Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Not Research, But MeSearch

        I am on Level D in U. C. Berkeley’s main library. This is where the art books are kept. I reach into the backpack I use for book runs, but the notebook with the title and call number of the book I want isn’t there. I’ve left it at home in my purse.  OK, I’ll look it up on Oskicat, the online resource.  But what’s the artist’s name? I can’t remember. One of my favorite living artists, gone!  Now what? Do a search under contemporary German artists? Ah, at least I remember where he’s from. But that search might take forever. The name Hundertwasser keeps repeating in my head but it’s not him. My artist is alive and German, and Hunderwasser is Austrian and dead. Then suddenly it comes to me - Anselm Kiefer!! Yes! Except that I’ve just said Yes! out loud in a study area and 5 students look up at the crazy lady. I pantomine an apology that may or may not translate across cultures.

     I start a title search, don’t rem -ember the title, change to an author search, and start down the long list of books by and about this prolific artist, till I recognize the one I want. But I don’t have a pen to write down the long call number. I will have to ask the least forbidding, least intently focused of the students to borrow pen or pencil. The one

I choose looks at me as though I’d asked for her colorful earflap hat, or her laptop - or something antique, like a quill. She finally fishes a pen out of her backpack. I realize I don’t have any paper either, and I can’t bring myself to ask for anything else. Ah, but I do have gum! I can take out a piece, and write on the white side of the wrapper. I do that, return the pen, and find the book, blessing John Dewey and a lifetime of libraries for making this part easy. I take the elevator back up to the exit level. I did remember to bring my library card. I can check out my book. Victory is mine.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Collaboration, Occupation & The RSVP Cycle

           Finally finished! The art Bill and I collaborated on for 5 months is now up on the wall. His art, my poetry, and artistic decisions made by both. Though we each create independently, we learned so much from collaboration, that we couldn't working on our own,  How to blend, without diluting. How to speak up for what doesn't work in a loving, non-alienating way. How to assist and take direction from each other. How to work with new processes (beeswax!) in a really patient way that respects that one of us is faster than the other. How we are both gentled and transformed by the process.
     It is almost too obvious to write of our highly competitive global economy, and how that com- petitive spirit trickles down to our relations with one another: Who has the best and latest? How even an art form as remote from popular culture as poetry can become a competition for prizes and positions - trophies on a mantle, as one poet wrote.

           I’m very interested in collaborative models, and  I turned to one called the RSVP Cycle, created by Lawrence Halperin in the 1960s. I have written about the Halperins before - Lawrence, the legendary landscape architect,  and his wife and collaborator Anna, my 91 year old equally legendary dance teacher.        
       The RSVP cycle was a way to make the process of design and the choreography of a performance less autocratic, and more inclusive of those involved - the clients, community and dancers. I think it is adaptable to many other activities as well.
      R is for resources, “both human and material.” The question is what’s available? For example, what is available to the Occupy movement? Computers, internet, Twitter, cell phones, open space, human ingenuity, and common concerns. If you can’t use amplifiers, the combined force of the human voice repeating the words of the speakers creates community as well as amplification. The intangible must be continually addressed:  What are the objectives?          
Larry Halperin at his completed Levi Plaza in San Francisco
       S is for Score, and the focus is on “design, participation, events and activities.” As a choreographer, Anna tells her dancers what she wants them to achieve; the vision she has - but not how to achieve it. The dance itself arises from the internal and group process of the dancers. Adbusters, the Canadian group that first put out a call for activity like the Occupation, did not specify content or process. The Assembly of the Occupation, which meets daily, decides issues.
      V is for Valuaction. People’s feelings and belief systems must be incorporated into the process. The needs and desires of the clients,  community or dancers, must be part of the process and the decision making process itself, must “respect, acknowledge, and incorporate these values”. We can see this operating in the Occupy movement.            
    P is for Performance. The result of R, S & V is the product, and how it evolves over time. If we think of the cycle as a problem to be solved, the solution should be organic and “non-static,” and defined by those who use it, experience it, and appreciate it.
    Despite the highly competitive global economy, I pray for more and more collaboration on so many levels - it is our key to survival on this planet.

   All quotations from the web site Bridge Over the Abyss