Impact Award Project: The Collective Body

Collective Body projection

Neil Cadger outside of the RCA viewing The Collective Body projections. Photo credit: Chloe Chang

The 2021 Public Humanities Hub Okanagan Impact Awards were given to five research teams at UBC Okanagan, with the objective of stimulating humanities research that engages the public.

Neil Cadger, associate professor of performance received funding for The Collective Body project, which was showcased as part of the Living Things Festival this past January.

The Collective Body – Kelowna is a unique outdoor projection showcasing dancers, body parts and musicians from across North America. It was created by Neil Cadger and Andrew Stauffer, in collaboration with Miles Thorogood, Alexandra Dulic, and Lin Snelling for the 2021 Living Things International Arts Festival, during the COVID pandemic.  It was presented nightly at the Rotary Centre for the Arts in downtown Kelowna from January 10 to 30, 2021.

Neil Cadger introduces the project in this blog post.

We had to create something that would require no permit of any kind and would be ‘live’ in the sense of ‘live-reception’, but without live performers. Anything else would have required navigating the changing health advisories which makes efficient planning impossible.   But an event without a start time is not a public gathering, it’s just a place to go safely with others on a January, mid-pandemic evening.

The creative process arose from the intersection of 2 forces: the first was our desire to continue working with international performing artists despite the pandemic; and the second was to further explore the power of mutual inspiration between musicians and dancers.  We contacted 40 dancers and musicians from across North America and built an archive of video imagery based on human body parts and sound recordings inspired by these videos.  The sounds came from concert speakers attached to the building, and the video compositions were projected onto the vinyl-covered exterior windows from the inside.

I attended every evening, and observed passersby from inside the building or watched and listened with others from the street. Most stayed for 5 – 10 minutes; some stayed until they found the beginning of the half-hour video loop; some read the info on the big sandwich board then stayed longer; some passed by with their eyes on a phone, ears plugged with earbuds; one family came every evening on a walk with their toddler; and of course, friends, family…and people on their way elsewhere, briefly interrupted.

The final results of the first edition were very satisfying, and we have now received requests to present the show in Edmonton from Mile Zero Dance (October 22 – 24), in Calgary, from Springboard Performance (October 25 – 30), and from Arts Revelstoke (September).  If health advisories permit, we will also present an indoor, public improvisation with local musicians and dancers – many of whom were involved in the original creative process.  This is the direction the show will take as it moves forward to other venues in other cities and the pandemic restrictions relax: an outdoor audio/video installation with an indoor, live performance.

The Collective Body will continue to explore the possibilities of digital connection, while serving as a reminder of the deep importance and irreplaceability of shared physical space.

“Especially today, when authoritarian politicians try to unite us under various populist movements and again attack international solidarity with ideas about “the national body” and “traditional identities,” we need to stand up for the collective body in its constant process of emergence and transformation.”

 e-flux Journal #119 – Zdenka Badovinac – Editorial: “The Collective Body”