Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Training to prepare for performing Fish Story in Memphis

Most of my blog posts here have been about the ideas behind what Fish Story means to me. But I have many  categories of work to complete before I return to Memphis in May. Some I haven't written much about include, the fund raising, the marketing, the thinking, the networking. These are all time-consuming tasks. The "work" of the art work, however, will be a series of performance events, some private and some public. Training to perform that "work" will make the art happen and requires some daunting preparation to be "ready."

What I mean by ready, is ready to sing, row, draw and talk in four discreet events. Each event will be progressively more public. The first of those events will be rowing to the Mississippi via the tributaries while I document fish habitat. The second will combine performing a game with an audience, leading participatory mapping and singing as part of the workshop at Crosstown Arts.  The third will be several days of semi-publically creating an installation of drawings, photographs and other material at the Memphis College of Art. The fourth and final will be a live interactive live webcast with audience.

I take the singing part very seriously and it's often the most difficult part of my training because it requires the most disciplined focus. So no matter how tired or distracted I am, I begin my work day with 15 min of vocalization and then another 15-30 min of work on particular art songs that work the part of my voice I need to concentrate on, for example middle voice transitions this week. Most recently some new Gabriel Faure repertoire. I need to build that up with long sustained melodic passages.

Rowing the Wolf River to document fish habitat is the most intimidating to me. I'm out of shape and need to build my stamina and strength and requires the most willpower to be consistent in my work. I'm preparing for the canoe work by training at a local gym at least 3X per week. So, again, no matter how tired I am, I haul myself North to the Paris Gym above 96th St and lift weights for at least 30 min. Wednesday, I increased my reps and totaled 40 min.

The show goes on no matter how tired I am. This shot after a gym work out, training to row the Wolf River in Memphis
Developing my drawing ideas for the installation is the most fun to prepare for and takes the least effort. But requires me carve time out of my day when it seems like a million other tasks are demanding my attention. I have started by assembling the raw material- translucent Japanese papers, maps, images of fish & fish habitat. Since my tiny apartment in NYC is already cluttered with research to complete my PhD, it is no small feat to perform orderly work and store the results. Readiness for drawing on site means fixing in my mind where the factory farms are, what the habitat looks like, the demographics of the city, the topography .... Today, I started fitting some of the google earth images together and studying paper samples from NY Central Art.

Finally, there is preparing for the webcasts. In some ways, that is both the easiest of all and the hardest because so much can go "wrong" and be out of my control for me to worry about. Besides the tech and people's availability & interest to participate on line, there's whether I can be on top of data, somewhat funny, a little glamourous, responsive and ready to swing with the tides when there are glitches. There will surely be glitches. I prepare by trying to be a rested version of myself, which is sort of like saying I prepare by making my brown eyes blue. I prepare by reading voraciously- not just for my dissertation, tho that will be relevant when the time comes but all sorts of things that help me put conceptual flesh on an exoskeleton of my thinking about why I'm doing all this. I prepare by digesting sorrow and hope about environmental events from the news. I prepare by trying to be warm and friendly and patient with people no matter how stressed I feel so that my empathy and acceptance muscles are exercised.

My basic motivation for these efforts, is to make those four performances a living paradigm, ten-days of enacting responses to the environment in Memphis, in the world, in the age of climate change, in the anthropocene. The paradigm/ parallel is how we must collectively exert ourselves in ridiculously demanding ways to make things happen differently.

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