About improvisation

I was asked to write so I write.
Can I improvise my writing?
and what does that mean, to not to think? to not to re-adjust? To leave it raw? How it came into being?

As always, words are tricky and so is this one.
One of the nicest examples of imrovisation (in one sense) is MacGyver, if you’re about the same age as me, you might remember the TV series about this guy who can do almost anything out of merely nothing. So in otherwords, to improvise. But always there’s a goal, there is a need. We need a key to get out of the building, well I have pliers and paperclip and thus I can make a key. You improvise because you don’t have the thing(s) or tools that would be optimal for the job needed to be done, but you have something and you can turn that something to do the thing that is needed.

When we talk about movement improvisation or musical improvisation, we are not quite in the same place. The question is the goal? Do you have a goal or not? Do you have an aim. When the improvisation is placed on a stage, and it becomes an performance the goal appears. Often it’s not super articulated, but as a performer, what do you hope for? That the audience would enjoy themselves? That they would enjoy your presence? That you would be admired? That you would enjoy yourself? That you would feel good? That audience would be moved emotionally? That audience would readjust their thinking or view of the world?
All of these are goals, and it would be good to notice which of them (there can be more) are in action within myself when I think about improvised performance, or am actually performing.

Unfortenutaly I do feel that most of these goals are not very helpful.

Ok let’s look at something, not so different. A play. More we grow we are playing by the rules. The games and rules are more and more complicated, and usually set. We either play by the rules or try to avoid them. But the rules are there. When I look children playing (let’s say from 3-6 years) they’re are in the state of constant improvisation (ok ok not always). The play is all the time improvised and thus negotiated between the players. The relations are or at least can be in move, they are not necessarily set, they are dynamic in the sense that everything can be changed in next minute. If someone just comes up with the better idea and the others in the play, or most of the others, agree. And if you ask about the goal? There is no goal. None of the players are keeping score or are thinking about where or what they should get. The importance is the play itself. And eventhough there is no clear results, something is happening, something is being achieved, something is done, something is being found (eventhough it could be lost again in a next month, next day, next minute). Instead of setting fixed positions, fixed foundings, everything stays dynamic, almost chaotic, in movement. Of course by the time, certain patterns start to fix: Who is the leader, who is friends with whom. In a cynical way you could perceive the play as a finding out of the hierarchy of the pack. But eventhough I am cynical, I can’t quite reduce the action of a play into hierarchies. The hierarchies are there, yes, but they are never fixed and in most of the cases they are not important, not relevant. The mistake that adults often make is to think of the play as not important. Often because there is no goal, because there is no aim. But because of that lack of aim, the play is the most serious research about the world that can be done.

When I think of movement improvisation, I think a lot of play. Most of the things are open, the scale can shift, everything is known and unkown at the same time, and there’s a lot to be found. If I fix an aim, something is already lost. If I fix a field, a scale, a viewpoint, something is lost, but at the same time it can help me focus and thus find things I wouldn’t find without. Important thing is though, that I try to loose all of the goals. I’m not doing the improvisation as a tool, in order to achieve something. I’m doing it because it’s there to be done. It is necessary, needed. It does have a reason. Way too often, in life, we do not trust that reason, that necessity enough. We have been educated to find the right answer, to have a goal, to have an aim, to be ambitious. To have a (external) meaning. And we don’t trust that the “play”, the improvisation does have A meaning. And I’m not talking about even emotional meanings, just A meaning.

To lay on the floor without intentions
To open the curtain as if not knowing
To hear the sounds of the streets below, a bird
To do things that are stupid
To not the be beautiful
To be someone else for a while
To be yourself and not quite knowing
To know, everything for once
To forget the things that were to become
To remember
To do everything just like you always do, almost

It’s not that we wouldn’t be present. We are always present, it’s just that we tend to forget that.
I tend to forget.
To improvise is to question my perception and my reality. To find something I always knew was there (I just forgot).
When I perform the improvisation, my ability to let go of goals, should still be there. Not to be worried am I interesting enough, is the audience enjoying or pleased, but just to open my questioning, for to audience. To make the process (whatever it might be) visible. To invite to take part (and this doesn’t mean that audience should improvise or move or leave their seats). To take a risk of failing, of not finding anything interesting (and that might be the most interesting thing ever).

But do not think that I would encourage to just to go and “perform”. Often I encounter thinking that improvised performance is just “done without thinking”, “just something”. In order to really question, to be curious and open that process for the audience, it needs practice. It really needs work, not only that you improvise, on your own or together, but you work on opening that channel, of being perceived while you improvise.
Here we encounter another “conflict” of words and concepts. It can’t be “work” because it has no goal/aim. It can’t be “work” because you don’t “know” what your doing? It can’t be “work” because you “just” improvise. Most of the work that is done on this earth is completely useless, it’s done only to run this unsustainable economical system. It has no more real value, or goals. Actually it has even less value, but, as always values are relative.

So I say, Improvisation is a work with a meaning no other than the work/improvisation itself. This does not make the work isolated from surroundings, but it makes it hard to place a set value to it.

Going in circles, no?

Ok, I’ll come back to this.. later on.