hands in relationship
our hands together, in moments
a dance-visual art collaboration with DZ.Maciel
an exploration of our relationships, embodied
This series explores the expressiveness of our hands in relationship to each other. It started as a project in collaboration with Debbie of DZ.Maciel, who was producing and performing a dance-theatre piece, Take on Me — about negotiating needs in intimate relationships.
the conceptual process:
a dance-visual art collaboration
A friend connected me with DZ, who was organizing an arts market before her first production of Take on Me in Williamsburg. We met for coffee, and she told me about her conceptual ideas and process behind the piece. What did it mean to embody — through dance — the dynamics that we have in relationships? How do we carry each other’s weight, burdens, problems? How do we repeat relationship patterns? How do we ask for help, and how do we give it?
I was really inspired by how such complex questions and dynamics could be communicated instantly through the body in movement, with just a few lines of dialogue. How space, distance, and physical closeness speaks more than words — the body understands more immediately than the mind.
I’ve experienced this through dancing tango. I’ve been more and more inspired by the lived experience of body intelligence: the way the body knows and tells us how we feel about ourselves, and about each other.
“Take on Me is an exploration, a curiosity, and a commitment. It is both: will you take me on, the mountain & valleys of me? & will I choose to take on you? Every interaction that falls as a repercussion to that make up this story, shared between two people, maybe more. It is the negotiation of needs in close relationship. Your burden is now mine.
The process: visual art-making
the challenge: how do I capture bodies in relationship?
Initially this project started as bodies in relationship — a more immediate translation of the dance piece. I wanted to start with something anatomically convincing, rather than abstract representations of bodies, so I needed reference images of two people, two bodies.
But do you know what happens when you search the internet for “couple,” with any other keyword? All you see are very posed, “idealized” visions of what a couple looks like. (Doesn’t this tell you a lot about our culture?) I didn’t find anything that felt raw or honest. I didn’t have time to stage my own reference images. So I was sketching one day… and I just started drawing hands on parchment paper…
All I did for these images was google “hands.” Then I had the impulse to pair words with image — to convey more emotion, more context. I had to tell the stories behind these hands, write the text that captured what I thought was happening in this story. The beautiful thing with dance and the body is: this story happens only in the present, only in a single moment. So no embodied moment ever happens twice, even if in your mind, you think holding hands is just holding hands. But each holding is different.
I spent a few days sketching concepts and collecting reference images. Then as usual, I procrastinated a bit and drew the final images in a day, made prints for the arts market that same day, and went and showed (and sold) these pieces there. The next Take on Me is on August 24th, and I’ll be there too.