Jeanine Durning Illuminates a Philosophy of Presence Through Speech and Movement

by Laura Hans

On Fri. Oct 15 at the Appenzellar-Buchanan Dance Studio, choreographer and performer Jeanine Durning presented her spoken word and dance performance titled “inging.”

What is “inging”?

Durning describes it as, “The action of inging is languaging, a practice of non-stop saying, acting and being in the continuous present.” Through the action of “inging,” Durning expresses a deep transcendent energy. Through expressive dance and speech she submits to the dismantling of structure, sequence and time. Prof. of Dance, Paula Kellinger says, “There are not pauses; there is nonstop movement and speech. It is more of an experience than anything. It’s alive and requires an open mind.”

An Eye-Opening Performance

The mise-en-scène presented a relaxed atmosphere with a sense of invited free association. Durning set the studio with her workstation: a table surrounded by a few chairs, a pile of books on the table, along with her notebook and a laptop. She intended these elements to be utilized by the audience as much as by Durning. Three videos played side by side against the wall. Each depicted something different. They featured Durning ruminating to the camera in non-stop speech on subjects concerning thought, perception and body concept.

As the audience entered the studio, Durning, with a strong yet quiet resolve, personally welcomed and encouraged everyone to feel at home. The audience found chairs randomly set up around the studio. Others were in stacks against the back wall and some faced the wall. The audience constructed a generally conventional seating arrangement despite the invitation to sit wherever desired. It was an intimate gathering of roughly 30 people.

The performance began with an eruption of being. Durning, sitting at the table, wearing street clothes, said, “I’ll start when you’re not settled.” She then called out to the audience, “Does anybody know? Does anybody know? Does anybody know? You’re beginning and starting to meet yourself…” Her face reflected a search for meaning through a flood of thoughts.

Her speech and actions are the place where meaning collapses. She never choreographs or scripts anything beforehand. She stood and continued, “Remind yourself I am here, but I can feel myself behind myself, behind myself…” Her body moved with conviction from these thoughts. They possessed a bold and powerful intention, and yet were intangible all at once. In a place of vulnerability, she allowed the “self” to be threatened and observed. Through expressive motion, she traveled to a deep, personal space. Kellinger describes this as “a raw visceral response.”

Using Space to Achieve Her Perspective

Throughout the performance, Durning utilized the space the audience constructed with their chairs. She moved between rows and even behind the audience. At one point, Durning reclined on the floor between audience members. At another time, she sat under the table.

Throughout all her movements, she spoke constantly. Durning explains, “I’m trying to be porous, as present and articulate in the movement and in the relationship to the speed of thought from my personal history and archive. To stay in the process, I chose the elements as they come…It’s scary to continuously talk, working through and with and of my body, this practice of non stop speaking emerged out of non stop moving.”

She drew herself into a space in which she was herself, but also aware of the limits of selfhood. With her task of nonstop speech, themes emerged concerning censorship, religion, communion, the act of process, being within something, community, current events, personal history and memories.

Durning’s Thoughts and Her Audience’s Reaction

“The process of art is the last potential freedom. This emerges as a subject matter in the work. The goal was not to impose too much structure. The indices of knowledge were enough to structure the piece. I think I was not thinking about constructing, but there is a performative tension that I’ve set up this task, which elevates the consequences,” says Durning.

Some audience members left the performance wide-eyed and slightly shaken, perhaps even enlightened. The performance gave them the opportunity to enter and experience a space of intense presence. Durning generated and questioned the ideas and limits of self-understanding.


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