Friday, February 28, 2014
After experiencing the drastic shifts in my own neighborhood of Greenpoint / Williamsburg brought on by the 2005 waterfront rezoning, I created my first documentary film, REZONING HARLEM, to demystify urban planning and policy and to empower individuals to take proactive roles in shaping their communities. Alternative distribution enabled this film to serve as an important educational and organizing tool in other communities facing rezoning and rapid redevelopment. While there are still traces of the community I remember in this place that I call home and have lived my whole life: neighbors, businesses, buildings, interactions; walking the streets of the city that I never left, I often feel like I am visiting a foreign land for the first time. My upcoming feature-length film, OPEN PROCESS: local democracy in one corner of Brooklyn, is a vivid portrait of my neighborhood within the boundaries of Brooklyn Community Board 1. This film delves deeper into the complex community relationships in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood while examining this existing framework for citizen participation in city government. These themes of place, perception and identity are the foundation of my work, which I explore through mediums ranging from painting and photography to documentary films and relational interventions in the public realm.
Last summer, a number of development proposals were were being rushed through before the close of the Bloomberg Administration, some even closer to home than the ones that were the basis for my previous documentary film work. After years of activist filmmaking and studying these issues of urban planning and policy, I expected myself to be older and wiser in knowing how to be most effective in dealing with government agencies and the monied interests that they often represent. However, I was suddenly faced with an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness. I didn’t know if I should continue to film this “public process” or jump in and be part of it, or if there was any purpose in either. Around this time I was invited to participate in a workshop in Poland called “Creating through Collaboration”. T his was an opportunity to develop a technique for simultaneously participating in and documenting an experience, through exercises that heightened awareness of the body and perception of our surroundings.
The physical, mental, and meta-physical aspects of human experience exist at all times, wherever we are, however, continuing explorations within this dedicated time and space at JACA, especially in collaboration with researcher Pilar Ortiz would provide the perfect situation in which to hone this practice balancing the role of participant/documentarian and pivotal in exploring the balance in the relationship between body, mind, and surroundings.
I propose a collaborative artistic/research project with Pilar Ortiz that sets out to explore the intuitive relationship between humans and their surroundings. This exploration will be grounded in my own creative practice, expanding upon the principles introduced in the Kowalski Workshop I participated in last summer and incorporate the theoretical framework of Pilar’s body and embodiment studies. We will carry out this investigation each individually, collaboratively with each other, as well as, with others we interact with throughout the residency. I see this exploratory project emerging through the following processes:
Movement is an essential part of life. To dance, to stretch, to move, are actions that unite the body, mind and life force in a way like no other. In the Kowalski Workshop we began each day with a rigorous schedule of kungfu, tai-chi and improvisation exercises in pairs and groups which developed close bonds among the participants and set the tone for an aware and productive day. I will begin each day with experimental and interpretive movement to heighten awareness of the body itself as well as it’s relationship to others and it’s surroundings.
Many of the principles developed in the morning movement sessions can be applied in the wider public sphere with an increased sensitivity of self and awareness to surroundings. We will conduct intuitive explorations of the surrounding landscape focused on the interaction and relationship of ourselves as individuals with the built environment of the city. By going out in the world, on journeys throughout the landscape of Belo Horizonte we will experience various parts of the city, interact with people, engage in direct contact with a specific location, and document the process as we are compelled to.
Both Pilar and I bring our own wealth of experiences, research, and methods to this project and will use a portion of the residency time to engage in dialogue on our distinct points of view on the subject of the body and surroundings. We will also further explore texts relevant both to Pilar’s body and embodiment studies, as well as the theories and work of Grzegorz Kowalski and Oskar Hansen and the complexities of the split role of participant and observer.
I will be documenting the process of movement, exploration and research throughout the residency period. Free-writes, drawings, painting, and working with images, sound, video, collected from explorations, and other documentation of our activities, etc… are all a way to process the experiences of these two months in Belo Horizonte and JA.CA. These materials will be used in the final production of the creative work that may include a short documentary film, a series of photographs, or an installation.
Through this particular technique involving movement, exploration, research and creation we set out to explore the relationship of the body and the environment culminating in a unique set of findings in the form of a distinct artwork.
Pdf of full application with images: JACA
February 28, 2014