On Declarations by Jordan Tannahill
February 02, 2016
Sometimes a new idea begins as a sliver; a small thing which feels lodged just under your skin that you feel compelled to dig out. Declarations began as such a sliver. About a year ago I began to pick at two simple declarations: “This is the thing” and “This is not the thing”. I imagined a performer stating each of these declarations and performing an accompanying gesture.
I began writing a long piece filled with narrative and characters before I realized that what had first pierced me about the idea, it’s Barthesian punctum if you will, was the declarative mode of those two, simple statements. Particularly the words “This is”. I felt I could communicate everything I’ve ever wanted to say using those two words. I wondered: what was the most essential performance I could make? And so the piece began to crystallize as a score of declarative statements, each beginning with the words “This is”, with each statement accompanied by a simple gesture. The declarations were both simple and direct (“This is the number four”) and abstract (“This is the first light of the morning”). They could be both literally depicted through gesture (“This is my left hand”) and not (“This is the end of the world”).
I was inspired by the work of choreographer Jérôme Bel and visual artist Tino Sehgal to create a performance score that could be fluidly interpreted by each person who engaged with it. I wanted to create an unadorned performance, that would fill a given space with only the bodies and words of the performers. Extreme limitations in art can yield moving and surprising solutions. By drastically reducing the textual and movement palette of the piece, it is my hope that the performers engaged within it actually reveal more of themselves in their negotiation and interpretation of it. That their own unique visions, personalities, and truths are given a clear, simple canvas in which to be seen against.
I will be working with fifteen performers from across the Greater Vancouver Area. Some of them I met through a former neighbour of mine, who now lives in Langley. Others, I met through Milton Lim and Chris Gatchalian, friends of mine in the Vancouver performance community.
Some of the performers are professionals, some have never been on a stage before. They hail from every major suburb in the area. And each one of them will bring something of themselves, something uniquely their own, to Declarations when it premieres February 6th at Club PuSh.