The Conversation

The Conversation

Jacksonville University, 2016
The School of Contemporary Ballet Dallas, 2016
Choreographed and Performed by Sarah Matzke

Exploring communication and proxemics through a progressive narrative. The management of microspaces dictate what is shared what is left unspoken.


Continuing an exploration of human communication, I sought greater understanding of the events and experiences that we universally share. What we say out loud and that which we keep in.

I began my practice searching through for an understanding of communication habits and etiquette both past and present. The past led me to vintage 1950s tutorials on behavior, the way life should have looked. The present led me to researcher Brene Brown and her work on courage and shame in society. Through this process I was left with a stirring to release my own vulnerability. I took the charge by bringing forth my own story, my own unspoken conversation one day I would have with a family member .

I created several conditions to harvest movement: Scores based upon the subject manner of nervousness, verbalization, and need, studies of physical conversation with imaginary individuals, challenging myself to visualize the individual until they felt real as flesh. I also experiment with touch and escaping touch to see how the body reacts. These were filmed and movement extracted. Finally, I created an Anarchival study (SenseLab) using eight volunteers to develop/design a space till exhaustion. This space was analyzed using proxemics. According to anthropologist Edward Hall, proxemics is the study of the human use space and the effects of population density upon behavior, communication, and social interaction. To look upon proxemics one must observe hidden messages of interpersonal communication. This includes how we manage “microspace”-the distance between people in everyday events, the organization of space in homes and buildings, and the design of towns. It speaks to our non-verbal behavior, cultural or orientation, and how space is interpreted (Hall, 1966). Depending upon the culture of study, a different spatial language is formatted:

For American Zones:
“Intimate Distance” 0 to 18 inches
“Personal Distance” 18in to 4 feet (lose sense of body heat, most odors,
eyesight must focus, vocalization comes into play, other person is at arm’s
“Social Distance” 4 to 10 feet (impersonal transaction, no longer can pick
up subtle nuances of meaning from the face or tone of voice)
“Public Distance” 10 feet to infinity

In my process, I considered how the Viewer would interpret my physical distance to them, to the chair, and the chairs to one another; how this would influence my narrative’s reception. I took this in consideration as well as the space to hold the showing. I felt a Black Box would not only highlight the chair’s outward appearance, but also amplify their own character development. This space allowed for distance to be intensified and for the Viewer to be immersed into the experience and narrative. The goal would be to push the Spectator to go into an unknown location and unknown time- a place of mental opportunity.

The two chairs in the piece are modeled off of an image I shot during a spatial analysis of furniture. Not having access to these original chairs, I replicated the image's feel by using two antique fabric lined chairs as stand-ins. Their lines feminine, color and cloth appearing soft. Their wooden lines spoke of strength and tradition, characters I attribute to my family member. Their physical weight light, however their representation heavy. Because of this, my movements would adhere to this relation.

Through this research my curiosity has increased in what other sociocultural secretes lie within our everyday habits. I long to dig deeper, to be a witness of these human subtexts and subtleties.


Hall, Edward T (1966). The Hidden Dimension. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. Print