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Norah ZShaw’s Wex-supported Upwelling is a visual and sonic poem assembled from messages shared across the globe by fellow artists living through the lockdowns and protests of 2020.
In May 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread and quarantines were put in place, intermedia artist and Ohio State Professor of Dance Norah Zuniga Shaw (ZShaw) invited 27 friends—fellow artists scattered across three continents and two hemispheres—to leave a trace of their lives. Using WhatsApp as a platform for message exchange and collection, ZShaw’s prompt to participate activated individual practices to create a nourishing creative community during a period of isolation and uncertainty. The resulting short film, woven together from the collected video and cellphone audio messages, moves from learning to live in isolation to participating in the Black Lives Matter protests held in response to the police killing of George Floyd.
While the work chronicles a series of fragmented, widely varying experiences, Upwelling also offers a restorative beacon of presence. Created over the intervening period and now viewed from almost two years later, the project can be seen as an act of care and remembering, or what the artist calls “a form of memory work, a way of recalling to deconstruct, to understand, and to remain in the moment of planetary need and urgency.” Upwelling’s gathered recitations and incantations create a collective register of a transformative moment on the planet—together, in short, they leave a trace. (14:13 mins., video)
Upwelling was created with the support of the Wexner Center’s Film/Video Studio as well as a yearlong residency for experiments in digital performance. ZShaw’s projects include Synchronous Objects with William Forsythe, TWO with Bebe Miller, the transmedia performance ritual Climate Gathering, and the Livable Futures public practice and podcast.
Upwelling, image courtesy of Norah ZShaw.
Norah Zuniga Shaw is an interdisciplinary performance artist, writer, facilitator, and creative director. Her work has been presented throughout the US, Asia, Australia, and Europe, including at the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Sadler’s Wells, London; the Chicago Humanities Festival; and at the Wexner Center. Her essays, poems, and interviews have appeared in Choreographic Practices, Performance Research, and Motion Bank, among other journals, platforms, and publications. She is a vocalist for the Sonic Arts Ensemble, professor in Ohio State’s Department of Dance, and Director for Dance and Technology for the department and Ohio State’s Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design, where she cofounded the Motion Lab in 2005 to foster innovations in performance and technology. She has received numerous fellowships, grants, and awards and continues to offer public lectures, workshops, and performance installations internationally. Read more
Concept, editing, and sound design: Norah ZShaw
Postproduction animation: Taylor Olsen
Postproduction sound: Paul Hill
Upwelling converges paths with two other works that emerged during 2020:
Animations and virtual journey sketches: Vita Berezina-Blackburn
The Sonic Arts Ensemble
Networked Performance improvisations
Directed by Marc Ainger
James Croson: piano
Scott Deal: vibraphone and percussion
Fede Cámara Halac: electronics
Oded Huberman: laptop
Jacob Kopcienski: altered saxophone and electronics
Berenice Llorens: guitar
Joe Sferra: clarinet
Norah Zuniga Shaw: vocals and body percussion
Ann Stimson: flute
With special guest
The Honorable Elizabeth A. Baker (new renaissance artist)
Improvisation/incantation on the beach
Staten Island, New York
Distance dances, beach walks, Hawaiian chant, rituals with Atamira Dance Company
Auckland, Aotearoa/New Zealand
Marianne Kim and Bondo
"I see myself better when this thing is off"
Drawings, videos, and sound
"Days between two days floating"
Images, sounds, and video
Reading bell hooks's All About Love
André M. Zachery
Reading Fred Moten and Stefano Harney’s “Hapticality, or Love”
Images, sound, and video
Brooklyn, New York
“Hands up don’t shoot”
Images, sound, and video
Reading Audre Lorde’s “A Litany for Survival”
Reading Carlo Rovelli’s The Order of Time
Charleston, South Carolina
Awilda Rodríguez Lora
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Kathryn Nusa Logan
Overbrook Ravine, Ohio
Dear New Friends, Old Friends, Dear Ones All,
I’m feeling called to connect with you and to create a PRACTICE of sharing audio and other digital traces with each other for the month of May. I've been talking with each of you about this a little already in different ways and now would like to weave us all together in a community of practice if it feels compelling and nourishing to you.
The Basic Idea
Share with each other audio or other digital registers of this period of time, wherever we are, as we are living into the long, middle period of the novel coronavirus pandemic; a period of unknown duration and uneven energies that I sense will require sustainment, endurance, deepening strength and a readiness akin to what Bebe Miller calls "keeping our weight at risk," ready to move in any direction. And I'm eager to know how you are thinking, coping, moving.
We might call this collective practice our own version of QUARANTINE DIARIES; diaries in movement and choreographic thinking, records, journal entries, registers, archival snippets from our lives, our lived environments, our daily impulses that can serve as nourishment for each other and body time (as Nancy Stark Smith of blessed memory often said) to help us to stay the course. And we can share them with each other via a WHAT'SAPP group. I’ll call it TRACE: artist friends entering into exchange of audio diaries during the middle days of pandemic.
A few more musings: I'm thinking also about Susan Rethorst and Ralph Lemon's Living Room Dances. I'm thinking how a lot of the “liveness” that we can enjoy during social distancing is about good audio, about conversational practices as surrogates for our regular practices. I'm thinking about Tonya Lockyer's Speakeasy practice, where we take the spotlight and ask for witnesses while we speak from the hip, in the moment, in a process, sharing references/anchors/links and reaching for radical, vulnerable presence over polish and prep. I'm thinking that we are all "working without a net" and there is so much space for experimentation and need for incantatory offerings; I'm thinking about walking and radio ballets and silent discos and audio walks in the tradition of Janet Cardiff, Tactical Media, peripatetic authors, and of course the Situationists.
How to participate:
I've been experimenting with this a bit, and I put my first two offerings up on a budding What'sApp group for this project. The first is a walking practice that I learned from Simone Forti called Notice What you Notice and the second is more like a long voicemail while out walking in nature, a practice that is keeping me sane at present. I'm loving making these and I'm hoping you will too.
Join me? Witnesses welcome as well as makers. Do what feels good. What nourishes you. Whatever your energy allows right now. Low Fi, tattered, in process, nothing fancy, full of love.
As adrienne maree brown says, Less Prep, More Presence!
I've invited this group of folks because each of you has had a powerful maker-presence in my life and I feel called to connect with you and connect you to each other. You are welcome to invite others. If you’d like to participate let me know and I’ll add you to the What’sApp group.
Love to you all!
Upwelling was made with support from the Wexner Center, with residencies in its Film/Video Studio and Department of Performing Arts; from Ohio State’s Global Arts + Humanities Discovery Theme and Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design; and from the Greater Columbus Arts Council.
FILM/VIDEO PROGRAMS MADE POSSIBLE BY
ADDITIONAL SUPPORT PROVIDED BY
Rohauer Collection Foundation
FILM/VIDEO STUDIO SUPPORTED IN PART BY
National Endowment for the Arts
PERFORMING ARTS PROGRAMS MADE POSSIBLE BY
Ohio Arts Council
WEXNER CENTER PROGRAMS MADE POSSIBLE BY
The Wexner Family
Greater Columbus Arts Council
The Columbus Foundation
Ohio Arts Council
American Electric Power Foundation
L Brands Foundation
Mary and C. Robert Kidder
Bill and Sheila Lambert
Institute of Museum and Library Services
Vorys, Sater, Seymour, and Pease
ADDITIONAL SUPPORT PROVIDED BY
Mike and Paige Crane
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
President Kristina M. Johnson and Mrs. Veronica Meinhard
Russell and Joyce Gertmenian
Liza Kessler and Greg Henchel
Ron and Ann Pizzuti
Joyce and Chuck Shenk
Bruce and Joy Soll