Sunday, June 3, 2007
June 2 Salon Sit Down - Discussion
We started out at DiverseArts Little Gallery and migrated to Bolm Studios where a group of us gathered to listen to and share with this month's featured artist, Sharon Bridgforth.
Sharon's new production - the text installation love conjure/blues is about to go up in two weeks and we took this opportunity to learn about her process and the thinking behind this important work. Sharon presented us with a history of the piece, as well as two delicious excerpts from the performance. Within all of that this is a little about what we learned.
love conjure/blues began back in 1998, and its first incarnation was as a book, published by RedBone Press in 2004. Sharon identified her process as one of listening to the ancestors, and letting the work develop from feeling. Etta James, Jimmy Scott and H-Bomb Ferguson are some of the many voices that came through to her during the development of this piece, and that influence her work - as do her ancestors - both her family (with their strong legacy of storytelling) and the Black Indians of Louisiana. Where art becomes a party, becomes ritual.
Sharon described blues as sacred as ritual, as ritual itself, as making magic. Her work, directly embodies the blues and jazz - both in its content and form. For both in her text and in the elaboration of her text in four-dimensional space, Sharon is using polyrhythmic time and space. Where ancestors and spirits are as real as the embodied characters, and where a character is the same essential self through time.
One of the participants reflected back to Sharon that the process of her work makes her a conductor. This directly tied into what Sharon discussed in terms of sound. Where language is about music, and songs act as transition. In love conjure/blues specifically, sound becomes a soundscape for the text. And the text lives in a circle. And the circle is key, because place informs ritual, which informs the magic of the work itself.
The fundamental question informing Sharon's (and Jen Simmons - one of Sharon's key collaborators in love conjure/blues) is: how does spirit interact with humanity interact with people in the room interact with technology? For the answer, we will have to wait and see the performance on June 15th - when Sharon will be asking audiences to be fully present to her work, as she gives fully back to them.
Some of the questions I asked included: At what point does sound become language? How does place inform your work?
Sharon responded by saying that feeling is the point where sound becomes language, that it's a slow rise from the inside to the out. And that place absolutely has a huge role in her work - both in terms of her relationship to place (in particular New Orleans, Los Angeles and Memphis), and to what place does in setting context for her narratives.
I asked participants what Sharon's work evoke for them? Folks responded by saying that Sharon's work evokes a sense of the familiar, a pushing of form, dance, "serious play", ritual, memory, Abbey Lincoln, risk-taking, honor, and big-legged women.
Yes. Yes. and Yes.