Molly Lieber on Simone Forti Workshops
February 7, 2017
In December 2016, Danspace Project and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)’s Department of Media and Performance Art collaborated on an unprecedented Research Residency with artist Simone Forti, on the occasion of MoMA’s acquisition of Forti’s Dance Constructions (1961). During the weeklong residency, Forti, invited guests, and the public engaged in discussions and workshops to ensure that this work is brought to the dance community and the new generations who will carry it forward. Below, artist and performer Molly Lieber responds to her experience working with Forti:
“The art of art, the glory of expression and the sunshine of the light of letters is simplicity. Nothing is better than simplicity . . . . nothing can make up for excess or for the lack of definiteness. To carry on the heave of impulse and pierce intellectual depths and give all subjects their articulations are powers neither common nor very uncommon. But to speak in literature with the perfect rectitude and insouciance of the movements of animals and the unimpeachableness of the sentiment of trees in the woods and grass by the roadside is the flawless triumph of art.”
–Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1855
I couldn’t help but thinking about the above quote while Simone explained how to do Huddle.
Here are some of my notes from her explanation of how to dance it:
– One thing she likes about it now, although she didn’t think about this when she made it, is that the climber looks like part of the Earth breaks away and becomes conscious and then goes back.
– When she made it, she thought, “What is essential?” And she thought, “To see the form in space.” Then she thought, “Where to place it?,” and she answered herself, “So that it is seen as a form and that it has some beauty that way.”
– Each of us is using the intuitive weight of all of us.
– At the time she made Huddle, she had moved back to New York from California and was struck by how little nature there was here. Making came from an emotional need and then the tools that she found in her environment. So there came about a little mountain made out of organic material.
When doing Huddle, I felt safe in her assuredness. I was in a big hug clump with half dancers I know and half I didn’t and I knew it would work, because the dance has been happening for so long. So really it felt like the dance didn’t depend on me doing it at all, but that it had already been happening and I was just stepping into it for a moment and feeling it. And it was still amazing to me, that people I didn’t know could climb over me in this gentle context.
And the continued environment of the workshop was gentle, and made me think about gentleness and non-judgement and how they go together. I partnered with a man I don’t know. We did small dances for each other, and read our writings to each other. I felt like this gentle atmosphere of watching each other dance things we have not practiced and supporting each other’s weight made us capable of listening to each other in a simple and unbiased way. And I appreciated that aspect of dance—its ability to bring us back to simple form—in a new way. He had seen me relate to space, and I had seen him do the same, and because of that when we listened to each other’s words we could not judge each other. The previous dancing made the complexity of how similar we are, and at the same time how different we are, very clear. So there is no point to judge, because already each person is the same and is different from every other person. And if you judge you will miss out on details of that person. So it’s better to just be there and watch and listen. And then that makes the environment gentler all over again.