Thursday 16 June 2016

shuttle: intro to elsew/here

"Never did faraway charge so close" (Cesar Vallejo)

Miss Atomic: "Good evening, pagans, Vegans, insomniacs, gorgeous lizards, hospitality peddlers, sweethearts, assassins. Grab your drink, baby, we're gonna be here for a while. We are desert people. We make our homes in impossibility. We hallucinate regularly. We might have magic lamps, or we may be the type, myself included, to play the genies ..." (The Team, Mission Drift, London: Oberon Books, 2013)

Over three weeks in the summer of 2013, I uploaded daily posts here as a remote contributor to SHUTTLE: mobile desert performance, at the invitation of Mick Douglas, and as part of his Performing Mobilities Network. For the project website, with further details of those involved and a map of the itinerary – an anti-clockwise loop from Tucson to Tucson, via Utah and California - see here. Other contexts are outlined briefly below.

At the outset, as the crew assembled in Tucson to begin their journey, I only had loose hunches and fragmentary thoughts about what to post in coming days. As I began another week of work in London, circulating in my mind was a slightly bewildering constellation of material related to deserts, in particular those of the American south-west: driving, dust, sand, light, heat, water, geological ‘deep’ time; ‘emptiness’ as a convenient fiction for the open secret and ‘dirty wars’ of military research; silence, silencing and the toxic sublime; writings by Rebecca Solnit, Mike Davis, Don DeLillo, Cormac McCarthy, Annie Dillard, Bradford Morrow, Leslie Marmon Silko, JG Ballard, Iain Chambers, Trevor Paglen, P. Reyner Banham, Jean Baudrillard, Paul Virilio, John Beck, Lawrence Buell, Stephen Muecke, Erin Hogan, and others; art works by James Turrell, Walter de Maria, Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt, Paolo Soleri, Richard Long, John Wolseley, Richard Misrach, Edward Burtynsky, Francis Alÿs, Oguri, Tess de Quincey and others; films by Michelangelo Antonioni, Wim Wenders, Nicholas Roeg, David Lean, John Ford, Werner Herzog, Gus van Sant, Hiroshi Teshigahara, Sergio Leone; assorted music, from Calexico and Gillian Welch to Ali Farka Toure; and distant memories of my own journeys through the central deserts of Australia in the mid-1980s.

At this stage I didn’t know what of this would emerge in coming days, in posts uploaded on the hoof in the gaps between my ongoing work commitments here - and quite what it would amount to. Hopefully traces of a virtual, associational journey in parallel, a slight re-directing of the geometry of attention that allows for passages between the close-at-hand and the faraway, the actual and the possible … 

Maybe think of them as a bunch of balloons released in to the air. Although most of them might well drift off forever into the sky, the odd one might just be held on to and bob along with you for a while.


Email to Mick Douglas, 3 June 2013 

Dear Mick

Thanks again for sharing the SHUTTLE details, and for your kind invitation.

For a virtual contribution/ participation, I'd like to propose something along the following lines: on each of the 21 days of the Shuttle project, 17 June – 7 July, I will post something online – some resources, perspectives, materials related in particular to deserts. These may include propositions or questions, found texts and my own writing, images, sounds/songs, reconstructions, etc. So – traces of a parallel 3-week journey of accompaniment during which my attention here, for a section of each day, will be given over to your group, the route, imaginings of landscapes there, traces of environments here. Cumulatively, therefore, an archive of 21 posts, comprising small invitations and gifts from afar that hope to encourage the possibility of further conceptual and imaginal links, leaks, flows. Associational ripples, modest frictions, 'winds' from elsew/here.

Daily materials would be posted on my blog site skywritings by midnight UK time, each one entitled SHUTTLE and numbered accordingly (day 1 etc.). Along the way, Sue Palmer may contribute some materials about desert flora.

My best to you,

Mobile desert performance
17 June – 7 July 2013

Ten crew open to encounters. Four thousand miles from Tucson to Tucson. Twenty days. A Chevy van. Sonoran, Great Basin and Mojave Deserts. Known and unknowns. 

A collection of international artists, designers, performance makers and researchers journey through the deserts of the American south-west performing an exploration of the aesthetic, political, cultural and environmental resonances of desert ecologies. As a temporary travelling community interested in movement, environment, and performance, the project crew intend to generate new creative practices and works that shuttle between registers of knowing and unknowing by exploring performances of mobility.

In a journey through seminal land art works, ancient settlements, desert conditions, and transit spaces, SHUTTLE will perform daily processes of creating ephemeral conditions and generating encounters. An initial landing event and a subsequent returns event in Tucson, Arizona, welcome public interaction – including collecting offerings from Tucson residents for SHUTTLE to carry forth. SHUTTLE presents an interval at the Performance Studies International ‘Now Then’ Conference (PSi 19) at Stanford University in Palo Alto, and will inform the development of PSi21 ‘Fluid States’ globally distributed events planned for 2015, in particular the Australian project ‘Movement Forms of an Island Continent’. 

Mick Douglas, Beth Weinstein and crew 
Twitter: @SHUTTLEcrew @SHUTTLEbase 

We gratefully acknowledge the support of University of Arizona, Tucson Museum of Art, Exploded View, RMIT University, University of Melbourne, PSi Performance Studies international 

June 17: SHUTTLE encounter: projective conversation + SHUTTLE landing in Tucson
June 18-20: en-route encounters: Chaco Canyon
June 21-24: en-route encounters: Spiral Jetty, Sun Tunnels, Center for Land Use Interpretation, Wendover
June 26-30: SHUTTLE interval at PSi 19 Conference at Stanford Palo Alto
July 1: en-route encounters: Culver City’s CLUI
July 2-4: en-route encounters: Joshua Tree area + cultural laboratories (CLUI, High Desert Test Sites)
July 5: SHUTTLE returns at Tucson Museum of Art
July 6: SHUTTLE encounter: reflective conversation in Tucson 


Grzegorz Brzozowski is a director and script writer working on a PhD at University of Warsaw researching modern festival communities through the lens of anthropology of performance and sociology of religion.

Mick Douglas is an artist making socially-engaged art and performance, senior lecturer at RMIT University, Melbourne, and initiator of journey-based projects that explore the performance of mobilities.

Andrea Haenggi is a New York-based choreographer, visual artist, performer and artistic director/founder of Dance Arts Company AMDaT, who recently established 1067 PacificPeople in Brooklyn New York.

Fiona Harrisson is a landscape architect, horticulturist and senior lecturer at RMIT University, Melbourne, exploring the role that citizens’ relation to landscape plays in the crisis of our times. 

Didier Morelli is an interdisciplinary performer and artist investigating the body as a site for change, exchange, identity and belonging. He is an MFA student at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

James Oliver is an artist-researcher and Graduate Research Coordinator at the Centre for Cultural Partnerships of Melbourne University developing performative methodologies of practice-as-research. 

Meredith Rogers makes theatre and performance in mainstream and independent settings, is an honorary research associate at La Trobe University, Melbourne, and co-editor of Australasian Drama Studies. 

Sam Trubridge is a performance designer, artist, scholar and artistic director with New Zealand company The Playground who is currently researching nomadic philosophies and practices. 

Unknown Persons may be given passage during the course of SHUTTLE. 

Beth Weinstein is an architect and Associate Professor at the University of Arizona working between architectural and choreographic practices, and research of American Southwest land art and water issues. 

SHUTTLE remote crew (artists on board in other locations) 

‘Touring SW American deserts & communities online’: Visual artist Alex von Bergen tours online whilst operating the shuttle base. 

‘Vella vehicle accumulations + Vella Piss Takes’: Visual artist John Vella collaborates with Shuttle crew to collate, collect and respond. 

‘Elsew/here (shuttle days 1-21)’: Writer/performance-maker David Williams is blogging shuttle daily from London. 

‘Postcards’: Neal Haslem sends postcards to lost time in the desert. 

‘The Sustained Doodling Project’: researching the challenges of art in space through a creative collaboration between SHUTTLE and Melbourne artist Annalea Beattie.

Photos, from the top: David Lean during the filming of Lawrence of Arabia (1962); still from Werner Herzog's Fata Morgana (1971); still from Gus Van Sant's Gerry (2002). 'The Desert of Culture' cartoon by Biff (The Guardian)

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