We joyously continue our Adapting to Uncertainty Series this week with a quick conversation with Jessica Roseman. Eagle eyed readers might have noticed a photograph of her in the background of last week's interview with Kim Holman. Her Nourish project invites people into her creative practice and often utilizes some unexpected public spaces. If you are lucky, you can catch Jess in action at 6 Faneuil Hall Square Boston, MA, 02109 today from 6 - 7:30PM. And if you go, say hello to karen Krolak or Nicole Harris and share your response to the performance. For more information, click here
karen: During the pandemic you began building the Nourish project. I know that there is lots of information about that on your website but I am wondering what was different about how it developed compared to things you built pre-pandemic?
Jessica Roseman: Pre-pandemic, my dances were experimental questions. I focused on understanding my choreographic vision - how do I want to present myself? What excites me? What themes and vocabularies serve me best? (Why) is it even important to make dances?
Coming back to choreography after years of healing from trauma, I was examining choreographic approaches to pleasure, searching for ways to make myself - and others - feel better through dance. I was gathering tools, questioning every step and result along the way. My dances were testing the waters of my own vulnerability and creative capacity. Time and money-wise, I invested in my own self interest without worrying too much about expense, results, or exposure.
During the pressure cooker conditions of the pandemic, it became necessary to use this line of choreographic inquiry as a means to process, heal, and to actively use my voice for change. I had an immediate need for connection, and to stake a claim in my art and my community. My work, the same approach and content, became at once more political. I invested in building a sustainable career, and built my business in the process
kK: One of my favorite parts of the land acknowledgements that you share at the start of Nourish workshops is how they encourage me to reflect on the specific site where we are dancing. You are going to be performing for Now +There at Faneuil Hall on August 16, 6pm How has that location influenced your thinking? What sort of research have you done there?
JR: Boston is steeped in colonial history which typically does not tell the whole story. There are tons of historic maps, exhibits, books, tours, and websites about the layered history of Faneuil Hall. Boston’s wealthiest merchant of the time, Peter Faneuil, who built the meeting house, had a significant role in the slave trade.
Farmers from inland, including from what is now called Lexington Community Farm (where I am Artist in Residence), brought their produce to sell in the Faneuil building. As ever, I found it challenging to process an inclusive land acknowledgement of that place without getting swept away by the sheer volume of information from a capitalistic, white supremacist perspective.
To defy the confines of the colonialism, I am generating my own narrative from my personal connections to Faneuil Hall, and particularly my values for the present:
kK: You have been in residence at Bearnstow last week and previously at Subcircle in Biddeford. How do these weeks away reframe your investigations into the specificity of site where you are presenting work? How do they serve your larger creative practice?
JR: I was born in Maine, and spent many magical summers visiting here as a child. Subcircle and Bearnstow's subsidized Maine residencies bring me back to my childhood self while directly supporting my growth as a choreographer. I feel so affirmed as an artist to be welcomed into their amazing spaces. I have come to rely on time away from my regular parenting routine. I also just love dancing among the plants and trees which each facility environmentally protects. In nature, I deepen my understanding of the good in the world, and my purpose in it. I reset my sense of time and space. I breathe deeper, and become more grounded. I take experimental new risks. In residency, I experience a cyclical process of nourishment in relation to the land, which feeds my creative practice. Thanks to Bearnstow and Subcircle, I become fortified to delve into politically challenging places like Boston’s Dock Square, and to make louder, more complex work.
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!
Happy Birthday to all our friends who celebrate in August!
Alexandra Caporale, Alyssa Harris, Andrea West,
Angelina Benitez, Bril Barrett, Courtney Blanch,
Denise Sao Pedro, Derek Roland, Dorothy Christian,
Drew Jameson, Ed Ryan, Elana Furtado,
Elizabeth Powers, Emma Foley, Enid Beaton,
Erin McDonough, Eva Yaa Asantewaa, Felipe Galganni,
James Gant, Jeremy Wechsler, Jessica Muise,
Jillian Grunnah, Jilly Richcrick, Jordan Rosin,
Joseph Maimone, Joshua Legg, Kelly Long,
Laura Neese, Laurie Sales, Lisa La Touche,
Madonna, Michael Jackson, Michael Wonson,
Mikki Shoji, Olivia Blaisdell,
Samara Seligsohn, and Sarah Duclos
Monkeyhouse Loves You!