freedom of information 2008

In response to the continuing U.S. led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, choreographer Miguel Gutierrez invited artists from across the country to perform freedom of information 2008: a 24 hour performance/protest/ritual of continuous movement improvisation performed while blindfolded and ear-plugged, which was intended as a contemplative act of solidarity with those displaced by the wars.

This action took place over the last 24 hours of 2008, from midnight to midnight of December 31st. It ended with the ringing in of the New Year.  There were 31 artists participating in freedom of information 2008. Each artist performed the action in her/his respective state and during the 24 hours that correspond to December 31st in his or her time zone. Miguel Gutierrez originally performed freedom of information alone on December 31, 2001, in response to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. This time, inviting artists from across the country creates a nationwide, synchronous event.

freedom of information 2008 involves staying in one room for the duration of the event. Moving continuously for 24 hours throughout the space of her/his choosing in a sensory-deprived state, the performer meditates on the dislocation and disorientation of those who do not have the basic right of being safe for the duration of a single day, who instead must be continuously on the move because of the threat of violence.

For more information on the other participants go to: www.freedomofinformation2008.blogspot.com

The event was initiated by Miguel Gutierrez, a choreographer/performer based in Brooklyn, NY. Gutierrez is an award-winning artist whose evening-length pieces tour internationally. For more information on his work go to: www.miguelgutierrez.org

With thanks to all the who assisted  Tahni: Toby Query, Nate Query, Melissa Pomeroy, Eugenie Frerichs, Julie Katch, Noelle Stiles, Delaney Kelly, Linda Austin and Jeff Forbes. Thank you to Performance Works northwest for hosting the event.

Tahni’s written reponse:

It is funny looking back on the weeks leading up to FOI08. Out of the 31 participants 30 people emailed lovely descriptions of why they were doing this and what it meant to them to participate with others across the country. I too felt a swelling of pride and solidarity but I also felt a mix of sensations that contradicted those feelings. Like, these are just words. We make decisions about how to feel and then we feel them. My email to the group-the last one before the beginning was, “Everyone has said everything there is to say. I can add no more words. So let me now, along with all of you, dance for you. Let these be the words that cannot be said. I will see you on the other side.”

Now some words.
A list of remembering:

1. Waking Toby up to take me to the bathroom even though I already had found a system for doing it by myself (needing to be touched by him).

2. dancing an I love you, what other partner would ever spend seven hours in a studio, dance to Toby while he slept.

3. creating a reward system: go on chair and for a couple of minutes of non moving then dance again (during the night hours).

4. how easily and freeing it felt to be sightless.

5. I think I fell asleep on the floor when Melissa formed a ball up against my side. You gave me the strength to wake up and continue moving. I have never been so happy to feel your beautiful hair against my skin.

6. I kept feeling rhythms through out my body and kept having funny thoughts that Nate would see through these rhythms easily. This made me laugh-me thinking how I must look from the outside. HA.

7. Going home to my square for more tea and a minute of rest. Grateful that the thermos was always full.

8. feeling mad love for all who were assisting.

9. finding a chair and feeling done. Not wanting to get back up. Linda putting Marie in my lap. Getting revived. (Out of order): feeling like Linda was pure genius knowing when I needed to feel Marie the most during the event.

10. the back wall always feeling like a curve. slowly letting go of all prior knowledge of space. Space feeling and therefore being a very different place from when I started.

11. Going home to square.

12. recognizing different tape marks and getting feel for where I was.

12a. getting an ear infection in my right ear.

13. Feeling like I needed to perform. Performance was getting boring to me.

14. started to make up games to play in the space.

15. Hit a baseball and dunked a basketball for Mike Markum.

15a. Realized it was 12 noon. DId an I am half way there mother fucker dance and then realized I was only half way there. Wanted to cry and remembered Miguel’s mantra: you are strong. you are beautiful.

16. Did the ode Greg B. Dance and the Linda Austin dance (bubble wrap) and Linda Johnson dance and pop and lock dance. I started to review old choreography from under an hour and here is the map.

17. Heard Eugenie’s boot’s on the floor. Gave me comfort.

18. back to home. Always. Tired. too tired.

19. smelled Linda Johnson’s beautiful perfume.

20. Always loosing my place and then needing to find it again.

21. Started to see the outline of my body in black on black. Truly felt and looked like something out of the matrix. Doing the magic matrix dance which also felt like the Jen on X dance. Felt soooo good I couldn’t stop. Did a rhythm dance that went into other rhythms that poured out emotion after emotion after emotion. I finished and thought I had nailed something. Like I just gave the performance of my life. Had a desire to bow. Amazingly funny for me to look back on this now. Put all my energy in that dance.

22. Waves of energy into dropping out. Going home.

23. feeling tape. Getting frustrated that tape on the marley started leading me astray.

24. wanted to get back to my matrix zone. couldn’t find it again.

25. I could only move slowly on the floor. I didn’t have any energy left. I thought it would come again like it had for the past hours. But no energy left. Body giving out. Sad that I couldn’t move very much anymore. Sad for the volunteers left. Sad for my legs and my arms and my heart.

26. Found the curved wall in the back by way of tape. Always going to it to find my home square. going to my home square then back to wall.

27. Thinking of Toby’s meditation walk. Feel your feet. Think of intention. !6 steps to the other side then back again.

28. Sad I was so boring for those left to watch.

29. I started hearing strange noises like people in the kitchen having a party. Thinking I was too boring to watch anymore.

30. Called out Noelle and Delaney’s name (you must have been in the kitchen for a moment filling water). No answer. thought I was alone. Started to cry. Started to feel truly alone, like I would collapse and no one would be there. started to feel Noelle and Delaney needing to get to holoscene.

31. On the wall. Feeling every little bit of that curved surface.

32. Asking if Julie was there yet. This was my marker for 3 hours left. did not think I was going to make it. Though, I was determined to collapse before quitting. For a moment thought I might die if I collapsed.

33. Got my heart back in place, if even only for a moment.

34. Starting to think everyone had left me.

35. Knowing Julie had arrived Telling her it wasn’t going to be fun anymore. You are not going to have a good time and I am not having a good time. Asking Julie to bring me tea every half hour so I could mark the  last three hours.

36. Did not have the strength to make it home anymore.

37. Julie’s hand on my arm giving me tea. Smiling the biggest smile. Life line. Tea became my life line. Could get three solid minutes of energy to get up off the floor and start walking again.

38. felt like people were partying in the other room. DId not understand how people could just up and leave me in my time of need.

39. All alone I trudged on. Pacing the wall was all that was left. Tea did not come often enough.

40. Julie brings me tea and makes it clear that it is 11:30. I thought it was 11. I am elated. I am happy for her trick and am joyful for the first time in over four hours. I slowly drink my tea-and get up and push off the wall.

41. I will dance away from the wall for the final 2o minutes.

42. I can’t dance off the wall

43. I must keep going. I hear the tv on in the other room and hear the count down again and again. With all my heart I believe everyone else is in the mysterious tv room. Why are they not telling me it is over? how will I know?

44. I am down on the ground. My feet move back and forth-this is all I can do and for not much longer. I feel MArie (the cat against my feet) I think it is my cat Pela.

45. I think I might be asleep. I think I might never be done. I think time has stopped and no one cares.

46. For a moment I hate everyone for leaving me.

47. Toby takes my earplugs out. He takes my mask off. I cannot see.

48. Everyone is around me: mom, dad, Julie, Toby, Christine, Gabriel, Linda and Jeff. They are all tending to me.

49. Everything I felt about my surrounding and my relationships for the past four hours was not true. Truly not true.

50. I am filled with deep compassion.

Blog entry:
As a participating performer in Freedom of Information 2008 from Oregon I want to clarify a couple of things: A protest. Those words get political very quickly and fire people up in ways that it might not intend. I think most of us use the word response. This is a response to many things. But for me (and perhaps others?) it became a practice of compassion. I think we all know the difference between suffering at the hands of things one cannot control (at least we can understand the difference on a logical level) and suffering by choice.
I think Miguel explains a lot when he said: “I am, for better or worse, a dancer, and so my reactions to things often stem from a value system that is about what happens to bodies and what they feel.” We all have different ways of making sense of the world and how to try and make sense of the things that have no sense. Freedom of Information 2008 was an individual and collective (31 people in all)  response, as a dancer, to those things that 1. make no sense and 2. are much larger than ourselves. There are many different ways to respond to things.
We all have different jobs to do or purposes to serve. As a performer it is my job to create things that words cannot express. Words cannot express the hallucinations that happen from lack of sleep for 30 + hours or how shapes of rooms become non-shapes in solitary blackness. Words cannot express the space where there is no room for a literal translation.
For me this was not a this or the other. I respond this way and therefore I have no room to respond in a different way. No, it is more about how do I create more room, more capacity in myself to feel things and engage in things that are way beyond my comfort zone, my value system of right and wrongs. This is the power that I as an individual have. And I have the power, as we all do, to share that as best I can with others. What they do with that information is up to them.
During the last four hours of this event I started to turn on myself and those that were caring for me. I started to think things like everyone had left the room (thinking I was going to collapse). Everyone and everything went against me. I hung on the wall, the only real support I could find. I believed in this myth, this unreality with all my heart. It was only afterward, only after I awoke from this dark place, when everyone around me proved how unreal those last four hours were when I was able to suddenly and irrevocably forgive someone in my life for committing suicide three weeks before. I did not know I needed to forgive them. But what I learned was people go into dark places and in that place what feels completely, utterly true at one moment isn’t always the real.
Freedom of Information 2008 held many things, but mostly it reassured me how complex suffering can be. We all know there is no easy answer to the wars that continue on all around us. Through Freedom of Information 2008 I woke up, remembered, held space for, and ignited the thing that makes me like everyone else. Compassion is my weapon. This is what unites me to you and you to me. Sometimes this feels like enough and at other moments it can never possibly be.