Critical Correspondence invites founder of WXPT (We are the Paper, We are the Trees), taisha paggett and collaborators (The company consists of Joy Angela Anderson, Heyward Bracey, Rebecca Bruno, Alfonso Cervera, Erin Christovale, Loren Fenton, Maria Garcia, Kloii "Hummingbird" Hollis, Jas Michelle, Meena Murugesan, taisha paggett, Sebastian Peters-Lazaro, Kristianne Salcines, Ché Ture, Devika Wickremesinghe and Suné Woods), to discuss their most recent project, The School for the Movement of the Technicolor People, a large scale installation and performance platform presented by Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE) during late October–early December, 2015. Published in two parts, the company discusses, in a collective voice, the difficulties of authorship, legitimization, parachute artists, their recent critical, pedagogical framing of the project and its future iterations, and enacting a "collective movement choir" for the culminating performance Meadow.
This does not have to be a formal thing at all. I just feel there needs to be a beginning. Basically we’ve been in the middle of this project, and there are lots of wonderful things happening. Part one happened, and we scattered. And then part two happened, and we scattered. So it’s nice to have a moment to get together and have a discussion about what it means to move forward. And what forward is. At the beginning I imagined this as a one-year project. There’s something about, like, the time – time as a container, something to hold on, to hold the commitment in whatever form that means. There are a couple of starts. I feel like the audition was a type of start. I also feel like —
Lauren can you hear okay?
Yeah I can hear perfectly fine.
Ok, good. I feel like our first gathering in 2015 was also a start. I think it was March 28th or something like. In keeping to holding the container of that thing, I wonder what these last remaining two months should be for us. I want to open up a space to think about what our last chunk shall be, and then there’s this other thing to discuss which is this invitation from Houston to continue the project there. I’m wondering now, ‘where’s the conceptual structure?’
That’s a funny question.
That’s a funny question. What does it mean to break the code of one thing to allow this other thing to happen? Or maybe this other thing is meant to be a very separate something, and the processes of identifying what the template was might be of this thing. How might it be easily translated into a new environment? Or maybe it’s about breaking all of these rules … not about beginning again but just continuing to grow from where we’ve left off.
So, everyone, please chime in as you can, as you’d like. I have a lot of questions myself about authorship. What I mean when I say this is this project is collectively ours. Who does it belong to when it moves to a different group? Does it keep belonging to more people? Is the question of belonging just a moot point to begin with? Also, WXPT often stands-in for your actual names and so in a way the representation of this collective also produces a disappearance of people’s individual credit. I’m thinking about that, which is a bit more, um, archives and credits and those things. And, so, and then there are other people. There’s Ashley’s input, there’s Kim’s input into the project. And then there’s just the whole reality of what happens when you put something in the different environment, and that whole history and new contexts that come up. I have a lot of questions about moving into this next stage and it all has to happen now. We’re going to Houston tomorrow. [laughter]. There’s no…hemming and hawing…action actually has to happen. And this is this weird…
I like how that sounds, ‘we’re going to Houston tomorrow.’
“We’re going to Houston tomorrow.’
Kind of country western.
Taisha: Yeah, totally. Yes. So a lot of questions about moving forward but then also not a lot of space to luxuriate in these questions. And also not a lot of support to do it, necessarily. Um, so there’s that to discuss. So maybe just to open up, because I would like to hear from you guys: What impression did this last project left on you and what does it mean for it to continue? What continues? What can continue and what can’t continue. You still there Lauren?
Lauren: I’m here, listening and hearing everything.
Ok. And then the other facet of this gathering is to have a platform, to talk about the work, that platform being this Critical Correspondence invitation. I think we would have this conversation anyways but this invitation formalizes it. Which is really nice. But I hope that that formalizing doesn’t make us feel formalized. And the letter provides an anchor to the conversation specifically as it relates to body and voice and the power that both things have, or the types of power that the body has that can’t really be articulated. This all feels relevant to the school and the concept of unlearning.
Would we like to read the text? That’s one question. My other question is: Are the Houston folks currently interested in having more folks there, and then we go there and build their community? Or is there a community there already? Or what’s the landscape of that?
Good question. Well, I began this conversation a couple months ago with Diverse Works in Houston. It’s a space that is committed to both visual art and performance and dance. I’ve not yet been there but we’ll see it tomorrow.
Oh, you’re literally going tomorrow??
Oh, I thought you were speaking metaphorically!
There are no metaphors in this conversation!
Going to Houston tomorrow!
That sounds poetic.
I wish it were so poetic! [laughter]
What about funding to support people… What is there to support people and the process? Can a process even happen inside that space? The way we were able to be inside our spaces… What does it mean to have that process without the weeks and months that we had together before we got to the school? What does it mean to bring a group of people in to suddenly activate the space?
How long are you going to be in this space?
It’s probably somewhere like six weeks.
What are you doing exactly in Houston tomorrow? Like, are you just touring the space, are you talking about budget? What are you doing there?
I will travel there with Kim and Ashley and we will meet and we will see the space and we will have a conversation with the curator, who’s a very great person. We’ll talk about what is possible there. I’m going to attempt to have an audition but I don’t even know what that means…
Taisha, how does the authorship question tie into this? Is it that you’re thinking potentially to bring WXPT members with you? Or bring classes that were already created by members with you to Houston?
Yeah. I would love to bring everyone to Houston and it’s hard to even broach the subject because just thinking about plane fare for however many people is a hard thing. But that would be the ultimate goal. I hope that we can get started with a local group in Houston, perhaps a group that already has something in common. What that is, is a question. That already has something in common, and that what they start with is Meadow, some sense of Meadow. Either as a score—or the dance turned into a series of questions… And at that same time, we are in a process where we are also engaged in Meadow… And in this fantasy swirl [laughter] funds would appear out of the sky…
In walks Mr. Funds.
In walks in Mr. Funds, right? ‘From Houston!’ [laughter] It’s the oil man! oh geez.
Ya’ll need money?
Oils below thirty dollars a barrel in like, more than decades. So oil man’s not doing so well. [laughter]
That’s true. Ok, so in this fantasy realm with all the money that just dropped from the sky, we could travel to Houston, spend a week or so in a residency…
So there’d be a moment of exchange but our time in Houston would be very truncated for logistical reasons and we’d create another container to have a rich exchange with this new group. And then we’d leave them to continue it on their own.
I like moments of exchange. Similar to how we presented workshops to each other and the community here to experience workshops or offerings that were generated by other people that had some kind of direction that could meet us halfway.
And inform us from their perspective, something like that.
And that would happen before the residency, right? Because they would open the school as the residency in Houston? Or that would be the end of the residency?
So let’s say the residency happens. Residency happens in a week, the performance happens that weekend, and then there’s an install period and then the show opens.
So that would be…
Are we recording right now?
Do we have any extra blankets?
There’s a blanket over here.
Do we have a vision as to how we might have the encounter…? I like the idea of being changed by it somehow but I’m just thinking out loud.
Being changed by the encounter?
Yeah, rather than having the piece be defined beforehand…
I have a question. Did you already send out an audition notice to, like, people in Texas?
You did! Was it the same one that we got in January of last year? Is it? Ok. I was wondering about that just in terms of the spirit that brought all of us together. It felt very contained in that audition, that notic you wrote out. So that’s cool.
Yeah I’m a little ambivalent about it, honestly.
About? The audition?
What’s that, in a way?
Did you hear that question, Lauren?
I did, I heard it.
I think it’s that question – what restarts and what evolves. I also feel like that original call was written in a very particular moment for me, a very particular moment in time outside of me, and so to just redo it sets it in amber, in a way. But then on the other hand, I’m interested to know what it means to cast that same engine, and what will it set into motion?
It feels almost like a Fluxist instructional set.
Is that being the means to question and start another company? The questions around what does it mean to be a dance company or support each other as a community, in that structure. Those questions are being asked again, it just seems like a long time though. And separate from the school I think, um, yeah I feel myself anticipating a necessary loss… You know it’s all in the name of what we all do with performances necessarily ending and nobody owning, obviously, anything, and it’s all ephemeral. But some of those first questions about what it means to support each other as a dance company in terms of not really authorship but I guess labor and I don’t know I feel like I have lingering questions from the performance and the process and I don’t know if those continue in these next two months as we parse through what we’ve done together. Um…it just feels like even in a traditional dance company the dancer is the worker and the person who, you know, gets the least whatever… Whether it be financial compensation, or yeah, authorship, I guess. So I just want to say that out loud in terms of starting that process again. And with a new group how do we negotiate how to do this next part with all of us, or not?
Lauren, I just wanted to clarify some things for me. So the idea is that WXPT people from LA go to Houston for one week for a residency, and in that one week will be working with doing workshops witha nd teaching meadow to and exchanging with the people that you’ve auditioned there, and then that’ll lead up to a performance of meadow and then we’re handing off to them the concept of the school and then you’ll install the exhibit and then they will recreate the school inside of the exhibit? Is that the idea?
Yes, yes, yes up to the point, up to the specificity of them creating and moving forward with the school. I think it is a school but how the school is constructed can be reinterpreted.
OK. That they will create their own classes and share them with one another.
Yes if that structure is replicated.
Part of me wonders… Maybe being in these states of not knowing is most productive.
I feel like that’s been the only continuity, and I think it’s very important that if we were to talk about any type of supportive aspect of the work it’s that space of questioning, unlearning, and holding, you know… Holding these ideas instead of dissecting or knowing the specifics of things… I feel a lot of trust is involved in what the container of this project is. And when we were talking about sharing, exchanging… It’s something that’s core, that needs to be… The regular exchange of, what is this, what’s supposed to be produced, and the reality of, like, well we’re here, we’re feeling, we’re understanding, we’re watching, we’re in our bodies, we’re doing this thing right now. I feel like I’m still wondering about the expansiveness and the complexity of that space, and also the ways that we showed up in the performance of Meadow. To have what people would assume is a structure, um… But to feel so mentally expansive and dynamic, and just linger. And so effective. It felt so effective. So I’m wondering what it means to engage other folks in the conversation of listening. And the conversation of, you know, quiet, or in the conversation of unlearning.
Is it a mistake to bring in a new group of people? Is it the wrong direction.
Oh, well. What was I gonna say? I’m still pretty enamored with like the opportunity to have an exchange with other folks and the trust of extending ourselves into a space where we need to have that dialogue and develop or continue that trust with new people…? There’s something it seems about geography and the recognition of some kind of mutual intent, and having that build trust. It can be, it can have a really kind of profound impact on how people frame their selves, or their respective practice, and stuff like that.
I guess if I can jump in on that tagline… [something is spilled]
They say broken glass is like the ancestors are calling…
I’m worried actually…that was the universe saying, nope! Not you! Zip it!
She’s like, you woke me up!
Hush! Hush! Hush!
There’s nothing in it, that’s great.
I think that’s most of it.
Did you get under this table?
That’s a cool little vacuum.
Yeah, I know right?
What’s this, groupon?
Let’s get under your feet one more time.
During this interlude, I’ve been thinking about what it really takes to build community. And, to your question of, whether it’s a good idea or not a good idea to invite other people in—I think that’s whatever. I don’t know if that’s the right question, you know? But one thing I feel like I get a sense from this group and from other groups that I participated in is that community building really takes time. That’s an element that can’t be extracted, in my experience. And so I wonder if introducing a couple people or a new group of people to some ideas, concepts, and then walking away, or not being there for the rest of it, it assumes so many things. It assumes that we’ve communicated, you know, clearly, it assumes that the way we articulate and express our concerns for the issues that we’ve been dealing with are somehow similar… So, to walk into a new place and really present a project that I think has so much to do with local individuals, and where we are in life and the core of these questions, is a challenge. So I’m just bringing that up. It just feels like…there’s stuff there to mine.
Mhmm. And related it didn’t feel like a challenge to invite people with us who didn’t start, who ended up performing, people who came to school and then stayed for rehearsal, that seemed seamless and added to the expansiveness of it.
That’s cuz we were there.
Inviting other people, it never felt like a big leap, it never felt really…
I can’t hear…could you turn up the volume? Thanks.
I was just saying it didn’t feel like a big leap to invite other people in to class who then performed with us, and we were wondering if that was because we were together the whole time in that process.
For this project to be about people and elements in migration, and location…those pieces, you know. I mean, transferring information... for some reason that feels really foreign, but um, engaging folks in conversation about dirt, and our relationship to our bodies, and our relationship to community and struggle… That conversation feels possible. Dance exchange, engagement feels possible. And then also, oh, there’s that thought, um…oh…transferring, transferring, um, I lost it. Shucks!
It’ll come back.
Maybe it’s a question of language because what comes up for me, the words process and community… In the beginning it felt like this experiment with the rehearsal space and that process, which expanded over weeks and months… I do agree with Lauren—community building is something that takes time… What comes to mind when speaking about going to another location, projects that propose to potentially create something of a community, that whole parachute artist thing comes up.
What’s a parachute artist?
Dropping in, and out, like—
It’s this history of community art production, which sometimes produces great projects… When an artist comes from a different location and works within a very short period of time… with hope that the project may continue with maybe identified leaders or people that will continue the project as they believe, yeah. So, variations of that…
Yeah the community partners over there, that can be partners and collaborators with the local organization, [unintelligible] that knows the history and relevance to history and people there, specifically.
Right, as opposed to just the plop in and fly out…
Right! I think that there isn’t a specific formula and I like that there was this unknowing of what was going to happen in our process, which I felt valued everybody and everyone’s contribution and voice and body into the space. There was a value in that unknowing that created an environment where everyone felt like they could contribute and the opening of saying we’re gonna create a curriculum together and what is that going to look like. We don’t know, let’s create it. It formed and there was the support that we all had with each other that was really valuable and so how can those things happen in a condensed way or maybe that’s not something that needs to be replicated or…
Yeah, I guess I agree. I feel like I would hesitate if the goal in part is to recreate this idea of the school and that space of questioning and dialogue and development of workshops and community. I would almost feel like having all of us go there would be a big imposition like, Oh we’re going to teach you about community. Here’s a community that we developed. Not that that would be our intention or what we set out to do but I feel like just because of the numbers and the relationships it’s such a strong entity to go into somewhere and then try, as opposed to like letting something develop there. I would be interested in having a school established and be formed based on the similar questions and prompts that were given to us and then coming in at the end and having a dialogue with those people. That would be fascinating to me. To see where they ended up with the kind of a similar trajectory of prompts and play and community building that was also very flexible and not rigid in responding to what their needs were but coming from similar starting points and seeing where they ended up and seeing where we ended up. That would be an amazing mining of collective imaginations and ideas and realities. Um, and just like you say—I feel like I couldn’t go to Houston and have any sort of opinion on what community building in Houston should be or what any sort of cultural relationships should be. I mean, I would just feel so weird walking into a situation like that. And I guess I’ve had different times when I feel like such a California guy walking into an area and I feel like that perspective is so strong and different and not necessarily useful…What?
I said here comes the California guy.
Yeah some people really don’t like, also…
I think it would be fascinating, as you say, if you gave another group of people a similar set of prompts and let them run with it, then went to see and experience what they had came up with. That’s what sounds really fascinating. But the other end of it is that I don’t think us going there needs to be going there with the intent of going to impose our ideas on the people. I mean, they could do their thing, and that could be this autonomous thing that they do, but we could also go and kind of meet them in the middle and it could be more of a sharing and not us dictating. The meta-prompt could be what we did but we are here more to interact with you than say this is the way things should be or something like that. That could be a very rich experience as well.
And you’re saying that’s more possible at the end?
I’m just saying I’m skeptical of the idea of being able to do that with a large group of people and I feel like it would be such a strong statement to have a large group of people with such a developed history and ideology and experience as a group walk in and not feel if I walked into that room as a participant or somebody coming in for the first time, even if it was subconscious, I would automatically be looking to them for keys, physically, emotionally, pedagogically into how I should be behaving in the space—what I should be doing, what was appropriate, what was not appropriate. Even if it was just things like, “I feel really comfortable taking my shoes and socks off in a certain way.” I mean, I just think that influence would be so immediate and so present from the beginning that there’s no way that it would not be hugely influential in terms of what their actual process would end up being. Not that we would go in at all, of course, like trying to impose our ideologies. Thinking of Taisha’s as the thru-line, and the person who brought us together with a specific set of questions, continued to give us certain prompts and parameters that we’re interpreting, that as a thru-line to me makes a lot of sense to then move that to another location like let that course play out and then compare the two petri dishes at the end of the experiment and see what came up. Because I feel like that other petri dish would probably have a lot of information that we didn’t have, that we didn’t come up with on our own, but was still coming from the same kind of ideas and the same impetus. That could be really helpful and be really great.
I really like that idea even though I presented a counter argument. I think that essentially Sebastian is right on at least in terms of what you’re saying about us coming there as a group that had an experience together potentially conditioning the experience for them. For sure. It may not be immediately obvious but I think it would be really interesting to not have that happen and to somehow be able to compare the two petri dishes.
I will also say that that is definitely coming from the place of like a strong idea of the larger goal and what is interesting to me about this project… I feel like the larger goal is looking at how to be, how we develop community and conversations, and some other larger things, as opposed to having a myopic focus. Because if that’s the goal then, yes, we should all go there and then figure out ways to share and be stretching and pulling what that means in a different location…
Well, yeah. No. It’s so good to think about all these things. Conceptually this could be a compare and contrast experience and different outcomes. But, when you think about…
The meadow! [laughter] And then to think there’s like community, in the institutional sense, in a buzz word sense, and then there’s like actually what it takes to really commit to community, and then there’s process and what it means in an institutional sense, and then the cliff’s notes sense, and then what it really means to commit to process. I think it’s kind of interesting, what you’re saying Sebastian, and it’s where my head goes—keep to the conceptual structure. It’s interesting to think that the conceptual structure gets broken by this need to actually stay not faithful because that sounds like lying, but to stay…just to recognize that some things can’t be cut off and just restarted.
I found that that’s where most of my curiosity is coming from—looking at this project with a sense of expansion, I think you touched on it in the beginning, that conflict between the restarting and expanding. I think now we’re discussing people and bodies and our relationship to that, sense of expansion. I’m wondering what folks’ ideas are around what this. What expanding this project looks like, or expanding these concepts, expanding these actions. And then also the invitation is curious to me, too. Because right now I’m feeling very grounded by [sigh] certain moments in the project, like the spell casting project, hearing songs of mourning or historical videos, and seeing Black bodies and people and holding space and moving through space and actually just witnessing each other. And our relationships to these things. I’m thinking about that invitation they gave to bring what you’re working on. Bring it. Then your choice to be, ‘well I’m working on this.’ And so I’m curious about specifically your ideas around beginning this project and feeling present with it now and what it looks like to expand it and then I’m also curious to hear what other people think about you know our relationship to the project and then what it feels like to expand it.
It’s interesting what caught me in what you just said, or stuck with me…What is this? That brings me back to some of what Sebastian just brought up. This is this experiment that conceptually involves… how can I say… the development of certain kinds of petri dishes, and so how is that most properly brought. If we or taisha are to bring that, what are we bringing? What form does that take? I don’t know. Does it take the form of delivering prompts and then stepping back or does it take the form of having bodies actually be there? How do we position our bodies within that conceptual framework? Does my body need to be there? Who knows. Maybe that’s a question we each need to ask ourselves, for some reason. I’m not sure. Do their bodies need to come here?
Are you leaving? Are you actually leaving?
Nice to see you Ashley. Did you get your grant application in?
Sorry to cut you off, Heyward. Or interrupt.
Yeah, what are our bodies doing? Does my body need to be there, what is my body doing here, what has it done, what’s its relationship with Joy’s body? Who are we collectively? I don’t really have a firm answer. That's the annoying. Maybe there's something I need to unlearn still. I don't know.
This ties back to or brings up a new idea for me regarding the ownership question because I’m realizing it’s less about authorship or ownership of material or product and it’s more about this kind of revved up feeling of us having a lot of work to do. A lot of questions were raised and experiences were felt deeply where it feels like this is not a semester, this is a life-long school. This is a life long commitment to speaking in the way we speak to each other, making space the way we make space for each other. These things have created models for me that I don’t feel like I’m done with, personally. On a bigger scale regarding the project, it feels like there’s so much to do, and it’s not done, whatever, it won’t be done. But whatever that means, whether it's my own body continuing to do that with the same group of people or whether it’s a new one, I think that’s the underlying desire. Does that make sense that it’s not authorship but it's… I'm not done thinking about this yet. You know?
To continue to be in part of the conversation…
Continue that research that we…
Bodies not done embodying this work.
Yeah that too.
Like questions of authorship assumes an object.
Yeah. Or even like…
Like a thing that’s fixed.
Right, or choreographic material, or like the look of the show. But it doesn’t even really, that's not really what I mean at all. But some kind of continued engagement with a particular way of practicing.
Philosophically you could extend that question into some kind of inquiry into the body’s position in culture. It’s part of what’s got me going on the words thing that was in the text. It’s like this fantastic experience of starting all of our conversations with the pronoun question, which is a practice that I hadn't done before but it’s changed me I think. And those pronouns have to do with identity or gender or sexual orientation, or something like that, but I felt like… “he’s back from Texas!” That meadow, the school in meadow, created this thing, “what is dance?” Is it self-expression, is it ritual, is it a formal container? I dunno, that could go on and on and on. And then there were moments during the performance where I felt like the ghost dance was there. Is it bodies engaged in some kind of entreaty having to do with their condition vis a vis nature, or social circumstance? Then there’s another layer having to do with how Black bodies have been positioned historically within the American post-slave trade context, and stuff like that. There’s just so much. It doesn’t fit neatly into dance, and if I were to say: “what if I called it performance art” well, I could, but that’s one way to grab a certain piece of it. But you know, I think, like Devika is saying, that continues. For me it’s not something that I’m gonna have resolved either for who knows how long. I’m reminded of that by the Lakota thing having to do with the seventh generation. It’s probably that as a contemporary artist I’ve learned to think of authorship in terms of – I’m doing something that belongs to me, and, either exhibits my intentions or furthers my career or like it does something it hopefully does something of value.
I’m glad you mentioned that because I think that’s what I think about when I think about expansion of the project… My relationship to my body, and… If I’m there with thinking about the life of this intentional space, you know… Oh my gosh it’s going to get really interesting now, but I felt gifted with the exchange, and I felt like it has been something that I’m engaging with. I think that dancing and moving weekly with a group of people, where we were sharing space and engaging material together that is related to social change, that’s related to very personal and collective things… Then to be asked to share the ways that it’s transformed us… It’s hard to explain something so transformative. I think it’s more than just a project. When I was asking a question of what do you think about um WXPT expanding? What do you think about Meadow expanding? What do you think about this movement this engagement we had expanding? I feel very close to again this word of engagement… I’m touching this idea or I’m touching this project from a space of openness and freeness about its own evolution. I think you asked me when we first opened the conversation, what did you gather from the exchange. Let me think… What it means for the work to continue and what we got from the process… I’m there with that. I feel like, Ok, that specific question of what it means is something I want to explore more. For me to see this work continue would mean that the idea of unlearning is carrying on, that the idea of questioning is carrying on. That I could just stop there. I feel very connected to that, and I feel like that’ll come back to me. That is something that I’m still participating in, whether the project’s in Houston or not. What I gather from engaging all this year was that some things aren’t going to be processed through verbal exchange. My whole relationship to space and time and bodies, [laughter] is something that has the capacity it should be! And it’s a big lesson, and thanks and I think that I would want to see that continue. And of course, yes, I mean, ask the people in Houston. [laughter] Ask them what they want, and my suggestion is commune, and communion. Maybe just being present and going on the trip and then coming back and talking to us about it. Keep your communication open, and maybe as a community supporting you, as your body travels through space and time and projects.
I would just want to tack on to that, like a slight ending, that it doesn’t need to be like an end. It’s not an end. It’s a continuation. Just like what you were saying, whether it’s supporting you in your travels or things come back I very much don’t feel like this is an ending point. I’m interested in continuing this into perpetuity. So however that happens I’d be interested in that. I think sometimes it is important to just that and let it shift and evolve and, maybe we can find like the exact road trip halfway point between Houston and LA and then meet there.
I’m thinking about the summertime [laughter] and the performance, you know, that we had, and the actions that were performed. We were running past each other!
And you were going out so far! But it felt like, Ohhhh! coming back, we were so connected and so stretched!
That was intense.
It was so intense! We’re doing these things and we’re moving with this slowness, and my eyes are here in front of my hands but I felt everything, everyone around me. It’s a microcosm and it’s macro. Gosh, I wonder if that’s the principle. I wonder if that’s something…I mean, for me, I felt like yeah, I just want to dot this thing, and embrace that right now, because I trusted, I feel like just a little bit. I trusted the beauty and intention in trailing and traveling and tumbling and moving slow together with this aura of awareness and each other. I just wonder about those principles [sigh] and what ongoing culture looks like supporting that kind of awareness.
I feel like a really big thru-line for this will be the physical space made in this gallery. I will say that I personally felt very disconnected from the process of that formation and our process. In a lot of ways that was my biggest area of discomfort. I feel like that space kind of ended up being imposed on us and our process. That it was never fully explored by us before the school began and integrated into what we were doing and what that meant to us. Even so much so as I feel like the conversation or the illusion of this space including the makers being Ashley, Kim, there was some integration but there was definitely not any sort of reflexive push pull in terms of that process. That made me kind of uncomfortable. I feel like it’s a big question for me then that that was such a strong element that will be replicated there, feels like a bit of disconnection from like that process of Meadow and that kind of expansion. Whereas I feel like it was really about integrating that environment, the practice. We only got to that point in the final performances in that process, when I started to feel like what that space really meant and what an exploration of that space and energy meant. It was very different. It was actually something that felt a bit scary to me, which is not bad.
To interact with the space?
Yeah. That confinement and that artificially created space and really kind of figuring out the boundaries and what it meant, it pushed me into some unexpected place. Also we did the piece for like two hours, bumping our heads against that wall… But I do feel like it came out of the environment that we had kind of landed in. I just wanted to throw that out because we haven’t talked about that aspect of it period. When we walked into the room it was kind of discussed, but a lot of it was just forming the curriculum and having the workshops happen but none of that stuff was really engaging with the materials and the space and what that physical space meant in any sort of way.
For me something that came up in, as you’re speaking and then remembering the space… There’s something in that moment where we came in as the space was being built. There was something that I trusted in that, that it was specifically coming from like your personal story, and like the origin of the school, which is in Texas right? And I don’t know anything about the geography in Texas but is there any relationship between…
I have no idea what is being said here they are laughing.
It’s about four hours outside of Houston.
Where your family had the school?
This particular school.
Wow. All right. All right. So there was…
So there was something in that trust that I was like, OK, Yeah. I know that there’s a special relationship here and I’m here to have that with all of you all, you know. Yeah but there was something about, how this feels for me, this is my interpretation, but it feels specific to you know, that history, your history.
Thinking about what you guys were talking about with the space, also what gets translated into performance and what we did so briefly even though it went on for a long time, but it was really brief… But questions, being really interested in how hard it was and the hard physical work, and questions I have about whether it means translating the work from the company or the school into a performance. Or whether it’s the training of a company. This feeling of expansiveness, unlearning, holding space, how can that arrive alongside with this idea of rigor? Or either physical rigor, because there were moments, there was so much trust. I felt really buoyant with all of you, that it felt a little scary physically in the space, on my body. And rigor also in terms of like really adequately preparing ourselves for what task we’re doing, and, being able to do that in a way that. Even though these words that I’m saying right now kind of sucks all the air out of it. It’s both of those things. It’s allowing for anything to happen, allowing for all these interactions to be possibilities, but then a strong desire I have to have a kind of rigor. I mean, rigor isn’t implicit in asking us to do a task, all of these things together, and we embodied that, I think, ferociously. But also rigor in terms of preparation or training, or whatever that means, implicit in the investigation together.
Rigor…rigor and physical practice. Or that or just a type of awareness of?
And I think not just physically, I think, like, organizationally, or in conversations around practicalities for performing, or structures of the school, I mean both ways. Or maybe all ways. I wonder if that’s even possible to exist with all of this really special and beautiful space, and possibility, because I think somehow it was both of those things for me. And I think that’s a huge challenge.
There was a challenge for me especially early on jumping back into this process in August or whatever it was, feeling like the lack of rigor in terms of like rehearsal attendance, really practically. The danger is that immediately my response started to be: if this is not important to people, if this is something that is optional and not something that’s worth doing for someone else, well I’m just not going to do it either. I could have made that choice too. And so it was a challenge for me in that period of time to not do that, and instead say No. I’m making this choice to go to these rehearsals because they have been scheduled and because this matters to me and because I can do it. I can make that commitment for whatever reason I had to trust that everybody was committing to as much as they could within those parameters. I think that just fits in for me because I feel like it is a really hard balance. I don’t know what the answer is at all, and my goal in experiencing this was to only think about myself, in the context, and to make those decisions to do the very best that I could and commit as much as I could to it from the beginning.
This is also a community. How are we supporting each other and we’re all coming from different schedules, different means, different places to be, cars, not cars—how do we support each other? Those are realities too that came up.
I have to go, which is another hard reality. I have to leave, and I really don’t want to go. This is really important.
No, I understand. It’s 9:40.
Well we can stop here. I think it’s fine to stop before we’re exhausted. Though if people want to continue the conversation that’s fine too. But I think, for my own brain and needs, it’s been really productive.
Lauren, are you still there?
Can you see, Kristianne?
So I think what would be really nice, actually, is to throw out a few follow-up questions via email.
In terms of moving forward, and moving forward with your voices and thoughts, I would love to have your continued thoughts on what it means to expand this project. I am not interested in anything that diminishes the quality of the experiences we had… And, so for that reason, I feel like this doing of the school again is a very sensitive thing and it’s important it’s done in the right way. I think the right way will find itself, like the way we found this. This did not know that it was going to be this, so I think that Houston will also become what it needs to be. But there are extra challenges of its remoteness. Please keep throwing out thoughts and I’ll put out an email to see if people want to get together again and or add to the dialogue digitally, remotely, snail mail, and all that stuff. Lauren, any last thoughts?
No, it’s good to see everybody!
So nice to see you Lauren, thank you for chiming in! Have a great…Enjoy Fresno!
Yeah, I’ll be back this week, so I’ll see you guys in person.
And then the question as to us meeting, there’s more to discuss. We’ll just say that. I guess this is a dot dot dot, and to be continued.
LACE presents The School for the Movement of the Technicolor People, a large-scale installation and performance platform by Los Angeles based artist taisha paggett. This project, which takes the form of a dance school, is shaped by the question, “what is a Black dance curriculum today?” The installation itself, developed in collaboration with artists Ashley Hunt and Kim Zumpfe, serves as a temporary dance school, performance space and home for dance company, WXPT (We are the Paper, We are the Trees).
The core of The School for the Movement of the Technicolor People is WXPT itself — a temporary, experimental community of queer people of color and allies, dancers and non-dancers alike. WXPT was conceived by paggett in early 2015 to expand upon the language and methods of modern and contemporary dance practices, to shift the ways dancers of color are positioned within the contemporary field, and to explore questions of queer desire, responsibility, migration and historical materials that inhabit our cultural imagination. The company consists of Joy Angela Anderson, Heyward Bracey, Rebecca Bruno, Alfonso Cervera, Erin Christovale, Loren Fenton, Maria Garcia, Kloii “Hummingbird” Hollis, Jas Michelle, Meena Murugesan, taisha paggett, Sebastian Peters-Lazaro, Kristianne Salcines, Ché Ture, Devika Wickremesinghe and Suné Woods.
In May of 2015, paggett organized evereachmore, WXPT’s premiere performance created for the Bowtie Project, a partnership between Clockshop and California State Parks to activate an 18-acre post-industrial lot along the LA River. Amidst the recent unfolding of state violence against Black bodies, evereachmore sought to forge new economies of resistance, and new sensations of time, space and togetherness.
Inspired in part by a “school for colored youth” that members of paggett’s family founded in early 20th century East Texas, The School for the Movement of the Technicolor People extends the praxis of WXPT into a curriculum and pedagogy. The installation at LACE takes up the form of a school as an artistic and social problem, building the school’s curriculum and infrastructure through physical and social sculpture, performance and image, where the roles of artist and viewer, dancing and non-dancing body, art and learning coalesce.
The School for the Movement of the Technicolor People will offer a program of workshops, weekly classes and micro-performances initiated by members of WXPT. The curriculum will be open to anyone, blurring lines between audience and participant, while especially encouraging queer people of color to join. Across the bodies of the company and the members of the public who join the school, the curriculum will build an accumulative performance score in weekly increments, culminating in the performance of a “collective movement choir” at the conclusion of the exhibition.