ambition

I used to be a member of The Place’s associate artist scheme called Work Place, and I see that my 2011 biography still exists on their site: https://www.theplace.org.uk/simon-ellis. The meetings were at times quite stimulating and there was a sense of the group trying to make sense of our differences as artists (and people) and what the purpose or role of the Work Place might be.

At the end of 2012 we had a meeting that I wasn’t able to attend. Instead I made a little video about ambition and difference and I thought that some of the ideas might be interesting to anyone thinking about making art (or just making anything), economies of scale, and ambition.

 

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some things about dance

In 2013 I started writing a series of short ideas about dance and choreography. I had the idea that perhaps I could put together a small book for people interested in thinking about the nature of contemporary dance practices. The project stalled for a while (as they do) but the book – called Some Things About Dance – is now available as a Pay What You Want digital download (PDF, ePuB or mobi). It features a collection of original illustrations by Hamish MacPherson.

https://www.skellis.info/choreography#/somethings

 

writing

I recently read a book by the New Zealand poet and academic Helen Sword called Stylish Academic Writing. It’s a thoughtful, considered and very well written guide for students and academics to think about the nature of the language they use. Below are three quotes that stayed with me.

On using the personal voice:

When we muzzle the personal voice, we risk subverting our whole purpose as researchers, which is to foster change by communicating new knowledge to our intended audience in the most effective and persuasive way possible.

Language and power:

Academics who are committed to using language effectively and ethically— as a tool for communication, not as an emblem of power— need first of all to acknowledge the seductive power of jargon to bamboozle, obfuscate, and impress.

Principles:

Academics identified by their peers as stylish writers for other reasons— their intelligence, humor, personal voice, or descriptive power— are invariably sticklers for well-crafted prose. Their sentences may vary in length, subject matter, and style; however, their writing is nearly always governed by three key principles that any writer can learn. First, they employ plenty of concrete nouns and vivid verbs, especially when discussing abstract concepts. Second, they keep nouns and verbs close together, so that readers can easily identify “who’s kicking whom.” Third, they avoid weighing down their sentences with extraneous words and phrases, or “clutter.” Far from eschewing theoretical intricacy or syntactical nuance, stylish academic writers deploy these three core principles in the service of eloquent expression and complex ideas.

 

advertising

In the latest edition of Wired magazine computer philosopher Jaron Lanier writes of social media and the advertising business model of the internet:

We call it advertising, but that name in itself is misleading. It is really statistical behaviour-modification of the population in a stealthy way. Unlike [traditional] advertising, which works via persuasion, this business model depends on manipulating people’s attention and their perceptions of choice.

The behaviourist BF Skinner designed an experimental box for conditioning animals in laboratory experiments. A person in a Skinner box has an illusion of control, but is actually controlled by the box or whoever is behind the box. In this case they’re algorithmically designed. Because they are not physically contained in the Skinner Box, you have to keep people attentive to the device. The only way to do that is to create a continuous urgency, and that can only be achieved through conflict and danger. So, intrinsically, the business plan breaks apart the world, including any efforts to prevent things from stopping it.

– Jaron Lanier, Save the internet – but change the business model, Wired, January 2018

we like lists

Shannon Bott and I first started working together in 2003. We have had a long, fruitful and sporadic working relationship (see Inert and Recovery) and it’s inspiring to spend time with her making, talking, and dreaming up new ideas: Shannon is a remarkable dancer, thinker and communicator.

We’ve been cooking up a new project for some time and it’s starting to take some shape while we working together here in Melbourne for six weeks.

The performance is called We Don’t Like Lists Because We Don’t Want to Die, a line stripped directly from an interview with the Italian author Umberto Eco:

Homer’s work hits again and again on the topos of the inexpressible. People will always do that. We have always been fascinated by infinite space, by the endless stars and by galaxies upon galaxies. How does a person feel when looking at the sky? He thinks that he doesn’t have enough tongues to describe what he sees. Nevertheless, people have never stopping describing the sky, simply listing what they see. Lovers are in the same position. They experience a deficiency of language, a lack of words to express their feelings. But do lovers ever stop trying to do so? They create lists: Your eyes are so beautiful, and so is your mouth, and your collarbone.

We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death. That’s why we like all the things that we assume have no limits and, therefore, no end. It’s a way of escaping thoughts about death. We like lists because we don’t want to die.

– http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/spiegel-interview-with-umberto-eco-we-like-lists-because-we-don-t-want-to-die-a-659577.html

Shannon and I are slowly working towards some public showings in Melbourne and then – with a bit of luck – we’ll première the work in London sometime in 2018. Stay tuned.

https://www.skellis.info/choreography/#/lists/

We Like Lists Because We Don’t Want to Die is in development after a residency at Centro per la Scena Contemporanea in Bassano del Grappa, Italy in 2015, at Tasdance in November 2017, and a period of practice in Melbourne from October to December 2017.

 

copy what we want

If all people want to do is go and look at other people so that they can compare themselves to them and copy what they want – if that is the final, deepest truth about humanity and its motivations – then Facebook doesn’t really have to take too much trouble over humanity’s welfare, since all the bad things that happen to us are things we are doing to ourselves.

– John Lanchester, https://www.lrb.co.uk/v39/n16/john-lanchester/you-are-the-product

 

andante

I’ve discussed my ongoing work as a dramaturg with Igor Urzelai and Moreno Solinas in various posts on this blog here, here, here and here.

Their latest work – Andante – has its London première tomorrow on Thursday 2 November at The Place (tickets and details are here: theplace.org.uk/whats-on/igor-and-moreno–1. The work has been developed slowly over about three years and the team of people involved are smart, caring and committed: Giorgia Nardin, Eleanor Sikorski, Alberto Ruiz Soler, Kasper Hanser, Sophie Bellin Hansen, Seth Rook Williams, Sarah Maguire, Hannah Blamire, and Melanie Pappenheim.

ACE_Igor&Moreno_Andante_N7A7228.jpg
Image of Ellie Sikorski, Giorgia Nardin, Igor Urzelai and Moreno Solinas courtesy of Alicia Clarke Photography

Like their previous two works, Andante is brave in its vision and sense of the theatrical. It is demanding and accessible, it is patient and evocative. If you can get along to The Place, I suspect it will be well worth the effort.