"Do I dare disturb the universe?"
~T.S. Eliot

Sunday, February 15, 2009

On silence

I'm still getting used to trying to write regularly, though this sometimes proves difficult...

A few weekends ago was U of I's spring production February Dance. I performed in an event that happened before the show, coordinated by New York choreographer and U of I faculty member Tere O'Conno. Participants were asked to meditate on silence--We had five minutes to perform a piece in a 10 ft. by 22 ft. square area, the only limitation being that our performances had to be in complete silence.

This Silent Show opened with a professor and orchestra conductor in the Music Department simply reading through a score, minimally conducting, gesturing, and internally processing. Other performers danced in the intimate area, performed Tai Chi, or projected videos. One artist who is particularly adept at the skill of knitting presented various personified objects he had created.

When I first began thinking about this project, my first impulse was to think of silence as oppressive. I have participated in numerous movements in which silence is used to demonstrate a lack of voice and legitimacy. This includes the Day of Silence movements on high school and college campuses, a day of self-imposed silence to demonstrate the lack of voice that the GLBTQ etc. community feels every day. I was also reminded of the Breaking the Silence series that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performs every summer. In this series, summer director James Conlon chooses and conducts pieces by composers that were victimized during the Nazi Regime, often music considered "degenerate" or even written by Jews while in the concentration camps. However, I realize that silence as a meditation and solace can be enlightening and necessary. Through all of these thoughts, I did some free-writing on the nature of silence, both oppressive and liberating.

Free-writing became central to my piece. I decided I wanted to perform this stream-of-consciousness writing. I collaborated with a friend, and, dressed in white T-shirts and shorts, we wrote, drew, and scribbled on each other with markers, while rolling, arching, otherwise maintaining contact with each other.

The experience was different than anything I had ever done before, and with the audience also standing inside this white box with us, the setting was extremely intimate. (With the exception of the showering/scrubbing that followed,) I enjoyed this opportunity to think about the nature of silence and its resulting thoughts.