The original idea for this piece was an all-day durational traveling performance. Katie O’Loughlin (fellow MFA and roommate) and I had grand schemes of choosing locations around the city where site-specific sections of choreography would happen, with performances happening in transit using public transportation, bikes, or scooters in between. We thought it would be a great way for us to get to know our new city. Fairly early on in the planning stages of this version, we realized that the logistics of organizing such an event in the middle of a pandemic and we began to rethink our plan. One day after a walk, Katie came home talking about the beautiful railroad she had stumbled upon, and a new idea emerged. We decided that instead, we would create a few site specific sections of choreography around our neighborhood and walk between them. To make it durational, we would do the process in iteration as the seasons changed, rather than all day.
Screenshot from Remain Without
As we walked together, finding our locations and pathway for the first time, Katie and I began to talk about our experiences this year. Something about walking makes you contemplative. We began to contemplate the experience of loss together. When experiencing loss, absence is not simply absence. Losing someone or something is to experience a vast and perpetual presence of absence. This year has felt that way. 2020 has been filled with vast and perpetual absence: the loss of home; the loss of routine; the loss of dancing with others; the loss of seeing people smile; the loss of hosting friends; the loss of visiting, hugging, spending time with family; the loss of security; the loss of comfort; the loss of normal; the loss of ease; the loss of life. So in the context of this year, it makes sense that when we began planning this project together, this iterative practice of walking/dancing through our new neighborhood together, Katie and I found ourselves talking about grief.
I don’t know that I would say we had the goal of making a dance film about grief. I think rather, we decided to allow ourselves to experience the absence in iteration, and film it.
This collaboration was one of ease. Katie and I are similar in that we both are most comfortable when a structure is established for us to follow. In preparation for the iterative filming process, we created a container of structure: a list of shots that we would do in three locations, with a list of transitional shots in between. For each shot, we took detailed notes about where the tripod stood and what landmarks anchored the camera’s framing. We added to the plan that through the iterations, our costumes would transition from very little color to very bold colors. The container allowed us to be present in each iteration, to not worry about newness or invention, to simply return.
We did not have a story in mind as we were filming, just that embodied presence of absence. As we were editing, we began to experiment with how we could make the absence more visible to the viewer, and so a story began to emerge—one of togetherness and solitude; remembrance and repetition.