About the Project

1[-1] Materiality of Exile

1[-1]:  Materiality of Exile is the next in the series of works by Ana Sánchez-Colberg using prime numbers to generate compositional rules to create new forms of collaborative and participatory contemporary performance.  The works defy categorization as they bring together elements of fine and visual art, audio composition, movement, photography and film, live documentation to generate site-specific works that question the relationship between art institutions, the ‘art-object’ and the subjects involved in the creation and reception.

Previous works in the series include The Sky Leans on Me, (me the one horizontal amongst all the verticals) as part of the Benaki Museum, Athens Out/topias Exhibition, the largest European exhibition that year on art in public and outside spaces (see: https://vimeo.com/210896650).  The work was an open invitation to participate in rethinking the public nature of the museum space and consider ways in which the art form is held between the artist (who opens the space) and the audience (invited to inhabit and transform it).  J[us]t 5 in collaboration with CHEAPART.GR evolved between 2017-2018 across various contexts including biannual Art-Athena International Arts Fair and Return to Athens Festival. J[us]t 5 REDUX an immersive participatory installation was presented within the Athens International Festival in June 2018 which interweaved the collected narratives of the artist as she travelled through various cities- each city bringing her back to her relationship with Athens- raising questions about art, her collaborators, immigrant identity, the challenges and possibilities of life in the city in this precise historical moment.   Most recently the project Seven to the Seventh was an unprecedented global project that connected synchronically artists and their communities across seven time zones, see www.seventotheseventh.com

In 1[-1] Materiality of Exile, the number eleven serves as the rule to explore the relationship between notions of terrain (space) and material (time) at the site of Joshua Tree.  1[-1] exposes a dialectic between a series of oppositions (reflected in the title, the integer 11 graphed as the relationship between 1 and its absolute). Two seemingly opposites are brought together: the terrain of the desert, a place of time immemorial that exceeds human scale, and the materiality of the Latinx artist’s female ‘ageing’ body, a material bounded by time and grounded on the memorial archive contained within the layers of experience.

Both ageing and the desert define critical territories assumed to be ‘inhospitable’ for the continuation of life.  The desert is associated with exile from active, social life; ageing a retirement from it.  In both, the over-riding image is one of ‘degeneration’ (a de-gradation of materials dryness, slowness, brittleness, erosion, corrosion).  To enter ‘desert’ (as exile) and to enter age (as retirement) is therefore akin to a process of forced migration from a sustainable life to one in a constant state of precariousness. 

In 1[-1] Materiality of Exile, the contrasts and parallels between desert and ageing will serve as the framework to interrogate inter-related layers across the elements. 

In Joshua Tree, the residency extends its vision to include an interrogation of the Southwest desert specifically in relation to the Latinx community, a community whose identity is marked by migrations after a ‘crossing’ through the desert (whether literal or metaphoric) to carve a new life in its territory.  The Latinx community in the area constitutes 25% of its population yet remains underrepresented in the cultural expressions of the region.  The residence will invite participation from this community, specifically of women over fifty, in ways that are detailed in the methodology section.  The aim is to celebrate and honour the activities of work through which they transform the ‘inhospitable’ to ‘hospitable’.

1[-1] Materiality of Exile seeks to open a space that transforms the exhibition/performance site to a place of exchange, yet an exchange that is trying to ‘complicate’ the very transactions that are negotiated to define the ‘object’ of art-production.
  • The creative process is based on a rule of eleven.
  • The residency will take place on the 11th month, November 2019
  • For eleven days, and for eleven hours each day, the artist will be conducting body-based/movement explorations in various sites in and around Joshua Tree.
  • The explorations will be documented in various modes: video, photography, audio (bin-aural recording) and narrative text.
  • From each day a ‘distilled’ object/trace (which may be durational as well as 3D will be created).
  • The ‘eleven’ reduced object/traces will be the ‘centre-pieces’ for the final installation/participatory event.
  • The event invites participation using two common scores:  a task score and  audio score, inviting the audience to join the performer in traversing the installation.

The performance develops the idea of ‘crossings’ in three interrelated strands: a live-dance event (outdoors), an outdoor installation (the site for the dance) and a video indoor installation (an archive where the public can engage with the processes out of which the piece emerged).  All strands are participatory with the aim to explore new modes of engaging the audience with processes of art-making. In the case of this project, we seek to redress attitudes that see members of this community as ‘invaders’ and remind all that we have been central in giving ‘life’ to the region. It is a purposeful attempt to work against the building of walls and continue to create life affirming connections and bonds in ways that only dance -body-to-body can do.

The project is divided in stages.  The first stage in early November, there will be a two-hour, one-to-one session with a participant from the Latinx community. Various activities will be explored by participant and artist, for example exchanging stories to be voice recorded and/or written, engage in an activity of their choice linked to their everyday life. These first-person narratives will serve as the trigger for choreographic tasks to be explored outdoors to create the dance material. The possibility that the participants will join the performance remains open at this point. The outdoor explorations will include hands on work with the landscape and other materials (for example paper, charcoal, ink, canvas, objects brought by the participants and elements/ natural materials found on site during the explorations) with the resulting traces becoming an object-based, outdoor installation that will serve as the scenography for the performance.  

This is the second stage, the creation of the event: The explorations outdoor will be captured in video and together with the archive of the dialogues will be used to create eleven short videos of eleven minutes (one video per participant). This will be shown as an installation indoors in the studio space.

THE PERFORMANCE:  Participatory strategies for the audience
The final stage consists of the performance 23-30 November,  performance invites the audience to participate and reflect on their own desert crossing. 
They arrive to the outdoor space where the dancer/choreographer will perform the choreographic material migrating’ through the objects in the landscape.  The dancer ‘activates’ the histories contained within the traces.  The audience follows the performance in close proximity to the performer, listening to a sound score in individual mp3 players. The audio-score is related to each woman/story/object, inviting the audience to listen with their full physicality to the stories of the women who created the object. The performance leads them to the studio installation a space that brings together multiple histories: of the participants, the public, and the history of the evolution of the work. As the public exits the studio they are invited to return to the landscape and experience the objects in an immediate manner, without the mediation of the dancer and engage hands on with the installation. Traces of their interaction can be placed in next to/ within the objects and thus become part of the resulting ‘work’. 

Ana has invited eleven women artists from across the globe to act as 'respondents' to the project.  All the women are connected to one or various of the strands that shape the project: crossings,  migratory histories, female identity, materiality, mark-making.

The artists come from various disciplines but all share in being 'somatic mark-makers'; a term that Ana has coined borrowing from the fine arts/painting concept of mark-making, the particular signature that a painter has in the gestural action that informs 'leaving a mark' on a surface (whether papers, wood, metal).  The mark is not just a design, it is a trace that reveals the force (or forces) behind (or within) the act.  In the case of this group, as artists they see the 'actions' within their various disciplines as markings materialised in a variety of media, with an understanding of the role of their bodies/selves within the act.  Somatic mark-making therefore offers an alternative to the 'inscribed body' and aims to show the body as inscriptor,  to reveal the identity in the making that emerges from that act.  It is purposely posing identity within the act itself, not within the language of the act.  As Cavarero would reminds us,  the design and intelligibility of the act takes place after its performance. 

The group will be contributing to the blog through their individual pages, responding, expanding, proposing.  The project in the desert is the anchor that allows diverse practices to come entangled (embrouillee) in each other, weaving a tapestry of diversity that is expansive.