Sunday, April 18, 2010

Balancing Acts

Zach Walking the Dragon's Back

My main thought for the past 24 hours has been how glad I am that we decided to come to Hong Kong a week ahead of starting the Aedas My Footsteps project here. Of course, we’ve already been working, thinking, and planning, but it’s nice to have time to slowly acclimate and find the ways in which to immerse ourselves and also gain respite from that immersion. Balance. Good to know where you are before you start throwing yourself off walls and dancing through corridors and catacombs somewhere up a mountain in Pok Fu Lam!
Today was a bit about that. Zach and I took a hike on the Dragon’s Back along the South China Sea (on the east side of the island) and down into the village of Shek-O. It was a trip I’d made last time we were in Hong Kong, and there was the comfort of the familiar in it, the excitement of sharing it with Zach, and the relief of getting away from the bustle up in the North. Hong Kong is magical to me in that way, that you can be in one of the most relentlessly vertical and densely populated places on Earth one minute, and several minutes later, alone in the jungle. Zach is surprised that I don’t feel claustrophobic here. I do in New York sometimes, but Hong Kong is 40% green space. I think knowing how easily you can escape is the reason I find it livable.

Sand Sculpture on Shek-O Beach
After arriving in Shek-O, and touring the tiny beach, we settled into a village restaurant we’d discovered in 2007 and shifted back into business mode. Tomorrow, the workshops begin.
We are balancing two agendas for this project: an educational series designed to share our methods for creating site-specific performance with a group of professional participants, and the creation of a new work for the Bethanie in Pok Fu Lam which will feature all of us.
Zach and I have been tossing around ideas and impressions for the last several days. A usual, our separate perspectives and interests cover a pretty wide range, so our agenda thus far has been to hone in on those that overlap or meet in informative ways. Zach is churning away on the historical links with the French missionaries, the Jesus/Lazarus connection, and the sanatorium while I’ve been turning over movement motifs that pull from impressions I got on our site visit this past week [See Zach's previous entry, "McDonald’s and the Missions Etrangeres de Paris PART 1"].
When we toured the Bethanie site on Thursday, I let myself free-flow with image and movement fantasies while walking through. Having developed a site-specific checklist with Zach over the years, I am quick to cycle through all of my assessment items. What can go there? How can that support weight? What is the purpose of this? And, how can it be re-purposed? What is hidden? How do I expose it? What will unify this vast space? And, how can I force a different perspective for my audience here? All of my historical, social, and contextual research steps aside as I let my eyes, ears, nose, and fingers take over.

The Chapel at Bethanie
I imagined a group sequence within the chapel, shuffling in and out of the aisles and gliding inverted among the pews, forcing audience perspectives from the doorway to the altar. Along the verandas and down the steps, I see opportunities for intimate, almost “overheard” moments: a solo on the front steps, multiple reveals around the corners and through the long hallways, turns in and out of small frames within the architecture (almost like portholes) and images of suspension in the “cathedral” spaces between features. I hear echoes. I smell rain. Most things feel cold. The pews are remarkably warm in contrast to the stone. There is a little something sweet in the air that you can almost taste. So, we weigh it all together and strike a balance, between images and senses, history and architecture, our imagination and the site’s reality, our assumptions and those of the participants, who we meet tomorrow.
- Tom

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