By NICOLE KLAYMOON, student in the Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Arts MFA program
This post was written for Cindy Shearer's CIA 7712: MFA Project. In these blogs, students are sharing their discoveries, reflections and learning as they enter the process of creating a body of art work and culminate their degrees.
Dance is like a lucid dream; fluid, indefinable, and ever changing, with a unique ability to transmit meaning that surpasses conscience thought. Beyond aesthetics and entertainment, dance is a form of coded language. Over the past three years I have been on a journey to more deeply understand the multi-faceted layers of nuanced communication through movement-based narratives, which culminated with my most recent production, "House of Matter." Through virtuosic street dance, poetic text, gesture, theater, and live song, "House of Matter" inquires into and articulates the subconscious stories that arise from distinct senses of embodiment. In essence, embodiment means to invest a spiritual entity with the physical form (e.g., ritual based dance, unearthing memory, and coming to voice with ones honest expression.) "House of Matter" is an investigation of the ways that our individual familial patterns become ingrained in our subconscious minds; consequently affecting our ability to find home in our physical bodies. Through radically transparent language, both spoken and encapsulated inside of dance, the piece reveals a tapestry of each performer’s defining memories, secrets, and under-told stories; namely, ones of familial abuse, humanity, and heroism.
The artist illuminates what dominant culture masks or buries. I seek to excavate buried lived experiences and belief systems, while simultaneously connecting personal story to its greater social cause. In essence, I am bridging the gap between my internal and external worlds, much like the symbiotic relationship between dreamtime and waking life. The subconscious mind naturally creates narrative through dreams. Dreaming is vital for our human survival and consciousness—if it wasn’t, then we would have gotten rid of it by now through the evolutionary process. The resolutions to the stories of our personal lives exist in our subconscious mind. We possess all the answers to our own problems, within the sub-terrain of our being. Deep within the darkest R.E.M. cycles of sleep, we piece together our memory.
"House of Matter" examines specific questions; how does the brain know how and when to block certain experiences? When we lack conscious awareness of something in our past, does it mean it never happened? Is all memory solely stored in the brain, or is it stored throughout the entire body? Is retrieving memory essential for our collective human evolution and if so, how? Understanding that narratives are the life-blood of our sub-conscience minds allows the company, as a whole, to embrace dance for its capacity to tap into, and express from, the multifaceted under-worlds of identity. In "House of Matter," the live vocals interwoven with the dance creates an emotional landscape where memories from the households in which each performer was raised can co-exist. The texture of the sofa, their mother’s perfume, the emotional undercurrents that commonly filled the air; the stories they do not tell but wear as heart frown or joy.
Despite the diverse cultural backgrounds, family histories, and sexual orientations among the company members, they each discover a sense of likeness through their core longing, and at times desperation, for intimacy in all its facets (familial, artistic, romantic, platonic, spiritual…). Our first understanding of love, from when we were born, is what we will always look for in all our relations. We are walking, fumbling, dancing vessels of history—searching to reconcile our past hurt through our present relationships. In this accelerated technology and climate change era, "House of Matter" speaks to a palpable urgency to address and dress these wounds of the past in order to responsively build a better future for earth’s progeny.