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BODY OF IDEAS


The body as an act of theatre. The body as home. The body as something separate. The body as a dilemma. The body as juxtaposition. The body as story. The body as an idea. The body as a point of inspiration. The body as an insult. The body as a system that fails. The body as a container. The body as an act of revolution. The body as an act of free will. The body as choreography. The body as disguise. The body as machine. The body as an act of movement.

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The body as creator. The body as an act of death. The body as an act of impossibility. The body as flesh. The body as dance. The body as disturbance. The body as an act of defiance. The body as a passage of time. The body as destruction. The body as construction. The body as an act of rebellion. The body as love. The body as disease. The body as flesh. The body as an idea.

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BODY OF IDEAS WAS A PROJECT DELIVERED AS PART OF THE ASSOCIATE ARTIST ROLE AT CRITICAL PATH. The idea of the role is to support the ecology of dance curators, whereby an artist proposes two years of activity — and with the support of Critical Path — delivers that program. Critical Path’s Associate Artist for 2015–2016 was dance theatre maker and educator Sam Chester. In the past decade Sam has worked tirelessly to support the performing arts with a passion for dance and activating creative space. First with Queen Street Studio and now ReadyMade Works which she founded in 2013 to nurture independent dance and movement practices in Sydney. She is currently Movement Coordinator, Acting and lecturer in Movement and Performance Making at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. As part of her Associate Artist role she travelled to London to UK’s national dance conference and Aerowaves in Barcelona. She created a video for Critical Path’s 10-year anniversary and also had a two-week residency focussing on four provocations: The Body as a Dilemma, The Body as a System that Fails, The Body as an Idea and The Body as an Act of Impossibility. In December 2016 Samantha curated and presented Body of Ideas which involved the above four provocations in a two-day lab and public forum called The Future Body. The Body of Ideas Lab also reached out and included an umbrella, week-long workshop with Anthony Hamilton. This publication aims to capture what happened in the two-day lab as well as providing an interview with Antony Hamilton. Supported with incredible photography by Lucy Parakhina, the lab involved four guest facilitators: Angela Goh, Tim Darbyshire, Frances Barbe and Lee Wilson and 14 collaborators from a wide variety of performing arts practices. This photo essay is a mediation on what it is to dance, make choreography and be alive in this flesh-and-bone thing we call The Body. All the writing is a mix of ideas that came out of the discussions with the participants from the lab. All text is attributed with the initials of the artist and is indexed at the back of the publication. It was made in the hope of inspiring thinking and dancing. 3

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CURATOR Sam Chester

In the end, curating the Body of Ideas lab was a reminder of the power of ideas, the need for people to come together in an act of curiosity and the absolute necessity of people dancing together. Perhaps as Marten Spangberg said: “The coming insurrection will not be semiotic but will grow and gain strength through proximities between bodies, between spirits, between dancers.� This is the value of the dancing body in all its capacity.

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The time for the dancing body is now. SC

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It was a time of choreography, where bodies in space, bodies in connection, bodies in understanding were paramount, were assembled‌ for a short while. SC

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THE BODY AS A DILEMMA

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I am less interested in ethical dilemmas, more a path of the dilemma. I am interested in the dilemma in a compositional way, to provide a set of choices that would also function as an organisation for choreography. In the beginning you could walk or run. AG

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Often it was the comfortable choice and the habitual choice and then I wondered if other people made those choices as well — or if that was just me, maybe it is the habitual choice — things that then create our identity that create patterns in life and in the world. It’s so much harder to make the uncomfortable choice or make a choreographic option that feels uncomfortable — there is just more to find out. AD

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It depends on what you value‌ Are you making a choice because you want to execute something because it’s about succeeding and getting something right? Or is it about making a choice that is about being interested in exploring and finding out something new? AD

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Relational choreographies — (Between bodies — between I, you, we, us, them, hers, his, theirs.) TD

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Something to contemplate: Would you rather be a leader or follower? Would you rather stick your nose up an elephants anus or kiss Donald trump on the nose? Would you rather be stuck at the bottom of a well or hung upside down from a tree by your ankles? Would you rather never go to the supermarket again or never catch public transport again? Would you rather support dog racing or eat meat? Would you rather be buried or cremated? Would you rather have no hair at all or the hairiest person in the world? Would you rather hit and kill a pedestrian or swerve and kill a passenger? Would you rather be deaf or blind? Would you rather dance or not dance? ALL

Answers: leader | Anus | Upside down | Supermarket | Eat meat | Cremated | Hairiest | Pedestrian | Deaf | Dance 2016 | BODY OF IDEAS

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We have a use-by date, that’s why we don’t want to look at older bodies. Once we see older bodes we understand that we are marching toward the grave. Time is the dilemma. AS

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How long can we maintain our liveness? MC

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The body is a system that we inherently trust. It’s all we have, all we are given. Our five senses are our compass, guiding us through the world. We accept what our body tells us, we let the patterns and habits that work, work‌ until the point at which we have any reason to believe otherwise. In my life there have been several points where my body has failed me in different ways, each shaping the way in which I understand the world and my own artistic practice. TG

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THE BODY AS A SYSTEM THAT FAILS

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Translation. Dialogue. Interpretation. Embodying. Boredom. Catch myself. If I stepped out, I would never have found it. Move through it. Interest myself. Are you kidding me? I don’t want to learn someone else’s script. We just did what we could remember. I am witnessing it in this room. It’s scarce. Sit with it. I don’t know. I don’t know. Let’s find out. You just have to keep doing. Then you are somewhere else. Then there is endless possibility. ALL

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Everyone stayed in a place of uncertainty about which way we should go and how it should be approached — it felt like something new. LW

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There is impossibility in attempting to recreate someone else’s choreography. To try to be ambitious and get through everything — it’s not going to go perfectly. Alone in the studio, it’s reflecting on the systems that are passed through my body — history of training — practicing systems. Why do it? It makes sense as a collective. But why do it alone? Apart from it being a process. TD, KS, TG

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Experiencing my body as a system that fails, you would watch it, turn away… stand up… turn away… do it. Then you would watch it again and go: “that’s not it.” Your memory and what you take in — it fails you. SR

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…the body is the repository of the consequences of our choices / it is something of a failed system when the extent of its reach no longer matches desire / it’s a dilemma that affects those we love as much as ourselves / it’s a dilemma because it takes courage to face it squarely, to reconcile it with our younger selves… for me at least. AS

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Allowing scope for failure or deliberately embedding failure in the work is an admission of the failures of performing — that it is impossible for things to be perfect every time. As a performer who has often failed in different ways while performing, I have wondered why we would create structures based on the implicit expectation that things will — or can be — perfect most or all of the time. RMC

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Rebellion is always an option. There are lots of ways to rebel. TD, AG

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THE BODY AS AN IDEA

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Hands are seeing… potential for asymmetry. Move out of habits. The feet are tasting. Sometimes I half-close my eyes, shoulder blades are ears… they will turn to hear. Brain in your belly. It’s some kind of processing plant… process what you see through the belly, process what you taste through the belly. Part of a whole. Let the mouth fall open… softly… receptivity. The body is a kingdom of nerves. FB

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The experiences are accumulating. FB

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Tune into the feelings of the flesh… space under the armpits… soften the knees… imagine the skin being peeled off… be curious. Dare to stand the insides of the body touching the air outside… be clay… be moved… find an image of great potential. FB

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Start. An image of the skull bone growing… the beautiful roundness… first into tiny horns, then into a branch, like antlers… First we change our presence and then the shape of our being. All of our senses awake… alive. As you keep exploring, grow the bones of the fingers… extend… like trees… like twigs. Contemplate the substance. What dance arises from this body? FB

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I can count nine holes on my body, plus the infinite amount of pores. • I would never choose to step across my body. • My body is not always a productive machine. • I wanted to understood more. • Isn’t this supposed to be about choreography? ALL

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It (the body) will not let me know all its secrets. My attention will only ever focus on what it has at hand. The body will look after the rest. I am sure of this. LG

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THE BODY AS AN ACT OF IMPOSSIBILITY

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Now is the time for a return to sincerity. AG

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Our bodies make it different. TI

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Change the space. Change the view. Get a different perspective. Then it becomes everywhere. LW

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SOME IDEAS FOR CHOREOGRAPHY Find somewhere to sit, be still and watch. • Steal from someone in the group. • Move with your ears as the main feature of the choreography. • Fly across the room. • Allow the barriers of your skin to dissolve and let the inside meet the outside. • Work yourself up to complete exhaustion. • Make yourself embarrassed. • Move your toes individually and do a toe dance. • Make someone laugh. • Submit. • Hold onto someone’s ankle. • Continue to move until you are physically restrained. • Change gender. • Go outside the room for a while. 85

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Sing opera whilst dancing a chicken dance. • Do a very beautiful movement sequence while speaking “I can’t.” • Play a song that everyone will know. • Hug everyone in the room. • Stand on one leg until you need to change legs. • Crawl backwards in a zigzag pattern. • Dance tango. • Spit in someone’s mouth. • Make your blood boil while serenading a fan. • Levitate to find that sense of suspension. • Answer all the questions. • Follow someone very closely. • Scream profanities for 5 minutes non-stop. • Move while revealing the internal space. • Be precise, each layer… each moment. Stay for as long as you can. ALL 2016 | BODY OF IDEAS

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I wonder how much as a group we trusted our bodies to do the physical action or task — how much we manufactured or performed the task. The body rather than the performative task. To really try — so that we were embodied. Rather than performed. In the attempt for the impossible to find something interesting. KS

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Now, contemplate what

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the journey made of you.

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FB


The future body. Communal choreography. Where the body is not singular, it is multiple. That it is not something done to us. We are active. Actioned. In its multiplicity. In its shared knowledge. It is lineage. It is abandonment. In its free will. In its ability to make change. SC

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Interview with Antony Hamilton Antony Hamilton is an Australian choreographer. He has created works for The Lyon Opera Ballet, Skanes Dansteater, Chunky Move, Australian Dance Theatre, Dancenorth, and Expressions. Major independent works include the internationally acclaimed Black Project 1 (2012), MEETING (2015), and NYX (2015) for the Melbourne Festival. For Black Project 1 & 2 and Keep Everything, Antony received a number of awards including the prestigious Helpmann Award for Best Choreography in a Dance or Physical Theatre Work. Antony was inaugural recipient of the Russell Page Fellowship in 2004, the Tanja Liedtke Fellowship in 2009, a Creative Australia Fellowship in 2012 and Sidney Myer Creative Fellowship in 2014. Sam Chester: I was wondering about how the provocation of the body as a system that fails spoke to you as a choreographer and maker, given the work that you make, why was it interesting? Anthony Hamilton: Quite a few reasons, firstly when working in dance and when you come from a history of dance training or if you look at the history of dance, it is working with a perceived notion of a body aiming for something other, something meta, something greater than itself — utopian somehow. Not always, but that theme does arise in the kind of stylised approach to the body as an art-form which is also working against a backdrop of an ageing body. A body that is constantly updating with new cells and at the same time is moving towards an inevitable demise. Further that this idea can be reflected in choreographic situations seems to be a prevailing image that occurs when you are watching performance. I think choreography (not all, you can’t speak so broadly but a lot of choreography) seeks to master things, so you have to look at the boundaries of what we might call the body to begin with — what are

we talking about when we talk about the body? Also when you talk about failure, the body as a system that fails, surely that must be in opposition to something? SC: Exactly, that is what makes it interesting in its opposites… so in its failure there is success, that all art making is about risk taking, which is about inevitable failure and inevitable success to some extent. AH: So that duality of ideas is, I suppose, intrinsic to the making of work… that there is a constant reflection as to what we determine as success or failure. The other thing that is an interesting idea is social indication of success or failure — so comparative ways of looking at it. If we are all aiming for a similar goal, if we are all aiming for this similar end-point, it gives you a comparative study when you are looking at groups, so we start to define failure by comparison. I find that interesting, especially work that involves ensemble, which is specifically interesting to me, for my work in the past has often been about group comparison. SC: Can you talk about the utopian vision of the body in relation to your work? AH: Well there is an inherent sinister quality to the idea of Utopia. It seems that to aim for perfection brings up so many dark ideologies as well, so whenever I have made work that seeks to create some perfection, it always comes with this tinge of darkness or threat to it! As well maybe a threat to difference, a threat to diversity in some way… the acceptance of error and failure. It’s pretty common in my work with ensembles nowadays that people are often doing similar things, or doing the same thing. It’s not often I draw out individual qualities in people and highlight the sense of individuality. I am always pushing for the collective and what the collective emits as an image. 2016 | BODY OF IDEAS

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SC: How does this idea of the group, speak to your work MEETING, which is a duet… well, a trio because it has percussion? AH: Well the percussion is all automated, computer-controlled so it is a duet. It’s not so closely related to the work that I make with ensemble. I make quite different work with ensembles compared to smaller works like this, and MEETING — at its foundation — started out as a technical exercise in making this specific choreographic form that I have been working with and showing its potential. That’s really what the basic premise was; to demonstrate all the complexity of this choreographic language that I have been working on — almost like a textbook of the form. But what kind of happened was it transformed, it became, viewing it from the outside, a little bit more like a dialogue between the biology of the body, the constructed environment and the machine world. And what comes through in the work is the difficulty of trying to locate what’s the critical driver of the work… is it the machine or is it the body? Which one is coming first, which one is in control, which one is driving? SC: It makes me think about ideas around the post-human conversation and that your work [MEETING] is sitting in this philosophical territory and that much of the Body of Ideas event is centred around the purpose of the artistic expressive body given the possibility of this relationship in the future… AH: Even further to that, another whole conversation which I find really fascinating about this area is the idea that all constructed dance — all art — is still very much based in ritual. It’s almost universal that ritual dances respond to — or somehow describe — the natural environment. They respond to the weather, the wind, the sunrise, the sunset, animals etc. In short, they respond to natural phenomena as it is perceived. In the current age, reflecting technology through expressive 95

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mediums must surely be part of our deeper primal instinct to respond to it in the same sort of ritualistic way. So you get these ritual dances like hip hop that are actually born as a reflection of our current natural environment — the constructed and technological environment. So we no longer look to the bear or the cat or the tree, we now look to the computer screen and the fast-forward and rewind of the video recorder as totemic edifices. I am really fascinated with the idea that we continually reflect the environment that is out there in ritual form, through dance. MEETING does that. SC: In terms of the brief of your workshop (which alongside the body as a system that fails, you are considering free will and determinism) could you talk to that? AH: Well I am forever curious about our perception of time, and I’m interested in the perceived notion that we are making decisions — we believe that we are choosing most things in our lives, but there is the great possibility that maybe we don’t — that on a neurological and synaptic level, the electrical impulses to act may indeed precede our perception of choosing to act. However the time-frame between the impulse and registering a conscious thought may be so minute, we feel we have some agency in our lives. We talked about that in the workshop, but we also talked about the idea of social structures and predetermined hierarchies — the idea that despite the desire to have a democratic situation in the room, we all come in with a great deal of existing social structuring, like the unspoken agreement that I will be guiding the workshop, rather than someone else taking over for example. These sorts of cooperation we take for granted. Preordained social set-ups contextualise a situation and create these limitations, raising questions about the idea of free will. We seem to have no choice but to try to cooperate and we mostly do so willingly. When people do not, they


tend to be quickly reigned into the governing system, or ostracised from those who can work together. It’s happening all the time, from the reading of traffic lights, to the negotiation of buying your morning coffee. So I don’t really have a position on one or the other, whether free will or determination are truths or which one is more convincing in a duality, but I am always fascinated by looking at what might be the more probable way of things. SC: I was thinking today about the idea of determinism and its relationship to choreography — it would suggest that all choreographic structure is pre-determined, which freaks me out because then the pursuit of innovation or original thinking is void… so yeah!! AH: Well you either accept the fact that you are a drone that is just going to see through the inevitable or someone who is going to guide it. But the problem is, that if are you going to guide it, and believe that you can, it’s an insurmountably huge responsibility that you cannot put anyone else in charge of. So you’d better be making really good, moral and ethical decisions all the time. However I don’t think that any one of us can honestly say that we do. So that’s where I feel that the idea of free will falls over a bit. You can look at it this way: a person who believes in free will often thinks, at least to some degree, that they are responsible for where they are when things are going well for them. But, if things are going badly, the same person might blame the weather, the broken down car, the person who jumped the queue in front of them so they missed the plane. When things are going badly, the free will advocate is less likely to believe they are guiding their own destiny. In relation to your comment on the pre-determined choreography, and the dread of nothing being innovative, I think that there is still new thinking and innovation. Even if it is pre-determined, it will still be a revelation when it happens, for the maker and the audience.

has been affected by written language and history. There was a time before it was possible to etch history into tablets or write it on paper, but once this happened, time became a more fixed linear concept. Prior to this, people’s perception of time was very different. Humans didn’t perceive a linear timeline. It’s a very recent occurrence (not recent but only a few thousand years old). SC: So would you suggest that is why live performance is so interesting? Because it is trying to blow apart time? AH: Yeah… well if you get thinking about it, it starts to allow you the space to reconsider those beliefs. For me art in general always helps to unpick that — it allows you space to consider other possibilities. When I make work, I certainly play with the use of time and try to reframe things in a performance in juxtaposition with the everyday pace of the world. I find that this has the effect of making audiences more alert and intrigued, because the everyday noise of the way the world operates is about the first thing I think about messing with in the work. SC: So in the last four days, what other tasks or other information has come up for you? AH: We have been doing a lot of improvisational games to do with visual and sonic information gathering… so reproduction of images, creating and replicating things and watching how they mutate. Watching how they change as they get passed down a line… so a lot of cyclic improvisation to watch how things are altered and what information gets carried and what gets left behind… how the body and mind edit to achieve the overarching arc. So that is some of the stuff we have been doing!

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COLLABORATORS GB — Geraldine Balcazar DB — Diane Busuttil MC — Matt Cornell JC — Julia Cotton

CURATOR SC — Sam Chester

FACILITATORS

AD — Amelia Ducker

FB — Frances Barbe

RF — Ryuichi Fujimura

TD — Tim Darbyshire

TG — Tim Green

AG — Angela Goh

LG — Leeke Griffin

LW — Lee Wilson

TI — Teresa Izzard JA — Julie-Anne Long RM — Rob McCredie SR — Shannon Ryan KS — Kate Sherman AS — Anthony Skuse

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You don’t have much time to fin but you have plenty of time to start. TD

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First published 2017 by Critical Path. The Drill, 1C New Beach Rd, Darling Point (Rushcutters Bay), NSW 2027 Australia. criticalpath.org.au Copyright 2017 Critical Path. Curator & Editor Sam Chester.: samanthachester.com.au Photography: lucyparakhina.com Design: righteye.com.au The text in Body of Ideas was curated from the Body of Ideas Lab and written expressly for this document. Copyright for individual text and images are retained by the authors — Copyright 2017 unless otherwise credited. All images are Copyright Lucy Parakhina. All rights reserved. BODY OF IDEAS Curator: Sam Chester. Facilitators: Lee Wilson, Tim Darbyshire, Angela Goh, Frances Barbe. Collaborators: Geraldine Balcazar, Diane Busuttil, Matt Cornell, Julia Cotton, Amelia Ducker, Ryuichi Fujimura, Tim Green, Leeke Griffin, Teresa Izzard, Julie -A   nne Long, Rob McCredie , Shannon Ryan, Kate Sherman and Anthony Skuse. CRITICAL PATH Director: Claire Hicks. Programme Manager: Bibi Serafim. General Manager: Dr Laura Osweiler. Critical Path respectfully acknowledges the Bidjigal and Gadigal people; the traditional custodians of the land where the organisation is based.

Body of Ideas Photo Essay  

Body of Ideas was a project delivered as part of the Associate Artist role at Critical Path. The idea of the role is to support the ecology...

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