is here | she. 2015

IS HERE | SHE is a choreographed performance work consisting of three female figures that shift from individually representing themselves to being understood as the same person. Through this method of transference the three female figures come to negotiate who they are not, in order to understand their identity through their own absence.

The loss of self is re-examined through the perspective of the other, influencing how we can change in recognizing ourselves. It is not however an individual undertaking, but is gained by putting several parts together; several people together with the goal of putting ourselves, in this case the female figure, back together.

The work aspires to actively engage audiences at the point where they experience the sensation of being touched, a sensation that motivates a change in their actions and perceptions of themselves and their surroundings. This enables the spectator to become more aware of how we can feel in certain circumstances, which in turn can encourage a compassionate outlook on the choices that inform how others decide to live in this world.

As a choreographer, I try to give form to this fragmented female figure in her attempt to defy an environment that is conspiring to erase her. The constant effort of re-composition within the work motivates an invincible flow that recharges her state of being. The female figure is resistant and steadily negotiates her position amongst an environment that is collapsing before her. How can she hold up the roof of her own house only with her arms or, as it gets heavier, with her back?

She tries to avoid the tumbling elements that cross her path whilst taking care of the peeling wallpaper that exposes her true state. She finally says no, when it is so easy just to say yes. It is this polarity of tension – the push and pull not only between figures but also in their relationship to their environments that I am interested in. My attention is drawn more to getting out of something than being put into something. It is much easier to try to avoid or escape limitations than to confront them.

If the idea of the bystander or onlooker is incorporated into this perceptual frame, how does this third position cause an affect through its own coming into existence? By acknowledging the placement of the bystander and its role in the performance, how does it add to the complexity of perception not only to the unfolding scene before it but also to itself? The figure of the bystander here suggests both the self and other: the seen and unseen representing the interchangeable roles of performer and spectator.

As a choreographer I ask myself how the spectator can be part of this overall experience in performance where one affects another’s way of feeling and sensing. By effectively displacing the spectator, how can I apply choreographic methods that also include the spectator within the context of the performance? How do we become part of the set – this imaginary illusion – and how do we comment on the actuality of the space itself?

I was thinking about how to direct the audience’s experience in an intimate theater space and what would be the most effective way to play with distance. My answer was ‘diagonal perception’ where, by reconfiguring how we could perceive the performance (including light, sound, set and performers) I could make relationships with the spectator that are cohesive with the contextual themes in the actual work. This brought me to focus on the experience of watching.

I wanted to focus on this experience of watching to introduce the themes of visibility and invisibility that I am working with in terms of being seen or unseen – heard or unheard. Who is the watcher and who is the one being watched? I am suggesting that these roles are never absolute but interchangeable, and I question how these roles are determined?

I am interested in how choices are made in what we choose to watch and, once that choice is made, how does that affect the other in the frame of watching? How do the actions of an individual alter when we sense we are being watched; and how does that shift when one is not watched? I hope that we would arrive at an acknowledgment of seeing another, where both participants make an accord with the eyes, agreeing with the phenomenology of the encounter: that if I see another, I could better see my own self.

So by watching another, how does the performer or spectator embody an identity that may or may not be his or her own? I am interested in working with this concept, where I can introduce the idea of the double self in terms of how we see similarities and traits that are absent in ourselves and others. By the act of watching, how can we create focus and importance on what we are looking at? How do we become distracted or loose interest? And how do we gain back another’s attention?

By incorporating a TV monitor in the performance I suggest how the role of such an object plays a significant part of how we perceive and understand the social. How does a live performance (much like a TV) manipulate the viewer – censoring information and images, which begin to form an identity of the self? How do we develop forms of knowledge through the repetition of actions and words? I suggest that we could see both the dangers and benefits of such a method.

The TV, much like the relationship between the spectator and performer, initiates an exchange with the one who watches. How does watching too much make us see less because of the overloaded repetition of sameness? How do we reactivate our experience by flipping our position? Maybe rather than stripping down to nakedness – an already accepted sameness, we come into being through disguise – an invisibility that goes beyond appearances but rather is found within, as Gilles Deleuze would call a ‘clothed repetition.’

How could the watching participant dive into the TV, into the future, to change what everyone is watching? This action would encourage a reciprocal relationship and recommend that if we are watching, we are also listening – ready with intention and an active state that has the possibility to shift conditions of power and control.

This attentiveness I would like to call the notion of a ‘dedicated body,’ particularly identified through the female figure. This body is never alone but is in constant relation – it is a caring body that precisely knows the moments to express something. It is a thoughtful process, where participants can instantly connect and make decisions, justifying their actions and articulating their reasons for doing so. It is a compassionate practice, which creates a culture of people who become aware of how their actions affect others who share the same space. It is a new way to perceive altruism where by acknowledging and not avoiding the self in loss, we can better understand the needs and feelings of others.

A dedicated body becomes a monstrous body in the sense that an individual is a constant reconfiguration of self through gaining fragments of the other – one is the mother, sister, friend, and bystander all at once.

I would like to conclude with the vulnerable state of a dedicated body while in the middle of an action. She goes in and out of our perception. We see her and then forget her, but she is still there. She blurs what we think we know and comes out from the darkness to remind us of the insecurity of such certainty. If we look really hard at nothing, can one see something, or is it even possible – everything? How can all these fragments come together to make an idea complete, and when that idea comes to the tipping point of completion does it start to disappear inside itself again?

The act of this unfolding expresses the vulnerable states of existence. These states are exposed because they are constantly moving in and out of a relational context. I want to understand where visibility and invisibility meet. I know it is somewhere in the middle. I cannot pinpoint the exact place and time, but the encounter unexpectedly happens and then leaves. I try to create conditions for such instances to occur more frequently, rather than focusing on its extreme opposite sides. It is in this clash, that we wake up from a dream and get out of bed.

This disturbance repeats itself, if we are lucky. These opposing events reoccur throughout the day. When we ponder the course of such a vibrant day back in bed before sleep, it is these ruptures that point to memorable references rather than the habits one repeats and then often forgets because of the monotonous nature of such acts. I rather encourage cultivating these ‘wake-up calls’ in such experiences in the hope that we can become more resonant through their existence.

is here | she (TV Excerpt). 2015

This is a performance video that was created during my research process in making my work, IS HERE | SHE. It was during this time that I was experimenting with how to juxtapose the movement and text within a composition while also incorporating concepts of shadows and ways of watching within the work. This footage was later played on the TVs that were part of the set in the performance work, IS HERE | SHE. The original video footage is by Istanbulian artist, Özlem Şen.

An Affirming Hold. 2015

AN AFFIRMING HOLD is a performance work that focuses on the female figure slowed down in time—creating an illusion of an ‘hold’ or the act of ‘holding,’ as she negotiates her multiple self within specific positions. By framing the female figure within specific viewpoints and proximities to the spectator, the work becomes situational as the female figure experiences the psychological and physical states while in pursuit of an ‘hold.’ It is in the concept of an ‘hold’ both in a body’s physical capacity and how to conceptually present the action of holding to a spectator within a choreography, that I am interested in.

How does the female body hold herself? At what point does this holding cause the female body to tremble? How does the hold resist or stop an action?

What is the fine line of an holding— does the hold control the female body? Does it ease the female body? Or is it the female body taming the hold?

What can a person hold on to? A memory? A chair? A person’s attention? Does the precarious or unsettled female body grip tightly to find some stability? Don’t we all? When is the female figure in control of her own body? Does her ability to control her own image change within a given context?

If the female figure positions herself to be distant, how does that negotiate the viewer’s perception? What is it like to view the female figure at a distance or in partial view? By her distance or partialness does this ‘hold’ the viewer’s focus within an anticipation?

Choreographically, the work plays with duration and positioning of the female figures in relationship to the viewer as these elements shift the configurations of who and how one is perceived. This shifting plays on the meanings of who is watching who. How does someone transfer what is not seen to another? And how does an interpretation get translated to another? How does this communication often become confused, unfixed or diluted? This work aims to give agency to the female figure to rearrange her being, in order to re-contextualize the notions of how the viewer perceives her within a given space.

Note: The text above was written by the Artist. No modification was made by C.O.C.A.

Meredith Glisson

United States

Meredith Glisson is a performing artist and educator living in New York City. Her work acknowledges the body as it confronts itself within situations in order to have the opportunity to renegotiate a new found position. In the 2017 Aesthetica Anthology Magazine included Meredith’s work as 1 of 100 leading artists from around the world in its guide to international contemporary art. Her work has been presented in art galleries and theater spaces in the USA, France and the UK. Meredith received her MFA degree with a focus in choreography, performance practices, and dramaturgy at Falmouth University in the UK partnering with the HZT in Berlin and the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Zagreb. She also holds degrees from CCN-Maguy Marin in France and Hollins University in the USA.

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