This installment of From The Outside In documents Marlon Taylor-Wiles’ Flying Under The Radar in their performance of 'where am i?" at the Lightbox on January 10th, 2015. As a choreographer, dancer, & designer, Marlon’s work is explosive, radiant, & subversive — casting a mass of human bodies against the backdrop of an ever-changing, fluid projection of light & electronic imagery.
Micah Ross spoke to Marlon Taylor-Wiles for 1985:
Micah Ross: What was the inspiration behind ‘Flying Under the Radar' : "where am i”, & how did this project come to be?
Marlon Taylor-Wiles: The inspiration/idea for 'where am i' started as I was watching a nature documentary on deep sea creatures with my fiancé. I was just so in awe of the fact that there is life 40,000 feet below us happening at this very moment and at all moments - it just blows my mind. Kids are playing in China. A lion is chasing a gazelle in Africa. Millions of parallel universes are always occurring, yet we are we so consumed with our own lives that we forget to think about the bigger picture. While watching the film, a flurry of ideas and thoughts started to come to me. If this all happening on Earth... what is going beyond our planet and beyond our universe? The idea of multiple universes co-existing beside one another started to become more apparent and I realized that this would be an incredible jumping off point for my inaugural work for my dance company Flying Under the Radar. The project came to be by me wanting to create more interesting opportunities for myself and my friends to dance in NYC, and what better way than to direct/produce/co-choreographer your own show? After leaving the renowned company Armitage Gone! Dance to pursue other creative interests, I realized that I wanted to perform more but not have the commitment of dancing full-time with one company. I also wanted to highlight the amazing abilities of my friends, so I made this vehicle for showcasing their talents. Deepest thanks to company members Maleek Washington, Zui Gomez and Jacqui DeFranca for co-choreographing and believing in my vision.
MR: What is unique about creating expression with your body from the other projects in your life?
MTW: What's unique about creating expression with the body is that one has to be extremely present, active and aware of the body as a whole. It is very spiritual in a sense. Your entire body is contributing to the overall effect. My other creative projects include designing jewelry for George Frost, which is so very different from dancing - designing a ring, for instance, has nothing to do with the back of your leg.
MR: In the performance you decided to interact with the audience, why pull them into your space?
MTW: Interacting with the audience was very important for the concept of 'where am i'. In the piece, we the dancers represent a group of beings from another universe that have figured out how to travel to another realm. Once getting there, we are of course very intrigued by these other beings we find in the 'audience'. We being to interact with them by smelling them, touching them, staring directly into their eyes. Interacting with them in such an intimate way helped us to make the performance a reality for the audience and translate our concept, as well as to challenge comfort levels. I think whenever you involve someone in a performance, they become a part of the art, and symbolically realize that they are a part of a much bigger picture. Ultimately, I wanted people to feel that they are a part of the story and to challenge what they are used to when watching a dance performance. Perhaps no one expected that a performer would come and hold their hand for 30 seconds, yet that's exactly what we did.
MR: What is the sensation in exposing yourself live for an audience?
MTW: It is a feeling of complete harmony. You are truly one with yourself when you are a performer.
MR: You are meticulous. Is there a conflict between control and exploration? How do these two polarities work together and meet?
MTW: There is only one conflict between control and exploration….the limitations of time. Control and exploration are only able to work together when there is adequate time to investigate all perspectives. This why I try not to put myself in situations where I have to be rushed. I'm the type of person who likes to see all perspectives to make sure everything as a whole make sense. I like to feel like everything is thought about and nothing is left untouched. Sometimes I struggle to find the balance here because of course time is often limited, but I try to adhere to my meticulous standards to achieve the best possible performance.
MR: How do the other projects in your life compliment and support each other? Are different sides of your personality / style represented separately per each endeavor or is there a fluid strand that connects them all?
MTW: All of my projects tend to compliment and support one another because I often collaborate with my friends, from dance to jewelry design to creative direction to styling. I love the process of getting people from different fields together in unusual ways - that's often when magic creativity happens. For me, there is definitely a fluid strand of creativity that runs through my various endeavors - it's an inner voice tells me to not think in or out of the box because I like to believe there is no box.
MR: Do all these creative outlets in your life lead you to a better understand of yourself / what’s important in your life / a higher concept? If not, why do you create?
MTW: My various creative outlets continue to make me feel proud of being an artist and creator. It can be difficult at times to follow this path, but I am proud to continue to create in one of the toughest cities in the world. I feel really alive from conceptualizing and creating art.
MR: Any last words of wisdom or satire?
MTW: I'd like to say that creativity is not dead in New York. If you are writer or critic or a donor, please make sure you really investigate and explore the dance and performance art communities. So many artists are overlooked due to people being force-fed the same commercialized stuff over and over again. If you are an artist, never be afraid to create your own opportunities. This is the DIY generation. There is no time for you to wait for someone to help you. People only help those who help themselves.