Page 1

BELLYFLOP VOL 1 N째3

The POP ISSUE

A dive into Contemporar y Dance & Performance


Pop-up.

Pop out.

Public. Bubblegum. Instant. Disposable. Lasting. Labels. Music. Musical. Media. Art. Trend. Fashion. Ditties. Jingles. Good taste. Bad taste. Bums on seats. Good for business. Names on lips. Squeaky pop. Physics.

Bunsen burners.

Test tubes. Cork. Crackle pop. Culture. Commercial. Bottles. Drinks. Sweets. Recycling. Pleasure.

Internet. Tuning in. Time. Celebrity. Talking. Lollypop. Alcopop. Top spots. Charts. Block colours. On the up. Fad. Playground. Popping. Candy. Teeth. Names. Film. Fizz. Factory. Trash. Icon. Flirtation. Sharing. Loud. Energy.

Age. Forum.

Flashy.

Masked. Influence. Light.

Pop. 2


The pop ISSUE 06 reader’s letter 10 hip-pop 12 rajni shah 15 contemporary dance like everybody’s watching 16 gustavo murillo 21 intellectual wannabe 22 quite silly pop star rhymes 24 anat eisenberg 28 nietzsche and popular culture 32 manuel vason 36 liz lerman 40 all you ever need to know 44 nigel charnock 46 fresh air 2011 50 theme time! musicals

3


About BELLYFLOP Magazine BELLYFLOP Magazine is here to make a spl ash into the ocean of per for mance (for now, the bit that r uns through the c anal s of London). Star ted up as a lone enter pr ise by Louise Mochia, BELLYFLOP has now developed into a coll abor ati ve ar tist-led under taking based at Chisenhale Dance Space. A s a peer group, a gener ation per haps, we are opinionated and this is w hat moti v ated an online pl at for m for provoking debate and embr acing contr ibutor s’ subjec ti ve engagement at gr ass-root level . We oper ate w ith a DIY ethic through voluntar y contr ibutions from v ar ious ar tist s, creating an ar tistic for um for debate w here v iew point s (from sc andalous to mundane) c an be shared w ith other ar tist s /pr ac titioner s / interested par ties. It is BELLYFLOP ’s aim to br ing v isibilit y to an ar tistic communit y wor king out side of the mainstream, br inging exposure to the ideas and ef for t s of discer ning indi v idual s, as an ac ti ve at tempt to stimul ate new per spec ti ves and cr itic al thought. E ssentially BELLYFLOP revolves around the ar t of contempor ar y dance, however, we tr y not to get too pedantic about these things and focus on all areas of per for mance as and w hen we feel like it - you get ever y thing from musings on the ever yday life of the ar tist to musings on popul ar culture. On the BELLYBLOG you c an loc ate r andom r amblings from the BELLYFLOP team and get the l atest wor d on event s, happenings and oppor tunities in and around London.

EDITOR

L ouis e Mochia

ASST EDITORS

Char l ie A shw ell , E leanor Sikor ski, F lor a Welle sle y We sle y & Jamil a Johns on-Small

LAYOUT DESIGN

E s tef ania Hor migo

[w w w.w o r k in p r o gr e s s . e s] & R a s m u s H a g e n

FRONT COVER

A lexandr e Jaeger Vendr us colo [ w w w.f l ick r.com /ph otos /alejot a v en]

POSTER p. 8 -9

Joelle Gr een

P hotogr a p h y p. 2 2 A r t w ork p. 2 9 BACK COVER

A ir image s Tal k w ith Tor s ten Kemper

D ar ian P ar ker

[dar ianp.tumbl r.com]

Edmar Júnior

4

[air imagestalk.blogspot.com]


CREDITS Alice Malseed Bettina John Charlie Ashwell Darian Parker Eleanor Sikor ski Flor a Wellesley Wesley Gustavo Murillo Jack Davies Jamie Leme Jamila Johnson-Small Jasmine Maddock Joelle Green Louise Mochia Manuel Vason Mar tha Pasakopoulou Mira Beatrix P h o eb e C ol l ings-Jame s R i c h a r d Tr i s t Sarah Blanc Tim Casson

5


Re ader’s le t ter

A reaction to

The Virgin’s Release take note because even if they are full of clichés and drivel they make bloody good (at times) and popular viewing.

“Yes we all know feminism is a dirty word” - this statement made by Vanessa Bartlett in The Virgin’s Release (BELLYFLOP Virginity Issue) is exactly the reason why so many of her arguments in this article fail to fully convince. It is the ver y lack of discussion on the topic of feminism outside of the realms of academia, which leaves me thoroughly unsatisfied with pieces of writing such as this. Had she felt more comfortable to discuss such topics with fellow art-minded friends, I would hope that her vague, ‘liberal lefty’ opinions would not have made it to print. Instead she could have provided a more considered reaction to feminist performance, which I am sure she is more than capable of.

Bartlett continues by referencing the work of female artist Carolee Schneemann. A character who has been strangely appropriated as an example of 70s right on gor y, gritty feminism largely because of a work entitled Interior Scroll . The image of Schneemann pulling the scroll out of her vagina is ver y powerful but not nearly as interesting as the debate caused by my favourite work of hers, the film Fuses . She shagged (as Bartlett so delicately likes to phrase it) her then partner, composer Jim Tenney in a self shot film that also featured a cat and several scenes of a sea shore. Schneemann lies back and gets fucked, she was ostracised for it by many of her hardened feminist contemporaries and we seem to be following suit today. In conversation with Carl Hey ward in Art Papers (1993) she speaks about the film and its action.

Firstly it is far too easy to scoff at those who watch Sex and the City or indulge in ITV’s adaptation of The Belle De Jour. Need us not forget the 60s condemnation of the housewife by feminists that left women divided instead of united. And it is this ver y kind of snobbism against female popular culture that has left many feeling alienated by their desire to have families, love men or shave their legs versus what they conceive to be feminist. In fact by looking at such programmes we can perhaps understand with greater insight the role feminism needs to play today. We must

“I have a body that is not conflicted about its pleasure. It’s not about ‘control’ submission can be ecstatic, fluid, melting into the power of the penis, enfolded, penetrated, merged in motion” Carolee Schneemann.

6


sexual explorations turn sinister.

Bartlett raises some interesting points but by denying the full realm of female sexual desire. Which includes domination, submission and access to darker taboos. We will never move for ward.

In no way do I have all of the answers, this is merely a reaction to a piece of writing that got me fired up. And for that I commend her. But what I really yearn for is to hear a new debate that fully recognises what has come before us and where men, women and feminism stand today.

The Two Wrongies sounds like my idea of a positively hellish performance. Although without having seen it I will reser ve full judgement. I will say this, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being fucked in the arse, being called a filthy whore or any of the other such cries wailed by the two performers. These statements in and of themselves are not anti-feminist. To deny female engagement in this kind of taboo role-play is once again, to deny women access to the full scope of sexual pleasure as equal to a man. If we look at an extreme flip side to this, for example a man who enjoys having a woman wedge a 7 inch heel into his ball sack (evidence of such fetishes can be found easily on most popular porn sites) could be seen to be just as degrading.

I would suggest Bartlett and others like her may benefit from watching a little more porn and girly dramas. Not because they would like them, largely it is offensively boring trash, but to understand why a large majority of people do. Feminism cannot grow nor can it be understood through elitist snobber y. Many feminist concerns are issues that effect both men and women of all classes and races. United we stand divided we fall. An idealism to hold onto now more than ever.

Phoebe Collings-James

There are obviously definite human, feminist and moral rights issues to be considered in relation to porn. And without question my last few comments on sexual freeness become slightly more serious when money changes hands and seemingly free

7


8


9


HIP-POP Yo u d o n’t g e t m u c h m o r e p o p t h a n P i n e a p p l e D a n c e S t u d i o s . Tw o hundred classes a week, 3,500 members, 40 different varieties of dance st yles and a realit y T V programme to boot. Their mission statement is to break down the elitist barriers surrounding dance, and the statistics would suggest that they are. A contempor a r y d a n c e r, w h o o f t e n d w e l l s d e e p w i t h i n t h e e l i t e , b a r r i e r r i d d e n dance wor ld, goe s to take a beginner s’ Hip Pop cl as s to find out what all the fuss is about.

10


I spend my hour at Pineapple Studios cramming. Cramming myself into the tight corridors of the building, cramming my feet into trainers, cramming my long legs into a tiny studio bursting with people and cramming an alien, complex and muscle-mixing dance routine into my boggled brain. Hip Pop for beginners. I am certainly a beginner. I watch Dax, the teacher, in awe whilst trying not to be distracted by the people in the corridors with their faces pressed up against the glass windows of the studio. I blinker myself to only look at him so that some of what he is showing us (he moves like water which has an electric current running through it) is translated onto my rag-doll of a body. Dax is sweet and warm, which is a relief as I feared my lack of cool would be coldly met. We do a clumsy warm up, learn a routine and then dance it to music – over and over until we’ve got it and can start to enjoy it. I get the coordination into my body in time to do only one decent run of it. I secretly feel like a champion. It is very odd, as a professional dancer, to feel lost in a dance studio. The studio is supposed to be my stomping ground. My territory. My space to dance! But here it is not about me. I have paid to steal someone else’s line. I learn the line, feel it out and then have fun shouting it to music. In truth, every dance class in which you learn movement straight from a teacher is like this. Pineapple is just quite blunt about it. And in a Hip Pop class I am learning the sounds of words I don’t know the meaning of. Oh, if only I was multilingual. Eleanor Sikorski

11


WWW . BELLYFLOPMAG . COM

12


Interview

rajni shah

After a decade of making Live and Installation Art, Rajni Shah decided to make a musical. It’s titled Glorious and is the third in a trilogy dealing with cultural identity, following Dinner with America from 2008 and 2005 performance installation Mr Quiver. The musical is to appear at SPILL Festival coming up soon at the Barbican, London. TEXT Alice Malseed Can you tell me a little about your performance and creative history? I have this idea that a lot of artists get into performance art by accident; often they once wanted to be fine artists but weren’t that good at painting, or film makers but couldn’t be bothered with all the techy stuff, or actors but didn’t like working with a director. How did you decide to make performance art? I didn’t go to art school or anything like that, so in a way I do fit in with the theory of performance artists being failed people, but thankfully I figured out that I wasn’t going to be any good at art school or theatre school before I went, so I can’t tell you about that. I spent some time working with David Glass and he said this thing which is that the best artists aren’t teaching in schools, they’re making their own work. This really made sense to me at the time, so I did workshops with companies whose work I loved, and just started making work as a way of finding out what I wanted to do… I don’t think I ‘decided’ to be a performance artist. In the end it was the live art sector that recognised and supported my work, so that’s kind of what determined my path. In the UK, it definitely feels like my work doesn’t fit the criteria of ‘dance’ or ‘theatre’ - it’s not perfect enough, and not fictional enough. I often actually meet actors who don’t know what performance art is, what it looks like, or how it’s made. How do you find your work relates to the theatre world?

walls to bounce off, you’re contending with a different setup. I’m really interested in what is acceptable to people when you label it a certain way - what makes people angry is often the fact that they’ve come to see something with a completely wrong expectation. For this reason, I loved Marina Abramovic’s introduction to her Manchester International Festival piece in 2009. She worked with the audience to prepare their minds to receive these very slow and sparse pieces of work. It really helped me as it’s the kind of work I would often hurry through at a festival, but I really sat with it and stayed through, and loved it and allowed it to breathe in a way I never would have otherwise. Your new work you’ve chosen to label a musical. On first glance, I tend to shun the musical, a snobbery born out of arrogance and a Goldsmiths education. How do you feel about musicals and how do you think your audience will perceive Glorious? How will the audience perceive it? Your guess is as good as mine. After our preview at Nottdance, someone launched an official complaint, stating that what they had seen was neither dance nor a musical! In relation to what I was just saying, I’m not sure what different audience members might be bringing into the room. Some might be focused on it being a musical, or it being live art, or socially engaged. My hope is that whatever they’re bringing; they will get swept up in the beauty of the music and the talking. As for the musical in general, I think it’s a beautiful form. Unfortunately, there are a lot of terrible musicals out there - and a lot of people cringe when they hear the word - but I’ve found that a lot of hardcore live art people actually love the the form.

I don’t think it’s that different, except that I’m not interested in depicting fictional characters as real people. I love theatre and I love going to the theatre. For me, there’s a distinction between things I watch, but it’s not really about the art form - it’s more about presence; if there’s a certain level of presence in the room, anything can grip me, even So what is it you hope to do through bringing Live Art into plays! Depending on whether you call a piece an installa- a traditional theatre setting? tion, a play, dance, or live art, the audience come into the space with different expectations - so you’ve got different A lot of Live Art is really quite complex emotionally, and

13


RAJNI SHAH

exploring very emotive topics, but we’re not often given the space to really feel emotions as an audience. There’s something about sitting in the dark in a traditional theatrical set up that really permits us to feel emotions. I think that’s what I’d most like - that Glorious allows audiences to really feel and express emotions in the safety of the dark auditorium and that those emotions are triggered by the fact that they’re hearing people speak about really everyday things, things that in some ways don’t matter but at the same time matter so much. For me, this show is about the fact that people are amazing and that whatever else is going to hell in our world, we have each other and that’s an incredible resource, if we’d only listen and pay attention to each other. There you go, it sounds trite, but that’s it. And why did you choose to work with music?

ing in. First, we’re engaging with musicians and performers, and since some of these people will never have experienced performing in a theatre it’s important they feel comfortable and also confident in then being part of the team that is hosting the audience to come in and experience the show. We’ve built a real community of people around the show - people who have helped fund it, and have helped us make it in various ways - so I’m aware as well that there are members of the audience who feel invested in the piece, and care about it or have expectations about it in that way - and that they too need to feel an ownership of the event in some way. I always think of making a piece of theatre as hosting an event - like a party - we’re inviting these people in and wanting them to feel nourished and have a good time and some good conversation. When they leave I want them to feel that they were cared for during the event.

It’s hard to actually put into words why I wanted to work with music, because it’s a language that takes you to a place so different from words. Music lifts the soul and really transports us, it is such a powerful medium, and of course connects with all the rhythms within our own bodies, so it can really get inside us - we can’t avoid really feeling our emotions when we hear music. It’s also about going beyond the individual, there’s something about what music allows in terms of a shared experience that feels important. When I recently saw Food Court by Back to Back Theatre/The Necks, this combination of music and visuals was super powerful. The piece has music building throughout it, and at the end of it I just broke down in tears. It had got inside me. What is it like collaborating with composers for the first time? Ben and Max Ringham are incredible to work with. Partly because they too never went to art school! They’re very open minded, and were really excited by this idea that the musicians who play the music in Glorious will be different each time we do it. Which means that we’ve spent years working together making this music and these lyrics, and now we have to let that all go and let other people look at it with fresh eyes and interpret it in their own way. It’s quite a tall order for a composer, but they’re real collaborators on the piece, and just like the rest of us, they have to keep finding the piece anew and letting go of how they thought it might look and sound. Related to what you said about Live Art not giving space for the audience to feel or share the emotion, my peers and I often talk about Live Artists being selfish artists, artists who make work for themselves. I know you’ve already kind of answered this, but what do you say about your own work in general, do you make it for your audience or for yourself? I think it’s kind of a false question in a way. Because both things have to be true. I couldn’t put a piece of work out there that didn’t begin with a personal journey but also at its heart consider its audience. Glorious is a little more complex, because there are layers of people we’re invit-

Glorious is on at Barbican Theatre, as part of SPILL Festival 19-21 April 2011.

14


TEXT Tim Casson

Contemporary dance like everybody’s watching The Music Video has always been crucial to how an artist is promoted; we don’t only buy into their sound, but also their image and even their lifestyle choices. It’s not just 3:26 minutes of moving wallpaper to show off Cheryl’s new hair - more than any other art form, music videos are about the now, the current and the contemporary. It makes sense for contemporary dance to be featured, even if it is less socially applicable than other dance styles (it’s unlikely we’ll see Bonachela’s moves on Croydon’s dance floors). We have come a long way since Kate Bush’s impassioned flapping in Wuthering Heights and recent approaches to contemporary dance in Pop have demonstrated how it can be used to add mystery, edginess, and style, as well as developing an appreciation for the art form. In the last decade, Kylie Minogue has led the way in combining contemporary dance with popular culture, and it is interesting to look at how the dancers in her videos are used. Kylie’s videos show the dancers as inhabitants of her world; an army of Lycra, lamé and Perspex clad drones ‘locked into’ the uniformity of the choreography. In Love at First Sight, the dancers are in the background, in other rooms even. They are lower status beings, and rightly so, it isn’t their video. At times the choreography - or rather the staging of it - makes the dancers look like flailing sycophants or bored robots while Kylie merely poses and looks amazing. She is elevated to a godlike level. She is the Princess of Pop™. With Kylie proving how well contemporary dance worked for her, the desire for artists to interpret their songs through movement has been rekindled. Although it sometimes becomes an embarrassing interpretative melodrama, it can pay off. In her video for Did it Again, Shakira shows us that she can clearly dance. Sure, it’s over the top, but it’s not your average pop routine. More recently, artists as diverse as Cheryl Cole, Editors and Adele have put contemporary dance in the foreground of their videos, playing on the public’s perception of the style as beautiful, mysterious, impenetrable and odd. As a marketing tool the use of a dance style that is not easily classifiable in the public’s consciousness can be an instant way to raise an artist’s creative profile - to make them look ‘edgy’. Some in the dance world are worried about whether all of this is a true reflection or a misrepresentation of what contemporary dance really is, but surely the more important question is: Does it matter? I love these videos and I’m supportive of anybody who ‘has a bash’ at dancing - whatever the result. Sure, some of it’s terrible – but even when sycophantically flaily, naffly interpretative or robotically classical, contemporary dance has been integrated into popular culture through these videos. Contemporary dance is eclectic, constantly evolving and as the boundaries blur between different dance styles, it can only mean more of it will be appearing on the small screens (by which I mean YouTube these days). It’s unlikely that the average Cheryl Cole fan will be mimicking the dancers who perform in her 3 Words video at their school disco, but consciously or not people are not only being exposed to a broader range of dance styles, they are also gaining an appreciation for them, and isn’t that what it’s all about?

15


16


GUSTAVO MURILLO Macrotelevision 17


GUSTAVO MURILLO

18


GUSTAVO MURILLO

19


GUSTAVO MURILLO

www.gustavomurillophoto.com - upcoming exhibition: Miscelanea Gallery, Barcelona, June - July 2011

20


Intellectual Wannabe - Knowing it all in the Internet age

TEXT Charlie Ashwell The world at large seems to be undergoing a kind of monumental excavation at the moment. I can’t tell if my decreased interest in E4 and verging compulsion for BBC News 24 is the sign of an early-twenties head slowly widening its vision and pricking up its ears or if there’s just more stuff happening nowadays. The thing is, Stuff’s been happening for years; I’ve just been engrossed in pastimes which, in light of recent events, feel at best, niche, and at worst, downright ridiculous. Perhaps I’m hard on myself; I suppose omniscience is quite ambitious after all; and underestimate at your peril the fundamentally blinkered linearity of life and essential total ignorance of humankind. However, that didn’t stop God having a go. Seduced by media sources left, right and centre and feeling acutely the somewhat glib but very alive notion that history is being written before my eyes, I scramble for information over ignorance. I scramble through emails; I scramble for the remote to watch the news in the morning. And on the seventh day, I scrambled my copy of the Observer, and had it on toast for a bit of variety. It’s true what they say; the more you learn, the more you realise you don’t know. Luckily, there’s Google. I say luckily. It just arrived, the Internet, didn’t it? No one really saw it coming. Suddenly it’s possible to know anything and everything about anything and everything. Ignorance is now a notable enemy, muck on the shoe of the wellgroomed woman about town. Ah, clumsy old ignorance; the stuff of childhood and Sarah Palin. Or people with finite capacities of communication, at least. Yes, the Internet’s rapidly raging snowball of knowledge and speed is well and truly in our gaffs. However, with everything so at-the-touch-of-abutton, there seems something ignoble about knowing just for the sake of knowing; knowing just to know that you know that I know. Periodically reading up on things worldly and political, just

to quieten the conscience, smacks of a distinctly middle class indulgence. Sadly, ignorance, not total ignorance, but a half-heartedly remedied ignorance is both my pet hate and my own chronic habit. I see the pictures on news 24, but I don’t know what it’s like. I hear what they’re telling me, but I’m not listening. I didn’t really scramble my newspaper for breakfast, although I definitely didn’t read it all. Is it enough just to know a little bit, to show we’ve made the effort? Which are the bits we should definitely know and the bits it’s okay to let slide? It’s funny how priorities change. I remember when the Internet was invented, the first thing I typed into the search engine was ‘horses’. Today, I have Krishnan Guru Murthy’s every well-informed whim at my fingertips, tweeting at me all day like a kind of politicised, tech-happy budgie. Maybe it’s just vanity to worry about all this knowing and notknowing. In any case, each piece of information that reaches us is selected, censored and packaged into neat little consumerist pellets. To start worrying about being partially informed in a fundamentally half-hidden environment would be like a goldfish worrying that it only has a 3-second memory. The odds are against us. And yet this isn’t about knowledge really. Or cleverness. This isn’t about sounding like you know what you’re talking about because I definitely don’t. Never mind Charlie Sheen. Never mind Julian Assange. Never mind Krishnan Guru Murthy or Stephen Fry and his team of clever men. Never mind rhetoric, never mind scandal, never mind sensation and never mind censorship. Modern media filters and it magnifies. It is everywhere; loud, proud and on our tongues. In the wake of the biggest humanitarian disaster of our generation, and Japan’s recent torment, who could deny the value of awareness? Not I.

21


Quite silly

Pop Star

Rhymes

POEM Jasmine Maddock 22 IMAGE Air images Talk


Billy Joel In a Begging Bowl All full of holes I’m not bowled Over. Hair is coal He should be On the Dole With a face Like a mole. Mick Jagger Is a beer blagger Appeared on Saga Gives Jerry daggers Tight pants, a nagger A bum bum waggler Hearsay Go away don’t come Again another day As sick and cheap as Milk Tray Put them on a one way Road to Pop history Mandalay Stupid swaying can’t we slay? Elton John Thumpy piano hair gone Plumpy faced as Simon Le Bon Not sci-fi like film Tron Or as electric as a Positron Weighs a great deal a ton Silly glasses spangles upon Steps Are Schweppes All Peps But no TESSAS How they wept When a flea crept Onto their hair swept Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera Spear of Destiny with no quiff Spare us Britney Spears Even after a few beers Her thrusting gyrate rears What a pair of lovely dears With talent in copious arrears Christina Aguilera rhymed clearer All her make up costs dearer Frizz and glitz spoilt and teen bearer Without a mike you probably can’t hear her Atomic Kitten Three little mangy Scouse bitten Have lost their common mittens It’s cover versions with few originals written With thin hair and no talent typical Britain 23


Interview

Anat Eisenberg

24


From Turkish real estate to Western digital culture and audience participation shenanigans, Berlin-based choreographer and performer Anat Eisenberg has a finger in a lot of interesting pies. This is her talking to BELLYFLOP about them.

TEXT Louise Mochia You just arrived in Berlin today?

object, allowing people to use it and enjoy it.

Yes.

And you’re the tour guides?

Where from?

Yeah, we’re the assistants mediating between the ‘real world’ – the real estate market – and the art world represented by the audience. We’re there to be the agents, in a way, inviting people to take part in this high standard of living for a few hours.

Paris. But I was in England before that – in Nottingham, at the Nottdance Festival. Did you present work there?

Interesting. I watched two of your other works: A provocation pure and simple and The big jump on Vimeo. In both of those you also seem to mediate between different worlds. But let’s first talk about A provocation pure and simple. Can you explain what it is?

Yes, I presented a work called Life & Strive which I’d done earlier in Istanbul with Mirko Winkel, who I’m collaborating with. Mirko is a visual artist and we went to the SODA programme together.

A provocation pure and simple is a solo for Saga Sigurdardottir, an Icelandic performer and choreographer. What’s on stage is an imitation of a film set; there’s a big green screen, film lights, wind and smoke machines, a buffet and two other women who alternate between managing the set and being extras. The work consists of a series of vignettes generated from sources of digital material – for example, film or YouTube videos – referencing and examining iconic images.

The SODA programme? It’s a new dance centre in Berlin within the university of arts. I finished my MA there a year and a half ago. I’m surprised - I thought you studied in Holland? Yeah, that’s where I did my BA. Aha, okay. And what was it you did in Istanbul?

In terms of recognising these references, I felt that a kind of guessing game was quickly established between myself and the work. Do you think there’s a potential for the work to get kind of lost in this activity with its audience?

Life & Strive , a performance where audiences were taken to the most prestigious gated community of high-rise apartments located in the city centre of Istanbul. The only way for the audiences to get into the building was for them to present themselves as potential buyers of one of these luxur y apartments. In Nottingham we presented the follow up: we took an out of function showroom and presented it as an art

Well, the music is from Lynch’s film Lost Highway and it almost becomes too obvious to some people-

25


26


A n at Ei senber g

-so you mean there’s not much of a game really, that it’s too easy?

that makes us react and I do this through mainstream digital media, within the frame of live performance.

It’s not that it’s easy, and I don’t expect my audience to recognise all the references – I’m not saying: ‘Okay, recognise this image’, but more: ‘I want to put you in a familiar zone’. That doesn’t mean that ever yone should stand up and say: ‘Well, that was Lost Highway ’, but people are generally in a position where they kind of recognise it because they’re part of this culture.

How important is it to you that your task is clear to the audience? In my work – and in Life & Strive it’s even more apparent – the starting point is most of the time the spectating and I think when I created Provocation and, for sure, The Big Jump , my question was: ‘Do you and I see and talk about the same thing?’. People have different tastes and experiences and, as they leave the theatre, different opinions circulate the room. But I do tr y to refer to shared experiences as much as possible, be it through real estate or digital media.

I guess that’s dependent on where in the world you show the work. But yes, I see what you mean. What interested you about the green screen? The idea of substitution – I was interested in how, on a green screen, ever ything is made for another medium, and in questioning the value of it.

Watching The Big Jump, I felt very acknowledged as an audience. The narrative had me think about the big expectations we have as spectators.

The value for me was in how it really triggered my imagination.

Yeah, to give you another example, I recently presented a work called Republic at CONTEX T-Festival in Berlin and the theme was Schlechte Angewohnheiten , which means bad habits, and in dance, one of the greatest habits is talking about audience expectation. So in Republic the audience arrive at Hau 2, but while waiting in the lobby to enter the theatre it’s explained to them that Republic takes place in the lobby, that it’s a film shoot of an audience in a theatre, and that it will take forty-five minutes. There’s a director and two cameras and four ver y simple scenes to be shot. The audience can stand, talk, take a drink from the bar, go to the toilets, put their coat in the cloakroom or obser ve other audience members. So, basically, the audience in the lobby is invited to play ‘an audience in a lobby’ – and they’re asked to look at it as a performative object.

I’m happy to hear that. Still, it’s really different live to what you see in the video – there are small things like the performer’s relationship with the audience that you can’t see. She sometimes does this cheeky grin that sort of rewrites the situation and makes it clear that it’s her and you in the space, which is, of course, different to the audience being able to press ‘pause’ or ‘play’. In the theatre, nobody’s going to close the curtain, nobody’s going to press ‘pause’. Well, they can, but they would have to leave the theatre if they wanted to switch the performance off. Yeah, actually it would be interesting to see people leave with the same frequency that they ‘open’ a new tab. There’s so much management of material online but, of course, with live art, it’s a different stor y.

And how was Republic received? Were people entertained as they expected to be or were they disappointed?

Something the character in A provocation pure and simple said was that she was afraid of ‘not feeling anything’, and that came up in The Big Jump too. Is that a genuine concern of yours? In your work, are you pointing out to us that we’re becoming emotionally numb?

For some people it was definitely a disappointment, for others it was an opportunity to either play or obser ve the situation. It must have been an interesting experiment though. During the research we would switch on the spotlights, just to see how people would react, and it would be so interesting because people wouldn’t notice them.It’s like nothing can change the lobby because it’s the lobby, whereas inside the theatre there’s this concentration. It’s the moment the audience came not to do but to watch.

It’s a really good question, but I think my concern – or where my desire lies – is more in the idea of emotions being products of manipulation. So it’s not that the question is, ‘can I produce real or pure emotions?’; it’s more about how emotions are produced, what the techniques are. You’re referring to...?

True, that’s quite an inherent behaviour - with good reason I guess; different things happen in different places and the mind remembers that. But it’s interesting to be made aware of.

The wrapping of things, composition and ingredients. Digital media is completely different to live media. Take, for example, post-production fades and wipes. This is partly what makes us react emotionally. So, in Provocation I’m tr ying to understand what it is in live art

Watch A provocation pure and simple and The big

jump on Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/user1300845

27


Nietzsche

and popular culture P op is n ’ t t h e ep h emeral c u lt u ral e x perie n c e yo u t h i n k it to be , it ’ s a refle c tio n of o u r deepest moral a n d politi c al v al u es

Art work Darian Parker TEX T Richard Trist Pop culture is a rather difficult term to define, at first you might think that the Pop part of a culture is that which is most popular or has the broadest reach over society; however this appears to be begging the question e.g. a certain aspect of a culture is popular by virtue of the fact that it is popular. If we take the paradigm of British culture and ask what are the most universal and general parts of our culture then we end up with general statics like toast, driving licences, going to school, and getting married. The whole attempt at a definition gets even more general and pointless if we were to try and understand the whole of Western popular culture. Personally I don’t believe this description is what we really mean when we describe Pop culture, speaking for myself I tend to conceptualise pop though the literal metaphor of a fizzy drink. The contents of which provide immediate effervescence with much animation and energy; however this effect does not last. What was once visibly bursting with vitality now has all the charisma and allure of a cold cup of tea. Not to fear though, the forces behind Pop culture are on hand with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of carbon dioxide with which to reanimate the now sparking beverage. The drink itself is generally aimed at younger generations however the manufactures know that once hooked they are likely to remain loyal customers for life. Drinks come in a variety of different flavours but all contain the same basic formula, bright colours + lots of fizz + lots of sugar =

more pop sold. Older generations generally refrain from such drinks, considering themselves to have rather more discerning pallets; don’t be fooled, had they been born 30 years later they would be quaffing pints of the stuff.

Enough of the metaphors. It seems that our conception of popular is located in aspects of the world that have material presence, objects, persons, music, consumables if you will, however if we understand popular to include the values of a culture then we have a rather different picture. If we take a fairly standard moral concept for example ‘stealing is wrong’ and ask if the majority of the population would agree, then we would find that they would. And their support for such a value would be far more general and unanimous that any one individual or product that might peculate the general consciousness. For Nietzsche popular culture is the values held by the society. But where have these values come from? “Christianity!”, Nietzsche would growl behind a formidable set of whiskers, “It has made you into slaves, turned life against life, you are strangers to yourselves”. Perhaps I should quantify this bold statement; Nietzsche believes that Christianity was invented so that the weak

28


29


NIETZSCHE AND POPULAR CULTURE

could triumph over the strong by making them just as weak as they were. The strong, Nietzsche thinks, are those who go out and affirm their drives. Our most instinctive and primal drives (according to Nietzsche) is that of aggression and the will to dominate others, these drives are however supressed by Christianity. Such drives are supressed not through any prudential motive e.g. that I shall be punished if I take anything I want. Rather that Christianity has moralised our very psychology, to the extent that we believe our drives to be ‘wrong’ or ‘evil’. Have you ever wondered why lying is considered so wrong? Even as a child the values of the culture has made its indelible imprint upon the values you hold most dear. The moralising of our drives has also lead us to assign the term ‘good’ to those actions or intentions that Christianity demands of its followers, ‘blessed are the meek’. This doctrine began because those early Christians (being rather low on the Roman Empire’s social strata) were unable to affirm their desire to dominate and so told themselves that what was ‘good’ in God’s eyes was to be as they were; powerless and unable to assert their will. This contrast became even more evident when they compared themselves to the strong that were able to affirm their will immediately and without hesitation. The weak gave them the statues of evil by contrast to themselves. Thus we become pathologically incapable of affirming our true drives, which results in us becoming sick individuals, detached from our true selves. Can you blame the eagle for eating the lamb? Can you ask that the eagle become like the lamb any more that you might ask a lamb to become an eagle? No, such is their nature.

More metaphors... apologies. Now, what has all this got to do with a secular popular culture such as the one we live in? Well I suppose if we look at the values our society holds to be evidently good, we find a rather basic conception of Christianity. Take democracy for example; we have assigned everyone the right to vote, but on what grounds? That everyone is equal? But if we are being honest with ourselves Nietzsche would claim that our drives say otherwise, secretly we care only for ourselves and our own will to power. And if you truly don’t have such drives then you must be the lamb and so by attempting to convince those eagles not to eat your kin, you are only doing what those Christians did two thousand years ago. Trying to make the strong weak. Nearly all social and political movements from Marxism to Feminism and back to Libertarianism all maintain the basic premise that we are all equal. You may well argue that this is just and fair, that you truly believe that one person should not walk up to another and take what they have by force. But where does this assumption come from? What or who has proclaimed this to be a truth. Certainly peoples across the globe lived for thousands of years doing

just that to other villages and tribes, why then should we now conceive of it as morally wrong? Nietzsche once proclaimed ‘God is Dead’, though what he meant was the metaphysics of God was dead. We no longer believe in heaven and hell, but morality behind God endures. Our popular culture maintains this idea not only through political systems but also though what we might call Pop culture. The fact that anyone is capable of becoming a starlet in our media goes some way to proving that. Whilst once upon a time ago, some degree of natural talent might have been required before our culture rewards someone with their own television show. Now it would be a discrimination, a terrible injustice, to prevent ordinary people from reaping the rewards previously denied to them, purely on the basis that they (though no fault of their own) were born with no recognisable talents. However that is not to say that such gains are ill gotten, how many times does the B-list celebrity claim to have ‘worked really hard on their image’ or that they deserve their fame and fortune? And the audience of this popular movement no doubt believe their position has been earned and as such have an indelible right to the profits procured. We even elect our chosen stars (how egalitarian is that?) through the plethora of phone-in competitions, where we the people may elect one of our own to the podium, all the while championing the democracy of being able to select your own popular culture. But wait a minute! What about all that camel and needle stuff? This Pop culture is nothing but the perennial circus of wealth, self-infatuation and designer labels and no one seems bothered by it, in fact the whole thing increases exponentially year by year. How can this have any basis in Christianity? Well Nietzsche has an answer for that too: “There was only one true Christian and he died on the cross”. It seems that if JC had lived a little longer he would have realised that people are just not capable of living in such a way. So on that note I could say that yes this Pop culture is driven by money, vanity and sex but what underlines all those values is still the basic concept of equality. Nietzsche does not believe in the popular as it results in mediocrity and degeneration, a common 19th century obsession. What he did believe in was the genius. He was forever writing lists of people whom he thought to be true geniuses; Beethoven always made it, as did Napoleon and Goethe. Wagner was on the list sometimes and sometimes off the list, Nietzsche was always on the list. But what would you expect from a man who entitled his works Why I am so clever, Why I am so wise and Why I write such good books – no really. So far I have spoken only of what might be understood of as the Pop in culture, however Nietzsche’s polemic attack extends much further than the back page of hello! magazine. Even in the late 19th Century he loathed newspapers believing them to be plebeian and suitable only for the common herd mentality. In short Nietzsche was a snob, but not in a typical 30


NIETZSCHE AND POPULAR CULTURE

manner. Anything that falls under the conventional banner of good and evil, right and wrong are for him nothing but the regurgitation of Christian values. So now the other end of what some might consider to be the cultural spectrum has also been polluted by such values. Those who would scoff at Pop culture are only the other side of the coin. Art galleries devoted to the aestheticism of man, classical music that praises our subservience to God, dialectic theatre performances, community art programs, dance workshops that promote reciprocity, all of them are life against life. Such drives that promote humanism, education and compassion are the low level drives. They are designed to sustain life only at the level of self-preservation. The values you hold are only dear to you because like the Christian you cannot affirm your own drives. Thus all of our culture from hi to low from Pop culture to sub culture is nothing but the sum of zeros. But why should we believe any of this, it’s just a theory, there are plenty of other theories that suggest otherwise. Indeed most contemporary political theorists would claim that Nietzsche is wrong and that the values behind democracy are verifiable and may be claimed and upheld by those who wish them. What Nietzsche calls for is the revaluation of all values and by showing us the begging of morality he desires to show us the end of morality. I shall make no attempt to hide the rhetoric that Nietzsche uses; in parts it is a greatly distasteful philosophy that bore out its terrible and notorious conclusion during the first half of 20th Century. It may interest you to know that Nietzsche claimed to be the only one to have gone beyond nihilism and become capable of creating new values, but I don’t believe so, he went mad and died in a psychiatric hospital at the age of fifty five. Whatever your values may be, you still need them to affirm life, even if this makes you sick. And who after all was Nietzsche to say what each individual needs. I hope this has not turned into lecture; I only wanted to make the point that the apparent divisions between popular culture and plain old ordinar y culture may not be as extreme as we might have supposed.

31


manuel vason featuring Rhiannon Faith O’Brien

www . m a n u e l vaso n . co m

32


MANUEL VASON

33


MANUEL VASON

34


MANUEL VASON

35


Interview

Liz Lerman Liz Lerman talks about dancing with scientists, dishing out ipads Busby Berkeley-st y le, pioneering realit y T V, w h y i t ’s g r e a t t o b e a n o l d m u m and how Mar tha Graham went commercial. text Flora Wellesley Wesley Friday 11th March, NY - London, 17.30 EST I want to ask you about what you think is popular in the context of performance and where you are. I would star t with this idea of hiking the horizontal. It’s not like high ar t-low ar t or concer t and community. You think of them as hierarchical, but when you flip things on their side you see the range of possibilities is just so much more interesting for an ar tist. I don’t have to be judgemental about something that someone might think is shi-daddle and that I find just incredibly delightful, useful and functional. If I think of it as low ar t then that’s ridiculous – I can’t have access to it. I worked for a while with a ver y wonder ful, ver y, ver y old modern dancer. She has danced with [Mar y] Wigman and she was really one of these grand dames of Modern Dance. I remember we were having a conversation about the concer t we were about to do and she wanted me to talk about a costume idea I’d had. I said: ‘Well, you know, you could do this thing and you could put sequins on it’. It was a bird or something. And she said: ‘Oh no, no, no – NO sequins in this concer t. There’s only good music.’ It’s such a great little anecdote of the dilemma of high ar t-low ar t. She had to deny herself access to some sparkly things because they wouldn’t go with her more classical form. I take quite a bit of delight in borrowing from whatever I can as long as I feel like I’ve made sense of it for myself or see a gateway for someone into the material. I think there are a lot of ar tists like that. Leonard Bernstein, for example, who I did a whole project about, absolutely valued pop. In the piece I even used hooves, or something stupid like that, to tr y to convey this sense of the ridiculous and how beautiful you could make it. I’m a fan of borrowing across so-called dimensions of culture.

36


37


LIZ LERMAN

It’s really difficult to define terms like ‘pop’ because they are general terms. They’re used to simplify things, but actually culture is so complex. In postmodern culture we’re always appropriating. It’s a kind of currency. Lots of things resonate beyond what they originally were. That’s why I always thought that Bernstein was one of the first post-modernists because he did that despite how much he was put down for it. I found that inspiring in my own work. In the UK you have a whole sense about community-based work that gets ghettoized. In my work which related to the community I’ve often thought that I presaged reality shows. We [Liz Lerman Dance Exchange] went into communities, we listened to stories, we made dances based on what we heard or we borrowed, we did research. Sometimes in our work the ver y people whose stories they were, were on stage with us, whether they were professional or not. Although at the time I didn’t think of it as ‘pop’ I cer tainly later began to see that it was a form of a reality show. The difference is that in a reality show ever ybody’s manipulated in order to suppor t whatever the producers think. That wasn’t our goal. It wasn’t to manipulate people and their stories but to make a connection between them and their neighbours as a way to bring people in. I don’t know if you define that as pop, but I think it’s interesting to think of it in that way. I suppose some distinction here is that pop is culturally specific. There’s a popular culture for people who watch the same T V channels or all the people who live in a particular region or live in New York. I remember your anecdote about reviewers in New York and quite how developed and remarkable the hierarchy is there. That’s an example of the high end and how inward looking it can be. That’s actually right. The question is the distinction between what’s popular and what is contemporar y that becomes popular. This may be a peculiarly American phenomenon, but I’ve been doing work with scientists lately and one of the things I’ve noticed is that when a scientist become popular he loses his currency with his peers. Karl Saigon, for example, became extremely popular and suddenly the scientific community didn’t think he was such a good scientist anymore. I think we have that dilemma too. You become less trustwor thy in your profession if you become too popular. And that’s ver y peculiar, isn’t it? I think that it proposes a dilemma, a sor t of psychological dilemma, for ar tists; we yearn for popularity or to be understood and yet we are honoured for our obscurity. I think the younger generations are breaking through this beautifully by using online stuff. I think that it’s proving to be a great, not equaliser, but a great way for popularity to come with some real authenticity. I love it. I think

it’s really exciting to see. But I think people of my generation struggle with this a lot. The question about popularity and professionalism, I don’t think you guys have quite the concern about it that my generation did. Yes, but pioneers in contemporar y dance really have been trail-blazers. There wasn’t a system in place in terms of career trajector y that made it obvious what their route was going to be. Not that we’re not going to be jumping from plank to plank these days, but it’s more common for people to have a portfolio career now and to be prepared for that. There are lots of avenues down which dance artists coming out of institutions can go. Whereas I suppose with your generation it was all about car ving it out for yourselves. Is that right? Yes, I think so, but there was also this extreme discomfor t. I remember once Mar tha Graham got asked to do a photo shoot for a commercial for fancy fur. There was a series of adver tisements. She was so condemned for doing that. People were so angr y at her – like she had somehow brought herself down – commercialised herself. I think she probably got enough money from that to run the company for a year, but she really paid a price for it. Now I don’t think anyone would have a problem if somebody got an ad campaign with Gap or something like that. People would say ‘good for them’. It’s the high ar t-low ar t stuff that I do think has broken down somewhat. Your question has prompted me to think about the work that I’ve done that has a historical bent; how I have drawn from popular forms of the past and brought them into the present in some ver y, ver y par ticular way and that has been really delightful. There was a piece we did about the 1904 World’s Fair and I found one of the first silent films of the stuff that was happening on the Midway. It was of a dancer who did these little dances with chairs in her teeth. She twirled with a chair balancing in her mouth. I loved it and we did an exact replica of it. We just built our chairs out of Styrofoam (her’s weren’t, hers were the real thing). It was just so liberating to draw on that kind of thing. I know many choreographers do that, but it’s useful to think about drawing on the popular. There are just so many ways to do it, but the historical one has been a delight for me; I’ve done that a lot. We’re using it now. There’s this big project we’re doing now called The Matter of Origins . Act One is in the theatre and Act Two is tea. The audience comes and sits at tables and there’s a scientist at ever y table. They get a chocolate cake made by a woman who ser ved the scientists at Las Allemos; the actual cake recipe from the 1940s. We then deliver ipads to the tables with a kind of Busby Berkeley routine, which is again the use of the popular. This Busby Berkeley thing is ridiculous: ser vers come in and they have little ipads on their hands and deliver them as if they’re like plates to the table. It’s really, really fun. 38


LIZ LERMAN

I’m just wondering about your relationship with what is contemporar y and how you engage. On many different levels – spiritually, even, or in terms of being informed politically – it’s a huge question. First of all being an old mother; I had my daughter when I was for ty. So that helps a lot . She teaches me ever ything. I have a big curiosity and it’s just nice to have teachers of different ages. In the company there’s a constant flow of youthful energy and ideas, but the company ranges from people in their twenties into their seventies. The notion of who’s learning from whom is quite beautiful and it sets up an expectation that a young person has something to teach and old person. This helps me, of course, stay present. But then there are plenty of things that I don’t engage in that young people engage in, but I have a deep admiration for all that they do. But it’s not just about young people. I’m curious in the way that you relate to the world. In our work we do so much of what we call transdomain work with dance and science, dance and religion, dance and… you know – so many interesting situations where dance is the bridge, the key component of exchange, the nature of why we’re there. It’s not about the dancing, it’s often about this other stuff. That, of course, keeps you deeply in touch with things that are going on. In this tearoom I was just telling you about there’s a co-host who’s a physicist and who’s different each time. We had our new guest physicist in the room with us today and he’s a quantum physicist. He explained what he does for his work that will help us set up how we’re going to run the tearoom. We are getting the most up to date information, but it’s going to be translated through an ar t-based structure. We’re ultimately going to know that we know through incorporating it back into what we’re doing, and that’s pretty fun.

like that word ‘genius’ – does it actually exist? I think I’m a little suspect of that idea right now because I’m a little distressed by the role of celebrity in the United States. The way in which, for example, a journalist might become a celebrity and that might contribute to a notion of the zeitgeist. That’s problematic for me because I’m not convinced of the goals behind the evolution of the idea. One thing that has been curious to me is the work with the scientific community. When scientists began to sequence the genome, they were noticing the selforganising systems and networks within the biology of the body. This is happening at the same time as computers are taking over the world; another form of networking. There’s that kind of zeitgeist. It’s not clear whether the metaphor is driving it or whether there’s an awareness that these shifts are happening. You can see them in the context of say a network: that our bodies are networks, that the universe is a network, that organisations are better if they’re networks as opposed to top-down hierarchies. Is that a zeitgeist? I don’t know. But you see those moments in histor y and, of course, we’re in one right now. I think my book is even an example. I think the whole horizontal nature of the world is a kind of network. That appeals to me as a way of thinking, but when I think about the zeitgeist necessarily – for example, forming what’s in and what’s out – that’s a little problematic for me. I’m not sure I like it – the idea of something that’s in and something that’s out. I’d rather just stretch the horizontal really long so nothing’s ever in or out, it’s just stretched.

Also, if you stretch it and rather than it being vertical it’s horizontal, it seems like there’s more possibility that it would go in a circle. I saw a title of a book about the way we communicate these days. The title was The world is flat. How we do experience the world? We see it as flat but in fact we know it is round. It’s talking in terms of So you feel that processing it through a medium, metaphor. an art form, is part of your way of processing. I Well we joke about that all the time. We say if you hate to reduce it to a process! take the edges and put them together – make a But it’s true. I didn’t realise how much I leaned on circle out of it – then what had appeared to be at those many, many processes until writing this book opposite ends are actually next door neighbours. which has just came out. I refer a lot to the rehearsal And it’s ver y often like that. space as the space for sor ting and recombining and rethinking. Not just because I am making a Yeah! dance but because these years are being laundered through all these ways that we work together. So in Ver y often. the end, it’s not like I can recount to you necessarily what quantum physics is (although I can because he Fantastic. just told me), but it’s more like a different kind of comprehension to just reading the facts. It’s pretty danceexchange.org Lerman’s book Hiking the Horizontal: Field Notes from a power ful. Choreographer is available to buy on Amazon.

What does the ‘zeitgeist’ mean to you? Is it a bit 39


All you ever need to know When it comes to pop it’s easy to feel out of the loop. Celebrity gossip, pop charts, fashion – how is one supposed to know what’s what about town and who’s who in all of those red topped, earth-shatteringly-lame headlines? YOU ARE! How? BLAG IT! Fool the world that you know exactly what’s going on. Don’t join the debate – start it! Where to start? Contemporary Dance. It’s not quite Cheryl Cole’s date, but people will be impressed none the less. Here you will find everything you need to know. Who’s who in the dance world and what to say about them (just in case someone asks).

TEXT & IMAGES Eleanor Sikorski

40


Martha Graham (1894 – 1991) The bearer of all artists’ angst. Stamps and contractions; bejewelled head pieces, swooping skirts and plenty of eyeliner. > The conversation: Did she start it all? Merce Cunningham (1919 – 2009) The King. Maybe we got bored of his work but, hell, he was an artist. No angst, just shapes. Cunningham and John Cage – the IT couple. > The conversation: Was he laughing all the way? Judson Church (1960s &70s) They were not only radical then, they somehow still are. > The conversation: Nostalgia Yvonne Rainer Trio A. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what it was. It was not even always a trio. Just always mention Trio A. > The conversation: Trio A Trisha Brown She walked on walls and danced on roofs. You don’t get much better that that. >The conversation: No, I don’t think she walked on water. But she might have. Contact Improvisation The marmite effect. Love it? Hate it? Two or more people improvising movement in contact with each other. It had a bit more of a socio-political drive to its creation than marmite did. > The conversation: Physics or chemistry? Richard Alston Fun in the 80s. He has kept on skipping through to today. Classical music all the way. No one sees the fun anymore. > The conversation: What is jazz dance anyway? Michael Clark The bad boy of ballet. Bare bums and rock music. He found the spot, hit the spot, kept hitting the spot, kept hitting it for a bit too long. > The conversation: A studio the size of a power station? Rambert As boring and as demanding on government funds as the nation’s school curriculum. > The conversation: Yawn.

41


ALL YOU EVER NEED TO KNOW

Wayne McGregor Picked a random name for his company and it stuck. Oops. Hot pants and lumbar arches. > The conversation: Nice crotch! Matthew Bourne Ballet turned contemporary turned west end musical which features in another film which itself turned into a west end musical. Confusing and infectious – a bit like a cold because it happens every Christmas when you least want it. > The conversation: Oooh, put your feathers away! Jasmin Vardimon People, props and drops. Kitchen sink drama on acid. > The conversation: Ouch, my knees hurt just to look at that. Akram Khan Celebrity collaboration dealer. Don’t mention the word ‘fusion’. > The conversation: Akram Khan for James Bond!

42


ALL YOU EVER NEED TO KNOW

Hofesh Shechter As cool as. The boy from Israel who got onto British TV without having to change his tune. > The conversation: Should he now just change his tune? Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion How playing hard to get, gets you places. ‘You see those two witty, bald men with paunches? Bring them to me now. They are all I ever want or need. Oh damn, too late. They just left for Europe.’ > The conversation: Do we want their formula or do we want them? Europe It’s cooler than Britain. > The conversation: ‘Have you been to Berlin? I’ve just been. I love it there. I felt so at home! You HAVE to go.’ Pina Bausch (1940-2009) Burrows and Fargion said that if they could they would be making work like her. They said what we were all thinking. See through dresses, heart strings and falling earth. Even a sum-up is poetry. > The conversation: Pina 3D! Jérôme Bel Clever and cleverer. Out smarts us without losing our hearts. He has an answer to everything and we wait for it with bated breath. French. > The conversation: Lip synching post-Bel is like throwing paint post-Pollock. Don’t bother. Wim Vandekeybus Fearless, romantic, makes movies and finds it hard to go wrong. The conversation: Sex outdoors. Beach or forest? Les Ballets C de la B Crazy cats playing crazy cats going crazy. > The conversation: Contortionism. Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker Dance and rhythm rightfully glorified. Dancers and musicians rightfully showcased. Choreographer consequently adored. > The conversation: Is that a photo of Anne? God, for minute I could have sworn it was Pina. Ohad Naharin Just off the map of Europe into Israel. Just off the scale of cool into super cool. Dancing, awe, sex and celebrity status. He invented Gaga before the lady did. > The conversation: Would you?

43


Interview

Nigel Charnock Notorious for making outlandish statements through his work, Nigel Charnock (who aged a little since this photo was taken) is dance’s premier Drama Queen. Talking to him was always going to be interesting. Whether it is solo, group, improvised or set pieces, there is always a sense of an insatiable appetite behind Charnock’s work, but I wanted to know what makes him tick and what he has to say about the current dance scene.

text Sarah Blanc Have you ever felt in or out of fashion? The dance world is strange. The whole art world is strange. I don’t feel I was ever really picked up, but I co-founded DV8 and that company is very successful and when people hear my name they probably won’t have seen anything, but they think of DV8. I think with other independent choreographers you do go in and out of fashion. Critics particularly like young, up and coming ‘emerging’ choreographers, which they will adopt and love like Akram Khan and, at the moment, Hofesh. they’re like the golden boys and it’s never women, funnily enough. Do theatre critics come to see you? They come, yeah, but mostly abroad. I go to Italy and it’s fantastic because the Italian’s love life and they go to the theatre to enjoy themselves. They go and think, ‘oh, what’s this?’, and if they don’t like it they will boo. But they like what I do, as do the Germans, the Swedish, the Canadians, the Finnish. And the English? The English are particularly miserable bastards and they don’t like art or artists. We treat artists really badly, and that

goes for all kinds of artists. Dancers and choreographers are the lowest of the low. Dancers get paid the least and unless you’re ultra famous and on at the National Theatre then forget it. And the English critics specifically, what do they think about you? They really don’t like me or what I do because what I do is often humourous. If you’re funny it’s not art, and people can’t take you seriously. So when I do what I do and use pop songs, dance critics come to see it and if they particularly like it and if they laugh and the audience enjoy it and laugh, then you lose a star. Maybe two stars. If it’s serious, the audience keep quiet and it’s tragic or they don’t understand what the fuck is going on on stage, then you get an extra star. If you use pop songs and it’s nice, jolly and funny, then it’s bad and you get one star. So that’s what I do, I make upbeat, joyous, celebratory, funny work and I get one star. Newspapers shouldn’t send dance critics to see my work because dance critics should just review dance and I don’t really do dance. Well, I do, but it’s a certain kind of dance. How many stars do you get abroad then?

44


I get loads of stars.

Have you ever turned down a job because of restrictions?

So why are you still working here in the UK? (Laughing) Good point. Somebody still likes me… But I’ve really only got British commissions within the last two or three years and I’m now fifty. So they’ve certainly been biding their time. When I left DV8 that was it. I didn’t work in Britain at all. Nobody in Britain asked me to work so I went to Finland and was artistic director of a company there for five years. Then I came back to Britain and because it takes Britain a long time to wake up, it took another three or four years for them to actually realise I was here and still alive. It’s only in the past few years that people have actually been commissioning me here in Britain. So if they want to ask me to do something, they need to be quick because I’m going to retire soon. You said you don’t make work that is serious, but I think your work is quite serious. There is always that side to it that is really serious, but because I can’t resist the gag in something, I take all the seriousness out of it and that’s often what people remember. Maybe I’ve got it wrong and I’m underestimating British people and they do actually get it. I don’t really ever get feedback – even when I do post-show discussions people don’t really say what they thought. Can we talk about how you use music in your work? I really like songs and choreographing to songs because I come from a theatre background of words and texts. In the early days, when I did solos, I used to choreograph to just words. I would write a speech and then choreograph the movement to it and speak it as I was moving. For quite a few years I tried to meld words, movement and text together. I find the words of songs inspiring and they’re telling me what to do. When I choreograph to a song it’s often like I’m illustrating it and then abstracting, so it gets bigger and turns into dance. I tend to choose songs that are catchy and songs that other people will recognise. Lots of people listen to [pop] songs and I think it’s a bit of a relief when people go into a theatre and don’t really expect to get a pop song, it’s kind of a double thing of, ‘I know this song’, and, ‘oh they’re doing this to it and I’ve never seen this song explained to me in this way’. When working with different companies are you ever asked not to do something in particular? They get me in because they know the kind of thing they’re going to get, they never... well there were two companies, one was Dance Company of Wales and I was warned or asked not to have any nudity and not to have any swearing. If you look at all the work I’ve done there has never been any full frontal nudity, there may have been a pair of tits and a bum and apart from my solo work, which there is never much swearing in, there is only some [nudity]. And then the second instance was recently when I made a piece on Ludus Dance Company and it was for a certain age group of 8-12 year olds, that was a little bit of a restriction. 45

I did a job once for the ENO and it was the worst job I ever had. The conductor cut all the work I had done over six weeks because he was God. He arrived and saw what the dancers were doing and walked out saying: ‘I’m not going to conduct this opera, if they’re doing that on stage whilst this music is going on’. So everything was cut. Opera is a huge institution and there is a really strong hierarchy. The dancers and choreographer come really low down on the list below the director, conductor and producer. Apart from that, I’ve never done anything I didn’t want to do or been censored - I think people would like to, especially my solo work and improvisations. I saw Stupid Men at The Place last year. I don’t think there was any censoring there. (Laughing) No. No censoring there. That is one of the good things about improvisation that they don’t know what is going to happen so the theatre can’t ask you to ‘cut that bit’ as the piece doesn’t exist yet.


DOUBLE REVIEW

FRESHAIR 2011 TEXT Jamila Johnson-Small & Jack Davies IMAGES Jack Davies

Jack Davies FRESH AiR platform gave ten emerging artists the chance to present their work in the context of the mentoring and feedback provided by the Queen Mary university’s Air Project. Over the course of the evening an audience snaked its way through various locations, led and bolstered by the indefatigable, bewigged Director of Performance, Lois Weaver. From buttered nudity to self-stitching and blood-markings, we were treated to an evening of flagrant, disturbing and unrelenting experimentation: the body on full display, its vulnerability centre stage.

In Victoria Firth’s The butter piece the audience gathers round an elevated catwalk; a light-hearted Victoria humbly introduces her piece. She goes off stage and returns with a pack of Lurpak butter. She disrobes and delicately unfolds the pack of butter. She climbs onto the platform, negotiates the butter between her legs and slides the butter up and down the platform, performing careful turns at each end. Her watery eyes stare into space, her limbs slowly propelling her down the runway, perpetually birthing a buttery trail, her nudity signalling the ultimate anti-fashion show. After some time, muscles tiring and twitching, she jumps up, gives her trails the once-over and, seemingly satisfied with her output, exits stage right. A post-watershed alternative, perhaps, to the ‘make yourself an omelette’ lurpark ad currently gracing our TV screens.

First up was Luci Fiction’s Submerged, a macabre exploration of scary death and what it leaves in its wake. A deathly figure scrabbles through a pile of soil, finds a phial of liquid (poison, or life’s essence?), drinks it, fills the phial with soil and re-buries it. This process is repeated before she crawls into a large pile of soil and digs out her own burial, hard watching not least due to the discomfort shown as she attempts to keep her mouth soil-free. Whilst supposedly dead and buried, a square of light, wriggling like maggots, is projected onto her. “When the last tear falls”, a voice talks about the moment just after death. A young man’s voice tells of his father breaking the news of his mother’s death. Pain, a tear, then the void: A bleak finality without light or redemption; confusion and grief for the living. Not the most original depiction of a death-scene, but moving nonetheless, perhaps due more to the performer’s tolerance of soil than our consideration of the final moment.

A Bearded Bale stands at the lectern, describing an abandoned patch of urban land, known as the ‘bike cemetery’; I can’t be near, a Lecture performance outlines Bale’s concerns over the future of this sacred, ownerless no-man’sland, using it as a vehicle to pontificate on the city’s ‘deadeyed avatars’ and the generic, meaningless lives of the modern urbanite and their ‘moderate glasses of red wine’. Gradually the lecture descends into insanity, his deadpan delivery giving way to a splenetic barking matching the images and words pulsing from the frenetic video presentation. He leaves the room: “Ark Alkatrash. Wolf. Vanish. Wolf. Vanish”. He’s gone. Enough proselytising on territoriality and reclamation for one day it seems.

Claire Roberts’ The pearls worth digging for was one of the evening’s durational pieces. A girl sits on a chair, withdrawn and expressionless. The action on loop involves her dropping a ball onto the floor from her mouth, awkwardly gathering it up with her feet, attaching it to a piece of twine and then sewing it into her toes, leaving the balls bobbing gently between her feet. Too delicate to be considered self-harm, this body-adornment still evoked, in its binding, constraining rhythms a quiet yet disturbing search for meaning beyond the surface of the skin. One wonders if after two hours she found the pearls she was digging for.

Spike with Bleeding the Aid is a man sitting in overalls and goggles taking potatoes from a bucket and hacking at them with a knife, a process seemingly fraught with danger as his overalls are covered in blood stains. There’s a frightening energy to the vegetable destruction, peelings flying off in all directions, careering over the balcony onto the heads of those below, yet the whole thing manages to remain perversely comic. What’s so upset this carbohydrate hater? What revenge is this he wreaks upon the innocent staple of our nation?

46


47


FRESH AIR 2 0 1 1

Katy Baird’s Fruit, part ‘cooking’ demonstration, part booze-lubed sexual history, looked playfully, ironically at the way we label things, notably Fruit (good, useful labelling) and Sexuality (difficult, misleading labelling). Over the course of her presentation we learn some fruity-facts, how to mix the perfect whisky sour and how to get your rocks off whilst working as a kitchen porter in Sydney. If Keith Floyd was a horny Scottish lesbian, obsessed with fruit, his shows might have been a bit like this. Whether or not he would have had us declaring ‘I’m a heterosexual male who loves men’ will remain forever unanswered.

Victoria Firth mounted a block of Lurpak and slowly rode it, naked of course, across a table. Not so exciting as it sounds. What was great was watching the faces of the audience opposite me, slight frowns on their foreheads and noses slightly crinkled – disgust or concentration? There was Spike on the mezzanine crudely cutting up potatoes (and his hands) and flicking them down on to the people below. I did get a bit of a kick out of this, like being a naughty kid and flinging fish down from the top of a high building and on to unsuspecting passersby below. The smell of potato starch was quite strong. Next time I looked up there, Spike was naked. Surprisingly.

Hrafnhildur Benediktsdottir’s Preparation Decoration was a one-on-one conversation with the softly-spoken and disarmingly warm (but possibly chilly) Icelandic Hraf, whom we find sitting naked on a music stool, Christmas decorations stitched into her skin. It’s a good look, although perhaps liable to put granny off her turkey. She smiles, asks questions and invites discussion on the process that led to the chintzy human adornment or is perfectly willing to chitchat. Oddly, the tackiness of the decorations and the apparent painfulness of the process merely serve to elevate the beauty of the human body and I suspect most left the room having had a thoroughly pleasant encounter. ‘Why wait ‘til Christmas’ indeed.

Hello Jack Sparrow! Heavily bearded Robin Bale told macabre tales of the Olympic site and the modern condition, dark tales that highlighted the performativity of the lecture situation. Romanticising the urban wasteland. Kaity Baird gave the most sophisticated performance of the evening. It was a relief to see an idea explored rather than just acted out or presented through some abstracted symbolic means. Baird set up a cookery programme vibe and used it as a structure within which to drink a whiskey sour and tell us about her secret affair in Australia with a man. She got someone to tell her she was too feminine to be a lesbian. She told us facts about fruit and she freaked me out whilst smashing peanuts with a rolling pin and letting the bits fly everywhere because I have a nut allergy – health and safety warnings please! Fatal allergy! And I am not going to reveal anymore as I am not a fan of spoilers.

In Diagramer Riccardo Attanasio/actionentropy attaches duct tape to the floor and walls, attempting to correlate his body with the markings. His movements and breathing aspire to a zen-like precision; tightly controlled, determined to match the static graphics. The performance becoming a rolling, yogic journey around the room as he tries to balance line and limb. He’s fighting a losing battle; by the end he’s marking himself wildly, hopelessly in black paint, unable to adhere to his own coda. Duct tape becomes tourniquet, and drawing blood with a syringe he daubs blood dashes upon the wall, managing at last to leave his own authentic human mark upon a rigid, uncompromising world.

Other things happened. The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein turned herself into a chicken. Bizarre transformation as one of her assistants/ slaves/fellow performers sat at the side of the stage and ate fried chicken from a box (you know the box, that orange fried chicken box that can often be found at the back of London buses). Lots of it. I am surprised that she wasn’t sick. I loved that Holstein turned herself into a chicken, the other stuff I could take or leave, maybe leave. Someone who most certainly deserves a mention is the lecherous grey-haired man in the front row. Holstein got naked, stuck eggs up into her froufrou and then ‘laid’ them with impressive force, poured ketchup all over herself whilst screeching profanities in her screechy American accent (the smell of ketchup is gross!) and got her ‘slaves’ to parade her around the stage on their shoulders with her legs spread. Mr Lech waited, camera at the ready, for her bald vagina to appear directly in front of him snapping a moment before to get the perfect image. He zoomed in on her tits, on her pussy as she peed and all the while with this nasty little smile (aha! this is what’s called a leer) and red cheeks.

Jamila Johnson-Small The evening included several angst-filled/fuelled pieces. I remember that stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason. There is something revealing about it though, our desire as humans to test boundaries and fill our orifices with foreign objects – we do so when we are children (nuts up the nose, marbles in the mouth, cotton buds in the ear, amongst other things) and also, apparently, when we are Live Artists. Sometimes the childlike simplicity of some of the ideas is pleasing – stitching Christmas decorations to a naked body in springtime and looking like some kind of slightly tragic modern Mother Christmas. Hrafnhildur Benediktsdottir seemed bizarrely naïve sitting there with her wide blue eyes covered in the vulgar decorations.

I left with the smell of ketchup in my nostrils and the desire to kick this guy in the bollocks.

48


FRESH AIR 2 0 1 1

49


theme time! musicals A change to the usual Theme Time! format here’s a musical themed crossword. Once you have solved all the clues and figured out the little riddles you can hunt down words 1-20 in the wordsearch.

You can send your completed crossword in to jam@bellyflopmag.com and the first person to complete it correctly will win a prize! BOOM.

Across

Down

3. American TV series that has a musical episode (not Glee) [5]

1.The colour of Rain [6] 2. Surname of the writer whose book inspired Cabaret [9]

4. Who are the seven brides for? [8]

5. Sally Bowles suggests putting an ___ in it and calling it breakfast [3]

9. Springtime for which infamous Nazi? [6] 10. Musical about a certain kind of animal [4]

6. Actress who played thigh-slapping, gun-wielding tom-boy [8]

15. Re-telling of the Wizard of Oz starring Michael Jackson [3,3]

7. Name of the club in Cabaret [3,3]

18. Surname of cockney flower girl [9]

8. What surface is Dick Van Dyke drawing on when he meets the children in Mary Poppins [8]

19. Country that Madonna does not want to cry for her [9]

11. Little Shop of _______ [7]

21. Novel upon which the King and I is based [4,3,3,4]

12. Mr __________ - you can look right through him, walk right by him and never know he’s there [10]

25. Trashy musical film re-made in 2007 and starring John Travolta [9]

13. Who better wise-up? [5,5]

26. What’s at the window in Cabaret? [6]

14. What they’re on in Starlight Express

27. “Tell me about it ____” [4]

16. He’s a Superstar [5,6]

28. Worst musical [5,2,5]

17. Wonka [5]

31. Composers of the score for Cabaret, Kander and ___ [3]

20. Rocky’s outfit [4,5] 21. Actress whose singing was famously dubbed

32. Musical using the songs of a Swedish pop band [6,3]

22. American TV series that had a musical episode (also not Glee) [4,6]

33. Colour of the road you must follow [6]

23. Who is inside your mind? [7]

35. Guy in Priscilla Queen of the Desert [6]

24. It’s the word [6]

36. All That ____ [4]

29. Mary Poppins’ handy accessory [8] 30. What they do with their fingers in the opening scene of West Side Story [5] 34. Number of times he ran into her knife [3]

50


51


wordsearch B

P

T

H

E

W

I

Z

K

I

T

K

A

T

G

E

U

O

B

O

C

S

R

S

N

A

E

O

O

D

T

R

A

U

P

E

I

E

E

A

S

O

L

E

O

R

P

R

F

R

R

N

M

N

H

G

D

E

I

O

K

L

H

F

W

A

E

I

T

O

P

H

I

R

L

C

E

I

Y

H

V

T

Z

K

A

I

I

S

S

I

L

L

C

P

A

N

N

L

N

T

E

U

H

L

T

A

E

O

P

E

S

C

T

L

S

W

Y

E

T

T

Y

L

S

G

T

H

S

E

T

A

K

S

R

E

L

L

O

R

S

T

J

R

S

S

S

I

E

W

T

E

N

A

J

P

S

K

A

S

R

E

E

I

O

C

O

O

K

M

T

P

R

I

S

R

E

H

T

O

R

B

I

E

R

E

S

N

Y

D

O

R

I

S

D

A

Y

I

52


53


W W W . B E L LY F LO PM AG . CO M

54

The Pop Issue  

BELLYFLOP goes POP! Interviews with Rajni Shah, Nigel Charnock, Liz Lerman & Anat Eisenberg + Musical crossword + All you need to know about...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you