Work 1961-73


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Work 1961-73 is a collection of writings by Yvonne Rainer which delineate her performance work and her group choreography pieces.

What fixates me is not the content of the performances particularly, or the motivations behind the performances, but the way Rainer has managed to establish a language by which performance can be noted, scripted, understood and interpreted successfully. In the creation of a language a network of trust is also produced. The artist trusts that these performers will stay loyal to the language and not diverge from it.

Rainer draws a language that is not gridded or measured whilst being written but still evokes precision. These static diagrams seem to move as we watch them, become dynamic.

Rainer’s works (1961-73) presents us with an example of a language being created and distributed, allowing for speed and efficiency. The better the language is known, the more precise the routines can be.

Unlike my previous attempts to note down the complexities and intricacies of gesture in 2D form, Rainer has found a way to notate in a stable and secure way. Using the notation that she uses, Rainer, can trust that the performer will follow as she had planned. There can be little to no misinterpretation of the notation she uses because the language she has established is so well distributed and explained. In my past experience of using notation for movement, the 2D signs are used were to vague as to be used as anything other than a very ambiguous guide. I therefore could only guesstimate which movement each performer would choose to utilise. Perhaps these gaps in knowledge could have been bridged by thorough rehearsal and close discussion with each performer - but within this body of work I was an exponent of the ambiguous, and the language we were using became coded in each interpretation. Watching Rainer’s performances (some involving herself, some involving groups and pairs) and how they respond so accurately to the 2D versions of them, has made me desire this kind of unambiguousness, this kind of perfection.

This kind of perfection cannot be easily achieved by myself as it was by Rainer. This is because I cannot establish a relationship between myself and performers in the same way that Rainer established hers, as due to the limitations of my current situation. I cannot afford to pay people (for a long period of time) to work alongside me to create performances, and I certainly do not know anyone who would commit to this kind of relationship with me. So it is important that I find a solution to this lack of professional relationships with this kind of intimacy.

The success of this notation is most likely the result of a close relationship between artist and performer. By working consistently with each other and constantly witnessing both sides of the process - notation and performance - both parties can understand the significance of the other party’s work. Two two, perhaps should be pictured as one. Whilst reading notation of performance, the actual movements should be played out in the mind, and whilst performing, the two dimensional equivalent should be present. Just like as we are reading text, we hear our own voice in our head as it would sound out loud.

When presented with the diagrams that summarise the required performance, I believe that the performer is presented with a few options. Firstly, they could interpret the 2D representation for themselves without any kind of guidance, filling in the gaps in places where they think this fits suit. Secondly, they could discuss with other performers they are working with, so that any kind of confusion or irregularity can be diffused by creating a balance between all counterparts. The ultimate solution would be to allow recurring discussion of any insecurities or doubts with the choreographer themselves. This constant discussion would be the vehicle by which the language could be distributed and widely and fluently understood.

A perfect example of this is how she manages to describe numerous characteristics of movement with the simplistic lines and shapes which accompany her writing and also her more advanced diagrams.

A language has been created which encompasses these elements :

DISTANCE

DIRECTION

NUMBER

MOVEMENT

NATURE OF MOVEMENT - EXTREMITY OF MOVEMENT

“ - - - ” equals slow speed

“ ^^^ ” equals fast speed

“ ——— ”

Circled numbers ( ① ) refer to length, number of counts.

—> Arrows show how far across the space the performer is to go.

The numbers or letters over the arrows refer to diagonal movements.

I believe that either the 2D representation information is coded in the 3D movements or the 3D movement are coded in the 2D representations. If it is the 3D movements that come first (which they most likely do in the majority of cases) then the 3D movement has to undergo a kind of transformation. The exact transformation that it takes has to be extremely specific to the writer, the director, the choreographer of the movements.

The 2D representations have to be precise enough so that the performer can understand exactly what action they need to perform, but they also have to be vague enough to allow the performer to use their body quite freely. It would be almost impossible to get the body to abide by exact measurements, levels, and sizes, therefore the notation cannot state this definitively. Despite this impossibility, through her notation methods as well as through her vast ability as director and choreographer, Rainer still manages to hold a kind of power and influence over individuals and also whole groups of performers.

The line and shape drawings are therefore simplistic, whilst holding a large amount of information. Appearing so flat and reduced, it must require a real skill, or rather, an advanced understanding of a language, to be able to translate these drawings immediately and convincingly.

I have taken a look at the writing - drawing - performance relationships before, but I think Rainer’s execution of it is quite exceptional. This is probably because none of it feels at all forced, she achieves precision, but she achieves this naturally freely. I now realise the key to this kind of practice is the establishment of not necessarily widespread, but relatively intense connections with people who are willing to participate in the network you have built.