Work in Development | April 3 - 14, 2017
Bill Shannon came to MANCC as a Visiting Artist for his first residency to develop Touch Update, which combines movement, wearable projection technology and video installation to explore the significant and often subtle implications of physical human contact. The project dissects and dismantles the multiple online identities we create in order to offer the world a curated window into our lives—a version that at times masks, manipulates and alters our lived experience while simultaneously paralleling it and recording a skewed version of it.
As part of the creation process, Shannon stages performances in public spaces that are observed by a handful of “artist witnesses” who then document the experience through their creative lenses. These responses are shared as unique documents that replace the ubiquitous “proof” of digital photography and disrupt the primacy of video as an immutable form of record.
On stage, dancers inhabit sculptural fragmentations of themselves, breaking out via text messages and emoticons in search of an exquisite embrace. Cubist-inspired wearable video masks present the performers’ pre-recorded and scripted faces, as real emotions are expressed beneath—digital identities overlaid on “real" life. Embedded in physically oppressive trappings of technology, the performers reveal their yearning to connect, as a choreography emerges in which bodies learn to navigate mobility in the absence of apparatus.
For over 27 years, Shannon has been creating groundbreaking choreographies of personal, political and cultural significance by exploring the social constructions that surround disabled bodies, and developing movement techniques that formulate virtuosic new mobilities. He also has a noted history of examining and experimenting with urban art forms through translating them into theatrical contexts, inventing audience solutions to protect them in their naturally occurring street environs and mixing them with circus arts.
At MANCC, Shannon continued to explore a translation of movement using crutches into movement without crutches. Two School of Dance students, Ross Daniel (MFA 2017) and Ryan McMullen (MFA 2018), were selected to participate in this aspect of the residency as rehearsal assistants and understudy performers. Joined by collaborators in residence Cornelius Henke, projection artist, and Terence Valencheck, scenic designer, Shannon consulted with Assistant Professor of Art, Rob Duarte, as they continued to hone the design and fabrication of the wearable projection masks used on stage. Duarte also facilitated access to the FSU sculpture lab for this purpose. Additionally, Shannon met with Professors Wen Li and Pradeep Bhide of FSU’s department of neuroscience as research to support his notions around technology’s impact on society.
The residency culminated in an informal work-in-progress showing, which was attended by students and faculty of FSU’s dance and visual art departments, as well as members of the Tallahassee community.
Touch Update premiered at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater in Pittsburgh, PA in Fall 2018.
This residency was funded, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Collaborators in Residence: Ron Chunn Jr., Teena Marie Custer and Staycee R. Pearl [Performers}, Cornelius Henke III [Projection Designer], Terry Valencheck [Video and Production Technician]. Slideshow photos by Chris Cameron