Karen
Christopher

can't find the edges of Seven Falls

from the live performance of Seven Falls, May 2017, (the boat in the background is not Harry's)
credit: Vanek Photography

It’s hard to know when the performance starts or when it stops. With some performance there is a very clear start and finish. There might be a long set up time but it is clearly defined and delineated and the start of the performance has a kind of click. When it is over perhaps there is a bit of disassembly required but there is never confusion or blur regarding the far limit of the show margins. But with Seven Falls, partly because it is made so quickly each time it is made, and because its making and its beginning are intermingled with the circumstances of its presentation to a larger degree than your average studio-based performance, it is hard to absolutely identify the moment when the performance of it has taken over and when it has finished passing.

It finally ended after an intermission of about a week when I tried for the second time to return the padlock key for the lock and chain that secure Harry's canoe to his barge. I went to see if he was around as I’d been carrying the key in my wallet since I returned the canoe that day after the show ceased to be an organised event in front of an assembled audience. He'd been so generous to let us use his canoe in performance, loanin git to me without having ever met me before I presented myself in front of his boat with the request of it. Now I wanted to be sure to be diligent about every aspect of the return of it to its rightful owner. I’d sent him a text enquiring about how to return the padlock key. I was hoping it was a spare—but I didn’t know that for sure. I never got an answer. After about a week I went to see him at his boat in person. When I got to where the barge had been moored it was gone.

Later that day as I rode a bike over a bridge in a different part of the canal system as I glanced to the right I glimpsed a familiar distinctive paint job. I went down to the tow path and texted from outside the boat. A message came back from Harry: Just leave the key somewhere inside the boat. With that I opened the door to his boat home and placed the key on the counter feeling part of a magical world free from worry. And as I left it there the notion hit me that now the show was finally over and that I had been the last audience member as well as the last performer to leave the stage. Some parts of the work are very very private.

Tags: Teresa Brayshaw, Seven Falls, duet, Chisenhale Dance Space, canoe

Posted on Saturday, 3 June 2017 by Karen Christopher

Holding

part of Holding OPEN presentation 11 March @ Chisenhale

contributions from Rajni Shah were read by Lucy Cash as Rajni was in Australia, the following is one of my contributions sat and written for delivery on the occasion of this presentation of Holding OPEN

Feb 3rd 2017, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides

the wind is fierce
 and the ticking of the clock a prominent voice

50 min stillness and silence

20 min writing

he was a catalyst, witness-less
Sometimes his enthusiasm was not matched. He was a catalyst but with a faulty ticker. Sometimes he got the chronology wrong. He toasted the “roof we are under” and lived most of his life on the same island, in the same town, on the same street, in the same house. The house he died in. The house where the wind blows hard against stone walls and the water finds a way in and a soft tapping in the eaves continues all night long. The wind is a tangler, the sun smoothes it all down, the water lends a texture and the coal gives an odour to the smoke that is irresistible. He never smelled what I smelled. His nose was for the wine and for the apple a day and for keeping the doctor at bay. His nose was for the history of it. His nose was for adding lead to the petrol because these old cars can’t run without it. We had to stop driving at all to give a counterbalance to the consumption in his corner. You don’t stop loving a person because they use their time differently, would rather smell the oil than the roses, can’t seem to see it your way, won’t turn the heat up when they are dying of the cold—you don’t stop loving someone because they went away or stopped talking to you, or died.
But the wind is a tangler and in this howling wind everything is tangling I can’t find the beginning. And me, here, the one who likes chronology, likes to fiddle with it until it wakes my own sense, the one I want it to do, my truth, in my own order. The story was predictable but some want to look back for the truth while others see it forward. I want to shift it and watch it change as the details are revealed in waves reconstruction pollutes the knowing and brings the foresight together with the hindsight and mixes the details in a three-part pot.

He was so appreciative of a hot meal, a fresh cake, a new loaf of bread, a soup on the stove top. Everyday magic. The secret handshake, the special rules, the roof we’re under. I always wanted a father, but not necessarily the one I had. It isn’t a choice though is it. He’s wrapped in a shroud, wrapped himself in it to tell me the same stories over and over again, out of the ward and into the drafty hallways of the hospital, he wanted to sit where he could speak freely. All he did from there was pretend he was famous one more time. Cast as the journalist begging for an exclusive I watched him live via hospital corridor, sheet shrouded captured on my phone, eye glinted and cuddled in three-square meals without lifting a finger. Clam happy and drunk with his own circulating fluids.
 
I’ve bent the two fathers—one should really only ever have one, they begin to confuse each other. One I know is dead nearby, the other most likely. though not definitely, alive far away. What makes either of them dear is me.

The TwoFold festival of duets was dedicated in memory of Ian Mitchell of Stornoway.

Link to other entries on or from Holding OPEN, a private duet with Karen Christopher and Rajni Shah, here

Tags: Rajni Shah, holding open

Posted on Sunday, 12 March 2017 by Karen Christopher

TwoFold: the particularities of working in pairs

This second symposium on duet work that we have been part of (see here for posts on the earlier one) was held at Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre on 3rd and 4th March 2017 and included presentations by the following:

John Kannenberg, Director and Chief Curator of the Museum of Portable Sound
Professor David Berman, Center for Research in String Theory at Queen Mary, University of London
Przymierska Morgan, a London-based performance duo

Emma Bennett, performance maker
Karen Glossop & Paul Murray, co-founders of Wishbone Theatre
Vanio Papadelli & Tania Batzoglou, performance makers

Tin Can People, The Katie & Pip Project
Marcus Orlandi, performance artist and curator

Mira Loew & Jane Frances Dunlop
Julie Brixey-Williams & Libby Worth, freelance artist and movement practitioner (respectively)

Teri & James Harper-Bailie, artist researchers and collaborative PhD candidates
Marta Zboralska, a second-year AHRC-funded research student in the History of Art department at University College London

Here is the text that Sophie Grodin and I delivered as an introduction:

Introduction to Twofold symposium (click for symposium schedule pdf)

It could begin with this:
A panel where three people from different vantage points talk about something in relation to doubles or twins or a set of two somethings.

It could begin with this: two people are like two strands comprising a rope which holds together by the pressure of the twist of contradictory forces, without which, it is just fibres reduced to gossamer, easily lost to the wind.

It could continue like this:
A couple of police officers tell us all about how they work together to complement each other’s strengths. In a kind of good cop bad cop routine.

It could continue like this, comfortable with the fact that I will never truly know you.

It could end like this:
A large thunderclap is heard from the sky, and everyone rushes to the windows to watch the largest hail stones they have ever seen falling to the ground. As we look closer, we see that each of the hail stones is really two hail stones, fused together.

We welcome you to TwoFold - the particularities of working in pairs.
We have been thinking in two’s for about 6 years now and wanted to widen the dialogue.
We think this will be an opportunity to do that with all of you.

Tags: Sophie Grodin, duet, Birkbeck College, symposium

Posted on Monday, 6 March 2017 by Karen Christopher

end of the year letter, never sent

end of the year letter 2016
elections / endings / moment of clarity / connections

moment of clarity
The materials were essential. The fact of the rope, its properties, told us the story. When the end came undone it was because the twist was lost—the contradictory turns in either direction which held them curled tight around each other. The attempts to go in, the tendency towards, opposite directions kept the strands together. Suddenly I realised the whole 100 metres of rope could come undone. I went to the chandlers and had an old hand whip both ends with a sailmaker’s whipping and saved the rope.

elections
We were at opposite ends of the hallway. 6am. She said, “we’re out” I said “I saw that.” A quiet moment, we stopped. She said you know what this means don’t you. I said, what? Now Trump is going to be president of the United States. Never. And we each went back into our rooms. I looked out the window. The tree was still there and the tall grasses. I decided to go out and see the perfectly round drops of dew which I predicted would be balanced on each blade. I had plans to take pictures this time.

endings
And I take a nap and when I wake up he is still dead and when I have a cup of tea, when the timer goes off, when I’ve finished the book, when the rubbish is collected when the fishermen wake in the morning he will still be dead. I am tired. I am weary. I could sleep for a thousand years. 

connections
everywhere

Posted on Saturday, 31 December 2016 by Karen Christopher

we started it some time ago and it doesn't seem to stop

This just in from Teresa Brayshaw: This image created from our actions unleashed into the world and we have no will over it. Indeed we have no will to have one. Not our idea nor anyone's. We found something to pluck and we plucked it and the photo from 3 years ago is now beckoning young people into a theatre school in Bilbao. This is not what we intended but it is what we always intend. When we performed this piece in Cardiff last year that is not the photo we wanted used for publicity. It was chosen for us from among the ones taken a festival before. We offered no resistance even though we thought there was a better one. One in which the local humans looked a bit more enthusiastic. Now here it is again. I suppose I haven't much to say about it. Just there it is. That photo like a bad penny. Or a sweet reminder.

Tags: Teresa Brayshaw, Seven Falls, duet, Bilbao, Act Festival

Posted on Friday, 28 October 2016 by Karen Christopher

Untangling in front of you

After performing our new duet miles & miles at Chisenhale Dance Space in July I became transfixed by a coule of questions: How did we untangle in front of you? How could we trust it was something to watch? Isn't untangling  knot something about which you say "I can't do this if I'm watched"? The untangling of a rope or string or other line or set of lines can be one of the most panic inducing dilemmas there are. Why would I want to play it out in real uncontrollable time in front of an audience.

The untangling is an unquestionable by-product of the forces and concerns we are laying out in miles & miles. Something about the attempt at linearity or organisation of a sense of life and its actual uncontrolability is at the heart of our performance work.

To reorganise a stream of consciousness unleashed into the world merely by being alive is almost an impossible task.

Undoing a knot is the kind of thing that might produce the declaration (even to friendly onlookers): I can't do this in front of you.

The pressure of another's gaze is unsettling to the mind of the untangler. Furthermore, what might be streamlined for one person to sort out becomes precarious with two as each sees the knot or tangle from a different point of view. The binocular aspect is just enough to tip the apple cart. But as we do work in tandem we must exercise the capacity to refrain from turning on each other like over-heated rats in a crowded cage. And this is how we kept our nerve, by knowing there is a future to survive together.


. . . this will eventually be completed as an essay including (but not limited to) the following sections: the whole body through the loop, the performance of confidence & optimism, the technical terms we feigned to make it seem we were in control, and the vicarious thrill of our ultimate victory.

Photo: Manu Valcarce Photography 2016

Tags: miles & miles, duet, Chisenhale Dance Space

Posted on Sunday, 7 August 2016 by Karen Christopher

The Things They Do

The Things They Do was a one-day symposium (29th July 2016) coinciding with the Ragnar Kjartansson exhibition that is on right now (through beginning of September) at the Barbican in the main gallery. A number of artists made responses to the invitation from Joe Kelleher, Nick Ridout and Orlagh Woods:

The Things They Do is inspired by Kjartansson’s interest in making art out of the things that other people do.
 
In Kjartansson’s work the appropriation of these practices – like painting seascapes or playing in a rock band – involves a complex mixture of absolute seriousness and inevitable pretence, of sincerity and the ridiculous.  Each of these practices is at once revivified, even as they are presented as somehow already used up and exhausted, by the contemporary artist’s own longing – but self-aware – investment in them.
 
Our plan is that during the course of the day a selection of artists, writers and academics will offer a series of performances, demonstrations, talks and other activities, in which they share their investments in the things that other people do and their experiences of learning to do these things themselves.

That invitation and the response to it has now taken place. And it was a great day. I performed a repetition of a 1min 28sec section of a lecture given by Judith Butler:

Judith Butler Gets a Sip and Drinks It
In the midst of giving a lecture (Precarious Life: the Obligations of Proximity) at the Nobel Museum in Sweden, American philosopher Judith Butler takes 1 minute and 28 seconds to open a bottle of water and take a sip. This performance repeats that performance over and over again.

A number of artists performed other acts simultaneously, durationally, at specific times, just once, and repeatedly over a couple of hours or just a couple of minutes inside the conservatory which is usually closed to the public except on Sundays and bank holidays if there isn't a private event going on.

Here below in the form of a thank you letter is a short description of my experience of it:

Dear Joe, Orlagh, and Nick,
Your symposium set up quite a few mechanisms for inspiring creative thought including: doing things in front of people; performing simultaneous actions both individually and with others in a large permeable series of subspaces; drawing disparate elements together; spending time watching and listening; experiencing space and proximity through sound; allowing one thing to bleed with others; listening, watching, and doing in order to think in alternate ways or to bring thoughts into the brain as a result of avenues other than speaking or writing or sitting alone.

Joe, I think I lied to you. It was a lie of fatigue and over-focus and a lie of confusion brought on by the chemistry of my body. Referring to Judith Butler you said: did she really take such a long drink? (*see note below) I said “yes.” and at the same time suddenly realised that I’d made a mistake. It wasn’t actually true. I think the length of the drink grew as I performed the action and this is always what happens once a performer gets hold of something and finds a resting place or a hook or a hollow spot that can be filled. This performer (I) also accidentally saw (the day before the symposium) a slow motion version of this drink before realising it was a slow motion version (both are on my phone). I had a growing thought “I didn’t realise she invested so much in the enjoyment of that break” that moment seemed so important. But it was a mistake. Just after that thought I realised I’d started the wrong clip. But somehow the long drink was not erased from my foremost conscious version of the segment. This married with the piano music of Emma in the background of my second position in the conservatory and I took a performer’s license to exaggerate (I always carry this license with me). When I answered yes to your question, Joe, I heard it and realised it as incorrect as I said it. But that was a bit difficult to explain in that moment. I was just realising for the first time that I’d seduced myself into thinking the drink was that long. But it was the most important part. Your question brought this realisation out. For me there’s a lot there. That’s why we talk about things isn’t it.

Stop exaggerating. My mother used to say. You are so histrionic. To which I responded: I have to exaggerate because you weren’t there and you don’t have the full feeling of being there (you just have me telling it) so the exaggeration brings you closer. Nonsense.

I felt very well cared for Orlagh—even if everything was a bit rushed and tumbling at the beginning when the workers who might have carried water or set up sound seemed a bit ellusive—I felt everything would go well because if someone else didn’t do it, you would see it done. I found it hilarious after watching a number of people fumbling in the Garden room with the video screen and its glare and wondering what to do about it, you breezed in and simply pushed it back a bit. Of course. It was much better.

Nick, the twist of your eyebrows and the up-turned edges of your mouth told us all we needed needed to know about the frame of mind with which we would be promenading through the day: a lark, a serious linger, a consideration, entertainment. CJ pointed out his favourite comment of the day, it was something like: “And lunch will be a classic one hour.” (everyone laughed) Your classic delivery carried it off with aplomb. The underlying message: we are looking at everything today.

Only a handful of people saw my third section over there by the pond (and the gent’s toilet), three of them were you three. It was a sudden highlight for me. I suddenly realised you had to steal a moment away but possibly this little moment (which might have felt obligatory) could open up a rest within the confines of obligation, the proximity to me meant you were still doing your “work” which for reasons we all know (some to do with repetition) was not too demanding at that moment. It isn’t going to change only “I” will. A known quantity allowing a hollow place. A break within the classic one hour lunch. Next to the carp and the pond. Only a couple of others ventured back there during my time in that position but I was conscious of the sound I was providing even from the other side of the Conservatory and this wouldn’t have occurred to me had I not had a few iterations all alone (and getting it “right” finally when no one was watching). If the sound of my voice and the rhythm it was carrying and the familiarity of its short message was still sounding in the room it was enlarging the space we were all in together. Later in the Garden room after lunch as Laure was speaking and I could hear Emma playing, the thought came back to me and I was feeling the shape of the conservatory through the sound that travelled through it to us there in the rows of seats.

OK, that’s too long already.

What I meant to say was thank you. Thanks for the invitation to participate which was, of course, an invitation to think. The freedom you allowed within the remit you set out set off a multiplicity of actions in response and this felt relaxingly fruitful in the department of thought.

Cheers,
Karen

*note: the length of the "drink" discussed here is the actual moment of lips to glass, water entering mouth. The preparation, glass bottle opening (with metal top opener), and water pouring into drinking glass etc took 1min 28secs. But the sip of water entering the mouth part itself was elogated by 1.5 to 2 secs in the performance of it (artistic license KC15041963).

Tags: Orlagh Woods, Nick Ridout, Joe Kelleher, Barbican

Posted on Wednesday, 3 August 2016 by Karen Christopher

Green Letters

Sophie Grodin and I wrote "On Creating a Climate of Attention: the composition of our work” an essay which appeared in Performance and Ecology: What Can Theatre Do? a special performance issue of the journal Green Letters; studies in ecocriticism (Volume 20 issue 3, 2016) guest edited by Deidre Heddon and Carl Lavery. Here is an excerpt from notes for our introductory section:

As a starting directive we give ourselves the goal of listening and of sensing the environment in which we find ourselves. We are conscious that the conditions around us will be feeding into what the work becomes. The interaction between us creates a climate which will influence the work and its aesthetic. We are conscious that collaborative devising relies on a sensitivity to the ecology we are part of as the work is being made. Which is to say to the totality or pattern of relations between the organisms involved and our environment. There are some features of this that support the work and there are some that we face as challenges to the work but engaging with these features becomes the warp to the weft of what we are able to make. We begin with a kind of open intention and we finish a work with fine tuning it to suit a set of specific intentions but in the vast middle area of the devising process we are struggling to find the best way to interact with our immediate environment and most of all we are listening and observing what is possible within the parameters given. We have to find the balance between having an idea and uncovering what is there. We have to see ourselves as part of nature, as equal partners with the natural world we find ourselves surrounded by, even if that is a human-made construction. We might see ourselves as gardeners but we also see that the gardener is part of the garden.

I’ve tried to say this is how we have made what we have made. But how do I know how it happened? I was there but I was not able to see it as I was it. I was the subject as much as I was the maker. And I was always trying to understand why I thought in the wiggly line I was thinking in. Where was the straight line? was there a straight line? or was it more of a way that one of us was able to stop following a random path and follow instead a line of intention, a line that connected one part to another in an unbroken trajectory of unfolding meanings? Unfolding meanings. Sometimes one is simply writing to find the way forward and when this results in only one good line in a whole day of writing, well, so be it. It is not far from the tactics of the cherry tree. The cherry tree generates millions of blossoms creating a multitude of seeds most of which never propagate the species but nevertheless feed the birds and the bees and countless other creatures in the vicinity.

Alternation becomes a way forward. Sometimes you have to zigzag to find the path up or down. After watching Watermark, the film by Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky we wanted to explore the properties of water. In Watermark there are many examples of the ways water behaves in a landscape. We poured water on the floor and watched it follow the path of least resistance.

There it is, a little trickle of an attempt to tell how we create or pay attention to the ecology around us during the making process. We are working with what we can pull out of the air, a kind of wild yeast that feeds on the flour and makes the bread rise.


 

"This article explores how two performance makers – Karen Christopher and Sophie Grodin of the company Haranczak/Navarre – approach the rehearsal process as an ecological practice in and by itself. Drawing attention to such things as listening, openness and patience, Karen and Sophie explore how their devising strategy transcends the studio and becomes a form of relating to the world in general. Karen and Sophie illustrate their ideas by drawing on generative metaphors and by grounding their insights on their empirical experience of making Control Signal (2013) and miles & miles (2016). In the article there is an attempt to extend the dialogic nature of Haranczak/Navarre’s work into the editing process, to create, that is, an extended climate of attention." editors' note

If you are interested in our essay but can't get your hands on a copy of Green Letters let me know.

Green Letters, Performance and Ecology: What Can Theatre Do? was published online summer 2016.

Tags: Sophie Grodin, On creating a climate of attention, miles & miles, Green Letters, duet

Posted on Wednesday, 20 July 2016 by Karen Christopher

finding the end

this is an excerpt from writing done during our Roehampton DTP residency to finish work on the performance duet miles & miles (this past January)—and we still aren’t really finished—the next deadline is coming up and is backed up by an imminent performance (7th & 8th July 2016, Chisenhale Dance Space)

A resolve has settled in, both a kind of clarity about what has to be done today and a realisation of the limitations a day includes, here, with us, in this room. We are finishing. We are finishing finishing. There’s a special setting on my brain for when the end is near. Maybe there’s more than one option for this setting. Maybe one of them is a kind of panic which produces wild-eyed blindness. Another is a wistful acknowledgement of the limits we face. We have only come this far thus far and the likelihood that we can see the edge is becoming more and more real. It is possible that the unknown possibilities—including dizzying brilliance as well as dim disappointment—are blinking out like spent candles. It is in this moment that we, giggling, came upon a plan to tell ourselves everything was still possible. But how do you fool yourselves when even imagination feels bounded by reality, even if that reality is one manufactured by yourselves?

Let us say we have determined that our show is using a central metaphor or analogy or visual image, surely the possible endings must come in line with the trajectory that springs from this central post, this guiding principle . . . or maybe anything is possible.

Tags: University of Roehampton, DTP, Sophie Grodin, residency, miles & miles, duet, Chisenhale Dance Space

Posted on Tuesday, 10 May 2016 by Karen Christopher

consciously setting up a series of conversations

A fleeting conversation makes for a long podcast. Or how long is a short one? what length it should be? Chris Goode has a series of them and they are all around an hour long. Here is a link to the conversation between him and me. You might drink it all at once or in several gulps separated in time. However you do it I hope you enjoy being a fly on our wall.

http://chrisgoodeandco.podbean.com/e/thompson%E2%80%99s-live-s3-ep11-20th-march-2016-karen-christopher/

Tags: Chris Goode

Posted on Sunday, 20 March 2016 by Karen Christopher

importing an audience once in a while

a report fragment from our 3-day residency at Roehampton to work on finishing miles & miles

We just have to rehearse this little part and then run the whole section that it comes from. We just need to work this middle bit because the built in looseness of it means that we have to know it very well. It’s hard to convince yourself sometimes that you should learn something that might not even work, that you have to work on it long enough to get good at it and then maybe throw it out. Working on it can make it difficult to throw it out later. You might get attached to it.

She said you have to have dinner with each other in order to be able to pop in and out of just talking to each other and performing the material. She meant it was hard to say where the parts when we were us performing and parts when we were us performing being just us talking. The pressure of it, the pressure of the gaze puts us in an it moment. A moment when it might happen, a moment when the material finds its velocity, its time and place—where something takes shape, gathers a weight. A performance needs an audience in order to be a performance. Even an audience of one counts as an audience. That’s where a director comes in handy—a director is always an audience of the piece. As we are both directing and both in it we have no regular audience. that doesn’t necessarily mean that we are in trouble, it means we need to supply that dynamic in a different way. This means importing an audience once in a while. It means bringing in a series of outside eyes. It means subjecting ourselves to the scrutiny of another’s gaze. The energy of the gaze is a kind of compression the gives us the right climate in which to work. It gives us a pillowcase for all of these feathers. These feathers turn into birds and fly away. These thoughts lead to other thoughts and this is the way we develop a train of thoughts—that pathway through our possible trajectories helps clarify direction and limit choices. The reality of sequence or chronology is that it has one kind of grammar in the brain with a kind of dreamlike shorthand of simultaneous knowings and another kind of grammar in the reality outside of our heads which adheres to a kind of linearity associated with speech and writing and the qualities of physical matter. The idea of being hit by a bus vs the actual bus making impact with your own soft body.

Tags: University of Roehampton, DTP, Sophie Grodin, residency, duet, miles & miles

Posted on Thursday, 28 January 2016 by Karen Christopher

Holding OPEN event at Chisenhale Dance Space

Holding OPEN
with Karen Christopher & Rajni Shah
writing, and a series of silences

Saturday January 16th 5-8pm
Chisenhale Dance Space (main space)
64-84 Chisenhale Road, London, E3 5QZ

This is an invitation.

This is an invitation to sit still and do nothing.
This is an invitation to a workshop.
This is an invitation to share silence.
This is an invitation to hear about a process.
This is an invitation to a performance.
This is an invitation to sit together, with intention.
This is an invitation to a kind of hovering.

This is an invitation to witness and be part of and hear about a private duet that Rajni Shah and Karen Christopher have been engaging in for the past 49 months. We would like to tell you about it, but the only way we can think of to do this is to invite you inside it.
There will be tea and cake.
Everyone is welcome. It is free of charge.
Please let us know in advance if you are coming.


Here is part of the introduction to the event:

We will gather. We will sit with intention. We will not engage in progress. We will hold still. Stasis, a kind of hovering to let moments catch up and slow down. Quiet the mind. We will be still and silent. We will not ry to breathe or organise thoughts, we will float we will not identify what is important we will not make decisions we will gently corral out thoughts back to zero when they begin to become productive. We are always trying—in this case we try not to try too hard, a gentle try.

A possibly activity: make a wish, write it down. make two more and write them.Choose one of them to focus on. Let a words associated with your wish standout—just one word. Write the word 3 times in three different ways. How does it appear before you? This word will help you focus back to neutral when you notice your mind has wandered. It is not neutral of course. But nothing is. So we will endow this word with the power of bringing us back to a beginning. the goal is not to progress but to stay at the beginning. Hover at the starting gate. Everything is still possible.

Tags: Rajni Shah, holding open

Posted on Sunday, 17 January 2016 by Karen Christopher

I was at Reading the Internet, virtually

I was in Warwick back then (early October 2015) but I sent this recording along to Something Other's event READING THE INTERNET:

https://somethingothertemp.wordpress.com/2015/11/13/birds-nest-soup-karen-christopher/#more-123

Tags: Mary Paterson

Posted on Monday, 9 November 2015 by Karen Christopher

collaboration, surprise, and mayhem

The duet residencies

From Contemporary Theatre Review's 'Interventions' page:

Reflections on what makes an ideal artist’s residency, with reports on two residencies I undertook at the University of Roehampton in London in early 2015: one with Chris Goode, another with Lucy Cash.

http://www.contemporarytheatrereview.org/2015/karen-christopher-duet-residencies/

You may recognize the writing in this essay from some less edited words relating to these residencies in earlier blog entries.

Tags: University of Roehampton, DTP, residency description, mayhem, residency, Lucy Cash, Chris Goode

Posted on Monday, 2 November 2015 by Karen Christopher

A post from the workroom

During September 2015, I have been working as an ensemble member of Chris Goode & Co, as we make the new performance Weaklings: "Inspired by and loosely based on the notorious blog of writer and artist Dennis Cooper, Weaklings disorientingly blurs fiction and documentary, fact and fantasy, to create a compelling portrait of people on the edge, finding a strange refuge together in dangerous times."

Here's a link to an entry I wrote for Chris Goode's blog: "Karen Christopher reflects on her first encounters with Dennis Cooper’s blog DC’s, getting acquainted with strangers, and the dynamics of the Weaklings rehearsal room."

Tags: Chris Goode

Posted on Friday, 18 September 2015 by Karen Christopher

considering the audience

I’m trying to get people thinking, not about something specific, not about something I endorse, not in the way that I want them to, but thinking. In the act of thinking we stumble into more thinking and thinking makes more thinking possible and in the consideration that takes place along a train of thought, new possibilities open up and boundaries fall and bonds are strengthened and action becomes an option.

Some things have to be imagined before they can become real.

I’ve never been the blond bomb shell. I’ve never been the freaky outlier who takes you on a holiday to another side of life. I don’t have long legs. Now that I am 52, a full deck, I am in the least popular age category. Not new young emerging artist nor swaggering favourite nor ageing stalwart who has always been around. Not a misfit nor a member of a reviled or contested group. No one is afraid of me. Sometimes I am invisible. But I do have a voice. I do have something to show you. I feel an irresistible urge to share. I’ve slowed down to look closely and I can do the same for you—just for a night. There’s a richness I can layer into the ordinariness.  I can make it better.

It was always the case that for my success or inclusion I had to rely on the people I know or on people knowing me. People who knew me were willing to support me, to champion my work, to work alongside me. Had that not been the case I wouldn’t still be here.

I never got my best work through auditioning or interviewing. I was invited because someone already knew my work. I’m the kind of artist who has to be invited. I’m not loud in the competition. The work I do is somewhat unassuming. It doesn’t pull you off the street, it requires attention and a bit of time. It pays off. It speaks in a variety of ways. It’s not flash but it’s pearly. You don’t have to be a native speaker to follow the thread. It respects your own contribution to the moment. The unemployed bricklayer says “what’s all this then?” But after giving it some of his time he tells me his favourite part. The 20-something student of performance wonders if I know what I’m doing, if I know what I’ve done, because the thoughts he’s having seem to be all his own. He asks “did you do that on purpose?” She’s in her 80s and she tells me: “you just told the story of my life but of course you can’t have known that, thank you.” Many of the audience will say: “I could do that.” And then they do do that in their sitting rooms when they get back home for the night. There is something quite insistent in the focus on a moment, on a series of moments that seem so simple but build and build and, as with a collection of loose twigs somehow coaxed into a nest, suddenly a catastrophic shift occurs and there is a structure arising. It becomes a foundation on which audience members build their own thoughts. And this is done with others, in the company of others, and these thoughts are strengthening social cooperation as they are thoughts which hatch in collaboration with the whole room and in the presence of a community of people who come together and all look in their own ways in the same direction and ponder meanings without even trying. It is human nature kicking in, triggered by a chain reaction, triggered by the physical acts in front of them performed in their presence and taking place in real time.

So, who is my audience? my audience is the person who got lost on the way to somewhere else, the person who was dragged there by a friend and ended up feeling converted, the devoted returning follower of the development of thoughts fostered in my work and the works of others stirring the collective unconscious, the people who are out for the night and hoping that they will be pleasantly surprised, the woman who is trying to impress her date, the man who feels isolated, the casual passersby who don’t know they want anything, the unimpressed bigwig who realises much later she’s still thinking about it, the child who re-stages it the morning after. If collaboration is meant to include multi-vocality it is also engaging a multitude of reception methods and people from many walks of life. If I can appreciate the kind of work that is alien to me and find it interesting in its distance from my own experience then I can become more tolerant of and interested in the people I live in the world with. This makes life better. This makes me care more.

Tags: audience

Posted on Sunday, 19 July 2015 by Karen Christopher

we went to Berlin, Berlin gave us spirals

We went to Berlin and Berlin gave us spirals. We were looking for the sound for miles & miles.

The progress was this way: 1) visit to a spring factory 2) listening to the springs with contact mics 3) jokes about inventing the wheel

The attention and different tensions, a grip and release, a kind of tuning that goes in and out, that gives way and grabs you, it winds up and down, it decays, it leads and leaps, it trembles, it lays down fine, it ambles and asks, it leans down for a closer look, it never returns. After working from the outside in we decided not to invent a new instrument but simply to misuse an existing one.

Boris got a guitar out (a baby Taylor) and began plucking strings and de-tuning them. And then Sophie and Karen began exclaiming and proclaiming it wonderful.

The pursuit took us to Gropiusstadt, to Sauerbier Spiralfedern GmbH and then back to Bernauer straße to attach contact mics and then the other room for the baby Taylor.


btw: zugfedern = tension springs
and druckfedern = compression springs

Tags: zugfedern, springs, spirals, Sophie Grodin, miles & miles, druckfedern, Boris Hauf, Berlin

Posted on Friday, 26 June 2015 by Karen Christopher

there is no polaroid of this in my brain

the following are not my words but I didn't wish to summarize
—Karen

Antonio Damasio:  I don’t have a memory.  I’m not going to have a Polaroid picture of you right now talking to me complete with soundtrack.  What I’m going to have is all these bits and pieces of information with which I will be allowed to reconstruct something of this moment, but of course the reconstruction is not going to be entirely accurate, and who knows?  Maybe then in time I may even make a confusion and I could be asked in court to say what you were wearing and I could say that you were wearing a blue...

Siri Hustvedt:  Actually and I think this is quite important, the fact that our brains and our memories are not like recording devices, not like film and that that is how we make sometimes significant errors. And those errors also can be created by an emotion attached to the experience, so that you can even entirely invert a memory, depending on the motivation in some way—and I don’t mean conscious motivation, but a deeply embodied drive or push sometimes that can have an emotional valence that will change memory.

Antonio Damasio:  Right, absolutely and people you know the testimonies in court are very often affected by that and you have all sorts of misattribution errors, inversions of the time sequence and so and that is because we don’t have a filmic medium.  We don’t have celluloid with an optic soundtrack attached to it.  What we have is this incredibly sophisticated mechanism of transforming…  It’s almost like coding.  You have these little bits and pieces that are occurring in time and then you have the possibility of reconstruction or reactivation, which is they are very, very, very intriguing and by the way, it is extremely economic.  You know the brain whenever it can, does things fuzzily and lazily and you know if there is no need to repeat and reinvent the wheel it won’t.

Siri Hustvedt:  Well, and I think this is very important for perception because perception, the way we perceive things has to do with deep learning in the brain and one of my favorite philosophers, who you mentioned a footnote in your most recent book, Maurice Merleau-Ponty talks about perception as something he calls stereotypes and in neuroscience there is a similar idea, which is that the brain also will take in information according to its own expectations.

Antonio Damasio:  Absolutely.  Yeah, because we don’t…  You know it’s not just that we have memory of the things that we have been living through since we were born.  We have past memories that we have inherited through a whole history of evolution before us that in fact have memories of things that our forerunners have been doing and I’m not just talking about the human forerunners, but forerunners that go all the way into reptiles and single cells.  You know things that have been done in a certain way in life forms and that of course been memorized by the biological systems we inherited.

from a conversation with Siri Hustvedt & Antonio Damasio July 2, 2010
accessed online: http://bigthink.com/videos/a-conversation-with-antonio-damasio-and-siri-hustvedt

Tags: photograph, neurology, fragmentary

Posted on Sunday, 10 May 2015 by Karen Christopher

what happens in the room

(Notes following a residency with Lucy Cash at the University of Roehampton, Department of Drama, Theatre and Performance; week commencing 16 February 2015. For more context to this residency, see here)

You make a seal with an individual or a series of individuals and this seal creates an involuntary contract which writes itself according to the chemistry between you.

As you work together in a studio as we have, you sense and test what the rules of this contract are. you discover what is possible and the further you test, the more you learn about what is possible.

In this way the working arrangement is much like a particular view of fate or the possibilities that life at large presents. There are a constellation of prefigurations but there is also a set of variables and those rely on how you manage to use what is there practically and emotionally and magically in front of you.

On the first day in this 5-day studio residency Lucy asked me what it was like to work with the different duet partners I’ve been working with. It was hard to say without setting up a model for Lucy—people can only be the way they are—I do find I am a different creature with different people, my palate of responses is calibrated to what I perceive in the action between us.

Lucy and I misunderstood each other several times about very fundamental parts of what we were doing. But taking the long view, our focus was on making material, these moments simply continued to propel us toward what we were aiming at. Like walking robots who are designed to walk via a series of stumbles and tumbles, thus surmounting the robot’s most difficult obstacle—the pitfalls of perambulation—we agree to consider the mental stumble, the thought stutters part of how we communicate with each other rather than a sign of its impossibility.

Normally we conceived or composed a performance directive and then followed it. As a result of something I said, Lucy produced this sequence in reverse. I performed an action and then she pronounced a directive. I was surprised. Surprised is good. There is potential in surprise.

I was thinking through the parts of the event and what built it—reverse engineering a moment in which water is spilled into a river on the floor as a product of the directive: “Using gravity, stick liquid to a surface.” In this case, the directive came after the action and reversed the direction of thought from my point of view. The confusion of intention and action and the mis-chronology offer alternate spectacles and lead to re-thinking the constituent parts of a cascading chain of events, the flow of details, the unblending of a mixture, the spread then of a tumult, now visible as separate parts with separate functions yet all as one in their natural state. A post-mortem only possible post-mortem.

Everything we had mentioned or focussed on, acted upon us, even the incidental played a part in how we activated the ideas in the room. There was an abandoned water bottle in the room. I removed it only to retrieve it later when I needed a river. The students watching said: “you didn’t worry about the part that didn’t work, you just found another approach, you didn’t stop to dwell on that, you just kept going” — without stalling from the inertia of a failing plan we had changed tactics and, drawing from a chain of events set in motion by every single thing that had happened earlier that day, we carried on attempting to pull performance material into the here and now. We hadn’t noticed the switch and now the students were teaching us what we’d done.

How does one keep one’s head in the moment? Post-moment is all we seem to have. Moment is a gift to post-moment in the same way that everything I do is a gift to future-Karen and either sets future-Karen up well or not-so-well but is always a present in good faith.

But all is still not yet clear, even if I squint my eyes. From the vantage point of day’s end (of which we had five) this is now the moment when the light dies and the colours shed their names. And here now I wish to say that it became clear and then cloudy again; the material a creature which loomed and then slid back into the dark waters. I saw before its retreat, a possibility of the individual parts coming together to perform as colours do and then falling apart into something less than meaning. The creature not quite formed. Try again tomorrow. And yet contours were visible. An interdependent collection at a range of distances. A toll booth that adds up the proceeds, a voice that continues after the parade has passed. And if we continue working, the contours will stop slipping and eventually we will see through the fog to the performance taking shape in the clearing.


We read from a Bridget Riley interview: she says the colours and shapes participate in the event conceived by herself. We read from Jane Bennett’s book Vibrant Matter the assemblage of both intentional influence and the natural properties of materials conspire to create event and the equal participation of human intention and material action and interaction make a single voice or land on a surface together to present one layer of event at one particular point in time.

And we tell ourselves this: A performance directive is a way to contribute to (or create) a future conversation. By holding up a performance which releases thought when they look at it, activate the audience to release meaning.

Make a performance which suggests a constellation the viewer wishes to name.

Tags: residency, Lucy Cash, featherweight, University of Roehampton, DTP

Posted on Wednesday, 25 February 2015 by Karen Christopher

strange pearls: the way friday is different from monday on this particular week

(Notes following a residency with Chris Goode at the University of Roehampton, Department of Drama, Theatre and Performance; week commencing 19 January 2015. For more context to this residency, see here.)

The room is thicker now with less of a flutter. Not as transfixed by the dead flies and the constant air travel overhead. Let’s not do something about flight safety and house flies or why haven’t we.

Calm is here and the quiet of the room is aloud. Loud enough all by itself. The listening is more and less. The space in my head is wider and more directed. We know a bit more what we don’t know about what the work might be.

Testing is the only way to know what we are as two. As two we can imagine or try to imagine what might happen or we might be hesitant to think about it because setting something down in brain matter in a linear explainable verbalised way might pave the way for entrenchment or disappointment or unnecessary disagreement—the kind that gets hung up on a technicality. So maybe we didn’t know what to expect or didn’t know what we expected and then what actually happened has cleared that up to some extent.

And the people who have stepped into the room on one or more than one occasion during the week have left a residue and we carry what they said and how they breathed in here, we carry that  with us when we think about what we are doing or what we have done in this room.


So it is thicker. It is thicker with the stones and with the 20 Jesus smiles and the hands as puppets and as if something were happening and if we say it is it is and if it’s happening it is something but we do need to figure out what and we have done some of that. The failure of communication has risen as a main concern in the material. The what of the matter of the piece might be solved by the smiles and the names of them and that the smiles have names. And now we know that we must catalog the smiles and that when they are fully ordered and named then we will have finished the work.

Ten feet tall with the list of things to be punished. We need a box. How does it end up? as if we were pointing something out to you. Something about punishment and something about smiles and something about a comparison to Jesus. Je suis Jesus. And something about where to look and how these people turn their gaze and look or don’t look we look at them and see or don’t see everything that is there to see and overtime more and slower it looks like something else or more like itself but slower and more room for conjecture and puncture and rock up to the truck and “smoke’em up here boss!” and stay where you are because there are rules and everyone makes a rule to live by or looks for one and if you haven’t got one it is mayhem or if you have got one but not the right one it is mayhem or if yours is different from mine it is mayhem.

[and then I go to wikipedia and find the following]
Mayhem is a criminal offence consisting of the intentional maiming of another person.

Under the common law of England and Wales and other common law jurisdictions, it originally consisted of the intentional and wanton removal of a body part that would handicap a person's ability to defend himself in combat. Under the strict common law definition, initially this required damage to an eye or a limb, while cutting off an ear or a nose was deemed not sufficiently disabling. Later the meaning of the crime expanded to encompass any mutilation, disfigurement, or crippling act done using any instrument.

This article is outdated. Please update this section to reflect recent events or newly available information. (August 2011)

The most significant change in common-law mayhem doctrine came in 1697, when the King's Bench decided Fetter v. Beale, 91 Eng. Rep. 1122. There, the plaintiff recovered in a battery action against a defendant. Shortly thereafter, "part of his skull by reason of the said battery came out of his head," and the plaintiff brought a subsequent action under mayhem. Though Fetter is also known as an early example of res judicata, it is most significant for expanding the ambit of mayhem to include "loss of the skull."

Some information has been removed by the cut-and-paster for the sake of brevity.


Etymology

Both the noun "mayhem" and the verb "maim" come from Old French via Anglo-Norman. The word is first attested in various Romance languages in the 13th century, but its ultimate origin is unclear.[4] For one theory about its origin see wiktionary:mayhem.

Other uses

Mayhem can describe a person going on a rampage. Popular misunderstanding of the common journalese expression "rioting and mayhem" caused the common usual modern use of "mayhem" to mean "havoc and disorder", often with humorous overtones.
[ . . . ]

And then I think about the thin line between using the word and knowing what it means, between using it and questioning that use, between finding out that it means something different than you thought but finding out that everyone that heard you use it had the same misapprehension you did, and then what does the word mean? and then remembering how grateful you are that someone, some many ones, made this language that you use and gave it to you.

Tags: strange pearls, residency, Chris Goode, University of Roehampton, DTP

Posted on Wednesday, 28 January 2015 by Karen Christopher

we try to set up an atmosphere

Ideally a residency takes place in a dedicated spot, a spot where those involved, in this case, the two of us, can set up an atmosphere dedicated to the work we hope to do. This work is not yet imagined. If the work can be represented by a photo perhaps there is a corner of the photo that is developed and in focus while the rest of the photo is still being developed. So we try to set up an atmosphere that is conducive to a good working climate. It is alchemical, it is a kind of magic combination of protection, collection, deliberation, and discovery. It is a container for what might come. We don’t yet know what shape it will take so it helps if it is somewhat expansive. It needs to be open and without a sense of oppression. It needs to be without distraction and yet somehow open to contamination. It needs to be stimulating without being overwhelming. It needs to be quiet enough for listening but with something to listen for.

We’d like to have a combination of cloister and gathering. We’d like to be alone and to be visited. We’d like to work hard and have it feel like play. We like to focus so that ideas will come to distract us. We’d like to stay inside and travel very far away.

It is often when we are looking intently for one thing that we find another. The one thing we are looking for cannot be merely a shill for the eventual discovery. This original focus is very influential and governs the direction of our gaze and yet it is what appears out the corners of our eyes that is often what takes over to become the ultimate focus and the centre of our attention. A kind of virtual snooker match, a set of ricochetting foci, a series of new angles and knock-on effects. We need a set of surfaces to bounce off.

The residency places us in a context offset from our usual habit. This newness is engineered to unlock routine and find possibilities in a shape becoming ours while we attempt to inhabit it. It is a place to be a tourist and see with unaccustomed eyes. It is a brand new outfit that requires us to reconsider our parameters. It is a break and a hollow place, it is a cradle and a bridge, it is a state of mind and a solid shape.

There are two residencies planned to take place at University of Roehampton, Department of Drama, Theatre and Performance. Practically this means work in the studio for 5 to 6 days followed by a public-facing presentation for the DTP community.

The two residencies in January and February at Roehampton will involve Chris Goode and Lucy Cash respectively:

January (week commencing 19 Jan) with Chris Goode

and

February (week commencing 16 Feb) with Lucy Cash


Tags: residency description, residency, Lucy Cash, featherweight, Chris Goode, strange pearls, University of Roehampton, DTP

Posted on Sunday, 11 January 2015 by Karen Christopher

solid or liquid: the shape of water

Lucy Cash and I gave a talk together at HZT in Berlin (Hochschulübergreifendes Zentrum Tanz) and if you follow this link you will see it or as much of it as you'd care to see. It took place on 3 December 2014.

http://vimeo.com/114796402

or just use this box:

Tags: Litó Walkey, HZT, Berlin, Lucy Cash

Posted on Monday, 15 December 2014 by Karen Christopher

Loops in the brain that tangle and untangle

He asked me whether I ever looked back in my notebook. He was watching me write in it and he wanted to make the point that what I was doing was pointless and that perhaps I should not waste my time that way. He was sure that my answer to his question: do you ever go back and read what you write would be "no". But I said yes and he was incredulous: "I never did when I wrote a notebook and so I stopped."

Just now I thought of him (just now when I was walking) because I was remembering that I had a great idea for something to do in a workshop and I thought it was a new idea and I was so glad that I had this new idea and then I went through my notebook to see what else I could harvest from the page I'd written a couple of months ago when I'd had some ideas for that same workshop. There was a note (in my own handwriting) of that same idea. So now I was having it again for the first time but this had been the second first time and now I knew this because of the note.

Then I thought I would write this down. No idea why this seems so important but I was walking and it seemed worthy of note. And as I walked it didn't seem there was any way I would forget this. I would write it down when I got home.

When I got home I cleared a block in the sink and answered some emails and sent a few tweets for the upcoming performance in Aberystwyth and then I realised I had had an idea to write something down. I flexed my brain looking for it. I relaxed it. I poked a stick into the inner layers. I couldn't remember what it had been. Nothing at all came to mind. So empty.

Then as I started to clear a few things in advance of my trip I turned the radio on and a woman who takes care of elephants talked about writing a diary to keep track of developments and the memory of this internal conversation about the notebook and the memory and the workshop exercise came flowing back to me. Now I've written it down. That was all.

 

Tags: workshop, walking, questions

Posted on Tuesday, 25 November 2014 by Karen Christopher

What isn't it? she says it isn't dance, she says it is performance art

We (people) have a compulsion to categorize. We do it for the clarity. We do it for the banishment of chaos. We do it and it sometimes clouds our ability to accept something simply because it does not fit into the accepted category, or the expected category. I suppose if there were no categories it would just be soup or sewer or jumble sale. But we spend a lot of time on the categories and then we spend a lot of time straddling them or being sliced in two by them. Those categories. But we do need limiting devices. Otherwise there is too much to look at. Too much to consider. I guess defining in order to weed out what I don't want before I even see it, is somewhat suspect to me even though I am lamentably incapable of "seeing" everything.

She wrote in her review/interview: "where does movement end and dance begin?" She is using the form of the first line in our piece, Control Signal, the one she is writing about. This is our first line: "where does one beginning begin and another ending end?"

I suppose if we can't ask these questions we can't really discuss anything. I wouldn't want to put a stop to definition or to discussion or to disputation. But I wonder how useful some of these distinctions are? My question might be: What isn't dance? And that would be annoying to quite a few people I imagine. I can tell what isn't ballet. I can tell you what made me think of ballet. This did:

One of the reasons I love going to ballet and dance is that you never quite know what you’re going to experience and Control Signal certainly was nothing like I had expected, but I had expected more dance. Control Signal is more performance art and it made me question, ‘what is dance?’ and ‘where does movement end and dance begin?’

Control Signal is interesting and entertaining, and importantly made me think, and that’s always a good thing! (link to this)

I'm worried about the exclamation point.

(photo: Andrea Milde)

Tags: symposium, Sadlers Wells, duet, Control Signal

Posted on Sunday, 2 November 2014 by Karen Christopher

if the hub and the spoke are connected, what is it, the connection?

If we are the hub, then one spoke goes out to the derelict BMW parked on the street with at least two flat tires (tyres) near the bike station where we frequently dock public bikes on our way to work, and another spoke goes out to the prank phone callers who leave voicemail messages suggesting we've won a BMW and just need to come and pick it up.

These messages became aggressive and violent after a live version of this prank call took place in which it was made clear that though they did have our home phone number, they did not know our names and therefore it was hard to believe we'd won something, in spite of her insistence.

We are the only connection between the real and the imaginary BMW or maybe there's really no connection at all. Just a thought.

Posted on Wednesday, 24 September 2014 by Karen Christopher

Was the order meticulously planned for these spillages to happen at certain times?

Tom, a 3rd year student at University of Falmouth, was writing his dissertation around the idea of the compositional ordering of a performance piece and was very interested in the way that we chose to order and compose the various "micro-elements" within Control Signal. He wrote: At the beginning of the piece the different elements seemed quite clearly defined around the edges and did not appear to relate to each other in any obvious way. However as the performance went on they slowly began to spill over into each other. I particularly remember the first moment that "Ethel Rosenberg" was mentioned and the way that that sort of seeped/trickled/conducted into the other elements of the piece, almost like electricity, making connections in my brain which began to join all of these individual elements together.
Fantastic!

His question was: how much "control" did you exercise over this spilling over. Was the order meticulously planned for these spillages to happen at certain times? Or do you feel that this was this more something that was out of your "control"?

I responded that it was, as he put it, meticulously planned, but it was also intuitively felt. The style in which we worked on the performance meant that there was a lot of trial and error and finding out how to place little, time-released capsules here and there at the beginning and through the middle so that when certain big ideas are brought out it feels like there's already a history for them to rest on or little dormant ideas to activate. It causes the piece to assemble inside the heads of the audience. I think of it as little bits of dried moss that spring to life when watered.

Another student asked a related question during the post-show discussion. He asked about how the idea of translating internal thoughts into live versions of material related to the fragmentary nature of how the various bits arrived during the show. I think sequencing the material is the most important thing we do. And this has specifically to do with how to convey thoughts in the practical world, how to convey what sits inside our heads and makes sense within the tumult of information that sits in there amongst all of the things we know or think about. Translating that into material that conveys the complexity of thought as we experience it internally into something that can be shared with other people, even people we've never met, is a tricky business. It is easy if the thoughts can be generalised and concretised but if we want them to be re-assembled inside the heads of each audience member according to their own inclinations then it is a delicate balance. Maybe it's like those model ships inside bottles. It shouldn't be possible, but it is. It's a way of making the reading of the show belong to the audience and in this way it becomes their own set of ideas because they participate in the mantling (opposite of dismantling?) of it (the "set" of ideas).

Tags: Sophie Grodin, questions, Performance Centre, Falmouth, duet, Control Signal

Posted on Thursday, 14 August 2014 by Karen Christopher

Of Two Minds: Resonance, counterpoint, and confrontation, self and otherness: what does working as a duet mean?

Special note:

tickets now on sale for Of Two Minds: an afternoon on duet collaboration (Sadler's Wells/University of Roehampton) and the performance of Control Signal that evening (30 October, 2014) at Sadler's Wells' Lilian Baylis studio (London).

from Sadler's Wells' website:

Of Two Minds: an afternoon on duet collaborations

Resonance, counterpoint, and confrontation, self and otherness: what does working as a duet mean? What creative methodologies, or creations does it foster across - and among - diverse fields of practice? How is the duet different from other forms of collaboration? When does this experience of alterity become an experience of duality? And what happens then?

Join us for an exploration of these questions in an afternoon of talks, dialogues and presentations focusing on the practice of duets by scholars and artists from performance, theatre, dance, music, visual arts and creative writing. As befits the subject matter, participants will take the floor in pairs in a dynamic reimagining of the traditional symposium.

Of Two Minds will be followed by an evening performance of Control Signal, a duet by Haranczak/Navarre: Karen Christopher and Sophie Grodin. Christopher -  formerly of the renowned American collective Goat Island - and Grodin explore invisible influences and the inexplicable connections we feel but fail to acknowledge.

Keynote speakers to include:
Karen Christopher & Sophie Grodin, with Andrea Milde
Ernst Fischer & LEIBNIZ
Ewan Forster & Chris Heighes
Joe Kelleher & Eirini Kartsaki
Becka McFadden & Scheherazaad Cooper
Amaara Raheem & Tobias Sturmer
PA Skantze & Matthew Fink

Tags: Sophie Grodin, Sadlers Wells, Joe Kelleher, duet, symposium

Posted on Tuesday, 3 June 2014 by Karen Christopher

'red spot on tulip' returns results and then thoughts of irritation

I looked up "red spot on tulip" because I had a bunch of white tulips and one of them had a thin strip of red that was only about a centimeter long and the width of an eyelash. I'd another bunch of tulips that were pink and green and one of them had a small red splotch which caught my eye. When you google "red spot on tulip" this is what happens:

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=red+spot+on+tulip

The first thing I saw was a photo of a field of white tulips including one with a striking red spot. Another link mentioned something about a virus which gave tulips red streaks of extravagant design and I thought, oh, perhaps these tiny red spots are just a bit of a cold, a tulip virus, a flu, but just a touch, not the kind that completely takes over.

This made me think of pearls and irritation and of pressure and diamonds and how if you send a couple of elements that repel each other through a supercolider together their bond might produce a bright orange colour because they are are not compatible but they have been forced to join up and this has, so to speak, irritated them. I've seen it. It is beautiful.

All a kind of beautiful result of struggle. Or its remedy.

Tags: duet

Posted on Monday, 19 May 2014 by Karen Christopher

What never stops?

We've just posted Joe Kelleher's edited transcript of our post show discussion following our premiere of Control Signal 10 October 2013 at Chelsea Theatre. *Spoiler alert* There's some content information that might taint your mind. If you've never seen the show and want to go in cold some time in the future don't read it. On the other hand, it might give you the nudge you've been waiting for. We'll have some more performance dates coming up in the Autumn. It's not too soon to start dreaming.

Joe's piece is here.

Tags: Joe Kelleher, duet, Chelsea Theatre, Control Signal

Posted on Thursday, 1 May 2014 by Karen Christopher

not just what was said, but also everything it sounded like

As far as I know he was a large parrot named Cesar. A big favorite. A beloved pet. He was inherited by my friend when her husband’s grandmother died. There may have been some sibling rivalry over the bird. It was considered a prize. And this bird spoke and talking birds hold secrets and release revelations in the declaration of what they have learned to say through the hearing of oft repeated sounds.  

A bird who imitates what it hears learns the regular, the repeated, it learns to imitate without prejudice. It learns by rote. And it learns without embellishment. So the family learned a bit about grandma’s habits. In addition to usual lines the parrot was taught intentionally, words specifically considered charming for parrots to say, he also said [with conspiratorial fervor]: “I’m going to talk to Kenny!” Kenny was the next door neighbor.

But the most puzzling noise that the bird made was a kind of murmuring with pauses which, though strangely familiar, was almost completely unintelligible. It took awhile to hear what it was the bird was imitating. After all, like David Attenborough’s birds in the rainforest, (the lyre birds who were recorded by Chris Watson during the making of one of Attenborough’s nature pieces, and who imitated exactly the sounds of camera shutters and of chainsaws and of trees crashing to the floor of the forest) a bird does not imitate a sound in isolation, choosing to focus on a singularity but instead captures a sound within an environment and the way it sounds exactly there with all of the resonance and limitation invited by the surrounding surfaces.

My friends with the parrot had to relax their minds as they listened to the inexplicable sound he made in order to sense the totality of it. It had a rhythm and a tone distinctly human without using a single human word. With an aural version of a squint or the kind of cognitive unclenching that releases a fugitive memory, my friend finally realized that Cesar, the parrot, was imitating the sound of a phone conversation as heard from the other side of a closed door. The cadence of speech was distinctly grandmother’s phone voice, the pauses indicated the unheard part of the conversation, and the muddled non-verbal quality was due to the transmission of her words through the closed door between his cage and the kitchen phone.

click here for laughing parrots

Tags: parrots

Posted on Monday, 17 March 2014 by Karen Christopher

Continuous present, beginning again and again

The company's work is committed to discovery--rather than starting with a theme or focus on a particular area of concern or in a presumed format--each project begins with a search for how and where to begin. By determining the context of the material through a process of discovery we allow prevailing concerns and interest of the artists involved to be affected by prevailing concerns and interests of the community around them. Attempting to acknowledge the continuous present, and beginning again and again, and using everything.

AND--this just in from Gertrude Stein's Composition as Explanation:

"And now to begin as if to begin. Composition is not there, it is going to be there and we are here. This is some time ago for us naturally. There is something to be added afterwards. [ . . . ] the composition forming around me was a prolonged present. [ . . . ] and nobody knew why it was done like that, I did not myself although naturally to me it was natural."

Tags: Gertrude Stein

Posted on Monday, 10 March 2014 by Karen Christopher

five bees, one blossom

In southern California, where I was living and working for 6 weeks last Autumn there were quite a few humming birds positioning themselves in front of flowers in front of me. I was looking at everything as if I'd never seen that kind of thing before. But also as though everything there was part of my history and as such offered a tonic. When I saw this flower, one of many on a sprawling bush, I was alarmed to see how many bees were cuddled against the center of each blossom.

Posted on Monday, 10 February 2014 by Karen Christopher

Mary wrote something that made me cry 3 weeks later

The thing is, when it came in, her piece of writing, I was far away in California (looking at the sky) and the October performances at Chelsea Theatre were a distant glowing memory but the problems that were right in front of me were the ones I was focussed on and the life just before was pale or hazy and her writing brought it all clearly back into focus.

This piece by Mary Paterson about Control Signal (duet by Karen Christopher and Sophie Grodin) is revealing the heart of what we were working on and the way Mary has been able to articulate her experience of it hit me like cupid's arrow, a kind of beautiful pain.

Tags: Sophie Grodin, Performance Centre, Falmouth, Mary Paterson, Jemima Yong, duet, Control Signal, Chelsea Theatre

Posted on Sunday, 19 January 2014 by Karen Christopher

the long arms of the Montana seed harpoons waving

These seed harpoons embedded their hooks into my shoes and walked through the field in Montana and the airport and the airplane and the duty free shops and immigration and customs and the tube and they have long curly tails or flags or arms. They're not shy. They just reach out, grab on, and start waving.

Posted on Thursday, 28 November 2013 by Karen Christopher

we asked for a 55-foot note and he complied

We said, answer the question: "what never stops?" We said, angular rhythm, something with a 55-foot note. We said, your idea. We said, a dialogue with contamination, with influence, with subsonic itch. We said, make it vibrate. Boris Hauf made some music for us and it is good.

Boris Hauf designed music for Control Signal listen here: TOPSY hear him live at the performances in Bristol or London.

photo: Jemima Yong

Tags: Wickham Theatre, University of Bristol, Jemima Yong, duet, Control Signal, Boris Hauf, Chelsea Theatre

Posted on Thursday, 26 September 2013 by Karen Christopher

the ebb and the flow of the way it goes in these final days

Leading up to our premiere (Control Signal, preview 3rd October in Bristol at Wickham Theatre, University of Bristol and then premiere 10th & 11th October at Chelsea Theatre in London) we are taking it fine, smooth, and with raggedy edges that scratch what itches and itch what doesn’t. It is easy and isn’t easy. It is fast and slow at the same time it is trying to hold a polyrhythm in your head. I hear that we are finishing. I hear it every morning. I hear it before I go to sleep at night. We are fact finishing but we are not screaming into the finish line, we are stepping. The steps high and irregular early in the past week. We stumbled at a few steps which were just ever so slightly misjudged. Forgot this, didn’t enjoy that. It was better the second day. And we tap-danced into the third day which felt like a dream dotted with laugh. So it goes in fits and starts. Adjustments to new versions. Long discussions about the pause or not the pause and this table is not going to work no it won’t well if it has to no, actually, not even then.

I’m certain it will feel like a free-fall when we finally crack the ice on this one but we will be ready and not forget to pull our rip cords and remember to look around us on the way to the ground. I think we are lined up to enjoy it.

Tags: Control Signal, duet, Sophie Grodin, Chisenhale Dance Space, Chelsea Theatre, Wickham Theatre, University of Bristol

Posted on Saturday, 21 September 2013 by Karen Christopher

Chisenhale week in which we remember that real life continues even now

The crime that we didn’t commit, that we committed not to commit, is to stop living while we make this piece, even in the final phase in which push is coming to shove. If we are squeezed between a rock and a hard deadline it think we’d just as well get comfortable. If it is close, we’ll just cuddle that cut-off.

Working at Chisenhale was great. We were in the main space so we had depth of space and beautiful sunlight coming in through the windows. We also had jackhammers. It was time to replace that old cement with bricks outside in front of the building across the street. This was our sound track while we worked with Boris Hauf who created some excellent sound for the piece. Litó Walkey worked with us as an outside eye and helped corral our thoughts and aspirations into a more minimal package. She helped clarify the images we were working toward.

It all happened as we hoped: some time for showing the guests artists what we were doing (had been doing or thought we were doing or hoped to be doing), some time for them to explore the city and think about us working without them in the studio, some time for us to work without them, some time for them to come back and say we missed you yesterday and thought about you as we wandered the city, more time to work, some time to have a meal together. I didn’t sleep enough but otherwise, it was great. The piece has been combed and parted, we got the extra bits out. Now we just have to do better what we’ve got left. We’ll work it and run it 6 times before we go to Bristol and then it will be complete.

Tags: Chisenhale Dance Space, Control Signal, duet, Litó Walkey, Sophie Grodin, Boris Hauf

Posted on Saturday, 14 September 2013 by Karen Christopher

and we worked a long time on something we had to throw away

Two of us alone in a room and we worked on it and we played with it and people came in and said things about it. And then the next week we knew it all had to change. So easy now to let it go. Last week it would have broken our hearts.

Photos: Jemima Yong

Tags: University of Winchester, Performing Arts, Sophie Grodin, Jemima Yong, FLINT, duet, Control Signal

Posted on Tuesday, 10 September 2013 by Karen Christopher

There's a chair suspended between us tipping and eyes in the window of the door

Report #1 from FLINTwalls residency where we (Karen & Sophie) are working in the Performing Art Studios at The University of Winchester (31st August through 6th September):

- two people trying to help each other; two people working against the point; a chair slowly turning upside down; a frozen image of the present; a competition between body and object; a hierarchical dance; a constructed image; an image of collaboration; a slow movement towards the world; a position to wait in until the strings snap; desperation; tension; something not going anywhere; a realisation.
What I am seeing is something created between us.
What I am seeing is empty space opening.
What I am seeing is an empty chair: provision for a future.
What I am seeing is useless.
What I am seeing is force exerted to the right and left causes an upward motion.
What I am seeing is a skeleton of a chair.
What I am seeing is the trace of a craftsman.
What I am seeing is a hollow place.
What I am seeing is space carved.
What I am seeing is floating.
What I am seeing is light.
What I am seeing is caught in a web.
What I am seeing is a chair caught in a web.
What I am seeing is double spiders large enough to eat a chair.
What I am seeing is the empty space around the chair.
What I am seeing is the space around the chair is shifting.
What I am seeing is the space between us is shifting.
work continues.

Tags: University of Winchester, Performing Arts, FLINT, Sophie Grodin, duet, Control Signal

Posted on Tuesday, 3 September 2013 by Karen Christopher

Seven Falls can't fail

As part of my current performance work I am engaged with making a series of duets. Each duet is designed collaboratively between the two duet partners, me and one other person. The duet partners determine the length of work time, the style of the work, the starting place, and the specific making process undertaken.

One of the duets, Seven Falls, has a method that canʼt fail. It is site-specific and must be performed next to a large body of water, a major river, lake or sea. In each location it is performed it is re-made with a few foundation elements common to each version. The method is swift and immersive.

My partner for this duet, Teresa Brayshaw, has a full-time job and a 11-year-old son. If she is to be able to make this work we have to do it fast--she doesnʼt have much time. Our working methods have been designed to allow for her tight schedule. She and I arrive at a site having met a few times for meetings in the month or so leading up to the performance date. Then once on site we usually have 3 to 4 days to re-make the work in response to the site and take care of logistics. The swift turn around time means thereʼs no time for arguing, it means that everything we do during those 3 or 4 days is about getting ready for the piece. Not failing means being flexible, open to change, to uncertainty and being fearless about the possibility of getting it wrong. And if we want the process to be enjoyable it means we have to allow leisure activities to invade these work-heavy days and food and sleep. We stay together, eat together, walk around the environs together, and treat everything as possible material for the work. When our plans are scuttled for logistical reasons we change our plans, treating it as an opportunity to improve the piece. We agree to less than readiness--we are always ready.

ls that young would be able to deliver the translations, reading off the handwritten cards prepared for them. At our last performance, in Bilbao, we thought we would have 20 young girls from the theatre school making a cameo appearance in red cardigans, we imagined them flying small hand-made red paper kites. Then we were told the school would be finished the week before our show and it would be impossible to get them back to be involved in our show. But, we were told, it was possible that two 12-year-old girls could join us on the day of the performance. The old idea wouldnʼt work with this new configuration. But we had a new one--the girls could deliver the translations into Spanish and Basque of our minimal spoken text. This seemed like a great idea. When photos came the week before our arrival the girls looked more like 16 years old and we asked via email how old they were. There was no answer and unbeknownst to us they changed the girls, assuming, because of our question, that they were the “wrong age”. When we asked about the girls the day before the show we were told that there were new girls now and that they were 8 years old. Now we wondered whether girls that young would be able to deliver the translations, reading off the handwritten cards prepared for them.

When it was all done, looking back, it was genius to have such young girls reading the translations. They wore red dresses and we wore red dresses and we were amazed how beautiful it was to have them read the translations and then take our bows after weʼd walked into the distance at the end of the piece. In this way, we let the circumstances compose the piece with us and because we had not overdetermined the outcome or solidified our expectations, there was no chance of disappointment and thus no failure.


Tags: Teresa Brayshaw, Seven Falls, Paddy Mackenzie, Bilbao, Act Festival

Posted on Sunday, 30 June 2013 by Karen Christopher

the difference between thinking and making

Speaking about thinking and making to students at Birkbeck College:

I wanted to build a crying machine
I wanted to build a time machine
I wanted to build a machine BUT
I am a performance maker.

I asked a question: what never stops?

This talk is a time machine, it will take us into the future.

The difference between thinking and making is like the difference between the idea of a knife and the presence of the knife right here in my hand.

* * *

At Kate McIntosh's Worktable @ IBT in Bristol the audience, one by one, were to dissasemble an object and put one back together. I chose a huge sea shell. I didn't think I could do it. Alone in a room at my "worktable" I was faced with a table top of tools: hammers, chisels, a saw, vice grips, scissors. At first I didn't want to break apart the shell and then I really couldn't. It received quite a few bashes with the hammer without damage. I had to put it between a rock and a hard place and even then it was just thin splinters that flew up from the point of impact. Good thing I'd been issued goggles.

I would have said to you, you can't bring me the smell of the ocean. I would have said to you: how could a dry thing bear such a smell and as I hit this sea shell I stopped thinking about where it came from and I just focussed on trying to put a hole in it. I despaired of making the slightest crack when I stopped and took up a hack saw. Slowly, but with purpose, I drew back and forth across the top of the sea shell and I steadied everything and put my back into it. Some time may have passed.

All of a sudden the scent of the sea rose straight into my senses: it reached my nose but even more rapidly my heart. For a moment I was all the way there. Suddenly it was my childhood and dried salt on my skin--no sound but the waves that never stop: each wave momentary; the waves, continuous; and those days when we never left the water or peered for hours into the tide pools losing our time sense and any idea of future.

What never stops? This is a question that has stimulated inspiration during the creation of a new duet that Sophie Grodin and I are working on (almost finished . . . ). Of the many answers to this question, some have turned into material for the performance. When you see the show you will not know that we asked ourselves this question but you will see the answer to it.

Tags: Sophie Grodin, Kate McIntosh, duet, Control Signal, Birkbeck College

Posted on Monday, 24 June 2013 by Karen Christopher

Seven Falls in Bilbao

Paddy joins the show and makes a boat.

Tags: Teresa Brayshaw, Seven Falls, Paddy Mackenzie, canoe, duet, Bilbao

Posted on Friday, 14 June 2013 by Karen Christopher

once more into the canoe . . .

A state of presence with each other in our case was fostered by a relaxed way of being together and holding open for possibilities and not straining to achieve but rather finding an active search, finding a way to put our bodies into it. Not following instructions but following instinct or train of thought. Submitting to trickster. We two found an even ground between us where physical work, throwing the body into action, provides results and further direction. This time the piece will incorporate giant paper boats and miniature kites along with the usual canoes filled with water and procedures for keeping safe. Teresa Brayshaw and I will be getting into the canoes in Bilbao, Spain. We are recreating our performance duet, Seven Falls, on the last day of the ACT Festival. The programme can be seen here if you zoom in you can see us in the strip at the bottom (closing night).

Tags: duet, canoe, Act Festival, Bilbao, Seven Falls, Teresa Brayshaw

Posted on Tuesday, 4 June 2013 by Karen Christopher

Look Both Ways

Utopia is on the horizon. When I walk two steps, it takes two steps back. I walk ten steps and it is ten steps further away. What is utopia for?
It is for this, for walking.

--Eduardo Galleano

It's a workshop to compose a question. The question will start a process of discovery. The question will be inspiring or lead into a brick wall, a question will launch a ship or take you down a dark alley. These questions are to provoke a response, these will not be neutral questions, these are questions that influence an answer. They are leading questions. We are looking for leading questions. They function as agents that stimulate a reaction, development, or change, something that causes fermentation. It is a workshop to find a question that takes the form of a walk during which we hope to compose this question or to find it. Among other things we weave a weft through the warp of attention drawn by future train passengers silently standing all facing departure boards at Euston station. Or are we the warp. Just because we continue passing doesn't mean we aren't for those moments the stability around which the weave is made visible.

We listen, we watch, we dissassemble and assemble. We hover a bit here or there to write. We radiate: this is the moment that we have.

I am standing in the middle of a dance performed by travelers, by pigeons, by plastic shopping bags, the sirens from ambulances, the beep beep of taxis, an indeciferable roar, the confessions of trees, the conversations of men--into phones, a blizzard of seeds, a pram with a balloon attached, a bank slip, a long beard, a caravan of wheeled suitcases. So many hands pressing plastic close to the faces. Calling, calling, calling.

Tags: walking, pigeons, Beyond Glorious, workshop

Posted on Friday, 31 May 2013 by Karen Christopher

Introduce the stars to an ant: a Wednesday talk for Chelsea

I'll be appearing at Chelsea Theatre's Wishful Wednesdays talk on 22 May at 7:30pm. I'll be talking. And more. They serve a bit of wine and cheese and it's an informal occasion to hear and talk about something the invited artist has chosen to focus on. Please come and hear and talk and fly a kite and chase a bit of sugar through my blood stream and grow a tree on your head and introduce the stars to an ant and draw with a cloud and push milk uphill with a sharp stick and add it to the coffee at the top. It's at the World's End (it's not as far away as you think).

Tags: Chelsea Theatre

Posted on Thursday, 2 May 2013 by Karen Christopher

Performance of So Below as part of symposium: On Collaboration II

So Below, a duet performance by Gerard Bell & Karen Christopher
a Haranczak/Navarre Performance Project is being presented as part of On Collaboration II, a symposium presented at Middlesex University, Hendon Campus at 6pm Saturday 18 May 2013.

So Below will be presented at the end of the symposium day. We are inviting a limited number of people to attend the performance even if they are not attending the symposium itself. As part of this invitation there is no charge to attend the performance of So Below.

RSVP for the performance only here and instructions will be sent for where to show up on the day. There are a limited number of places which will be filled in order of responses received.

Tags: So Below

Posted on Tuesday, 30 April 2013 by Karen Christopher

Long waves begin to form

Long waves begin to form
Stories of the wind in 5 parts–fragments for a future performance
As part of an ongoing investigation into invisible forces, this is an early study, a small sketch for something really big about the wind.

Long waves begin to form
[for Forest Fringe at the Gate April 22nd 2013]

[Part 1: Introduction]
[entry sneeze]
[sit with back to audience: scarf puff x3]



[into microphone]
What never stops?
Where does the wind go?
Where does it start?

***skip forward

0
Calm     
Flat. Calm.             
Smoke rises vertically.

1
Light air     
Ripples without crests.     
Smoke drift indicates wind direction. Leaves and wind vanes are stationary.

2
Light breeze
Small wavelets. Crests of glassy appearance, not breaking
Wind felt on exposed skin. Leaves rustle. Wind vanes begin to move.

3
Gentle breeze
Large wavelets. Crests begin to break; scattered whitecaps.
Leaves and small twigs constantly moving, light flags extended.

4
Moderate breeze
Small waves with breaking crests. Fairly frequent whitecaps.
Dust and loose paper raised. Small branches begin to move.

*** skip forward

[start the fan and fly the kite]

Wind is an accumulation of small bits that gang up and together create a force that individually they would never accomplish---it’s a gathering, it is small bits pitching in together, it is the tiniest little elements adding up to something once they’ve joined together in motion David AND Goliath in one. An innumerable sum of Davids together making one massive Goliath. Every yes, every no of every little particle, Volcanic dust, radioactive particles, and the dust of 1000’s of people atomised in the collapse of very tall buildings travel toward or away-- curse the wind, thank the wind, there’s not much that can change it.

****something missing

this is not the end . . .

This just in from CJ Mitchell:

krn -- sarah feinstein writes again about your work:
http://1000plateaus.tumblr.com/
scroll down a bit.
CJ

Posted on Thursday, 25 April 2013 by Karen Christopher

Here, Gone & the promise of more to come

We've now received and posted written responses to So Below from two invited responders: Joe Kelleher and Mary Paterson. There are excerpts here and links to the full texts (below).

From Joe Kelleher'is piece:

‘As above, so below’ is a peculiar, two-ways-facing formula that implies at the same time a turning in to secrets and mysteries – a hermeticism in that sense – but also an involvement and opening out: from world to world, from one individual to another, from the individual to the universe, or from the place and time in which we find ourselves into spaces we have to access through memory, or sympathetic imagination, through what we are able to conjure poetically through gesture and speech, or faith. In Karen Christopher and Gerard Bell’s theatrical duet So Below other places seem to be constantly intruding into what is going on here; or at least the signs of such intrusion are there to be gathered up, tuned into, sniffed out.

full text here

From Mary Paterson's piece:

So Below is a duet that unfolds as if Karen Christopher and Gerard Bell know what’s going to happen, but they haven’t discovered it yet. It appears like a story glimpsed in a stream of words that have tumbled out of a book in the wrong order. To watch, it is surprising. To remember, it is full of sensory pleasure, like a mist of steam rising from a silver spout. 
Sometimes you can hear Karen’s footsteps before you see her: the sound is a crunch of boots on something hard, and it sounds of longing. You think: if only I could dance a ritual like Karen and Gerard and make absent bodies reappear. If only I could make the sound of Karen into something corporeal. They dance like they’re praying – swinging back and forth with the words of gravestone inscriptions falling from their lips, their tidy bodies folding and unfolding like envelopes of magic.

full text here

SO BELOW, a performance duet, is a Haranczak/Navarre Performance Project by Gerard Bell & Karen Christopher (2012).

Tags: So Below, Mary Paterson, Joe Kelleher, Chelsea Theatre

Posted on Saturday, 30 March 2013 by Karen Christopher

the new studio looks like this, and this, and this

Tags: hackney wick, studio 40

Posted on Thursday, 14 February 2013 by Karen Christopher

something about working with people

We create a climate together.
We create a system of balances with weights that we have tested ourselves. We’ve adjusted the clocks. We designed new dishes with food from different shelves. Practically speaking, it’s like moving in with a new roommate and everything must be tested and preferences declared. Positions are taken and each of us must decide what we are willing to sacrifice.

Habits are easy to form and we form them quickly. We find what works with a particular set of people and conditions and we repeat successful combinations. When studio time is over at the end of a process it is like breaking up a way of life. Void is felt and I spend a few days lost and bereft.

Tags: Sophie Grodin, duet, Control Signal

Posted on Thursday, 31 January 2013 by Karen Christopher

the one about the parrot feather has three parts separated by years

Part one: flocks of parrots in the tall trees
In 2006 Goat Island performed at Forum Freies Theatre in Düsseldorf (Germany). We stayed for week and ran a workshop as well as performing “When will the September roses bloom? Last night was only a comedy.”  I bought a hat in Düsseldorf, so did Bryan. The walk from our accommodation to the theatre took us through a fantastic old park with tall trees populated by flocks of bright green parrots. Each day I heard the parrots screeching around in the tree tops as I passed through the park. Sometimes I saw them flying in groups. CJ Mitchell was not with us on that tour and I missed him and I wanted to bring him a gift but didn’t want to buy something useless to bring back to Chicago. I had one afternoon off during which I’d have some time to find something for him. I decided to use it to find a parrot feather in the park. With so many parrots flying around all the time, I thought, they must be dropping their green feathers down onto the ground beneath. There should be a number of lovely green feathers, I thought, nestled into the layers of autumn leaves resting in the woodiest areas. So I spent two hours carefully scouring the ground for green feathers. I saw plenty of feathers but none of them green.


Part two: the green feather
In 2009 I moved to London and I joined the group of people participating in Rajni Shah’s DIY workshop, Not Knowing. That was the name of it: Not Knowing. It seemed a fitting start to my time in London. We met over three days and participated in various activities all of which threw us into some kind of state of unknowing, uncertainty, doubt. The final day we went separately to far flung parts of the city to participate in different sorts of activities. These locations were drawn at random from a collection of options prepared in advance by Rajni. Mine was Isabella Plantation which is an enclosure within Richmond Park. It was about as far as I could go on the District line from the east end where I live. When I got to Richmond Park I still had to find “Isabella Plantation” and I was despairing of finding it in time for the guided walk that I was meant to join. My head was swirling and I was about to lose the plot and cease caring when I looked at the ground and saw a green bird feather. A parrot feather perhaps. Yes. I decided it was indeed. This telescoped me back to the park in Düsseldorf and my two-hour search.
Part three: in which CJ is finally included
Walking back home from the Victoria Park pavilion where we’d gotten a coffee at the tail end of 2012, CJ and I went along Sugar Loaf Walk past The Camel heading towards the back of the Museum of Childhood when I heard quite a screech and it took me by surprise. I stopped to see what manner of bird made this noise as it was familiar but wrong. I was stopped short by the sound of it. I looked up and high up in a nearby tree there was a green bird. Ah! CJ! It’s a parrot! I said. And just then, before CJ could see it, it flew down into a nearby yard on the other side of a fence, a communal garden attached to a block of flats. As we looked for it we began to realise there were quite a few of them. Six at least. Six parrots around a couple of bird feeders. It was hard to take a phone camera photo of them from where I was standing and yet I felt it somehow necessary to try. In one of them you can just about tell that there are parrots there. A flock of parrots and CJ Mitchell and me all in the same place. It doesn’t make sense. But it really happened.

Tags: parrots

Posted on Wednesday, 2 January 2013 by Karen Christopher

Taking our pots to Falmouth 2nd November at Performance Centre

So Below has been dismantled and folded into two trucks and taken by courier to Falmouth. The objects sit there waiting for ourselves to arrive and get them back out of the big blue cases. This after waiting in the dressing room at Chelsea for more than a year.

The show will take place on 2nd November at Performance Centre Join us if you are near enough and please say hello afterwards.

Tags: Performance Centre, Falmouth, duet, So Below

Posted on Friday, 26 October 2012 by

So Below premiere at Chelsea Theatre

It's finally completed and completed once again each time and it's never quite the same and you can't put it in a camera or even a hard drive (though Adam Levy's done a great job with the photos taken earlier in the week at a rehearsal)--it's all tangled up with being there. The performance is not just a series of ideas, it is also being there.

At a certain point there is an accummulation and this lands on the audience in a delicate way--it wells up or it curls in like smoke. And afterwards they say all of a sudden it occurred to me.

Beautiful audiences.

Tags: Adam Levy, Chelsea Theatre, duet, Gerard Bell

Posted on Friday, 19 October 2012 by

Show me a physical promise

As we walked away from us (each other) the chair rose into the air behind us. This felt as though something were happening. Something was happening. There was alot of expectation in the chair.

And the twine creaked.

Tags: Chisenhale Art Place, Control Signal, duet, Sophie Grodin

Posted on Thursday, 27 September 2012 by Karen Christopher

Ten Impossibilities

Separate the air
Define water
Draw with a cloud
Chase a bit of sugar through your blood stream
Introduce the stars to an ant
Follow one ant all day
Copy everything the honey bee does
Interview your dead sister
Push milk uphill with a sharp stick, add it to the coffee at the top
Use a spoon to wash your hair
Breath for another person

Expand all of your water

 

Tags: Control Signal, Chisenhale Art Place, duet

Posted on Thursday, 20 September 2012 by Karen Christopher

Big news: So Below performances Oct/Nov 2012

Tags: So Below, Gerard Bell, duet, Chelsea Theatre

Posted on Monday, 10 September 2012 by Karen Christopher

the muscle of the eye gets stuck

My nearsightedness has a number and among its other complications it has a depth of range--that is the depth of the area that is affected by this fault in the musculature of my eye and the depth of the area that the corrective lenses--these new glasses for reading and other close viewing--corrects, but those outside the rage will become fuzzier. As I get older this aspect of my vision gets worse and I’m told that it is not that the muscle of the eye gets stuck on the relaxed position but actually that it begins to hold tighter and to fail to relax. I’m wondering if a similar phenomenon might happen to my tolerance level and to my understanding. And I’m wondering if there is a lens for that.

This was written in response to a invitation from Open Dialogues to send a note for their NOTA presentation as part of Oh Seminar at Villa Romana, Florence in September 2012.

Tags: NOTA c. Open Dialogues 2012

Posted on Monday, 20 August 2012 by Karen Christopher

twin mixer tap

Sometimes work is a conversation, sometimes it is looking for (and finding!) a note in a notebook from June 1993 in preparation for that conversation. If it hadn't gone well, the feeling of inadequacy might have been overwhelming. But with a little preparation (no matter how lame it might seem) a conversation which might go nowhere can instead feel like a big success. I was lucky to have a particularly generous and thoughtful interlocutor. In answer to his questions I managed to draw a line between two different memories and see what they had in common. One was a note I'd copied out in my notebook during an early tour to the UK. The note was in the shower for the dressingrooms of the Arnolfini in Bristol, the other was a label with instructions on the underside of an ironing board in those same dressingrooms. Who knows why specific details stick in the mind or provoke one to take out a notebook and make a note. These two notes were some of my first exposure to the care and concern around procedure and matters of instruction (and, by implication, safety) that is encountered in public places here in Britain. The shower note comprised instructions for obtaining water from the shower of the desired temperature. I'd never been in a shower where this had been deemed necessary. Most showers I'd know had been fairly self explanatory. The label on the underside of the ironing board, in its folded and upright position leaning against the wall, was visible from a seat at the dressinginroom mirror and it was headed "Methods of Opening and Closing". What followed this auspicious heading were instructions for the erection and re-folding of the ironing board. It may be that from my position in a perpetually illegitimate field (the position of alternative performance in the USA) I was never subjected to standards and procedures. It may be that my personal world never relied on anything that was codified and made safe. But these careful instructions (pendantic as they were) ushered in another way of looking at moving through the world. Lito Walkey and I later used the name Methods of Opening and Closing for a workshop we designed. I think the technician who wrote the shower instructions may have been taking the mickey, but it was carefully done and probably in the wake of numerous complaints from visiting performers having trouble obtaining their ideal shower conditions. All of it still makes sense and still makes me laugh.

Posted on Wednesday, 15 August 2012 by Karen Christopher

Everyday magic: this is no dream, this is really happening

I walk with CJ to work some mornings. At the moment he’s still lucky enough to be able to walk to work. There’s an older guy who lives down the way and who often likes to say hello and to speak to CJ about me (about CJ’s relationship to me) as we pass. It’s kind of an old school, guy thing. A couple of weeks ago he told us a joke that involved our participation. Something about a duck going into a pub. Often we see each other from a bit of a distance--this means he has time to prepare himself.

This morning he told CJ off for walking on the inside and not protecting me from the street by taking the street side of the sidewalk. He asked CJ if he knew about that rule and before CJ could answer the man turned to me and said do you know about that? CJ said: yes, she does, we’ve discussed it. The man thought this was funny. He went on to explain that it was to spare the woman (“her”) from the side with the mud and the horses, you know, he says, when the street had horse-drawn carriages. Yes, and all of this while we never stop walking and he’s going in the opposite direction to us.

After this interlude was concluded and still simmering in the giggle he’d left us with, I thought I heard horses’ hooves clomping on asphalt. Two sets of four I thought. I turned around and then so did CJ. Our neighbor was gone but here on the cross street behind us (Valance Street) was a coach pulled by 2 horses driven by a man in a tall hat and long coat. It was a glass-sided carriage, long, for a horse drawn funeral, on its way to picking up a coffin I’ll guess, maybe at English & Sons down the way on Bethnal Green Road.

I began to swoon as the magnitude of it and my brain was increasing this moment in size and weight---I might have chosen not to but I was latching on hard and fast.
CJ: It’s a coincidence.
Me: It’s the only kind of magic we have.
(don’t argue with me, I did say it but I don’t stand by that assertion)
CJ: It’s nicely layered.

Posted on Tuesday, 31 July 2012 by Karen Christopher

today only: the first time we sit down to write at the same time

We’ll sit and write for one hour and because we will be together in a quiet place of reading and the smell of books we are expecting to have a different pressure on ourselves to spend time thinking about what we want to work on paper and what we want to shape into language to put our multi-streamed inner thoughts into a single straight grammatical line. We are attempting to reflect on our process and part of doing that will be reconstructing in words what we think happened and what we can remember and how we thought about it. What were the dreams we didn’t uncover and what dreams are still clear to us that we haven’t yet reached and what do we know about anything and what did we not find out but we still see a flag waving for if only in the far distance. I suppose there weren’t any question marks there because they weren’t really questions or they were questions but the sound of them didn’t go up at the end of the sentence. If you want to you can make sense of it even when the punctuation is very very very loose or not there at all. Loosen one part and the whole geometry shifts. We’ll be checking for structural defects at the same time.

We = Sophie and Karen
Our process = composing Control Signal, a performance work, a duet between us

Tags: Control Signal, duet, Sophie Grodin

Posted on Thursday, 26 July 2012 by Karen Christopher

thought process stimulated by footnote number 13 and NOTA c. Open Dialogues 2012

NOTA c. Open Dialogues 2012

I was reading a book along side an infuson of caffeine. I read the technical description (a footnote in the book I was reading) of binaural sound and how different directionalities and qualities of sound production stimulate the ear in different ways and how the brain contributes in the way compensation occurs in order to make sense of the sensation and I spontaneously organized in my head a section of performance in which a layering of these kinds of detailed and laboured descriptions and instructions occurs including one I encountered long ago in the old shower backstage at the Arnolfini (early 90s) whch involved an in-depth explanation of what the twin-mixer valve did--and these explanations which we obsessively collect around us as a buffer against the idea that NOTHING is within our control. This performance material played in my head and I saw that it creates an overflow which catalyses a shift in perception and I flashed on the reading of NOTA's inscriptions (one of which is excerpted in the image above) created during the work-in-progress at SHOWTiME (16 JUNE) [NOTA c. Open Dialogues 2012]. It was the memory of reading "she transforms herself, as if the light(ning) behind her eyes has changed" that caused a chemical reaction in my sequence of thought.

And what just happened as a result of the pile up in that chain link sequence of thoughts is that I had a micro-revelation: this kind of transformation is what I'm always intuitively shooting for. When people experience a shift in the reading of the performance or in a particular performer and realise that their own initial assumptions or reading of the performance or person in front of them was incomplete or is shifting, they might become aware shift is possible, change is possible, or that their initial assumptions are unreliable or mutable or based on unstable criteria as a matter of course in daily life. I guess I already knew that, but I was madly reacquainted with it this morning. An important realisation and catalyst for change is possible when people experience that kind of shift before them. Transformation is possible--a mountain can shift, a nest can be built.

Tags: NOTA c. Open Dialogues 2012, duet, Control Signal, coffee

Posted on Wednesday, 18 July 2012 by Karen Christopher

A suspension followed by a flurry

He arrived across the island from me, the big table by the door with the high stools around it. And instead of spacing himself to balance the table he heavily weighted the side I was on and I resented him for it. Then I softened, thought better of it. I mean, if I knew this man I wouldn’t begrudge him a spot at the table wherever he wanted it, so why should I restrict him to a place far from me just because he was a stranger--if even just in my mind. I wouldn’t have looked up at him to bark “step-off!” the way a New Yorker I once knew shouted at a man who stood too close to her “on line” at the post office. Once I’d softened I became interested in him and decided to look up. He was over 60, maybe way over sixty (how does one tell?), a bit of a pulpy nose, worried, in a motionless way, looking left out the glass doors, waiting. Then I noticed his right hand, poised, holding two long slim packets of sugar the ends already neatly torn off. They were waiting, in hand. I considered the possibility that I should take a photo of this hand. I wondered how he would feel about that. I wondered too long. Just as I got the camera out his espresso arrived, the sugars were dumped in, stirred quickly, and the shot was downed before I could lift it. And then he left. It was all over in an instant or two. A suspension followed by a flurry.

Tags: coffee

Posted on Thursday, 12 July 2012 by Karen Christopher

the effect of focusing on something for more than a short time

As I walked past the park I was drawn to the bouncing of the white bread, the way the pigeons made it look like a party. I decided to cross the street, enter the park, and take a little video. I don't like pigeons. I want to make that clear. I don't think people should dump huge loads of white bread on the pavement for the birds to eat. (I saw a massive soggy mess in the water at Victoria Park the other day . . . ). So I took this video and I went home. When I got in, I concieved an irresistable urge to make popcorn. I have a little jar from when my mother was here. I might make popcorn once in a blue moon, it's very uncharacteristic of me. But I made a bit of popcorn I took the appropriate dose of insulin, and I ate it. Only later when I saw this video on my phone did I make the connection.

Tags: pigeons, popcorn

Posted on Thursday, 5 July 2012 by Karen Christopher

two women lying in water-filled canoes / a constant quivering / two figures surrounded by buckets of water

For me the work is about a central image I care about. The rest of the piece is a way to earn that image. There are layers of foundation and sediment around, above, and below that but somehow that is a central core that gives me something to go on . . . especially when everything is in flux (most of the time).

Tags: So Below, Seven Falls, duet, Control Signal

Posted on Wednesday, 4 July 2012 by Karen Christopher

father! open the door!

I just found these on my phone. They are from the day during the occupation at St. Paul’s that the church locked the doors. This man, wrapped in his blanket was banging on the door and shouting: Father! Open the door. I was there with a group of students. One of them said: oh please get a picture for me, I don’t have my camera.


Tags: Occupy London

Posted on Monday, 25 June 2012 by Karen Christopher

what never stops, or what feels that way

I asked myself what never stops? And then I tried to start something that I could continue long enough that it might feel that it could never stop or at the very least that it might continue for some considerable time. Standing still might never stop but it doesn’t carry that question of stopping it is more oriented toward the question “what never starts?” I felt it might be a kind of small perpetual motion that would make the viewer wonder about stopping or continuing or never stopping and so I tried this a few times. It became a small jiggle in the hips from side to side which emanated in a whole body quiver with its origin in the middle.

When it was finally put in front of an audience I was so excited I performed it at what might be described as level 5 (on a size/speed/decibel scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the loudest and fastest and biggest) when it should have been at level 1.5 or 2. I must confess to a small disappointment in relation to this. With any luck I will have other chances to keep it small.

Comments I received after the show seemed to prove this action was causing stress around the question of duration. Some offered (unsolicited) that this action was too short, some offered (unsolicited) that it was too long and one genius talked about how it sent him back into a reverse inventory of the material of the piece which now reconfigured its meaning in light of this ongoing vibration. There's definitely something in that.

Tags: duet, Control Signal

Posted on Wednesday, 20 June 2012 by Karen Christopher

Play us all the way home

While working on Control Signal in a rehearsal room at the People Show we realised we needed a cart with wheels. Something to contain us. Something that stood in for a background, a setting, a look. We knew that it looked like either hospital, a laboraory, or restaurant. We went to the restaurant supply and found it out there in the yard covered in rain, already one life behind it. We wheeled it home. Sophie accompanying the journey on harmonica.

 

Tags: Sophie Grodin, People Show, duet, Control Signal

Posted on Monday, 11 June 2012 by Karen Christopher

principles of attraction & repulsion

For 1
Move objects in the room with your voice
Move objects in Denmark with your eyes

For 2
Make a dance for 4 arms and hands that contains seaweed and lightning strikes in perpetual motion lock-grooves.

and

positively charged glass tube held close to boy's feet negatively charged his feet which caused other extremities to be positively charged and then brass leaf partiicles were attracted to his exposed face and hands

also

A mathematical dress

Tags: Control Signal, duet, People Show

Posted on Thursday, 7 June 2012 by Karen Christopher

We are here: Millennium Bridge, Gateshead

The day before our show we are checking the location and making some plans and feeling a bit cold and wondering how cold it will be the next day when we will for sure be getting into canoes filled with water. This we know. And we are trying to feel certain about everything but the only thing that is certain is that we will have canoes and they will be filled with water. Everyone at the GIFT festival in Gateshead is very cooperative. We asked for Canadian canoes. We got Canadian canoes. We asked for water. We got water. We also got mega phones. Very exciting.

Now the day of the show is here, the wind is whipping through on its way from the North Sea, the air is as grey as the Tyne, we are visible only because of our red jackets.

Tags: Teresa Brayshaw, Seven Falls, Gateshead, GIFT festival, duet, canoe

Posted on Sunday, 6 May 2012 by Karen Christopher

Tea Flower

This tea was so beautiful I took its picture.

Sophie Grodin and I just finished taking photos with Paul Williams at Abney Park so that we could document the public micro performances we were making as part of of our practice research. How do the park and the people walking by pollute our plans and temper our activations? The mind unfolds in a different way when met with the intersection of those out with the world of our investigation. Paul with a camera changes everything. Points of significance shift.

The tea was just as good.

The only failure was in not getting it from the very beginning (a tight ball of dusky green).

Tags: Sophie Grodin, Paul Williams, duet, Control Signal, tea

Posted on Thursday, 8 March 2012 by Karen Christopher

Lighting design for So Below

So slow this So Below. We are postponed again for performing but have decided to have the lights designed now so that we are ready for when we finally put this show in front of people. Chelsea Theatre provided space and equipment. The marvelous Marty Langthorne designed for us.

Tags: So Below, duet, Gerard Bell, Chelsea Theatre

Posted on Monday, 20 February 2012 by Karen Christopher

14 days of evidence: research for Control Signal: SLOW

For some reason this word SLOW written on the road has always caught my eye and in this instance provoked me to stand here for 5minutes as part of our 14 days of collecting micro performances in public places for research on Control Signal. I stood using the road writing as a caption for my action as people rushed by. Not entirely sure anyone saw this piece though many people passed on their way toward and away from Central Station, Glasgow.

Tags: Control Signal, duet, Glasgow

Posted on Thursday, 16 February 2012 by Karen Christopher

get in the canoe

Second conversation of our first conversation week. I (Karen) and Teresa attempt a dialogue about a piece that doesn’t exist yet. The plan is that I’ve organized a structure for this conversation. I was ready with it. This is on skype as T is in Manchester and I am in London. We started with Teresa showing me an iron mouse which I initially thought was a chocolate rabbit. I had made a plan (organized) to introduce a new conversational direction every 7 min. First section was free form and then it was to be each section introduced by a word or a question--however--once the mouse appeared I remembered an earlier organizational idea which was to start by saying “show me something” then this was to be continued with each of us taking turns showing something to the other. Interruptions continued and none of my plans was ever followed but we were not at a loss. We were moving, moving fast.

Tags: Teresa Brayshaw, Seven Falls, duet, canoe

Posted on Tuesday, 7 February 2012 by Karen Christopher

looking close

looking close to home staying in finding what’s fine
looking no further than just outside the window
a feather escaped, a tiny fold, a blue wall
bare branches leave shadow lace on the wall
in my brain, a playground full of jetstream blown sideways
in a gentle curl


Posted on Wednesday, 25 January 2012 by Karen Christopher

I went out looking for yellow

A collection of yellow to remind me that what I set out to look for tends to be what I see.

If I set out looking for yellow, I find yellow. I see it everywhere.

Tags: yellow

Posted on Saturday, 24 September 2011 by Karen Christopher

Work-in-progress: So Below

Yesterday, 20 November, we performed a work-in-progress of So Below at 3pm at Chelsea Theatre. We had a great audience with plenty of people staying for the post-show discussion. Many people gave helpful feedback. Joe Kelleher was there and said, among other things, something about parallax and I wrote that down “Parallax” and I asked, what do you mean by that? and he explained, but afterwards when I tried to remember what he said (because it did something in my brain) I couldn’t. I checked my notes and it just says “parallax.”
I looked it up.


Tags: So Below, parallax, Gerard Bell, duet, Chelsea Theatre

Posted on Sunday, 21 November 2010 by Karen Christopher