What is all this freaking #whitenoise about??
I recently presented my very first movement-based solo as a work-in-process. No, not work-in-progress where one is working towards a goal which consequently leaves what one is currently doing not quite “it”; this gives reason for one to brush it off as unimportant or to hide from lack of clarity. Process, on the other hand, is constantly ongoing. It is what it is at that moment. Perhaps my work was very different from opening night to the second showing two weeks later. Perhaps the process of its unfolding is constantly changing, not progressing towards anything, but simply changing.
This is the way I like to work, and the way I am working on this solo - #whitenoise - A Neologism. The process began on April 19, 2017, when, after restricting and scrutinizing over what I post on social media, I felt an urge to add to the white noise by not filtering anything I post. This was and is a form of a satirical comment on people’s reliance on, addiction to, and fascination with social media. The rules are simple:
Post on Twitter and link to Facebook
Made in the moment with little judgment & analysis
About the present thought of happening
Present thought must accompany the thought of "I should post this"
Only refer directly to "#whitenoise" (as in to put it into an actual sentence) if the post absolutely calls for it
Never go to social media with the thought of “I want to post something” unless you already have something to post
I had no piece of performance work in mind but felt satisfied giving in to the whims of social posting. I could post nonsense without the weight of “meaning” even though all posts meant something to me. Only I held the context. So the anonymity - the seclusion - fueled me to continue on.
“Hey Nestor,” I confided with my flatmate, a former student of P.A.R.T.S, and current artist in Brussels, “I had this image yesterday about smashing an old-school cassette boombox playing patriotic songs. I’d like to make a work about this. Any thoughts on how?” We threw around some ideas of how to work with the tapes, the audience, and to keep it spontaneous but with not too many variables. Then I dropped it.
The end of April marked my expiry time in Belgium. After three exhausting months of bureaucratic meetings and constantly being told to go back to my “country of residence”, I had to acquiesce. In addition to the rise of American protectionism, this fueled my anger towards borders. I was being sent back to the very place I did not agree with/felt guilty by association and wanted to continue removing myself from it. But the universe was forcing me to go back. And, because San Francisco was the only artistically sound place to move to, my attention to regional news began to shift.
Headlines like “Can SF plan for surviving a North Korean nuclear strike?” (SF Chronicle) didn’t, by any means, diminish my reluctance to move. I realized I had been ignoring all of this news, repressing its effect on me. So I decided to tackle it head-on.
If you are to type in keywords like “North Korea”, “San Francisco”, and “Nuclear” into Facebook, it has a great way of sucking you into a vortex of video clip after clip from CNN, CBS, FOX, and others relating to this issue. Pretty soon you are watching the N. Korean propaganda video of San Francisco blowing up to a soundtrack of dubstep. Barring the ridiculousness that people create, I was astonished by all the rhetoric regarding potential nuclear war. They report on it as if it’s some colloquial business.
A nuclear bomb has the potential to flatten entire cities and millions of people. This is not some event to haphazardly throw around. And if everyone is reporting on this the same way, nothing cuts through. It all becomes business as usual. It all becomes white noise. And it affects our way of being in the world - whether we outwardly let it (shown by hiding in bunkers and stockpiling staples) or inwardly suppress it (by continuing to ignore the potential of an imminent strike).
For the bulk of the population, we continue living our everyday lives. What else are we supposed to do? Live in fear? Seclude ourselves? Run away? But this also has dire consequences.
Until feelings are brought to consciousness, our unconscious affects the Self without the Being noticing it. When we as Beings are inundated with so much information that we become immune to various happenings - when information all becomes white noise and nothing stands out anymore (mass shootings, nuclear threats, terrorist attacks, etc.) - are we actually just brushing it off and is it not affecting us? Or do we repress our reactions which then become stored in our musculature that then manifest themselves unconsciously through tension, illness, and dissociated fear? If this is the case - which has been so for me - how is this manifested? By recognizing that we are affected by all of this, how can we work to release the tension built up? How can we expose this tension so that we may live better and healthier lives - so that we may live differently? And when this is exposed - when we become aware - how then do we continue to live without letting white noise eat at us? Do we ignore it - or is that the root of our initial tension? Do we set up blocking mechanisms? Do we take it in, recognize it, work with it? Do we let it pass through us? Do we react?
Krishnamurti describes society as “... what you and I, in our relationship, have created; it is the outward projection of all our own inward psychological states.”* Thus, if we follow this logic, which falls in line with the rhetoric of many Americans saying, “The only thing we can do is be nice to one another and make our community and surroundings the best they can be”, it is important that we become aware of the effect media (among many other stimuli) has on our inner psychological states so that we may not unconsciously be manifesting damaging relationships and, subsequently, a brutal society. We have seen and are continuing to see the potential this has for the worse - currently with the US Government’s projection of power and control.
This is where my piece comes in. By connecting to the body and enhancing self-awareness, I hope to challenge audience members to do the same - to relate, think, and recognize. My work is not about beauty, not solely about aesthetic, and is not meant to entertain. I could care less about that last one. But it is meant to be engaging.
I weave in notions of hyper-performativity to comment on our constant need to be “wowed” with that of nostalgia for a simpler, more innocent child-like mindset where I only danced for myself not caring to impress others. By working with audio recordings of news briefings as representation of the background noise I grew up with, I hope to create an environment of tension and, yes, to "beat a dead horse". I reflect on how I used to feel so proud to be an American and follow up with tearing through space to catharsis.
One audience member from opening night brought up the point that we as Society are in a labyrinth and cannot get out. He went on to say that my work exposes the wall of the labyrinth as a potential reason why. Maybe we are trapped?
But if enough people - including politicians and decision makers - connect to their own self-awareness and their relationship with others, and if we as a society fundamentally become changed as a result, maybe we will find a way out of the labyrinth.
This present work does not yet promote some “answer”. It shows our political problem in a different light. It is meant to stimulate, to comment, to draw awareness, and to protest.
#whitenoise - A Neologism means that the term “whitenoise” as slang in reference to news is not quite picked up by the general population yet. This is also my work in its infancy, constantly in process, and may be or may not be on the brink of being recognized by the general population (or at least the dance community). So I must continue this research - piecing together many, what seem to be disjointed parts and connecting them for others to contemplate. It’s complicated and there are many layers. Let’s dig deeper.
*Krishnamurti, J. (1954). The First and Last Freedom. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers. p. 26.