Workshop 1: How do we share our worlds? ~Inspired by audio

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In case you couldn’t tell from the pictures, the color for our spring 2010 series of workshops is green.  Is this the ideal color for our topic of inquiry, “How do we share our worlds?”?  Perhaps.  The world of Logan Square sure does seem pretty green this time of year.  And it doesn’t hurt that the walls of our space in St. Luke’s Church – right across the hall from the Teatro Luna office suite – are coated in a fresh minty green, too.

Today we investigated our worlds – the world of Logan Square, of our Ag47 community, of ourselves – through an exploration of sound.   The sounds often manifested themselves in the vocabulary words we learned, used, and overused – in the best possible ways.  Virginia challenged us to use these words – extension, essence, representation, realistic, abstract, and symbol – in their proper contexts as often as possible throughout the workshop.   Each time someone used a word to describe an action, to discuss the art we were making, the rest of the group would throw peace signs up in the air (V for “vocab!”), and someone would put a bean in the little jar sitting on the window sill.  If we fill the jar by the end of our 6-week spring session, we get a pizza party!

As a warm-up, each of us got the chance to create a gesture and sound, which we passed to our neighbors around the circle.  We then discussed the words extension and essence and let these concepts affect the way we built upon other people’s gestures and sounds.   Some gestures we exxxxxtennnnddded; some sounds we discovered the **essence** of and let that affect our response.  Tiny movements and sounds became huge gestures by the time they made their way around the circle, and a simple word like “toy” brought out a variety of expressions and emotions as each person discovered their own essential meaning for the word.

Things got even noisier when Nikki asked us to create soundscapes that painted an auditory portrait of Logan Square.  We chose three specific locations in and around Logan Square to inspire us: Humboldt Park, Jules Pet Shop, and the train station.  In small groups, we brainstormed all the sounds that are essential to each environment.  Each person chose a sound to perform, and in our small groups we created symphonies of noises that represented our experiences in the different places of Logan Square.  We shared our soundscapes with the group and recorded them for our final event.  It was really cool to hear each soundscape get louder and louder, reaching a climax, as the different sounds collided with each other: birds squawking in the pet shop overlapped with a cashier saying, “Five cents is your change;” grills sizzled as the wind blew and children laughed and played in Humboldt Park; the tracks rumbled and the earth shook until there was a sudden rest in sound, and the train conductor said, “Doors open on the right at California.  All aboard!”

The soundscapes inspired us in performance and collaborative drawing.  Each group was given the chance to create a tableau based on a sound chosen from another group’s soundscape.  A person walked into the tableau one at a time, adding a pose and a sound to the stage picture.  Each stationary tableau represented an amalgamation of two of the different locations we explored; we found the essences of places, we extended the sounds through gestures, we created an abstract representation of Logan Square with our bodies, and we put a lot of beans in our vocab jar!

Along one wall of the room, Michelle had hung paper and laid out various shades of green, blue, and yellow pastels for us to use.  We then began a process of collaborative drawing as our soundscapes played in the background.  We drew for ten minutes with the soundscapes and our fellow artists’ lines and scribbles serving as inspiration for our work.  When we were done, we took the sheets of paper down from the wall and arranged them on the floor, laid out like a map.  A line from one sheet of paper connected like a path to another sheet that had once hung on the opposite side of the room.  Blobs and squiggles suddenly became abstract – almost realistic – images that resembled outdoor landscapes.  Our big map on the floor sort of looked like the world outside, even though we hadn’t intended it to.  You could even say it was a symbol (V for “vocab!”) of the space and community we were creating together and the path that our workshops would take over the course of our spring sessions.

When we were all done, we gathered together in a circle to discuss the reflection questions that Liz had created.  We looked over at our jar of beans, which was already more than half full.  We have a lot to explore and share about our worlds over the next couple weeks, but we may have to save some time for a pizza party soon!  It’s essential.  (V FOR “VOCAB!”)

~ Cara


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