“Water brings the distant near, bits of sound – sighs, gurgles, sucks, almost voices — connecting you with some other place, some other time, an experience from far away or long ago.”   photographer Roni Horn, “Another Water”

We can learn from nature how to restore balance in our lives, and sometimes gain clarity on where we want to go. After the experience of being at The Waterfront Museum for a month, I realized I must honor  the constant you experience at sea – the horizon, the magnetic pull to stretch beyond your skin. How can you do that, when you are indoors? Perhaps  a horseshoe shaped lighting that changes intensity and color as the horizon does from mid-day to midnight to morning can help. Being at sea can compress time to make you feel as though as you’ve been away from the rhythm of the landlubber’s life far longer that you actually were. To suggest that sense of time warp, I will choreograph a dancer hidden within a white stretchy fabric that will capture or not projections. Imagine Martha Graham’s Lamentation; only instead of grief, the solo will explore the opposite, and instead sitting on a bench, the dancer is attached to a sail that unfolds from a mast.

Being on the sea,  you can feel, if not hear and respond,  the deep. The challenge in BELL 8 is to convey the experience of having a conversation unlike any you’ve had before.  The upcoming screenings can offer the dancer a chance to meditate on just that and how to create a call and response in the viewers.

Sasha Smith at Bell 8 at Waterfront Museum, Red Hook

Maybe we’ll choreograph and then film a dancer who flies and sings with the spirits, and then dives into the sea to re-surface transformed.

While we think of water in terms of cleansing, swimming, Narcissus,  we have not returned the favor; we have been unconscionable terrorists, abusing the oceans through polluting, overfishing, overheating the planet. The goal of BELL 8 is to create such an homage to the sea, that everyone will literally begin to worship nature. The Wake segment in BELL 8 is an acknowledgement of  our trespasses and efforts to nudge people to imagine a future when we will treat the ocean with respect.

Woven into this love song is a celebration of current efforts to heal the ocean – art made from the same plastic), sea goddesses designed to serve as artificial reefs, and efforts to manage kelp forests

In the early 1990s, the American Museum of Natural History put an open rowboat in the center of a small room, and projected the sea on 4 sides of the room, as a sensory aid to understanding the perspective of arctic explorers. You had to admire the bravery of those men venturing off with so little protection. That installation inspired me to create BELL 8.

My urge to do this project stems from 20 years of bliss before the mast, when I was a 0-20 year old, a full fledged space cadet, a happy airhead. Editing the film is a means to understand emotional rhythms, their physical manifestation, tempos, and to explore what triggers changes. Various neuroscientists, philosophers, biologists are doing research to decipher why proximity to water is so soothing. Just as a baby starts to coo when he/she is cradled, we all start to relax when we are in a vibrating train, or on a boat rising and falling. Certainly, I was hypnotized by the sea.

Seeing Mike Leigh’s “Mr. Turner”  reminds you how many artists have captured the sea in unusual ways. Consider Francisco Faria’s drawing that makes the sea seem like stone, and like bodies, lying with rumps to the ceiling, suggested in Catarina Arcipriete’s collage of painted hands, feathers, ribbons, or Nan Melville’s image, below, of sand that seems to be from another planet.


Photo by Nan Melville. Crane Beach, Massachusetts