Friday, November 4, 2011

Reverence Adagio

Since I have a dance vein going on the Underground, allow me the indulgence to include a 2 minute film here that I have made earlier this year of my private dance student, M.

It was meant to give her a little showcase for all her hard work studying classical technique and as a tribute to our master teacher Stefan. We choreographed it together, I made her costume and styled her hair and make up.

It's about a young girl's difficult moment of decision to leave her teacher and say goodbye even though she might prefer to stay with him. It was filmed at a beautiful Italian villa and gardens in Los Angeles.

"Reverence" [rev·er·ence/ˈrev(ə)rəns/ to treat and honor with deep respect] is the bow she makes at the end of the piece. It's what all ballet dancers do at the end of every class in reverence and thanks to their teacher for showing them this secret sacred art.

She is a lovely young woman now. I remember when I first started giving her private lessons at our teacher's suggestion. I've learned and grown so much. I will always be thankful to them both.

This is me teaching Maddie at the old studio when she was about 11, the same age I was when I began studying the same art with our same master teacher today. photo by M's dear father.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Story in a Landscape:
An Essay on Narrative and Place

A few examples of my case-in-point: I could tell you a novel's worth of data from each set: 1:: The aftermath of Chernobyl on Children in the area. 2:: The isolated night time city walks of a recluse. 3:: A European country road leads to an ancient family vineyard. But who runs it? 4:: An impoverished ghetto in Brazil where living shoulder to shoulder yolks people together for life. 5:: An isolated pier disappears in the mist like the ships who used to use her. 6:: A spicy personality cafe owner dares to buck convention in a conservative town.

Mike and I had an email fight today. Nothing serious (it's gotten serious now), just a long debate over whether a place can tell a story. Mike is adamant that a place is a container for a story but tells nothing in itself without characters and events/actions. His is a perfectly reasonable assertion. But I feel it is thoroughly wrong.

I didn't start out feeling that way. Our discussion just got me thinking about it and as Mike got more and more entrenched in his pov I got more and more clear what was more true for me.

Below is essentially my side of the argument in snippets of the email exchange. Should be self-explanatory. It was a good exercise, one that gave me greater knowledge of why Halfland is so heavily weighted on the development of the place, on building the details of the Halfland world... In its Ambient Narrative...

No characters are needed for a story at all. The narrative is in the setting. And not by personifying the landscape or elements in it. Every setting has a feeling by its very nature. That feeling has a wealth of actions and emotions that come with it without adding any other players.

“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.”
                                                                                           --Henry Miller
And that world has plenty of data in it at once. It's like with language. A single brief poem can affect us as a longer form art like a movie. I'm seeing visuals the same as poetry and therefore I don't need characters. I don't need stories. In fact, I can get rather tired of them. Blah blah. Just give me the poem, as I mean that word. I'm talking about the exquisite eloquence beyond character and words. Insta-story.

"...What lies beyond man's word is eloquence of God."

What the difference is to you between the effect on you of a proper "story" and the effect on you of an evocative visual that inspires, provokes, etc. I maintain there is no difference of any consequence. How is the effect of that experience different to you than a narrative?

It's like the word Blue. Blue is a color, yes. But it's also a feeling. Same with the word Narrative. Same with the word Story. When I see a landscape it tells me--YES!---a narrative---a series of details that inform the setting and its story. I get as much from a bare landscape as from a plotline with characters. A lot happens in a landscape. Anyone could tell a story using landscapes/settings ALONE!!!! It's RIDICULOUS to say otherwise. I see the import of landscape/settings like I never would have before.

Further, the setting's story is wildly influential to the audience's subliminal experience of the overt plotline, my word for the linear events of a typical entertainment scenario. What you decried as my stupidity is actually my informed conviction of what it is to express an idea. I'd invite you to go ahead and try what I'm saying as part of our debate. Make a series of landscape/setting images in your mind that tell a narrative without a single thing happening nor character. You'll immediately see it's not only possible, but creatively rewarding.

The story in the landscape is there without an old man saying it. Because the way things are in a place, even on another planet, are that way because of events. The events are written in the place. The more the viewer knows about history and developments in the area the more information they get out of looking at a place. But even without knowing what's happened there or making up a story based on what little they know, a place tells volumes just by how it has grown/developed. The story it tells is of it's development and history, how it came to be through time, whether we know the story consciously or not. A world of story is in a blade of grass. You just need to listen to it.

But while story tellers are not stories, neither are landscapes merely vestiges of stories. The stories landscapes tell, to me, are as filled with data as a story with characters and things that happen. Probably because we can see the things that have taken place in the landscape. If we see the prairie degrade over centuries and the house be built and fall apart, by the time the setting is our story, we can feel/get what took place there in that example. Going further though, if I see a shot of the cold barren moon of Saturn however, I do feel the isolation, the vastness, the silence, etc. and those cues make me feel and think a certain way. Just as a story does. I think the kernel of our disagreement comes from my assertion that story isn't limited to the strict technical linguistic definition but broadens out to include things that make me feel and learn the same stories do. It's not calling it a hot dog to say that I can learn just as much from a series of settings as from a movie. Especially these days when commercial movies are so empty of any substance. For me everything I see is unequivocally a story in the sense of my learning and processing information.

A place, every place, is exactly a series of events. How the place came to be required loads of things to happen, including creation. As Carl Sagan said... If you want to make an apple pie you first have to create the universe." A story is told by simply a place's very existence.

It isn't a stage. It is the play itself. Another story can be told on top of a landscape, but there already is much story in the setting choice itself. For me.

Learning comes into it because that is the end result of interacting with a story. They edify. They expand knowing. Even when they are in the guise of entertainment they educate on many levels, from cultural, moral, to philosophical. Mood is story as much as plot.

I was just watching the dance clips posted here recently, truly the finest moments in dance ever captured. And I was struck by how much "story" was taking place in the second dance especially. Clearly ecstatic emotion, serious meaning, beauty, forceful anguish, and persuasive feelings of sympathy were being transmitted through just a single body's movements in a bare black landscape. I could experience the vein of emotional cues the dancer was expressing even though there was no narrative nor action in the typical sense. Sometimes these types of dances are called abstracts, with no costume or text as with more classical story ballets. And yet, I was struck by how articulate his was in terms of genuine story telling. I knew what human story he was expressing. Volumes of it.

I'm going to term the kind of abstract emotional cues inherent in a landscape the Ambient Narrative.

Update:: An article from a highly experienced photographer that supports my pov on this as well:  "...Immerse yourself in a situation, and then take enough photographs to properly tell the story." Telling the story does not necessarily mean producing a sequence of frames, but rather exploring the situation in enough depth to be able to extract the one or two definitive frames that capture the essence of the situation... this is one of the reasons that I photograph — not, as one photographer put it, "to find out what I've seen", but rather "to be more fully in the moment" — to experience what there is to see and feel all the more intensely. And to do so means not being passive and waiting for something to happen, but rather to be an active participant; looking, thinking, and feeling the moments as they happen..."
Update:: A long article by an experienced artist that supports the notion of visuals telling a story as well: "A painting always tells a story. But just because it can be told does not make a story worth telling.... There are also stories that remind one of truths about human beings in general, or about life, that one would just as soon not be reminded of. One knows them well enough, perhaps all too well, and someone insisting on telling them irritates everyone...."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Meet The Adorable Jemmy!

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Got to visit Cirelle and her new puppy that Shel Rasch rescued from our neighborhood for her. He is a super fantastic little doggie; smart, good natured, giving, and a pure delight of adorable tufts of oinch!

I didn't know what to expect, actually, I did expect the worst. I assumed he'd have to be a total handful coming from the streets without any training. I thought he'd be yelping constantly and jumping and unwieldy, but he was the opposite. He was clearly a good boy and already fully in love with Cirelle. That's really the only challenge they are having to adjust to right now, is how awful he feels when she goes off to work or other activities. He's so attached to her affection and care (I know how he feels!) that when she leaves him alone for any length of time in the condo, he gets frustrated and tears things up.

I say bring him mostly everywhere. Problem solved. But Cirelle wants to be able to go off when she wants/needs to. I think after a while, he'll realize he's got a secure home with her and he won't be so anxious later on. That, or maybe other neighbors can pitch in a share he walking and care. He's so dear that he'll win over anyone who meets him.

Meanwhile, good luck to Cirelle and Jemmy! (that's a French nickname for the name Cirelle got was his from a dream) Shel did such a good thing for them both!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Finest Dances I've Seen: To be as God

It may or may not be germane to Halfland per se, but Paul found these two Korean dance clips on YouTube that are among the finest examples of dance as art I've seen. The first was from a couple years back of the stunning dancer Min Young Park and we love her entire presence throughout her piece, even the way she commands the stage as she walks onto it. All the way through.

The next is a sublime young male dancer named Sun-Chon HAN who, it seems, has been inspired  by the previous performance and taken the genre/style higher still. He makes a leap at the 2:39 mark that, if one is at all in touch with their heart in that moment, will move the viewer to tears with its total ecstatic abandon.

There is something profound at work in these pieces. Something at the core of dance as an artform. They both seem to be not just merely dancing to music, nor performing it.

To dance is to become the music. Not to dance to it. Not to perform it. But in reality to become the vibratory expression itself. To be as God.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Character Round-up

Talented animator, Gustavo Arteaga was kind enough to ask whether I made my own characters for my projects. I said yes and collected a few sketches to give him the idea. I added a few more and put them here, in case anyone else might want to see the gang all together, and often in the all-together!
Yanu the Moth man sketch made from photo of his sculpt.

Bosq the sleeping cat puppet on the set

Rana, the Goat Woman (and main character) stand in puppet on set.

Pink Snail, with cozy home on his back, portrait of the large puppet.

Tarn the Crow Woman sketch

the Time Frog sketch with the Time Flies (Musca Tempora)

The Koi of Enlightenment puppet seen in the pond. He rises up from the depths only for a moment.
Kyra, the black Mermaid sketch from photo of her large sculpt. Undersea she turns blue and the shells woven into her hair turn to pure gold.
Rana sketch, showing how she'll carry the small chocolate-skinned Kyra mermaid puppet while on their journey....

The Birds in Hats sketch, among their hat box nest and habadashery fighting to see themselves in the mirror.

 The Writing Mouse small puppet and his tiny lens glasses.

The Hermit Crab sketch, eating his lemon crab cake, for the undersea scene
Monty's sketch, the little pink balloon blowfish who has no friends, for the undersea scene.

The Chicken Painter sketch, painting a landscape en plein air in the meadow yard. In a fowl mood today.

The Tailor Spider puppet, who lives in Rana's attic making cobwebs for her to wear on her clothes.

There are also marching ants and bugs dressed for a party, caterpillars, worms, a lizard (by Cirelle) and pretty butterflies (by Constance) as well...

To be continued...