Summer Centered: Fords Bring Showtime to Haverford
Bilge Nur Yilmaz ‘21, Liz Burke BMC ‘23, Sofia Mondragon BMC ‘22, Alexandra Iglesia ‘21, and Alice Hu '21 spent the summer documenting the work of performance artists from across the country as part of the Summer Doculab Program.
Showtime is back, and this year’s DocuLab fellows got it all on camera. Supported by VCAM and the Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities, the Summer Doculab Program supports student-faculty collaboration around documentary filmmaking. This summer’s fellows—Bilge Nur Yilmaz ‘21, Liz Burke BMC ‘23, Sofia Mondragon BMC ‘22, Lexie Iglesia ‘21, and Alice Hu ‘21—worked with performance artists from across the country on a collection of projects that explore the medium and inspire future filmmakers.
To begin the summer, the fellows completed a six-day, virtual performance-intensive bootcamp with artist BBB Johannes Deimling, who introduced various exercises to help the fellows immerse themselves in the work.
“He invites us to treat our bodies and actions as sculptural, visual elements,” said Assistant Professor of Visual Studies John Muse, the faculty lead of this year’s DocuLab team. “... He introduces new constraints and new freedoms—use your arms, make and break eye contact, use this object, drag another person along—always with a view towards heightening our sensitivity to each other, to the space as a whole, to compositional features. When it comes time then to develop projects of our own and to research themes and ideas, we have a reservoir of embodied work to draw from. His method is dance-adjacent and theater-adjacent, but has a relation to the tradition of performance art that makes it distinct.”
Muse curated the list of visiting artists, hoping to provide the fellows with a range of perspectives on media and performance. “Many visiting artists brought thematically rich and emotionally grounded ways of thinking about working,” he said. Each of the visiting artists specializes in their own craft: Megan Bride, Jessi Knight, and [Assistant Professor of Visual Studies] Christina Knight in dance, Pamela Z in experimental music, and Eva Wǒ in videography and photography to name a few. Cinematographer Sean Hanley also visited Haverford to lead a workshop on camera movement using tools such as sliders, gimbals, on the one hand, and the more traditional doorway dolly.
After the bootcamp, the fellows began workshopping with the artists.“During those workshops, we sit for lectures, view artists' work, work through exercises, play with audio and video equipment, build performance pieces, and this list could go on,” Burke explained.
In previous years, the DocuLab team collaborated on a single film. This year, the fellows had the opportunity to each work on their own independent projects on the theme of performance art.
Iglesia and Hu’s collaboration uses the visual culture of clowning to explore hypervisibility, representation, and the complexities of Asian-American assimilation. Hu’s other project focuses on family, displacement, and Asian identities. Mondragon is exploring how Sudoku puzzles could inspire rituals of mourning in honor of her late grandfather, a Sudoku master. Nur Yilmaz is creating a multi-channel video installation on travel as a metaphor for maturation and alienation, for loss and nostalgia. Burke’s project explores the relationship between bodies and architecture, examining how moving bodies are constrained by architectural elements like stairs but may also take up these constraints and embody them differently. Production Coordinator Khaula Malik is working on a documentary short, Citizen Khan, about a Pakistani immigrant who lived in Sheridan, Wyoming, in the early 20th century. Muse has worked on a suite of short films and performance works that use movements and measuring operations to allegorize extreme states: injury, mourning, disorientation.
Via the bootcamp, workshops, and their own independent projects, the fellows were able to speak with professional artists and develop technical skills—camerawork, videography, video editing—that will help them thrive in their next creative endeavors.
“The skills I'm developing this summer are opening me up to a whole world of artmaking technology and digital media will now forever be incorporated into my artmaking,” said Burke. “I want to continue to make experimental dance films in college and incorporate video installations into my performance pieces. This experience has also inspired me to take some filmmaking classes in the next two years in the Bi-Co.”
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ campus-supported summer work.