This exercise was the first exercise of the series, and therefore the most simple.
It just involved asking participants to construct a routine between themselves, just a couple of minutes long, which I could then notate myself. So in this exercise I was responding to the participants - they were not at all responding to me.
Whilst notating this routine I have to reverse the process I have already completed, translating performance into notation instead of translating notation into performance.
Whilst notating I also need to consider whether I’m going to let my previous notation affect this responsive notation. By this i mean, I need to decide whether I am going to use the same techniques, the same shapes, the same forms that i used before, for this notation. Am i going to adapt aspects of my own key so that they work for the routine choreographed by others? Or do i construct a new language, isolated from my own, personal to those who carried out the movements? Will this whole process involve the conjuring of a multitude of languages which do not merge but coincide at points with one another?
Constructing a new language based especially around this activity makes more sense, as the languages I am trying to create are interdependent on both the gestural side and the notated side.
And therefore, I cannot simply try to mould the notation around the gestural, they need to work together and support one another. Creating a language unique to this routine also ensures that this whole process is a reactive one.
I thought that the energy that was brought to the exercise by the individuals was exceptional and consistent throughout. It’s really encouraging to see people partaking in an exercise that you have organised and facilitated, seeming to enjoy it thoroughly. Although if they hadn’t have been enjoying it, this would have fed into the choices, the movements, the organisation of each routine.
Because I laid down absolutely no guidelines whatsoever, a structure had to be put in place by the participants, it was integral to the continuation of the exercise.
The team adopted a system, it seemed to me, to allow memorising of movements, coordination with others. In this respect I felt that the routines I had notated and the routines that they constructed and performed there and then were quite similar : divided into sections, movement and break, clear distinctions between sections. Both parties (myself and them) instigated a structure by which we felt our ideas could be held securely in place.
Their routines mainly involved all three participants carrying out the same moves at the same points. They follow each other, guide each other, take the lead of someone else and then fulfil the this is most likely done for ease of organisation. This method of execution is also a result of the fact that they are unable to write a lot (or anything) down so this kind of forces them to simplify what they are doing. They are limited to their memory, so all moves have to be memorable, or have to involve a prompt for the next move.
The presence of a group leader is therefore potent, undeniable. I am curious to know how this group leader (Alastair) established himself within this role, if this was a purposeful decision or whether this authority just fell into place as the rehearsal progressed (he was the only male figure present, after all).
“At the beginning it was hard to think of our own movements and ways of memorising them, so we made a routine that involved one leader and other copiers.”
I like that, within this exercise, I am directing something to happen that I THEN become dependent on. I am making a conscious decision to lose control, to place my understanding of something within the hands of others. This trust is integral I think to the infiltration and creation of a language, this willingness to accept and digest forms which one is not familiar with. I am instructing myself to be instructed by others. Although I did describe the intentions I had to notate the performances, I don’t think the participants quite understood the power they reserved throughout the exercises.
The exercise kind of proved to me that the creation of a language by three people inevitably acts as a catalyst for a relationship between these people. This was confirmed by two of the participants, who had never met or interacted with each other before, working together, laughing at each other, giving advice and guidance to one another, all in the name of the exercise.
This does trigger me to question if the language can exist outside of this circle. If the language has been produced within this environment, within this close circle of individuals, can it infiltrate a significantly alternate environment, containing unconnected individuals? Are the relationships that have been cemented during this process then dependent on the language that was created?
I believe that these routines will be difficult to notate because I don’t know what they are thinking, but I understand that this is the importance of the challenge - to attempt the notation as i believe it would have been envisioned in their mind. I am also aware of the difficulty to achieve the complexity of these routines within notation - there will have to be a significant amount of reduction, and really an act of coding has to be undertaken.
I decided on the location of the garden for ease but also because of the relaxed atmosphere it kind of simulates for me. This could just be a really personal thing, but I associate this kind of space with playtime, relaxed adventure, so it seemed to be an appropriate location for exploratory group activity. This works in addition to that fact that this is an open space, allowing for freedom of movement.
However, I know it is extremely important to consider whether the surroundings are too distracting. Although the “back garden” is in my mind, a neutral space, I’m not sure that I will be able to present this as a neutral space to others. This is because, within the space, there are multiple elements present in addition to the bodies and the gestures - and ideally I wouldn’t want anything distracting from these.
Overall this activity has begun an exercise to test the adaptability of language, as I am challenging others to create the material of a language, and then challenging myself to pick up and catalogue this material. I have really enjoyed watching the early materialisation stages of this new born system.
The group I was working fulfilled the task avidly, the construction of something out of absolutely nowhere. In doing this, they achieved a language personal and specific to the three of them, and I sense that there was something distinctly fulfilling about this.
“At first I found it a bit awkward because it's an unnatural situation for me and I didn't know Alistair.
And I thought that would would have to be creative and I don't think I am. It's hard to think of movements at first with absolutely no guidance. But as the time went on and we got to know each other more I felt more relaxed and able to put my ideas across. But by the end it was actually fun and I could have carried on.”