Understanding Our Nature: AIR Blog

Nov 1, 2011 | Esther Neff, Artist-In-Residence | categories: Arts

The Panoply Performance Laboratory held the first of five events covering "step one" of the NATURE FETISH project, which we are honored to be developing through residency support with The Performance Project @ University Settlement.  A huge thank you to everyone who attended this first event!

In the past, PPL has dubbed these preliminary, generative events "Focus Workshops," as they take the hybrid form of theatre workshop, focus group, think-tank, and devising session, and are intended to focus the attention, powers of analysis, experiences, emotional intelligence, and creativity of a group of individuals.  The goal is to build a flexible public collective, which can include new individuals at any time and be capable of generating emergent analysis that is more complex than the opinion of any single individual.

The questions we explored on Wednesday were about what "nature is" and "is not," whether or not nature is logical, systemic, ecologic, or rational, whether it constructs us or is constructed by us (or both), and about the problems with binaries, laws, and their application to nature. We discussed, drew diagrams and made lists, enacted systems, played with the pentatonic scale, and used different types of improvisation to research different types of "systems" and "logics." Participants were exceptionally generous, philosophical, focused, and creative, easily peeling back layer after layer of questioning to get at the core problems of "humans thinking about nature" that this project confronts and embodies.  Conceptually, we're already right at the heart of it...

Yet despite the success of this first workshop's material generation of sound, text, image, and performance structures, it first and foremost gave us the opportunity to feel out one another's attitudes and ways of thinking, and to test different ways of working together.  What kind of material do we generate most easily? What are effective collaborative structures for us? How focused can we stay, and when do we start to drift? How will we each behave in this collaborative situation? These are the truly difficult questions, which can only operate in conflux with the performance research itself; we ask, how can we understand our "nature" through this kind of work? 

This week, on Wednesday, Nov 2 at 7pm, we'll turn the gaze of this flexible collective onto Animalia.We invite and welcome new participants each week: no one is required to attend all of the events, and individuals are welcome to come and go as their schedules permit.  ~ Esther

About the Blogger:

Esther Neff is the co-artistic director of Panoply Performance Laboratory, a performance collective formed in 2006 to develop performance art projects in collaboration with individuals from many different walks of life, through community workshops, interviews, and other engaged practices. As a Performance Project @ University Settlement Artist-in-Residence, PPL is engaging the public and University Settlement's community in the process of creating a professional performance piece titled NATURE FETISH through a series of participatory episodic events. Anyone can help PPL develop content for the performance and those who can commit to attending selected rehearsals can join the company and perform in a professional show in the spring.

More information about NATURE FETISH and PPL's work through the Performance Project @ University Settlement can also be found on PPL's blog Nociception Theatrician.


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