Stone Age HAA The Holy MAA

Stone Age HAA The Holy MAA

Writing - Noise - Magic

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Marcia Custer

Marcia Custer is a choreographer, musician, curator and performance artist from Portland, Oregon, who studied dance and choreography at Kent State University before moving to Cleveland in May of 2014. She has injected playfulness and intelligence into the experimental music community.

As a choreographer and performance artist, she created ://infinity is still confusing (or: Help, My Brain Hurts), an evening length dance/theater piece that “investigates the adolescent mind, exploring anxiety, friendship, mean girls, self-actualization, media pressures and the power of community.” She is “interested in the absurd and the magical, but with a healthy dose of skepticism and irony.” Custer recently performed in Faye Hargate's immersive installation “She's Wearing White" at the old church at Cleveland Public Theater.

Marcia’s musical projects include solo work, singing in synth pop trio Half an Animal and Spacebeach, which she describes as “… musical/performance pieces that are very production element heavy. We are pretty shimmery sounding, based with Beth's Roland keyboard and then experimental processes laid over it. Mostly I’m into potions and the creation of good feels, again with a healthy sense of skepticism and irony. Because life is hard. and mostly it is brutal, so sometimes I feel like art can be a mirror but also a portal to something better!!! Or at least, different.” Spacebeach recently curated an installation at Cleveland’s Ingenuity Festival called “The Forest”.

Marcia credits the Cleveland Noise Lunches as introducing her to the Cleveland noise community and says, “I have been constantly inspired and reified in the magic and dedication artists in the community have to constant output and authenticity.”

She recently performed at my home, and I can say we were all riveted and wowed in the extreme. Check after the interview for upcoming events: she is performing twice this weekend!
Here are links to her work:

It was my pleasure to correspond with Marcia first through writing, and then face-to-face on a dark but cozy February afternoon at my house. Please be aware that the following is excerpted and lightly edited, as the full interview was quite long.

ARH: So, Marcia, what are you working on these days? And what artists most influence your overall vision? I see a playful but also deliberate and energetic reclaiming of childhood, and I wonder if you ever got into Riot Grrrl? Did you see that movie, The Punk Singer about Kathleen Hanna?

MC: I'm working on several different projects, all in different capacities. I'm creating a new series of solo performance pieces for my own edification and growth. I make these works and show them at places like the Noise Lunches at NTC [Now That’s Class, a local hardcore punk and noise venue], art galleries that will host me, performance art nights and in my living room, which I pretend is a studio. I like to make work that integrates movement exploration with sound design (a lot of my work includes live processing I do on stage, usually with found tapes) and some text (talking). I am first and foremost a performer, and I start with a question that's relevant to me and also (maybe) the audience. I go from there. The technology, props and costumes I need surface. Or, I find a really great object, costume, or something totally absurd and think I NEED TO MAKE A PERFORMANCE ABOUT THIS. Right now, I'm developing two pieces: one about a cartwheeling doll named STACEY (who is a total bitch... sometimes) and another piece that explores mermaid culture (yep, that exists!) and our relationship to technology (mostly, our iphones).

So, I'm doing my own solo performance art pieces, I'm singing in a disco prom-pop band Half an Animal that is cheeky and always makes a big production when playing (think oversized balloons, giant teddy bears telling jokes, bags of lucky charms and streamers thrown into the audience, etc.) I also work with the group Spacebeach, and we do a lot of inter-media performance—this fall we had an interactive installation called “The Forest” at Ingenuity Fest where kids could bang on the walls of a shipping container and it would get picked up through contact mics. There was Mylar everywhere and you had to wear these hard hats with headlamps to go inside—it was all very silly and very fun. We are very interested in the sublime and the absurd.

The Cleveland noise community is massive, and I feel a huge amount of support and love for all those making and attending events. I am new to the community (I moved here in May) and have only been performing in the city since January 2014. I was able to perform at the Rubber City Noise Cave before in different iterations, since I was in Kent, but I'm still getting a handle on all of the stuff Cleveland has to offer. I will say the Noise Lunches reeled me in, and I like the idea of being given a theme that everyone collectively (yet totally individually) responds to. The Lecture in a Bar series at Mahall's has been really pivotal to my growth in understanding the histories of experimental music. It's also a good way to connect with friends in the community.

I think it's important to mention here that seeing women play noise shows, and express and commit themselves to raw creation (that I align myself with through my own performance practices) has been inspiring and necessary. Seeing Lisa Miralia play and promote so many shows, Pauline Lombardo and you, Amanda, has been crucial—I see more women getting involved every day and I think that's a good thing. Noise isn't just aggressive manhandling of pedals and synths, it's expression of all forms and women can either express something else OR they can also aggressively manhandle gear also! And so can men! I feel like noise and experimental music in general lacks regard for gender, which rules. If it's your thing, do it! That's my favorite part of the noise community—the ‘just do it’ aesthetic.  It's like, just go for it. Make it, jam it out, collaborate with different people EVERY TIME and see what happens—whatever! Just make something.

I see stuff happening like In Training, Outlab, Lecture in a Bar, Noise Lunch, that help facilitate different kind of performance and community gatherings. I'd describe the Cleveland noise and performance community as open, collaborative, and diverse. 

There’s a spot for you.

My influences? I can tell you points of investigation::: adolescence. isolation. popular culture/grandeur. absurdism. beyonce. friendship. self-actualization practices. mean girls. sleepovers. darkness. 

I grew up struggling with a lot of issues I'm sure many others have experienced in some form. I listened to punk music and yeah, I was into bikini kill. I remember this one time I was hanging with my friend and her cool older sister at the local independent radio station, and we hijacked the airwaves when their burner dad went out to smoke more weed, and she put on “Rebel Girl” and my heart exploded. That's probably where my obsession with cool girls came from. I'm all about loving fellow females, and not dogging on them just because that's what our society tries to inspire. Yuck! But yeah, I used to play pranks on girls I was jealous of in, like, elementary school. Kathleen Hannah taught me to love 'em, not fight 'em.

But I didn't get super into Kathleen Hannah (as an artistic inspiration) until I saw that film you mentioned—someone suggested I see it after seeing me sing with Half an Animal, and it totally clicked. I'm into a lot of what she does artistically, performatively—there’s something really important about reclaiming a lost/forgotten/shitty childhood by just addressing it and making it better. Playing on stage while also meaning business. I think Kathleen Hannah did that in a lot of ways, and spoke for a lot of women (even when she didn't personally have those experiences). Basically, she rules.

My other inspirations include time-based artists from Japan Eiko and Koma (nyc), dance artist Faye Driscoll (nyc), the dance/theatre company Headlong (philly). musically I'm a sucker for women who rock—Patti Smith, Yoko Ono, Bush Tetras. I like a lot of no wave and post punk stuff. Lydia Lunch. Theoretical Girls. Also, BeyoncĂ©. BeyoncĂ© Forever. She is so tough and also at the helm of what she's doing. That's the best thing. I grew up with John Waters films and will never forget feeling so badass pretending I was hatchet face from CryBaby. Like, when I was 8. I like a lot of Motown and soul. But I'm very suspicious of love songs. And stuff that feels too innocent. I like to explore that innocence in my work, so sometimes I draw from pop music and contrast it with images such as obsessive makeup application & beauty rituals, extreme sexualization or moments of intense isolation.

Thinking about what all this stuff has in common, in my music and in my performance work, I like shifting in and out of slow motion, different speeds in general, the flow of life is irregular—and I like revealing the bizarre dirt that can be hidden underneath naive bliss (like our culture's nostalgia about adolescence) while also digging to discover moments of true bliss, and asking the questions about its availability and its consumption. Like, how do we accept the narratives given to us from such an early age about how we find "happiness" or "live" or "exist?" How are these philosophies being marketed to us, and are they able to be commodified? And, of course, how does this differ for the myriad identities (gender, race, sexual orientation) in our culture?

ARH: Wow, Marcia, thanks. What a lot to think about. I love your process, and I can relate to your perspective. I'm very interested in the contrast and even conflict in themes you work with, such as the sublime and absurd, and extreme beauty rituals as a sort of active self-objectification, and earlier you said you are interested in "... the absurd and the magical, but with a healthy dose of skepticism and irony." You also said, " is hard. and mostly it is brutal, so sometimes I feel like art can be a mirror but also a portal to something better!!! Or at least, different." I feel you've tapped into a kind of mystic paradox through performance as ritual. Would you like to speak to that?

MC: I LOVE to live in that weird slimy space between sewer and sublimity. And I think performance and make-believe help blow up these ideas and conflicts, and magnify that tension. I mean, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were killer superheroes but also totally weird and gross—their guru/Kung Fu master or whatever was Splinter and he was this crazy rat! I think that kind of bizarre role modeling is something I'm interested in.

The interview continues at my house…

ARH: Tell me about Mermaid culture.

MC: (laughs) I don’t know when it started, and I just started skimming the surface. There’s this whole community of women and men who are really interested in mermaids and becoming mermaids, kind of like the vampire fad. So there are classes on how to swim like mermaids, you get tails, and it looks phenomenal! It actually looks really fun. I’m interested in it…totally earnestly. (Laughs.) I mean everything I do comes out with a sense of irony and cheekiness because life is funny...mermaids—what? But, I connect really deeply with the water, and I see in the people who are taking mermaid swim classes and there are also these revived shows, from Florida. There were Mermaid shows, from the fifties and forties, before Disneyworld and the other main parks down there opened up, the main attractions were these mermaid shows, 

I’ll send you a link to these New York Times videos of the last mermaids of Weeki Wachee, the town has a population of maybe ten [four!]?  But it’s host to the last site where they have an underwater aquarium, and it’s like in a zoo, it’s just a glass wall and water, and these women dressed up like mermaids go under this shoot and they have air tubes! And they look like giant, long twisty straws, they take a breath and then because of the way they swim and the pressure, they’ll stay under for like ten minutes. And do dance routines. Because somebody’s calling out, it’s kind of like synchronized swimming, because someone is giving directives, but nobody in the audience can hear that, they just, hear this beautiful music.

ARH: Oh wow.

MC: So there’s this whole orchestrated event of people being fish people?

ARH: Wow.

MC: It’s really beautiful. And I was also researching The Little Mermaid, that story. And how dark it actually is, the issues that come up with that fantasy. Fantasizing for someone from afar, like in a basic interpersonal relationship sort of way, or in a macro earth-universe sort of way, because little mermaid is in love with this prince, you know, and then she decides to sacrifice everything, her voice, the one thing that is true to herself, and her mermaid-hood, you know and go through pain. To live on the other side. In the Hans Christian Anderson story, it’s really weird, because it turns into this Christian allegory at the very end because she ends up getting taken away by these angels.

ARH: Really, wow.

MC: Yeah, it’s totally different than the Disney movie. The price she has to pay is she loses her voice, and every step she takes feels like she’s stepping on broken glass. And she can’t tell the prince that she’s the one who saved him from the shipwreck, and he just treats her like a little scullery maid, like a funny little character, then he falls in love with someone else and the mermaid throws herself into the sea, and instead of returning to herself, she’s taken up with the angels of the air and then Anderson writes at the end, and if you do something bad, the angels will never go to heaven, but if you don’t do anything bad, the little mermaid might just make it after all.

ARH: Man. There’s a lot going on there.

MC: So this is a new project that I’m just starting to delve into. And looking at all these elements of how we connect to our own bodies, like what we’re willing to give up and what kind of pain we’ll go through to explore unknown realms… and I also think that water is really important. So I’m exploring that as a production element, singing into bowls of water, drowning, swimming in performance.

ARH: Yeah, I know when I was a kid my cousin and I would pretend to be mermaids and we’d stand in front of the ocean and tell each other stories, and it’s interesting because one of the most common stories was how our mothers were once mermaids but they gave it up so they could have us. [This was before Disney’s The Little Mermaid] Again, it was like sacrifice and leaving the sea. Interesting.

MC: Abigail [my toddler] would make a pretty good mermaid!

ARH: Oh yeah. Cause she was one in my body!

MC: Yeah, ha. That’s interesting. We all were at one point!

ARH: Would you mind speaking more to the last question I wrote you regarding the creative intersection of the absurd and the sublime? I continue to sense that energetic contrast in your work, and in your description of mermaids.

MC: I am fortunate in that internally I come from that place of deep skepticism, sarcasm, irony, and yet I don’t feel bleak or unamused when I see something remarkable. I think that we as a culture are coming out of this place of a super-sarcasm and an unbelieving sort of quality, and at the same time, magic is every where and there are new realms to explore! We’re not post-anything, no matter how you swing it. You see Abigail fascinated by a pen and it can’t be ironic, there is noting ironic about it, and there’s something beautiful and amazing about it, and it could be like, we’ve all seen a baby pick up a pen before, and we could be over it, but it’s always amazing, and so finding out where those moments are, where- I want to say- be appropriately ironic and cheeky, and where it’s imperative to be honest about how it feels. And earnest.

ARH: Yeah, I think it’s more of an intuitive thing, and it’s liberating. In the sixties and seventies smart people responded with sarcasm to the insincere earnestness of 1950’s authoritarian conformity,  but then by the eighties, commercial culture had totally co-opted irony. David Foster Wallace wrote this great essay about this process called “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction”. When I read it a few years back, it rang true to my experience growing up in the 80’s and 90’s that were saturated with a dry sarcastic voice coming from the television screen.

MC: Oh really?

ARH: Yeah like, I don’t know, everything, ‘like bananas…uh, yeah.’

MC: (laughs)

ARH: And pop culture, too. In the late 80’s shows like The Simpsons, Married with Children, etc. were a response to the myth of the perfect family, but I think that as spin-offs like The Family Guy saturate television, the legacy is reduced to the perpetuation of tired stereotypes that, if anything, help maintain the status quo. And so now it’s strange to be in this current era where it’s liberating to be able to cast that off and let authentic emotion in and then look at the two things side by side. I read this quote, too I wanted to show you, um, “Optimism is a political act. Those who benefit from the status quo are perfectly happy for us to think nothing is going to get any better. In fact, these days, cynicism is obedience.” (Alex Steffen, The Big Green City)

MC: I’ve thought that there is a lot of complacency and a lot of resting in cynicism. Like, it’s a lot easier to sit back and say nothing’s going to change, which seems like an easy statement, but now I think it’s been decorated and accessorized in such a way that cynicism has become something that is not lazy but is really active; you have to be really active to be cynical and to not believe in stuff, and so I believe there is something really political to believe in the betterment of situations- the world at large, society… this is really nice, just thinking about commercials and commercialism and capitalism in general, they’re coopting the idea, like ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ that whole campaign… and I don’t even know where that comes from, but it’s everywhere and it’s become this, I don’t  know, logo, for people just not giving a shit [somehow, living in my hermitage, I didn’t know what Marcia was talking about, but I looked it up, and apparently the popular slogan derives from British WWII propaganda:], and then at the same time I feel people do care, and I feel so torn about this. Do you focus on local politics, world politics, personal politics? How do you care responsibly? I’m a recent transplant to Cleveland, and I think about this a lot. How do I fit in? Am I contributing? Am I gentrifying? What is my place? And I think about that with other people, too because the community is growing, you know, and it’s easy to be super optimistic about that, and it’s easy to be cynical about it.

ARH: (laughs) Yeah, yeah, I feel I’ve seen a lot of cycles.

MC: Yeah, I mean I don’t want my rent to be raised, yet I really enjoy going out and getting a good a hamburger that isn’t from McDonald’s. There’s a price to pay for the cyclical changes. I like being able to eat local foods, that’s really important, but the culture that surrounds local foods and sustainability can sometimes feel inaccessible, or exclusive. I feel there is a certain optimism about the city that doesn’t feel sustainable, and a certain optimism that feels commercially driven. I am unsure about where this city is headed, but I do love it deeply. It’s just like those commercials that are like “Cleveland- it’s the new hip city for young folks” gets me feeling kind of weird.

ARH: Yeah.

MC: And I think that that’s sort of the optimism that I’m skeptical of.

ARH: there’s that layer with ulterior motives. And then there’s something authentic that jumps in..

MC: I have conflicts, but hopefully people are able to be motivated to work them through art. Through performance.

ARH: New synthesis.

MC: I think it’s important to make things really big. I’ve been thinking about scale a lot and in terms of the absurd and the grotesque. Those are really really big blow out versions of, you know, weird creepy feels, but making them really really big and apparent so you have to talk about them and think about them. It goes hand in hand with this idea I think about a lot, which is accessibility. And how legible I want my work to be, without sacrificing it. But going into that space that is so weird and tension filled, going into that space of, look I’m a pretty beautiful princess! No I’m angry at this little doll and she’s the worst!  Going back and forth and creating this dark but super funny space. People love to laugh, and people love to feel really really scared. And I think there is some really beautiful magical place when you feel uncomfortable in both the best and the worst way.

ARH: Yes, and you feel the vulnerability of the performer, too. I remember as a kid going to see plays and feeling so anxious for the performer, but that was good. Sometimes when I do solo stuff, I’ll want to cut something that feels awful, awkward and weird, but I think that sometimes that’s just what I should leave in.

MC: I appreciate being able to talk with you because your voice and the way you perform, I don’t want to say antithetical, but it reminds me so much of some no wave stuff, it has a Lydia Lunch vibe, that’s really cool, but it’s done in this really direct way, you seem really, I don’t want to say ‘in control’, but at the helm, and it’s nice to see, kind of the opposite of what you say about being uncomfortable for performers, you are very comfortable and know what you’re doing, and that feels good.

ARH: I know what you mean because I can be nervous about a gig, but when it’s actually happening, there is this space that opens up and I almost relax into it.

MC: Performing is one of the most liberating experiences, and I think we’re both blessed that we’re able to do that because it is transcendental, you go into a different world, you get to play. I’m not Marcia when I go on stage. There are parts of Marcia that are there, that are informing what’s happening, but there is this whole other thing that is happening on stage that I don’t know if I want to figure out at this point. I think it’s really important to have nerves. When I was choreographing in college, I rarely set anything specifically for dance, I rarely said, ok on the forth count, I’ll do a pirouette and jut my arm out in this way. I always just danced in a way that I had a score, you know, I’ll do these steps and then by this time in the music, I’ll be at this place. I mean, I learned choreography and I did that with my instructors’ and other people’s movement, but there is something really exciting about never knowing exactly how it’s going to go down. I think that also helps open up a realm of possibilities when you don’t know what’s going to happen.

ARH: Yeah, you can just be receptive to the energies. Especially at Now That’s Class! The energy there is so weird, I’ve played shows and been like, whoa, what did I just do?

MC: It’s funny you mention that because Alec and I, the drummer of Half an Animal, just did this one-off project called “Wolf Spice”. We dressed up like Spice Girls but like we were this Japanther. Two years ago, Alec just said, we were talking in dance class, and we were just talking about stupid band names and we made up Wolf Spice, and whatever, and we just went off on it and we had one practice and decided to get it together for somebody’s birthday party. So two weeks ago, we played this Wolf Spice show and I brought back ‘Stacey’ who is the doll, the little cartwheel doll I grab with this claw, and this time, she showed up to the party uninvited, and nobody wanted her there, nobody wanted to hang out with Stacy, but she was there, and I reminded Stacy, like, hey, you can come and hang out because, I’m cool, but we have to talk about some things first. And the song went basically into Stacy spilling all of the secrets I’d told her and it was weird stuff that went on with my family, and she told all my friends and she told everyone at school—

ARH: Oh wow.

MC: So, it gets really dark.

ARH: That sounds great, I wish I’d seen it.

MC: Well, it was super fun, but then, we also had snacks on stage because I’m a big proponent of just having things for people to eat, it’s nice, and so we had these snacks, and these three punk dudes, like you know one dude looked like a traditional skinhead and one dude was, like, he had all these scabs on his face, just emerged out of nowhere. And this is one of our friend’s birthday parties, she just booked the club, whatever, so these three dudes come up and they stand at the foot of the stage, and they’re glaring at me with their fists clenched, like they’re going to climb up on stage and punch us! And I’m wearing this miniskirt and day-glow, Alec’s in a prom dress! And I didn’t know how to handle it. And it was one of those moments where I felt like someone else took over and I was like, ‘hey you guys want some snacks? We have some for you guys.’ And the one guy was like, ‘I just fell down the stairs and my face is all fucked up.’ And I was like, ‘Oh you’ve got pizza face! I’ve got some pizza snacks, here!’

ARH: (laughs)

MC: And in regular, normal life I would never do that, you know, I’d be like ‘Ew, you guys get away!’, But it just happened and it was a total Now That’s Class moment, like, remember when those three punk guys ruined the whole show? Oh yeaah. Not that all punks are bad, I love punks, I grew up with them.

ARH: Yeah, those guys sound like eighties TV bad guy punks.

MC: Yeah, that space has been cool, though. All of the different show spaces in Cleveland have such a different character, and they’re each different to play in, and I like playing in each of them.

ARH: You ever get into Mister Rogers?

MC: Well, I’ve been into Peewee’s Playhouse. It’s really, it’s also kind of grotesque, and kind of magical, which I’m very much about, like there’s a talking floor, Floorie, and Large Marge from Peewee’s Big adventure is super spooky. And also super fun.. I’ll have to watch Mister Rogers…

ARH: I don’t want my daughter to watch much TV, and what’s out there is so stupid, manic and any substance consists of ABC123 drill. Setting children up for a life of boredom. I put Mister Rogers on Youtube for her, and he was all for free access to programing, so I think he’d like Youtube. I recommend it to you because it is poetic. He wrote the music, it’s live, the Land of Make Believe is wonderful, it’s so weird that it’s brilliant. The show feels natural and artistic rather than synthetic like other kids’ shows.

MC: There’s something really psychedelic about kids’ stuff. I think the world really is psychedelic, but we only allow kids to partake and loosen the hold of reality and be imaginative, and it’s like, no, you have to watch crime shows about people who are getting raped and killed.

ARH: Yeah, so much violence.

MC: So much violence! I will check out Mister Rogers. The segment that really sticks out to me is when they go on field trips, the mini-documentaries. Like the Crayola factory.

ARH: I remember that, too.

MC: Watching the melting of the wax and the mixing of the colors, it was so beautiful and I remember feeling like I was receiving this sacred, secret knowledge. How something’s built. When we were talking about access, it’s like, yeah, everyone should know how a crayon’s made!

ARH: I like how calm he is, he finds the interesting stuff in the very subtle, very slow things in life. 
[here are two cool Mister Rogers links, the second, from Marcia, shows Mister Rogers introducing children to experimental music.]

MC: Yeah, I’ve been working with my friend Alyssa on performance and she’s really into the subtle and slow developing, and it’s been really fun to just work with her. We’re actually doing something at All Go Signs next weekend. Lisa’s putting it on, it’s with the Butoh dancer.

ARH: Oh yeah! [Sorry friends, this was in the winter time, so if you didn’t go, you missed it.]

MC: I’m continuing my explorations, with the mermaid thing. I was interested in the physicality of having my legs stuck together. What do you do when you’re incapacitated? I think that’s really interesting because everyone has their limitations, you know? And, as a dancer and a mover, you know (laughs) what would happen if I couldn’t use my legs? So I’m doing this thing where I saran wrap my legs together, and I have to move around, and the sound of the saran wrap is really brutal, and so, I’m working with that for this next performance.

ARH: I admire you explore the physical. I feel there is a zeitgeist where people are drawn to the physical, like records and film, and you use your body. For years, there was a period when I would go to noise shows and it would be act after act of guys standing still in front of their suitcases, and that is very visually cool in its way, too, but I like that you are bringing movement to the noise scene.

MC: I’ve recently gotten involved with Cleveland, but I had been going to Akron, to the Rubber City Noise cave, I started watching Faangface, and I’ve always been into noise, for a textural sonic experience, but I always appreciated how it affected me physically, and seeing someone being affected by it physically, and affecting it physically was really exciting. And empowering. I love his sets! [update: Faangface and I will be performing a PeeWee’s Playhouse themed noise lunch in June! Curated by Witchbeam!] And I also saw David Russell perform, and his body’s in it, and it’s very, it’s totally sensory and you can feel the tension or flow in those performed acts. Which, people who stand at power boards and stuff, you can feel that through their music.

ARH: Oh, yes, absolutely.

MC: And seeing it is just another element that resonated with me because when I hear that bass come through, especially the Now That’s Class PA or something it’s like, UHHYUUH, it could be incapacitating, it could be really invigorating, but acknowledging that, rather than divorcing yourself from it, is really satisfying for me. Seeing that there was a space for that was really important for me to be to be able to perform in that realm. The noise community has been so crucial for me feeling comfortable with merging those ideas of sound-making and body-shaking,
(We both laugh.)

MC: I was just driving up here and there was this dude standing, it’s like a snowstorm right, and there’s this guy standing, with his hands towards his knees, and he’s on a street corner, and he’s texting. And I thought, he has no idea how his body looks right now. You know, I think we’re so in screens, so much of the time that we’re so divorced from our body. That’s something that really interests me. I’ll be on my phone, my smartphone, and I’ll suddenly realize that I’ve been curling my shoulders in, and my foot’s asleep, and I don’t even know who’s walked by me, you know. I think we can learn that sense through practice. You can start to sense your back space, the more you listen to it and you pay attention to it.

ARH: Yeah, listening.

MC: You can do the same thing with your heel. We worked on this in one of my dance classes: create a sensation in just your heal by rubbing it every day and scratching at it, you can create a lot more sensitivity.

ARH: I like it! I’ve done yoga for a long time, and so much of it is, ‘ok, pay attention to your foot. Pay attention to your right calf.’ As you are saying, heightening awareness. I like the idea that touch makes that awareness even more accessible.

MC: It helps me because ‘draw your attention to’ is so ephemeral, I need something physical. I need to touch the record to put it on and I need to hear those grooves. I don’t trust invisible things. (laughs)

ARH: I know just what you mean! See these books over here (points to pile of books on the floor on the other side of the baby gate) Those were all on my desk because I wanted to have all my most important books near to me so I could see all of them. But then, they became so many so I had to put them over there. Ha. And my mom is really into the Kindle, but that would drive me crazy because I feel I need to see them, that I remember more of what I read if I can see them. You know?

MC: ‘mmm hmmm.

ARH: Same with music. I have a lot on my computer now, but I was kind of reluctant, I still have lots of tapes and records and CDs.

MC: There’s a narrative you create when you physically enact something. That’s really important. I opened the book. I felt the pages. You can do all that stuff in an interface, but remembering the way the weight of that page felt, and the way that your elbows responded to that, there’s something important…I don’t know…it sticks.

ARH: That’s true, I feel like as I remember a passage from a book, I can remember the way the book looked as I was holding it. I’m reading a great early childhood development book, and for someone Abigail’s age, you can use flashcards or something, but it’s pointless because what they need is, blocks to understand quantity, they need to manipulate with their hands, they need to actually interact with their environment, and to sit in a loving adult’s lap with a board book, and like you say, this world of screens, it narrows the senses, there’s no touch, and it reminds me also of a great essay I read [I can’t remember who wrote this essay! But I will look for it and edit this post when I find it.] that pointed out that the only actors on the internet, the only consciousnesses interacting, are humans, no plants and animals on the internet, completely removed.

MC: Whoa.

ARH: It’s crazy!

MC: There are pictures, so.

ARH: Right, objectification.

MC: So it gives you this false sense of representation. But they’re not representing themselves. That’s something that I haven’t thought of. You go out into the whatever, the Cuyahoga Valley, and you think, this is amazing, this is better than the internet, but you don’t think about why. I don’t think because there are no frogs posting on Facebook! There are no frogs posting on Facebook! And I was thinking about what you said about children and blocks. We live in three dimensions. Back space. Front space. All these things. And the fact that everything’s so flat. And we’re so ready to accept that. I find my dancing is really informed by that, too. My movement. I’m interested in intricate, small. I’m interested in making concepts big, but sometimes doing glitchy weird small movements that I think we’re more attuned to because our visual scope is smaller. I’m thinking of people who are skeptical of the internet, and I’m skeptical, too, but I’m also ready to just utilize it.

ARH: Well, it’s here now and it’s part of our natural world now. It’s this sort of weird human created organic system. It’s weird for someone my age, I’m 37, and I remember so well before, and yet unlike my parents’ generation, I’ll be here for so long after, too, whereas someone your age and younger, I think we all have such different perspectives, the generations, as to when we became immersed in this. It’s such a creeper thing, too. I was just talking with my husband about how just ten years ago it was really different, you know? There was no Facebook, well, maybe there was, but I didn’t know about it.

MC: I don’t think there was, I think it came out in, 2006. [yes, launched in 04, open to the public in ‘06]

ARH: Ok, so there was no Facebook, and there weren’t any smartphones, so there wasn’t an instant transmission of images, and now we’re so used to it, it’s hard to imagine.

MC: Yeah, it was like a letter writing system. (we giggle) You could write people letters! And read the newspaper!


Saturday May 23rd- The Other Half  of an Animal plays an experimental set with noise pop band DIDI and The Very Knees @ Mahall’s (downstairs)
Sunday May 24th- Half an Animal opens for !!! (Chk Chk Chk) @ Mahall’s (upstairs)
Wednesday June 3rd- Half an Animal w/ Hen Demo, P. Stoops @ Beachland
Sunday June 7th- Marcia Custer + FaangFace perform “Josh & Marcia’s Big Adventure!” part of NOISELUNCH Series (curated by Steven Slane)

KEEP AN EYE OUT- will be doing a solo set as part of an event curated by Craig from 9-Volt Haunted House and Lisa Miralia at SPACES on August first!

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