A Dialogue of Body and Gesture

Last week we finished our first iteration of audience tests of our new project, currently going under the working title of Movement Alphabet. This project is a new cross-discipline collaboration between the digital and physical worlds, where we invite people to explore how they relate to their own physicality and map their movements into a digital portrait. For these tests we were looking to understand how it feels for people who are not from a dance or movement background to be led in a one-on-one session by Jan through different physical tasks and discussions. Whether people are able to relax and move in a way that is authentic to the ordinary character they express with their body. To me, sat watching over the laptop during each session, the interaction between Jan and participant seemed to morph into a dialogue of body and gesture. During discussions of their earliest memories of moving, or how they imagine their physicality in the future, Jan responds through movement, leading the participant to do the same. It becomes a physical conversation of gestures, demonstrations and walking about. Many of our tests were in the surprisingly cozy Performance Lab at Queen Mary University of London. This space has black walls, black ceiling and a black floor. It is mostly soundproofed except for the occasional rumble of the District Line beneath. Dotted around the space – speakers, a mixing console, a grand piano with electrics sprawling out from beneath the lid. Somehow, this array of odd, lumpy pieces of kit seemed to construct an atmosphere of experimentation and play that invited some to open up and share some personal details of their lives. For this round of testing, the images are created using an adaptation of the code behind the middle stroke-marking chapter from This Floating World. At the press of a button, seven seconds of movement are drawn, as if each of the subject’s limbs were holding a brush of luminescent paint. Tim Murray-Browne, 6 June 2016.
Movement Alphabet by Jan Lee and Tim Murray-Browne - portrait of Shannon Woo on 21 May 2016

Shannon Woo moving as Fire, 21 May 2016. Movement portrait by Jan Lee and Tim Murray-Browne