Recently Steve Wightman asked us about how local choreographers are adapting to the uncertainties of presenting work at this stage in the pandemic. As co-Artistic Director, karen Krolak replied, we were inspired to start a new series for the C2C blog. After helping to install Kimberleigh Holman’s installation What’s on the Line… (WOTL), at The Dance Complex’s Complex @ Canal space last week, karen thought this could be an excellent project to kick things off. Thanks Steve for for stirring up this conversation and to BioMed Realty and The Dance Complex for providing the Complex @ Canal space.
Complex @ Canal is at 650 E Kendall St Cambridge, MA 02142. WOTL can be viewed from outside or inside the building which is accessible to people who use mobility devices. More information on the exhibit and related audio files about the piece can be found here. Look out on The Dance Complex's blog too, we may soon continue this interview there!
karen: Folks around Monkeyhouse know you as a choreographer and lighting designer, how did you get into creating a public art piece?
Kimberleigh Holman: It’s been a bit of an identity crisis spun out of a need to take action, if we’re being totally honest.
My MFA is in Interdisciplinary Arts with a Performance Creation Concentration (Goddard College) and while I also love to make what I consider installation work, it’s usually durational performance for, say, bodies in landscape or unusual settings. I love to utilize my knowledge in lighting, sound creation, and other methods of performance to make interdisciplinary work, where the elements interweave to strengthen the work as a whole, but it’s never taken the form of public art.
That being said, it’s tough to sit around while hearing blow after blow for women’s rights and bodily autonomy in our news. It’s hard to hear stories from friends about their experiences with gender-based violence as a subsection of our country gets more emboldened in the political climate over the last few years especially. I feel like while I vote, and donate, and show up, we are still in a constant downward spiral in regard to how very human issues are politicized.
What I CAN do is take this clothesline (from last fall’s Contradictions + Casual Self Loathing) that is always a conversation piece, put it in public spaces, and feel like I’m taking action—opening a door for people to talk with one another about their experiences with words that are predominantly used for women, and make some small scale change. Hence What’s on the Line… and thanks to the generosity of the arts spaces that are eager to house it, this step into public art.
kK: Since I was dramaturg for Contradictions + Casual Self Loathing, I wonder if I can slip that hat back on for a moment and ask you to share a bit about how you chose the words for this installation.
KH: We (myself, the performers, you) started generating this list of words that predominantly get used for women in both a virtual book club meeting and in rehearsal for Contradictions + Casual Self Loathing. I knew I wanted the visual of these often-derogatory—sometimes shocking—words being hung on a clothesline onstage. The juxtaposition of domestic labor and these language norms as things that are both given little thought appealed to me. Interview subjects from my research phase generously contributed some. Of course friends and family added theirs… even my husband gave me a jaw-dropper he’d heard in a work setting years ago.
The funny part is that since we started listing these “words for women”, we haven’t stopped. Every time the line goes up, there are new words.
Audience members at Contradictions’ debut in Dedham were eager to chime in with some of their own. We also recently installed What’s on the Line… at Bellforge Arts Center (Medfield) where viewers were quick to chime in with words (and the related stories) from their life experiences, and as I write this WOTL has been up at Complex @ Canal in Kendall Square for about a day and I’ve already received a dozen or so new additions. I keep a spreadsheet with where they came from, and I’m curious to start looking for trends in our ever-growing crowdsourced list.
kK: As you were talking about questions of access to care, I was reflecting on how that intersects with accessibility in a general sense. You were just part of the 2022 ILN network, how did that program influence installing WOTL?
KH: A lot of the education provided by Mass Cultural Council’s Universal Participation Initiative/ILN program is centered on access in cultural spaces, especially in museum settings. In installing WOTL I wanted to make sure that the QR codes that explain the installation are accessible from all heights, and the installation itself is viewable from all angles—floor to air. While it is currently a very visual experience, the website page that accompanies the work provides descriptions of the project, alt text on images, and audio in the form of both an artist statement and also a fifteen-minute track to listen to that can stand alone, or accompany the viewing experience. It’s also potentially difficult and triggering subject matter, so I gave a lot of thought in how to present it in a way that gives a viewer the time and space they may need to do so. I hope to eventually be working with a budget for this project that enables full access!
kK: On a side note, I know you performed Maine this weekend and that you had to juggle things a bit due to COVID cases in Luminarium. Did you find that going through ILN helped you navigate that challenge?
KH: I think ILN reinforced a human-first philosophy that I’ve always tried to work with, since I started making performance with others. We live in complicated times, things happen, and health and safety come first… the people come first.
kK: How was jumping back into your trio, Getting There is Half the Battle, to take the place of your dancer?
KH: It’s interesting to insert yourself back into physical work you’re familiar with at different stages in your life. I last did that piece (filling in for another dancer, actually) in 2016-ish, and revisiting it in 2022 was like taking a census of all that’s changed in my body (less hip mobility, more leg strength, etc) as I would dance the movement and it felt different. It was a bit of a stressor as I was dancing alongside newer Luminarium dancers Angie Benitez and Katrina Conte, and both of them are so brilliantly in tune with not just learning and dancing new movement but making the work their own, but ultimately it was exciting to have one rehearsal to insert myself into a piece and take it up to Acadia Dance Festival. We had a really engaged and appreciative audience, so that made it all the better. A good skills check!