Through The Looking Glass.

Working with visual motifs of mirroring for the video processing for Art In Motion.  The video is to be projected on the studio mirrors that the dancers use.  The relationship between the self and the self - reflected. The relationship between the screen and the mirror.  Light as a medium.


The Horizon

She came here to stay and work with Avianna, one of those who grew up like her in the echo-boom of the work done by Fazal Inayat Khan in his intentional community in a Surrey country house in the 70s.  Their parents were all part of that community and though shattered diaspora-like in the 80s after the community was unable to continue as it had; in the attempt to create continuity after Fazal's death in 1990 some 10 or 20 of a second generation grew up meeting periodically.  Attending workcamps together in the retreat centre that the Surrey house became from the ages of 8 - 18 the two girls often worked together as part of experimental groups (experimenting with what, you ask? too many things to describe here without losing the thread, but probably just the self, in the end - or was it the group? never could she distinguish clearly between the two...) .  After the retreat centre was deemed un-viable, closed up and sold the connections between all these young people persisted. 

To continue this work is why she came.

This story is part of the greater one, it's hard to tell and comes in pieces.

It's cold windy and rainy in JC today but she has been meaning to write about the roof of the apartment she's been staying in. It has views of Manhattan through downtown Jersey City from the Empire State all the way round past the Statue of Liberty, who even in the mist, and tiny is visible and visibly triumphant.

The first night she was here and most nights since she has stood and watched the lights, the columns of smoke, the planes taking off and landing. Macro gradually conceding to micro and the entire scale visible as her attention shifts.   

The Statue of Liberty speaks to her of this city as a shrine. A pilgrimage site and a node for all kinds of relationship and connection shrunk onto an epic skyline, the lit-up landscape here is a shrine to the relational. Here even has she come, to plug-in to something, to seek allies, to nurture and feed existing connections and to allow new ones to germinate.  She is reminded of the last place she journeyed to; Delphi in Greece, the belly button of the universe.  Was that the 'Big Apple' of what was it, the 6th century BC? Neither journey was conscious pilgrimage for the sake of pilgrimage, both were motivated by smaller, more specific connections, opportunities arose and were taken and paths followed and then...

There she finds herself.

for more information about the life and work of Fazal Inayat Khan including the recently published book Heart of A Sufi please look at the work of  Arch Ventures

'The Story Of The Donkey' from 'Old Thinking, New Thinking' by Fazal Inayat Khan. (1978)

This text is out of print but I have typed it here for you: It might be described as a modern Sufi teaching story.  I first heard it from my father as he had it from Fazal.  Imagine it as a spoken text if you can.

Once upon a time there was a grave in Afghanistan, and that grave had become a shrine of pilgrimage - some wonderful saint was buried there.  After the saint died, his servant, his chela, his disciple built a little grave, prayed there, made a beautiful little garden and soon enough; through the saint's fame and through the loyalty of his disciple, people started coming there to seek solace, warmth, understanding and quietude - and so, over forty or fifty years it became a place of pilgrimage.

Now - and there is great symbology in this - the disciple who took care of the shrine married and had children and at a certain time his eledest son became of age and quite wisely the father, the disciple said to the son: "Now is your time to go into the world".  There comes a time for every father, for every relationship in a sense, for every leader to be able to say to ever follower: "Go".  That does not break the relationship.  There comes a time for every dependent relationship to be ripe enough so that the dominant factor in it can guide the disciple to the point of independene, otherwise the dependence is useless.  So in that same way, the father was very wise and thought that the son was ripe and the son was very wise and didn't revolt, he didn't need to, he didn't run away.  And the father gave his son a donkey and some food and a bit of money and sent him out into the world.

The son went out to meet the world  and, as you can imagine, it was difficult - there were many robbers and the desert and not enough food.  He met many difficult and dangerous things and realised that he wasn't yet so capable and didn't know so much and was not much respected being alone.  But his father had told him to travel far away, so he went on and on.  After a while his money ran out and then the last thing he had, his donkey, died. 

He buried his donkey and cried and felt very lonely and, since he had no money and nowhere to go, he just stayed where he had buried his donkey.  After a while some people came and saw him there and helped him.

Maybe ten or fifteen years later, an eternity later, stories started coming through to his old, wise father that somewhere else was a new shrine growing up. Now fewer people came to his shrine and more went to the new one.  The father decided that he would like to know what this was all about and who lived there, so he went to visit the new place of pilgrimage and there, he met his son who was now much more mature. 

The son told him of his travels and how terrible it had all been and that eventually the donkey had died and he had buried it and had just been sitting there crying his eyes out and people had come and he had called the donkey by its name and the people had thought it was a holy man who was buried there.  So the people helped him to build a grave, and then a hut, and he had looked after the grave - well, he knew how to do that from his father.  And people came back, and left again, and said what a wonderful meditation they had had there, and the son realised what a wonderful thing his father had taught him.  He asked his father not to tell anyone because no one knew that it was only a donkey buried there. 

The father looked at the son and after a while he said: "The same thing happened to me, son". There is a lot of symbology in that story.

Art In Motion - In their own words

I keep meaning to post this here.  It's the promotional video Art in Motion have made for their kickstarter campaign for which they have very nearly made their target.  If anyone is feeling like donating, you might be the one to put them over the top!

The video was made by Rafael Cruz who I had the pleasure of meeting the other night.  A local JC video artist who sounds like he's into some really interesting stuff, we geeked out over max msp and processing.



Untitled from Hestia Peppe on Vimeo.

I made a video before coming to work on Art In Motion.  Like the story I posted the other day it functions as some kind of reference point to articulate where I'm coming from and what I bring with me to the work.  My video practice has hitherto been consistently recognisable as an attempt to situate myself, an interplay of objects placed in relation to eachother and the movement of my attention from one to another.

A recent chance encounter with the work of Kay Turner and her book Beautiful Necessity which surveys the tradition of domestic altar making and its aesthetic power for navigating change and continuity drew attention for me to these ideas in my own work.  This video is a sketch in which I consider this consciously for the first time.  For me it is interesting to play with juxtaposition as a way to map relations between objects which may in turn speak of relations between people, meanings and value.

As far as this relates to Art In Motion I am considering this as a strategy of mapping connections within a collaborative process that allows for intimacy and free association and may reveal parts of the process that would otherwise be hidden from the viewer.  In the rehearsal on Sunday I began to work with objects belonging to the participants and with footage from group discussions, searching for layers of the work which may not be visible in the dance and which video might amplify.


JC Fridays

On Friday she is taken out to JC Fridays.  It takes her a while to work out that JC stands for  Jersey City.  JC Fridays is like London's First Thursdays, in that it is a once a month crawl of art openings fuelled by alcohol.  Unlike First Thursdays everyone out for JC Fridays behaves as if they are at an actual party instead of a networking event. A lot of art gets made here, and music and it seems like stylistically this is all notably unselfconscious.  Everyone knows eachother with the distinction that they act like friends as opposed to colleagues and this seems to breed a kind of specifically localised confidence. Chris Kraus' essay on Tiny Creatures from her new book discusses the art/music/community dynamic in LA and there is a sense of that here.  Manhattan's gallery scene seems further away here than it does in London. Everywhere has live music tonight.

She visits two spaces, Art House (The exhibition is called Freeze and is a group show of Jersey City artists, she can't help contrasting it with the infamous London exhibition of the same name in the nineties, not much in common, Art House is a community space in the 'socially conscious' sense.) and 58 (solo show called Pulp by Ken Bastard, paintings in the tradition of pulp movie posters of which the preliminary drawings really shine. with a party in the cavernous back room where the DJ plays The Only Ones the minute she walks in so she has to text Tom and he replies the next day to ask if she was at the hippest party in the nineties-which keep coming up don't they? and it kind of felt like she was) and then what seems like a house party but is something to do with Railroad Studios up a ridiculous number of stairs and then a birthday party for a local hero at a studio space where she watches a band cover reggae from the vantage point of a swing hanging from the roof.  There is a picture of two rhinoceros on the wall that she likes and another one in a kitsch gilt frame of robed figures in the desert firing guns of some kind at the sun. She hangs out on the roof discussing cultural difference and Skins until the wee small hours.

If she had a camera with a flash,  there would be photos here. All these things seem to be documented on the official JC Fridays site which is run by Art House



I think I will always blog in the third person.


Art In Motion

I went to my first rehearsal for Art In Motion last night.  They have been at it for a while already so I arrive in the full flow of what they have going on.  Before this I have received fragments of documentation, some video, notes on discussions, themes, methods, names and faces are not yet connected and I was nervous going in.  Choreography is a fascinating but foreign process to me, I have come from far away to do this work and I am struck with what might be suddenly at stake.  Beginning with a risk.  This is the lack of proximity at work, I'm transitioning into the locus of the work, becoming close, the contact implicit in working with others is a shock.

From the proposal I wrote toward my part in the project.

For three weeks Hestia Peppe will be present in the role of Artist In Residence with Insurgo Stage Project during development of their group improvised work Art In Motion.  During the part of the development when she is not present she will continue to create work as part of the ongoing collaboration.  This offers the opportunity to consider collaborative methodologies utilising both presence and telepresence and the role of the technologies of telepresence (video calling, email, social media, digital filesharing) in a creative process of this type.

The first piece they worked with yesterday is called 'Pressure', enough said it was spookily appropriate to my mental state.  Seated quietly taking notes I began to gain context, to situate myself.  Later, debriefing the rehearsal into the night I am seized with exhilaration as connections solidify and adrenalin kicks in.  I'm excited now.

The group were incredibly welcoming, names firmly transform into specific faces and later Avianna's insistence that the performers, onstage are specifically themselves, not characters somehow completes my sense that I am in the right place.  This thing is collectively autobiographical.  Individual's stories colliding with eachother.  This is what I wanted and needed.  Avi and I worked on performances together as teenagers in what seems like another world but the old alliance is strong and there is richness in it.

There is so much more to tell! Since I got here I've been orientating myself and as always the rush of over stimulation  needs to be ridden out.  The place and the people are starting to make sense of themselves and I'm so glad I'm doing this. 

street art in Jersey City, photo by yours truly.

prologue, a story.

I was asked to write a story about myself in the third person as part of the rehearsal/writing/development for Art In Motion by Insurgo Stage Project the group I'm working with here in the states, about which much much more to come.  This was written before I came over so perhaps is more about where I'm coming from, prior to immersion in their intensive process.

She wanted a cat. It wasn't too much to ask. She thought about it a lot, which meant she talked about it a lot. She really wanted one. Some people didn't seem so sure it was a good idea, "after all you spend half your nights with your boyfriend." True, it would have to be a grown cat, and her housemates would have to be ok with it. Her housemates were ok with it, even the one who is allergic to cats, even the one who claims he doesn't like cats.  She has five housemates.  They were all ok with it. She wondered if she could train the cat to go back and forth up the road to her boyfriend's house with her.  A cat she had had years ago at home with her parents had been hit on the road and died and she had stayed home from school and cried for a week and the cat they got after that (after an appropriate mourning period had elapsed) had been with them fourteen years before he died of old age last winter. He used to meet her at the top of her parents lane where her Dad parked the car whenever she came home to visit them.

The people at the cat rescue place sounded like they thought it was a bad idea too. "We take prospective cat owners lifestyle into account when considering possible cats." "How many people live in your house?" They come round and inspect the home to see if it is suitable for cats.

She was scared of the home inspection, maybe it wasn't a good idea, maybe her lifestyle wasn't appropriate.  What if she finally was given an opportunity? her art career might materialise.  What if the cat was hurt or lost and her heart broke?

Weeks before she got up the guts to let the cat rescue volunteer come and inspect the house she wrote in her sketchbook: GET A CAT AND CALL IT RISK. 

After the inspection she lost patience after two days and called them, "Can I have a cat, have you decided?".  They said they had two that might suit her.  Not the pretty kittens or the dainty mama cat, two ex-strays, tough gangster boy cats from the streets of Peckham.  The first one they showed her had lost half his tail in an accident, the rescue vets had amputated it.  It didn't bother him they told her, not Disco, they said, they smiled when they talked about him.  She took him home. Risky Disco, only half a tail. 

Risko went missing a month after she brought him home, in the snow just before Christmas.  Every night for a week in the dark cold she walked the local streets calling.  She told herself the cat didn't belong to her anyway.  If he wanted to be a stray again it was up to him.  She went out again, just to see. 

After Christmas, the snow melted and that day Risko came back of his own accord.

post hiatus difficult post

So last night i was looking at the horizon and decided; I'm just gonna do this like I do when i haven't seen a real beloved old friend for a long time and we meet and it all comes out haphazard to start but we get there and the stories gradually gain coherence they didn't have before.

I'm in New Jersey, just over the river from Manhattan in the house of a dear old friend, I got here three nights ago and it's time to start talking about what I'm doing.  Bear with me as the fragments find their narrative.