[MUSIC PLAYING] KENT KLEINMAN: I want to wrap up this final session by talking about one more aspect of initiatives here at Cornell and here at AAP, and that is the issue of collaborations. One of Cornell's outstanding assets, of course, is the remarkably rich intellectual environment that spans essentially every discipline that you can imagine. Our students and our faculty profit enormously from collaborations across the university, and I do not think it immodest to say that others enjoy the same experience.
We work extremely closely with the Johnson Museum and always have. And there are two shows currently up that were curated by members of the Department of Art, and I encourage you to go see those two shows. In just over a month, we will host an extraordinary symposium entitled "Design Tactics and The Informilized City." This was organized by faculty in planning, architecture and landscape architecture-- another example of collaboration.
And in the not distant future, as you probably have heard, we will surely be working in an entirely new configuration with architects, engineers, environmental scientists, city planners, computer specialists, but not here in Ithaca but in a new campus on Roosevelt Island. And we are very much excited about our footprint there as well.
But over the past weeks, I, and I think we, have enjoyed a particularly rewarding collaboration. It was initiated by the director of Cornell's Society of the Humanities for the Humanities, Professor Tim Murray, and supported by a number of campus groups, including most essentially the AD White Professor Program and the Cornell Council for the Arts.
Because of these collaborations, we are able to have, this week, one of the great creative forces in the world of contemporary dance, renowned choreographer and current AD White professor, William Forsythe And we not only have Mr. Forsythe with us, but we are also able to have one of his choreographies. And this is a truly wonderful thing in Rand Hall titled, Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time.
Many individuals make this visit and related performance possible. Let me mention just a few. First, thanks to Professor of Architecture, Mark Morris, and a dedicated group of students from several fields for their work over the course of several weeks to install the installation and function as docents tonight. I want to thank our facilities director, Rich Jensen, who had no idea he would be hanging pendulums for about a month. Max Schubert from The Forsythe Company came from Germany to make sure we hung them in the right place and the right height. And I want to issue a global thanks to Cornell's AD White professorship program, without which we would not be able to have this collaboration tonight.
The dancers who will perform tonight-- and I have to correct my earlier statement-- is 5:00 to 7:00, not 5:00 to 8:00. 5:00 to 7:00, not 5:00 to 8:00-- is Brock Labrenz. And he will, I think, forever change the way you think about bodies, about time, gravity, and about geometry. His gift to the campus this week, where he has been performing, is simply beyond words. His performance in the installation may also change your mind, I think, about a building that was famously slated to be demolished to make way for [INAUDIBLE] Hall.
But at the heart of the collaboration is Professor Murray, who will host this final session for today. Tim's vision and leadership as one of Cornell's principal advocates for critical engagement with the arts and with the humanities is nothing short of legendary. Tim is a professor of comparative literature and English and curator of the Rose Goldsen Archive in new media in the Cornell library.
He is the author of many books, including Digital Baroque-- New Media Art and Cinematic Folds; Drama Trauma-- Spectators of Race and Sexuality in Performance, Video, and Art; Like a Film-- Ideological Fantasy on Screen, Camera and Canvas; and Theatrical Legitimation-- Allegories of Genius in Seventeenth-Century England and France.
I can tell you that collaborating with Tim on this ambitious work has been incredibly rewarding for me. But I also think, and perhaps more importantly, it has been incredibly rewarding for Cornell at large. I thank you, Tim, for the collaboration, and welcome you and William Forsythe this afternoon to AAP.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: All right, I don't think we're live.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Are we on?
TIMOTHY MURRAY: Oh, we are.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: We're on.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: Thank you very, very much. I wanted to say that this has been a very exciting collaboration across the campus. And William Forsythe is here, as Kent mentioned, as an AD White professor-at-large. I thought I'd explain just briefly the nature of this program which brings to campus roughly-- we have roughly 15 professors-at-large at a time. Is that right, Penny? I think that-- huh?
PENNY DIETRICH: 18.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: 18-- 18 at a time. And what this program is is it enables us to invite luminary thinkers, scientists, artists to campus for two visits over a six-year period pretty much to come to campus and activate as they wish. And I particularly want to thank Penny Dietrich, who's the administrator of this program, who has simply been marvelous.
And it was Bill's appointment as an AD White professor-at-large that enabled me to approach Kent and think about maybe doing something that would bridge this appointment with this celebratory weekend. And it was Kent's vision, which was really a brilliant one, to resurrect Rand Hall for this purpose. I think it was the first time, as I understand it-- and in my experience at Cornell-- I've been here a very long time-- I have never seen the first floor of Rand Hall all completely open as it is, as you'll see. It's a remarkable space for this presentation and this performance.
I might also mention that the installation is a collaboration that's a result of multiple funding sources, and we'd like to acknowledge them. So in addition to the Society for the Humanities and the College of Art, Architecture, and Planning, we're heavily indebted to the Cornell Council on the Arts for their collaboration as well as the Department of Theater, Film, and Dance; the Institute for German Studies, and the Rose Goldsen lecture series from the College of Arts and Science.
And this is how we work at Cornell, across the campus and across the quad. And so this collaboration is particularly important in this context. Bill's professorship is co-sponsored by the Society for the Humanities, which is Cornell's residential research center in the humanities. We're the oldest residential research center in the humanities in the country and are very, very proud of the legacy. And every year, we bring roughly 15 fellows to campus to work on specialized research topics. And this year's topic on sound is particularly apropos. We've appreciated Bill's participation with the fellows throughout this week.
And the Department of Theater, Film and Dance is our other host. And we had another celebratory day over in the Schwartz Center with Bill and the dance program, which has had a long history of incorporating in his work. For those of you not familiar with William Forsythe, I just might say that, as Kent mentioned, he's one of the legendary figures in contemporary choreography. His work has been heavily centered in Europe, where he moved in about '73--
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Yep.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: --I think it was, right? Just as I moved-- we flip-flopped continents at the time. He was the director of the Frankfurt Ballet, the infamous Frankfurt Ballet, for about 20 years before he developed The William Forsythe Company, which has developed into one of the most instrumentally innovative, I'd say, artistic cultural endeavors, I think internationally. And it works internationally, which I think we'll end up discussing. It's a very important facet.
For himself, Bill is one of the most recognized artistic producers. I'll say producers, choreographers in the world, the recipient of about five of the most prestigious dance awards. He's a Penn Chevalier in--
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Commanduer.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: --commanduer in arts and culture, and he's been the recipient of most of the important international awards in not only choreography, but cultural productions. So we're really, really thrilled to have him here. And I thought that what we might do to begin our conversation would be simply for me to invite Bill maybe to say a little bit about the interdisciplinary framework that has generated his work, particularly in terms of the development of his work across the Frankfurt Ballet into the Forsythe Company, if you would so choose.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Interdisciplinary-- we weren't so interdisciplinary at the beginning. We were basically focused on ballet. In 1973, I inherited a large opera company in Frankfurt. And it was kind of a sleepy place, but what I liked most--
TIMOTHY MURRAY: Until you arrived.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Yeah, yeah. What I like most about it was the stage. I think it had one of the most extraordinary theaters anywhere on Earth except maybe-- what's the name of that big theater in Argentina?
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Colon, yeah. So we had a stage that was 50 meters by 50 meters, and that whole thing turned. And I would say that the audience, in relationship to it, was about an eighth of that area.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: The reverse of this space.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Yeah, right. So basically, it was an opportunity to choreograph on a landscape. And what came out of that was that I could choreograph using real-time, like the time it actually takes to get somewhere. And that was the first, I guess, architecture-induced moment there.
And that's actually a reason why we didn't travel for a while, because we couldn't shrink the production. They were based on the space and not on some other, like music or something like that. But I actually didn't want to leave that stage. It was just so interesting to have a landscape instead of a confined little box, which stages often are.
So the standard stage is about 12 by 12-- 15 by 12 if you're really lucky. There's a few exceptions, a few big opera house, of course. But your standard dance performance, I would say, is about 12 by 12.
I worked with ballet dancers exclusively, but I developed methods-- oh, I know-- because there was no time. I had this fantastic situation. I had dancer salaries are all paid for, a huge stage, all the lighting equipment's in place, sound engineers, blah, blah, blah. But there's no time to rehearse, which is kind of an odd combination of capital.
So what I did was I invented a way or a shortcut or compositional shortcuts. And that led production of multimedia-learning tools, which has become part of my current work, a very important part. And let me think. Yeah, so we were sort of the people who basically took ballet off-balance.
It was basically a "why not" mentality. I was talking to Merce Cunningham once, and he did this really goofy thing. And Merce said to me, I said to myself, why not? And that was pretty much our attitude, too.
Or it was almost like an algorithm. If this, then what? We didn't know. So we'd try things and then deal with the results. And that became pretty much our mindset of just trying.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: And so one of the things that happened when you developed, then, The Forsythe Company, as a result of this is is you've collaborated with some of the most important writers, thinkers, and actually, architects of our time. I might mention that just two weeks ago at Cornell, another AD White professor-at-large, Anne Carson, was here for her residency. And some of Bill's really most, I'd say, well-received events in the United States were his collaborations with Anne Carson that were performed at BAM. And maybe you could just say a little bit about the nature of collaboration in that sense.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Collaboration's always tricky. And all I do is collaborate, so yeah. It depends on defining, I think, functions, who does what. It's very important. I think that it's hard if there's two people responsible for the same thing. I think it's easy if there's many people responsible for different things.
And I guess my job in Frankfurt is like editor-in-chief. So I'll propose something. And our way of working now is that the dancers will, say, hm, OK, this is what I think of your idea. They'll do something with that.
And I'll go, oh, OK. I didn't think of that. And then there'll be a further discussion. Someone says, oh, well, I'm thinking this-- same idea but one person looks like that. The other person looks like this.
And then another person comes in. Another person comes in. So I end up with this very differentiated field of responses. And my job is to find the format. So the pieces are just simply the result of me trying to find a format or the correct format for these responses to this suggestion. So no two pieces look the same precisely for that reason.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: And one of the neat things that I heard that you say earlier this week in relationship to rehearsal, actually, it's a form of collaboration. It's somewhat ironic that The Forsythe Company seems to have developed out of a situation where the Frankfurt Ballet had no time for rehearsal. It seems to me what The Forsythe Company is is an ongoing rehearsal and one in which you work actively with your company members in an elongated process of thinking.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Right. Some works, I've worked on for 25 years. Some for 17. Some I never finished and abandoned. So yeah, the premiere of the work is just the beginning of the work.
In other words, it's had its life in one context which is a not public context up until then. And then suddenly, it becomes a public thing. And then as of that moment, it's an entirely different thing. It has very little to do with what happened beforehand.
And I conduct each performance so that none of the performances are fixed in any way. And actually, it's kind of ironic because my grandfather, who was a violinist, wanted me to be a conductor. And Oscar, I had to go the eins, zwei, drei, like that. But I can conduct.
And so I structure the works so that I can still perform, in a sense. So what we do is we practice, in training, our timing. So these performances that you see are basically time machines. I give cues to the lighting people, the sound people and the dancers via lights. Or sometimes, entire shows are done over in-ear-- what do you call them-- monitors? Yeah.
And they're living, breathing things. They're not like this. It's not finished. It's not like a building. It's not finished in that sense. And I take in account the audience. For example, I can see from behind like this what's going on there. Like this, that sort of moment there-- I'm not doing it fast, but you know.
And you can hear coughing, breathing, all kinds of things. So I can speed up or slow down performances. Also, I see the performers. I'm going, [INHALES]. Now's the time to start that scene. And so we make a transition. So it's a very different way of working. It's exciting, actually.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: And one of the things that I've seen you do is you almost incorporate that very strategy of directing into the way that your audience is able to receive the event. So if you take the piece that you did as a result of having read and worked with Anne Carson [INAUDIBLE], which-- I don't know. Some of you might have seen this at BAM a number of years ago. It was about six years ago it was at BAM, right?
And this is a piece that was staged for the audience on multiple hanging monitors at different levels of-- so you can imagine these monitors up here, hanging down and interrupting the sightlines, actually, of the stage. And then on the stage, the events were filmed. But those events then were frequently interrupted by moving walls and platforms. And one of the things that you did is you turned motion and movement into a visual media interactive event.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Yeah. But what we did was actually stage a live film. We said, how do you stage a film? Well, I guess we found out how you do it. But it was interesting to ween the audience from their idea that they'd come to see what was live. Their version of live was unmediated-- you know, me, you.
And then I said, OK, we're going to go-- because of Anne Carson's text, we're going to go through something which was the camera. And the audience, because the stage was often obscured, they couldn't tell exactly or they were curious where things were happening. And so they were constantly triangulating between the image, where they thought the camera was, and where they thought the performer was. Or they could see the performer, but they couldn't figure out-- so it was a very active process for the audience. They were always like that.
And then at one point, they finally give up. And they just-- I've watched them. And they're all just like this in front of the TV, like that, which is the subject, actually. I got them there.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: And what's also interesting is that very act of triangulation that you just described is the vocabulary that comes out of--
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Carson.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: --and your choreographic movement process. And maybe you can talk about that language and its relationship to the choreographic object that we'll turn to discussing here in a minute in terms of the improvisational technologies and your entire vocabulary about movement and--
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: It's a big question, Tim.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: I know.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Which part do you want me to answer?
TIMOTHY MURRAY: Well, why don't you first talk about your very interesting, I'd say, economy of movement and how you've translated for the performers and for yourself gestures and angles into-- I guess we would say extended modes of being and thinking.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Got it, OK. One of the sort of mantras that we have-- also, we do a lot of acting, a lot of theater. One of the mantras we have in performance is, what are the properties of the present? Can you stay there, and say, what's going on, as opposed to what you think should be going on? There's a big difference between the two.
And I think most dance is focused on what people think should be going on-- dancers, thinking, OK, I should be doing this. I should be doing that, as opposed to saying, what's happening right now? So I put people into, let's say, situations where that certainty gets dis-equilibrated, I would say, [INAUDIBLE], becomes their-- they have one kind of teleology going on, but that's only a small fragment.
Now, obviously, the scene has to go forward. So what I basically imparted to everyone as we developed was analytical skills and the skill to see any situation from a number of categorical viewpoints. And so they can analyze it. Just, I could look at this room and look at the angle of everyone's head-- you know, [HUMS].
So not knowing that, I might go, [HUMS]. If I wanted to translate that further into the body, I could do that, yeah. So you're saying, what's available? And the idea is that the world is rich and it's full of information. It's full of more information than you can imagine. And that, for me, a dance could start from any point. It just depends on making a decision and saying, OK, it starts here.
So I could-- this is rather banal, but I could start doing hand positions right now from what I see here, like that. And then I guess you could begin to play with that-- you know, [HUMS].
So if I had-- for example, let's say I have a vocabulary and I say R is this, and E is that, and D is this. So I go, [HUMS], whatever. I see red. And we work that way sometimes. You have A to Z, and each one is assigned a motion.
And a good example is we used the film Aliens from Ridley Scott. And the film plays, and the dancers have to spell that way, but whatever they're doing. They have to spell what they're seeing in what they think is the 3D space that it's happening. So they're watching the screen and trying to write what they see but maintain the 3D vectors, for example.
So I guess, it's just being economical, I think. You can spend many, many, many, many hours, for example, constructing exactly the same motion. It would be incredibly time-consuming, frustrating, depressing, just-- I can't--
TIMOTHY MURRAY: Not depressed. No depression here.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: --terrible, terrible. But in fact, if you look at, categorically, what that motion is good for, then I would say it's better coming through that spontaneous relationship to that event as opposed to, again, trying to be where you think you should be.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: In fact, I think what you'll see, for those of you who are going to have the pleasure to experience Brock Labrenz is that he embodies this kind of economical language that Bill is suggesting. And when you're with Brock, you find yourself literally reading or seeing with him. In fact, I heard Bill, the other day, speak of choreography. And maybe we can talk a little bit about your notion of choreography. But I heard you speak of it as a re-seeing and an activity of re-seeing in terms of a revision of motion.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: And choreography is not synonymous with dancing. It's two different practices. Choreography is an organizational skill. Dancing also has some of those elements in it but is not the same thing. And so I've been trying to find ways or situations that contain the choreographic-- so choreographic instruction is probably the most simple way to say it-- let me start again.
I find situations that elicit unconscious competence, which is to say that you, without having to think, are thrown into a choreographic situation. And your body will act a certain way. I'll give you a really simple example. It's kind of dopey. I was at Home Depot where I like to get a lot of my stuff. Home Depot is a great resource, no joke. And--
TIMOTHY MURRAY: Potential donor. [LAUGHS]
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Yeah. And I found some feather dusters. So I was doing an exhibition in a museum about stillness. And it's called Please Hold Still.
And no, the thing with the feather duster is then if you hold feather dusters-- you only need one, actually-- with the feathers this way, you realize that you are vibrating the entire time. And so what happens is that you try breathing different. You try different postures. You try [DEEP INHALE]. You question.
But what it does is it tells you something about yourself physically. And that, for me, is sort of the bottom line of a really choreographic object. Its an instrument of self-knowledge, in that respect. I guess what that choreography looks like is something like, you know, [DEEP INHALE]. Like that. It's almost invisible. But then again, so are the vibrations of the feathers.
So it's sort of an analog moment, this very delicate thing happening. And you're engaging with, I guess, a picture of yourself, a picture of your own motion. You're looking at how you move unconsciously, and you try to engage with that. You try to slow yourself down.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: And indeed, you called choreography in this context a perfect ecology of idea logics and one in which this notion of ecology or environment is key to choreography, both as a thinking process and as an event, an event taking place within an environment that is both physical and mental at the same time, inside and outside.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: I think it's the properties of the object, as you will, that determine the set of motions that emerge from each particular object. We made the world's largest bouncy castle. It's 40 meters long, 20 meters wide. It's white. And it's called Big White Bouncy Castle.
And what it does is the squares-- normally for kids, they're like this. And each one's like a meter wide. And everyone who enters it becomes ballistic, moving bom, bom, like that, bom, like that. And apparently-- this is just my observation after, I'd say, 10 or 15 years-- people become euphoric. I don't know why. They become absolutely euphoric.
And the interesting thing is, even if you have 50 people in there, which is quite a lot, you don't have any accidents. You don't have people colliding. It's very strange. We called it the John Cage memorial, self-organizing, choreographic [INAUDIBLE]. Actually, half the fun is just standing back. You can't stay still either because you're on it. You try to watch people, like that. So you're also doing that.
And I guess that the choreographic imperative is built into the materials, which is pressurized air and plastic. And you put those two in a certain combination, and voila, you're ecstatic-- or euphoric, rather.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: I mean, so now let's turn and just talk about Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time, which is designated as a choreographic object.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: It's not, though.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: But it's not. But it's not.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Yeah, there's a certain group of things that function as scores. And I think this falls far more into the category of score. I'm not turning to you because I know that if I do that, the microphone--
TIMOTHY MURRAY: Then the microphone won't work.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Score insofar that it provides information in a different way. You don't need to touch it, for example, not that everyone requires touching, but there's a lot of physics, which Brock looks at. Brock came from Juilliard to me. He studied astrophysics. He is an actual professional filmmaker, like film film, yeah. Studied acting, and I can't remember what else.
But anyway, Brock sees the room different than other people. And this piece was made for him because he possesses those experiences or he's had those experiences. And he reads the room through those experiences. The reason I say that he's not touching-- he does touch it, but it doesn't touch him. So he chooses to let himself be affected by the room.
An example of that is another one when we have a trough of wood about this deep, and it's filled with fog. And there is a 1-pixel wide circle, that, projected into the fog. And so what emerges is what looks like a jellyfish. It's this thing that just-- it looks alive. And you're like, wow, oh my god. You can't figure it out because it is actually stable, but for some reason, it looks completely animated.
And then the terrible thing, though, is if you walk any-- like if you walk this fast, it goes away. So everyone that comes into the room, it was just great. We did it in Tokyo first. And so we had everyone especially slow.
And people have to do this. Otherwise, you destroy the whole thing not only for yourself, but for everyone around you. So everyone has to sort of cooperate because you don't realize there's all these little vortexes coming off your body. So I said, yeah, in that case, the object is connected to you through the air around you. Do you know what I mean? So it's something you normally don't think about is that you make air turbulent. And so you try to reduce your turbulent-- what do you call it-- effect, or something like that. [INTERPOSING VOICES]
TIMOTHY MURRAY: And you'll see, when you visit the piece, that this is an installation that we did install three weeks, actually, before Bill arrived. And it is a structure, a grid, of-- I think we did 120 hanging pendulums. And Brock moves with and around and in relation to the pendulums.
It's a very interesting piece because it's based upon the blind resistance fighter Jacques Lusseyran. And this notion of seeing within sight blindly I think is extremely important to this piece. And there are sequences in which Brock actually performs without vision, eyes closed, in a tremendously engaging [INAUDIBLE] kind of environment.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Yeah. This work was originally produced for Creative Time in New York, which is an interesting group of people who produce art in [INAUDIBLE] in Manhattan. And I wanted to work with blind people, and I wanted them to do their routines when they walk in their apartments or wherever they lived.
And I wondered if they had-- or a routine of some sort where they touch things or whether they knew where things were, or some way to enact what they thought the space was where they lived. And I wanted a number of people to enact this at the same time, sort of like overlaying a number of ground plants. So it turns out that everyone that Creative Time organized for me to meet was incredibly quirky and really eccentric, and it would have never worked.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: [LAUGHS]
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Yeah. But we somehow landed here, and I kept the idea of shutting your eyes. We do have a work, though, now called "I Don't Believe in Outer Space" in which the dance material is derived from the dancers memorizing their apartments blindfolded. So I finally did get back it, but they're very eccentric memorizations. They, as dancers, would memorize their apartments blindfolded. It's what you'd expect.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: This is a four-hour piece. You want to experience it for four hours. And today, we've had to shorten the period of it in relationship to this event. But I find that the temporality and the experience of temporality in visiting this piece is extremely important, both for Brock, who is working constantly for four hours. In relationship to organizing this piece, you'll see that what he does is he literally sometimes reconfigures the grid of the hanging pendulums.
I've seen him, over the course of the week, reconstruct grids in a kind of collage montage form in higher planes and lower planes. He works with inside the movement of the pendulums, which is extraordinary. And so maybe you can say a little bit about your understanding of temporality and motion in terms of this piece.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Yeah. I don't know if it's simpler, but he is also looking at the system and saying, what else does it do? And if I alter the system, will I have other responses or will there be other information available? And the answer is, of course, yes. It's just different relationships, different information.
And then he tries to stay in a permanent state of transition. This is rather difficult. That's the hard part. Maintaining this state of just permanent transition for four hours is, I'd say, the biggest challenge, more than the analysis, although you do get tired, I think, after four hours.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: And you've worked-- you've recently--
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: I performed it. I performed it, yeah. But Brock's done it, I think, up to almost 200 hours by now. He's done it in various places around the world. And it's an extremely difficult thing to keep shifting categories, how you think about it. And that means not just physically the room with all its physical properties, but its geometric properties.
But also, he has to say, among other things in asking what the properties of the present are, how am I? How am I? And then he is permitted to also address that. So it's not just this, but that also, so outer and inner space, as it were.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: And the inner and outer also happens in Rand Hall architechtonically. So one of the things that surprised me the first time that I spent time with him, which was last Saturday-- actually, Kent and I spent all four hours together experiencing the piece. The floor, for example, of Rand Hall is somewhat of an architectural detritus so that there are traces of walls there. There are still lips from different stratospheres.
And one of the things that I noticed that Brock was drawn to do almost immediately was to use those uneven surfaces and different textures of wood and concrete to create a kind of a multimedia sensorial experience by rubbing and tracing. And then that transformed, I thought, the geometrics of the pendulums themselves.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: At that point where you saw him then, on Saturday, he was still in the state of trying to memorize the room. So when he goes back and tries to do it with his eyes closed, he now navigates a lot by the textures in the floor. I'd noticed that as the week went along. But then he, at one point, discovered that the floor was really great for making noise.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: Noise.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Yeah, and so he tried to figure out how the room sounded and then what was not fixed in the room-- for example, with the light. Remember that one?
TIMOTHY MURRAY: Yes.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: It was kind of scary, yeah. I was-- yeah. But I guess, as viewers, you sort of assume it's going to stay in one particular state. And then his job is to, I guess, mess with your assumptions-- I'll put it really simply-- and sort of go, like, oh, right. I thought this was a dance piece. Oh, no, no. Wait a minute, what is this? Is a dance piece a sound piece? I don't know.
And I guess if you think about sound pieces, it's-- I don't know. I haven't really thought about this so much, but I think it's kind of hard to make sound without motion of some sort.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: And motion makes sound in this piece, also, when Brock will be performing on this side of the space, and all of a sudden, from way on the other side, you suddenly hear these clickings and jinglings of the pendulums as they're creating their own motion, which is very interesting. One constituency of viewers that you might be interested in this that I witnessed that aren't confused by this almost at all-- we've had a lot of children watching this piece.
And the other day, I watched-- I don't know. Aaron is here, maybe, who is the head of publicity for AAP, and his kids were there. And to my astonishment, his little boy, who must be three or four, started doing this to a hanging pendulum. Most of the kids try to pick it up and get a hold of it. This kid, all of a sudden, was going like this.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Oh, that was Brock's thing. Brock would sort of sometimes-- notes, yeah.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: And so the kid, the child, picked up on Brock's vocabulary and started emulating. It is really stunning.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Yeah, it was cool. Kids notice, yeah.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: So we have a little bit of time for a public conversation. And so I think that there are a couple of mics. And I think Bill's more than willing to entertain any questions.
AUDIENCE: Thank you. Not having seen one of these pieces, what is the role of the audience? Do we stay still, or do you give us an assignment, or what are we supposed to do?
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: OK, well, when you're in there, you might contemplate, what part of the performance aren't I? You're at the same level as the performer. There's maybe a few feet separating you. Maybe he'll be this close. You don't know.
And I think that Brock poses very much with you in mind. He's very, very aware of people's concentration, quality of their attention, inattention, whatever. And it's a big part of the performance. In other words, he's not saying, you're not there. You're not invisible at all.
You can move, though. I tried-- you moved around, too. Yeah, I moved around. Checked it out. I don't like that side as much as I like that side. Everyone here is going to be on one side.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: I liked that side better than side--
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Really? It was too distracting.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: --one day because of the light.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Oh, the light. Yeah, I found it too distracting because there was a lot of stuff. But Brock does not only use what's in the room. Obviously, there's a lot of visual stimulus coming from outside. So you might see Brock going like this, whereas in fact, there's someone jogging by the room. So not everything is immediate.
You have to sort of get over the room as sort of another little narcissistic place. It's not all about you. Just when you think it is, it ain't, usually.
AUDIENCE: OK, I was just curious if you could talk a little bit more about your differentiation between choreography and dancing.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Wait, sorry. Yeah?
AUDIENCE: And you think of choreography and dancing as two different notions. They're not the same, you said earlier this week, if I understood you correctly. You talked a little bit about choreography already. Could you talk a little bit more about maybe what dancing is in relation to choreography?
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: It's also, let's say, a categorical pursuit. It has to do with-- for me. This is not anyone else-- with accumulating expertise in difference. So dancers can, in some cases, tell you the difference between this, this, that, that, that, that, that, that, that. And a life in dancing, which I have, is an accumulation of sensitivities to very small differences eventually. You started out pretty large.
It's like kids with writing. You know what I mean? You start with kids like this, and then eventually, you get smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller until you have your own individual script.
And so dancers are often demanded to produce state-related things. And I think they are expert at-- what's the thing-- OK, I have it. I'm doing what I want to say-- at turning sensation into a form of visualization. It isn't, but it is.
OK, we can all do this. Some of you know this very, very well. You're going to do with me? Everyone say yes. Yes, yes. OK, put your hands up like this. There. Shake them-- no, I'm joking. OK, go like this, just one hand, and say, point.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Point. Say, point.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: OK, good. And now say, point.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: You have point, and you have point, right? Now go like this. What do you-- no, you have to hold the points still. What do you have?
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Line, oh-- right? Yeah. Can you feel it? Can you feel it? Can you feel it? Yeah, right. OK? So you can see it, can't you? Right? But you can't, right, can't you? Viola.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: And he should see what we see.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: [LAUGHS]
I'm sending contracts on Monday. So that sort of moment there, that when you felt that line-- I didn't say "line." You said "line." You got it. You felt it.
And so what dancers could do is, for example, take it and go pong, like that, like a slingshot. So they give this invisible fictive thing qualities, qualities like elasticity, for example, or different kinds of tension, percussive qualities. Very unclear, sort of-- you name it. Like, if you wrote out a giant list of qualities, I don't think there's any dancer I've met who can embody every quality, but certainly there's many dancers who are very skilled at differentiating between them. Does that make sense, on one hand? OK, that's dancing.
Choreography is trying to find organizations that elicit or, yeah, create the necessity of looking for a qualitative or participating in these qualitative experiences. So when I hold the feather dusters, it's, let's say, functionally isomorphic to the quality of, let's say, tensionless place-holding, for example.
So I could even try it another way around. I could say to the dancer, try tensionless placeholding. OK, and I'm going to get a huge palette of these. But in the case of the audience, I don't want to say, tensionless placeholding because no one would know what I was talking about either. So I can have this direct-- what is [INAUDIBLE]-- communication of this choreographic condition, which is also, I guess, dancerly, but it isn't dancing per se. Does that help, [INAUDIBLE]? Yeah? OK, good.
AUDIENCE: Have you ever tried to work this our with notation?
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Yes, I have, actually.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: The question was, have you ever tried to work this out with notation?
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Can I show you some? You want to see some? Ah, here we go. We were waiting for you. OK, be careful what you wish for, right?
TIMOTHY MURRAY: He's a plant.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: This is something I developed because I felt that many people enjoy dance, but they don't enjoy it, for example, the way I enjoy it because they don't have reading skills. It would be like if I read you a book and you liked the sound of it. So a majority of you look at dance, but you can't actually read it. But you-- yeah. Does that make sense, that metaphor? So I read you the book, but you only hear the melody of it, the prosody of it.
So this is what the dancers are thinking. And this is a very classical moment. This entire work is built to demonstrate how counterpoint has migrated from a kind of perspective moment to many pointed field. So it starts to kick in. If you play Beethoven the Ninth at this point, it fits exactly-- [SINGS] and so on and so forth.
So this is what the-- you're looking at the dancers' intentions. And you can see, then, how they are composing this work is basically like instead of an orchestra with no conductor, it's an orchestra composed only of conductors. And they're all aware of this system, and they're all trying to-- well, [INAUDIBLE]. Trying to make it work like that. So this is a teaching tool. Theoretically, though, you could recreate the work through this.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: And if we had another entire hour, we would talk about this system and its relationship to the archive and Bill's actual commitment to growing our thinking about the archive through choreography. In fact, the archive becomes a choreographic event.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Yeah, this was sort of our calling card for-- oh, I don't think this is going to work. It's very bad. OK, I'm going to go back.
Then, we finally-- or this is my favorite thing. Since the entire project was about counterpoint, we finally ended up with a computational model. It was very interesting trying to find what I thought was the definition for visual counterpoint. You have unison here, you see.
And then I can start to change these parameters. And then in this case, because you're dealing with these parameters in dance, I'm going to take these things out. You can see it better. I can sing [SINGS]. I can do a little Nutcracker for you and [SINGS].
So classicism in dance uses this, but so does everyone. And one of my arguments is that within the domain of contemporary dance, I find classicism is, first of all, too narrowly defined because people don't want to be included in the classification. So I did this to sort of point out that you cannot avoid, at one point, certain principles of alignment.
So recently, I showed this to some people who were working on a continuation of this project. And I showed it to them, and they said, can you explain it? And I said, you saw it. Well, I'm thinking that-- well, OK, sorry.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: And you can also imagine these, I think, as systems as pendulums now [INAUDIBLE]
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: [LAUGHS] Not quite. So yeah, go, go, and then [INAUDIBLE]. And then other things which are, for example, invisible parts of the dance which you don't see, which are, for example, let's say the meta conducting point. These are the cues where you'll see where the dancers are free or where the other dancer is receiving information. I think I'll go to here if I can. Yeah. Well, so I'll go to here.
OK, now this is the cue system, which you don't see. This is what the dancers are-- they're doing the dance and all the alignments you saw in the first one. But this is the other system they're dealing with at the same time. And the duration of the lines is dependent on how long they're important to the structure.
And I discovered this scene, if you put the Dance of the Firebird from Stravinsky, it looks as if it was done on the music. It's very funny. We'll see-- now, go. There was an oral cue. All these cues are visual unless you see a number or a letter. [INAUDIBLE]
AUDIENCE: Is this performed to music?
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: No, it's performed to sound, but not to-- [INAUDIBLE]-- not music that has any influence on it whatsoever. Actually, there's a number of-- it looks somewhat like it has a relationship to the music because of chance and/or statistics, rather. So [SINGS]
And ready, and bam-- [SINGS]
So there you go. So now that was sort of our pilot project. And we now got a huge grant from the German federal government. And this opportunity using these new media has been given to a number of my colleagues. And they're going to also try to see what they can communicate via this media.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: So I think we have time for one more question. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: You've said that Nowhere and Everywhere has been performed in multiple places around the world. What performances stand out as exceptionally difficult or exceptionally surprising?
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Where I felt it didn't function was in the Turbine Hall of the Tate for two reasons. One was because the grid was hung at 16 meters and the period is too long, and the room never came to rest. And then also because they had announced it as a performance, it had a beginning and an end.
So everyone came, sat down, and was expecting a standard kind of performance. And it ain't that. It's an event that has-- it might [INAUDIBLE]. But that was a big problem, I felt.
The other one was last January where I was performing myself, and I wanted to die halfway through. But I had an out. I had this plan where I came in in a giant anorak and a beard. I actually did. I actually did. And I had black sequined tights on. You should have seen that. [LAUGHS] It was great. It was great.
AUDIENCE: I have one quick question. All these chairs disappear. This is a multi-use space. Do you think this would be a good space for a dance performance?
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Why not? I mean, there's no good space or bad way. It just depends on the dance, right? It's something you wouldn't want to do here, you know? Yeah, absolutely.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: So one of the things that we haven't asked Bill to do during his week long residency at Cornell is perform physically himself, although I think that one of the things we've enjoyed witnessing this afternoon is that very physical performance and embodiment of choreographic line. I want to thank you very, very much for your incredible generosity this week as an AD White professor-at-large. You're really an ideal--
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: It's a pleasure to be here--
TIMOTHY MURRAY: --colleague, and it's been a tremendously exciting time to share with you. We're looking forward to more. And we'll now invite all of you to take a little pause. And then at 5 o'clock, from 5:00 to 7:00, please experience Brock.
WILLIAM FORSYTHE: Yeah. Don't storm in there all at 5:00. Like, pull straws or something. It's normally only like max 15, 20 people. So it could get a little-- if you peek in and it looks too crowded, do yourself a favor maybe, and like that. And if you can't help yourself, just go in anyway. Anyway, thank you very much.
TIMOTHY MURRAY: Thank you.
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A. D. White Professor-at-Large William Forsythe and Tim Murray, director of the Society for the Humanities, discuss Forsythe's artistic practice, his development of choreographic objects, and their relationship to the choreographic work, 'Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time,' March 10, 2012. The event was part of the College of Art, Architecture and Planning's Milstein Hall celebration.
From lectures by Rem Koolhaas, John Reps (M.R.P. '47), and William Forsythe to an exhibition of work by Simon Ungers (B.Arch. '80) to a party unlike any the college has thrown before, Celebrate Milstein Hall energized the AAP community as 500 alumni and guests reconnected with 300 faculty, students, and staff for an exhilarating weekend.