Saturday, March 16, 2013

ShadowPlace Farewell (for now)

a performance installation
March 17, 7:00pm.
The Photobooth on Montrose (on the corner of Westheimer and Montrose)
Houston, TX
$20 Suggested Donation

We're down to our last showing of the ShadowPlace performance installation. It's happened so fast and within too much chaos---but that's what it's about. The shadow places in the everyday, the beauty in the shadows, the ephemeral nature of it all. . . waiting, keeping vigil, walking a labyrinth that keeps shifting around you.

I might have more reflections after we close tomorrow night. For now, I'm going to copy and paste some reactions posted to our event page on Facebook . . . join us tomorrow evening if you can . . .

Toni Leago Valle: Belated response from me about ShadowPlace Sunday- loved the tranquil silence, shuffling of feet, the occasional sigh, all to the background of Montrose on a Sunday evening - muted horns, sirens, laughter as people went into the restaurant next door. I felt I was in a safe cocoon peering out at the world. You have no choice but to relax. Thanks Neil for creating work that doesn't look like "work."
If you missed it, there are two more Sundays.
Misha Penton: Lovely sunset-to-darkness performance installation this eve. The whooshing of the diaphanous fabric created a breath-like rhythm as the movers slowly spiraled through the space. I was particularly drawn into the performance's persistent tranquility against the chaos of the Montrose/Westheimer intersection with its bustling cityscape music: just on the other side of the glass...
Margo Stutts Toombs:I am so glad I saw ShadowPlace, again, last night. I love seeing light installations when they occur at twilight. From my comfy spot on my pillow, I could enjoy the movements, fabric, lights, shadows and the lights from Montrose. I wondered how many people passing by, paused for a moment to enjoy the installation and think, “Wow, I never noticed The Photo Booth, before.” From the street, it must have looked like a magical display window. Next Sunday (St. Patrick’s Day) is the last “performance.” It starts at 7:00p.m. Don’t miss it!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Showing ShadowPlace

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

Support our Indiegogo campaign!

As I've pointed out before, the line below the title of this blog is "servants to the showing."

What should I say I'm showing in ShadowPlace?

Shadows, yes. Speaking in general religious/spiritual metaphors, light and shadow vie for dominance in our lives and the shadows can be either rather scary or be the byproduct of very hopeful light.

I never intended this piece to be quite as personal as it's become. In the last month, I've had some, shall we say, medical surprises. A fairly serious surgery is in my near future, but that's actually good news when it could have been months of chemotherapy to fight an aggressive type of cancer. Tests and scans and other such pokings on my person over something like three weeks finally got me to a diagnosis that is free of cancer. Hallelujah, thank you, amen.

But in those days of uncertainty, I couldn't help musing, "And here I am making this thing I'm calling ShadowPlace, a meditation on waiting and watching."

Well, I won't go into all the many things---dark, humorous, sad, hopeful, scared---that went through my mind during those musings (and still are on a constant, present, playlist in my brain), but suffice to say, your attention gets mightily focused in those moments. My thoughts were scattered, yes, and I was forgetting things and thank God for friends who picked up after/for me, but my attention focused on things that might otherwise have been lost, ignored as insignificant.

There were small, moving lights that maybe magnified the shadows at times, but also made them beautiful.

And I thought, "this is what I'm showing---the beauty in the ShadowPlace of uncertainty."

I hope that's what I'm doing. I want to be servant to that showing.

I will leave tonight with a quote from a favorite poem by Rainer Maria Rilke. He gives us a musical image that I believe, today at least, is about the same tension I've found in my personal ShadowPlace:

I am the rest between two notes,
which are somehow always in discord
because Death’s note wants to climb over—
but in the dark interval, reconciled,
they stay there trembling.
And the song goes on, beautiful.

I hope you will come join us in the shadows and find beauty in the passing light. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

ShadowPlace Reactions (and a solo performance)

XXXXX and I enjoyed ShadowPlace. That was our first time at PhotoBooth so we were thrilled with the space itself. The piece was very interesting and the passing traffic and associated sounds are wonderful – especially in its impromptu appearance. What a terrific concept!!!  The lights and fabric screens and dangling fabric panel worked very nicely together.  . . . By the way, during the performance and because of its meditative aspects, XXXXX told me that he was doing some of our yoga exercises while we were watching, fixing his mind on his balance and breathing and moving his weight from one foot to another and balancing, etc.  I wish I had thought to do that during the performance. I think that would have really been perfect.

The above is an unsolicited reaction to ShadowPlace that came to me via one of the performers. (The author asked to remain anonymous, but allowed me to reprint this here.)

I asked to publish this reaction because it was so gratifying to hear someone entered into the spirit of ShadowPlace. I love the idea that someone was practicing yoga breathing while watching the shadows.

Another person in the audience told me that it took them about ten minutes to let go of expecting "entertainment" and got into the flow of the piece, the way the screens were abstract, absent of cultural or religious meaning, yet complimenting the architecture of the Photobooth on Montrose.

Sometimes, as an artist, you have an idea or even less than an idea, just an image or feeling that you're working with. That's a bit what I had at the genesis of ShadowPlace (see previous blog entries). And you know it's not a blockbuster idea, not an idea that will make anyone a million dollars, and yet . . . you can't be alone in finding something in it.

So it's gratifying that at least a few people understood the contemplative nature of this piece, in that place. I'm hoping more contemplatives might find this piece during the next two performances.

There are ways in which this is truly a performance installation, something to come upon while you're about something else, something with which to spend 10 minutes or it's full hour duration. It got away from me a bit and became a performance in a more traditional sense. Perhaps in a future iteration, I'll reign it in for that performance installation purpose again, but it I do hope more of you will come see this work, surrender to the play of light---both generated within the performance and the random headlights from the parking lot just outside.

Please come check it out. Bring your curiosity, maybe a pillow or blanket to sit on, and possibly some yoga breathing . . .

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

Support our Indiegogo campaign!

* * * * * * * * * *

Just a quick note about a solo performance I created for the Continuum Live Art Series at Avant Garden. 

A few weeks ago, a doctor told me that I had a mass in my abdomen. Alarming information, to be sure. Thus began a series of tests and a biopsy, but early in the process my mind was already trying to figure out how to process this, how to do something with it. I knew the next Continuum Live Art event was coming up, I wanted to participate, but didn't have a solid idea. A crisis in mortality seemed like rich soil to cultivate. 

After going through a quick succession of more obviously medically inspired pieces, I hit upon what I called "Tell Me Where It Hurts." I put on a blue, Lycra, full body suit, handed people a Sharpie pen, and asked them to mark on my body where they felt aches and pains. The notion was that I wasn't talking about my health crisis to many people (definitely to a select few) and that other people might like to express their aches and pains in some graphic way. 

It was an evening of occasionally poignant moments. While I asked people to simply mark and X and next to it a number from 1-10 depending upon the intensity of the pain, some drew lines to indicate where the pain radiated. One guy took my hand and drew a heart in the palm of my hand and with real sadness in his voice said he might never again touch the woman he loved. 

There were the less poignant moments, like the trio of inebriated young women who just wanted to flirt with the anonymous guy in blue Lycra. They drew hearts on me or wrote their name on me. I suppose if I were straight I would have been less annoyed by them. And there was the guy who drew a big X on my crotch, I'm fairly certain just to see if I'd react. My reaction: "I'm sorry you feel pain there." 

But that's the beauty of performance art like this. You take your risk with strangers and the mix is just human. And I have this blue body suit that is a map of one audience's pain, a reminder that everyone hurts. 

photo by Julia Claire