During summer 2021 I was privileged to attend several sessions with the Collective IDentity dancers. It was a special insight into their world and a chance to respond to their movement work.

Of course, this all happened online. My feelings about meeting and sharing online haven’t really
changed despite the expansion of online visual spaces due to Covid: it’s better than nothing, but no
substitute. So here was a challenge. How do I create a sense of connection to the deeply personal
spaces being explored?

Reframing the process was part of the answer. Put simply: as a visual artist, could there be benefits to being presented with visual stimuli online rather than in-person? If you watch a crowd of people moving together – on a dancefloor, on a station concourse at rush-hour, in a crowded market – they can become one. Similarly, watching the CiD dancers moving simultaneously, in small boxes on a screen, they became one too. But not ‘as one’ in a depersonalised sense. It’s more that because we can all see each other, we can all respond to each other at any given moment.

During the sessions, I made marks using carbon copy paper. I use this process frequently because, to me, it moves the process of mark-making one step away. There is an intervention in the process (the carbon paper), in a similar way that the online presentation of movement work contains the intervention of technology, rather than being present in a room with dancers. Looking back at these marks after each session, it became obvious that the marks were trying to make contact with each other. They mirrored the dancers’ movements and traced tiny moments of commonality and connectivity across the on-screen boxes.

The next step in envisaging the final work I will make for the CiD touring exhibition has been two-

1/ decide if the drawings I made during the sessions are part of the final work themselves, or merely a stepping stone.
2/ gather together notes of the discussions held before and after each session, drawing out themes, key words, strands of thought.

There was much deeply-felt discussion about responses to the sessions, centering around powerful words such as ‘empathy’ and ‘discovery’. But the words that most struck me were ones that talked metaphorically, sometimes of physical things that people felt they and the process became: ‘bridges’, ‘traces’, ‘memories’. Placing these alongside the session drawings, it quickly
became clear that there were groupings of drawings – the shapes and patterns made by the marks seemed to sit in small family groups that reflected the words.

This brings us up to date. I’m working with a block of letterforms that includes these words, mixed together, as we might experience a intense, immersive experience. My print tests so far have centred on teasing each word out slowly from the noise, printing over the top of the session drawings. There’s also the potential at some of the touring venues for the family groups to hang
together (rather than hung flat on a wall). Because I’m using very thin hand-made paper, the prints will move together as one, much like the dancers (see film clip). It feels like an appropriate way to draw the language and movement elements together, although there’s a lot more work to be done.