Sunday, April 17, 2011

A text by Cara Spooner, Toronto dance artist

Why do we make art?
Why do we make art in public spheres?
Why is 'site' or 'context' interesting fuel for performance?

'Why' fundamentally implies the need to understand intention or to validate whatever the questioner is asking the questioned. In this case, what is it that I desire validation of? Am I interested in 'the reasons', the well-constructed and rational sets of well manicured trajectories which lead us from point A to point B? I make this so that my desired outcome can be thus achieved? Is this Why we make art? Or is it something more ephemeral that we desire in our art making, something less tidy, less clearly defined? May art point us to new curiosities to invent new questions rather than provide answers to the questions that already exist? Why not?

I am interested in the potential that making art (specifically performative, movement based art) in specific sites/contexts has to offer. I know that this is not new and I know that I am not the only one interested in this potential. My own mistakes, experiments, questions, projects and interest in 'non-conventional sites' seem to innately hold a mirror up to the very form, aesthetics, vocabularies, accessibility, power dynamics and purposes that 'performance' has been defined as. This leads me to consider the ways in which we specifically in Toronto, in Canada and in North America are responding to, reacting against, contributing to and creating art for specific sites or public spheres. Is it a choice or is it necessity? Are we creating work with 'sites' in mind until we are validated by the traditional proscenium institutions (and the interactions/processes/dynamics it inevitably brings with it?) Or are we interested in the systems, movement and structures that we have all culturally adopted? If the choice is based on necessity (funding, etc) is it not an opportunity to develop our artistic craft in integrated and insightful ways? Can we not critically look at the 'public'/'private' contexts in which we are embedded in and comment upon them symbolically, artistically and aesthetically? Are we aware in our art making of the constantly changing factors which inevitably enter into us, affect us, change us and define us at each new site we enter into?

It seems that many artists are choosing to create work in non-traditional, non-proscenium, site-specific settings. The integration and acceptance of a performance's context (the site, the people, the social codes, the politics) seems to almost create a new set of standards for the 'Why' question to unravel.

Or perhaps 'How' is of greater relevancy and a more appropriate question to ask. 'How' seems to point to form, aesthetic, vocabulary, accessibility and power. If our 'audience' in a public setting has not signed the contract of buying a ticket (and thus adopted the learned social codes associated with that action) how can we enter into an aesthetic discussion with them? How can we make and ask new questions? For me, the ability to see beyond the socialized patterns, or at the very least point to them, is the essential motivating factor for creating work in/for a particular context. Without the acknowledgement and integration of what makes a site a 'site', I cannot truly enter into a dialog there. If I create something with the expectation that I will know my outcomes, am I asking any new questions with my art making?

'How' seems to ask for description. It is a question for the qualitative, messy, step-by-step play-out of a certain thing. The practical steps to achieving the reasons listed after 'Why'. But more importantly 'How' seems to imply the desire for a solution, a question with a larger desired outcome. It seems to point to movement.

How does the 'site' or 'context' create fuel for performance?
How do we make art in public spheres?
How do we make art?

Cara Spooner

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