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Creating an Outdoor Performance

Today’s guest blogger is New York-based artist and choreographer Rebecca Davis, who created a performance this summer in 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park.

Creating a one-hour work of art in a large outdoor setting for an unknown-sized audience was quite a challenge.  What could I create that wouldn’t be swallowed up by the scale of the setting?  How could I keep an audience interested for that length of time without the focus that comes with presenting a work in a theater?

Several months and ideas later, I decided to create a sculpture and drawing in performance that would leave a tactile and visual record of its own making.

To create the sculpture, we used the audience and the surrounding trees as our loom. We wended our way over, under, and around them as our white hand-knit dresses unraveled into an increasingly large and complex web.

I used chalk, typically used to mark large fields like the meadow for sporting events, to create the drawing.  The idea was to create constellations whose shape would be determined by connecting audience members to one another. Most of the audience took cover in the shade rather than on the perimeter as I had hoped, making the constellation drawings difficult to render.  The parched grass also made the chalk lines nearly invisible.

This performance was a reminder of the medium’s vulnerability. Certain variables can only be worked out in performance, which is both thrilling and terrifying. The unknown is multiplied when the work calls for audience participation. One never knows if people will participate and how. I would like to thank all of the viewers who stood in the blazing sun for an hour to participate, and to Lisa Freiman and everyone at the IMA for this wonderful challenge.

Filed under: Art and Nature Park, Contemporary

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