Opening space for the inexplicable: loveconductors and ghoul|take III
On Wednesday, September 25th, loveconductors presented ghoul|take III, the third program in soft bodies in hard places, a platform of trans-disciplinary events circling planetary events curated by ISSUE Project Room’s 2019 Suzanne Fiol Curatorial Fellow Benedict Nguyen. Departing from the collaborative conceits proposed by the platform’s first two programs, revolutionary new moon in aquarius1 and very peak summer solstice2, for ghoul|take III Nguyen invited loveconductors to adapt their ongoing performance practice for ISSUE, just two days after the autumnal equinox.
loveconductors, directed by Shantelle Courvoisier, is a human movement project which composes fantastic mythologizing performance through shared practice across multiple media. The eleven members of the group share improvisational practice in space design, movement, sound, and witnessing. For the iteration at ISSUE Project Room, Courvoisier considered the roles of ghosts, shadows, presence, absence, interdependence, and the impossibility of understanding.
In our shared process as it has evolved over the last three years there are few requirements but a lot of agreements. The work is the group; the group is the work. Over time we have built in time for check-ins, debriefs, consensus building, and aftercare. It is an antidote to work that devalues the human. The individual is decentralized, but not devalued.
This performance was our third public attempt at approaching our ghosts, projections, and shadows. Ghosts are an indication of absence, i.e., something used to be here. This could be formulated as a negative presence. Shadows are an indication of negative presence as well, an outline of something that is somewhere (but not here). Both in this case have to do with bodies in a place – our ghosts, our shadows.
As in, interplanetary
As in, soft
As in, human
As in, collective
As in, mortal
Among the most formative of our practices for ghoul|take III was one we termed IIPCs: Intuitive Interdependent Planetary Constellationships. Recognizing the traces that the other and the other’s trajectory leave in you. Recognizing the traces of past, present, future.
As with any attempt at performance, our bodies and beings become the material which opens a space for the non-discursive.
See below a transcript of conversation, edited for clarity:
Nehemoyia Young: Okay, so, I mean, so much just happened just now and I’m sure that everyone is kind of filled with this energy, this rumbling that’s inside us right now… and I guess one of my questions for you, Shantelle, is how… can you talk to us a little bit about how you prepared the space for what just happened today? How are you preparing with the performers? How are you actively preparing? Or can you talk a little bit about the materials that are in the room and why you chose those to add to the conversations in the space?
Shantelle Courvoisier: So when Benedict invited me to be one of the artists, I was pretty excited. We had just made a performance in Jeremy’s apartment [ghoultake II]. And when we came to this space – soft bodies in hard places – I looked around and I felt many, many things come. What I wanted to do was to bring this – to bring us to this space as it truly is… behind the facades, behind the projections that we have, and a place closer to what feels true about the world that I live in.
So the first thing I identified was that this stolen land, prior to these hard places, had lots of trees. And that’s something I miss living here. So the design of the space and the marble design and the color already lends itself to vines. That’s something I doodle a lot as well, vines. So that felt very true to the space. The fabrics in the room are a collection that loveconductors has collected over time. It started with just an order of mylar several years ago. And for some reason we’ve expanded and built toward a lot of tulle and a lot of mylar and fire. So we really just gave ourselves – we have developed a practice together that includes body, space, as human beings, and the space between us. So we brought our practice into this space early on, which is a first for us. We had to let the space speak to us; we spoke back to it. And what you see today and what happened today was its own unique experience; nothing, including the sound, over the last two days, was repeated. Because I in my practice have to really stay true to the fact that it’s a practice and not projecting what I “need” onto my practice.
So it’s really challenging for my vessel, I would say, and for the collaborators in the space. Each day we encountered different energies/ghosts in the space. We’ve had to practice in the dark just to be with all of the frequencies; we did a recording at night and there were lots of sounds going on in the space. I had to take the energy in the space seriously, to make sure that I was being true to what was happening. It’s been an archive of experience for us. I ran into this experience at ISSUE Project Room the very first day; I was up on this platform performing as though I were a star. And I was like: that’s not me at all, I haven’t done that!
There’s a lot of energy in the space, a lot of artistic and creative energy. All of it is present with us. So what you see is today’s version of what we do.
NY: You mentioned, basically, taking your practice and not projecting onto it. I was wondering if you could speak a little bit more about the role of understanding and how that relates to your practice. I believe I heard you say something about the role of understanding in the first monologue, or The Book of Ultimate Understanding [by Ramesh S. Balsekar]… How does understanding relate to your practice in this ritual?
SC: I have a daily practice where I read from a book that I’m called to. When I read that book, the readings color my day, color the practice. The books in the space are the ones that I’ve been called to bring here. I had a surgery last September. And since then all I could do was dance internally, internally until it moved externally. A lot of the readings helped move me. The Ultimate Understanding is a book that I can’t understand. [Laughter] But what is coming through this practice is that understanding is essentially a… a carrot, dangling in front of my horse. And I’m chasing understanding; but I won’t really go far, if that’s all I want, is understanding. So most of my understanding is here. Much of what’s here is to help me untangle. A lot of what you see in the room is every artist that I’ve worked with from high school to now, elementary school to now, you’ve heard words from either this teacher or that teacher; so for me, understanding is not necessary but the practice is what I understand to carry. Which is to say that I learn something from my teachers and my collaborators and I’m a living archive. I can navigate with my compass, but I don’t need understanding. Which is challenging. Maybe. Some of the time. A lot of us have come from the performance world and we are expected to know what we are doing before we do it. So the challenge we face daily.
NY: My last question for you is…. alright, so what should we do with the energy that we have.
That’s a real question. [Laughter]
SC: What I want to say is…that it hurts.
This is a hard place. It’s a very, very hard place.
In this experience I’ve learned that it’s me who has to soften.
In order to stay here, and to share.
And I’m trying, and I’m afraid, and I’m angry.
But I need love.
Love softens, and hardens.
So who we are, and what we see, can soften.
NY: Ritual is impossible without all of us. So to take care of the space that’s been created, to take care of the love that’s been conducted, I’m going to ask just that if you’re feeling a word, an intention, a prayer for yourself leaving here, that you speak it in the space. You can choose to say it to yourself, or you can say it out loud. I’m going to lead with: practice and submitting as one. And I invite you all to throw any words or intentions that you have into the space.
SC: Thank you.
The following are some fragments from individual practices in process leading up to the performance.
Telling a story from the gut-
Learning when to let go.
Learning when to move on.
Learning when to dig in deep.
Learning when to allow.
Learning when to fight.
Learning when to sit and stay.
Learning when to tear through imaginary skin.
A character is built,
A person inside a story.
Heavy weights on chest and belly
placed there herself.
A room shrinking in around a girl
Her energy is pressing
against her skin
against the air
against the walls-
big bang. exploding star.
Maybe the room explodes.
But I burned the words, so I can’t be sure.
Stepping into light
Stepping into night.
I stirred the fire of my heart
a hearth whipping,
lashing my sternum
I press gently from the outside
to contain myself
pace along an isolated corridor
waiting for my moment of readmittance
I am inflamed and will
catch others on fire
this violent light
casts a menacing shadow
one in which I must shield
from those who assume
I mean harm
please witness my shadow
-Samantha Rose Lysaght
1: Tara Sheena’s essay: “Readying Above and Below”
2: Jean Lee’s writing: “Generative moments in fragmented view: a collage”