In August 2013, the critters and I relocated for twelve months to Warsaw, Poland, where history is everyday, and benches play Chopin. I was excited to extend the questions, themes, and methodologies I had been working with for the past few years in a different socio-historical-linguistic context. I wondered how Performing Warsaw would challenge and support my reliance on the conscious negotiation of serendipity and chance? How dislocation and exile would shift my perspective and insight in fruitful ways? How the perspectives and work of Polish artists and curators would broaden my own vision?
To begin this next iteration of “the experiment” and my arts practice, I sent queries to friends and contacts all over the world. I asked three questions:
- I have a dog and two cats; will they be welcome and likely to be happy? (The answer ruled out quite a few places, either because pets are not culturally “normal,” and/or because travel options, quarantines, and other variables would have made the trip too difficult for my crew of rescue critters.)
- I have a small stipend from an editing and online producing gig; can I afford to live reasonably comfortably on it? (The answer ruled out the US, most of western Europe, and a few other pricey spots.)
- I want to privilege community over solitude; is your community dynamic and open to newcomers? (The answer ruled out some beautiful spots that I’ve kept on file for a time when my priorities are otherwise.)
Answers returned. I did two weeks of research, and six weeks later I landed in Warsaw with one contact, no Polish, no substantive knowledge about Poland, an iPhone 4s, an iPad, a MacBook Pro, and a tiny tripod. I wish I’d brought a mic or two and a better tripod, but the limitations imposed, and the possibilities created, by my tools led me in unanticipated and fruitful directions.
I continue to work with the material generated by my year in Warsaw, and frankly, it was so generative and affirming that I’d love to return. This iteration of the experiment may yet prove to be perpetually ongoing. For now, however, I can offer you a sampling of some of the projects, in various stages of development, that I worked on while there from August 2013-August 2014:
- American (post). A video-performance and poetry series. This series represents a preliminary experiment in continuing the trajectory of American (post) translations. From ethnography to poems to 2D & 3D visual art to installation to community performance, and now, to video. The first installment appears on The Offending Adam, 162.1, and the second, Exile, appeared on Conjunctions Online, 05.06.14.
- Warsaw Dispatch. Blog posts. Each month, I post a couple on the Michigan Quarterly Review blog.
- Imaginary Friends & Family: Portraits. A photo & text series. (featured on Hyperallergic)