Studio IX: So Jeffrey, tell us who you are and what it is you do?
Jeffrey Boynton: My name is Jeffrey Boynton and I design lighting and I hold space for becoming more aware of embodiment…how we embody ourselves in this existence.
Studio IX: And those are two separate things. Two separate entities?
Jeffrey Boynton: They're two separate entities. Yes.
Studio IX: So what are those two entities?
Jeffrey Boynton: i5 Lighting Collaborative, which does the lighting design and then After Before Productions, which is the partnership I have with my beloved to teach 5Rhythms, a global movement meditation practice... I have no idea which to talk about.
Studio IX: Well, they probably weave in and out of each other a bit, yes?
Jeffrey Boynton: They constantly weave. Yeah. In and out of one another.
Studio IX: This is probably a good question to get into that weaving. What are you passionate about?
Jeffrey Boynton: I'm passionate about the way that we experience and see things. Light is critical to that as is our sense of being in a body, which shapes our experience of how much we can sense from our environment, how much is available to us. On one level, I shape space through light and what we see, and on the other, I explore what is hidden versus expressed in the body. The way we move through the world.
Studio IX: Let’s go off script for a second, how did those two things evolve? Let’s start with lighting. What’s the back story of how you came into it?
Jeffrey Boynton: It started in theater and in high school. I got interested in theater and I got instantly interested in the technical aspect of it, which to me was very artistic but more craft-like…like these highly complex tools to produce light and dim in and out of scenes but the ability to create something that had a real attachment to the story and attachment to emotion for the viewer, that really appealed to me. So I thought I wanted to design the devices and I went to school for electrical engineering and then realized, I just want to be part of creating these experiences. So I started designing lighting for theatrical productions, for music events and then ultimately for dance, which then led me into experiencing more choreography and then actually being in dance pieces myself.
Studio IX: And where was that?
Jeffrey Boynton: Most of that exploration took place at Arizona State in Phoenix, AZ.
Studio IX: And then the other entity.
Jeffrey Boynton: The 5Rhythms?
Studio IX: Yeah, how did that evolve?
Jeffrey Boynton: I discovered that in New York City. I was involved in a lot of dance theater, a lot of authentic movement, contact improvisation, different ways of moving and being with oneself and others through embodied practice. It was not so much about performance at that point. It was more about knowing oneself through movement. And when I moved to New York City, I found 5Rhythms and just started going once, twice, three times a week and it was a way to get below the words and just flush through all the busyness of the city (in 2001) and a new career. At the same time I was stepping into this career in architectural lighting, which was a transition point for me.
Studio IX: If you could sum up 5Rhythms in an elevator pitch. How would you describe it?
Jeffrey Boynton: 5Rhythms is an exploration of the way that energy moves in the body and the philosophy can be captured in five essential rhythms of Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness. Each of the qualities that resonate in that journey and together form a Wave.
Studio IX: Can you share a memorable story from your work? One that stands out to you? A pivotal moment. A great project. A personal epiphany?
Jeffrey Boynton: One thing that stands out is how scattered my interests are, but how they're always tied to some basic curiosity about how things are. For instance, I've been posting a series of pictures of the view from my office. The idea of the office being the place where we do our work and how many different environments that is for me, how many different connotations it has.
Studio IX: Depending on the day, or your sate of mind, or the light in the atrium? Something like that?
Jeffrey Boynton: More like it's the lighting booth at the Lynchburg's Academy Center for the Arts one day, then it's here and I'm looking out through the atrium to the sky and the following day, it’s the dance floor at Fry’s Springs and then last night it was a site visit. It's fascinating to me right now, how many different places I do my work, how it doesn't really have a boundary or container. That it has many containers.
Jeffrey Boynton: It's kind of an observation than a story.
Studio IX: I like that.
Jeffrey Boynton: I enjoy seeing something created, something’s that ephemeral, that won't be there for long. I've always loved that about the theater, but then I also have this love of architecture, where I'm building something and defining something that will hopefully be around for a very long time. So permanence and impermanence at the same time. There's a lot of paradox.
Studio IX: Yeah. There does seem to be a connection between lighting design and 5Rhythms in that regard. Something that's a medium & experiential. You're not building something solid but creating an experience through the sense, through the body, per se..
Jeffrey Boynton: And after 18 years of practice, 5rhythms has really become a primary philosophy, a spiritual practice for me. One that informs the design work and the way that I do business. Because it’s a philosophy, I can apply what I know in the body to what I see in the world & thereby how I am approaching a project.
Studio IX: What's an aspect of your work that might surprise people to know?
Jeffrey Boynton: People seem surprised when I tell them where my projects are. I'm working on a project in town for the ballet, getting ready to teach a class, and then working on a project in Riyadh and having a conversation with people in a Dubai office. People are surprised when I say that that’s what I’m doing here in my little cube.
Studio IX: That you're all over the world, while staying in one place.
Jeffrey Boynton: Yeah, just the global nature of it. When I'm in New York I’m dropping in and doing 5Rhythm classes and seeing people from Germany that I know. And when I go to Frankfurt for a conference, I go and dance there. So that's also part of it.
Studio IX: Where do you see yourself and your work in the next five to ten years?
Jeffrey Boynton: I have no idea. (laughter)
Studio IX: Yeah, I can't answer this question either.
Jeffrey Boynton: I mean when I started in lighting design it wouldn't have seemed that way. It would have been like…Oh - these are the sources, here's what we can do with them. But the advent of LEDs in the industry has changed things. The things that you can do with light, it’s just that I have no idea where it's going because it's changing so fast. I just came back from New York and seeing how much has changed in six months. It’s amazing. And so I love to say — I don't know but I'm curious, I'm totally fascinated by where it's gonna go.
Jeffrey Boynton: I’m also not sure whether I’ll be designing more projects or moving more bodies. I don't know which direction that’s gonna go.
Studio IX: Last question. What do you enjoy about being here, working in Studio IX?
Jeffrey Boynton: In all of my work, it can be kind of isolating. The flip side of working with people in Phoenix and around the world is that we don’t share an office. I love being here and just seeing other people doing whatever they're doing. Occasionally having a conversation and getting a glimpse into what other work is going on here. There also seems to be a kind of shared intention. To come here and get ones work done and be a part of a larger community. It fascinates me, even though I don't get enough time to engage with everyone.
Studio IX: Well, I’lI just have to drag you out for happy hour more often (laughter).
Jeffrey Boynton: Okay