On Participating Through Absence

Missing Piece_Annie

For the past nine years, I’ve had the privilege of being a part of the collaborative process of co-directing with my World Wide Lab colleagues. The part I play has always included being physically present for the process.  When one works so closely, and so intensively, with a specific group of artists sharing a space, the group develops a practical and theoretical shorthand. Collaborators fall into natural rolls, in many ways anticipating and perpetuating the ebb and flow of the creative process in bringing a new work to fruition. After a particularly fruitful and tight-knit working residency in 2018, creating a new piece as part of the Superior Theatre Festival in Thunder Bay, Ontario, we felt that the WWL had really found their footing in the co-creating dance. So it was particularly painful when circumstances meant that some of the WWL would not be able to be present for this summer residency with SdF at FELD in Berlin. I was among the many who were unable to make the trip.

In the early days of this work, technology made it possible to be part of the conversation about how this process would flow and how this piece would come about. But technology has its limitations and when the process switched gears from planning to facilitating our workshops, the energy of the work happening seemed impossible to capture on technology and I find myself imagining the process from afar, using notes and scanning photographs for clues to what I am missing.

A question that is being posed to our young participants (possibly even as I write this) is what do they miss of their homes as they go through the process of making their new homes in Berlin? Is there a missing piece in the puzzle of their new homes and can something in Berlin be found with the right shape to take its place? This idea of absence (a person, a place, even a sensation) will hopefully resonate with the eventual audience of the piece: Can a missing piece ever be replaced for any of us or should the metaphoric hole be honored as part of the whole of each of our life experiences? My WWL colleagues have helped make me feel part of this work by naming me as the missing piece. And while it is always comforting to know that your absence matters, it is gratifying to know that a group and process that you’ve helped build can go on without you, while at the same time you feel you are somehow a part of it.

Our young participants who are taking part in the WWL process are themselves missing pieces in the homes that they have made and, due to circumstances beyond their control, have needed to leave. I am not in Berlin to witness their contributions and to hear the parts so their story that they are willing to share with us, or rather, with my colleagues. There is no way to compare my situation of not being able to be in Berlin to the reasons and circumstances that so many of our young participants are in Berlin. 

Mobility is a tricky thing. Often is it a privilege but sometimes it is the last resort. I am excited to know that the piece being created so far away from where I write this will use mobility as a (pun intended) through line, where the audience will be able to move through  something, to have the experience of needing to follow and build the story, rather than having the story being delivered to them. The piece is already starting to make its way across an ocean to me filling in the missing piece that is me not being there in the first place.

— A.G. Levy, NYC


This entry was posted on July 29, 2019 by .


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