Century Project is a hopeful dance work that spans a century, launching in 2020 and completing beyond our lifetimes, in 2120.
A 5x5m carpet becomes a site for a series of 10 hour durational events, held every 5 years, that celebrate the knowledge and nature of the dancer.
An act of ‘Cathedral Thinking’, whereby its continuation is entrusted to future generations of artists, this intimate yet epic work uses dance to raise multiple questions about time, the moving body, the planet itself and how to think long term in order to be better ancestors.
We are currently looking for commissioning partners, future host organisations and opportunities for Century Conversations; a hybrid of lecture, workshop, audience conversation and interview with a specialist (future forecaster, archivist, fellow longitudinal artist etc).
To support this project, please contact Kat Bridge, Producer for 'Century Project' firstname.lastname@example.org
The following ideas have primarily arisen through conversations and studio-based research with Kat Bridge, Leah Marojević, David Harradine, Stephanie McMann, Samir Kennedy, Connor Scott, Lauren Potter, Bun Kobayashi and Sam Williams. But also significant conversations with Ella Finer, Ella Saltmarshe, Chris Fogg, Eva Martinez and Stewart Laing among others.
- Century Project spans 100 years. 2020 - 2120.
- Its articulated through a series of 10 hour durational Events that are held every 5 years (12-10pm).
- Its embodied by a group of professional Dancers. A new Generation every 5 years.
- A studio based Preparation period leads up to each Event. The current Generation of Dancers gift the work to the next Generation, who then hold the Event.
- The Preparation period and The Events take place on a commissioned 5m x 5m Carpet.
- The Carpet offers an ‘open space’ for the Dancers to embody various practices and engage in Dancerness* together.
- The Event is not a performance and the public are considered Witnesses rather than audience members.
- Each Dancer will personally invite the next person to continue their Timeline.
- Each Dancer will inherit a Notebook that is passed down their Timeline. They will contribute reflections, drawings, observations to the project through the book.
- The 10 hour Event represents the 100 years, with each 30 minutes acting as a ‘stand in’ for a 5 year period.
- The date will be spoken aloud at 30 minute intervals- “2020, 2025, 2030…” as a reminder of the ‘meta gesture’ of the project.
- As well as the ‘open space’ for Dancerness, a simple Folk Dance will be devised by the first Generation and passed on through Dancers across the 100 years.
- At the Event, each Generation will dance this Folk Dance in their specific 30 minute Time Frame (ie. at 12-12.30pm in 2020 and at 12.30-1pm in 2025 etc).
- No video will be used for recalling the Folk Dance. It will need to be ‘held’ by the Dancers across the 5 years.
- Each future Generation curate their Event by inviting back dancers from previous Generations as Guests to dance the Folk Dance in their respective Time Frame.
- The dancers will have Spotify (or its equivalent) available to chose music their desire to hear.
- Each Event will be recorded so an archive of sound is accumulated. At each Event all recordings will be running, so the dancers can fade up sound recording of previous years.
- Additionally there will be a composed set of Sound Scores available to the dancers.
- At the Event, the audience will be given headphones that give the information listed here as well as access to the Century Conversation interviews.
- Galleries, Museums and other spaces are invited to exhibit the Carpet, Notebooks and sound recordings of the Event in an Exhibition.
- Clinkard will tour an accompanying work; Century Conversations. This hybrid form of workshop / lecture / audience conversation, would also include a live interview with an invited Specialist; an artist / academic / specialist in areas such as environment, archiving, anthropology, future forecasting and longitudinal art etc.
- A group of Trustees will be found to support the work and the Dancers. One Dancer from each Generation will become a Trustee for the next 5 years.
- Every 5 years, a new organisation will Host the work. Liaising with the Trustees to organise; rehearsal space for the Preparation period, a venue for the Event, Exhibition and Conversations, whilst also curating their own related projects in response to the work.
- The organisation who commission the Carpet will provide long-term storage to ensure its safekeeping under optimal conditions.
Before anything else, this is a project about faith and hope in people, including people I don’t know personally and people who haven’t even been born yet. Following it’s launch in 2020, the continuation of this project is entrusted to future generations of artists. Artists that I believe might care about the same fundamental things that I do, such as empathy, embodied knowledge, safe spaces
community and dancing.
This art work is about taking time and creating slow time. An Act of ‘Cathedral Thinking’ where by a creation is completed beyond the span of a life time.
Whilst this project ‘remembers back’ and ‘projects forwards’, it is a practice of the present moment, held and lived through many dancing bodies. Dancers are experts at understanding how too live in the present through the senses and by tuning their attention.
The potential for this project to ‘fail’ is very real and reframed as a conscious political act. Interest in it might dwindle, tastes will change, capacity to produce or finance might become problematic, but also failure is present because the work hopes to exist amidst cultural, political, economic and environmental transformations that are beyond our current comprehension.
With this in mind, I propose that a personal artist-to-artist care for the work, based upon shared values, might be the most sustainable framework in which to send this work ‘into time’. When much of our value systems centre around success, expansion, visibility and return as currencies, the inability to guarantee the survival of this work is reframed as a political act. It’s ‘risk’ could be seen as it’s back bone, ethically speaking.
This project uses dance to think about other things; political things, environmental things, personal things, social things, cultural things among others.
Whilst it is played out across a series of events, its very concept acts an invite for anyone who engages with it to think and act differently. It is an invite to use the long term perspective to behave differently in the moment and raises the question, ‘how might be ‘good ancestors’? Whilst many people will not be able to engage first hand with the dance Event itself, it is my hope that through online communication, documentation, the series of Conversations and the Exhibition, the ideas could invite more thinking today that will benefit the longterm.
The whole 100 year system of this project is its choreographic gesture.
The ‘choreographic’ lives though the widest gesture of this work; a proposed system for an century long organisation of people, place, time and action. Concerning myself with the this as an artwork, has radically shifted my relationship to the project’s danced ‘content’ and on what terms it engages fellow artists. In the studio process and preparation, as in the event itself, I am not a choreographer.
Authorship and Agency
This project dissolves the notion of a single creator, instead foregrounding dancer authorship and agency are central tenets of this work.
If the design, framework, systems and production of the project is my artistic gesture (rather than my choreographing and preserving of a dance), then a conversation could open up around authorship, hierarchy and collaboration. How could each of the dancers who work on the project across its timeline truly be engaged as contributing artists and their ongoing existing practices become the beating heart of the work. During the research period, we shifted away from imagining ‘a dance that is made by Theo and passed like a relay between dancers who are required to act like messengers in a chain culminating in a premiere after 100 years’ towards the work as a place, a reserve for what we all already do, defended and protected into the future.
One of the key turning points of the research period was the idea for a 5m x 5m carpet as a place, a reserve, a clearing in which our activity could take place. Establishing this has shifted everything around it. The carpet becomes more than the visual environment or design but it acts as the continuity of the work, whilst almost everything else changes. Whilst the dance itself is ephemeral, the carpet is a material, an object that can become a visible demonstration of time; it’s wear becoming a way of saying ‘people danced here, people will dance here’ and a place to ‘hold’ absence.
I recently came across an idea that a garden wall doesn’t just serve to frame and preserve the cultivated space but it also encourages questions around the wilderness beyond it. Similarly, I think of the Carpet as a way to imagine the shifting world that exists beyond its border, raising questions around the state of the environment, politics, culture and dance field that the Carpet will witness, as it outlives us. The witnesses at the Event almost become a soft garden wall.
Dancerness is a term coined by Rebecca Hilton and the focus of her lecture at ACCA Melbourne 2014.
Whilst not using the same term, the late Gill Clarke embodied and argued for similar dancer knowledge
My interest in articulating and platforming this knowledge comes from my own years as a dancer (practicing currently, but also for 20 years before making my own work) but was reinforced by two wonderful pieces of text written by celebrated dancers and key mentors for me personally. This reading helped me understand that dancer knowledge is radical, empathetic and something worth practicing and articulating away from product based, ‘choreographic objects’ contexts.
This project does without a choreographer and instead celebrates the dancer. Removing the need for an authored dance ‘as content, as product, as composition, as performance’ we started to talk about practice and the spaces for dancing that are not activated by a choreographer or teacher. Dancers understand the world through the moving body, they dance to think about things or to activate things or practice things. I considered how, left to their own devices, the dancers I share the studio with would move, because it’s innate and necessary and important to them. How could we dance not to entertain, not to get fit, not to produce but instead to best practice a way of being together in the world, physically articulating ideas of attention and care and sensing and listening.
The more that profitability becomes the measure, even within the arts, and as more arts buildings are lost to property markets I believe the precious spaces for dancer knowledge to be articulated and embodied are in need of defending. I imagined that a gesture of mapping out and curating a future for dance, of defending a space for these practices and supporting artists we don’t know could happened within a work of art itself, rather than assume institutions will be here in perpetuity to provide for this activity.
Non performing dance
The durational 10 hour event that takes place every 5 years is not seen as a performance but a place for dancer practice. The people who attend the event are asked to consider themselves as witnesses and shift their expectations for entertainment. The project decentralises choreographic content and understands that ‘dancing doesn’t just happen in pieces’ (Micheal Klien) but instead is within of all of us and can happen anywhere.
Without intending to create a dance project ‘about’ climate emergency, an act of projecting futures and sending a project ‘into time’ raises immediate and urgent questions about the environment. The emerging picture of our planet and it’s destruction, recontextualises this project every single day. This work asks all of us to imagine what kind of world the future generations of dancers (and those that witness the work) will inherit. A recurring theme of mine is the way in which performance can invite and amplify our capacity for empathy. This project is similarly concerned with understanding the ‘other’ but rather than a cultural, geographical lense, it is an attempt to think empathetically about generations of people though time.
The longitudinal nature of this project asks those who support or invest in it to think differently about return. A commitment is made to a set of values and to future generations of artists rather than an immediate touring ‘choreographic object’, it’s requires an investment in process and ideas over product. It challenges the rampant capitalistic thinking in dance and the commodification of the ‘choreographic object’.
Why 100 Years?
Whilst 100 is a wonderful fairytale figure, its importance here is that it sits just beyond the current average life expectancy and ensures the project will outlive us. ‘Women's life expectancy from birth remains 82.9 years and for men it is 79.2, the figures from the Office for National Statistics, for 2015-17, show.’
What is Practiced?
The Preparation period leading up to the Event is a meeting point for the previous and current generations of dancers. A set of activities both danced and social are being devised and will be offered to help build a sense of the ‘groupness’. Walking, talking, eating, reading and drawing are all given value as way to practice being with each other and recognising that the culture of the room is not solely created by moving together. A series of devised physical practices are also offered such as moving in slow motion, generating and embodying notation, devising and sharing scores, measuring 100 in various ways. These are imagined as light frames for being together, trying to find a balance between discovering common ground to move with but not contriving and authoring the space heavily.
These practices and many more will then be available for the dancers to draw upon across the duration of the Event itself. Whilst the work has much space for difference and multiple perspectives, it is intended that there are some key shared values and physical knowledges that are unique to the life and work of the dancer.
The books that accompany each dancers timeline will gradually accumulate reflections and drawing, enabling ideas to pass further than between two generations. As an example here, dancer Steph McMann reflects on an hour of slow moving at Wainsgate Chapel during the research period:
I sat and articulated what I felt so strongly in my bones, how I saw the world at this second. Gardens growing through and between my creaking bones, reminding me of patience and time intertwining to create a greater sense of how I am in relation to this room. Others coughing, creaking, blowing up and down, in and out. No expectation on being anything other than now.
How fast I move. How fast I grow. Literally growing. Growth. Speed and rate of change is simply immense. It causes such beauty between these walls. Simplicity bleeds into complexity that has no author. Seeing is redundant with the eyes alone, it spreads and filters through the entire organism to flower upon another and in another. Touching without the preciousness. Cellular touch which massages the organs and sees me like you, you like me. No prisoners, no comparison. Just Here and Here and Here and Here and Here and Now and This room.
Walls, beards, stiff and hard, supportive and bracing and not without difficulty, just giving enough but also taking to. Gone with the tiger force, in with the bowing panther.
Retreating to fall forward with hope, aspiration and will to breath in my comrades, my pals, my loves. My heart beats for this, them, us. How to bring this quality depth and fuzz that surrounds my being forward. Not to capture and force forward, but to provide the conditions for its own will and desire to believe it can thrive with ease. Steph McMann
Key to the research for this work has been looking sideways to other longitudinal art works and initiatives that attend to Cathedral Thinking.
Future Library - Katie Paterson
Longplayer - Jem Finer
As slow as possible - John Cage
The Long Time - Ella Saltmarshe & Beatrice Pembroke