Don’t Try and Read These Abbreviated Hieroglyphs

My creative process, such as it is, is a fucking mess. Maybe one of the reasons I always sabotaged myself in math classes in school is that when I’m asked to show my work, it’s a mess. There are scribbled notes with weird abbreviations and hieroglyphs, mostly known just to me, and many known just to me at that very moment. Showing my work means nothing to other people. It’s completely indecipherable. My right brain and left brain are barely on speaking terms–never have been. And the manner in which they communicate is choppy, guttural, and generally near incomprehensible.

Everyone seems to have their own method to turn raw and abstract sensory input and cognitive impulse into a play or a etching, a sonnet or a dirge. Because most artists work alone, all we tend to see is the finished work. I know a few artists whose processes I’ve observed, and of those, most are filmmakers. This is one of the reasons I like to collaborate. Especially with artists from other disciplines. I’m essentially a voyeur. Really, I just want to pop the hood and take a peek at it all. One of my best friends, Deborah, is principally a photographer, though she’s worked in painting, sculpture, film, etc. At first working with her was rather frustrating. She kept changing her mind about this project or that. And then I realized that her process really wasn’t so different than mine. A lot of false starts and floundering around. Hours spent drinking coffee, doing anything but the work itself, and suddenly, it all falls together. Yeah, that makes perfect sense to me.

I’ve also had the good luck to work with several dancers. Russ pulled me into this world, and it’s quite rewarding. Who wouldn’t want to photograph beautiful bodies in motion? The current project is with Seme Jatib. We hope to pursue a fruitful collaboration with her choreography and dancing, and my live, real time video projection. This is all new to me. I’m leaning into the learning curve. But until we get to that point, we’re working on a project for the upcoming W-I-P (works in progress) that Shimi and Amber put on every month at the Jump-Start Performance Company over at Blue Star. I’m currently (well, I’m blogging right now) cutting a 6ish minute piece of video which will serve as a single channel pre-recorded presentation, and Seme will dance. One of the things I learned from working with Amber is that modern dance isn’t so locked down and predictable as some other forms of dance. If a nuanced move of another dancer opens up the possibility for an embellishment, it might just happen. A sort of impromptu choreographic riff. In fact, when you listen to those masters of mid-period hard bebop, like Horace Silver and Clifford Brown, it’s clear that the basic structure and phrases were all worked out. But there was room for narrow improvisation. And so, with Seme, I’m reworking my approach every few days. I’m sniffing around, trying this, trying that. And now, basically because I need to get a DVD to her by Wednesday, it’s all coming together. The trick is to find ways to convey the essence of the piece with the footage I’ve shot, as well as the text and effects I’m currently generating. I’m beginning to realize why she’s so keen on working with a video artist using VJ software–real-time projected video manipulation is made to order for modern dance.

The show is Wednesday, January 27th. Just head on out to the best theater in town, Jump-Start Performance Company–it’s in the Blue Start Art Complex, off S. Alamo in King William. 7pm. It’s only 5 bucks! Other than Seme Jatib (with humble assist by yours truly) you will also see works in progress by Maggie Lasher and Laurie Dietrich. See you there.

This is Seme:


And this is where I am right now at my edit.


Yeow! I’m thinking another seven hours of work…for this six minute piece. So, you see. Even when the process has been clarified, the long tedium of the work really ain’t for the weak of heart.

So, back to work!


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