What follows is the second in a series of profiles of Wesleyan students by Alexandra Provo, ‘10, the CFA’s Arts Administration Intern. These students all have one thing in common: they became deeply engaged with one or more artists presented by the CFA. Sparked by the artist’s workshop, performance or exhibition on campus, they began a lasting relationship that affected the trajectory of their academic exploration. We hope you will send us your comments about these and future interviews.
Last week, after the Eiko and Koma opening reception, I sat down with Mark McCloughan ’10, a senior double majoring in Theater and SISP (the Science in Society Program) who has been working with Eiko and Koma as an assistant and archivist since last spring, to find out more about the character of his relationship with the artists and how it developed.
How did you first hear about Eiko and Koma?
I didn’t really know who they were—at all—and then I saw Eiko’s class [Japan and the Atomic Bomb] on WesMaps when we were freshman, and I just remember thinking it sounded so weird and cool. I was attracted to the inter-disciplinarity. I was really lucky to get one of the four spots for freshmen the first year—I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was until the first class when there were something like 75 people who weren’t registered trying to get in. Over the course of the class I started realizing [Eiko] was a working artist, but it still didn’t really hit me until maybe last spring when I started working for them and looking at their archives, seeing the work they’ve done over almost forty years.
Are there specific aspects of the course that you feel affected you the most?
I always find it sort of difficult to talk about the movement and the course because it’s so encompassing of many things…first of all I think the courses [Delicious Movements and Japan and the Atomic Bomb] are important because both are truly inter-disciplinary. For me that was a big realization—that the arts can be really rigorous and very productive, not in a purely aesthetic sense but also productive of real knowledge.
Definitely, I agree. So you were in the courses; how did your relationship develop further?
Last spring they were beginning to speak with Sam Miller ’75 and conceptualize [the Retrospective Project], and it just so happened that they were trying to pull together their archives, a lot of which are at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. They had all these photos and stuff there that no one had really organized, so Eiko asked me if I was going to be home—because I’m from Minneapolis—over spring break. I was, so I spent three or four days there. Organizationally it was crazy but also it was amazing to begin to get a sense of their whole career. All these photos of pieces; pieces I had never seen or really heard about…to get a sense of the chronological progression [of their work] was really illuminating for me as someone who is really into the movement, because you can begin to see where some of the exercises come from, or you can see them exploring some of the stuff Eiko helps us explore in class. That led to an internship there last summer.
How do you feel your contact with them has informed your own practice as an artist?
It’s been pretty hugely influential, I would say. The big thing that I love about Delicious Movements is that nothing is right and nothing is wrong. I think it taught me how to just do and not worry…it’s been very freeing.
Can you tell me some of the things you’ve been doing? Some of your projects here or elsewhere?
Me and Miles Tokunow ‘10 were in the class together as freshmen and both got into the movement—I remember we moved a lot together in class—and then the next fall we did a piece together called Falling, that was on Foss Hill [yeah, I remember I saw that, it was cool]. I’m also one of the founders of No Face Theater. We work collaboratively, so without a director—everyone has an equal voice, which is…it’s horrible and also wonderful. But going back to Eiko and Koma, they work in that way, they negotiate the piece together…it’s neither one of their visions; it’s something that happens because they’re working together and there’s all this tension and disagreement and negotiation.
Actually, Miles and I are working on another dance for the spring. So that partnership has been ongoing. I’m really excited about that one.
Could you say, in a sentence or so, a lesson or insight that you’ve taken away from working with Eiko and Koma?
There are so many…I’d say that I’ve learned to be in the present moment in my body, which has been really helpful for me as a performer. I feel like since I’ve met Eiko and worked with her and Koma my focus in performing has changed. Now I’m really interested in the body…not just as a vehicle for representing a character but the body as a thing.
How much has this been a factor in your Wesleyan experience?
It’s pretty much changed my life. Working with Eiko, I feel much more sure that what I want to do is going to be what I really want to do, it’s going to be mine…that sounds so possessive. It’s given me a confidence to figure out a path that’s what I really want.