Process: Body Preparation
I recently did a four-day master class with an amazing physical theatre company, Stalker. In short, throughout the workshop we did dance, yoga, theatre, improvisation, acrobatics, adagio, as well as working with apparatus. They draw on all types of physical prowess to produce their art and while Stalker’s process seems quite eclectic – they have found a way to pull it all together in a very natural and cohesive manner. Artistic director, David Clarkson, talked about the idea of body preparation, and for me, I think this was the most interesting part of the workshop. The following are my thoughts and riffs on that.
Being a “hat with many feathers” I’ve found myself quite confused in the past with how to frame what I was doing: Am I a squatter, an installation artist, a photographer, a writer, a circus performer, a comic book reader?… The list of describing a person and their interests can go on forever and there is never a right or wrong way to go about things. You can take or leave my following thoughts, but I’ve found they’ve helped me focus when I’ve had a project, and given me ways to think about why I do things.
What is body preparation?
At essence, body preparation is everything you do, and also everything you don’t do in the lead up before ‘making.’ Specifically, body preparation acknowledges that what you do every day before the making stage of art has an effect on it, and allows you to make work, which only you could possibly make. By identifying key preparations we might be making consciously and unconsciously, we are able to read some of all the overwhelming ‘everything’s.’ In doing so, we gain better knowledge of our day-to-day processes, and attract more stimuli that aligns with our interests and values.
What process do I use?
Firstly body preparation can work in two ways. You can prepare with an open outlook, one where there may be an uncertain outcome. Or, you can work towards a specific outcome. There are also shades in-between, and its good to know how wide your focus is. Along the way, your focus range may change and it’s good to take mental note of this as your ambitions progress. So if you have an idea, great. If not, that’s cool too.
Next, it’s useful to make a general list of everything you do everyday that contributes to your ability to make. My list comprises of activities, interests, hobbies and habits. For me these are the main categories I use, but feel free to find your own. Also, what you do doesn’t have to be positive. Maybe your destructive tendencies are what make your work great. My general list looks like this:
Doodling around. Write in Notebook. Read the newspaper. Read about Art. Photography. Drawing. Hanging out with friends. Game Design research. Vocal Warm-ups. Stretching. Release Exercises. Contact Impro. Bowling Ball. Calisthenics. Pole. Balancing on things. Handstands. Acrobatics. Playing with the cat. Debriefs with Marlena at the café. Biting my fingers. Eating good food. Exploring abandoned lots. Self Sabotage. Watching movies. Etc.. etc..
If you have a project in mind, you can then make another list of activities that are more specific for that project. Then, write in vague terms how often you think you might do each activity.
For my latest circus project ‘Bodies over Bitumen’, I need to create a total of 20 minutes of material set on a suburban street. This is my preparation list:
- Take photographs of interesting things I see on the streets – Daily.
- Contact improvisation – Regular.
- Chinese Pole training – Regular.
- Bowling Ball balance practice – Regular.
- Seeing dusk and take notes – Weekly.
- Pencil drawings of garbage bags – Sometimes.
- Follow cats around at dusk and take notes – Sometimes.
- Write down my personal stories about the streets – When it takes me.
- Surf google maps – Once or Twice.
Throughout the process of doing these activities, amend your list. There are so many other things which might filter into your life by chance, and that’s fine too. Think of the list is more of a fall back when you’re stuck or a reminder to keep you working, rather then homework.
I hope that when it comes to the creative development week of Bodies over Bitumen, I will be prepared. I’d like to make performance that is not only reflective of my thoughts, interests and values, but is perpetrated by my being.
I’ve found, this process has helped me stay motivated with my circus training and sparked my interest in new activities I think might benefit my work.
What do you do to prepare for making a new thing? It could be ballet lessons, or drinking beer at the local every Tuesday. Everything is relevant. Be it simple, strange, methodical, boring, educational, motherly, destructive, or rigorous – your experiences, the way that you act, and the choices you make day-to-day, are part of shaping your art.
I’ve attached a photo of a house I once made on a rooftop. For me, this was preparation for a work I made about living in unconventional spaces.