|Thursday, April 27th|
Tsiambwom M. Akuchu, University of Montana, Missoula
12:20 PM - 12:35 PM
What’s-The-Scenario is an interdisciplinary actor training technique devised to use hip-hop dance movement as physicality for the actor in performance. Hip-hop dance is one of the newest and most popular forms of physical art and movement; WTS uses it to quantify and categorize human personality and behavior. It is utilized not just as a character study tool but also as dance movement, a devising style for theatre and physical training for the actor. It expands on the concept of Hip-Hop Theatre, a new and rapidly growing genre of theatre (i.e. Hamilton the Musical), and pushes for a more thorough integration of hip-hop’s art and style with theatre. Initial work was done by comparing hip-hop dance with established movement acting styles such as Viewpoints, Laban, Growtowski and more, then finding a correlation between fundamental concepts and movement. The work was and still is being explored in practice through devised theatre pieces, dance pieces, and the introductory hip-hop dance course offered through the dance department, to create its own specialized set of guidelines and basic movement vocabulary. Hip-hop dance styles are performed, explored and broken down into fundamental moves that capture the essence and quality of the dance while providing building blocks for anyone and everyone to learn from. These moves are then used in translating character onstage by relating the character’s personality to the dance style’s essence and quality then physicalizing it through the movement vocabulary. WTS presents a 21st-century contemporary approach to acting and theatre built from a culture and art form started by minorities and people of color. It also has the potential to resonate better than older established acting techniques with the newer generation of actors immersed in a society heavily influenced by hip-hop.
3:00 PM - 3:10 PM
Material Reality: Wood and Delineated Space is a series of sculptures that visually investigate the influence of self-deception in individual psychology. The work explores how individuals construct their own personal version of reality by subconsciously reinterpreting their experiences in the imagination. Individuals can skew and distort reality as a defense mechanism against anxiety, or to perpetuate a better version of themselves when they reflect on the past. In order to visually present my concept, I designed a series of sculptures that carefully integrated geometric wood forms and the space in between them; the shape of the space in between the sculptures was just as important as the sculptures themselves. I fabricated the geometric forms out of glue-laminated pine wood. I arranged them so they had a specific linear rhythm: wood form, open space, wood form, open space, etc. The wood forms are physical realities; they unarguably exist in material space. However, the shapes that occur in the spaces between the wood forms do not actually exist in material reality; they are delineated space. The viewer must constantly look and evaluate the relationships between the wood forms the shapes in between them. This means that the viewer is constantly vacillating between a physical, material reality (wood) and an imaginary reality (air, space). This poses questions about perception and also about the nature of reality and the influence of the imagination upon it. The originality of my work arrives in the design of the sculptures, as well as my visual approach to psychological theory. My idea of clearly articulating the space in between and surrounding the wood forms is an unusual approach to take in sculpture. Typically, the shape of the space surrounding the material form is not as defined/designed as the material form In my practice, however, negative space is as important – if not more important – as the material form. The crossover between psychological theory and visual art is rich. Many psychological theories are criticized because they cannot be empirically studied; further research by the tools of science is not possible. But visual art is not bound by the same rules as science. My approach is original because I am making art that investigates theories regarding the way people think, feel and make decisions. Visual art can offer an impact far greater than reading about a theory; it can offer a unique, memorable visual experience that lingers in the memory. Psychological theory directly influenced one the most fruitful and captivating movements in art history: Surrealism. The movement drew inspiration from the theories of Freud; the participating artists invented visual counterparts to his theories. Why have no other psych theories been utilized in this manner? Freudian psychology is one of a vast number of psych theories regarding personality and individual psychology. I am interested in re-igniting the conversation between psych theory and visual art. The vast number of psych theories and the plethora of sculptural materials and techniques make for more than a lifetime of socially engaged artwork.
Alicia M. Mountain, University of Montana
3:12 PM - 3:25 PM
My proposed presentation, "Superheroic Sonnet Cycles-- A Poetry Reading," offers audiences a rare intersectional look into the state of poetry in 2017. My poetic work with the heroic sonnet form illustrated overlapping concerns with traditional form and contemporary content while revealing a liminal state in the writing process as my newest book project takes shape while I pursue my PhD at the University of Denver after completing an MFA at the University of Montana in 2015.
These poems forge new paths through queer identity, landscape, Beyoncé, familial bonds, the 2016 presidential election, and lyricism. Those modern motifs exist within the traditional sonnet form-- more specifically within the heroic sonnet cycle architecture. The heroic crown is an intricate form composed of fifteen sonnets, wherein the last line of one poem becomes the first line of the following poem, interlocking the discreet sonnets into a unified work. The cycle culminates with a final sonnet, made up of the first line of each of the preceding fourteen poems.
Though the medium of my presentation requires nothing more than my voice, I am confident these poems will leave you breathless. This work is both urgent and timeless. It must be heard and it cannot go unsaid. I look forward to share my new work with the University of Montana community, which has been so generous with me and so formative to my own poetics.
Evan M. Hauser, University of Montana
3:30 PM - 3:40 PM
The impact land has on the human experience goes beyond aesthetic beauty and resources; it constructs cultural and societal ideals in varying regions. My interest is within the relationship between man and land. Seeing the cultural shift in perspective of land, as I moved residence from Indiana to Montana, heightened my awareness of the differences with land across regions. Decisions made with land, such as what is private and what is public, are the starting point of my research.
When looking at a National Park such as Yellowstone, we are confronted by land that is supposedly wild and natural. In reality, the lands within the park are somewhat of a construct as the wildlife is managed, fires suppressed, and designated paths for the wandering tourist. This prescribed experience brings a foreseeable encounter that was once otherwise a land of discovery. Objects of representation prove our existence as a society and can be communicable icons. The objects chosen are to fit within my stereotypical view of a Euro-American experience coming to the American West.
Ceramic as a material allows me to create objects of permanence. This preservation of form can allow for a long lasting concept that will continue to conduct dialogue with the viewer for any number of years forward. The concepts correlated with my objects are ones of continued growth and development as populations increase and our presence expands.
3:45 PM - 4:00 PM
Acting in Darkness (AiD) is a developing acting method for actors in theatre for social change. Developed after Hiroshima hit Japan, butoh was a dance form meant to guide performers through a transformational experience. The goal was to offer audiences performative movement that could aid in discovering a new, collective Japanese identity amidst great losses and suffering. That is, the butoh dancer looks towards darkness to find light. The process and ideology behind butoh, often likened to Buddhist philosophies, calls performers to find power in suffering; to embrace the darkness because darkness is defined by its ability to be illuminated. The aesthetics and process used in butoh both empowers the underdog by honoring the grotesque, and calls audiences to sit with, and share in the discomfort of the "other". AiD recontextualizes butoh movement as a tool for actors to safely embody characters, while serving as a voice for disadvantaged communities.
Even in popular theatre, it is incredibly important for actors to have a set of tools that will allow them to step into the shoes of a variety of different characters—especially those who seem morally questionable—without judging the character, or jeopardizing their emotional health. This is true, perhaps even more so, for actors who work with theatre for social change, as they are often representing real people and communities while rising awareness around the issues these people face. With this work it is both necessary to approach character as objectively as possible, while also supporting the over-arching message being communicated through performance (ex. the prison industrial complex, lgbtq+ rights, etc...). Preliminary research on widely used acting techniques has guided the development of the AiD process. For instance, Michael Chekov believed the actor should experience a dual conscieneness while performing; allowing them to both see the world from the perspective of their character while maintaining artistic control with the ability to continually critique ones process. The high physical demand of Jerzy Growtowski's method was coften coupled with imagery to springboard the imagination in order to manifest honest physical and emotional character development. In contrary, AiD draws from butoh exercizes that certainly elicit similar experiences as mentioned above, and then challenges those outcomes even further. AiD uses choreographing processes from butoh to help actors, who are certainly in privlidged positions, approach characters through a process of transformatively embodying injustice in order to see the world from the perspective of those for whom they are speaking. The highly physical and meditative aspects present in butoh allow actors to root their emotional journeys within the movement, and therefore release themselves of that emotional baggage when necessary.
4:05 PM - 4:15 PM
We have an inability to comprehend greater scenes, so in order to understand a place we divide it up, collect specimens, and study them in the sterility of a lab. By removing these birds from their environment we have decontextualized them; they are no longer what we think of when we think of meadow lark or chickadee they are now specimen #2514 and #1897; they are a set of data points and no longer part of the larger system from which they came. Through this decontextualization we have created a distance between the specimen and its source. We have specimens, not birds.
To represent this archaic way of study, I have chosen an archaic photographic process. The cyanotype process is an imperfect one, one where information is lost in the shadows and highlights. These imperfections speak to the failures in this way of study. Now aided by the formation of the grid, we see the repetition through species, the austerity of the preservation, and we can guess at the information lost in this distance created. We also see a system of study, one that we can obviously only learn so much through. We are faced with the thought of a failing system. This is however not how we study today. Science has moved towards more wholistic ways of study, still based in data collection but with greater attention payed to systems as a whole.
Much as the Bechers used the intense, repetitive, nature of Typology to discuss the relentless order of industrial production, Avian Study makes use of the intensity of typology as a way to discuss our human relentlessness to collect and classify in attempt to understand.
This is the reason for the ink jet prints you see filling in the gaps of the cyanotype grid. These images show a higher quality rendering of a more connected system. The viewer is granted more than twice as much information about the specimen through additional angles and a contemporary process. The missing specimens provide evidence that there is still information missing and that this is an incomplete view of a system. With this, I acknowledge that there are shortcomings in our current system-based ways of study. There is always more to learn from these ecosystems, and our relationship with them should be an organic one; continuously evolving to fit new discoveries and changes.