Adj, who will be the photographer at the performances, was able to come down and see it performed once all the way through. Although we had met previously to discuss the trajectory of the piece, it was impossible to give her a full sense of what the piece consisted of, so I was glad she was able to get a sense of it for herself before Friday and Saturday. There are a few parts that I pointed out to her as things that I would be interested in having photographed, but I am essentially giving her artistic license to capture what she wants. It is documentation, yes, but Adj's photographs are not intended to act as documents, providing evidence of the performance. They represent it, but like my photographs, like my blog entries, they mediate it- they do not, cannot, stand in for the piece.
It was certainly different to have someone (other than myself) taking photographs, and getting up close to the dancers, interrupting. Of course, the issue of photographing dance specifically is always an interesting one- the movement, the essence of what is happening, is stilled, fragmented. A visual representation of something that is about transcending the visual- to watch dance is to experience something visceral, kinetic, embodied. As Susan Sontag insightfully puts it in On Photography,
a set of photographs which freezes moments in a life or a society contradicts their form, which is a process, a flow in time...Life is not about significant details, illuminated in a flash, fixed forever. Photographs are.And yet while this freezing, illuminating, interrupting of time's flow needs to be recognised, by doing this the photographs offer another understanding of the project. Maybe sometimes we need details to be illuminated and fixed forever. They are a product in their own right- another facet in the outcomes of this project.
We also had an interruption of another kind on Friday. In the last few minutes of rehearsal, three men in suits walked by us on Weybosset Street as the dancers were lined up on the steps up to the balcony. One of them, catching sight of the dancers stopped and asked, "What is this?" I replied that it was a site-specific project. At this point I was not sure of his motivation for asking, but that soon became clear as he ordered the dancers to come down from the steps- his reason was that they could get hurt, it was private property, and he represented the building owners. If I had more presence of mind I would have asked him for his contact details, since was he not the kind of person I had tried for over a month to get in touch with? But as it was, I didn't, and motioned the dancers to come down, whilst he continued to point out that it was private property, and eventually continued down the street to catch up with his companions.
Interesting that it took so long for this to happen. Interesting that we elicited this response when there are people up on the balconies all the time for a variety of reasons. Interesting the brusqueness with which he addressed us, seeming to dismiss what was happening without asking anything further about it. Interesting that he felt able to wield his power instantly upon hearing my reply. Interesting that something similar might happen again on Friday or Saturday, with no way of predicting or controlling it. Such is the nature of undertakings not comfortable ensconced in a theatre. Here performance spills outside of a space designated as being for performance where is safely contained, and the way a site is being used does not line up with its perceived and acceptable function.
My main concern is that I do not want the dancers to be put in a position where they are being targeted, and I want them to feel that they have a way to deal with this kind if situation if it arises. My instructions to them are to move off of the steps or the portico if someone explicitly tells them they cannot be there, but to continue their movement tasks exactly as they had been doing once on the pavement/sidewalk. This would add another whole element of unpredictability to what the performances are going to be.