Valerie Norris

Valerie Norris


♦ Deep Improvisation ♦


A pale pink sheet is spread on the floor. Upon it is A, a white painted wooden triangle, and B, a child’s skipping rope. They are moving and flickering around one another, engaged in a restless process of arrangement and rearrangement.


A: I’ve been thinking a lot about a loose feeling to do with collaboration. A sort of sense of molecules spreading out, a relaxing of any fixed grid.


B: Yes—I have in mind an image of hinges. An opening-closing-opening sequence.


A: There are structures in place, but they are constantly shifting and tilting. Chiming at different angles.


B: Like one of Lygia Clark’s Bicho sculptures.


A creature that is in-between a static framework and fluid movement. A transition and an intersection.


A: Exactly. There is an uncertainty and a generosity. A bright questioning.


B: I am trying to be brave about uncertainty. The proposition seems more interesting than the fixed article—alive and diaphanous.


A: Play is important. It can be a set structure or process, but it is irregular with many variables, and it supports organic and non-linear outcomes.


B: Yes. Play as collaborative action and the possibilities it offers for sharing and inclusiveness, and imagination of course. A point of entry or departure.


A: I’m thinking of Walter Benjamin writing in ‘One-Way Street’ about children playing and the objects that they play with. He is talking about how they are drawn to detritus and discarded everyday materials, which is interesting in itself, but also how they take materials of very different kinds and, through what they make with them in play, place them in new and very surprising relations to one another. In this way children form their own material world.[1]


B: We can create or dismantle our own language, rules, rituals and reveries. We can fold inwards or outwards. It feels like an almost spatial mode of thought and exchange. A performative dialogue.


A: You could say it is an invitation to (to paraphrase the poet Anne Carson) ‘undo the latches of being’.[2] A model for open-ended improvisation. Let’s see what happens.



[1] Walter Benjamin, ‘One-Way Street’, in One-Way Street and Other Writings (London: Penguin Classics, 2009), p.55.

[2] Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red (New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 1999), pp.4-5.


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Based in Dundee, Valerie Norris is currently an artist in residence at HALLE 14, Leipzig, in partnership with Hospitalfield Arts, Arbroath. Recent exhibitions include Generator Projects, Dundee and Glasgow Project Room. She has contributed to 2HB journal and was selected for Axisweb’s Writing Scotland programme.


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