“Landscape Improvisations” is the name I give to an ongoing project which I’ve been persuing at least since my 8 hour installation piece “The Age of Erosion” circa 1995 at the Brooklyn Arts Exchange.

Landscape improvisations are conceived primarily as an installation form, that is, as a performance or video work of extended duration, intended for a gallery or museum space, in which the audience is free to come and go whenever they like. However, the landscape principles can also be applied to videos which are meant to be watched conventionally, from the beginning to the end.

The idea for landscape improvisations is derived from Gertrude Stein’s concept of the “landscape play.” The performers, their words and gestures, their silences, the props and costumes, and other visual and sound elements are all viewed as changing elements within the larger composition. The same way that we enjoy watching a landscape, in which the light, sounds, and different scenic elements change over time, we can enjoy the shifting textures, emotional qualities, and spatial relationships in a landscape improvisation, with the primary object of our attention being the overall composition of the piece.

In the landscape style, by necessity, language is used more for texture, sound, and emotional quality than it is to tell a story or to develop ideas or themes over time. (Since the audience is free to come and go, the piece cannot depend on the development of ideas at all.) Language is used like music, to create an emotional and rhythmic texture which infuses the landscape. Spatial relationships are paramount, and no particular section of the piece has more significance than any other.

“The Age of Erosion” was also performed in a 5 hour version, in the lobby of the Here theater, also in the mid 1990s. It was also used as the basis for the short video “Wrested Variations.” I have been working sporadically since then to develop a video version of the landscape form, with a variety of actors. Check this page for ongoing notes concerning the development of the landscape project.