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Beginnings :: Kathy Couch

Back, before I was a member of The Architects, I wasn’t.

I was simply an artist (a ‘sub-contractor’, I would eventually term it) brought in, for the first MICI, to artfully arrange objects in space to create the first ‘Installation Day’, offering the improvisers some new contexts, some new means for beginning. Everything was beginning (including my work in this form of Compositional Improvisation), and none of us knew just where—or if—it would go (anywhere). After clearing out the remnants from that first Installation Day, I reconvened in the studio with the rest of the participants. We had gathered to experience an improvisational performance by the Architects. (Another first for me in this day of firsts.) We were all seated on the floor at the extreme edge of studio, leaning our backs into the black curtain that covered the mirrors. Light skimmed up the wall into the cavernous ceiling, filling the room with a non-directional brightness. There felt to be nothing but openness. As the rest of us chatted and murmured, unaware that a beginning was imminent, the four Architects—Jen, Katherine, Lisa, and Pam—stealthily entered the room and stood together in a tight but relaxed cluster amongst the rest of us on the perimeter. Before our fledgling attentions had even completely honed in on them, they began. With a quick, simultaneous burst of intention, a new piece was in the making. Yet, in less than a minute, they gathered back together in the same place on the perimeter and settled into the same steady stillness with which they had first entered the room. The energy of all that they had just been made vibrated through our perceiving bodies, but seemed to drain out of theirs—as if nothing had happened. From this place of settle and calm, they simply and precisely began again.

This moment was a revolution to me. I had seen works in which ‘beginning again’ was integrated into the structure of the piece itself and was actual scripted text. This moment watching the Architects begin again felt more radical, as if something had been fully committed to, only to be laid back down so that an entirely different intention could be taken up instead. A more wholehearted beginning again; one that revealed how beginning again does not mark a failure of what you have begun, but instead unfolds possibilities--not yet left behind—of what this particular lifespan might become. Such compositional turns reliably thrill me with their expansiveness and vulnerability. (If you share my delight and are looking for an aching thrill, check out poet Marie Howe’s Magdalena—The Seven Devils). These turns are expansive partly because of the possible paths revealed, but more because of the way they expose the vulnerable and intricate act of choosing. When we experience something beginning again, we receive affirmation that there are options, but, more importantly, we get to witness the humble labor involved in manifesting something from and with those possibilities. It is the process, exposed; and thus, reminds me of my capacity to notice, to choose, to make and make differently. In other words, I am offered the liberatory truth that things are not inevitable and that, in every moment, no matter how restrictive, I have the agency to choose something different and differently, something more precisely what I mean to be making with and of this life(span).

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