Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Day 2: Using Movement to Brainstorm Ideas

Tonight performance/new genre artist Jodi Netzer led us in a workshop where we used movement to brainstorm ideas for Collective Imprints. As far as I know this was a first ever for Philadelphia, and it was really fun. One participants commented it made them feel like we were kids playing together. Exactly! We were playing out our brainstorm ideas, developing a collective vision for the project. There were presentations by three groups of participants. Each group combined ideas from Day 1 into a visual movement based narrative. The process really helped synthesize ideas for the group.

The four themes that are emerging are:

1) Rotunda as a Hub (overlapping, meeting points)

2) Music

3) Perception of West Philadelphia (inside/outside)

4) Underground (history, creek, activism, unearthing our story, growing up from the Rotunda)

Will you share your ideas with us?

By Jodi Netzer

We made history this evening in Philadelphia at the Rotunda by creating a movement-based workshop which inspired visual ideas for the mural that will be there. This cross-disciplinary approach was an unique and effective way to generate materials and discussion for the project, which may not have been otherwise realized. It also got people on their feet to play and emerge with engaging and synchronistic actions. The youth was wonderfully well-represented at this session. We are also thankful to have had a banjo player there to provide the space with music.

First, I introduced Viewpoints, a system derived from the natural principles of movement, time, and space first articulated by Mary Overlie and further expanded upon by Anne Bogart and Tina Landau. Originally developed for theatre artists, Viewpoints are also used by dancers, but I believe they could be used by musicians, visual artists, ways of being/seeing, and other educational and creative forms. The principles are tempo, duration, repetition, kinesthetic response, shape, gesture, architecture, spacial relationship, and topography.

After introducing Viewpoints through a series of exercises, we built stories through movement. Here is how it worked: One volunteer picked a theme that was developed from the previous session and created a movement based on that theme. A second person picked another theme and created a movement that was of opposite nature in relation to the first person. Then a third person picked a third theme and created a movement that built story off of the previous two people. The result was a story that none of the people could have created by themselves.

Then we split into three groups to create movement or theatrical shorts. Each group agreed to work on a specific theme or to combine multiple themes. They wrote about the themes, discussed out loud their ideas, combined elements, and created scenarios using Viewpoints as a tool for movement generation. The variety of the group shorts were astounding. One was theatrical, one was abstract, and one was a mixture. The first was a theatrical story about how the youth saw hip hop on TV, went to a party, got drunk, littered irresponsibly, got into a car crash due to intoxification, and then became the smog that polluted the air. Their themes were Hip Hop, the environment, and origins. It was a commentary on the highlights and the pitfalls that hip hop culture manifests. The second group performed an abstract movement piece with a chair representing Rotunda as a central hub. The participants moved in circular floor patterns, occasional crossing paths and occasionally meeting together at the hub. Based off of a Viewpoints strategy, they drew a floor pattern (topography) and responded to each other with focus on tempo, duration, repetition, spacial relationship, and kinesthetic response in relationship to architecture (the chair representing Rotunda). It was a great example of utilizing the Viewpoints principles. Their themes were Rotunda as an activity hub, music and words. Their movement was the music and words. The third group had one person digging, another person who represented the underground (Mill Creek, cemetery, Underground Railroad) growing and transforming into an activist, while the third person was discovering/observing the transformation taking place. Their themes were the underground culture, origins and activism. It was a very visual performance work which inspired many drawings.

There was a moment of disagreement in the process when one participant broke from a group to do her own thing. She did not like the portrayal of Hip Hop with drinking and reckless behavior. To keep her engaged, I encouraged her to write a wise statement about cultural pollution and distinguishing between the positive and negative effects of Hip Hop culture. This is where dialogue about the process can reveal more depth and insight into the topic.

From these scenarios and in combination of the previous exercises, everyone documented their experiential responses in their journals. When discussed as a group, further visual ideas and themes were developed from this process. For example, one person drew musical notes as if they are the sun growing a flower rising from the underground with words such as "growth" in the stem and "coming together" in the petals-- based off of the environmental and hip hop theme of the first group, the floor pattern and musical theme of the second group, and the underground theme of the third group. It is very reassuring that people who have little to no movement experience can make the connection from a time/spatial-dimension to create a drawing on a piece of paper, using Garner's theory of Multiple Intelligence.

This was a very exciting process in which participants had surprised themselves that creating visual forms from movement would be possible. It's not only possible, it can inspire a piece of art that may not be possible any other way.

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