sex worker, gardener, empress, student. We’ll let you figure out which words belong to which people when we get to you. The point is that we come from lots of differnt places and hold lots of different identities and we’re complicated…so, this piece is complicated. Discussions are complicated. How does this group feel about its role in the global economy? How does this group feel about capitalism? How does this group feel about leadership, respond to authority? Well. We’re still trying to figure it out.
Also, there are alot of elements of design around this piece that change everytime we work and perform, but one notable element is Jassem. He makes sound with lots of machines and toys and works with big beautiful bouts of distortion and volume, amongst many things. These sounds will never not be in the space with us. This is something to know.
Another thing that feels like a thing to know is just a brief history of the project, from our points of view. Turbulence came into each of our lives at different times. As long ago as December of 2010, certain folks were joining a study group at Keith’s house and then doing a workshop that lead to a performance experiment, also that week. For the first half of 2011, the work laid mostly with Keith, as he developed ideas and strategies around moving ahead with it, and a number of us were asked to travel to Europe during July/August of 2011 to work further. We worked for a week at Ponderosa in Stolzenhagen, Germany and for a week at Impulstanz in Vienna. Both places, we workshopped and created and lived with anywhere from 8-18 other folks from about 15 different countries. Then, in December of 2011, we regrouped, added a few more locals and a few folks we had met in Europe, and worked intensively for another week and did a showing in San Francisco. As for the future, we will be going back to Europe in July, after we work for another week in SF following our time with you, and we’ll be working in France (Pontempyrat) and Germany (Stolzenhagen and Berlin) with various permutations of this core group and of course, new and old friends from our travels thus far. Then, in September, we’ll be back with you at TBA, we’ll be in Seattle, at YBCA in SF, and at New York Live Arts (DTW) in NYC.
Next, and perhaps the most straightforward element of the work so far, a list of source materials. Not all of us have read, listened to, or watched all of this, but these are some things that have been in circulation throughout the last year and a half.
- Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein. There’s also a film documentary by the same name, more complimentary than parallel.
- The Inside Job. a film documentary. Easy to find. Pretty solid foundational piece of the work.
- We Dont Torture - a song by 80s brit punk girl band, The Au Pairs
- I’ve attached three essays that Keith sent to those of us who went to Europe last summer just before we left. Demystification of economics, the economics of community.
- There are quite a few episodes in the archives of This American Life that explain the economic collapse that have been useful for some of us in trying to understand things like derivatives and sub-prime mortgages.
- We’ve all now made a pretty good attempt at memorizing this text from the movie The Network: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WINDtlPXmmE&feature=related
- A poem, written by Keith, set to music by Gabriel:
You made a fucking killing
You got away with it
And then you got promoted
And now for a fuzzier list. This is an attempt by Emily and Jesse to name the parts of this work. These are some structures and objects and scores that have been in the room(s) with us in the past and that may, or may not, come with us into the future. In no particular order:
- Asking the audience to read each other’s clothing labels, to find out where all of our clothes are made
- Having the audience research the conflict metals in their smart phones with their smart phones.
- Very large gold sequined fabric
- Ending with a pop dance party, Rhianna being a particular favorite
- Passing champagne to the audience
- Pissing on stage, in containers or not, on the gold fabric, though we’ve mostly been to hesitant to go quite there…
- Joining hands and spinning in duets is called the “Turbo folk dance”
- We play games with building unsustainable structures, going for height, though collapse is inevitable
- 5 people holding one down, the one who’s down wanting to kill his or her captors
- Aerial space. A bar that can hold a few people. A high strap that isolates one person in the air.
- A sculpture of lights, made by whoever the tech crew is, however they want.
- Mic check, Occupy style.
- Fake healing – you maybe experienced a bit of this already, no?
- Financial appraisal of our skill sets. e.g. It took Marcio x number of days to learn this move and he was paying x number of dollars for the classes he was taking to learn it, therefore the value of this move is ___.
- Listing the ways we make, and have made, our money.
- Stepping out and watching.
- Getting up as high in the room as possible.
- Smaller triangles of the gold fabric that are skirts, hoods, shawls, etc.
- A three level pyramid with gold hoods draped Abu Graib style.
- Traditional black torture hoods
- An assortment of plastic weapons
This is a lot of information we’ve just given you. Please don’t feel overwhelmed. We’re all delightfully confused and curious too, trying to revel in the many dynamics of destabilization and questioning, and also in the privilege of getting to make a work like this. There are no rules for how this should work and your role is yours to invent, just as we’re all trying to invent our own.
We hope this was somewhat helpful! Or at least interesting or peaking of your curiosity. We’re very much looking forward to meeting you, throwing your body and ideas clear across the room, and interrogating and healing and tearing down and building things with you.
Emily and Jesse and the Turbo team