Dancers often describe the feeling of watching someone else’s performance and actually feeling, in their own bodies, the form and movement of the other. This sensation of inhabiting another’s body in a relative physical way is called proprioception and it does have a basis in neurological fact, which reports that some can access this bodily empathy innately while others, especially in kinesthetic disciplines like dancing or music, develop a sensitivity to it over time. But can a non-human entity like, say, an osprey or a radio frequency be considered proprioceptively knowable?
Jennifer Monson’s upcoming performance at The Kitchen, Live Dancing Archive, plays with this idea, asking if dance can function as a continuously generating archive of bodily experience. The piece, her first in a theater setting in years and by far the longest of her choreographed works, revisits one of her own earlier projects as source material. A dance-based environmental research trip across Atlantic bird migration routes, BIRD BRAIN Osprey Migration (2002) aimed to collect environmental data through tracing the physical route of the birds from the North Atlantic to South America. This new work, in turn, uses video documentation of the dancers on that tour, Monson included, as the archival data to be embodied and brought to light in her performance.
While this might appear to point to a highly personal and, perhaps, political interpretation of the archival impulse – i.e. to advocate for a specific kind of environmental knowing through an artistic research practice – Monson’s collaborative development of Live Dancing Archive points to an interest in a more open and fluid definition of the concept. The piece was developed collaboratively over the course of the last year and a half by Monson, video artist Robin Vachal (who recorded the initial documentation of the 2002 project), lighting designer Joe Levasseur, and audio artist Jeff Kolar. In its final incarnation, the work exists as the simultaneous performance of Monson, Levasseur, and Kolar, all of whom will be physically present on stage, a video installation that will be on view on The Kitchen’s stage during days of performance, and a digital archive of video footage and ephemera from the BIRD BRAIN project that will go live on the day of the performance’s premier.
The project’s composer, Jeff Kolar, agreed to answer a few questions about the audio component of the performance, an “indeterminate score… generated through live field experiments in the AM/FM, shortwave, Citizens, and unlicensed spectrum (27 MHz or 49 MHz band).”