Reflection on Words

Looking out at the quiet south oval this morning as I take some time to reflect.

I just completed a final exam for Musculoskeletal Anatomy, hands down one of the best courses I’ve ever taken. Anywhere.

And I can’t help but hear myself:

 Dang – you got #43 wrong! Why didn’t you switch to C? Stupid!

You missed an assignment because you’re a disorganized flake. You were weak and got affected and spaced. People will think you’re a flaky artist. All your diligent work will be for nothing.

My auto-talk is run by a rather unfriendly personal demon. I don’t like them very much.  So I’m reworking my words to myself … with summer-reading simmering in the background.

In And Then You Act: Making Art in an Unpredictable World, Anne Bogart writes:

 “Stand up and articulate what you are rather than what you are not.” (2007, 25)

 (This is from a section of the book about Articulation, the act of pointing towards the thing you mean to get across as clearly as you can, as one of the essential components of art-making. And maybe of living well.)

Ok let’s try that, Self:

I’ve experienced a LOT in nine weeks!

I took an intense course because I wanted to learn, and I completed it.

I experienced a deep, constant, heightened encounter with mortality both within and outside of the lab.

And survived to tell about it.

I met and learned alongside a stellar group of individuals whom I probably wouldn’t have known otherwise.

I fully engaged my creative capacities for learning – and enjoyed it.

I was challenged and moved.

I know more now than I did before.

I appreciate even more the overwhelming, stunning complexity of the human form, and the life coursing through and all around us.

Oh and I also helped remove a brain, observing it in a state close to what it looks like in vivo.

That’s weird. And pretty cool.

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As I consider the manner of my self-talk, I’m reflecting upon recent conversations with students and graduates of the dance department, and many years of conversations with dance-artist colleagues in New York and elsewhere.  Many people trained as dancers, consciously or not, assume a manner of speaking about themselves from a place of lack as routine. Without thinking.

(So do many other people.) Regardlesss of reason – the habit obscures reality to themselves and to whomever they are speaking.   

Another thought from Bogart:

“When we use the wrong words, or weak words, or abusive words, or assume that the words we inherit are good enough rather than embarking upon a close examination of the vocabulary, we are cheating ourselves of a wide range of experience and expressivity.”(2007, 24)

Embracing the responsibility to do the work to choose clear, accurate words, and to eradicate embedded demons in our daily lexicon (ones that perpetuate diminishment of self or others) can help us see ourselves and each other more clearly. 

And might keep us honest and on task as we navigate a climate of divisive soundbites, marginalizing language, and easily tweetable/re-tweetable ignorance.

I’m going to the studio.

Bogart, Anne. 2007. And Then You Act: Making Art in an Unpredictable World. New York: Routledge.

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Back to it. And winter break non-syllabus reading re-cap.

School tomorrow. I’m happy to be back and to start up a new term.

Reinserting yourself in New York  City for three weeks as a partial observer is interesting, disorienting, and slightly FOMO tinged.

I read interesting things, saw interesting things, traveled a little and spent time with people I love.

As I get back to this place in a new term and new year I’m interrogating why I’m here;  I’m thinking about the body, the vessel, how it functions, what we do to it, how we affect it through our emotions and mindset and how mental state and emotion impact the body.  Thinking about why we do what we do. Function literally and figuratively.  And about the vessel and what  it is and what happens to it.

Some non reading-list reading from break:

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An Evil Cradling (1992) by Brian Keenan  (Review)

  • Not exactly beach reading though I was on a beach when I finished it. The memoir by Northern Irish writer, Brian Keenan, documents his capture while teaching English at American University in Beirut and subsequent captivity for over four years at the hands of Lebanese Shi-ite militias.  It is fascinating and compelling reading, probing the frightening depths of mindfulness and mindlessness, of compassion and brutality, that humanity can reach.

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From Here to Eternity : Traveling the World to Find the Good Death (2017) by Caitlin Doughty   (Review)

  • A fast-paced, well researched, painlessly delivered sucker punch to your brain about some things many of us haven’t really thought about or don’t want to think about: What happens to us… after? Funeral home director and mortician Caitlin Doughty narrates a variety of encounters with deathcare traditions and businesses from cultures around the world – exploring distinct perspectives and practices for honoring the dead.  From $7000 caskets and 2-4/7-9 regulated viewings in many American funeral homes, to an open air pyre in Colorado, Sky Burials in Nepal, unearthed remains in Tana Toraja, Indonesia, the Bolivian Festival of Natitas, Japanese hi-tech crematoria, the Parsi Tower of Silence, re-composition, and why whales and whale matter matter – told with wit and respect.
    • It made me regret not taking “Death and Dying,” a religious studies elective in high school in which students planned their own funerals…

Spontaneous Movie

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Today I took myself to the movies to see the Green Book.  So glad I did.

Looks like it just won Golden Globes for Best Screenplay and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Mahershala Ali as Dr. Don Shirley). Thanks internet.

A few months ago I wrote about that unsatisfied empty feeling after a film/dance performance event. I didn’t have that today. A laugh, cry, think, kind of movie. An odd couple road trip to friendship. It makes you think about where we were, how far we have and have not come around issues of prejudice, racism, classism, and about the power of individual actions and individual friendships.

[BTW  in Columbus you can take yourself to a movie and get popcorn and an obscenely large “small” soda for the price of just the movie ticket in Midtown  – just sayin.]

 

 

Awesome beginnings

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First semester completed – it’s been a very dense period of focused activity, study, creating, growing, exploring, (& occasional kvetching).

To reflect on it right away is a bit challenging.  I feel a bit like I would after a particularly busy week/month/year of my just previous version of regular life in NYC (many subway trips, many discrete work units in different places doing tangentially related things).  Maybe this is how my computer feels after I download those full book pdfs for research with twelve other tabs open.

hmm.

New Vantage Points

I’m excited and intimidated to engage with writing critically and academically again, and to push myself to grow past previous experience and explore new contexts. Dr. Hannah Kosstrin’s Postmodernism class really pushed me to engage with reading and writing critically about the field I’m in the middle of.  The vantage point of contextualizing yourself, your performing and choroeographic experiences, creative impulses, networks, has been a rich place to sit and percolate.

It’s been a breath of fresh air to work with students, both grads and undergrads in the department, to witness their creative work, and to collaborate. I savor the distinct flavor of  “unjaded-ness” in the undergrads’ rigorous, exciting choreography. (I thought Wow! I can harness some of that again too…maybe)

(I simultaneously love and am frustrated by the never ending parade of insular, “made-up” theory words like Aboutness, de-doxify, visibilize/invisibilize, and anything with ness or ize… next project : visibilizing awesomeness in subaltern counterpublics and de-doxifying populist demagoguery –  Look, the times are political and the political is personal and personal is political…)

Grounding

Favorite grounding, landing places have been a graduate seminar taught by professor Norah Zuniga Shaw for the entire entering cohort (MFA and PhD), and Grad Choreography Workshop for MFAs facilitated by Dave Covey.

With Norah we landed. We shared transition experiences and tips while also checking in about practical skills- PowerPoint, FinalCut, Chicago Style, and had guest visits from Dept. Faculty- getting a sense for their specialties, and really interesting visitors from outside academia – glimpses of various career carvings in the broader field of dance. Most importantly the cohort got to know eachother. I’m grateful for the particularly spunky, smart, resourceful, empathetic, and strong group of artist-scholars I get to call peers.

Here are the MFAs in Dave Covey’s Choreography, or Creative Brain Space Making- getting to know eachother while adjusting to new lives and staying excited about it all – Workshop.

We made space. And painted space too.

And I moved everyday!

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Glorious Midwestern Studio Space.

and all the outside of class learning

I went outside!

I  went dancing for fun, witnessed OSU football Saturdays (who knew it was a fashion show) & even had a Freshman vomit on the sidewalk next to me when I was about to eat lunch. (Welcome to OSU!) Perhaps they too enjoy the unbelievable happy hours of Columbus: “Excuse me, I don’t think you charged me, I ordered a beer? ” – “No it’s really that cheap.”

 

Off to decompress and percolate on the theory, creative practice, physical practice, and general density of experiences and interconnections of the semester – see you next year.

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Merry Holiday Festivities to all .

Hope you find as much joy in your decorations as I do in my Charlie Brown tree.

Beginnerly Free-Play and Expectation Blocks

I am perfectly content, eager even, to fumble through things I don’t know anything about – like PhotoShop, or Final Cut,  or anything in the InterMedia Lab. I feel inept in these arenas.  I have no preconceived idea that my output must be stellar, or even decent. I’m embracing and learning through play.

Here’s an exercise in “Can you turn on a camera, upload footage, and do something with it?” I was delighted to complete even step one and see the little red  blinking dot.

(Thank you Andi – you’re awesome.)

On the contrary, I’m feeling a strong apprehension around academic writing -though I was longing to jump in again- that’s part of why I’m here in the first place.  I only have one important long form paper this semester – all other major assignments are shorter or in other media. And it’s not even that long a paper given writing I’ve done in the past. Laura you  have a degree in English. You used to do this well.

Bingo. Comparison to a previous self whose composition muscles were in-shape from constant use.

Ahhh. I’ve been grading essays for  years now – not writing them! Though I have continuously worked with words.  Choosing verbal cues for exercises for different demographics, writing”un-boring” practice sentences to teach parts of speech, writing hopefully clear exam questions…  but I’m afraid of the blank screen, and worse I’m afraid of a screen full of mediocre content.

I imagine this is a typical returning-student symptom. Though that doesn’t really make me feel better in the moment.

Like stepping into ballet class for the first time in a while – I undercut efforts by comparing the potential product to an ideal image or an illusion of previous abilities.  And yet I know the falling off balance is how to get your balance muscles back.  The getting messy gets you back “on your leg.” I know this rationally.  But the ego wrapped up in expectation isn’t rational.

The expectation feedback loop is such a thwart to the creative experience of play that facilitates growth.

Let’s be brave and play.

Oh but the internet- you fountain of e-books and JSTOR documents – you are also brimming with procrastination fodder –  who was Kate McKinnon this week?…

 

 

 

 

grad school words and nonwords

Simulacrum problematize

Chicago-Author-Date defamiliarize

No Manifesto should/want self/other tag-cloud theorize

semimembranosus phenomenology

Cage ostinato postmodernity

we problematize

all that’s normalized

with words like aboutness, whatness, and other words plus -ness, -ity, and -ize

(also with student health insurance you can go check your eyes)

 

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improvised nonwords