Stop, Collaborate and Listen: A dancer and a visual artist begin a journey in a library.
Simon Garfield’s On the map provided a starting point for an exploratory day between dancer Sophie Tickle and I at Chester Lane Library in St Helens. Having never worked together before, the question ‘Where do you want to be? provided a useful way to begin the collaboration. We started by talking a bit more about what each of us do, what tools of our trade each of us had brought with us and considering how to begin.
We started with a map of where we are now.
In a library.
Feeling a bit self conscious.
Not wanting to sit around talking all day.
Wanting to play.
Shelves of library books surrounded us, so to find out how each of us were interpreting the question, we searched the shelves for titles that sparked a connection. We both brought back books about journeys: I selected Thirty Nine Steps and Sophie selected The girl on the ferry boat and Let not the waves of the sea.
‘Where do you want to be’
the importance of the journey to get there
the trials of the journey
Which led us onto books that were barriers to getting to where we want to be: Crossing the line, Overcoming anxiety and Money money money featured here. Physical borders, mental barriers, financial obstacles. Some of these are self help books, linked into the idea of finding our own way through life, which linked into the next group of books: Letters from Skye, The woman who went to bed for a year, The inquisitor and Girl in the Mirror.
Sending a letter to yourself
Time to reflect
The things that spur us on through the journey.
Walking through the shelves caused us to start thinking in metaphors.
A journey through a library,
a place that can transport us to anywhere.
The aisles in the library as different paths in life.
We unfurled rolls of fabric that I had brought with me, imagining them as paths on our journey, or letters that we might write to ourselves. We wove them in and out of the books, passing them from one aisle to another thinking of them as the time along the journey when we reflect on where we have got to.
Playing in between the shelves we lay down on the floor thinking about the lows in life, and how the view looks different from down there, how we could glimpse each other’s eyes through the gaps between the books, and climbed up onto chairs to see the view from on high. It all got a bit philosophical as we built barriers using the fabric and Sophie experimented with moving through those barriers, then pulling the fabric to create tension between the different paths that life could take, getting tangled in a web of our own advice and that of others, of life unravelling and paths becoming more difficult to walk along. While in the large print aisle we got our only question from a member of the public, who asked if Sophie was doing her exercises. We made a film of movements glimpsed between the books, and started to imagine how this could translate into a performance or an installation, or both.
We drew some diagrams, made some notes and thought about an audience. How would they experience this? As an installation to navigate through themselves, with barriers to duck under and stairs to ascend changing their viewpoint and causing them to move differently. Videos of eyes watching them from between the books. A viewing platform where they could take in the whole thing (the audience playing the part of hindsight). Shelves populated with books selected by the audience, the books obscuring the view from one path to another. Thelibrary as a performance space where dancers could tell the story of these multiple selves that we take on our journey. A movement score that uses verbs from our initial playful explorations:
And then, we realised that our initial collaboration, starting from nothing, had become an exciting potential project combining dance and visual art. So we’re meeting again next month to play some more, only in a different library this time. Can’t have the lady in the large print aisle thinking that there’s a monthly exercise class there.