Valentina,

We spent some time talking about you making a film verses making a performance. Perhaps the performance already happened this past summer. And what you are doing now is archiving the experience. I see your performance as the private and ephemeral adventure you had with your journey across the Midwest on the horse.  Your relationship with your horse is the relationship you have with your own animal self.   It is a performance of being or becoming.  I feel like you are struggling to find a way of being comfortable with the constraints of social conditions. You are restricted by the bridle and burden of living with imperfection.  You are working on the difficult task of being in relationship with otherness.  The other is your horse, or fate, or your demons or other humans or men in particular or the road or the terrifying open prairie nature preserve or the work that lies in front of you. This is good work.  Finding a way to be here is a performance practice. 

What you choose not to say speaks clearly.  A young Italian woman riding a horse across the American west in 2013 is a bold and courageous act.  It is an Amazonian performance.  Your point of doing it however is less about feminism and more about romance.  Suitable to your name, this work is about love.  Making a journey (performance) like this, as a way of processing the concept of love, puts you in an unusual context. 

In one of my notes from a meeting I wrote that the art world doesn’t know what to do with you. How do we deal with romantic passionate expressions in the 21st century?  How does the American Midwestern farmer, rancher, cowboy or small town folk deal with this kind of adventure?

What you are giving us is a film, video, archive, and performance.  Do you feel the importance of this work?  How do you get us to care about your relationships?  How is it that we care about your experience or you?

You talked about going beyond words in this project.  You wanted to make a wordless language of movement and physical expression that could communicate more clearly than words. Song is part of that emotional build. Although you do use text in your songs, the musical expression of the song creates a feeling that communicates more than the words. Abstraction is another tactic that works well in your piece. In our current culture, movement is currently a way of abstracting our language. Movement communicates ideas, feelings and emotions without words. How specific can we be with a pure movement vocabulary? Probably not very detailed since we have defaulted to words as our primary communication structure. We are born with movement as a primary language. What would our movement vocabulary be if we had deliberately taught our children to think and speak with physical body movement as opposed to leaning the code and technology of alphabet and words? Dance and movement is developing that code for our culture. It works through a totally different part of our brain.

 I feel like you are still unable to commit to this movement language and return to words as a failsafe. I know you wrote about this in your final report and I agree. You are good with words, but I think it would be good for your work if you would risk longer movement sections that just speak for themselves. Movement provides language for others. Other viewers will provide words that convey the narrative. Other viewer’s multiple or even misunderstood language or understanding of your movement will deepen your stories. I would like to see you take this courageous step and allow others to create their own meaning from your abstractions. 

The video poems of “Manhorse” and “Nemesis” have good production values.  

The Nemesis text and your physical performance with Mike are compelling. This video should be seen on a big screen.  It should be larger than life. The physical wrestling/lovemaking creates interests with its stylized and controlled passion.  The pressure that is created in your stillness/locking holds is curious.  There is so much time here and so much that 2 bodies can do in a moment in space.  Your choice to create that held stillness brings questions to mind about the purpose of movement in this context. Is this movement symbolic? Does it represent some emotion beyond the purely physical? Is it a comment about relationship and human’s propensity to keep progress or free expression from being embodied?  How much can you relay about being stuck in relationship or personal habits?  Why does one have to win?  What does standing and verticality imply, and is it superior to lying flat and horizontality?  Is the shadow less than the body/object or is it a critical partner that is one with the body/object? We see this as choreography ultimately.  Is there a way of really seeing the failure of communication that is not a choreographed expression but maybe a real fight/argument/conversation with movement?

The exit light blinks at the beginning of the video… That’s brilliant!

Your voice is the wild uncontrolled expression in these videos. It is also stylized and controlled in your delivery, but we are never sure where you will go. The music track behind the voice and text builds tension.

In ManHorse, we are pulled into the vast nature imagery and the intensity of the natural world shaking and trembling or the terrible mystery of flying above the clouds above the sky. These images are shocking. Shifting from campfire in the woods to skyfall creates a visceral vertigo experience for the viewer. Your multiple voices vibrating harmonically and temporally in synch with the visual shudder of the ripe cornfield in the wind is stellar. This creates a perfect emotional landscape.  Something frightening about “the glitter of the city” text, and the quivering visual beauty of the field in nature, cash crop ready to harvest…makes my hair stand on end.

The image of feet in the sand in its controlled interior environment or in water seems to calm the violence or fears of the cosmos.

Here again, it is about your voice and your writing that empowers and carries the viewer through each moment.  You are good at this. I like listening to the sound of your voice and the writing is interesting.  But, at some point, I wish for you to stop talking… and allow a silence so I can just look at the imagery and listen to the fire burning or wind in the microphone.  A Silence before “there’s a party going on across the hall” would be profound.  The time signature and pacing of the video is driven and nonstop. I wonder if this is deliberate, and would a change of scene or time sense slowing add to the landscape of the video.

I don’t know if you’re saying “never ­ride again” or “never write again”… I actually think that ambiguity adds an important layer or complication to the narrative. 

It’s incongruous that you had this grand physical experience in a vast exterior world of nature and connections with strangers and your text narratives are mostly about your interior machinations. Your narratives are all your internal thoughts. As if you’re privately withholding something from the external world. Maybe this is your archival voice.

Your written rehearsal notes are profound.  It is a collection of honest thinking, doubt and searching.  It is research.

You are subverting the vast expanse of the prairie into a room or tent or small picture plane.  How does this change the narrative? Is this also symbolic? Is this abstraction? How does this smallness connect us to the phenomenon of being in nature or alone on the road in strange lands?

A few other things that we discussed in our meetings about a miniature stage, a small cabinet of curiosities, a live performance of a song, the presence of your blog have transformed or been tempered or abandoned.  I think all those are still good ideas. The video’s and writing you produced for this DGP is sufficient and stellar and time will allow you to pursue some of those other expressions. You are a good performer, and performance should be a part of it. The movement piece you made with Mike and presented to the group for your final presentation in the class was powerful and I hope you can continue to perform this live.

One thing leads to another. Your connection and employment of a director (Jayita Bhattacharya) is a good step in transforming the work for an audience.

You are comfortable with not knowing.  You wrote the phrase “I don’t know” many times in your notes.  Doubt is a critical part of the work and it is central to the themes of love and passion in your narratives. It builds stratum and dark planes for the psychological explorations and spiritual practice you are committed to articulating through your creations.

Looking forward to the development of he work.

 

 

 

 

 

Bryan Saner 

December 2013