Together, Alone: Architecting In(Security)

In September 2020, we found ourselves in weekly remote meetings wherein our identities were tied to how our bodies fit inside the frame of the webcam. For each of us, our relationship to our classmates was defined by our respective gridded interfaces as we were subjected to the algorithms of social organization. Within the larger frames of our respective screens, we composed ourselves, as a cohort. As classmates, we negotiated how to perform attention, how to display engagement, when to unmute then re-mute, when to risk interruption, and how to be patient as another frantically scrambled through audio feedback. Throughout the year, each of us attempted to get to know each other as we were each getting to know our own virtual selves.

Pedagogically, the program was intact. Socially, it was in pieces; we all felt scattered. Out of this emerged, for the three of us, a need to define an intentional framework – albeit an experimental and insecure one – within which we could examine what exactly this experience of learning was. In this sense, we adopted an architecture of insecurity, within and upon which we were to live out an experiment in collaboration. We knew that what we were constructing gestured toward something familiar - something we knew before Covid - but in the midst of an otherwise breakable state of learning, it became necessary to bring intention and focus to a way of being together that we once took for granted.

Future Gatherings: We Begin in an Oasis

The ebbs and flows of when and how we were permitted to be together in person inspired a commitment to form a tangible physical connection, and to responsibly gather. We each realized that pre-pandemic, most of our experiences of gathering were around food and as such, a meal felt like a natural and appropriate format for the project. Organizing ourselves in this way allowed us to collaborate on the shared responsibility of preparing and providing food each time we gathered.

Collaborating and studying remotely had put us in a state of anticipation and desire to close the physical distance between us and to bring our formerly framed selves to a fully realized proximal encounter. Ritual emerged early on as a shared interest and overarching focus of the project and we related gathering around food as a common ritual to continue our research beyond the conceptual frameworks we had set up.

For us, the gathering site was specific in that it needed to feel like an oasis. This could be a patch of grass or poolside - whatever felt comfortable, relaxing and serene, any place that contrasted our otherwise high-stress experiences of the pandemic. The actions of the gathering were loosely scripted in that we knew we were going to eat (each of us would bring food to share that was inspired by and reflective of a predefined theme), perform an activity and end with reflection, but beyond that the experience was spontaneous.

Reverse Engineering

We were inspired by Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit, a book of instruction and drawings, as a way to write a directive or open “score” (a term that emerged within post modern dance as a way to write choreography) for each gathering. We developed a template of directives to reverse engineer each subsequent gathering; that is, as part of the reflection portion of the gathering we returned home and wrote our memories of what had transpired, recording these events as directives themselves for future gatherings. The instructions are written as a series of loose rules that point to a tone, an intention, a focus.

This method of reverse engineering the event allowed us to participate and share in a way that was unencumbered by the pressure to perform or even complete any task in any given way. Rather, what became “fixed” as a score or directive for future gatherings was only what was written down afterward, through memory, of what had occurred.

As we progressed through our gatherings we have found a sort of unconscious choreography that has revealed itself through our reverse engineered directives. This dance that we do is now a part of the score, and we see it now operating on a larger scale as a way to direct future gatherings that will create new scores that will create new gatherings.

The fragility of these scores/directives relies on a shared intention of the participants to commit to a common focus. The power of work that rests on such insecure foundations (intentionally) lies in its very delicate nature. In this way, it can either gesture toward intimacy and discovery or confusion and emptiness.

The Gatherings

A Glossary for the Sign of Our Times

Based on our individual projects within the Fiction and Entertainment post graduate program at SCI-Arc, we created a condensed glossary that encapsulated the research we were each performing. Through this process of conducting our individual research and bringing aspects of it to our common project, we excavated these terms with the hopes of finding an eventual practical use for them. We settled on a final six: chaos, hysteria, euphoria, collectivity, sustenance and survival. Out of our contemporary moment and our varied subjective pasts and understandings of history, we found these terms to be both relevant to our current experience and appropriate to a larger framework with roots in mythology as well as projections of speculation into a shared future. We soon realized they, in fact, formed their own logic, progression, and internal cycle, as we came to see that out of survival emerges chaos.













A Framework for a Shared Practice

The three of us developed this shared practice as we lived through and continue to navigate the ever-shifting global conditions that contain Covid, social justice movements, capitalism exhaustion and the everyday experience of negotiating urban life. When we accept our shared infrastructure as inherently unstable, we find common ground from which to collaborate. What we found in a gesture of risking vulnerability by way of collaboration was an opportunity to build community by way of balancing care and critique. As an incubator, these Future Gatherings have created a kind of time capsule of sociality that points toward an uncertain - again, insecure - future of bodies in time and space. As we transitioned ourselves from telepresence to physically socializing over the course of a year, we found structured ways to bring an artistic and critical lens to what it means to find and build community.

As an initial speculative project around notions of how bodies can once again come together post-pandemic, Future Gatherings became a real practice, and a tangible experience of intimacy and friendship. Constructing friendships, too, can be a challenge. By giving ourselves the underlying project of “getting to know each other” by way of constructed situations, we experimented with architecting relationships bit by bit. Over time, we laid foundations of humor, conversation, listening, empathy and critique.

For us Future Gatherings are places that defy spatial constructs and are spontaneous. Future Gatherings are the table, the picnic blanket, the screen, they are a conversation, a game, a list of instructions, or even a passing wave. Future Gatherings are born of ritual and of improvisation. Future Gatherings are the fusion of performance and life.