Normate I Mien [2018]

Normate I Mien is a research-creation project that seeks to develop new modes of interdisciplinary artistic collaboration by investigating how the performative elasticity between language, gesture, sound and image can challenge preconceived notions of normal self-expression in everyday life.

This 50-minute workshop performance, which is structured as a lecture-demonstration, emerges out of our interest in the compositional strategies shared by dance, theatre, music, and new media design, and is based on participant interviews conducted with a range of individuals who were invited to talk about concepts of normality and abnormality. In reviewing the audio transcripts of these interviews, we have focused not so much on what the interviewees said as on how they said it, using different speech rhythms to come up with compositional phrases whose overlapping patterns of language, gesture and sound might complicate preconceptions around established, or normal, conditions of fit: whether between bodies and their environments, or between different artistic media.

Our work is informed by Erin Manning and Brian Massumi’s theorization of “co-compositional environmental awareness” in Thought in the Act (2014). In particular, Manning and Massumi’s discussions of autistic writers’ elastic self-descriptions of how they relate to visual and aural environments resonates with our understanding of how an artist might work collaboratively and elastically in the studio, that is, not as someone who stands out in or apart from her environment, but as someone who is working with that environment to produce a new mode of awareness: “a co-compositional force that does not yet seek to distinguish between human and nonhuman, subject and object, emphasizing instead an immediacy of mutual action, an associated milieu of their emergent relation” (Manning and Massumi 2014:6). 

Applying the perceptual model advanced by Manning and Massumi to a reading of our interview transcripts, we have adapted our interview participants’ conversational talk about normalcy and difference—and the meta-communicative frames governing that talk—into a collaged sensorial landscape in which the immediacy and elasticity of “mutual action” (for example, speaking and moving) becomes a strategy for shifting other, more socially entrenched frames of categorizing behaviour.

The creative team includes dance artist Rob Kitsos, composer-performer Nancy Tam, writer Peter Dickinson, and new media artist Milton Lim. 

The work builds on a series of intensives beginning in the summer 2017 with an artistic residency in Belgium, where Kitsos and Tam worked on methodologies for creating movement, sound, and media from recorded text. In this next phase, Peter Dickinson joined the project, bringing his scholarly and playwriting interests in text- and movement-based performance to bear on the process. New media designer and theatre/dance artist Milton Lim has since joined the team during an intensive in Montreal at the Senselab.

Performances and Workshops:

  • Left of Main in Vancouver, CA (February 2019)

  • Senselab at Concordia in Montreal, CA (October 2018)

  • Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, CA (May/June 2018)

  • Destelheide in Dworp, Belgium (Summer 2017)