Thursday, June 27, 2013

PSi 19 at Stanford

In California for the annual Performance Studies International Conference, which opened last night at Stanford University's gorgeous new Bing Concert Hall (boy, does this campus ever have money!).

We were treated to two lead-off performances, which were both interestingly structured around dance/movement. First up was UK photographer/filmmaker Hugo Glendinning's Un Still Dance, a three-panel projection piece composed of images (and, at once point, counterpointed video) culled from the artist's 30 years of photographing dance, and set to music by John Avery. It was fascinating to take in some of the sculptural tableaux created by Glendinning's bodily juxtapositions, which, though they could only go so far in re-animating the stilled movement (see below), nevertheless created some breathless moments--especially when one recognized the dancers, or the dance (lots of Cunningham unitards, which had the added benefit of creating a point of reference for my own paper). Less successful were the interpolated vistas of landscapes, which when combined with Avery's somewhat limpid piano score distanced the stilled bodies  in the images even further, in an almost Romantic/sublime painterly way that was, I think, counter to Glendinning's intentions.

The second performance was choreographer and current Stanford Artist-in-Residence Ann Carlson's The Symphonic Body, an orchestral work featuring the human body as sole instrument, and with the score composed entirely of everyday gestures culled from the performers'--all connected to the university somehow--daily routines. Carlson served as conducter (it was as fascinating watching her bodily cues to her orchestra as it was their movements in response). When she announced at the outset that the piece, modelled conceptually in part on John Cage's 4'33", would be 33 minutes and 4 seconds long, my heart sank initially, pedestrian movement, especially when largely confined to a chair, being only so compelling for so long. But for the most part I was engaged throughout, and it was interesting to try to put a narrative to some of the players' gestures, wondering what precisely their roles were within the wider campus community.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention the awarding of PSi's new ASA (Artist/Scholar/Activist) Award to the fabulous and truly legendary Annie Sprinkle, who in thanking her partner in life and art, Beth Stephens (see my discussion of their Love Art Lab project in World Stages), took the occasion of yesterday's historic US Supreme Court decision on marriage equality to ask Beth to marry her again--legally this time!

Looking forward to four packed days of papers and performance, and just generally catching up with fellow PSers, my favourite kind of artist/academics.


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