For my History of Arts and Technology lab, we created and performed exciting group improvisations in the span of just two hours. To prepare, Professor Nadav Assor told us to bring one to three things to class that we thought might be useful in a group improvisation session. He asked us to post what we were going to bring to Moodle, a website used in many classes to foster dialogue outside of class time, so that we could see what everyone was planning to work with. The section on Moodle included some videos with examples of improvisational systems, but even after watching these I wasn’t quite sure about the exact nature of the exercise. After looking through others’ posts, I noticed that my classmates collections of objects tended to include at least one or two things that a person can easily perform with, along with something completely random. Imitating them, I decided to bring my clarinet, sheet music for Willson Osborne’s “Rhapsody for Clarinet” and an Amtrak timetable.
When we got to class, Professor Assor accompanied by Professor Shawn Hove of the Dance Department announced that we were going to create “Happenings.” The word happening is defined as “an event or occurrence.” It is also a branch of performance art that has existed since the 1950s. Performance art happenings follow certain rules or scripts while leaving room for performers to improvise. Professor Assor told us to split into groups and use an hour of class time to devise a five-minute Happening with a live performance element to share with our peers. It was a daunting challenge that he threw at us, and I could feel the tension in the room as everyone got into brainstorming with their eyes on the clock.
With only two minutes off the clock, my group had absolutely no idea what we were going to do, so I looked at my timetable, and realized that in about ten minutes a train would arrive at Union Station in downtown New London. I suggested we go outside and see if we could hear it (you can sometimes hear train and ferry horns from campus, because we are only a couple of miles from a transportation hub). As it turned out, we did not hear the train or the ferry, but going outside was a catalyst for the performance we devised. We decided to film a video that featured me playing the Rhapsody, another student performing some dance moves and two students playing Jenga. For our live performance we reproduced the things we did outside while projecting the video we had made behind us. We ended the with the final member of our group reading a form rejection letter that she had brought, representing the ultimate doom of our project.
This sudden challenge to create performance art really quickly was a rewarding and good opportunity to learn about group dynamics with art projects. We’ll be working in groups again for our final art project of the semester, and I’ll definitely be applying the lessons learned in that class to it.
This past fall I was accepted to the Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology as a student scholar. The Center is one of the five academic centers on campus, which provide resources to students and faculty doing interdisciplinary work on a specific subject. This is the third in a regular series of posts I’ll be writing during spring semester about finding my path as a new member of the Center (read post one).
In their first semester at the Center, students take a special gateway course called History of Arts and Technology. This will help me with my goal as a Center scholar to create connections between my major (philosophy), the arts, and technology. The course is taught by professors in a variety of departments, currently Art Professor Nadav Assor is teaching the course.
Here’s some video of my final contribution to the project: me performing an excerpt from Willson Osborne’s Rhapsody for Clarinet in front of a video of me performing an excerpt from Willson Osborne’s Rhapsody for Clarinet, a déjà vu kind of experience for me.