IMMERSIVE AND INTERDISCIPLINARY
“Part site-based performance, part running tracker, part audio experience tour”.
This is how Adrienne Mackey describes TrailOff, an innovative project partnering with the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC), app developer Toasterlab, and ten storytellers from diverse backgrounds to bring interactive audio stories to the greater Philadelphia area trail systems using responsive technology and design.
Ten authors were enlisted to write stories for the project. Their task was to “Enlighten, deepen, expand our sense of what kinds of narratives natural spaces can hold.” according to Mackey. One of those ten artists was fellow Goddard alum donia salem harhoor. Both artists are graduates of the MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts program at Goddard College.
Mackey launched an inquiry into perambulating performance while at Goddard, with an exploration of space called Walk Around Philadelphia in which four artists circled the 103 mile perimeter of Philadelphia. This was an exercise in “civic identity and marginality” and an opportunity to ask questions like, “how do you know a place and what does it mean to be in and out of a city?” The observations were then shared with a live audience.
“How we move through space is so connected to our own narratives of self and place.”
As a distance runner, Mackey’s curiosity around space and self gives added meditation and awareness throughout her work-out regimen.
Mackey tracked down the head of the PEC in Philadelphia and presented her idea in “a cold pitch”. PEC admitted that they had trouble connecting with a diverse audience, to engage citizens about the importance of preserving watersheds and natural space.
“Artists are really good at solving narrative problems” Mackey made her case, “There are some things you can know through intellectual reading. And there are some things that you know about being in space and embodiment. And so much of this project really is about you having to be there.”
donia salem harhoor’s story contribution, entitled A Sycamore’s Psalm matches with surroundings found along a 2.6 mile stretch of the Perkiomen Trail in Montgomery County, PA.
“Told through the voice of a young poet collecting memories and reflections in a notebook, A Sycamore’s Psalm explores care-giving, family dynamics, loss, and roots of every kind. Travel with young Nehet – named after a tree – as she journeys through a diasporic legacy of Egypt, both ancient and contemporary, while encountering the history of the Perkiomen Creek and Trail in this gathering of lyric verse honoring loved ones present and past.”
Here’s a tiny taste from “A Sycamore’s Psalm,” documented by Cinema Quilt.
“What the role of a white artistic director in de-centering whiteness and thinking about what stories take up too much room in our collective landscape?” Mackey asked. “And, how do I use the space that I have to create a space that is artistically fulfilling for me but also try to intersect and make room for other people?”
“One of the beautiful things about of the project.” says harhoor, “is the generosity of breath and space offered by Swim Pony to really trust in the artist.” Because of this trust, harhoor says, “I was able to develop a relationship with the Perkiomin.”
Mackey and harhoor acknowledge that the Goddard method lends itself to collaborative work.
“When I first came to Goddard, I considered myself an auteur.” said Mackey, “Either you are a lone genius or you work under a lone genius. I find that I understand my ideas better in dialogue. And I don’t think there are a lot of professional spaces that are constructed that way.”
“The work with Swim Pony has been profoundly collaborative, deeply aligned with the Goddard ethos.” harhoor said.
“Being in the recording studio- all the voices, all the music, how it’s tied thematically- that collaboration is central and folks are really treated as peers and their contribution is valued which is completely Goddardesque.”
TrailOff is premiering September 2020 as part of the FringeArts festival in Philly. A free-to-download mobile app will be available in Apple’s App Store and Google Play.
Adrienne Mackey is a multidisciplinary artist who explores the potential of performance and play. With her company, Swim Pony, she’s created works including SURVIVE! – a 22,000 sq-ft interactive science installation; THE BALLAD OF JOE HILL at Eastern State Penitentiary; WAR OF THE WORLDS, with Drexel’s Entrepreneurial Game Studio; and THE END – a month-long mixed reality game exploring fears about mortality. She’s the originator of CROSS POLLINATION, a residency program in which 32 artists took part in documented interdisciplinary collaborations and also writes for Swim Pony’s blog, boasting 50,000 views. She’s now developing TRAILOFF – a mobile app using GPS to embed stories on nature trails; WATER LOGGED!, a wildlife card game with the Alliance for Watershed Education; and an ecological table-top role-play for Fairmount Waterworks. Mackey holds an MFA in game/theater from Goddard, has received an Independence Fellowship and two Knight Arts Challenges. She is also a classically trained soprano, former chemistry major, and a faculty member teaching acting, directing and devising for University of Washington’s Graduate School of Drama.
donia salem harhoor (she/they) is an Egyptian-American bibliophile. Executive Director of The Outlet Dance Project, she is a principal dancer and choreographer with Sakshi Productions. She has been a student of acclaimed Odissi Guru, Durga Charan Ranbir for the past 17 years and works closely with the virtuosic Rahul Acharya. Performances include The Sheen Center, Princeton University, The Painted Bride, the 14th Street Y, and Alvin Ailey. An alumna of Community of Writers, Open Mouth Poetry Retreat, and Urban Bush Women’s Summer Leadership Institute, she is also a member of the Brown Girl in the Ring Collective. Her poetry has appeared in Anomaly, Ballet Review, and Sukoon magazines, and is forthcoming in an anthology of Arab love poems. She is one of Swim Pony’s TrailOff Project authors. harhoor has an MFA in Interdisciplinary Art from Goddard College Doniasalemharhoor.com
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