Saturday, March 7, 2009

Practicing for When We Need Each Other More

I missed Renée Rhodes' opening last Thursday at SOIL, so a friend and I popped in on Friday. I liked the show so much, I emailed her a couple of questions later that day. Her are her responses.
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Hi Renée!
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You have a great show of videos and photographs that just opened up at SOIL. I love the title, "Practicing for When We Need Each Other More". It feels so timely, as if humans have never needed each other as much as they might right now. What does the title reference?
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The title Practicing for When We Need Each Other More stems from my interest in human communities and the way that they become shaped by social needs or expectations. In a highly individualistic society, like the one I live in, I find it interesting to explore what is missed when there is no real base of human collectivity. Many people, myself included, have fallen into the habit of living over-independently so it has become very enriching for me to work on projects that involve a lot of people and that work towards forming community as an intentional project. I did a video piece which is also called Practicing for When We Need Each Other More. The video documented an improvised group performance. As a group, we met weekly to practice improvisational movement based off of the collective intelligence model of flocks of birds or schools of fish. The idea that people might meet up to practice collectivity is the main idea that prompted the show's title. Also I think this idea may become more of a necessity as things like environment and economy continue to weaken.
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Solution 1, 2009 (image via soilart.org)
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Solution 1, (detail), 2009 (image via soilart.org)
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Your art-making process seems very mechanical (digitally manipulated photographs and video) and time-consuming. But the end result is fluid and graceful like a dance, which makes perfect sense considering your background in ballet. Can you talk about how dance informs your art?
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Dance is something that has been a huge part of my life since I was 8 years old; ballet being the form that I focused on the most. I eventually got to a point where I felt very disconnected from some of the rather un-human expectations of ballet. I started making visual art with a critique of ballet in mind but at this point I feel more comfortable with my personal relationship to dance and so I tend to use it as a visual language for fictional and microcosmic communities. I use movement to pursue my interest in improv. and chance while using dance as a parallel for social structuring. I also use movement in video animations which are highly choreographed but in a way that is unique to animation. When I work with dancers to realize these sequences the movement is pretty rigid and the fluidity is realized through editing and animating. The whole process is actually very similar to the learning and practicing of balletic forms...something which feels very technical and precise to the dancer can turn out to look graceful and easy. So I guess, as skeptical as I am of ballet, I just can't shake it.
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Flock 1, 2008 (image via artist website)
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Your physical perspective (looking down on people) is very unique. It transforms humans into colonies of insects, swarms of birds or schools of fish. When did that first start to appear?
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I think this physical perspective is something I've begun working with fairly recently, within the past year or so. I am pretty interested in the unknown philosophical and spiritual aspects of life as a person and so playing with creator/createe, choreographer/dancer type relationships really interest me. I like the smallness of humanity when seen from an alternative or aerial vantage point.
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Flock 2, 2008 (image via artist website)

I know that every artist thinks, "You have to see it in person!" to really get it. But in your case, this is really true. Online versus in-person are two completely different experiences. What would you say to folks to encourage them to get down to see the show? Because if they don't go see it in-person, they're going to regret it later!
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Well, the work, when viewed online, is really tiny. Even as large projections some of the human elements are very small so the online reproductions can reduce the images down so much that the human forms aren't recognizable. The work becomes more of an immersive environment when you see several of the videos as large projections in one room together.

Also, at SOIL, you can get instructions to a series of remote group performances that will be taking place throughout the month of March. I really hope people will participate in these super simple performances!
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For more information, check out:
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