Book Review

Ten Huts

Jill Sigman

Wesleyan University Press, 2017

Beautifully laid out and presented, a report on the author’s Hut Project: “a nomadic series of site-specific structures made of cast-off materials found on or near each site…[it] is also an interconnected set of performances, a contemporary reinvention of ritual, a call to think about pressing things, a statement about consumerism, and a personal practice”.

Sigman, Artistic Director of jill sigman/thinkdance, brings us through the process by which she thought about, generated, gathered, designed and executed the building of ten huts in settings from Brooklyn to Norway; she has as collaborators those whose photographs illustrate the process, and five essayists who “reflected on the hut project and shared their intellectual curiosity, interpretive acumen, and unique perspectives”. 

As Pamela Tatge points out in the foreword, Sigman’s work “exists at the intersection of an artistic practice and multiple disciplines”.  Surely in this she has much in common with the wider community of dance researchers/thinkers, and certainly with the community of dancer-citizens—all those who seek through their practice to address issues confronting the localities and groups in which they live and work. 

Photos, Sigman’s prose, sidebar definitions (“Irony – A manner of organizing a work so as to give full expression to contradictory or complementary impulses…”), and “invitations” that guide the reader through exercises to immerse us in our surroundings and move us toward possibility (among them, slow walking, exploring found objects, owning a space and more) are carefully intertwined here in a way that exposes the wanderings of the creative process.  Musing on composting (“takes what is unwanted, rotting, discarded, and makes it into something valuable”), theaters (“despite its potential elitism, a theater contains the energy of a performance and allows magic to happen.  It holds us all together…”) and other intersections of Sigman’s interest appear.

While the huts lie at the center of this exploration—and do provide a very particular and strong visual impact—Sigman really could have attached this introduction into her work, the resulting artistic exploration, and research to any aspect of any of her projects.  It’s the process, above all; the product comes in a compelling second.  Why do this?  “Because this mash-up of people and cultures and characters is beautiful”…”Because art should be for everyone”…”Because at some point it’s not even about art anymore; it’s about us all being human together”.  Exactly.

 

-Jane Alexandre