As friends and frequent collaborators, vulnerability and intimacy are at the heart of all our work. Where do we find intimacy? What longings do we harbor? How can we share these? One of our methods is our practice of writing scores: short texts that are meant to be enacted and embodied. We view these as invitations to other performers and the audience.
Udita, you recently performed Guidelines on Collapse and Care at the MCA as part of a previous In Progress series program. How did this idea of an invitation take form with this score?
With Guidelines on Collapse and Care I wanted to look at intimacy through the lens of release, through others. I asked myself what I was longing for—what was keeping me off balance, what support I needed but was too proud to ask for.
The score was published in Propositional Attitudes: What do we do now? edited by John Burtle and Elana Mann along with some of our scores from the In Flux Series. For the In Progress event, I decided to not hide behind the words and become a more literal inciter of collapse and care, to stand in front of strangers and say, “This is what I long for, maybe you long for it too . . . will you humor me and try this out?” And honestly, with participatory work, I am always terrified that the audience will say no, as is their right, as I may be tempted to do in their position.
The audience really leaned into the score. They held each other, they seemed to be playful with each other—they embraced the open-ended or unachievable parts of the score too, from the more doable “walk backwards” to the much more abstract “collapse” instructions.
A key reason for the success was music. You and I have always talked about the role of music in fostering tenderness during performance. So, I invited Caleb Neubauer (our composer for a last, a loved, a long) to step in and play in response to Guidelines at the MCA, too. And it really put the audience at ease . . . it held them and guided them, as I hope it will on December 11.
Music by Caleb Neubauer, a sample from a last a loved a long, a performance by Udita Upadhyaya and Lindsey Barlag Thornton.
And the music is just one thread. Guidelines and a last a loved a long are so connected to me, writing one stems from a yearning, the other is an invitation, a challenge to tend to that same yearning, to partake in the joy that sustained intimacy brings.
We began a last a loved a long over a year ago. It was with a simple score—a durational hug—that we have practiced. You have often said how we don’t touch our friends' faces, and this project digs into that yearning we have for touch. We are looking at that feeling of a stranger’s arm pressed up against you on public transit (an odd comfort, a desire to move away and not move, wondering, “Can you feel this too?”); at the sense of absence of intimate touch outside romantic partnerships; at how, as we grow older, we miss embracing our parents; at how this longing for affection manifests in our bodies.
The hug has expanded into various forms of contact. How do our bodies share space differently in different spaces? How might we share the smallest amount of contact? How might we share touch as we move through space together? When do we collapse into each other and when do we hold each other up? Where and how do care, tenderness and playfulness intersect?
In the performance we will share at the MCA on December 11, we are creating intimate moments through touch, a loose choreography that is lived by ten performers. I say "lived" because while it is performed to be witnessed, it requires performers to be fully present, listening and attending to each other. Our intention is that we have not been generating a catalogue, but rather acts of care to be enacted and witnessed. We are intrigued to learn from the MCA performance how an audience might read these acts—what associations and what emotional responses arise?
This performance is different from Guidelines in the sense that we are not directly asking audience to participate in enacting the score with us. Instead, we are performing a durational work that invites the audience to witness, come, go, move, and share space with us as they wish. For both of us, there is also a desire to engender a kind of longing in our audience, and so there's this gentle invitation to them.
We hope you’ll join us.