Reflection as Structure – The Wisdom of Mary Jane Jacob
We spent a lot of time in Dunkin’ Donuts. It was the nearest bathroom and there was coffee and sugar. After the Saturday performances we invited the audience and participants to meet up at the Double D to share experiences and I always loved the noisy kerfuffle after the contemplative journey of two hours in the landscapes and scores of The Quiet Circus. The halting awkwardness as we came to language after a long silence was quite beautiful, underscoring as it did a feeling of “being alone, together.” It was impossible to know what another saw, heard or experienced, unless they decided to tell. Experiences shared were often chewed over a bit in the telling as someone’s story was repeated for a late arrival, or interpreted a second or third time into Sign Language or Spanish or English.
Art and social practice curator Mary Jane Jacob graced The Quiet Circus with her wisdom about structuring Reflection in art practices that are part of what she calls “a lived practice“. She revealed the importance of testifying and witnessing, how Reflection itself can be scaffolding for a project built for and from experience. She organized a series of sensitive and moving public Reflection Events that took place in relationship to the weekly performances at the Washington Avenue Pier.
With those events serving as large, public touchstones, the conscious act of reflection was woven into the everyday, ongoing structure of The Quiet Circus in many ways. In the audience gatherings at Dunkin’ Donuts, and in the writing that some people engaged in as a kind of testifying to oneself. Every Friday practice/rehearsal included a period for what was called “Quaker Meeting.” We sat in silence until someone had something they wanted to share from the intervening week since we last gathered. To witness and testify to one another on a weekly basis during the intense cultural upheavals taking place in the run-up to the Presidential election and the year following proved to be crucial in allowing the complexity of experiences, often so different from one another, to influence the work as it continued over the course of a year and a half. In a later post, I’ll write about how structures of Reflection allowed us to make a work that grew out of embracing differences rather that forging consensus– how differences in background, identity, ability, experience, training… were resources for asking questions and making the living, breathing work of The Quiet Circus.