‘The Parking Space’ melds media for a new exploration of what art can do

The Parking Space

Debuts Friday, Dec. 4 at 3 p.m. -- Chauncey Swan Parking Ramp, 4th Floor

‘The Parking Space’ creative team, L-R Steven Willis, Ramin Roshandel, Stephanie Miracle. — courtesy of Stephanie Miracle

Would you care to dance with me?

The Parking Space, a “site-specific listening piece about rest and perspective,” debuts today, Friday, Dec. 4, on the fourth floor of the Chauncey Swan Parking Ramp (415 E Washington St, downtown Iowa City). Stephanie Miracle, choreographer, dancer and visiting assistant professor for the University of Iowa’s Department of Dance, created the piece alongside composer Ramin Roshandel and poet Steven Willis.

Standing on the very top of a comfortably full parking garage Thursday night, my heart quickened as I listened through my AirPods to Miracle’s soothing voice. I was there to observe, to appreciate this ingenious and unique art exhibition, and that’s exactly what I did — the first time. But soon enough my inhibitions melted away, and I closed my eyes with a smile, knowing any person standing across the street on their balcony must be looking on with bewilderment.

I began to sway.

“This piece definitely feels related to our current time of living in a pandemic,” Miracle told me when we spoke the day before. “The realities of this year were a big motivation, forcing us to figure out how to devise an experience that has some qualities of live performances but is safe for people and gets them outside to interact with the world around them.”

Wanting to merge their mediums together to produce something fresh and new, the three gave breath to The Parking Space simply by going on walks together. The theme of the exhibition formed from the conversations that took place while visiting different spaces and pondering the emotions and thoughts that arose.

Although the experience is hard to describe because “it doesn’t quite fit into familiar genres,” Miracle said, she suggested that “you could think of it kind of like when you go to a museum and have a guided tour.”

The duration of the piece is estimated to be 30 minutes. You can navigate the performance yourself through the project’s website, where you have the freedom to welcome the art however you deem best for your own situation and journey. Whether you choose to follow the numbers in sequence (which correspond directly with the parking spaces) or decide to linger and reflect countless times in one spot, the art is a living work that molds to what you need from it on any given day.

The Chauncey Swan Parking Ramp, 4th Floor. — courtesy of Stephanie Miracle

“My interpretation of what it means to be a choreographer goes beyond that of just creating movement that dancers perform,” Miracle said. “Instead I think of it as crafting experiences, organizations in time and space. This project has a lot of that, inviting audiences to engage with the piece and become the performers themselves because their bodies are moving, their eyes are choosing the exact images that they’re seeing.”

The trio intend to allow this version (of what will become a grander project) to exist for up to a year if people wish to engage with it. There is no entry fee or event-like formalities, and you can visit the space at any hour, day or night, and as often as you like.

“The opportunity for a new perspective is really special,” Miracle said. “Thinking about where you were when you had the first experience and where you are when you have the second experience is a great chance for reflection.”

As I finally descended the blue-lined stairs of the parking ramp, I was buzzing with excitement — excitement for a newfound appreciation of the simple things, the seemingly mundane. I walked past lampposts and wanted to engage in conversation with them. I skipped alongside brick buildings on cobblestone streets and wondered about the life and possibilities within. Then I came to a halt outside of the dark and empty Englert Theatre before I gave a soft grin for what The Parking Space is doing to keep the arts (and their immense power) alive and well.

Be sure to bring your headphones, comfortable shoes and a mindset open to new possibilities and personal growth. It’s encouraged to go through the exhibit alone or with a very small group of people because the design is based on a solo endeavor. A version of this piece will also be available this weekend for download from the team’s website, consisting of one long audio track for those who are visually impaired or who don’t have reliable internet on their personal device.

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