Nature is Not our Natural Habitat

Workshop Leader for Space Saloon ‘Fieldworks’, Artist Residency in Southern California

Field works is a human action. Humans dissect and observe a site of interest, though often disrupt the landscape through the process of extracting, ordering and sharing information.  Since at least the European Enlightenment, Nature and Society have been positioned as two separate sciences. We rely on a reformatting of the “wild” for our gain. For many, our wild is the city, consumerism and an increasingly image-reliant society. However, these two worlds are highly interlinked. And yet, when we are removed from our city comforts and live momentarily in the harsh landscape of the High Desert this wild can be experienced as an unfamiliar obstacle.

I was invited to lead a one day workshop with a participating group of students. We began with "anthropological research", observing how participants react to their new wild in order to compare moments of ease and discomfort. These reflections were then reacted to through the design of performance movements/rooms: constructing and framing nature through human action (or, in other words, human nature). The performances shaped and were shaped by the landscape, changing perceptions of the field. 

Scene 1: Macho Moves (and the morning after)

When planning this project I wanted two things – to dance in the desert (how fun?!) and to challenge a group of architecture students to do this with me. I am increasingly interested in how to leverage inexperience as a way of freeing creative output and embracing mistakes, similar to the marks a child makes.

After a collective brainstorming session in which we discussed our observations (we had been secretly spying on our fellow participants to see how they reacted to each other and to the site), I drew storyboards for each student's observations. The following acts were decided on: 

1. Macho Moves (and the morning after), directed by Anastasiia Budnyk
2. The Shuffle, directed by Senna Hanner-Zhang
3. Aria Walks up a Hill, directed by Aria Ekasilapa
4. Everyone Walks up The Hill, directed by Neal Lucas Hitch
5. Facial Expressions, directed by Weerada Chalermnont (Mint) 

Scene 5: Facial Expressions

My role was to oversee the film's overall narrative, make the costumes, and edit the final film. I find that facilitating other people's input into my work is fundamental to my artistic practice – be it through community engagement, group workshops or, as in this project, collective choreography.
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