Training – Week One

My baby is now embryonic, the first breaths of tangible form surfaced from the process evolution. This rudimentary stage spawned some crucial developments for the further exploration of the work’s thesis. I had little expectations but I am thrilled with the initial results.

The photog and I took about 2.5 hours to take a little under 500 photos. We met at Girard station on the EL Blue Line Subway and proceeded to test shoot at the places I’ve scouted for the project. It was around noon on Saturday and the train was pretty well occupied. Pangs of excitement coursed through my body at the sight of the camera, for it was time for all these fantastic ideas that have been pleasantly haunting me to become reality.

We boarded the train and funny enough there wasn’t much room to sit and there was a passenger that had his mobile phone volume up very loud blaring some hip hop music. The photog and I made jokes about it and wondered what motivates a person to so nonchalantly decide to fill this restricted environment with noise they feel is acceptable if not appropriate to a situation in which you are surrounded by unsuspecting strangers. You could see how uncomfortable most everyone was, the way they grimaced, rolled their eyes, let out deep sighs, shifted in their seats…

We made it to the first location, 8th & Market, and promptly began shooting. There are these very modern benches at this station that always catch my eye when I ride past. I don’t stop much at 8th & Market station but I used to almost everyday when I lived over the bridge in New Jersey and had to use PATCO to get to work. I haven’t yet put the time and effort into finding out who designed them but I did a little research and found some reactions to them on a blog that announced their arrival. These are comment quotes from commuters:

“i don’t really like them, i can’t help but see all the places where people CAN’T sit.”

“Do these serve a purpose that the older benches did not (besides looking “modern”)? I’d definitely try sitting on the top parts in the middle so I could let my feet hang. :)”

“Interesting design. Maybe they’re for ‘leaners’, as well as ‘sitters.’ I’ll have to go and try them out.”

Here we see the commonality of emotional reaction to space design and utilization. The photog and I discussed the benches as we approached them and he said they were cool but then referenced the mid section of the bench that is a waste of space but convenient for leaning against or sitting on a higher level. When I went to go sit on it, I was comfortably timid, confused as to where to sit (I too had a desire to sit in the middle) and I wondered if it would be comfortable. Most of the benches in the subways are pretty pedestrian and do not have any sort of aesthetics, only functional design. I worried that the metal might be cold and uncomfortable but surprisingly it wasn’t. I sat on one side and tried my best to act “natural” as the photog started shooting my “natural” movements. I was taking note of the major muscle groups I was using and the isolations that were derivative of my sitting and waiting for the train. I then exaggerated these structures and moved around the space mixing “natural” movement with “abstract” movement through this extended exaggeration process.

When I was doing what I call the “rubbernecking” movement that is very common among commuters, there were other subway patrons who were engaged in similar movements, sporadically leaning over to peer down the tracks, anticipating the arrival of the next train. It was like a dance. I also worked the extensions of the body that occur during leaning against certain structures in the station environment.

The next stop was 13th Street station. I frequent this station because it is adjacent to the gayborhood and it connects to the trolley lines and it is close to the broad street line as well. We took some shots of me sitting at the bench, this time is was very square and nondescript and I didn’t feel inspired to do much “abstract” movement in the space.

We then went to the turnstiles and I started with “abstract” movement first, then returned to “natural” movement and exhibited a scenario of jumping the turnstile. We got some good shots from this.

13th Station is filled with many different kinds of visual treasures. I love the tile mosaics on the walls and there are so many varying degrees of them due to the lack of renovation and the appropriation of connecting train and trolley lines and systems. We walked towards the next location and found ourselves intrigued by all the underground nooks and crannies. There were sparse pedestrians around and there was a dense uneasiness in the air, the publicly private space can make you feel vulnerable, I think we got some good shots of that theory.

The last stop was the underground where the Broad Street line has a station between Walnut and Locust. I have always loved this space. Many Philly denizens use this large open space to walk underground to escape the cold or rain, while we were shooting I saw someone riding their bike down there. Here we played with negative space and desolation and the isolation of restricted space and its connection to the outside world.

It became easier to exhibit these “abstract” versus “natural” movements after a while. I am hoping it will be easy to study the movement structures of the other models as they are experiencing this project phase. Tomorrow we start shooting another model who has danced for me in the past. I’m very much looking forward to making more art.

Training…or Trainers

The time of conception for art is just as good as in the biblical sense, the excitement of birthing a new and amorphous extension of yourself. When the primary kindling of an idea have been erected, the pieces that lead up to the culmination are like creative foreplay.

These inspirations come in droves now that I am more conscious of my attempt to dissect and exploit the functions of movement through a series of critical Labanotation translations, in order to derive a new dance motif. By studying the way the body reacts to space, weight, time and flow within varying environments that correlate to each other (the train station versus traveling within the train), an array of idioms will evolve from these observed structures, forming a vocabulary for the respective expository media.

The first steps are in place. The initial mapping was done through a software program called MindNode. It is a tool that allows you to make free-form outline charts, each “node” an idea that is linked to another or starts a new subject heading. I still make notes on my iPhone app called EverNote, it comes in handy when the best ideas come to mind: while I’m out and about or on the toilet. I also use old-fashioned pen and paper. Though it is still my favorite way to get my thoughts out, something in me has changed. I find myself much more productive when I am using some sort of technology. Maybe I am fooling myself.

I met with the photographer and did a draft for models. Tomorrow I go with the photog to check out the technical parameters needed for the locations I’ve scouted. The shoots have been labeled by certain scenarios that will be split in half, one documentation based on organic movement and the other an abstract representation of the former.

Scenarios to be exhibited are as follows:

1 – Sitting Isolations
(observation of static gestures)

2 – Personal Items in Seats/Space
(emotional motivations from inanimate objects)

3 – Waiting
(observation of static gestures + dynamic movement)

4 – Subway Poles and Railing
(voluntary/involuntary accommodation to space)

5 – Sleeping
(measurement of body adjustment to weight and space)

6 – Missing Your Stop
(study of inertia influence)

7 – Traveling Movement
(examine the gestures of walking, running, pacing)

8 – Human Obstacles
(explore the variables coerced by human objects)

9 – Leaning
(observation of static gestures + dynamic movement)

10 – Public Displays of Affection/Dissension
(explore the polarity of human objects)

11 – Transport by Stairs
(voluntary/involuntary reaction to space + human objects)

Train (in training)

Though my inspiration has faded in some ways being back in the states, it has certainly augmented in others thanks to the reverse culture shock and the indelible need to create; the ideas keep flowing.

What could have been a simple arrangement of photos has spawned into a full out multifaceted process that will culminate with a live performance piece.

I have been taking notes while riding the subway, using the respective Philadelphia experience as my muse. Most of it is observation but at the same time I am trying to create a motif derivative of the nature of the passengers of subways and the correlation to the environments in which they are traveling.

There are many common factors in this study – the way people exploit the contrasting boundaries of expansion and restriction. Depending on the time and the circumstances, the entire atmosphere of a subway locale shifts in all sorts of directions.

Twice in the past week I was asked to leave trains that were going out of service at a particular stop. The air became dense with frustration and confusion. People boarded the train willingly, unknowing of the glaring announcement over the intercom. Some were sleeping, some couldn’t hear past their headphones. Some Samaritans re-boarded the train addressing the other passengers with the news (some nicer than others). There was a big hold up though we were prompted the wait wouldn’t take long and they apologized for the inconvenience. I was already running 5 minutes behind. Would my reservation be canceled? Would my friend be mad at me for being late?

There are so many other things to look at when you are on the subway, most notably, those people who are looking at you. You can’t help but to wonder what these people are doing, to judge them for their appearance, to make up little stories in your head. They are just like the rest of us and all different.

Seems as though there are many sub-letters between Point A and Point B.