By Al Orange
As an artist living and working across two countries, when I saw the likely outcome of the Coronavirus pandemic starting to spread across the world, I knew I had to make a decision about where I was going to be as travel restrictions set in. It was an easy choice and I returned to Spain to be with my family. But that meant leaving behind my other family, my family of Tangled Feet and other artists across the UK. So when I was invited to be part of Devolution Evolution I jumped at the chance.
Listen to the audio of this blog post here
Unlike some other members of the group who relished the opportunity to make solo work for the first time, I knew instinctively that I wanted my piece to be collaborative. I wanted to explore the ways in which we could connect and make work together in that moment, and I was thankful for the chance to work with part of the incredible pool of talent that had been gathered for the project.
The provocation was ‘The Catalyst’, and that led me to explore the moment when we are driven to walk away, to say no, and how the act of refusal can be a moment of incredible power, a life changing instant that can have long lasting consequences. My starting point was a piece of music I had written which featured samples from procession music I had recorded here on the streets of Seville. Inspired by a moment of catalyst from my own personal history, I reached out to our DevoEvo network for collaborators and asked them to film 30-45 seconds of movement interpreting the theme however they wished.
I wanted to make a piece that connected my past as a physical performer, my present as a lighting and video designer and what is very much my future as a visual artist. My aim was to take us away from the world of confinement and Zoom meetings and create beautiful abstract worlds for our bodies to inhabit. To create something powerful and yet enchanting, a beautiful antidote to the dark times we found ourselves in.
Whilst I flirted with the idea of using the time to research new technologies, as soon as the pieces of film started to come in, I knew my focus had to be on the people, on their pain, their rage, their stories, and their power, my own included. I set out to create worlds that I hoped would reflect each performers strength within their struggle, and yet connect all our stories stories together to create a coherent whole. I devised and performed my own choreography for the first time in years, accepting the limitations that age and injury had handed me and finding new ways to circumvent them.
One of my challenges was trying to work with the different types of video I was sent. Some were filmed with good cameras and proper green screen, others were filmed on phones in people’s bedrooms and back gardens. The trick was to see each challenge as an opportunity to explore, and I genuinely surprised myself with some of the results. The final cut came together much more easily than I expected. It seems that the sense of unity and connection I was craving had already been written into the DNA of our collective unconscious.
Although I was already happy with my own work on the piece, my greatest sense of achievement came from the reactions of my fellow collaborators on seeing the finished video, and how they felt represented. Here at Tangled Feet we are ultimately storytellers, and the greatest service we can do for someone is to tell their story well, to find that kinship, that humanity that we need more than ever right now. I feel so inspired by the Devolution Evolution project, and I definitely want to develop this practice further, to get the work seen not only online but in galleries, libraries and in public space alongside other works from the project, and finally, in defiance of all the shit I’ve been through, to be reborn into power, and just to dance again.
Watch Al's 'Into Power' video from the first phase of R&D sharings on the Devolution Evolution Playlist on our YouTube channel. You can view some more examples of those who chose to share their ideas via video on there too:
To find out more about Devolution Evolution head over to the Production page and keep an eye on our Socials. Follow Al on Instagram & Facebook