The residency was focused and busy today, as the day culminated in a run-through of all the projects. As we cheered our fellow residents efforts, it became clear how much work, and how many projects, developed this year in a compressed period of time. This is a credit both to the creativity of the residents, but also to their willingness to work collaboratively. Many residents had perhaps only a small role to play in a given project, but a crucial one—suggesting a way a project might unfold, solving a technical problem, or perhaps merely holding a mic boom during a shooting. We are looking forward to presenting a number of the projects in the village tomorrow, a first for Koumaria, which will be very useful for us as we prepare final versions to present back in Athens. By using many sites within the village, and between the village and the residency itself, we hope to creatively interact with this locals–both revealing their histories and their potentials as sites for creative engagement with space, place and memory.
Its our duty to expose ourselves even when we don’t feel comfortable.” This is, in a sense, a moral of this residency, each resident needs to expose themselves, to new ideas, new techniques, new situations, and to authentically expose who they are, what they think, to others. This year this has been very unproblematic, and everyone has taken this duty very seriously. They day was spent refining projects. A small group of residents went to Mystras, an important Byzantine site across the valley from the residency. There amidst ruined walls and buildings, numerous churches whose original ornamentation and sacred power still show forth, and fragrant vegetation, video and photos were shot, while, at the same time, we came to a deeper understanding of the history and importance of the valleys and mountains that surround us. As this blog shows, one resident, a dancer, after many days of observing and interacting with the landscape, came to an understanding, one of many possible understandings, of how her body and movements might fit in with the surroundings. After dinner we has a “show and tell” of all the projects, and it is remarkable both how many, how close to completion, and how aesthetically focused, they are. We are at the stage where many of the projects really start to reveal their potentialities, they open up and suggest numerious ways of resolving them, multiple arc they may embody. It is at this point we need to follow the advice of one resident: “The problem is, I should not think too much.”
OCT31 // DAY7
In memory of Sarantos Koutris
We learned today of the death of an elder of the local village Sellasia Sarantos Koutris, which has deeply affected the community. This has had an impact on our plans to present our projects to the villagers on Sunday, as that will be a day of mourning. We express our heartfelt condolences to the Koutris family, and this feeling has seeped into the bones of some of the projects that took place today. As a number of the projects took further shape, the video team conducted further interviews which have started to take a more conceptual/philosophical turn. As the residents now have a sense of the form all the projects are taking, the assorted aesthetics and work methods of everyone, and have developed greater familiarity with each other, conversations are taking more risks, while remaining friendly. The evening witnessed an eerie and atmospheric video shoot in the olive grove immediately in front of the residency, featuring a centrally lit space with smoke produced by burning incense serving as a container for carefully controlled movements by two dancers. This piece manages to express both our sadness at the passing of Sarantos, while simultaneously grounding this grief in the landscape that he was so attached to. We await the soundscape being composed to accompany it, to see what forms of expressiveness it may suggest. Perhaps as an act of catharsis this was the first evening that a full noise jam took place, and as the central work space reverberated with sounds simultaneously ugly and beautiful, we were all deep into the work needed to soon bring our projects of fruition. Our activities leading up to our presentation in the Sellasia this Sunday are focused on honoring Sarantos’ memory.
Dawn revealing another strikingly clear and sunny day, a great day for moving a number of the technologies outdoors. After a morning video-team meeting, where more formal interviews with the residents were planned, assorted groups of residents scattered here and there. The video project at the abandoned oil processing plant completed its shoot, to everyone’s satisfaction. One project that had to date been working on its concept, and developing its technology, put it to the test—the creation of a digital wind chime. Using prosthetic sensors originally designed for use by dancers, but here acting as a sort of cyborg tree branch, the sounds of wind chimes was mapped, and refined to trigger other more synthetic sounds. The idea is not to hide the technology, but to foreground it, and reveal the complexity in both the natural sounds of wind-on-metal, and the potential for the creation of new sounds that the digital domain affords us. The use of these prosthetic sensors was also employed inside the residency by dancers, and will be used in a number of the performances to come next week in Athens. Other projects took further shape—an interactive rock is taking on all the trappings of a traditional cult object, if traditional cult objects had conductivity and motion sensors! Artisanal hand drawn overhead projections, served as a backdrop for highly made-up dancers, as an emerging story-line also involving improvised music was developed for yet another multi-media project. Once the skies darkened, and the stars emerged, the olive grove in front of the residency glowed with a triangle of light, as dancers, enveloped in smoke somehow produced to blow in just the right direction, entered, danced, and left this illuminated spot, while both audio and video was recorded. We are realizing how soon we need to have our projects ready to be viewed and performed, and there is a great feeling of focused energy at the residency. Tomorrow, a long tech meeting, which will make clear both how much work has already been accomplished, and how much more there is to do!
DAY OF THE OLIVE :: The residency began this morning with a group going to the village Church service and filming/recording, and then doing the same afterwards in the village. It is the beginning of an important holiday, and it was a special service. Another group went in search of—well—an interesting sounding old olive tree. They spent a good part of the day listening to, and recording this aged tree. In the afternoon rehearsals took place for a video piece being filmed at the old village olive production factory, now slowly returning to nature, but still complete with equipment, industrial scales, and slowly rusting industrial ephemera. Our first hardship was encountered when one of our two vans decided that the track from the residency through the olive-grove and to the paved road was a bit too much for it, and it chose to scatter its own oil amongst the trees that produce a far fairer product! Assorted projects are taking more shape, with some folks writing code, designing patches, working with breadboards, sewing sensors into clothing, editing video, designing costumes, making up residents, and everything in between. A further project, not yet revealing, is taking shape on the roof of the residency, which affords one 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape. As good smells emanate from the kitchen, the residency is a hub of activity. This evening there will be a further meeting to discuss the emerging projects, a show-and-tell of bit and pieces of emerging technologies and art-works, and another electro-acoustic jam.
The Mountain! The residency woke up early today, with about 15 of us preparing to hike up one of the mountain peaks that dominate the local landscape. Driving in two vans we stopped at the village at the base of the mountain to pick up our local guide. These older men tend to the trails and watch against fires and the like, and a deeply, and justly, proud of their mountain region. As we wound up a road not for the faint of heart, new and more compelling vistas would emerge, punctuated by flocks of goats and views of isolated mountain shrines. As we approached the trail head, the guide had us stop. It was the name-day of the Saint associated with a small alpine church, and just as we arrived there, the service emerged from the church itself, and onto the surrounding small plaza. After a sung service, a variety of sweets were passed out, and we approached the trail laden with honey cakes. It was a perfect day for a mountain hike, clear and warm. As we made our way to the exposed summit, some of the residents were being slowly transformed, taking on fanciful aspect of the muses long associated with this mountain range. As we paused to work at the top, the transformation was completed, and two residents, in make-up and costume supplemented by found objects, engaged in a musical/movement dialogue under the increasingly quizzical gaze of our guide! We then returned to the village for well-earned coffees and beer, before returning to the residency. Other residents spent the day recording the sounds on the mountain, or preparing a site for a performance to take place tomorrow. After another Koumaria-style meal (large quantities of fresh food—meat—vegetarian and vegan, with wine and more), we held our daily group meeting, and it was clear that collaborations were already taking place. After dinner we had a demonstration of interactive- devices, both clothing with sensors, and prosthetic devices, which we hope to experiment with today. While live overhead animations took place, an electro-acoustic jam took form, and the day ended with everyone excited by the projects starting to take flight.
Yesterday was a travel day for all the residents, who arrived in two main groups. We awoke this morning to a clear warm sky—those who arrived last night after dark saw, for the first time, the ridge of mountains that dominate the skyline. Folks were shaking off jet lag, and taking short walks around the residency with coffee in hand. Everyone seemed amazed by the surroundings. At 11 there was a meeting of all those involved in the documentary that we are shoot this year, in celebration of the fifth year of the residency. We discussed technical matters—determined what formats to shoot in, and decided on file management and sound coordination—and also more general issues concerning the best way to document our activities. This year we have more cameras and lights than usual, in order to assist in the filming, and folks are generally excited by the prospect of a high-quality documentary being made. At noon we all met for a full meeting introducing the projects folks want to pursue, and had a free-ranging discussion with ideas bouncing back and forth across the table. Afterwards folks broke up into smaller groups, with discussions ranging from Max programing to interactive fabrics taking place. We conducted short interviews with each resident concerning their first impressions, and then made our way to the village to film and interview the locals in the coffee shop. Mean while, the completed setting up the studio for sound, and soldering irons and circuit boards were in circulation. Dinner was, as always, a treat, an all-vegetarian feast (with the addition of anchovies!) of about 8 different dishes, from a fava-bean carrot and tomato casserole, a chickpea puree, two different versions of local potatoes, a cumin-scented cabbage salad, among others. We discussed (at some length!) the logistics of tomorrows trip to the mountains, while also having to made a trip to Sparta to pick up a bag of equipment that did not make it on the same flights as its owner! The evening ended with intense, but relaxed, clusters of activity scattered throughout the house. The overall mood is positive, everyone seems both anxious to collaborate and share ideas, while also focused on the outputs we need to produce in pretty short order.