Ana Week 1 at Joshua Tree

Photo by Manos Garyfallou

Puerto Rican choreographer, currently working in Europe and the USA.  Sanchez-Colberg established Theatre enCorps in 1989. Since then, and throughout over thirty years of non-stop activity, she has produced dance and performance work in over 40 cities, with a particular focus on collaborative practices including the award winning Alice, Alice , Alice...Are you a Child or a Teetotter (1989), En Viva Voz, winner of the Bonnie Bird Choreography Award (1997) and Mahler’s Fifths, winner of the PRS/British Council Award for Dance and Music in Collaboration. Other  commissioned works have been created for Ballet Concierto de Puerto Rico (PR), Ballets des Staattheater Cottbus (DE), Andanza (PR), Foreign Bodies (UK), and Compania Danza 21 (CoDa21, PR). She has been a regular teacher in many important dance schools and festivals including Tanzwochen/Impulstanz Wien, International Festival of Theatre in Bogota Colombia, Festival Barranquilla Nueva Danza, Helsinki Theatre Academy, and Jacksonville University MFA Choreography at White Oaks Project.

She was course leader of the BA (Hons) Dance Theatre at LABAN (1993-1998) and course leader of the MA European Dance Theatre at Laban (2002-2005). She coordinated the MA Performance Practices and Research degree at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London from 2005-2008 and was course leader of the Ph D degrees from 2006-2008. In 2009 she relocated to Athens Greece where she now has a base. She was Professor of Choreography and Composition at the University of Dance and Circus, Stockholm 2005-2013, where she still contributes to the MA Contemporary Circus Practices. She is currently visiting professor at the Estonia Academy of Music and Theatre in Tallinn, the Alma mater of composer Arvo Pärt.  See her full profile atánchez-Colberg

Ana is the leading artist of the project.  She will be documenting the creative process daily, with postings here at 11.00am and 11.00pm  from the 1st to the 30th November. The entries will follow chronology from earliest to latest, so that the evolving discussion can be followed.


2nd November 2019

Departures, Arrivals, Origins

My intention was to publish from day 1 of the 11th month...but a long haul flight across the Atlantic and an overnight stay without internet access worked against this, although the material was indeed written throughout the first day as I was crossing the Atlantic.  An image from 2005 resurfaces:

Hands burrowed with the lines that have been etched by time
before, I am but one more in a succession that transcends this
space, of infinite threadsSomewhere Penelope is still knitting waiting for Odysseus return.
The act of materialising the passing of time into something concrete.  
Time becoming an object in space, carrying with it the invisible threads of dreams, 
fear, gossip, desires, thoughts, half thoughts, pain, happiness, solace and reconciliation.  
Shades of texture, fabric of time – a pun. 

There are many tendrils extending, reaching out, cascading -perhaps a better word-  from Penelope's lap as she still knits, making material out of time.  Except that today, Penelope is no longer waiting.  In time she has learned to enjoy knitting, it is no longer a distraction but a state of being, an action  in and of itself, fulfilling its own desire --  an integral identity,  joy in each loop and pull, crossing over and under.  She is constantly shaping crossings across territories through the motions of her hands, travelling through time and space whilst seemingly immobile, a motionless exile, except for the motion of those hands....builder of territories yet mistress of none.

Departures are far from simple. 

La partida es una vertiente de profundo caudal, a veces tranquilo y otras, como hoy, salvaje.  Este caminar sin parar,  movida por las cascadas de tiempo, donde la tierra, el espacio que arraiga, que aguanta, que da peso, se esfuma como burbujas al viento, diáfanas y puras pero al fin de cuenta vacías, como suspiros exhalados al aire.

No he despegado y la lengua colona se caya.  Emerge nuevamente la voz criolla, la voz que canta, la voz que ríe, la voz que llora,  que se ciega con rabia, que se abate en ilusoria pasión , lengua que no se cansa, indómita, descabellada, rebelde, inconquistable. 

Esa es la lengua desterrada, sin tierra, ni hogar, que  ha aceptado que no hay retorno, no existe el regreso, solo este seguir en destierro,  lugar  afectivo [carente de caracter legal y social], estado único, solitario, de un ser en su absoluto.

Y continúo en el exilio, entregada y abandonada...he llegado a este lugar fuera de la tierra de los hombres, mi nuevo hogar.  Soledad....Sol-edad... La edad expuesta al sol, mi fiel y leal compañera.  Humildad y aceptación no son derrota: son plenitud.

Departures are  deep flowing tributaries  sometimes calm and sometimes, as today, wild.  A walk without stopping, moved by the waterfalls of time, where the earth, the space that takes hold,  that endures, that gives weight, vanishes   like sighs exhaled into thin  air.  I haven't departed yet the colonized tongue is slowly being muted. The criolla tongue surfaces again: the one that sings, that loudly laughs, that cries, that gives in to blind rage, that is immersed in passions that are all but illusionsthat does not get tired, indomitable, rebel, unconquerable. The banished voice  that has no land, no home,  that has accepted that there is no return, only this continuing exile,  affective place [lacking legal and social character], unique, lone state , of a-being, absolute. And I continue in exile, committed and abandoned ... I have arrived in this place outside the land of men, my new home. Soledad .... The age exposed to the sun, my faithful and loyal companion.  Humility and acceptance are not a sign of defeat, but of fullness [plenty]. 


3rd November 2019

Joshua Tree, 11.00 am, Finally on schedule--unpacking the title

Materiality and the Number 11
There are indeed many tendrils, strands of thought and action (conceptual as well as affective)  enmeshed within to this project.  The image of Penelope emerged by surprise in 2009 but since then it has become a grounding figure (and my thoughts shift quickly laterally to Nancy's The Ground of the Image)... grounding the thinking....

The image throws in my face an intimacy that reaches me in the midst of intimacy
—through sight, through hearing, or through the very meaning of words.
Indeed, the image is not only visual: it is also musical, poetic, even tactile,
olfactory or gustatory, kinesthetic, and so on...
The image touches me, and, thus touched and drawn by it and into it, 
I get involved, not to say mixed up in it. 
There is no image without my too being in its image, 
but also without passing into it, as long as I look at it, 
that is, as long as I show it consideration, maintain my regard for it...
For the image is always material: it is the matter of the distinct,
 its mass and its density, its weight, its edges and its brilliance, its timbre and its specter, 
its pace and step, its gold. 
But matter is first mother (materies comes from mater, which is the heart of the tree, 
the hardwood), and the mother is that from which, and in which, there is distinction: 
in her intimacy another intimacy is separated and another force is formed, 
another same is detached from the same in order to be itself.
(Nancy, The Ground of the Image, p. 5,7,11)

How did this image that as Nancy would suggest, is cut away from ground, serve to ground the project?  There is always a good story behind these kinds of questions...

The maelstrom of living in Athens from the start of the crisis in 2009 to the 'plus ca change' (nothing has changed, we have not learned anything from the suffering)  of 2019 is the back story of the project.  A series of parallels, a 'world' in crisis whilst as an artist I am searching for new modes of being  'sustainable' (and I don't mean 'greening', but that which is supportable), whilst I begin to notice the inevitable acute changes to my body as I reached and passed the fifth decade of my life...yes, don't all shout at once, we are always changing,  but it was  a matter of scale and intensity (acuity?) of the experience of that change that came into the foreground...and somewhere within this,  Nancy and Arendt continued to provide the 'sense-environment' that offered sign posts in turbulence  (1).  Appearance as a political action, all well and good.  But how is that very same appearance possible when the environment is in constant opposition, in fact in constant state of obliteration, of this emergence?  There were no academic answers...just three highly personal solos -- a triptych under the title (also borrowing from Nancy)  Abandoned Worlds...

Somewhere in that process that lasted a decade (and more), I remember having a conversation with Pavlos, lighting designer and photo-documentarist of my work  (was it after Fallen[One] 2015?).  In the conversation I spoke to him about the idea towards a work engaging with the changing materiality of my body.  However, in order for this not to be a sentimental journey, (since 2005 I have attempted to elaborate a choreographic practice based on a triple directive (imperative?):  no memory, no metaphor, no melancholia - more in this later....) I wanted to eliminate the figure (me) and create a visual/visceral confusion between the body (in parts) and varying textures of landscape, enabling the questioning and experiencing  of change and transformation to be explored without the burden of kitsch and banal sentimental biography... Then life happened, and the idea was put on hold....  In 2016 the idea of dances based on prime numbers came in (come to think of it a logical evolution of the triple directive, the is no sentimentality in numbers...), five (the J[us]t 5 series), led to seven (Seven to the Seventh)  and then 11....and the idea of the exploration of materiality crashed through the walls of skin, thought, brain, heart...and here we are...

What do I mean when I refer to materiality? 
A loaded word, particularly in recent years with new (?) discourses of 'new materialism' and 'agential materiality'.  Let's keep it simple. 

Materiality is a compound formulation, it is an equation (that means constantly active, constantly being resolved),  it is not a fixed state. It is the 'physical material'  PLUS  the forces that act upon the material to give it particular qualities, qualities that in turn affect the experience of that 'object'.  Materiality (in many ways akin to phenomenology) attempts a consideration of 'the thing itself' although (as we well know) that is only an analytic momentary an  'augenblick zeitpunkt', snapshot in time, in reality the 'thingliness' is embroiled in the world (with reference to Arendt and Cavarero more that Merleau Ponty and Heidegger).  It is an eleven seconds  boundary (eleven again)  a number that Ray Birdwhistell used to describe to us (University of Pennsylvania in another lifetime) as the longest stretch of time that he could sustain pure  'bracketing';  trying to see the 'thing' "unmediated, outside of image, representation and discourse...walking is not a text, a body is not a text, hills and rivers and trees are not texts" (2) .  It may seem impossible, but what new, surprising  knowledge may appear  (both of the thing and of me facing the impossible) because of the very nature of the impossibility?....In this 'analysis' (as Merlau-Ponty reminds us)  the body becomes a primary tool, identity constituted in and through action, landscape is both inside and out' (3). 

Where and when and why did this get complicated when it seems so poetically graspable? 
Not so much complicated as drowning in methodological glitches...In most writings on materiality (including Barad's agential materiality), materials are still spoken about as separate to human subjects.  Human subjects 'interact' with matter, the phrase 'humans and matter'  repeatedly used to explain the concept, yet nowhere is the relation of humans-as-matter themselves addressed.  Barad needs to speak to dancers,  we were kind of there in the 1960s not quite sure why this is the new flavour of the month in critical discourses...(ahhh dance is not legitimate discourse).  As I discussed in Dance and the Performative  in 2002 (and later in A(n)na Annotated, 2006)  the complexity of dance lies in the 'body' as object/subject/material/tool/landscape/and instrument,  here we encounter the distinct feature of dance.  For Nancy distinct is: what is separated by marks (the word refers back to stigma, a branding mark, a pinprick or puncture, an incision, a tattoo): what is withdrawn and set apart by a line or trait, by being marked also as withdrawn [retrait]. One cannot touch it: not because one does not have the right to do so, nor because one lacks the means, but rather because the distinctive line or trait separates something that is no longer of the order of touch; not exactly an untouchable, then, but rather an impalpable".   Dance as a manifestation of the 'distinct' remains unexplored as there is a tendency to translate dance into existing discourses (for the sake of legitimization?) as opposed to contest discourse from the very experience of dance. 

Back to materiality and this project. 
I remember examining with Pavlos my hands...(and here the link to the image of Penelope's hands, weaving time and space into material) as we were looking at a picture of my hands taken by him.  My spooky hands as the pupils at Byron College used to refer to them...there is skin but underneath, perhaps due to decades of exercise, muscle, tissue, veins, ligaments are clearly discernible, my young pupil Minne used to say, 'you can teach an anatomy lesson with your hands Miss....'.  Time is beginning to act upon this body/landscape, bones shifting, revealing new contours, skin more diaphanous, allowing the internal processes to leave their traces outside...somewhere in my poetic yet brutal thinking (remember no memory, no melancholy, no metaphor), this new landscape was desert, new scales of time and space in a territory that was advancing in the horizon...a critical territory to which I will enter - by the force(s) of life and society. Deal with it.  So the dealing becomes a dance/life project. According to my friend Dimitris Karalis, in Greek philosophy ten is perfection, it is the 'godly number'.  1 + 0 the two digits of all generative code, opposites that are in an eternal dynamic emergent system.  Eleven on the other hand is tautology, it is chaos, it is redundancy, implosive, one meeting itself can produce nothing new outside of reproductions of itself, an endless hall of mirrors...echoes.

How can eleven then, become transformed into the equally generative nature of ten?... and the geek in me kicks in...and I remembered absolute numbers. Absolute numbers mark the distance of any integer to zero, they are always positive, even in a negative number...  Rather than a hall of mirrors, of one and the same, eleven became one and its opposite, graphed as an absolute [-1], asking the question what is the relation between these two, now, positive integers?  In mathematics, equations with absolute numbers are used to solve problems involving distances and inequalities.... 1 and its negative absolute [-1], revealing a relationship that has more than one answer, if any at all. Suddenly, implosion and tautology are eliminated by a new proposal, of a new life, and --in a full swing back to the beginning of this writing--  Nancy's 'matter', that it is first (1st) Mater (mother).... the dots connect.

In the fifth decade of my life, I asked, which is the territory that is my absolute other? both matter and Mater.... the desert... a place of exile but also of life (let us not forget the Bedouin)... the interrogation of that relationship gave ground to the image behind the seemingly conceptual title:

"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."

The rest will unfold in the coming days.

1. (see A(n)a Annotated:

2.  From The Anthropology of Landscape:  Materiality, Embodiment, Contestation, Emotion, Tilley and Cameron-Daum, UCL Press 2017. 

3.  See: Space is the Place: A Reconsideration of Laban's Choreutics for Choreographic Practice (1997)

Post 2:  Joshua Tree (almost 11.00pm)

First site explorations, familiarizing my eye to the shapes and forms of the site, and its sounds...Focusing on traces of life and architectural forms, texture and materiality, today's theme...


4th November 2019

Post 1:  11.00am, Joshua Tree

Today I woke up at 4.14am, an improvement from yesterday's 2.38 am.  My body slowly adjusting.  At this rate in two days I should be synchronised to desert time.  Waking up so early has been a blessing, more time to see the dawn outside the window, more time to write a draft and be able to come back to it for edits.  As my grandfather used to say, 'para dormir, la tumba'.

In many ways today is the 'beginning' of the project.  I will meet the group of Latinx women from the Joshua Tree community today at 5.30, "para un cafecito con alguito"...We agreed to have a first group meeting/workshop to 'break the ice' so to speak, and from there, arrange the more 1-2-1 (may be even 2-1-2) encounters to devise the material that will tell their stories, and my story in their story, and our stories with the eleven other women across the globe...the weaving, the tendrils continue.

Therefore, it seems relevant that I address the nature of our collaboration in relation to the methodology of the project.  Without having to relook at pre-history, I think a 'how did we get here' is necessary in as much as I stated yesterday, these creative processes are for me a 'life project' and there are continuities and disruptions that have transformed the then into now, in myself as a person, a woman, a mother, an artist. I am revisiting facts so that we can all start this new journey 'here'.  If A(n)n Annotated (2004) defined choreography as a process of 'political appearance' in relation to Arendt's vita activa, the work Holds No Memory (2006) a collaboration with Swedish choreographer Efva Lilja marked a clear move towards the 'relational' (not speaking of the more limited use of the term in Bourriaud's relational aesthetics) and in the case of Holds no Memory, significantly, a collaborative, creative, relation between women.  In this project Arendt was reconsidered through the lens of Adriana Cavarero's  re-reading of Arendt and her discussion of 'appearance' in relation to the 'story-telling' (as opposed to 'universal history') of female identities, and this exchange as one that is a dialogue(1).  By proposing the process as a dialogue I wanted to emphasize "the very nature of art [] rooted in subjectivity: art ‘speaks’ of the moment, it is symptomatic of the strengths and weaknesses of those who made it, and, as part of that life that spawns it, art rather than perduring, should die.  What remain are traces, never works, and their reconstitution within any process of history, equally conditioned by those selves that re-tell, re-count, re-fashion, re-articulate.  Therefore, by its very nature, art relates to the particular beings that gave rise to its (and their) uniqueness within a field of probabilities; variations upon the theme of what being human is all about.... the personal, political and, I would add, the poetical intertwine. Here is where our art lives, in the questions, not answers, that we publicly betray, contributing to historical thought a perpetual enigma, not a theory".

In 1[-1] the intertwining of the personal and political in relation to 'appearance' as agents in 'the world' remains the core feature of the work with the Latinx community and the specific aim to support one (humble, small) step towards 'visibility' (to appear in the political realm) and their contribution to the shaping of this territory.  Furthermore, the idea of 'uniqueness' adds a level of complexity to the equation, this contribution cannot be summarised in metrics and protocols, but defined singularly, distinctively in the Nacy-an sense of the word.  In order to do this we must shift the scale of our understanding;  universal scales are by their very nature generic,  based on discourses of patterns and trends  to which masses need to accommodate to  (only the patriarchal -usually tragic-  'hero' is allowed uniqueness), whether they actually fit into this or not. To define singularly is to deal with the qualitative and that requires attention to detail (I think of Woolf's The Hours), a different engagement in time and space, a discourse where 'proof of one' is more than sufficient to make the case for the validity (legitimacy) of the narratable individual whose tale is being told.

In Relating Narratives: Storytelling and Selfhood (2002) Cavarero suggests that “communication between women unfolds as the comparison of life stories, rather than the reciprocal exchange of ideas” (Cavarero 2000, 54).  Cavarero suggests that dialogue amongst women “repudiate[s] the abstract universal and [follow] an everyday practice where the tale is existence, relation and attention...Taken as a concept, uniqueness corresponds with the extreme form of the particular - or better, to the absolute ‘one’; or rather, to a form of the particular that is free of any universality that tries to redeem it, or erase the miracle of finitude. (Cavarero, 2002, 53,54). Furthermore Cavarero suggests that: …the mission of philosophy, seduced by the universal, originally decided to take it upon itself:  to redeem, to save, to rescue the particular from its finitude, and uniqueness from its scandal.  This task of redemption, however, logically transformed itself into an act of erasure...Rather than salvation, the accidental needs care.  To tell the story that every existence leaves behind itself is perhaps the oldest act of such care.  (p. 53).  Cavarero, following Arendt suggests that the telling of the story’ becomes political where it can unfold  in a scene where uniqueness constitutes itself ‘in relation’ and in which the feminine custom of ‘self-narration’ finds a ‘political scene’, shared and interactive (p. 61).

In re-reading Cavarero (and Arendt) in the weeks prior to travelling here, the coincidences of some ideas catch my attention, the notion of the absolute one as echoed in the title of our project, the need to avoid any notion to  'redeem' and 'save'.  After all the history of colonization of the 'new world' - and definitely of this territory was one of 'salvation' that led to genocide and cultural obliteration (for more on this read Eduardo Subirats El Continente Vacío).  In contrast giving presence is complicated, needing an understanding of what it means to 'share' the realm of the political. In no way do I want to mistakenly lead you to think I am speaking of unbridled chatter through Instagram and Facebook, noise impersonating politics.  The corpus/vox necessities 'care'.  In 'care' we enter the realm of the 'tacit' which is not actually 'silence' (although in musical terms it is related to 'silence').  Tacit is a 'suspension'  so that the senses can prepare to what happens next. Tacit is also connected to 'tacto', to the skinship I wrote about sometime in October this year after meeting the amazing Tadashi Endo.  Tacit is to touch, as we know touch is,  and here Nancy comes in again, : “the very experience of origin as a plural singularity” (Nancy, 1996/2000, p. 13), Mater, matter, absolute one that is by the very formulation of absolute, single and plural, touching and being touched happens simultaneously in the same action, implicated and complicated, body as matter/body as subject within the same gesture. I touch an object matter (skin, bone, it has a temperature, etc) but this matter is aligned to a subject, in touching you as matter I am touching, reaching out to you as subject.  New Materialism, Agential Materiality...give me a break...

How this conceptual background connects and informs the here now... later today, in the second posting,  once I meet the group.

The full writing on Holds no Memory can be accessed at

Post 2: almost 11.00pm
World, meet  Maria, Isolina, Cristina, Brenda, Martha, Guadalupe, Olga, Caitina, Marina, Vicky, Griselda. More about the meeting in tomorrow’s post....letting it all sink in first....


5th November 2019, 11.00am - About last night

Bernard and I welcome the women at BoxoHouse around 5.30pm.  They came in groups, many know each other from the community as well as the local Church.  They are already quite distinct, the younger 40-somethings (yes I decided to be flexible about age...) up to probably 70-somethings.  

Inside there is coffee, tea and cake...

It is Monday the beginning of the working week for them, many have had an early start, so we keep to the schedule and start on time.  We are waiting for one, but she has been on the phone and knows we will start 'slowly' giving her time to arrive without missing out information.

We begin with introductions to my left:  Olga, Vicky, Marina, Cristina, Idolina, Marta, Brenda, Maria- Lupe, Caritina, Griselda.... Guadalupe arrives a few minutes into the introductions. Most have arrived by word of mouth through their network so not all have read the 'Letter of Invite'.

I began by explaining the project. In the earlier part of the afternoon I had been making notes as to what and how to say about the project, mindful of the importance that it is clear that this is a collaboration (and what do I mean by that) and that the focus is on them, not me.  In planning I looked back on my notes on Cavarero.  In conversations with Ioanna Tzartzani (something that she addresses obliquely in her first writing), I am aware that I 'must take care' of the integrity of the methodology, "the accidental needs tell the story that every existence leaves behind is perhaps the oldest act of such care".  The project is about the facilitation (making easier) of their stories, in which the project is just a context, not the aim. I am mindful that in this group, notwithstanding our shared position of 'exiled'/migratory, the fact that I am an 'artist' puts me in a position of privilege and as my father used to say,  the higher the privilege the higher the responsibility.  This is what I referred to as humility in front of their generosity (and courage, let's examine and consider their investment in the success of the project)  to join the project,   "as Arendt teaches us, a unique being is such only in the relation and in the context, of a plurality of others, which likewise unique themselves, are distinguished reciprocally - the one from the other" (Cavarero, p. 43).  Cavarero warns against the "risk of cultural colonization and of instrumental appropriation ..."  which can only be addressed by ensuring that the resulting text remains "understandable"  avoiding the swallowing up  into a 'contemporary form of art' that alienates the story from them.  Me and my methodological consistency, "impossible to distinguish the methodological from the political, seeking to produce a space within which revolution can be thought" (Heyden, 2005, p. 164).

This is where I begin. The aim of the project. It is impossible (nor desirable) to give a full transcript of the meeting, I will focus on the more salient points in relation to methodological and ethical integrity.  It was so great to speak in Spanish. I began by explaining my focus on the stories of women, from Alice, to Family Portraits to Holds no Memory, a way to put forth questions and engage dynamics of female 'identities'.  I presented to them the focus on questions of scale, the relationship between domestic hidden spaces and the 'universal' space of history.  I expanded a little on the idea that it is interesting how as women we invest so much in the work towards nurturing what then transits into the realm of the public.  But somewhere in that transit there is a process of our very disappearance: "this story is not necessarily one that aspires to immortalize itself in the literary empire- but rather the type of story whose tale finds itself at home in the kitchen, during a coffee-break, or perhaps on the train, when even those who do not want to hear are forced to listen.  In the kitchen, on the train, in the corridors of schools and hospitals, sitting up with a pizza or a drink, women are usually the ones who tell life-stories, cornered in weaving rooms, like Penelope, they have since ancient times, woven plots with the thread of storytelling.  They have woven stories , letting them casually tear the metaphor of the textum of professional men of letters...".  A thought that I will continue to unpack enroute to shaping my participation in the conference Decolonizing Dance in Palo Alto, April next year.

From this general explanation of the project, I explained my work specifically in dance and choreography.  I took some time (and demonstrated) that my approach is not one of 'technique' but at looking at layers of the persons' full physicality (including voice) and working with that to create 'portraits' and 'situations'.  The parallel with painting helped, I don't think I could have gone anywhere had I explained this in 'dancerly' ways.  Therefore, I proposed to them the idea of a choreography of the every day, yet abstracted and examined.  I did this by showing how in Lullabyes the gesture of cradling was used, together with the lullaby that my mother used to sing to me, to create the dance.  They quickly connected to this image and began to offer their own examples of what this could be for them.

From this, questions as to how we would work arose. I proposed that it is important to always think of our work as a dialogue, not me doing their portrait (and I suddenly think of Murakami and the portrait painter in Commendatore).  Rather we are working on 'self-portraits' in which the 'audio' could be seen as the frame and the images that we will capture on video, the actual content. Conversations and questions became animated and in full flow. 

I shared with them some of the triggers for this. They volunteered to take notes to 'prepare', we joked that I was giving them homework.  Eleven triggers:  a favourite dance, a favourite song, a description of the country/city left behind, a memory of a perfect moment/or the dream of a perfect moment, the desert, your hands, your eyes, how would you describe yourself...I emphasised that these were triggers and that what will be lovely will be what other things arise out of these first questions.  I restated that the most important thing is that they trust that my role is to give the tools, they are the makers of the portrait (they are the portrait-  John Berger would be proud, G. chapter 9, The Situation of Women in the 19th Century, 'the light refracting on the mirror reveals...'). Smiles across the room.

But..can we work together, someone asked?  I am aware that a 1-2-1 with an artist that you haven't met before can be kind of daunting.  A compromise is reached, we  agreed that they could come in groups (maximum 3) and witness each other's process, but that the material had to be produced in 'solo' as it is a self-portrait.  This 'rule' was a positive rule, to ensure that we have time to reveal the detail, the uniqueness, what is special in each and every one of them. It is agreed.  The singular that needs to be plural in order to be singular, this applied to them as for me working with them.  Dawn (one of the respondent artists) arrives tomorrow, even more case to the point. 

Then it was business, a schedule of devising days has been drawn, we begin working  this coming Thursday 7th all the way until Monday 11th.  I will set the live streaming as I will live stream 11 minutes each day depending on the schedule.  Afterwards, I will work on the composition of the audio/video installation, and my own work 'in the desert'  finding the 'scores' (both audio and movement) from the material devised with them. We agreed that on Monday the 18th we will once again meet, as a group, to see the material and discuss it. It will be a pot-luck-dinner, everyone will bring a dish.  And yes...we can dress up!

Bernard, the only man in the room, laughed.

11.00pm - a bit earlier...
Following from this morning’s somewhat extensive post, the rest of the day was admin...Facebook event out, news releases, more planning...but all at desk, with Jake, the dog, at my feet.

More tomorrow, site experiments with Dawn.

6th November 2019, 11.00am

Reading back I realised there is an aspect of the project missing, a bit of a jump from material to dialogues...but where is exile...

A paradox. Exile is the connecting tissue between material and appearance.

"real female innovation will only come about when maternity
[echoes of Nancy interrupt-mater that is mother, an intimacy parting itself into another intimacy])
female creation and the link between them are better will have understood that I am speaking of the language of exile.  The language of exile muffles a cry, it doesn't ever shout [unless you are Puerto Rican]

...our present age is one of exile.  How can one void sinking into the mire of common sense, if not by becoming a stranger to one's own country, language, sex and identity?  Writing 
 is impossible without some kind of exile.  Exile is already a form of dissidence since it involves uprooting oneself from a family, a culture or a language"
Julia Kristeva, 1977
I think my first recognition of my life in exile took place early in my childhood. The stories told in the kitchen and the beauty parlour in Torrimar where stories that constantly evoked 'other places' from which we 'came', mythical places of milk and honey, where real civilization existed, were exchanged as cakes were baked, nails polished, heads placed under hair dryers... The sense of being 'a part', as well as 'apart' from the world (were real things happened) became a second skin, only now do I realize the extent to which the personal, these childhood feelings constituted small scale inscriptions of the political state of Puerto Rico in the late 1960s.

There is an inherent duality, not usually addressed.  On the one hand there is the well documented 'exile' through migration of those who made the journey into the mainland. However, there is also the more subtle silent  everyday of sense of exile of those within the island of Puerto Rico in a state of 'exile', floating somewhere in the Caribbean, un-rooted, uprooted, invisible to the rest of the world.  That duality makes you feisty and fight-y since young and gives Puerto Ricans their individual as well as national strength but also our weakness,  poet Sonia Sanchez would remind us of the concept of 'double subjectivity'.

I made a foreigner of myself at age six.

One day I resolutely told my Mom I am no longer Ana Rosa (the names of the 'old world'), choosing to be called Annie (the name of the new world), and I wanted to be blonde, and although I had not yet fully learned English, I would speak gibberish with my friends (and sometimes to myself) insisting that this was indeed English. Nobody told me to do this, but the triggers for this existed everywhere in our environment, from the TV with mostly American programs (I loved Bonanza, I dream of Jeannie, El Gran Chaparal!), the directive to learn English from age 6 (and what horror if you did not get rid of your accent) as well as the Argentinian comedies with Milly y Pilly, Palito Ortega and Rocio Durcal.  World, real life, was out there, not in the island. To be of the world was to stop being island.

So,  I decided to run away.

For Christmas I asked for a 'travel set', a set of toy suitcases,  four or five pieces, in all sizes (there is an old Polaroid of this somewhere at home in Athens).  One day I packed some juice and Saltines and put my dolls in the cases (no clothes or anything else) and walked out the front door (to this day I wonder how I could do all this and not be stopped...).  I went round the block of Calle Madrid, a distance that seemed an eternity, it was hot and I was getting thirsty and my hands hurt from trying to carry all the four to five pieces of luggage (to think that I am still doing this)...a  big black dog  in a neighbour's house starting barking.  I decided I had been brave and adventurous enough,  it was time to return home.

The voice of the 'real world' admonishes me:  How dare you speak of such silliness in relation to the ominous subject of exile?

In the essay 'On the Paradigms of Banishment, Displacement and Free Choice', Yana Meerzon differentiates the condition of exile from the related conditions of migration and refugee status, interrelated as they may be.   She reminds us that 'exile' is a 'wide spectrum of possible scenarios' from nomadism, to dislocation, to desire to never return.   The word exile is characterised by the individual subject experience of exile, it has no 'legal status' no social character in contrast to both migration and refuggee status defined 'legally' in recent protocols from the UN to individual nations states.

"Exilic identity rests with the sentiment and practices of the exilic voyage, which often includes the major transformation of the exilic subjects themselves.  Either in the space of one's own life time or within the temporal span of the life of the exilic subject's children...from the clash of cultures to hybridity...the elements of the individual discourse mixed with the narratives of the dominant or adopted culture form the basis of this exilic identity.  The exilic transformation leads to a series of progressions:  the exilic subject's linguistic, cultural and ideological challenges eventually lead to forms of one's personal and professional integration, adaptation and change". (Meerzon, p. 28).

Further light into the complexty of this dynamic explored from a phenomenological perspective can be found in Philosophical and Psychopathological Perspectives n Exile: on time and space experiences (2015) by  Rojas, Nunez and Numez Erices.  The authors bring to the foreground...

This writing will be interrupted and unfinished for a few hrs....Dawn has arrived, we need to go get supplies....

Post 2, 11.00pm. 
First day in the field, experimenting with scale and texture. Dry lake sands, Joshua Tree.
The writing will have to wait until tomorrow morning..


7th November 2019

it is 7.21 am, but it must be 11.21 somewhere in the globe...continuing where I left off...

Further light into the complexity of this dynamic explored from a phenomenological perspective can be found in Philosophical and Psychopathological Perspectives on Exile:  on time and space experiences (2015) by  Rojas, Nuñez and Nuñez Erices.  The authors bring to the foreground an important aspect, exile is a condition without a single name, it is polysemic.  Furthermore, exile is not the condition of being 'expulsed' nor expatriated, exile begins in the limit of 'abandonment', the moment of feeling 'dispossessed' irrespective of the nature of the 'journey' in which 'belongingness is only negation, impossibility" (p. 2).  Significantly,'exile' is an experience of 'space', the movement of leaving a demarcation; who has carried out the movement is located 'outside' of his/her own space or in a different space'.  Exile is a question of 'space' not of ethnography (country).  The leap from one space to another can be in relation to any kind of demarcation, physical as much as psychical.  I do not have to leave a physical territory to find myself in 'exile',  but to find myself 'suspended in the leap' (p. 2). In this consideration of exile, 'country' is not nation, (or not nation only), but merely an original where.  In this way, exile is an 'un-place', which cannot be objectively located and where distances cannot be estimated by their precise magnitude' (p. 3). Un-space brings with it un-time, an experience of time suspended between nostalgia (past) and hope (future).  The dynamics between these two makes of exile an active, not victimised position.  The collapse of this dynamics leads to melancholia, and this is where pathology seeps in... (ahh remember my three directives, no memory, no metaphor, no melancholia)..The authors conclude on a positive note:  exile is ... a condition of possibility, a way of being in the world.. a place that links rather than separarates...

All this offers a context, where I am placed within this, specifically, and therefore where the project comes in as an experiential dimension of these arguments, whether in agreement of these positions or suggesting an alternative, will continue to unfold as the project progresses.  

Today is a full-on day, we are going up to Black Rocks in the morning and at 1.00pm we begin the devising process with Olga, Vicky and Griselda.

Post at 11.00pm (somewhere in the world)
The climb up the rocks is very hard. Hard on the body. Very different terrain to yesterday’s dry lake of soft earth bank. The rocks are porous, just brushing with them can scrape. 

The gravel is deceiving, it is composed of fragments of broken stone, cuts like glass...
The gravel polishes away the traces of yesterday's sand on my 'costume/skin'. 
As if telling me "in this territory there is no yesterday, only today and only if you succeed in this today, will you be able to even consider a tomorrow".
But the climb has its beauty, the quality of light and shadows, heat and cold...the movement is short and contained, otherwise I risk losing balance and falling. I decided to work barefoot, it slowed down my pace, it made me concentrate on every shift and balance of weight..I am cut and scraped. 
As I climbed higher...on top, a beautiful esplanade, harsh light exposed to sun...
To return to on Saturday.  
To return to this place that is not home but feels like a place I could just close my eyes and stay, not the demarcation of 34.1310643,-116.314858,15.25, but this 'place', that is different, inside.

At 1.00pm we welcomed the first women: Olga, Griselda come together. As they step out of the car I see they are not only colour coordinated with each other, but their bright yellow blouses seem to blend in the background of golden sunlight and wheat coloured dry grass.  They both wear flowers in their hair....
Afterwards comes Vicky...stories flow without prompting. Like Damaris Ferrer's post their exile is voluntary, driven by the desire for a better life. They tell of the difficulties of the moment of crossing -rehearsing the story they will tell at the interview at the point of entry, of being robbed by the ‘federal police’, of being left alone with children...- with intensity and humour, there is actually no sadness.  They speak with strength, arms engaged in gestures and movement to shape the time and space of their narrative..of the children they have raised, of the homes they have built, of the work they love as for them, as long as their is work, there is happiness. Home is here AND there.

Griselda tells us how she has taught the children to embroider so that they get to appreciate 'traditional' clothes well made, not the mass produced clothes of the USA. She says the only difficulty was this culture without heart....Olga not only speaks of embroidery but shows us the tablecloth embroidered, not be her but by her husband...who learned to embroider as a way to kill boredom when he was confined to bed due to a brain tumour.  She is very proud of his handiwork. I can’t but enjoy the funny gender twist, the man who loved to embroider...should be a magical realism short story or a scene in an indie film...

Now at the end of the day, I catch up with the respondents posts. I am particularly drawn to Clara’s short but poignant story of how the universe shifted two-feet vertically when as a child she moved from Korea to the USA. I cannot but sympathise with Amber’s honest account of the realisation of the changes brought about by age, a body becoming both familiar and alien, and the constant negotiation, somewhere between acceptance and denial, of carrying pain, not as a metaphor for past events, but the reality of the minutiae of the everyday...all this embroidered (to exhaust the theme of the day) in the fabric of time and space, indivisible from the materials of our singular existence...Niurca speaks of resistance, and I ask what are we resisting, the here or the there? Are we resisting the process of assimilation here that would white wash us into sameness, or is there not also resistance to the precariousness of a life ‘over there’? But perhaps exile is not only polysemic but also fractal, split into a myriad of spaces which we simultaneously inhabit... It is not country I resist, it is not ‘country’ that has made me pack my bags and relocate, it is the forces that enforce the lives of the many to remain ‘unlived’ the Arendtian  sense of the word...very soon there will be no place to exile to...

When I was twelve I was in the Girl Scouts... on the occasion of the Day of the Song (El Dia de la Cancion) our troop was invited to sing in a gathering to honour Elisa Colberg, the founder of the Scouts in PR (there is a photo of her with Queen Elizabeth somewhere in the Museo de Proceres in Cabo Rojo) ...we sang a song that went something g like "...mi casa mi casa es el mundo, lo ando de acá para ya...yo vivo cantando a la vida..."  I was the choir leader...for the length of that kitschy song I lived in perfect blissful harmony with lyrics and melody...if I concentrate a bit harder, I will probably be able to remember the full song.

8th November 2019

11.11 am somewhere in the world 6.11 am Joshua Tree

I will continue to post twice a day, beginning and end, but I must modify the rule, as 11.00am Joshua Tree time has proven impossible as it is, of course, right smack in the middle of the day when I find myself in desert sands and rocky mountains...

It is now 6.11 am, I have just recorded a symphony of coyotes right outside my door, I have yet to see them, jack rabbits zoom by my windows all the time.

Today is a full day of 1-2-1 meetings with Marina, Caitina, Martha, Brenda, Cristina and Idolina...

Audios downloaded, scores are being shaped. Tasks of rule of 11 - for the sake of continuity of the methodology intertwined with simple word tasks taken from the conversation with the women, tasks that are both concrete “falling on hands and knees” as well as poetic “unas mujeres tan lindas...”...

Here is the Symphony of Coyotes at Dawn, best to use headphones.

Post 2 it is 11.24 pm in New Jersey.
Full on day with the women collaborators, can’t string two words together...for this evening’s post, see Facebook....a major cheat, I know....

9th November 2019

It is 11.06 am in Puerto Rico.

I am not quite sure why but since arriving at Joshua Tree I find myself recalling the tale of twelve dancing princesses (eleven plus one- to connect to Ioanna's post), the fairy tale by Brothers Grimm.  Many of you may remember the story of the twelve princesses who disappeared every night, although the doors of the castle were locked.  The proof of their misbehaviour, the twelve pairs of worn out shoes left outside the door. The King (funnily, it is always the King putting the daughters back to order - the queens are always the step mothers- the female perversion within the patriarchal realm), announces a challenge, is there a man out there who can control these girls?  Readers, (to emulate Bronte), I hope you are connecting the dots with me...Well, it transpires that the dancing princesses were running away (beware Freud alert) through a secret gate to an underground castle, where another twelve princes were waiting to dance with them all night. In Conan Doyle's version, the princes are 'shadows' of twelve princes that had failed to fulfil the challenge, in the book they are drawn in 'Japanese' style, ethereal, effeminate figures (I am thinking of Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle-  my first cartoon crush at age 42).  Unfortunately, the King wins, the princesses are brought back to the castle, married off and lived (as Winterson will tell us later on) unhappily ever after. In one tale the twelve underground princes are burned at the gate (a nice twist of the stake).

The tale of the twelve dancing princesses reminds me of an even more gruesome tale, to which it is connected, the tale of Penelope's (here she comes again) twelve maids.  The twelve maids were Penelope's loyal companions, they kept her company while Odysseus was away, they helped her unravel the shroud every night.   Did I forget to mention, they came from the slave caste, so their status as 'loyal companions' is up for discussion.  There is much said about their disloyalty by sleeping with the suitors, but again, the suitors are such an ambiguous lot (after all, they wouldn't be there had Odysseus stayed..) that we can't really put the burden of their crime on this... well of course Odysseus and Telemachus did...on return, as you all well know Odysseus kills the suitors, asks the maids to clean the mess and then sentences them to death for betraying him (not Penelope, of course Penelope's moral status is swallowed up in his, whether she likes it or not).  

What is interesting to distinguish is that whilst the suitors are simply killed off by the sword, Telemachus designs a torturous  way of killing the maids, an 'unclean death', a chord (belonging to the sails of the boat) is tied to a mast and then to the house, and they are strung up, their feet dangling as if dancing, their arms flaying in the wind like birds.  

Fulkerson (2002) discusses the imagery of the birds associated with these 'dancing maids'.  Whilst the tools of torture belong to images of patriarchal territory:  'home' and 'ship' (Odysseus realm), the image of the dying birds are associated to the thrush, a bird sacred to Aphrodite, of female sexuality, of independence.

Stories of exile told yesterday.. many had as a preamble tragedy in the hands of 'the father' --violence, abuse, many spoke of lost childhood, or a childhood that was never had (therefore, it couldn't even be lost), force to grow up by childhood labour (the maids of Penelope), at times imposed by the same family there to protect them, 'home' was not a place that guarded, home was not safety, some were expelled from home by the inhabitants of home.  And later there are stories of violence and cruelty in the hands of husbands and partners and boy friends... there are physical as well as emotional scars.  And we already 'know' this, and we have collectively as a 'humanity'  forgotten to keep giving it importance, as if, because it is always present, it is ironically 'passé', as if it was the common cold that we should have gotten over by now, not worthy of further attention.  But this 'common' situation has a name and a face and is sitting with you and walking the field with you, retelling their story...and you feel you become Medea, Clytemnestra, Antigone, Echo, Sybil, Nereid, Calypso....

M said "now that I am finally alone, I am happy, I have what I never had before, I have been forced to always take care of others, now I must take care of myself, to discover who I am, before it is too late, time to be alone (which is not lonely), in nature, in the sun, seeing the flowers, listening to the birds..."

Today, back to rocks and dry lake.

The preliminary sketch for the installation. I have been referring to it as the eleven + 1 (me) dancing princesses.

Work cited:   Epic Ways of Killing a Woman: Gender and Transgression in "Odyssey" 22.465-72 Laurel Fulkerson, The Classical Journal, Vol. 97, No. 4 (Apr. - May, 2002), pp. 335-350.

Post 2, 9.07pm Joshua Tree, 11.07pm San Antonio.

Amber, I'm with you...

Today I took the women's stories as 'scores' to the two chosen sites, the Black Rocks near BoxoHOSE where I am staying and the dry lake sands at Coyote Lake.  Tomorrow morning I will detail the way in which the women's stories intertwine with mine through both the audio and performance (task) scores...Right now, achy and tired I will offer you some views from the work today, as preview of what it is to come.  All movement material is based on the stories exchanged with the women, transferred to the desert site...methodological consistency throughout...I will elaborate the scores and the costumes tomorrow, promise.

10th November 2019

Breaking rules. Had to rest. But then... I catch up with respondents....Clara, maybe your flute work can be intertwined in the scores for the audio here...

Niurca dirt....(see picture above) sand is not only on beaches (tell that other Ana) but wherever time has broken stone...sands in the basin of a dried lake, transformation...materiality...the materials and the forces that act upon it...