Moving with Pause 2021 iLAND Retreat, May/June 2021
Participants engaged in-person or virtually (Puerto Rico, Berlin, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Utah, Brooklyn) and included: Alejandra Martorell, Alex Viteri Arturo, Betsy Brandt, Carolyn Hall, Catalina Hernandez, Elliott Maltby, Iki Nakagawa, Jah Elyse Sayers, Javier Cardona, Jennifer Monson, Jonathan González, Karen Langevin, Lanxing Fu, Magdalena Novoa Echaurren, ocean williams, Sebastián Pérez, Simone Johnson, and Temis Taylor.
What does this writing do?
It documents the experience.
No, that’s not right.
It attends to the experience and attempts to re-walk the memories of its paths. This is not an archive, and it is not documentation, but it makes use of these practices. It is unreliable, suspended between multiple voices and tenses. It is now two months later, August 2021. The mosquito populations are surging. The days have been hotter, and we’ve let some standing water sit undisturbed. Operating now from states of stagnation (or convalescence), we attempt to locate the utility of the experience while resisting the expectation to present this writing as culminating product, performance, or content.
Jennifer: “How do you feed with others, without feeding on others?”
The retreat begins with a relatively open-ended set of questions distributed to each artist.
No, that’s not right.
The retreat began with the brainstorming of capacities, invites, and aspirations. How can iLAND support artists? These artists? At this moment? How can we frame responsiveness across multiple registers of pandemic, racism, violence, and climate change? How do we make use of dance and its capacities to actuate interstitial spaces between ecological systems? How do we work within institutional containers and funding models without demanding measurable outcomes?
As a noun, “retreat” suggests rest and recuperation in a time/place different from norms. As a verb, there is action and movement. From the very moment that one begins to back away, one is in retreat. The act of retreating acknowledges past and present, there and here, then and now and next.
Score: Sensing Here, Moving Beyond (by Magda, Simone, Jah, Elliot)
2 minutes: free writing
10 minutes: listening to sounds, taking note of the breaches, feeling here and sensing beyond
10 minutes: assessing and mapping crossing your own borders and limits.
Notice the porosity of the space you’re in
What gets in, what gets out?
Light, sounds, smells, air, life
Note possible lines of flight
Note possible points of reaching out, reaching beyond
Do not be bound by the need to capture or understand, retain, rub against the mystery
5 minutes: writing identify your limits, imagine the world beyond
As invitations were made and accepted, questions were sent to the group. They included prompts like “what is framing your curiosity now?” and “what kind of space are you looking for?” – questions to gauge interest and focus for the subsequent gatherings and conversations.
But there were also questions oriented towards involvement, scale, capacities.
[What does rest look like?]
“…water (moving or still) in view, and I can touch it.” (Lani)
“…or sleeping, definitely sleep.” (ocean)
“…fallow time.” (Jonathan)
[What part of your process feels like habit?]
“…feeling the immediacy of having to respond to this world…” (Magda)
“Taking time.” (Iki)
“I’m actually trying to create habits…” (Simone)
“Finding myself at a loss for words. Losing myself in that loss.” (Jah)
We met together, via Zoom. We started with introductions.
No, that’s not right.
We started by “moving with pause.” For some, there were impulses toward movement. For some, a snack, a quick dog walk, or stillness. The technological scaffolding compounded our options. Should I keep my camera on, or turn it off? Should I mute myself? While “moving with pause” on the first day, Jah blends essential oils to repel the mosquitos that are buzzing around their hammock. Temis turns off her camera. Alejandra lies on the floor.
There is contradiction at the center of the score. Is moving with pause possible? Is the tension of the paradox useful? What does a practice look like that is both irreconcilable and suggests stillness? How are we expected to grapple with impossibility while doing…nothing? The score, which we repeat throughout the retreat, becomes more than a reset practice or group calibration. It provides a refrain of deviation from existing courses. One cannot pause without some kind of “not-pause” that precedes and follows. “Moving with pause” is not just an act of tenderness, but of urgent change—change that is needed to survive.
Alex: “These days, down the streets of many Colombian cities, people are screaming: ‘A Parar Para Avanzar, Viva el Paro Nacional.’ Their cry makes me think about our work and last discussions. A pause choreographed by a collectivity that’s had enough of the country’s corruption.”
Score: Moving with Pause
10 minutes: Move with pause, whatever that means to you.
5 minutes: Free write.
5 minutes: Share and discuss.
Then, we share introductions, names, pronouns, locations, and contexts. Where are we? But also, where are we “of” and who else is of these places? Some address specific indigenous legacies and acknowledgements. Others share whether their spaces are owned or borrowed, private or shared. Betsy mentions that the Mississippi River is flowing one mile away, currently 16 feet below flood stage. Jonathan silently adds a fisheye lens to their camera. Later in the retreat, Jah shares the story of a Zoom that opened with a material land acknowledgement, a declaration of recognizing where the toxic heavy metals inside of our computers come from and how long they will take to decay.
Score: Location Description
Each person takes one minute to describe their space in whatever terms they choose.
20 minutes: In pairs or trios, connect via Zoom or FaceTime and move through your space while trying to remember and imagine the space(s) of your partner(s). Bring your device with you. Record or take screen shots, if possible.
10 minutes: Share documentation and discuss.
Then, we talked about mosquitos.
No, that’s not right.
We “tried on” some pre-existing iLand scores, calibrating around existing methodologies and practices. Subsequent conversations circle us back to the pre-retreat questions, and we collectively identify key words and phrases upon which to build new scores.
Reaching out, reaching across
Then, mosquitoes. Each group gathers to co-write a score that is somehow inflected by the specificity of the mosquito as well as these words. One group collapses the idea of trespass with time travel, crossing boundaries with both spatial and temporal risk or unease. Another group anchors itself inside more overtly mosquito-like practices–buzzing, landing, carrying. Another looks for breaches, places of penetrability. Another focuses on an attempt to reconcile the “here and now” while mapping and imagining times and spaces beyond limits and edges.
m o s q u i t o, divided into six parts.
m o s q u i t o, part 1:
irritation and response
The mosquito may be an unwelcome neighbor. Our instinct may be to swat. The annoyance triggers action, which triggers protection. There may even be satisfaction, sensuality, in the squelching of the irritant. Anticoagulants and proteins from the mosquito’s saliva irritate the skin when bitten. The immune system is triggered. Histamine releases, rushing white blood cells to the area. We swell.
During the retreat, ocean talks about making peace with the bugs that they live with. “I realized how vulnerable they are, and it allowed me to be vulnerable with them as well.” While camping in July, Jennifer thinks about how sharing her blood with mosquitos may, in turn, feed birds, bats, and amphibians. As Betsy writes this sentence on a humid afternoon in August, she is being bitten three times in quick succession. If the mosquito demands disturbance, how can we respond?
Jennifer: “I can’t relax. The itch seems unbearable. I run, I try to make wind, find wind, find water. They aren’t so bad when we are standing in the water… Is my body protecting me? Or keeping me from being able to sit with the ecology of this place? Preservation of the self may not equate to preservation of the place.”
How does this relate to dancing, to choreography, to the idea of “moving with pause”? Jennifer stands in a river, her feet uncomfortable on the uneven stones, and moves through a score of irritation.
Score: Drop and Fold, With and Against
Register the impulse to pull away.
Take time to let the weight drop, let the stones fold around the tissue and bones of the feet.
Find equilibrium before the next step.
Slow way down, moving with the direction of the current but against the speed of the flow.
Notice how the relationship to surface changed.
m o s q u i t o, part 2:
buzzing and humming
Making sound and hearing sound. Mosquitoes are near your ears, flustered and flying. Attracted to carbon dioxide, they near our exhaling mouth and nose, bringing them closer to our ears. Different frequencies, 450 to 500 hertz. Wings might be beating 500 times per second. Vibrations help navigate through the thick summer air. Short wing flaps, combined with a swiveling motion that moves the wings back and forth, create pockets of air from which to launch. The sound has material density.
Score: Mosquito/Migration/Displacement (by Iki, Lani, Sebi, Cata, Jennifer)
Stand 6 feet apart from one another
Close your eyes
When you feel a presence of another body, slowly start humming
Listen to the sound you are making
Listen to the sound someone else is making
Keep producing sound as if you are flying with someone else
Play with the physical and tonal difference between someone else
Keep breathing in between
If and when you feel vibration, let the sound enter your body
m o s q u i t o, part 3:
land and landing
The mosquito lands. “Land”—something to eat, somewhere to sleep, somewhere to grow. “To land”—to settle, to disrupt, to arrive, to step, to pause, to become still. To transition from moving to sensing.
Scores for Landing:
Hover and glide through warm air as it meets cold. Be curious and dazzled
Let your feet down, your tongue in.
Steady the whir of your wings and halteres, quiet the hum.
Locate a thought, a connection, a breeze. A whiff of what you think you might need to know at some future point.
m o s q u i t o, part 4
trespass and breach
How do we register the breach? It is a light, but complex, act of trespassing. A liplike sheath scrolls upward, and six needles go in. Two for sawing, two for holding the tissue apart, one to pierce the blood vessel, and a sixth that drips saliva that keeps our blood flowing.
Cross the boundary.
Hold the space.
Puncture and extract.
Hold the time, for however is necessary or possible.
Is it a breach or a becoming? The mosquito prefers the dusk to the dark.
Score: Reaching Into Trespass (by Betsy, Jonathan, Temis, Carolyn, ocean)
A. Prepare For Time Travel in a Space of No Trespass
(Suggested Tools for Time Travel: Be intentional about your safety. What do you need to be aware of in this space? What knowledge do you already know? What knowledge needs to be acknowledged, or gained?)
B. Enter the Zone
(Allow for a Light Trespass. What makes this different? Be sensitive to the temporalities. Assume more than you can see.)
C. Refer to what was learned
(How does this travel coalesce into a set of experiences you can share with others? Create a document of care.)
The time travel component of the score asks that we consider the plurality of our spaces along with the plurality of our temporalities. Each place is many places. Each time is many times. As Carolyn creates her document of care, she recounts how sound shakes the temporal plane—a helicopter transports the trespasser to June 2020 protests, a sneeze brings her back to the present. She holds stacked layers of sound and place.
m o s q u i t o, part 5:
carrying and empachao
This carrying, after feeding, is not an act of nurturing. Swollen. Stuffed. Empachao. Teetering on the brink of rupture. Gorging on sensation. There is a relationship between heat and fullness. The humid air of the late summer is particularly heavy, full, thick, and saturated.
Score: Empachao (by Karen, Alex, Javier, Alejandra)
Like a mosquito, after landing on a warm, alive body full of blood in constant flow, “pause.”
Or better said, “move with pause.” In other words, linger there for a time.
Walk that living landscape we identify as skin.
With all your legs, walk the vast surface on which you have arrived.
Sense the breath, the odors, the movements of the body you have paused on.
Detect the movement of air that traverses between you and the skin you are moving on with pause.
Find an ideal or desired place.
When needed, interrupt any of your actions, pause.
Pierce the skin of that person, animal, or thing that with pause you have landed on.
Suck out the precious fluids stored under this vast, rich, and moving landscape.
m o s q u i t o, part 6:
disease and imbalance
Toxicity can be defined as disproportionate chemicals and compounds that threaten biodiversity and reproductive capacities. Something is off.
An “out-of-control” mosquito population increases the possibilities of an epidemic. Zika, West Nile, Dengue, others. The Aedes genus was originally found in tropical and subtropical zones, but now populate all continents except Antarctica. They bite both in the day and at night. Excess is perceived as threat. The mosquitos cruise, moving without linear intentionality. Their ecstatic gorging, the sensuality of their wandering, threatens notions of containment and prophylactic control. This proliferation, this promiscuity, feels resonant amidst a global pandemic. As we are asking ourselves whether to “fix” COVID-19 or “learn to live with it,” are we re-defining the disease as newly non-toxic?
Human responses perpetuate other toxicities, other threats. In the name of human comfort, destructive actions are severed from the acknowledgment of their imprints. Relational fields are distorted.
Jennifer: “I watch them put on DEET and then get in the river. The toxicity takes my breath away. It is shadowed by some sweet chemical smell.”
Concluding Frames, part 1:
digital divides and fragmented collectivity
What does it mean to “make work” in the summer of 2021? To gather? To attempt to assemble collectivity? To confront the actuality of virtual space and the virtuality of actual space?
The distance between retreat participants sometimes feels like ease, safety, convenience. At other times, it creates a zone for individual annoyances or fantasies to expand unchecked, unnoticed, and uncalibrated by group experience. While some participants eagerly long for shared space and shared experience, others do not. The unresolved tension between gathering and staying apart rhymes, again, with themes of impossibility and resistance.
As a means of coping with the digital disconnects, Cata and Jennifer explore ways of carrying each other by literally placing the phone/camera on a body part while moving through a space, generating blurred manifestations of authorship and perspective. The strategy becomes a new layer that can be added to the other scores.
Jennifer: “Care converges with friction and pressurizes our possibilities.
I don’t quite know yet what has been offered, but I roll it under my tongue.”
Concluding Frames, part 2:
endings and improvisations
For our penultimate gathering, members of the public join our Zoom to explore and share scores. Clearly a “virtual event,” there is a familiar cadence to the evening. Solitary togetherness.
The next day’s event is less decipherable. A critical mass of the group gathers in Marsha P. Johnson State Park, while others participate virtually. Those of us who join online hold to the peripheries of the event, the technological interface inevitably failing to track the complexities and scale of the space.
The park is crowded and unpredictable, full of its own agency. With live audience members present, the performance slips in and out of other dynamics—recognitions, reunions, celebrations, distractions.
Adaptation and improvisation in this space are not luxuries, but necessities. Like the response to a mosquito, irritation offers choices—cope, adapt, or leave. As we search for balance and a sustainable ecosystem, we sometimes offer up our blood, sometimes fight back, and sometimes leave.
Concluding Frames, part 3:
documents of care
Throughout the retreat, participants contribute to a shared online folder. It quickly sprawls into an enigmatic landscape of photos, writing, video, sound recordings, experiments, collages, and albums. It also contains collectively built reading lists, event calendars, and other documents of “use” for the group.
The final instruction of one score is to “create a document of care.” It is a call to find usefulness in the experience for the purpose of sharing it with others. It is not a performance or a product, but an act of caretaking the present and preparing for a future. For some, that means producing a carefully curated collection of images. Others wrote of precautionary contexts—what would I want the reader to know in order to stay safe in these spaces?
This “document of care” documents the experience.
No, that’s not right.
This “document of care” attends to the experience and attempts to re-walk the memories of its paths. It is unreliable, suspended between multiple voices and tenses. It is now three months later, September 2021, and the mosquito numbers are rising again after last week’s rains.