Thursday, 24 January 2019

Sarah Rosenthal : part four

What are you working on?

I’m engaged in an ongoing collaboration with Portland-based poet Valerie Witte. We are researching the work of dancer-choreographers Yvonne Rainer, Simone Forti, and their contemporaries. We had been reading material about Cage and Cunningham’s influence on contemporary art and were struck that Rainer, Forti, and other women who studied early on with Cunningham and used some of Cage’s ideas were less well known, yet made and continue to make significant contributions to the art world. They are innovators who helped redefine what dance can be and do. We wanted to bring greater awareness to these artists and to find out how studying their work and ideas might enrich our own.

The first publication this ongoing project has generated is a chapbook called The Grass Is Greener When the Sun Is Yellow, a series of sonnets interspersed with letters to each other. The letters address the process of constructing the poems and what they mean to us, and branch into discussions of dance, poetics, gender, transgression, the unfolding disaster of the current political scene, and much else, in the associative weave that epistolary form enacts.

The second phase is a series of essays mashing up themes from our research with our own dance experiences. Following in the footsteps of the dancers we’re researching, we allow chance procedures to play a role in shaping the contours of this project.

This collaboration feels especially vital given that we’re both extremely busy with paid work. We feed this project by giving it our time and effort and thinking and imagination; it feeds us by providing a structure in which to continue producing creative work no matter how busy and by providing a forum for experimentation and meaning-making. We get excited about searching for innovative ways to enter each essay, and we take pleasure in our ever-deepening conversation about these artists’ work and its impact on us as well as on the larger culture.

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