Become a Patron & Spark a Verse

Artist in Residence 2016, Stephanie Miracle

Ecclesiastes 1:8-18; 2:17-26; 6:7-12; 8:6-17:

I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.

(Ecclesiastes 1:14)

I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil.

(Ecclesiastes 2:18-21)

Whatever has come to be has already been named, and it is known what man is, and that he is not able to dispute with one stronger than he. The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man?

(Ecclesiastes 6:10-11)

There is a vanity that takes place on earth, that there are righteous people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity.

(Ecclesiastes 8:14)

March 28, 2016

I have selected four hefty chunks of Ecclesiastes (1:8-18; 2:17-26; 6:7-12; and 8:6-17) to gnaw on over the course of my year-long-residency. Out of this, I intend to create two site-specific dance-theater/live-cinema performances that will be translated into short films, which will then be shared through the Spark and Echo platform. Although I have specifically chosen four passages from Ecclesiastes to focus on, I will most likely be drawing inspiration from the entire book.

I find the flavor of Ecclesiastes is, much of the time, dusty and frustratingly bitter. It doesn’t go down smooth but gets stuck my throat. Meaningless, wearisome, and vanity are splintery words, difficult for me to swallow yet easy to keep balanced on my tongue when I look at the confusion of injustice in the world. I am drawn to the bold and brutally honest questions that King Solomon brings up in order to consider the meaning of life. I enjoy that the book seems to go in circles, cycling back to the conclusion just found in the previous chapter. And I am intrigued by the two voices I hear: one crying in resentment: “This is not fair” and the other peacefully whispering in reply: “Let go, it’s okay that you are not in control.”

In my recent projects I have been working with concepts of control vs. out-of-control or predetermined vs. undetermined. As a choreographer I enjoy the feeling of creating detailed, precise scenes that can be repeated over and over again, like a VHS tape in a VHR. When we speak of someone’s actions as seeming choreographed we get a picture of careful calculation and control - knowing just exactly where everything should be at the right time. I think of spy films that play with the tension of everything hinging on whether or not the plan is executed perfectly: if the slightest thing goes off track the bomb explodes and all is lost.

On the opposite side of control and predetermination I am interested in responding to the unexpected. I like to place my dances and dancers in setting where they need to make choices, they have freewill. Sometimes I leave entire sections of choreography as an open score or a task, like a game that must be solved with intuition and gut reaction rather than following a formula. Nothing is fixed but left up to chance. Other times I add this element of the unexpected by placing my dancers/dances in public spaces. In these spaces I am have much less control over the environment as opposed to the safety of a theater space. I am highly interested in the feeling of magic in the mistakes; mishaps and coincidences that arise from performance placed in everyday, commonplace locations.

And so this is one reason why it is difficult for me to meditate on the idea of meaninglessness. I like the feeling of “magic.” I desperately want things to have a hidden meaning, a supernatural intention, or at lease a solid reason “why” behind them. I am fascinated by the idea of synchronicity, that what may seem arbitrary or coincidental is a sign of a higher organization and meaning. And I like to play with these ideas in the work that I make.

I have decided that this project (Untitled Project in 2 Parts) will inhabit two locations in my neighborhood of Essen-Werden in northwestern Germany. One is a serene, golden colored courtyard once belonging to 16th century monastery now part of the Folkwang University. Out of many windows into a square courtyard pours the cacophonous sound of musicians practicing individually yet simultaneously. I go here to think and to listen. And here is where I will focus on a solo performance piece.

The other location is rather a network of public places in my neighborhood including the local bar, street corners, a bus stop, an ice cream café, the indoor swimming pool. For this half of the project I will work with, Fakers Club, an international performance collective that I created in order to develop serial narrative structures in public spaces. In collaboration Fakers Club I will create a performances based on concepts from the four Ecclesiastes passages.

And although I am terrifically anxious to physically immerse myself in this project, I am in the process of recovering from a recent surgery and must wait several more weeks before I am able to dance at full capacity again. Because of this, the beginning of my process is punctuated by patience, observation, quietness and listening.

Below are examples of recent works and photographs of some of the spaces that I will be exploring for this residency. (All photos by Jimmy Miracle.)

Yes, of course from Stephanie Miracle on Vimeo.

Drafting Plan from Stephanie Miracle on Vimeo.


Still from Hoffmann Project, 2015


Still from Hoffmann Project, 2015


Still from Hoffmann Project, 2015


Still from Hoffmann Project, 2015


Still from Fakers Club Season 1,2016


Still from Fakers Club Season 1, 2016


Still from Fakers Club Season 1, 2016


Still from bang! bang!, 2015


Still from bang! bang!, 2015

Follow the development of Stephanie’s project by reading her second and third posts as a 2016 Artist in Residence.

All materials are copyrighted by the artist and used here by permission.