The STORY OF THE art of walking
Created by Carin Jean White, Itsaso Iribarren & Germán de la Riva
June - August 2020 at Artpark
This is the narration of a complex artistic collaboration with a happy ending.
We are Carin Jean White, Itsaso Iribarren and Germán de la Riva. Together we have created the art piece The Art of Walking in Artpark. Carin lives in the United States, Germán and Itsaso in Spain. Almost without knowing each other in person and using multiple communication tools via the Internet, we have made this artistic collaboration of which we are proud and satisfied with the results obtained.
Carin and Itsaso met on a chilly November afternoon in 2019 in Lewiston, a small town in Western New York. Carin drove up from the Hudson Valley to meet with her and the Executive Director of Artpark, Sonia Clark. Carin previously had an artist residency at Artpark, and so she was familiar with the landscape. Itsaso had spent the morning with Sonia walking the trails of Artpark, thinking up potential themes for a new project. They spent much of the afternoon discussing and marveling at the richness of the park.
Carin and Itsaso´s first collaboration was preparing dinner for that evening. They cooked, listened to Maria Arnal and Marcel Bagés, and talked about theatre, sharing short videos of past projects. In a conversation that stretched over the two days of Itsaso´s visit, they began to learn that they shared some of the same theatrical sensibilities and a desire to invite audiences into a performance.
After Itsaso returned to Spain, we had our first meeting between the three of us over Skype. Carin and Germán met in this way. In the lockdown of both our countries, it was impossible to imagine going to another country in person. The dates of Carin's visit to Spain kept getting pushed back until they simply evaporated. So we adapted and adjusted our expectations and methods. We leaned more heavily on Google Drive, and through Google Docs, video, and sound files we collaborated on the script. The obstacles caused by the pandemic also allowed for opportunities to be seen (as often is the case in artmaking, challenges give rise to creation). In person auditions felt risky, so they were held over Zoom. This made it possible for Itsaso and German to be present at the auditions.
The collaboration between us has been enriching as artists and persons. In this very dark time of pandemic, creating The Art of Walking has been a gift. Artists are supposed to expand thinking and the way one can experience the world. As the three of us on different sides of the globe hunkered down in our apartments, the process of making did for us what we hope to give to audiences in the full performance: an expansion of one's inner world while being grounded in the outer; it was and is an act of healing.
Our collaboration has been complex in many, many ways. To begin, it has required more time on devices and screens when our work and material is three dimensional, four if we add in the dimension of time; We don’t share the same native language; Carin has never been on a walk of Itsaso and Germán’s and this project was conceived to be in a similar vein as the walks they have created in Spain; Itsaso and Germán have collaborated together since 2005 but the three of us have known each other less than a year ago. We were unsure how that might affect a balance within our work. Our collaboration has not been without effort; we work very hard to communicate, we echo back what we understand the other to say, ask questions when there is a gap in understanding. Yet over these months, what has come to the forefront is that we share a language in theater and a way of being with others.
A collaboration an ocean apart
Madrid, April 15, 2020
Every time we end a conversation with Carin we feel full of energy. As we talk to her through the screen we hear a train pass by. Itsaso imagines the train is on a bridge over a street, like London trains. Germán imagines that Carin lives in the middle of an arid desert and the train is like one of those from the Far West. Each session we move forward effectively. We understand each other, we listen to each other, we can create together.
New York, April 21, 2020
I just finished another successful meeting with Itsaso and Germán. We have our structure and path for this script. The themes of scale we are writing about also resonate as we work across the globe and through screens. As they sit in the frame of my tablet, I notice light comes from their right and coffee arrives from the left. My plans to visit Spain have evaporated, but it seems even in this strange context and through these small technological windows we can create.
Madrid, May 26, 2020
Today we have done our first trial. The measures we took from Artpark in Google Maps are correct. The walk lasted an hour. Simulating the walk in our neighborhood makes us feel that we are there. We have been able to pass near the Burial Mound, we have danced in the Painted Parking Lot and performed an action in front of the Robert Smithson's mural. Sometimes we even hear the Niagara River.
New York, May 30, 2020
A flash of light blue floats and flutters past, loops around and returns to my side. I walk on a rocky dirt path and the blue butterfly follows me. I film my feet walking and listen to the sound of my steps. Spain is in lockdown, and while New York is as well, I'm allowed to go outside. Walking outdoors: we take such simple acts for granted. Walking with others is yet another, and for this reason I believe our walk will bring relief to people.
Madrid, June 1, 2020
We feel like we've done a YouTube tutorial. We have just uploaded some images for someone in Lewiston to build a sound system that only we know how it works. Short and concise phrases. Structuring each step with precision so that the receiver will be able to reproduce the device. This act is a technological work of art.
New York, June 8, 2020
Today is the first day of rehearsal. We all wear masks and stand ten feet away from each other. I walk our path with the actors, speaking softly. Our words have now been spoken in the place for which they were created. I wish I could bottle this moment up and send it to Itsaso and Germán. Through our script, the words we wrote, we are together in Artpark. I dream that there is a thin silvery cord that stretches from here to there, connecting the three of us when we rehearse.
Madrid, June 27, 2020
We are nervous. It's 10pm and the show is going to start; 6,000 kilometers away, in another place and in another time. It is 4pm in Lewiston, 10pm in Madrid. Where are we? Our bodies are here, in our house, but our minds and souls are in Artpark with the actors, with the technician, with our loved Carin and Sonia. Ok, so right now they are starting to walk, now it is their first dance, now is the walk through the theater, now they are walking among the trees... We are there, we are here. Time and space are not what they used to be. Something has changed and it is magical.
New York, June 27, 2020
Butterflies in my stomach. It’s minutes before the first performance. Tonight we will walk with around 20 people. It’s late in Madrid, but I picture Itsaso and Germán awake sitting in their apartment. My emotions do not translate themselves into words. I stand with an open email draft on my phone until it is time for me to join the cast. I will speak with them tomorrow. Right now I must join the cast and audience.
-- 2020 Carin Jean White, Itsaso Irribaren & Germán de la Riva
The Art of Walking Team
Carin Jean White is a theatre and visual artist. Favorite projects include resident directing Spiegelworld’s EMPIRE on Broadway; directing, designing and adapting HAMLET CU3ED at Access Theatre in NYC, a fusion of theatre and visual installation; directing the Utah premiere of NICKLED AND DIMED for Salt Lake City’s Women’s Week; and directing and designing SECRET LIFE (produced by Unicycle Productions), an exploration of the Prague’s history using street theatre and visual installation for the Prague Quadrennial. She has worked with Performance Workshop (Taiwan), California Shakespeare Theatre Company, Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, and Sundance Theatre Lab amongst others. Carin’s large scale paintings and installations have been shown throughout NY and the Bay Area. She is co-artistic director of Excellent Creature Theatre Company (Garrison, NY) and founding director of Kingston STEP, a free theatre-training program for teens. She holds an MFA in Theatre Directing from Columbia University where she currently teaches in the Writing Program. Carin resides in the Hudson Valley.
Itsaso Iribarren & Germán de la Riva
These artists and researchers have worked together since 2005. During this time they have created several pieces addressing topics such as history of dance, contemporary forms of life and work or the relationship between body and industrial processes. They have presented their work at different venues and cultural events through Europe and South America.
They have been awarded with different prizes such as 2018 Artistic Creation Prize of Pamplona City Council, and 1st Prize in the 2014 Theater Texts Contest of the Circo Price Theater of Madrid. They also won 1st Prize in the 2009 Audiovisual Creation Award of the Government of Navarra and 1st Prize in the 2011 Video Dance Award of the UARCIS University of Chile. They both hold a MA Practice as Research from Castilla-La Mancha University. As dancers they have trained at studios from Bilbao, London, Buenos Aires and Madrid.