Make things here and now

If you’re working online with some people, with the intention of getting together in a real place sometime in the future, the impulse can be to talk about the thing you’re working on in a general or abstract way towards that future where the real thing can happen. Here we invite you to push through the way that these platforms shepherd you into talking and not doing and actually make something. Together. Online. Now.

Case Study: Offers and Answers — Sherri Hay

Offers and Answers* is a process we developed in our facilitation of online creative labs for teenage artists. It’s a method of making things together in a playful non-result driven way, in order to develop creative rapport and generate material within a new group of young collaborators. Here’s how it works:

  1. The leader-facilitator(s) make a set of creative Offers for members of the group to complete by the next session, meeting or rehearsal. 2-3 Offers to start is good, in order to give participants/ group members some choice. (See examples below).
  2. Make a place where all Offers and Answers can be posted. We used Padlet for this which was non-sequential and not hierarchical in a good way, but might have devolved into chaos once there was a lot of material.
  3. Before the next session, members of the group have the option of posting their Answers to these Offers for the others to see. They can post writing, pictures, links, videos, whatever the Offer calls for.
  4. In the next session, members of the group look at the Answer posts and talk about what each other have made. It’s also possible to give an Answer ‘live’ during the session.
  5. Now other members of the group start giving and posting Offers as well as Answers for the group to use. The pool of Offers grows as well as the Pool of answers.
  6. The group can continue with making Offers and Answers over time, as they proceed with their other activities and work. Sometimes material for collective work can be generated in this way, but it doesn’t have to be. Creative rapport is the primary goal.

(*Offers and Answers was developed collaboratively over time by Erin Brubacher, Sherri Hay, Kaitlin Hickey, Veda Hille, Erum Khan and Cara Spooner.)

  • Examples of Offers
    • Unwrite a song: Take a song that you love, a song that is your current bff.  What is the root of that song?  Why are you hanging around with it?  Find that nut and crack it open, and then make something new.  Could be a drawing, a piece of writing, or even another song. — Veda Hille
    • Notice silence: Make a list of every moment of silence you experience in one day. — Erum Khan 
    • Unbalance: Put some objects together that first balance, then fall. You can show us on Zoom or, even better, make a video. What makes them fall? This collection of objects in real life can be really big, really small, or medium sized. Also think about the background of your video. Here are a bunch of examples of things that are balanced. These examples are complex and took a long time to make. Yours should be very simple. — Sherri Hay
    • Perform yourself: Complete this script. The idea is that it be truthful to you. More documentary than fiction. You decide where those lines are drawn. Memorize your text to perform like a monologue where the character is you. If memorizing doesn’t work for you right now, just make yourself familiar with your text so that, when you perform it, you don’t have to have your eyes on the page. When performing your script be as you as you can be. That is your only job. Perform your small script for the group over video call. — Erin Brubacher
    • Tell a big story with small objects: They can be any kind of object. It can be any kind of story (real or imagined). It must be silent (no sounds, soundtrack, voices or narration). It can be pre-recorded (shared as a video) or done ‘live’ over Zoom, etc. The story doesn’t need to be clear to the audience — it can just be. — Cara Spooner
    • Know a poem: Find a poem that intrigues you. You don’t have to love it, or even properly understand it, just a poem that’s interesting. Take a few days and memorize that poem. Speak it out loud to yourself, then when you’re ready speak it out loud to someone else. — Veda Hille

Things to try on: tools, activities and resources

  1. 100 ways of interacting:

I use a lot of lists. I ask everyone to list 100 ways of interacting. This could be done as homework or live in the online space, done individually with a timer. And then we come back together. And I say: Everybody’s gonna name their five most surprising and five most boring ways of interacting that they came up with. And then there’s a conversation that comes after that. And then, eventually, when we think of the homework that each person will have to do — to bring back new material — well, maybe some of them will go and pick from those ways of interacting and use one as a prompt to make something.  — Claudel Doucet

2. Improvise/play in breakout rooms: You can offer a prompt (a pre-prepared text, an image, a theme…) and ask smaller groups to make something together in break-out rooms. Then in the breakout rooms, the groups prepare a little piece that they can show the other groups afterwards. It could be choreographed movement, a dialogue, sound, a drawn storyboard. Something made together.

When we did this in our creative labs, and the groups came back and showed what they had made, it was surprisingly touching. We had asked them to do something on their feet so, first of all, I could see their whole body-selves for the first time, these people I had only known by their faces. But most of all I think it was that it was because they were doing something synchronous there between their little isolated boxes, something together which felt like it had a rhythm and intention — it seemed to bridge the distance between us all in a way that conversation hadn’t done up until then.  — Sherri Hay

3. Make a sound experiment: If you want to go further into the audio world, ask people to make a short live sound piece that they can perform online for the group. They can play with proximity to their microphones, foley sound effects, musical elements either live or recorded. This can relate directly to the work you are rehearsing, or not. Encourage people to consider sound, what it means and how it travels. The audience for the piece should wear headphones, and feedback is crucial as the performer will not hear the piece in the same way at all.

I was like, okay, how do I document my impressions. You know, it’s kind of like you’re the only spectator for your own little performances a lot of the time. So what do I take from that and how can I use that and share it? Really experiencing what the limit of what a performance is: do I need a spectator to have a performance? Can I be my own spectator? Can documentation be more meaningful than the performance? — Like, can it have a larger effect or reverberation in the world? — Claudel Doucet

I enjoy those moments of concrete “success,” where there are things that are tangible that we can hang our hats on and go: we created that. Even putting something small together can give a sense of accomplishment. — Jani Lauzon