Interview with Ain Gordon
You are frequently commissioned to create "site inspired" theater works that draw on lost or overlooked histories; how do you start?
I start by walking.
I do not surf the web or read books; at first I resist stories packaged for long-distance viewing. I go to the place and I walk. I look for current conditions and negligible clues to their beginnings. I walk. I look for some form of question that sticks. Next I ask many people the most open-ended version of that question I can verbally manage. I am trying to both learn the question's ramifications and be available to unexpected response. I do not want the answer I could give myself just as I do not seek the story I could find at a distance.
The first to arrive in me is never plot. I don't often experience that required sense of beginning or end, but rather a constant modulating hum chaptered by emotion. When I'm lucky, the force of that emotion accumulates into theme. Then comes character. Then I scramble for a container – a situation to tilt character and theme into action.
Can you talk about the role of fact and fiction in your work?
Isn't the ordering of old facts into a legible historic narrative for modern audiences a fictive process? There is never room for everything that happened. Some details are chosen so others are not and in that streamlining absolute truth is shaped rather than delivered whole so "fiction" enters the equation. Yes, I source real lives/events in live theater. Yes, I devote myself to extensive research but I question the availability of immutable fact (don't want to be wrong - doubt "right" is available). I'm not interested in facts everybody already has; to get what isn't known, I might imagine. I look for lives/events/places that have left enough trace to tantalize and been enough lost to offer me wide permission. I build kinks into the script to destabilize the authority of the story being told, the illusion created; the goods sold. I try to use my moral compass to determine what liberties aid theater – aid truth – make visible what is true – question what has been held as true – question the notion of truth – question theater as another conveyor belt of time-based consumption which forces concision which means total truth is not on offer.
Can you talk a little bit about your collaboration with Forrest Holzapfel?
Forrest and I share a fetish for the ellipses, the blanks, or holes in our historic fabric. Where I have trained myself to read the urban landscape for clues to past incarnations; Forrest studies the collision of manmade incursions on the natural landscape.
Forrest also likes to walk.
We wore snowshoes. We donned body mics. We walked, climbed, slipped, fell (well, I fell) and talked and recorded our open-ended words. We re-blazed old trails of man-made settlements now reforested. These lost trails formed a literal path toward conjuring a sensorial portrait of our past. Then came Forrest's images...