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Ralph Lemon, a choreographer, dancer, director, curator, and storyteller, has shown his often-collaborative work in venues ranging from MoMA to the Lyon Ballet.
A physical meditation exercise. A body-placement task and event.
Simply: Set up a thing, an idea, a place, and be there, in it. Stay in for fourteen hours.
Prepare: Think about it. Describe your parameters clearly, thoughtfully, wondrously. Set up your rules, acknowledging that in the “doing” the rules will shift, transform. The rules, however, cannot be broken. Unless they have to be broken. And you are the only one who can determine when you’ve broken the rules, your rules. Your exercise.
For instance (but none of these):
Go to a random movie theater without knowing what’s playing. Watch the same movie over and over for fourteen hours. (If the establishment tries to remove you from the premises, you have to find a way to sneak back in to complete the task.)
Lie in a bathtub in the pitch dark for fourteen hours.
Listen to your favorite song for fourteen hours straight nonstop. Or do the same with a piece of music that you cannot stand to listen to.
Tie yourself to another person for fourteen hours and try to negotiate a normal day.
Blindfold yourself for fourteen hours and try to negotiate a normal day.
Read the same (profound or vapid) sentence/paragraph/page from some relevant reading material over and over for fourteen hours.
Watch Fox News and/or MSNBC for fourteen hours nonstop.
Tell a lie for fourteen hours. Watch as it spreads throughout your communal constellation.
While this fourteen-hour exercise is happening: Document the experience in real time, in any creative fashion you deem relevant, helpful, complementary (or perhaps contradictory?). Incorporate any necessary assistance into your design so that you don’t “hurt” yourself (or anyone else). This is not an exercise about destruction! The purpose of the “research” is discovery.
Fear is temporary, at the least, unreliable.
Of course, incorporate eating and bathroom breaks as best you can within the parameters you set up for yourself.
Beforehand: Once you’ve come up with a few ideas for your exercise, share them with your colleagues. Allow them to respond, argue, discuss what might be more challenging for you—or not. Be suspicious of that first “very exciting” idea or the “something you’ve always wanted to try and now here’s the opportunity.” It may be that the first idea is too easy, too known. (Feedback can be very useful when navigating something as seemingly indeterminate as an exercise like this.)
It’s not a twelve-hour exercise. It’s fourteen. To help puncture the durational certainty of twelve. But this exercise is not really about time or duration but about what happens when the formal (technical) aspects of time break down.
The beginning (the thinking), the middle (the doing and discoveries), and the end (what happened, what didn’t happen) are all necessary parts of the event, the thing. Take nothing for granted.
Pina Bausch and the Tanztheater Wuppertal, Bluebeard’s Castle, 1977. NY premiere, Brooklyn Academy of Music, 1984.
Trisha Brown Dance Company, Newark (Niweweorce), 1987. US premiere, City Center, New York, 1987.
Steve Paxton, Goldberg Variations, performed 1986–92.
Ramayana, Bali, 1999.
Sarah Michelson, Devotion and Devotion Study #1, The Kitchen, 2011, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, 2012.
Ishmael Houston-Jones, untitled improvised performance inside a black plastic garbage bag for an hour, Platform 2012: “Parallels,” Danspace Project.