This is my current formulation to use with a “landscape improv,” of the type meant to be filmed outdoors, in an actual landscape.

Core Concept for Site-Specific Landscape Improvisations

The goal of the performer is “to explore the energy, feelings, and images of the space,” as opposed to “to explore the space.”

This is best illustrated by contrast with the typical “site specific improv piece” performed by dancers. In that very common style, the dancer’s goal would typically be “to explore the space.” If the site has a tree, a rock, and a stream, she might choose to begin her piece near the tree. She would explore the tree by trying out all manner of physical relationships to the tree. When she feels she has thoroughly explored the tree, she will move on to another feature of the site, such as the rock. When she feels that she has finished thoroughly exploring all the different features of the site, the piece because comes to an end, because she has finished “exploring the space.”

In contrast, in this work, the performer might once again choose to begin her improv near the tree. But her task is to explore the whole feeling (emotional, rhythmic, textural) of the space, as experienced from her spot near the tree. As the piece continues, she goes deeper and deeper into the feeling of the space, rather than merely “exploring the space.” As she continues her exploration, if she continues to get a richer and richer experience of the feeling of the space while staying near the tree, she does not ever need to move from that spot. If she feels, at any time, that she could get a richer experience of the feeling by moving to another spot, she may move somewhere else. In one version of the piece, she might end up moving very frequently, whereas in another version she may only move once or twice, or even play the entire scene from a single spot. Since her goal is to go deeper and deeper into the feeling rather than merely exploring all the different areas of the site, there is no particular requirement for her to either move or stay still. The only requirement is that she gets deeper and deeper into the feeling of the place. In any case, if she does end up staying at the tree for the whole piece, she will still be connecting to the entire site, but she’s connecting to the way that the site feels from where she is. She never forgets about the other parts of the site.

The key point is that the object of the exploration is the feeling in the space, not the space itself.

2. “Lake Ivan Classic” form

in the “Lake Ivan Classic” form of improvs (used in all of my films except for Suggestive Gestures) the form of the work is almost completely a mutual exploration by two people of an inner world or landscape. Details of the external environment of my apartment only very occasionally enter into the work, as when one of us casually refers to some object in the apartment, or we react to some sound from the street.

3. The opposite Extreme

The opposite extreme of form would be a site-specific improv, in which the external environment becomes the sole and exclusive source of everything the performers say or do. This would be an extreme variation, which feels quite inorganic, and it is not what I find interesting for this project.


What I’m looking for is a formula which includes the outer environment of the site, and the inner landscape of images, thoughts and feelings, conceived of as one complex whole. I am looking for a sensible, productive way of thinking about the work, so that the outer and inner worlds are all parts of the same reality, while maintaining at all times that it is the outer environment of the site which remains the underlying source of everything in the scene. (Otherwise there is no particular reason to shoot it outdoors.)

5. The Formula

In the scene, my goal is “to explore what this place (the whole performance site) feels like, as experienced from where I am right now.” As I continue through the scene, I continually go deeper and deeper inside of “the feeling of this place.”

Note that I prefer the formulation “the feeling of this place” to “what I feel in this place.”

If I say that I am exploring “what I feel in this place,” I tend to personalize everything, and make everything about a character. “I want to climb up this tree.” “I feel like lying down on the ground here.” Whereas with the formula “explore the feeling of this place,” my work might occasionally be personified as a character, as a person, or it might be simply a texture, or a feeling, or a rhythm, by itself.

5. Movement through the space

The rule (as illustrated in the introduction) is that you do whatever you need to do, in order to go deeper and deeper into the feeling of the place. If I am getting a deeper, richer experience of the feeling by staying where I am, I stay where I am. If I can feel more by moving to a nearby spot, I move to that spot. If I can connect to the feeling better by moving to the opposite side of the space, I move to the opposite side. There is no particular preference for staying still, moving a little bit, or moving a great deal. Any given improv may have a lot of movement, just a couple of movements, or no movement at all. The only goal is to do whatever is necessary to get deeper and deeper inside of the feeling of the place.

In any case, even if you spent a whole piece in one spot, you are, at all times, connecting to the feeling of the whole site, not just the little bit that you are standing in. Therefore, every piece is an exploration of the entire site, regardless of whether or not you physically move during the piece.

6. Development over time

In the “classic form,” the piece is largely an exploration deeper and deeper into a shared inner world, and so it tends, over time, to reveal more and more hidden, latent elements of that world. When it feels like the inner world has been explored in a very full way, the piece comes to an end.

By contrast, in this Landscape form, the piece is an exploration of the feelings and energies and images of a particular place. You verbally explore a certain hidden feeling or set of images from the space for a while. When you no longer need words, you continue to explore the feeling of the place with silences for a while. After a while, you feel the need to go back to using words to explore the feeling. As the improv continues, one or another particular image or feeling will be the focus of your words (and silences) for a while. After some time, a different hidden feeling or images will become the focus of your words (and silences.)

This process, of moving organically from one feeling or image to the next, could continue indefinitely. It has no particular beginning, middle or ending, just as the life of the landscape, the site itself, has no particular beginning, middle or ending. Unlike “classic form,” there is no particular expectation that the various images and feelings which come up during the course of the improv will be related to one another in any way, or that they will cumulatively add up to any meaning. They are simply there, in the same way that the place is simply there.

7. Musical counterpoint between the voices

The “counterpoint,” or the rule for how the two voices are blended together in the sound texture, is quite similar to the one we already use in the “classic form.” That is, whenever my partner is speaking, I am primarily experiencing the place by living inside of her voice (if not necessarily the exact words she is saying, at least the energy of her voice and presence). Because everything comes from the site, I am feeling the sensation of her voice as a part of the whole place. By definition, any natural sounds in the site, such as birds or flowing water, are equally important parts of the texture.

If she is speaking, I would only add my voice to hers, creating a texture of two voices woven together, if I can get a clearer, stronger connection to the feeling of the place at that moment by using our two voices together.

Likewise, if we are both silent, I will only begin talking if words connect me to the feeling of the place better than the silence does.

I suggest that the following differences from the counterpoint used in the “classic form” are likely to be found in the Landscape form:

A) Since the Landscape form is focused on texture and presence, I would expect there to be more Gertrude Stein-like language, with repeated phrases and words, used more for feeling, rhythm and sense than for meaning. (Maybe not quite as much as in Suggestive Gestures.) It is easier for the viewer to take in two voices mixed together if they are just using words and phrases for rhythm and texture, without grammatical meaning, than it is for the viewer to understand two people who are both talking in meaningful, grammatical language. Therefore it should feel natural that overlapping textures, using two voices, will occur somewhat more frequently in Landscape form than they do in Classic form.

B) Since the focus of this form is to explore the “feeling of the place,” I would expect that the improvs would have more use of silences than in Classic form, including longer silences from both actors at once. In particular, it would usually be useful to begin a Landscape improv with a fairly long silence from both actors simply to saturate oneself with the feeling of the place first and create a grounded starting point for the language.

C) Similar to Classic form, the goal should still be that you primarily experience the feeling of the place through words and silences, so it still should not be a “dance” or “movement” piece. But, because the piece is precisely about the “feelings of this place,” it is about a spatial experience, and it will obviously involve more movement and traveling motion than a piece shot with a tripod in my apartment.

Therefore, I will need to remember that my goal at all times is to “explore the feelings of the whole place, including my partner and her voice and her silences and her bodily presence.” I need to stay in touch with the entire space, including her, at every moment, and so I would never place myself so far away from her or in a spot where I lost touch with her. (It is very much the same skill used in performing a duet on a large stage.)