Wednesday, February 20, 2013

ShadowPlace Origins

a performance installation
March 3, 10, & 17, 7:00pm.
The Photobooth on Montrose (on the corner of Westheimer and Montrose)

Every idea starts somewhere. ShadowPlace started over two years ago.

I first started imagining a performance installation with large pieces of fabric and light and shadow almost 3 years ago. The church to which I belonged at the time had a worship space with movable seating, something that I wanted to play with. I pictured these screens with people holding candles in the darkened nave, their shadows thrown on fabric that was translucent enough for the shadow to be seen on the other side. Two people would walk around the screens, catching glimpses of the other shadows, but not seeing "face to face," to use a Pauline phrase. In this initial idea, the fabric was stationary. I imagined this to take place before the Wednesday night lenten services, as something that was simply going on as people gathered for the prayer service. Each week, I'd arrange the nave's seating differently, the screens in different configurations.

When I proposed this to the worship committee, it was decided it was a bad time for it, or it was deemed too unusual---both comments were made, so I'm not sure which it was precisely, maybe both. But at any rate, it didn't get performed in that space.

But the idea stayed in my head. And grew. I started seeing the screens move as well as the people with the candles. I started looking for other sites where this might be performed.

The Photobooth on Montrose has emerged, in the last year or more, as a place for the small art event. I eventually approached Simon Gentry, the photographer and proprietor of the Photobooth, about doing it there. He seemed excited about the meditative nature of the piece.

In translating it from a sacred space to a secular space---really a business space---opened up some possibilities for me. I felt less constrained to think it through too much, I was free to let the piece present its own meaning rather than my putting meaning on it. In short, I'm allowing this piece about being in an ambiguous place to have its own ambiguity.

This excites me. I think it allows for people of many religious traditions---or no religious traditions---to enter into the experience of shadows moving, light shining, people seeking, screens separating . . .

I hope you can come see it, watch it for at least 10 minutes---it's a come-and-go affair, by the way---and then tell me what you see in it. 

* * * * * * * * * *

I might mention, briefly, that we are not using candles. I love candles, I think they throw amazing shadows. I also think open flame next to light fabric is a bad combination. 

Last summer, as I was working at one of my occasional gigs as a dance writer at a NobleMotion Dance concert, I saw a section of dance that found all the dancers holding these small lights---which threw awesome shadows!

"THOSE!" I thought loudly in my brain, "I NEED THOSE!" 

So a week or two later, I contacted the lighting deisgner, David J Deveau, and found out what THOSE! were. 

It's all about paying attention to what's around you . . .

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