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photo by Joshua P. Kristal

Formfields, 2014

Director/Video: Angie Eng
Music: Cheryl Leonard
Tai Chi Chu’an Sifu: Sifu Tzyann Hsu
Tai Chi chu’an practitioners: Dan Avallone, Moise Bottex, Dorene Hebron, Cathy Herman, Rachman Isreal, Mark Kiffin, Tandum Litt, Jono Lukas, David Medina, Michelle Selwa, Rhonda Weir, Anna Yermakova

In a pluralistic data-saturated world, comprehension still relies upon visualizing information for making sense of it all.  We now have the ability to access endless measurement tools and statistics comparing gains, losses, growth, decline, connection, interconnection of existence. And yet scientists, socio-psychologists, philosophers, biologists have come to different conclusions leaving much more unknown than known. The role of the artist is also to provide a visual explanation of the world.

Formfields visualizes being using video projected on martial arts practitioners. The video acts as the qi of a group of people demonstrating tai-chi ch’uan. Qi defined as vital force or energy flow is a mystery for westerners rooted in materialism.  With the optics of our eye, we can not see qi, which can be compared with other energetic phenomena such as auras, halos, or vibes. However, Formfields recreates a visual morphic field of energy.

Specific movements are targeted for circulation and ‘massaging’ of internal organs where energy can become blocked in the body and therefore create mental, emotional, and physical imbalances. For some, tai chi appears like a slow-motion dance because the practitioners are working with the invisible/internal and thus it is a much more subtle yet complex system of ‘exercise’.

A  Yang style of Tai Chi is divided into sections from the Chinese elements: fire, earth, metal, water, wood.  Line and portmanteaus (word combinations) serve as basic qi gestures. When digitally processed these phantom traces encircle and radiate from the practitioners. Like in many of Eng’s projects, repetitive gesture serves as her signature.

In Formfields, composer Cheryl Leonard bows, drips, strikes, and brushes amplified natural objects, crafting music out of micro-sounds from water, sand, bone, rock, and wood. Her choice of instruments references the Wu Xing, the five elements central to traditional Chinese philosophy. Leonard’s musical structures, playing techniques, and composing process are informed by the Wu Xing and the external physical gestures and internal qi movements expressed in Tai Chi practice.

Formfields premiered May 23, 2014, at Roulette

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