Residency is a two-part journal entry brought to you by one of our favorite creatives.
This month, Celia Hollander, a.k.a. Los Angeles’ $3.33, records a conversation about performance with her sister.
Madeline Hollander is an artist working with performance and choreography living in New York. She is also my sister, friend, collaborator, idea spinner, etc. This conversation was recorded around 9PM PST-12AM EST on January 29th, 2015.
Ok. I think this is going to work.
Um, how are you?
Madeline: Good. How are you doing?
Celia: I’m okay. I’m really tired and… just feel weird.
Madeline: Yeah. Today’s a tired day.
Madeline: Can you tell me again what you’re planning to do with this?
Celia: This blog asked me to do this thing that they call a “Residency,” which is just like two journal entries in a month. The first post goes up on February 6th, which is your birthday and I don’t know, we never document any conversations we have and I think—I’m more and more interested in conversation in general.
Madeline: I sometimes save our Gchats.
Celia: Yeah. I do favor Gchat in general. We’ve talked about this. But that’s just because I kind of hate talking on the phone. Well, for me talking on the phone is super debilitating. Like I can’t do anything else.
Madeline: Like now.
Celia: Yeah. There’s nothing else I can do. I’m locked into my computer. I’m also—it takes every bit of effort for me to phonetically disentangle what you’re saying and understand it. I don’t understand how people can just drive and cook and do things and talk to people on the phone. It takes my undivided attention to carry out a phone conversation. But that’s my own problem.
So yeah—I am going to edit this heavily. So I don’t know. Feel free to say whatever and I can always edit things out. I don’t really know what I’m going to do.
But I am really curious about your performance and how it went.
Madeline: My performance went well. I felt like we were installing the piece as we were performing it because we didn’t get much time to rehearse in the actual basement of the Sculpture Center until the day before the performance. Before, we were rehearsing in Signal Gallery, so we never had to deal with the long corridors or other artwork or people. And so the space went from completely empty, which was the first 10 minutes of the opening with people trickling in, where we were able to do the entire looping sequences full out—and then as the public opening began it started to get more and more crowded and we had to start counting out loud to each other so that we could all stay in sync and hear each other, and we started calling out cues. So it sounded more like football hikes in a way, we were yelling out “and one” and weird little code words that were associated with the different points of the choreography that would indicate a transition into something else, or if we should wait for someone else to catch up, or if we would switch spots… Over time it just got more and more clogged.
Celia: More and more what?
Madeline: Yeah, as more people filled the corridors we had to start and stop, start and stop, start and stop and maneuver around people maneuvering around the artwork. We decided before, since we were wearing headlamps, that we weren’t going to blind the viewers by making eye contact or saying “excuse me” or “please move out of the way” or anything. We wanted to maneuver through it in the same way you maneuver through a crowd during rush hour. Once you get into the groove of finding your little gaps you can bounce through it.
Celia: Yeah. That’s my favorite thing to do. Running through a crowd as fast as I can without touching anybody.
Madeline: Yeah. And to be in that zone of knowing that you can keep going faster and that you’re not going to actually hit anyone or anything. You become hyper aware of your audience space.
Celia: Yeah. Agile ninja.
Madeline: Mm-hm. Yeah, that’s a really fun zone to be in. It turns obstacles into interesting games. But in this case you’re in that zone but you’re also performing. The viewers are watching you and also reacting. So if someone thinks you’re too close to them they might jump backwards into a sculpture. But you know that you’re not going to hit them, so there’s this confidence and awareness around the dancers that creates a disruption for the viewers. There was a kid who was following us around. Most of the people would just stand and let us pass, or just step out of the way. But this kid would trail after us and follow us through the hallways. I think she was taking photos. She came up with a little chant that would go along with our rhythm. She kept on repeating a funny chant/mantra that went something like “Magical hands, magical hands, one, two, magical hands,” providing us with this weird accompaniment which made it impossible not to smile. It was really sweet. And then of course there were people photographing her photographing us.
Celia: And then everyone started chanting “magical hands, magical hands” together.
Madeline: I don’t think anyone else heard it besides the dancers actually. I would love to ask her what she was actually saying sometime. We went from 4:00 to 7:00PM.
Celia: That’s a long—that’s many miles.
Madeline: Yeah. It was really intense and we ended up drenched in sweat and we were all definitely zombies by the end of it. And it made it really hard to interact with people afterwards.
Celia: Yeah. Just like, you just ran an endurance marathon and then people want to chat and hug and say hey and it’s kind of impossible.
Madeline: Yeah. And the movements definitely changed but not as much on the level of getting broken down due to exhaustion but more on the level of running out of space and having to move in a narrower frame than what—
Celia: Than what you anticipated.
Madeline: Yeah. I feel like in the other performances the opposite will happen. We won’t have to be as narrow because there won’t be as many people but this will mean that we can do the choreography more full out the whole time so we’ll reach a point of exhaustion much faster.
Celia: It was—I felt like I was mostly invisible. I only felt visible when you guys were going behind me because everyone’s gaze would follow the dancers, as the primary energy and then the tones followed. I also had my eyes closed most of the time because it was too much for me to be at ground level surrounded by all my friends from college and ex-boyfriends and grandma. It was so confusing. I didn’t realize when you perform you’re usually on a stage or separate from the audience for a very good psychological reason. So to have everyone and people that are really important to me from the past and present just swirling around and really close to me while I’m supposed to play piano for an hour was a very weird thing. So I kept my eyes closed and then eventually went into—you just get into a zone where you plateau and then you can either go for 20 minutes or two hours. I don’t know, part of me wished that I was doing something as physical as going around and around the room because playing piano—it is very physical in some ways but you’re stationed. But I felt like I was creating a different type of swirling energy.
Madeline: You were the only one who was sitting in the entire gallery.
Celia: Yeah. I know. It’s kind of sad. It’s kind of sad but it’s also, of course. I’m the slowest eye-of-the-storm-turtle. Everyone else is doing things and scurrying around and I still haven’t moved. A decade has passed and I’ve aged one year.
Madeline: Yeah. It’s really hard to look at someone in the eye when you’re two feet away from them. It’s so different on a stage and being blinded by a spotlight. That happened a lot in this past performance—it’s just harder to stay inside of the performance when like Willa comes up to me.
Celia: Totally. Yeah. And you’ve practiced with performing. It’s beyond even a reaction to embrace those people that I see when I see them. It’s just, it’s so automatic. It’s really clear that if Stephen is in the room I’m going to say hey, his presence will affect me immediately, I can’t, I have no boundary to shield from that. I want to say hi to my friends, I want to say hi to grandma, I want to acknowledge their presence. So it was weird.
Madeline: In a way it’s almost easier to perform something extremely difficult that forces you to be concentrating so hard that you wouldn’t ever notice the people around you.
Celia: Yeah than something that’s kind of—
Madeline: —and automatic.
Celia: Yeah. I would agree. Well cool. I want to come in April and see it.
Madeline: In April???
Celia: Isn’t that the closing?
Celia: So wtf?
Madeline: What about February?
Celia: February is very soon. March or April.
Madeline: Okay… April.
Madeline: There’s a sequence in this one that is really different from any of the other sequences I’ve done. I made the TSA pat-down sequence much, much slower.
Celia: Oh cool. You love the pat-down.
Celia: You love the pat-down.
Madeline: Yeah. I love the pat-down. So, I got the pat-down on loop and all three of us are doing the pat-down to each other but it’s cut up and re-collaged together in order for us to be in synchrony and move forward at the same time. We went through many, many different versions of this in order to get it to move.
Celia: Have you ever done something where there isn’t a linear thrust to it? Like “we had to do the pat-down but we also had to keep moving.”
Madeline: No, I have never created a static sequence.
Celia: Yeah. Which is funny—
Madeline: They all move.
Celia: Yeah they all… continue. They all either go around the room or they go forward and keep moving, which is funny because when you said the pat-down at first I imagined everyone doing the pat-down to each other just standing there and I was like, “Something’s not right with this…” and I imagined everyone awkwardly walking together like a clump patting each other. How does that work? Then I’m like “Wait, why do they need to be moving?” “Oh because it’s Madeline.” Even when you scratch your cornea you still have to get on the train and you still have to go. Keep on moving, don’t stop. Even if you’re just going in circles, keep moving, keep moving.
Madeline: Yeah. I believe you have to walk on the moving sidewalks.
Celia: Yeah, I agree with that too.
Madeline: What I was going to say about the pat-down is we went through all these different iterations of it that were really literal and really kind of neurotic and then I realized that every time I tried to look up the actual protocol or the choreography of the pat-down that everyone has to get if they don’t go through the metal detector at the airport, there’s no official record or procedure online because obviously they don’t want people to know exactly where everyone’s going to be looking for security reasons. So there’s a ton of just handheld iPhone videos of people getting the pat down and all of them that I found were all titled something like “Groping My Girlfriend” or someone, or “This Officer Touched My Butt.” Every single video was posted as a point against the pat-down.
Celia: Or like a sexual accusation.
Madeline: Yeah. And some of them that were less enraged would begin saying, “Hi, I’m videotaping this pat-down because I want them to treat my girlfriend with some dignity.” They used it as a—
Celia: Wait were all the videos by men?
Madeline: No, it was both. Some of them were mothers, a lot of them were mothers. The TSA agent will be like, “Excuse me, why are you videotaping this?” And the woman/mom/friend would guffaw and be like, “Because I want you to treat my daughter with some dignity. I want to make sure you treat her with respect and dignity and I have this on camera so that if you fuck up I have proof.” So it’s this weird… the camera becomes this preventative shield.
Celia: Yeah. I was—I have two things to say. First, a woman officer patting your butt to see if you have a gun instead of going through a metal detector, the fact that that can be interpreted as an assault is really funny to me. But the second thing is when I was making all those car videos I was looking for videos on the Internet of people driving, and people driving in LA, and 90% of the videos I found were dudes that had a dash cam for insurance purposes. There are so many videos that are really obsessive that I just couldn’t believe existed—guys would drive for an hour or so, record the whole thing, put it onto video software, and then annotate every part of the video where someone was making some sort of traffic error.
Madeline: Oh my god.
lCelia: And with little captions like, “Everyone’s a fucking idiot,” or “eft turn, time to make a left turn.” Or it’d just be a guy in the car being like, “No one knows how to drive,” “See, that person didn’t signal.” Or insurance scams where someone falsely crashes into the car or a pedestrian walks into the car and claims that the car hit them. But yeah, I was really surprised that people weren’t just uploading car videos for like, the joy of cruising but the majority of them were really, really upset dudes about how everyone sucks at driving or how everyone’s trying to scam their insurance. And the way that they were using the phone wasn’t expressive of a landscape or anything. It was just a shield as a defensive weapon to make sure people wouldn’t fuck with them.
Madeline: Yeah. It changes the tone of viewing the video too. I also thought it was interesting that before they do anything they tell you what they’re going to do. They just say, “I’m going to touch your butt. Now I’m going to use the back of my hand to touch the inside of your thigh. Now I’m going to use the back of my hand…,” they give you the instructions as they’re doing it. It adds a whole other layer to be considered, can it be groping when you’re given the preparatory speech?
I’ve never gotten the pat down.
Madeline: Oh you should.
Madeline: It’s very nice. I think it’s nice. It feels good. But I also don’t have any problem with people touching my body when they’re telling me exactly what they are doing—or, it would be totally different if they didn’t give the preparatory speech first.
Celia: I don’t have any problem with touch either. I just don’t have a problem with being zapped either.
Madeline: Being what?
Oh. I don’t like being zapped.
Celia: Don’t you kind of like it though?
Madeline: Not at all.
Celia: It’s a weird bath to take before you get on an airplane. I always think of it like the shower—
Celia: I always think of it as the shower that you have to take before you get in the pool. Like you have to get doused in toxic waves before you get on an airplane. I just like—
Madeline: Or you just have a massage.
Madeline: Yeah… I don’t like getting zapped.
Celia: I know.
Madeline: During all of our rehearsals we listened to your “rap album.”
Celia: That’s such a weird thing to listen to for that.
Madeline: It worked out great.
Madeline: Yeah I’m excited for you to come.
People still have a hard time understanding that the pieces loop continuously.
Celia: Yeah. Well that’s because if you see something happening you’re going to want to watch the whole thing, no one’s going to just disregard something the first time they see it. Even if—yeah, it loops but if you go into a gallery and there’s a looping video and you know that it loops you want to watch the whole thing. You watch the whole 20 minutes. And then when it starts looping you leave.
Madeline: Yeah. But I guess even in terms of getting there, and the idea of there not being a beginning or an end, or people wondering, “When does it start?” Or “When should I get there?” The “Oh, you can get there any time between this time and this time” is not being fully comprehended yet.
Celia: Yeah. Well there’s nothing else like it. There’s no live looping precedent.
Madeline: No. But I guess with most gallery openings you know that you’re free to get there any time between opening and closing.
Celia: Yeah. Maybe you have to be really explicit about that.
Celia: Live loop. I think that’s kind of what I’m going to do tomorrow.
Celia: That’s kind of what I’m going to do tomorrow.
Celia: Play a lot of loops. It’s in the entrance of MOCA so I think a lot of people—most people will be going in and out of the book fair so I kind of just want to play a bunch of loops for half an hour that will be more of an ambient environment than a set. But then I know a few people will come and want to sit and watch the whole set and it’s just not going to be designed for that and I feel kind of bad. I don’t feel bad, but I want people to be free to come and go through it, in the same way you want people to experience your performance. That really resonates about how I feel about this. It would be boring to sit and watch the whole thing, I think.
Madeline: It’s just not designed for that. I mean I like the idea of the performance as a kind of opening credits and closing credits of someone’s experience of the book fair.
Celia: Yeah exactly. It’s more for the people that I don’t know, that aren’t coming for me than it is for anyone who is coming for me, frankly because there will be a lot more people that I don’t know, who don’t know me. That’s my rationale.
Madeline: Mm-hm. I feel like so much of the vision in wanting to create that effect has to do mostly with the context, venue and architecture of the space.
I think I’m more tired than you and it’s later for you.
Madeline: I’m tired.
Celia: What’d you do today? What was the weirdest thing that happened today?
Madeline: This isn’t very weird but I went to that performance. It was very intimate, it was people sitting around on chairs in this old building and in the middle the dancers presented this piece that was really sequential. It felt like an algorithm that was pretty rigorous and patterned. I watched a dancer who I’ve been working with for a couple years now perform and I watched him for the first time be totally in love with someone as he was performing. And she was also performing. So I watched two people, one who I know very well and the other one who’s a stranger dance together and I could tell that they were in love.
Celia: Are they actually or were you just—?
Madeline: No, he’s dating her and I’ve never—
Celia: You’ve never seen the energy in him.
Celia: That’s really cool.
Madeline: He dances differently when he’s next to her!
Celia: Yeah, of course.
Madeline: It’s really cool.
Celia: It’s so cool. It’s real.
Madeline: It’s so real because I’ve seen him dance a lot and I’ve worked with him a lot but I’ve never seen him dance with his girlfriend.
Celia: Yeah, that’s beautiful.
Madeline: It made me look at a whole different part of him.
Celia: It’s like he’s activated, energized, love-agized.
Madeline: It was less about his movement and more about his face. Usually I am just obsessed with his movement and in this performance I couldn’t stop looking at his face.
Madeline: That wasn’t really weird that was just cool.
Celia: Yeah. It could be kind of weird. It’s a new experience.
Madeline: We had to take off our shoes to go into the performance though, which is really weird because it’s winter here and it’s snowing and the ground is disgusting because everyone had just walked in from outside so we all had wet cold dirty snow feet.
Celia: I miss the snow right now so much.
Madeline: No you don’t.
Celia: I do. I really do.
Madeline: What’s the weirdest thing that happened to you?
Celia: I went running in the LA River and in this one part there’s a ton of brush in the middle, it’s marshy, and I heard someone screaming. Just wailing in despair. It’s a horrible thing because I can’t do anything about it without endangering myself and it’s this disembodied horrible sound… If someone is on the street and yelling you can see if they’re yelling because they’ve been shot or something, and you need to call the police. But you can also see if they’re wailing because, I don’t know, they’re having horrible withdrawal and they’re kind of crazy. You just can’t see what the problem is and it’s not safe to just jump in there and it’s an isolated weird landscape. It’s a weird thing to hear. It’s scary.
Madeline: That is scary. I started reading The Sound Of The Horn book. It’s also kind of scary.
Celia: Yeah. That’s so funny, I was thinking about that today because I was like “What am I going to get Madeline for her birthday? Oh well the book fair is coming up so I can get something at the book fair.” Sorry, just letting you know I’m probably getting you something at the book fair. And then I thought, “But I got her that little book and I don’t know if she ever read it.”
Madeline: I’m almost done with it. I really like it. It’s really perfect for right now.
Celia: I got it because of the movie idea about the sound blast.
Madeline: —which I think about constantly.
Celia: Yeah. So I read the book really fast but if I remember correctly there’s a car crash or something and then the sound from the car horn just goes on forever and never stops in the town. The town just adapts to it in different ways. There are—essentially people just camp out around outside and sing along to the horn—they’re called horn singers?
Madeline: Yeah and people would harmonize with it and the bar put a recording of it inside—
Celia: Wait hold on I think Gabe’s here. Hold on.
Yeah. Madeline we’ll have to continue talking another time.
Celia: Thank you so much.
Madeline: Thank you, love you.
Celia: Love you too.