Eco-Arts Think/Act Tank: Second Gathering, November 2019

All events are part of the Eco Arts Think/Act Tank, dir. Petra Kuppers, funded by the National Center for Institutional Diversity, University of Michigan, with support from the Black Earth Institute. ASL is provided at Friday evening show, all spaces are wheelchair accessible, please contact organizer for any other access needs (by November 10th).

Opposite of Evolution Amber (image from previous showing)

Image: Sunaura Taylor: Self-Portrait with Manatee, as seen in DiPietra’s performance The Opposite of Evolution Dance Studio (image description: two figures hovering in a color field, both with hanging circular appendages. One is grey and looks like a manatee, one is a human figure with breasts)

Images from Ypsilanti performance night:

Amber DiPietra in motion, in a bathing suit and on her scooter, in front of hanging legs/fins from Sunaura Taylor‘s manatee/human image, projected behind her.

Bree Gant with her water altar, in a movement position, leg lifted, with multiple jars and a small sailing ship on her altar, a garland of painted mussels in her hand.

Program Overview (see below for more info)
All events are free (for all but the Friday night performance, please register at petra@umich.edu)

Thursday November 21st

11-12.30 Turtle Disco Goes Jurassic. A Playshop with Petra Kuppers. Natural History Museum, University of Michigan

6-8, Contemplative Dance and Writing Practice with Stephanie Heit, 
Riverside Arts Studio 2, 76 N Huron St, Ypsilanti, Michigan 48197

Friday November 22nd

11.30-12.30: Paper Workshop, Ypsilanti Public Library, Michigan Avenue, Ypsilanti
Sarah Ensor and Petra Kuppers

2-4.30, Sound Wandering Workshop with Rebecca Caines, Regina, Canada
Dance Studio, Riverside Arts Center, Ypsilanti

6-8, Riverside Arts Center Gallery, Ypsilanti
Gallery Visit, Way Opens Exhibit (for a review/description, see here)a disability arts and culture exhibition with Performances (performances start at 6.30 in the Off Center space, Riverside Arts Center, with ASL interpretation):

Bree Gant, Detroit: Otherlogue. A performance exploring the relationship between ritual and mental health for Black womenfolx

Amber DiPietra, Florida: The Opposite of Evolution Dance Studio. Humans, manatees, embodiment, somatics, disability, sensual labor

Saturday November 23rd

2-4: Paper Workshop
Turtle Disco, Ypsilanti
Stephanie Heit (poetry), Amber DiPietra (hybrid memoir/essay), Charli Brissey (dance writing) and Catherine Fairfield (academic chapter)

Friday night performers: Bree Gant and Amber DiPietra

More Information about our sessions:

11-12.30 Turtle Disco Goes Jurassic. A Playshop with Petra Kuppers. Natural History Museum, University of Michigan

In this session, Petra will lead physical engagements with space and time around dinosaurs and mastodons.

Thursday, 6-8, Contemplative Dance and Writing Practice with Stephanie Heit
Riverside Arts Studio, Studio 2, Ypsilanti

In this practice, we will create a laboratory of delight: move together and apart in improvisational play, awaken the senses through freewrites, witness the breath in meditation, tend to self and community. Take a mini-retreat with this practice to cultivate creative self-care and inquiry.

No experience necessary, all bodyminds welcome, disability culture friendly. Bring writing/art materials you desire (journal, pen, colored pencils, etc.). Dress in layers to support movement and stillness.

Friday 11.30-12.30: Paper Workshop, Ypsilanti Public Library, Michigan Avenue, Ypsilanti: Sarah Ensor and Petra Kuppers

In this session, Sarah Ensor and Petra Kuppers will share manuscripts-in-progress. Sarah’s piece will be from “Terminal Regions: Queer Environmental Ethics in the Absence of Futurity,” and Petra will workshop the opening of The Sturgeon, a disability-culture focused speculative work set along the St. Lawrence Waterway.

Friday, 2-4.30, Sound Wandering with Rebecca Caines
Riverside Arts Studio, Dance Studio, Ypsilanti

This workshop will investigate the notion of “Wandering” as a critical and creative practice, with a focus on environmental listening and sounding. Wandering is a concept that includes dreaming, private thoughts and intimacies, and indicates public practices of movement through controlled and controlling spaces. The challenge for scholars, artists, and humans, is how to support wandering practices that exceed, elude, and resist inscription and control.

Drawing from theoretical and creative practice in acoustic ecology and sound walking, disability performance, community performance, site-specific performance and critical studies in improvisation, this practice-based research asks wanderers to find ways to entangle their listening bodies in the environment. It aims to find ways to query how we can balance the discovery of lived experiences with impulses to surveil and control, and queries the embodiment of power, exclusion, and difference as it is read in public spaces. In particular it asks how wandering might reconnect us to each other and the land in a time of climate emergency.

Participants should be ready to move through an accessible indoor and outdoor space, and will be invited to share their experiences of the spaces (and their own remembered places) through physical movement and listening exercises, touching and sounding objects and landscape, creation and projection of image and text onto the landscape with handheld projectors, and  group discussion.

Caines will also share work-in-progress research on her current sound wandering project in Whitehorse, Canada, and the wider national project “MultiPLAY” that brings improvising artists and communities together through digital play.

Friday, 6-8, Riverside Arts Center, Ypsilanti

Gallery Visit to the Ways Open Exhibit, a disability arts and culture exhibition
with performances by Amber DiPietra and Bree Gant, (performances start at 6.30 in the Off Center space, Riverside Arts Center):

Bree Gant: Otherlogue is a suite of performances and installations exploring the relationship between ritual and mental health for Black womenfolx, in both public and private spaces.

Amber DiPietra: The Opposite of Evolution Dance Studio
Can theater be experienced as bodywork? Will it be liberatory, for both the manatees and us, to return to and remain at sea level? In the Opposite of Evolution Dance Studio, diverse bodies and abilities float into social and ecological sculptures.

The piece draws on the work of physically integrated dance companies like Heidi Latsky Dance of NYC and Karen Peterson Dancers of Miami; performance art groups such as The Olimpias Collective and Sins Invalid; Marina Abramovic’s “The Artist Is Present”, and many others  in the disability culture movement and somatic arts fields. Painter and animals rights activist Sunaura Taylor’s oil on canvas, “Self-Portrait with Manatee” made the piece ekphrastically possible.

Saturday, 2-4: Paper Workshop:
Turtle Disco, College Heights, Ypsilanti
Stephanie Heit (poetry), Amber DiPietra (essay/memoir), Charli Brissey (dance/hybrid writing) and Catherine Fairfield (academic chapter)

Biographies:

Dr. Rebecca Caines is Associate Professor in Creative Technologies, in Interdisciplinary Programs in the Faculty of MAP at the University of Regina. Her artistic practice, teaching and written research crosses between community-engaged art, creative technologies (including sound art, new media, and augmentation), contemporary performance and improvisation, and site-specific art practices. Her recent practice-based research projects include Community Sound [e]Scapes: Northern Ontario, a collaborative sound art, video and new media project in remote First Nations communities. She has completed large-scale community-based sound art, performance, and interdisciplinary art projects in Australia, Northern Ireland, Canada, China and the Netherlands, and she has her work published in journals such as Performance Research, Critical Studies in Improvisation, and M/C: Journal of Media and Culture. The anthology she co-edited with Ajay Heble, entitled Spontaneous Acts:  The Improvisation Studies Reader, was published by Routledge in 2015. She has just completed a Visiting Research Fellowship at the Sonic Arts Research Centre at Queen’s University Belfast, and is currently working on a new book on improvisation, community, and creative technologies, for Temple University Press, for the new book series entitled “Insubordinate Spaces.”

Amber DiPietra is a bodyworker, somatic sex educator, poet, performance artist, and community organizer. Her one-woman show, the “Opposite of Evolution Dance Studio” premiered at the Tampa International Fringe Festival in 2018. In 2013, she founded the Tampa Bay Area chapter of the Sex Workers Outreach Project. Her book Waveform, with collaborator Denise Leto, came out in 2011. You can find other writing by Amber in Beauty Is a Verb: the New Poetics of Disability (Cinco Puntos Press), Somatic Engagement (Chain Links Press), and in various online journals. Follow her projects on thebodypoetik.com

Sarah Ensor is Assistant Professor in the Department of English and the Program in the Environment at the University of Michigan. She is currently at work on two book projects, Spinster Ecology: Rethinking Relation in the American Literary Environment, which considers how the figure of the spinster – and a spinsterly literary aesthetic – can help both to identify and to remedy the theoretical impasses that divide queer theory from ecocriticism, and Terminal Regions: Queer Environmental Ethics in the Absence of Futurity, which takes a range of queer practices characterized by temporariness and provisionality as inspiration for a model of environmental care that brackets questions of longevity and allows us to glimpse the immanent ethical possibilities of the present.

Catherine Fairfield is a PhD candidate in English & Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan. She earned her BA in English at the University of Exeter. Her research interests include environmental humanities, feminist theory, and experiential education. Her dissertation explores the role of literature in how we learn to sustain, care for, and survive with our material environments.

Bree Gant is a Detroit bred multidisciplinary artist and photographer reimagining African diasporan visual culture. After graduating from Howard University in 2011 with a BA in Film, she returned home and began shooting the underground art and hip hop scenes. Gant’s street style blogging with Rock City Lookbook led to pop up activations at the Detroit Design Festival ‘14 and Allied Media Conference 2014-16.  In 2016, Gant received a Detroit Narrative Agency Seed Grant to produce a webseries about riding the bus, and won a Knight Arts Challenge Matching Grant to produce a suite of dance concept videos. Gant is currently a Teaching Artist in Residence with Detroit Future Schools.

Stephanie Heit is a poet, dancer, and teacher of somatic writing, Contemplative Dance Practice, and Kundalini Yoga. She is a Zoeglossia Fellow, bipolar, a mad activist and a member of the Olimpias, an international disability performance collective. Her poetry collection, The Color She Gave Gravity (The Operating System, 2017) explores the seams of language, movement and mental health difference. Poetry from her current project Psych Murders, a hybrid memoir poem, appears in the Zoeglossia disability poetry anthology, We Are Not Your Metaphor (Squares and Rebels, 2019) and in Bombay Gin, Anomaly, In Corpore Sano, and Disability Studies Quarterly. She lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan where she co-creates Turtle Disco, a community arts space, with her partner and collaborator, Petra Kuppers.

Petra Kuppers is an internationally active disability culture activist, a community performance artist, Artistic Director of The Olimpias performance research collective, and a Professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Petra grounds her work in site-specific performance and disability culture methods. She has written academic books on disability arts, dance and somatic poetics, and medicine and performance, and she is currently working on Eco Soma: Speculative Performance Experiments. Her Community Performance: An Introduction (originally 2007, reissued in 2nd edition in 2019) is a foundational text in the field. Her creative books include the queer/crip speculative short story collection Ice Bar (2018), and the forthcoming ecopoetry collection Gut Botany (2020). She is a fellow of the Black Earth Institute, an ecopoetic community that re-forges the links between art and spirit, earth and society.

 

 

Intensive 1: April 2019

Think/Act/Tank/Eco/Arts: Embodiment and Environmental Art Practice

Funded by the National Center for Institutional Diversity, University of Michigan

This Think-Act Tank lies at the conjunction of queer ecopoetics, disability studies, critical race studies, indigenous studies, and environmental studies. The group wants to learn from each other about disability cultural methods, indigenous art and world making, African-American performance approaches, and more. Together, they want to shape a complex tool-set to approach living in a changing natural world which impacts people differently, dependent on histories of violence and their attendant environmental effects. How do our different thinking and acting methods prepare us for change, and how can we teach about these methods together?

(paper and workshop descriptions below)

Contact: Lead Faculty Petra Kuppers, petra@umich.edu

Tuesday April 9th

All Tuesday events at Turtle Disco, Ypsilanti

Paper workshops 4 – 5.30, Paper Discussion, with Catherine Fairfield (UM English/WS PhD student), Charli Brissey (UM Dance Department faculty) and Petra Kuppers (UM English/WS faculty).

Contemplative Movement & Writing Practice, led by Stephanie Heit, 6-8 pm

Wednesday, April 10th

Generative Poetry Workshop 10-11.15 am, Arboretum Reader Center, Burnham House, with Queer/Feminist/Eco/Arts class. Special guest: poet Denise Leto

Ecopoetics: Public Reading, 11.30-12.45, Arboretum Reader Center, Burnham House, featured reader Denise Leto, with Stephanie Heit, Samantha Adams, Katarina Bishop, and Sally Clegg.

Two hour-long Movement Workshops 4.30 – 7.00: 2415 Walgreen, North Campus:

Grounding and Shaping with Sound and Movement with Anita Gonzalez and

Improvisation for Precarious Times with Charli Brissey

 

Think/Act/Tank/Eco/Arts: Embodiment and Environmental Art Practice

Paper Descriptions:

 Catherine Fairfield:

This paper is drawn from my dissertation and will be presented at the Animal Remains Conference at the University of Sheffield. I explore three contemporary North American novels by women writers in which more-than-human beings (butterflies, a plastic bag, and a spaceship) make unexpected migrations to non-native habitats. My readings ask how the writers intervene into the discourse of environmental crisis that is riddled with uncertainty by putting non-traditional knowledge practices and embodied experience in conversation with scientific debates.

Charli Brissey:

In this paper Charli Brissey will share excerpts from a current manuscript titled “Dancing at the End of the World: Choreographies of Time and Uncertainty.”  This experimental text integrates personal anecdote, speculative fiction, and engagement with discourse in new materialisms and transgender theory to interrogate the ways in which bodily and environmental constitutions are co-produced through on-going entanglements of matter, form, language, and affect.

Petra Kuppers:

Petra will share an excerpt from her forthcoming poetry book, Gut Botany, which describes the experiences of a disabled white settler woman as she communes with insects, mushrooms and celluloid, in courtrooms, pubs, and discos. And she will share “Salamander Love,” flash fiction about crips outside, from her new hybrid work, What Would the Octopus Do?

Workshop Descriptions:

Contemplative Movement & Writing Practice with Stephanie Heit

In this practice, we will create a laboratory of delight: move together and apart in improvisational play, awaken the senses through freewrites, witness the breath in meditation, tend to self and community. Take a mini-retreat with this practice to cultivate creative self-care and inquiry.

 No experience necessary, all bodyminds welcome, disability culture friendly. Bring writing/art materials you desire (journal, pen, colored pencils, etc.). Dress in layers to support movement and stillness. Cushions available.

Improvisation for Precarious Times with Charli Brissey

In this workshop we will work through individual and collective movement scores to research the ways in which we negotiate power structures, uncertainty, anxiety, habits, desire, nervousness, and excitement all at the same time. Through embodied thinking we will examine how to collectively sustain our practice when the infrastructure we are relying on begins to fail, break down, or transform completely.

Grounding and Shaping with Sound and Movement with Anita Gonzalez

Gonzalez considers how the earth initiates and dictates movement, forcing resistance and imparting memory. Working with paradigms of indigenous connections to soil and sovereignty, we will move with and against the groundedness of gravity and explore how forced migrations away from the earth sculpt movements within several cultural contexts.

Biographies

Charli Brissey is an interdisciplinary artist, scholar, and teacher who works choreographically with various technologies and materials. This primarily includes bodies, cameras, objects, language, instincts, and ecosystems. Their research integrates studies in choreography, feminist theory, technology, and science. Brissey has been creating performances, installations, experimental videos, and written scholarship for over seventeen years, and has been presented in various galleries, conferences, film festivals, and performance venues nationally and internationally.

Catherine Fairfield is a PhD candidate in English & Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan. She earned her BA in English at the University of Exeter. Her research interests include environmental humanities, feminist theory, and experiential education. Her dissertation explores the role of literature in how we learn to sustain, care for, and survive with our material environments. When not writing or teaching, Catherine likes to learn about the world through bird-watching and sketching her dog, Gracie.

Anita Gonzalez (Ph.D. U of Wisconsin, 1997) is Professor of Theatre and Interim Chair of the Department of Dance at the University of Michigan where she also leads the Global Theatre and Ethnic Studies minor. She directs, devises and writes dance theatre works. Her performance research and publication interests are in the way in which performance reveals histories and identities in the Americas and in transnational contexts. She views theatrical practice as a laboratory for artists and audiences to explore new ways of interacting and considering world issues at a personal level. Gonzalez is co-editor of the new Dance in Dialogue series at Bloomsbury Press. She edited Black Performance Theory with Tommy DeFrantz and her monograph Afro-Mexico: Dancing Between Myth and Reality is the result of a research fellowship in “Race, Politics, and Performance” at University of Texas at Austin. Her recent essays about maritime performance have been published in Theatre Research International and The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Theater.

Stephanie Heit is a poet, dancer, and teacher of somatic writing, Contemplative Dance Practice, and Kundalini Yoga. She is bipolar and a member of the Olimpias, an international disability performance collective. Her poetry collection, The Color She Gave Gravity (The Operating System 2017), explores the seams of language, movement and mental health difference. In her forthcoming chapbook, Water Margins (ReStory Nation 2019), water is at stake amidst climate change.

Petra Kuppers is a disability culture activist, a community performance artist, and Professor of English and Women’s Studies, with dry appointments in the schools of Art and Design, and Theatre and Dance. She is also the Artistic Director of an international disability performance collective, The Olimpias, and currently a poetry fellow of the Black Earth Institute. Her academic books include Somatic EngagementFind a Strange and Twisted Shape: Disability Culture and Community Performance, and The Scar of Visibility: Medical Performances and Contemporary Arts.

This Think/Act/Tank’s outside guest: Denise Leto

Denise Leto is a multidisciplinary poet, writer, editor and dance dramaturge. Most recently she collaborated on the dance performance Bluets #1-40 which premiered at the University of Santa Cruz and the Joseph Good Theater in San Francisco. She wrote the poetry book for the multigenre performance Your Body is Not a Shark exploring feminist embodiment and disability poetics (North Beach Press).  She is currently collaborating on a site-writing and ecopoetic work entitled “The Baylands Poetry Project.” Her poems are forthcoming in Quarterly West.

Leto writes about her current research in the Bay Area:

“My site-writing, poetry, visual art and practice-based research project—partly in collaboration with the poet and musician Pat Reed—involves an extensive exploration of the San Francisco Bay in relation to margins and shorelines, ideas of loss and emergence, notions of accessibility and inaccessibility within a framework of ecopoetics and disability poetics. I want the new work to subvert ideas of the pristine outdoors, mystical art manifestations, perceptions of corporeal risk, and the oft seen triumphalist image of disabled bodies in nature.

I engage with various bayland geographies: wildlife preserves, marshlands, ports, peninsulas, landfills, marinas, nature studies centers, and public access within modes of artistic connection/disconnection in relation to diminishing habitat, urban interdependency, environmental destruction and restoration, gentrification, via intersectionality and questioning mobility. Surrounding the largest estuary in western North America, I will focus on relatively remote, infrequently traveled areas juxtaposed with popular, congested places.

Within a matter of scale: the largess of climate change and the minutiae of a single mudflat are of concern. In working directly with the baylands: reeds, shells, kelp, litter, driftwood, etc., I navigate open space and enclosure. Tides and meteorological events are as much a part of the necessary reading as are books and maps. Writing and poetic experiments with close engagement to the found objects in these various locations unfold with chance and choice. Awareness of the beautiful and contentious surroundings highlights the formative social and political issues.

The continued impact of human activity further devastates spaces that are already devastated. The medicalization and commodification of the disabled body moving in space and time encounters the mechanization and privatization of land and sea bodies moving in relation to organic structure, artifice and zyborgic permutations. In my project, definitions of constructed nature and “wild” nature intersect with and critique definitions of constructed bodies and “pure” bodies. Further, ideas of disability as an “otherness” in opposition to nature and accessibility as a bestowed offering occludes multiple ways of being with and working in land and waterscapes.”

About Think-Act Tanks, NCID:
“Think-Act Tanks comprise a new and innovative initiative that brings together diversity scholars to address some of the most pressing social issues in our society. By mobilizing multi-disciplinary, -institutional, and -generational collaborative research teams, Think-Act Tanks seek to advance diversity scholarship that has a public impact.”

Earlier 2019 Think-Act Tank Eco Arts Guests included Margaret Noodin, Meghan Moe Beitkins, DJ Lee.