Welcome, Oct 2010

By Maureen Walsh

October 1, 2010, PUBLISHED BY IN DANCE

I was recently confronted with the saying, “If you can spot it, you got it,” which I took as this: the faults I so easily point out in others are the ones I have too—for the record, I was complaining about complainers, go figure. This realization spurred a re-evaluation of how I shape my reality, my perceptions of others and of myself. I also began re-considering the ways in which I am an audience member. Let’s face it, being a member of today’s dance and performance art culture, rarely means viewing dance while sitting in a dark room with a bunch of strangers. Thus I have become fascinated with the idea of being an online audience member.

In my mind the last 50 years of art culture can be described with the analogy of a road map, where there is no center, no absolutes, no fixed points in space (as Merce Cunningham put it). And now that we have placed ourselves so far from any one center, it is the smaller details and interpersonal connections that become more noticeable and important. How we navigate the highways on this map and the intersections between our ideas become the force behind art making. Where breaking down barriers between form and function was a grand idea in the past, now art is about building links between unsuspecting ideas. Art for art’s sake is a thing of the past, and functionality has become a new skill, a new art form of its own.

Our fast-paced, multi-tasking, interweb-driven lifestyles are what make this shift in art possible. Click through the right series of photos on Facebook quick enough, and you might find a funny little dance akin to a hand-drawn flipbook. Or read through user comments on your favorite blog, roll your eyes at some and connect with others, as if they were side comments overheard while leaving a proscenium performance.

Our perception and our presence is still just as strong no matter where we are in space and time. The connections we make with others, through chance performances on the street, email correspondence, or seeing others through the many portals of social media, may just be the new performance aesthetic, or at least the beginnings of something new.

Take the newest, public installation performance of Joanna Haigood’s, for example. Sailing Away will be performed along Market Street, mid-month and in City Hall on Friday, October 1. It’s bound to be a grand scale work, surely catching the eyes of many unintentional audience members.

Prumsodun Ok, presenting work this month in the Performing Diaspora Festival at CounterPULSE, has brought to light the ideas of the masses. In his article, he teases out salient points of ethnic and racial histories of Cambodian and Thai people, and how they have shaped the Classical Cambodian Dance form; it’s a smart and poetic rebuttal to a few strongly worded YouTube user comments.

The back cover holds only a snippet of Ariel Osterwies Scott’s interview with Ralph Lemon. Discussing his new work at YBCA this month, the two so eloquently banter back and forth about audience perception, artistic meanings, and so much more. Be sure to read the full interview that continues on our website; it is a fantastically insightful conversation in its entirety.

Perception is a funny thing; it’s completely in the eye of the beholder, but the bias it brings so often goes unnoticed—especially when sitting behind a veil of a computer screen. Whether real or virtual, can you spot what you’ve got?

This article appeared in the October 2010 issue of In Dance.

Maureen Walsh lives in San Francisco and enjoys the city’s craziness and wonder. She spends her time dancing, playing, finding funny things on the internet, giggling, baking, working as a Social Media Strategist, learning to play the bass guitar, surfing, and adventuring.