CONCLUSION - THE TOOLBOX (12:21)
In this episode, we’ll reflect back on what we’ve heard so far. Are these tools for artists, makers and performers only? How are cultural institutions putting these techniques into practice? What about young emerging professionals? These are only four of the many tools in Lerman’s practice. How might they find a way into what you do?
ONE BIG CREATIVE CHALLENGE
There’s no creative challenge for this episode, other than a request for honest feedback. Can’t wait to read and hear what’s rattling around in your mind.
GEORGE CISCLE Liz is very unique in that regard—she is someone who is very much open and informed by the collaboration of these other people and creative individuals.
KAREN STULTS In very early interactions with Liz it was just so clear to me that she has such a presence and such a awareness. And she is so tuned in to the person that she is listening to or speaking with at any given point in time. And she has this beautiful way of navigating a conversation where you leave the conversation feeling enriched. And you are like, I'm not even sure what just happened there.
KIRSTEN WALSH Welcome back! My name is Kirsten Walsh, and this is Podcast on Process. We’ve found ourselves at the final episode of this inaugural series. The 5 previous episodes have explored the work and working tools of choreographer Liz Lerman. My hope with this episode is to take a peek back at the series and consider possible outcomes.
So, are you someone who reads the last line of a book first? If yes, then its likely that you’ve picked this episode as your introduction. But I highly encourage you to go back and pick another episode, in any order! Podcasts on Process was designed in two ways, either as a full narrative, or episode by episode, tool by tool. And once you are finished, take a moment and look at my partners websites. This series was generously supported by two amazing institutions: The Contemporary and second, MICA’s MFA in Curatorial Practice program.
We’ve had the pleasure of hearing from more than a dozen additional artists and scholars, in 5 episodes. So let’s quickly recap! In the "Icebreaker" episode, we heard about just a few of the many projects Liz has created in her career: the dance performances, but also her published writing, and the development of her toolbox.
LIZ LERMAN I had become interested in the fact that I could think about something and make it happen, or chance could knock me on the head, and then I would think about it and something would happen. And so, it is not untrue, that it's not a sort of "bumbliness". Maybe in time I came up with other ways of expressing that: casting a wide net, and see what you catch and working from that. But also, and this is even much later, my ability to pay attention so that one thing led to another. I might have been bumping in corner and ended up away somewhere else. And finding the journey interesting, but also finding the thing at the end really valuable.
In the following four episodes, each focused in on one tool from that kit to further explore. The episodes' general structure considered the spheres of influence out from Liz’s practice.
For example in the first episode on “Collaboration”, we hear from Liz about her collaborative method as “agitator, instigator, and synthesizer”, followed by David Reynoso, a designer for Liz’s most recent large-scale production, Healing Wars. David spoke to his direct experience being involved in that team. And finally we listen to Curatorial Practice Director George Ciscle, who’s teaching philosophy is rooted in collaborative making.
The subsequent episodes, after "Collaboration" considered the questions: Who gets to make? What are the many forms of documentation? And finally what can good feedback look like? Along the way, hearing from each guest highlighted the spectrum that any one of these tools can exist along.
JOHN BORSTEL Outside of the box doesn't do it justice, because often she's in the box. She know how to function in a box and then she know how to throw the box away.
KIRSTEN The Dance Exchange, which Liz founded in 1976 and directed until 2011, hosts the Dance Exchange Toolbox. This online kit was the beginning of Liz’s living library. A resource designed for dancers, makers and producers of all kinds. You’ll find essay here with titles like: "The Art of the Question", and "Walking the Thin Border: Some Thoughts on Art and Faith". You'll also find tools like "Walk and Talk" -- where users are lead through the activities step-by-step, with the tool’s possible applications, with additional footnotes or thoughts.
The future and evolution of this toolbox is with the Imaging Research Center at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. After decades of work developing these tools, there are still many more to be compiled from Liz. And with the support from the IRC and their research fellows, this public resource will find a new and interactive home.
ONE BIG CREATIVE CHALLENGE
KIRSTEN When I began working with Liz and The Contemporary, I searched for organizations to help me better understand what the role of a performing arts or performance art curator can be. Many of my burning questions were answered by Wesleyan University’s Curatorial Practice in Performance program, and their Center for the Arts Director Pamela Tatge. The university has been an ardent supporter Liz’s research and development. One partnership between Liz and the university is a project called Science Choreography. In my conversation with Pamela about this project, she summarized so beautifully the relationship between curator, artist and community.
PAMELA TATGE What I learned was how to engaged others in the curatorial process. In other words, the work wasn't even made, so how could I engage the needs of other people in my community in the making of that work. That's back when we commission that work—how could they partner in that process and thereby get to know and therefore understand the ideas that the artist was producing? As opposed to the idea of commissioning the work, where the person goes away, and brings it back.
And the other was looking to other for the curatorial impulse. It was really the scientists who told me where the next phase of the work with Liz should go. And in fact, it was owned by them. It was no longer owned by me. I helped facilitate it, I continued to do the contracting, I was an advisor to the project, but they went off on their own. And then realizing that is a good thing. I think there is so much the cult of the curator, where the curator is the be-all and end-all. And it's very hierarchical. And if you've worked with Liz, you know that wonderful gesture of the horizontal. So that is really a significant way that she has impacted my work and the work of so many people here at Wesleyan.
We can invite artists to not only teach a course on their practice, but we can invite artists to research their work using our faculty and students as their laboratory. So why is it that scientists are able to be given labs to develop new knowledge? How can we use the academy to help artists create work?
KIRSTEN In each of these episodes, I’ve asked for listeners to respond to a “creative challenge”. The first challenge was the question: what are the tools of your creative practice? And Podcast on Process was the equivalent of one enormous “creative challenge” for me. I chose four of Liz Lerman’s tools further investigation because they were the ones rising to the surface in my own practice as a curator. So now, in all fairness, it seems like I need to answer a question, a creative challenge. The big question: how are these tools becoming a part of my creative practice?
As I start trekking down this professional path, I want to be a platform—for voices. authentic experiences, and for, as Liz would say, embodying the horizontal. Each episode, I hope, is an example of that. We’ve had the opportunity to hear from more than a dozen artists and scholars. And they’ve shown the many methods and modes for each of these tools.
I hope this podcast series is an extension of the tools already developed and in active practice by Liz. But this is also the starting point of my own recorded and archived toolbox. If I have learned anything from my time with Liz Lerman, it is that work is never a finalized or perfected. But each act of making is a living, breathing document. Work that will follow, frustrated and drive you.
KIRSTEN Podcasts on Process is a type of synthesis—here we are examining the work of other makers.
This act is precious and is one of the many hats a curator wears. But just as important, is the examination and re-interpretation of my own practice. In the episode “Documentation” I quote Liz saying: “I am interested in how we observe our processes, discern them as repeatable actions, develop them to become tools for others to borrow and make their own.”
At the core of this series is that very concept. And it is now what I now understand is at the heart of what a thoughtful contemporary curator, and an engaged citizen, must do.
KIRSTEN There’s no creative challenge for this episode, other than my request to listeners for honest feedback. On the response page of the website, podcastsonprocess.com, you can find all of the different ways to contribute your thoughts, impressions, suggestions and musings. Can’t wait to read and hear what’s rattling around in your mind.
The thank yous for this episode need to start with Liz Lerman. Here’s an artist who without hesitation opened her practice and personal life to a student curator for examination and investigation. She is gracious beyond measure, so thank you Liz. You’ve deeply enlightened my work as a curator and maker. And as always, thank you to my mentors at The Contemporary and in MICA’s MFA in Curatorial Practice program. Thank you to Ruby Fulton, the band Nudie Suits for the original music, and to Estelle Kline and Sean Tubbs, for giving life to this series as my sound engineers. And of course, thank you to my classmates and my family for their support.
Please keep visiting the website, even after you’ve listened to every episode. I hope this archive remains a living resource for practitioners of all kinds.