Re-Imagine the World

July 6, 2012 § 7 Comments

I grew up in the church.

This won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who knows me well – and for this reason I am still surprised when conversations grind to a halt when new acquaintances start asking me about my life and I answer them honestly.

Each new person that I come into contact with has a hand in my evolution, and I try very hard to work as a positive force in theirs. Sometimes it is the briefest of encounters that can change things. A friendly glance, a lingering hand, a five minute conversation, an hour in the back corner of a dimly lit bar.

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The Age of Adz

September 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

I love Sufjan Stevens

Super Band (UPDATED: Now with Video!)

February 25, 2010 § 3 Comments

I have a friend, his name is John. Well, his English name is John, in Korean he is Jung Jong Bin. He is a lovely boy, only slightly younger than myself who has just completed his military service (compulsory for every Korean male).

He plays the guitar, and, as a Winter Project he decided to form a band.

And by band, I really mean Super Band. ‘This Week Band’ to be even more precise. « Read the rest of this entry »

Steampunk Goodness.

August 1, 2009 § Leave a comment

I want one of these… So Bad.

The Cybraphon is a MacBook powered, Arduino-based mechanical band housed in an antique wardrobe. Including an organ, cymbals, a motor-driven Indian Shruti box (played with 13 robotic servos, no less), and a gramophone, it relies on infrared motion detectors to sense when it has an audience. A number of factors, including the amount of attention it gets on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, help the device determine its “mood,” which in turn determines when the “band” plays, and what material it selects. According to one of the artist / inventors, the Cybraphon is a “tongue-in-cheek comment on people’s obsession with online celebrity. We modeled it on an insecure, egotistical band.” That’s our favorite kind! And you know, the thing doesn’t sound half bad.

Via Engadget

Full Article at Wired.

Everland… The Experience

June 17, 2009 § 1 Comment

Yesterday we went to Everland.

The epically artificial, hyper-clean, manically-happy precisely produced universe of a theme park owned by Samsung.  It is still hard for me to express how I feel about it, several times I forgot who I was, and as one point didn’t know whether or not I was dead.

This latter sensation first happened on the T Express, the absolutely huge wooden roller coaster that dominates the landscape at Everland.  Despite Koreans telling you that it is the largest, fastest and longest wooden roller coaster in the world, in fact it ranks as ninth fastest, third tallest, and sixth longest.  But it is still impressive, and the initial drop is a very confusing-to-the-soul 77 degrees.

I guess you could say that we were there all day.

One of the highlights was watching the ‘Summer Splash’ show.  Held in the parade ground, it consisted of giant pastel-coloured robotic underwater-themed set pieces being wheeled around, complete with a large retinue of assorted costumed performers with water pistols singing and dancing through some really poor narrative.  There were synchronised water cannons, and sneaky fireworks and loud music and lots and lots of water (the brochure said 8 tonnes, which makes this boy from Queensland instantly nervous).  Towards the end, two massive monsters, reminiscent of Power Ranger Villains, popped out of two of the giant clams, and were slammed with jets of water that would put European riot police to shame, and disappeared in clouds of fog and vapour. I think this was the climax.

The performers (especially the foreigners) scored 2 out of 12 for their effort and commitment.

My most frightening moment was in the ‘Rotating Room’, a Hogwarts-themed mansion that you sit inside, and which, at the signal of a Korean Pixie-Boy gives the illusion that you are being turned upside down. Coupled with loud, demonic voices and flashing lights, I was scared witless and apparently made quite a scene. The experience was like having your soul eaten away by fire-breathing demons while being told that there will never be another Christmas, and that they have lost the formula for chocolate.

Abe and MinJeong had to leave at 4, but Kate, Nathan and I soldiered on.  After going on every ride, and eating at many of the snack outlets, we enjoyed the Victorian Rose Garden, and watched the evening parade form the top of the Ferris wheel.  I made the mistake of mentioning the unfortunate situation we would be in if the pod became uncoupled from the wheel.  Nathan averted dual panic attacks from Kate and I by keeping us focused on the pretty lights of the parade.  I don’t think I’ll ride a Ferris wheel again.

We then enjoyed ‘Dream Of Lachien’, the massive light, sound and firework extravaganza.  It was mind-blowing.  The best fireworks I have ever seen (honestly, it felt like it was never going to end) coupled with epic video projection, moving lights and lasers.  The only disappointment was the quality of the music, while suitably epic, it was terribly generic and all synthesized.  But there is no quite time anywhere in the park. Everywhere you go, there is a sound design that is crafted for that particular ride, street, shop or restaurant.  It was like being inside a video game.

Needless to say, I was impressed by the entire situation.

I’m sure Nathan will post pictures soon.

The Excitement Of Collaboration

May 14, 2009 § Leave a comment

Tomorrow I will tell you what we did today. But as for this evening…

Let’s just say that tonight’s artist laboratory bordered on the hideous.

We are preparing for a guerrilla performance tomorrow at Kookmin University, a kind-of demonstration for the dance and art faculties.  We were given the stimulus for the mostly-improvised performance on Monday.  The concept… Subway.

We were broken up into our respective art-form groups, and given two days to prepare material for tonight’s rehearsal.  Last night, Soonho, Fonkam, Akino and myself rehearsed in the studio.  As I was sick on Monday, I was underprepared (nobody told me we had a theme, or that my homework was to prepare a movement idea for the rehearsal).

Nevertheless, the other dancers shared their ideas; we improvised, discussed and rehearsed.  We came up with three simple concepts

1: The idea of the pedestrian versus the interesting.  This manifested itself as an opening image of pedestrians crossing the space, gradually building until the collide, like small atoms shooting across space, bouncing off each other and continuing on their new, altered course.

2: Second was a line of dancers, standing in normal, neutral, everyday positions, and slowly coming alive and pressing through the negative space in front of them.  Gradually, this expanded into an expressionist transformation of the simple gesture of drawing a line, or in some cases, pegging a line of string in the air.  This in turn transformed to the negotiation of a highly engaged body navigating this imaginary web of lines, almost like a commuter navigating a Subway Map.

This had a second incarnation as an open improvisation on the drawing / pegging theme.

3.  The last idea was of a woman, dreaming on the subway. Standing still, or slowly walking in a dream state.  She is encountered by a dream (and the form of one of the male dancers) that tries in vain to distract her, finally picking her up and moving her to another physical location.  This was a nice play on the idea that the train, and the dream become one, both are vehicles for the physical body and the consciousness.

We brought this to the rehearsal.

The visual artists brought three skeins of sheer white fabric, and the musicians brought a rather good soundscape / ambient piece using found sounds and live voice.

The problem came when we tried to collaborate.  There was no real established working methodology, common language (linguistic or practical), or chain of command.   We fist tried to do an open impro based on the idea of using the material as moving set pieces, and the dancers dancing with it, the music layered over the top.  This then launched us into almost one and a half hours of utterly useless, circular conversation in languages.

It may seem strange, but the fact that the conversation circled around between both bilingual participants, and appointed translators was the least of our problems.  There was a real lack of parameters, decisiveness and an abundance of ideas and ego to go along with them.

Don’t get me wrong, we have quickly formed a pretty close group in just over a week (less for some).  But everyone has clear ideas about the project, about both the nature of the collaboration, and the physical manifestation of it, and these are not necessarily mutually compatible.

I won’t dwell on the specifics.

The Korean tendency to stay silent and back away from confrontation (to the point of totally ignoring certain people) was not necessarily helpful.  Also, the abundance of professional artists who are very used to either creating their own work, or being in charge on an ensemble, or not collaborating in such an intense cross-cultural context was not helpful.

I personally chose to disengage and support, rather than pushing my own agenda.  I don’t think that this was the best choice.  For some reason, everyone seems to look to me for decisive action.  I think this is because I started off as the only native English speaker in the project.  This initially gave everyone some kind of responsibility to make sure I understood what was going on.  Kind-of an English Verification Device.  I have found that it is usually up to me to ‘translate’ English conversations to the entire group.  Apparently nobody ever has any problem understanding my English, or my intentions.

The reason I bring this up is to say that often I find myself at the receiving end of confused stares, calls for clarification, and inevitably decision.  Tonight I chose not to engage.  Both out of respect for the directors of the project, and because there were already too many cooks.  Far too many cooks.

Also, I hate being a winker.  I know how to collaborate.  I have learned, through many different means, and over several years how to collaborate efficiently and effectively.  I even have experience doing this in multi-cultural, multi-disciplinary settings.  But I did not see it as my job to set up a safe, effective working environment, to set rules, to make things happen.

I am not saying that my inaction entirely contributed to the mostly hideous time everyone seemed to have.  But we did come down to 30 minutes left of rehearsal, with mostly nothing achieved, and others scrabbling to take charge.  Suddenly, the exquisite pressure that is such a catalyst for decisiveness and creativity manifested itself all at once.  There was a flurry of commands by many different people, in many different languages.  Some wanted to start form the very beginning with the fundamental concept of the piece.  Others wanted a purely mechanical solution.  Still others decided that they would just wait and hijack the performance as it happened.

Finally, Fonkam decided to simply explain the ideas that we dancers had come up with. There was silence.  I then asked the visual artists to do the same.  And then, the musicians.  I suggested that we start with these simple, strong ideas, which already exhibited synchronicity, and put them together in a performative context.

Somehow this single moment of clarity and silence prompted Soonho and CJ, the project directors to have a discussion, which resulted in a cohesive concept for the performance.  There was still a deferment to the group, which almost resulted in more discussion, but I very rudely declared that any strong idea was a good one, that I liked their concept, and that at this stage, we will have to be happy to run with it.

And so we will.

And now, my head hurts.

Even busier

March 23, 2009 § 1 Comment

I have had a massive week. Not much time to be a real person.

I entertained Ellen for most of it, did some writing (of music) did website for Autumn Sun, both jobs which I have to finish this week.

I really miss Nathan – it’s manifesting itself in strange, and not really helpful ways.

This week Ellen and Polly and I planned our lives for the next few… well, years actually. We have two shows in production with pretty-much confirmed seasons. I am going to Korea in a few weeks to learn Pansori and work on a peice of theatre which will hopefully see the light of day as part of Gaudete.

I am starting to journal my experiences so that I can have an effective reflective practice.

My next post will be one of these.

Protected: Dancing with myself

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I can’t remember…

July 30, 2007 § Leave a comment

I remember opening this window maybe half an hour ago.

I had something witty and insightful to write, but then 4.5GB of Barbra Streisand fell into my computer from nowhere, and my priority turned into sorting and tagging it to make sure it fits nicely in my collection. Ah… the 3.5GB of Hindi/Bollywood is also done…

BUT I MUST NOT STRAY!

I have a plan of attack for my three days off. It starts with cooking an early lunch, and continues with going to work, faxing my plane ticket to my travel agent, going to the gym, buying more veggies, transcribing music of Zoe, sorting out my Zen application, writing a letter to a certain Brisbane composer for his support of my YAMP application … La la la la…

I also have to finish my allotted Daegeum practice. Meanwhile, playing that particular instrument is starting to become a joy. Which is a good thing. Soon I will be sitting under a tree, playing my heart out to the birds and the native animals.

And, in one foul swoop, Barbra distracted me again.

I am going to make baba ganoush with my copious eggplant. Then lunch. Then the other things.

Fake France ate my Ciabatta…

June 15, 2007 § Leave a comment

I am glad that I have finally found someone as ridiculous as me.

She came to my house last night to learn the piano accordion.

After setting back our meeting about 4 times, she finally arrived at 8.

She was late because she bought me a sandwich from our favorite, authentic French patisserie in Shinsa-dong. The only thing was, she had coffee with a friend at one of Korea’s most popular European-fusion bakery franchises, Paris Baguette, and left it on a table.

So, naturally, she bought me a burrito to make up for it.

I never asked for food in the first place, but her hobby is to feed me things, so of course, I’m not complaining.

And as for the piano accordion, she’ll be fine. For a girl with perfect pitch, and who actually enjoys doing cold readings of  music, there is really not going to be any problems. Except that she is a small girl, and accordions are practically bestial in their monstrosity. But she enjoys it because it breathes like a real animal, and it gives her a sense of power.

All of a sudden this entry has gotten rather animalistic.

I’m going to the gym…

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