A digital adaptation of Liz Lerman's
Critical Response Process

Brighid responds to CRP Round One

Brighid Webster

Dr. Brighid Webster is a member of our ‘Closed Research Group’, and took part in the first round of the Critical Response Process with Hagit Yakira in September. Here’s how she got on…

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My Response…

From initial guarded bewilderment to a gathering sense of involvement, CRP has made me question my ingrained habits of response and received opinion – especially in this (postmodern) society where sound bite ‘fixits’ are the staple of every politician, media and self-appointed pundit – their words forever hammering upon ears and brain; and the events, upon which they pontificate, disappearing in a plethora of annoying verbiage.

This was my initial fear – dance is dance after all. Talk is talk and I was apprehensive that, in the way I have experienced with art, writing etc. the creative act would either become secondary to verbal dissection or become obscured by the latter.

Thus it was with interest but with a certain amount of trepidation that I attended the launch of the online platform respond_ on Sept 17th. I had always loved dance but felt a lot of it was inaccessible to me because I didn’t have ‘the knowledge’ and vocabulary to appreciate it fully. Now there were two artists and two groups – a closed one with the artist Hagit Yakira and an open one with Robbie Synge. I had been placed in the former. With clarity and a certain amount of gentleness the respond_ team took us through the various steps of the project. My anxiety was replaced by interest and enthusiasm. Having not heard of Liz Lerman’s work previously, I realized that it was possible to engage in dialogue with an artist/artistic work without opinionated, and often received, judgment playing a huge part in the process.

The evening was well devised and tremendously exciting. As each step was explained I felt a deepening connection to the artists concerned and to the project. This was strengthened further when I had the opportunity to talk informally with both Robin and Hagit. (We didn’t talk about dance and their forthcoming work but about the looming Scottish vote for independence (Robbie) and about our love for the life and people of the Middle East (Hagit)). It was fun and there was definitely a connection. As we laughed together and chatted they stopped being just names and became exceptionally lovely human beings. Creating, especially initial creation, is scary and I, therefore, also felt great respect and admiration for them – that they were actually prepared to offer up their creative works in progress and share/question that work in a dialogue with us.

The evening was truly scintillating and I was determined to find out as much as I could about Liz Lerman and CRP.

Later a sense of apprehension crept in; I do have Luddite tendencies and would communicating through my computer place a barrier between the work and myself? But the site proved to be utterly user friendly and, after a couple of initial hitches, I was aware of the site creators taking me by the hand and leading me through the whole process. (I later realized that the site team was also incredibly efficient and that, whenever I had to get in touch with them, they responded to me immediately.)

The Four Steps:

To actually see the work was wonderful and it was thought provoking to realize that my palette of choices contained questions arising out of old thoughts and prejudices. To respond in a general but also specific way was difficult because this was a completely new vocabulary. It was so positive, though, and brilliant when Hagit questioned me. This compounded my sense of being truly involved in the creation of a dance work – a new and surprisingly invigorating sensation.

In a strange and unexpected manner this also served to further humanize my digital platform. Notice the word ‘my’ instead of ‘the’ – for this was the manner in which I now regarded the digital adaptation of CRP – the technological interface, between myself and Hagit’s work, gradually disappearing throughout the whole process.

To respond in a specific but also a general way to the work – writing about what ‘got me’ about it and being mindful of supporting Hagit in solving any pertinent issues on her own and made me even more aware of my thought processes. As I stated in my opening paragraph my societal and cultural conditioning made me want to ‘fixit’ into MY version of Hagit’s dance work.

To form neutral questions was surprisingly difficult. I realized that the initial comments I came up with involved my ego to a great extent. This certainly challenged my previous concept of being a rather (wise?) non-judgmental person. Food for thought here… and extremely ironic!!!!!

And the ‘fixit’ – a thing that has preoccupied me for years – but not actually possessing that name, rather existing in a nebulous, unspoken form. Of course everything – including us – is composed of shifting, sliding ‘smoke and mirrors’. How narrow we are in our own disciplines. Use of creative writing and humour, rather than mostly factual, verbose pontification in academic writing, is one way of trying to prevent oneself joining the ranks of the ‘self-appointed’ pundits mentioned earlier. Now I realize there are also other ways – other disciplines. Who would have expected this whole experiment to have aspects of such profundity?!

I look forward to our next meeting and I look forward to being present at the finished dance work. But is anything ever ‘finished’? All I know is that being a part of this innovative, exciting and perplexing project has affected me profoundly. I love and have loved being a part of it all… I love the way in which it has been organized and recognize the enormous work, preparation and thought, which has been put into it by everyone concerned. I am invigorated by it all and actually feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to peek for a time into another creative discipline.

So thank you to all who have made this possible.

Now I’m off to delve into my books and read some more about dance, Liz Lerman, and CRP…

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Dr. Brighid Webster
September 2014

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