Monique Watkins

Monday, November 30, 2015

The very first open rehearsal took place in a location not used again for the remainder of the project. Shoes were removed, and visitors climbed a staircase to enter into a warm, enclosed space that seemed to exist quite apart from the rest of the building. Unsure how I would react to the performers’ nudity, I quickly found myself totally at ease, drawn towards the carpet, compelled to be on the same level as those around me.

I was delighted to see a man in a suit reclining and talking to Peter, one of the nude performers, their bodies mirroring one another’s. Another conversation, between Amaara and a young boy, attending with his mother, had a similar effect. Neither of these conversations was within earshot, and yet their success was palpable. Warmth and enjoyment registered on the faces of those involved, while other visitors looked on or listened in contentedly. I left the space feeling elated and open to connection, as if the usual barriers to conversation, particularly those associated with strangers, had melted away.

The following open rehearsals, preview and exhibition days were fascinating to watch. The work moved to a different space, one where visitors only had to wander in and out of an open door. New pieces of choreography were introduced, and the performers became immeasurably closer, familiarising themselves with each other’s personalities and movements. I watched their performance become more refined, parallel to their developing friendships, and was thrilled by the group’s collective energy and sensitivity.

I also noted the extreme difficulty of the work, the demands of performing for and interacting with a new audience daily. The media preview saw the space filled with cameras and seemed to disrupt the shared energy that I had felt during the first rehearsal. Often visitors restricted themselves to the very edges of the room, pressing up against the walls of the space, while on other days groups or individuals streamed in and out, planting themselves daringly close to the centre. The Friday afternoon exhibition brought a heat wave that meant a much smaller number of visitors with whom performers could converse, while Saturday lunchtime saw farmers markets visitors drop in for a quick look, often only staying for five or ten minutes at a time.

A recent visitor reflection published on the blog drew attention to the clothed performers and project administrators as individuals in the space whose agency differed from that of the visitors or performers. I visited the space time and again, sometimes as a visitor, sometimes as an invigilator, but mostly as a nebulous combination of the two. Often I was hyper aware of the performers as people, a sensation of worry for their collective comfort: the vigilance associated with invigilating an exhibition of ‘people’. At other times I slipped easily into the role of visitor, feeling a thrill of nerves as the performers stalked towards me as a group, or seeing their bodies dissipate into abstraction, a stunning mirage of swaying plants or slow moving sculpture.

-Monique Watkins, Curatorial and Communications Assistant, Kaldor Public Art Projects