Monday, November 4, 2013

Balancing The Rocks

The rocks arrived Saturday.

After days of struggling with technology it was a welcomed relief to deal with something that didn’t need a computer in order to work. 


We were quickly able to get the rocks off the truck and down into the gallery where Louie and Jorge poured them onto the floor and started organizing them inside the installation.


It was amazing to experience how the rocks changed the space both visually and energetically.

The 3-tons of marble chips brought a sense of calm with them.  The physical act of moving their weight, handling their cool, wet exterior and smelling their rockness brought us back to our bodies and away from the frenetic world of the computer.

Once the rocks were in place Jorge and I sat for a long time looking out of the installation. What had previously been a frantic, stressful environment for the past few days was now a peaceful, soothing oasis where the imagination could flow freely.  Setting up the projectors and dealing with the computer programs brought us up to our heads.  Installing the rocks brought us down to our feet and the ground.

                                                                         photo by Benedetta Valabrega

This is not to say that I personally privilege working with natural objects over working with the technology.  They are both important for me and I need both in order to explore my ideas fully.  I love the videos and sound in the show. It's been thrilling for me to use the computer to make the 4 videos sync and to manipulate their shape and I am also so glad that we were able to use the computer to create a multi-channel sound environment. Equally, I love the rocks and their innate power and independence from technology.  For me, it's a perfect balance.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Transformation to Passage

So, after nearly a year of planning, thinking, worrying and wondering, Jorge and I started to install Passage yesterday.  I love watching things grow, so I decided to take a few photos everyday to see the transformation fron the empty white gallery space to the magical world of our dry landscape.

The project Passage has been, from the moment the ISE accepted the proposal last year, a thrilling, stressful, frightening, frustrating and truly exciting experience.  I can remember many nights laying in bed being overwhelmed by fear and feeling doubtful that I could ever bring this idea to life.

I am happy to say that I stuck with the project and got through all the many financial, practical and emotional obstacles so that I could now be standing in the ISE gallery with Jorge, as my installer programs QLab to play the videos and the sound engineer hangs speakers and mixes the sound with us in LIVE.  It is wonderful to see the images and sounds Jorge and I have been working with for so many years come to life and also to be exploring all of this fantastic technology.

This is a test pattern to help position the videos. It is 
not one of the videos that will be in the show

The process of the installation has been stressful and extremely frustrating at times- especially when the technology doesn't work- which it never does, but it has also been incredibly fulfilling.  As the work starts to slowly come together I feel thrilled and grateful to have this opportunity to show this project in such a public way.  

When I was walking home from the gallery today I thought about how much I am enjoying this moment. This is exactly what I have always wanted-  to be focused on my art, produce projects and be able to share them with people.  Unfortunately though, as much as I want this, it has been very difficult to make it happen a lot of the time, but, at least for now, I can enjoy being consumed with the installation and exhibition of Passage.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The stone

The stone will become soil
the stone is not a stone
it's an animal
it's a god
it's a Buddha
I love the stone
because it is a stone


Monday, August 26, 2013

Character of a rock

"And yet the simple act of standing a stone upright can be spiritually and aesthetically powerful.  One thinks, for example, of the dolmens of Stonehenge or Carmac. Lafcadio Hearn, an international writer who became a naturalized citizen of Japan wrote "Until you can feel that stones have character, that the stones have tones, values, the whole artistic meaning of a Japanese garden cannot be revealed to you."

Jorge and I took a trip to Bay Aggregates, a supplier of hardscape materials, in Port Washington, Long Island a couple of weeks ago to choose the gravel and rocks that we will use in PASSAGE.  As you know, the installation is inspired by the Zen garden and we want to use rocks and gravel in the installation to create a sense and concept of the garden. I thought this would be easy, after all, a rock garden is only a big rectangle filled with rocks, but even though we have thought about it a lot, it’s been hard to settle on something that that feels right.

It was wonderful being at the very dusty Bay Aggregates and looking at all the different rocks. There were white marble chips glistening in the sun, sensuously smooth river stone from Mexico, oversized gravel in a multitude of shades of pink and brown and jagged Bluestone from Pennsylvania, to name just of few of the many rocks and stones on display.  

I was surprised to realize how pleasurable it was to notice the subtle differences in the colors, feel the textures and experience the intensity of the weight of the stones.  Jorge, who grew up in Costa Rica, is closely connected to nature and has talked to me on my occasions about the beauty of stones, how they carry the heat of the earth and hold time and memory.  I can’t say that I really understood what he was talking about before, but it became clearer to me as I stood amidst the huge piles of stones and got covered in rock dust.   

Since coming back from Bay Aggregates, Jorge and I have decided on the final design for our dry landscape.  I think my new sensitivity to the rocks has helped me to have a different relationship to the installation and ultimately to be able to make decisions with greater ease.  Rather than seeing the rocks and gravel as objects to be properly placed in a space in order to evoke the feeling of a Zen garden, I have stepped a little outside of my thinking mind and have begun to pay attention to the rocks themselves- to their smell, sound, irregularities, defiance and humor. I have started to wonder how long they  have been around, what creatures have touched them and how they were formed. The stones have started to feel like curious entities to me and rather than using them to get my idea across, I have started to let their character lead the way and be the inspiration for what Jorge and I share in Passage.  

Sunday, August 4, 2013

It's all part of the process

I am very happy to report that Jorge and I have raised $4,000 through RocketHub for Passage and we are deeply grateful to each and every person who pledged.  I have learned that fundraising involves a lot of time and effort although over the past week my attention has been drawn more to the project itself and I haven’t put as much effort into the fundraising, but I will make another call for support this week and hopefully raise some more funds.  Please tell your friends and share the site with anyone you think may be interested.

video still from Passage

This past week, Jorge and I have started reconfiguring the videos we will be using for Passage and it has been exciting to see the concept and ethereal narrative of the installation emerge in the juxtaposition of these images.  We have also decided to add a fifth video, which is a video we shot of the river in Housatonic, MA where I had a studio in 2010.  Jorge and I have used this video of red water in numerous installations and performances over the past few years. In fact all of the videos that will be in Passage have been used before: the pigeon that Jorge filmed outside his apartment, the windows with blowing curtains and the figure standing in an arch which I shot when I was in Turkey in 2010.  I have a feeling that we won’t use these images again after this show because they have really matured and found their home in Passage. In this sense, Passage feels like the culmination of years of exploration and investigation into the life, spirit and poetry of these images.

video still from Passage

On a seemingly less creative note, we are also dealing with the many practical issues that need to be taken care of for the installation like choosing video projectors, figuring out how to hang the projectors (apparently we can’t drill into the ceiling, which makes it all very complicated), finding a technician to install the technology, deciding on what media players to use and if we want to sync the videos as well as exploring options for transporting the gravel.  It seems a little overwhelming at times and it has made me think a lot about the creative process and how I define this process. 

 “Art is a guarantee of sanity” – Louise Bourgeois

Generally, I think of the creative process as those moments of inspiration and magic when I feel connected to my vision and I am doing something like performing or editing video or drawing.  Those are good times and I tend to think that these are the times when I am really “working” and somehow the other aspects of putting the project together like figuring out how to move 250 bags of gravel, how to hang the projectors or how to pay for the project are just a nuisance.  Well, obviously there is no project without dealing with practical details and it occurred to me this week that I may be better off seeing it all as the creative process rather than just calling the parts I like creative process and the rest an annoying obstacle I wish didn’t exist.  It’s all good and it’s all important and it is all part of the creative process. 

 “Genius (or art in this case) is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration”  -Thomas Edison

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The journey begins

My long-term collaborator Jorge and I will have a solo show at the ISE Gallery in lower Manhattan from November 8 – December 31, 2013.  This is our most expansive project to date as well as an extraordinary opportunity and big personal challenge.  At this point, Jorge and I have our concept, have chosen the videos and designed the space, but there are still so many decisions to be made before we are ready for the opening on November 8.  This is a demanding process on many emotional, creative and practical levels and I think this blog will be an interesting space for me to sort out all of these pieces and for you to join me in the creative process.

Ryōan-ji garden, Kyoto 

At the moment, I am working on fundraising for the show through RocketHub, which is a crowdfunding platform.  I never imagined that I would ever try raising money this way, but the project is expensive and it is extremely difficult to get grant money, so I figured I would give it a try. I was very anxious about doing this, so it took ages to shoot and edit the video, write the text and then, most frighteningly, decide what the monetary goal of the project would be. The budget for the installation is close to $11,000, but I didn't think I could ever raise that much money. It’s embarrassing to say, but all I saw was an image of myself sitting alone starring at the computer screen where it said “money raised: $0.00”.  I thought it was going to be a big public humiliation, but I decided to take the risk and do it anyway and set the goal at $3,000 figuring that I could make some anonymous pledges of my own in case things got really desperate. So, I launched the project and the pledges immediately starting coming in and within 2 days Jorge and I raised $3,000.  

Ryōan-ji garden, Kyoto 

This was completely shocking to me and has given me a chance to shift some very old and unhelpful ways I have imagined myself and my relationship to the world. Each time I see a new pledge- no matter how big or small I feel deeply touched.   I feel a form of support, a connection to others as well as a sense of being lifted up by their belief in me and my work. I have always been someone who shied away from money, seeing it as something a bit tainted and negative, but I see now that it can be good thing. There is something very positive in receiving money and in giving money and it is certainly okay to ask! It is an exchange of positive energy and I am thrilled to know that I no longer have to imagine myself sitting alone looking at a big $0.00 sign, but can instead can see myself surrounding by supporters who are cheering me on. 

This makes me think about the installation itself. Essentially Passage is about moving through the stages of life, change, awareness and transformation and that is what I see happening for me during this process.  Once of the main inspirations for the project is a quote by the Buddhist scholar D.T Suzuki and I am going to share it here as I think is beautiful description of this creative process:
“When traveling is made too easy and comfortable, its spiritual meaning is lost. This may be called sentimentalism, but a certain sense of loneliness engendered by traveling leads one to reflect upon the meaning of life, for life is after all a traveling from one unknown to another unknown”. –D.T. Suzuki

So, on that note, I am going to post the link to my RocketHub site and to ask pledge to Passage in any small or big way you can and even if you can.  

Saturday, December 1, 2012


I love watching people move in everyday life. I love watching the guys at the gym box and I love watching a woman I know with cerebral palsy gesture as she speaks and I also like paying attention to the way my students move through space. Movement for the sake of movement fascinates me and for this reason, Lucy Guerin’s piece Untrained wasn’t a big leap for me in terms of appreciating the untrained body in motion although the performance was still a revelation and fascinating experience. 

The 1-hour program consisted of 4 men; 2 trained dancers and 2 men with no dance or performance history.  The men interacted in a variety of ways throughout the evening and  some of the things that happened were: the non-dancers tried to copy the movement of the dancers and vice versa, the trained and untrained created movement pieces together, they showed videos that each of them created of themselves moving, sang made-up love longs, drew quick portraits of each other and offered stories about such things as their relationships with their father’s or something about their bodies that makes them feel vulnerable. 

Untrained in Wollongong, 2011

The genuine respect and camaraderie that was created between these men was impressive and touching.  What could have been a potentially humiliating experience for the untrained was turned into a chance to cultivate a deep humanity and also to see how the untrained movement was no more and no less than trained movement.  At one point, each of the men spoke about their experience of being part of the show and what they learned.  The trained dancers explained how the untrained opened them up, released them from the stress of performing and being in competition. The measuring stick of what was deemed beautiful or successful had shifted.

"Untrained" - live at the 2010 Australian Dance Awards

In the post-performance discussion the untrained shared that during the auditions, Lucy had told them to just be themselves and I imagine that this is what she said to them through out the entire production.  While watching the show I was impressed by the inventiveness and imagination of these 2 men who have no performance history and apparently work regular desk jobs during the day.  I don’t think this creativity was necessarily a sign that the 2 men were undiscovered artists, but rather that because they had the courage to be themselves in all their imperfection that their unique inner voice was able flow. It made me think, yet again, about how damaging education can be and how the drive to be something (a dancer, artist, filmmaker etc.) can be utterly crippling or at least, make you completely average. 
There are a number of places in my life where I get to enjoy the unexpected magic of the untrained.

One interesting place is in my pole dancing classes where I find some of the women so moving to watch. The remarkable women usually aren’t the ones who have perfected a routine, are particularly graceful or have the strength to flip upside down on the pole, but the ones who are dancing from their hearts. In their quirky movements, awkward gyrations and inflexible bodies they are able to express their inner desire, yearning and eroticism in a completely honest and unique way.  It is sincerely beautiful and is yet another reminder to leave aside all the education and expectations and trust what comes naturally.

Untrained, choreography by Lucy Guerin was at BAM Nov. 30 – Dec 1