up in the air
by Margaret Wiss
Land Sake’s Farm, Massachusetts
These photographs are from the series up in the air. It is an interdisciplinary project combining film, dance, and photography documenting a daily movement, exploration, and meditation in the Time of Corona. I want to acknowledge the Massa-adchu-es-et & Pawtucket People and their unceded land that I am dancing upon. Capturing the essential moment, the series highlights the tender absence of others but also the expansion and abundance of the natural world.
Coronavirus has uprooted life. When the pandemic hit New York City where I was finishing my MFA in dance at NYU’s Tisch School for the Arts, I left. As a choreographer and dancer lacking formal space, people, touch, and a community, I was forced to reassess what dance meant to me. Upon returning to Massachusetts, I began to do daily dance studies in an open farm field, working with the landscape, my daily dance sequences, technology, and my collaborator/composer, Mike Brun remotely.
My work has become increasingly site-sympathetic in recent years. During this time, the landscape is my primary collaborator, emphasizing the absence of others but also the presence of space, time, and nature. In a world searching for direction, I am reminded that this is the place of now as I practice presence and hope to capture the essential moment. I believe COVID-19 has revealed how important mundane movement and our environment are to our navigation and sanity.
I choose to document these site-generated improvisations by bisecting the frame of my body; only my torso remains. This image highlights the expansive sky and reminds me to have hope. I am without legs, without roots perhaps but finding serenity in the simplest of organic matter. While in stillness, I am reminded that there is motion all around – the wind brushing my hair, the weeds rustling beneath my feet.
Brun’s music was made in collaboration with the movement. His score was in response to my daily images sent to him through text and the linear string of these improvisations (which you can preview here). The score is written for four pianos, addressing directionality and polarity. We spent many long phone conversations discussing this project and have yet to see each other in person since March.
The project is ongoing. It will end either with the pandemic or when I leave this place. My hope for the future is to learn the choreography from the sequencing of daily videos and perform this live when possible.