Critical Dialogues Issue 10 No Body November 2018
A mannequin sits wrapped in a pink shawl. In the background a modified vacuum cleaner has a fake head attached to the end of its tube - 7Ways â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Photo Credit: Alex Wojcik
Content Critical Dialogues Issue 10 ............................................................................................. 1 Content .......................................................................................................................... 3 Introduction ...................................................................................................................4 Adelina Larsson ....................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined. Adelina Larsson Bio ................................................................................................ 4 The Choreography of Listening ...................................... Error! Bookmark not defined. Nadja Hjorton .........................................................................................................6 Nadja Hjorton Bio.................................................................................................12 Horizons in Flux .............................................................. Error! Bookmark not defined. Lz Dunn.................................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined. References .............................................................. Error! Bookmark not defined. Lz Dunn Bio ..........................................................................................................19 The No Body? ................................................................. Error! Bookmark not defined. Sarah Hoboult ......................................................................................................21 Sarah Hoboult Bio ................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined. Who Moves Who? .......................................................................................................26 Geumhyung Jeong .................................................. Error! Bookmark not defined. References .............................................................. Error! Bookmark not defined. Geumhyung Jeong Bio ......................................................................................... 38 How to Disappear ........................................................................................................38 VĂ˘nia Gala ............................................................................................................39 VĂ˘nia Gala Bio ......................................................................................................39
Introduction Adelina Larsson
No Body draws attention to practices that consider the politics of the absent body, the body’s status in the context of live performance and the dynamics of group behaviour, particularly under contemporary tensions. We attend to the invisible systems as central players of the performance. As the Associate Artist at Critical Path, I had the opportunity to participate in labs facilitated by two of the five choreographers writing for this Critical Dialogues: Sarah Hoboult and Geumhyung Jeong. Here, I absorbed an understanding of their research and choreographic inquiry, which, to me, highlighted and fundamentally challenged the function of the body as the performer. In doing so, the inquiry also questioned how the viewer is engaged and how we participate in the function of the experience in the performance. Swedish choreographer Nadja Hjorton talks about Teatern som ett Samlingsrum the theatre as a place of practicing togetherness, where we come together to listen, and reclaim the space from simply servicing the seeing and viewing. Vanai Gala reflects on the dedication to the idea of “being present” in late 20th century. She writes: ‘...dance has suffered destabilizations, opening the way to the critical potential of absence (and the non-human) in choreography.’ Even though the choreographers have never met each other, the inquiries and reflections shared on these pages speak directly to one another and converge upon distinct approaches to contemporary choreographic thinking though they begin from their highly varied starting points. I would like to thank our choreographers for their contribution to this Issue and for the extensive correspondence we have had in bringing this to print. I hope that one day, not too far away, we can all meet in the same physical space to practice and continue these productive and critical exchanges. Enjoy!
Ahil Ratnamohan and Adelina Larsson at Monsoon Bundanon Studio - Photo Credit: Matt Cornell
Adelina Larsson Bio
Adelina Larsson is a Swedish/Australian choreographer, curator, producer, performer and educator. She trained at DOCH, Stockholm and CODARTS, Rotterdam. Since moving to Australia in 2007 she has worked with artists like David Pledger (NYID), Yumi Umiumare, Rhiannon Newton, Trevor Jamieson and Bek Conroy and performed/choreographed for performing arts companies presenting at Melbourne Arts Festival, Sydney Opera House, The State Theatre Centre WA, PICA, The Lock Up, Newcastle and Fremantle Arts Centre. In 2014-2016 she lectured choreography and contemporary dance techniques for the Dance program and the Acting Course at Western Australian Academy for Performing Arts. In 2015 she became Associate Artist of Big hART Arts and Social Change Company working nationally on their projects. She is the founder and director of Strange Attractor Lab - a platform for choreographic research and currently Associate Artist at Critical Path where she curated CPâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Interchange Festival Political. She is now producing the CPâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Choreographic-Hack Lab_The Anthropocene presenting at the Museum of Arts and Applied Sciences as part of Sydney Festival 2019.
The Choreography of Listening Nadja Hjorton
Four dancers lie entangled on the floor - On air - Photo Credit: Märta Thisner
I run across the floor. I jump, roll and spin. Some classical music is playing, maybe “In the Hall of the Mountain King”. I flutter with my invisible butterfly wings and reach for the ceiling. I spin and spin and spin. Eventually I fall down in a heap on the floor and I lie there, catching my breath, letting the spinning wash over my body. Like waves. I have just turned five years old, the year is 1986 and our prime minister Olof Palme has just been murdered. I’ve always found the idea of listening to radio a bit romantic. Here I am, thinking about radio before television made its entry into our world and our living rooms, before smartphones and individual listening to podcasts. Not that I was around at that time, but in any case, I have this very clear image of a group of people gathering around a big radio apparatus. You know, that kind of radio as big as an armchair with a group of differently aged people surrounding it, sitting in uneven formations listening to the news, a call-in program or a concert. Practicing togetherness without even noticing it. Spaces for togetherness... where are they today? Places for uneven formations. Rooms for spending time and listening together. Can we think about the theatre as a place of practicing togetherness?
Nadja Hjorton speaks into a microphone, lit by a single lamp - Radio Dance - Photo Credit: Märta Thisner
Between 2011-2014 I was working with two pieces that were both dealing with listening and togetherness thought through the format of radio. The pieces are called Radio dance and On air. In 2011 I was finishing my masters degree in choreography in Stockholm and was quite busy with making a solo. I was occupied with figuring out how to make dances and at the same time questioning the use of the theatre room as a space of display. Having a history of working collectively and practicing different ways of making art with negotiable hierarchies, making a solo was a huge challenge for me. I started to record my own voice, so that someone would keep me company in the studio (that someone being my own amplified voice). After inviting some friends to rehearsal and spending time with them while they were listening to my voice I started to think about the actual activity of listening. And further on, the potential of listening together in a space built mainly for looking. With that in mind I started to work with radio equipment and began writing a script about my life. The solo is called Radio dance. It is a solo dance that uses the format of a famous Swedish radio show called Sommar i P1 where celebrities of Sweden talk about themselves for one hour and play music of their own choice. In the solo I have written a script about my life, using my history from the age of five years old and onwards. The focus is on my life story in relation to my dancing from the years of childhood to becoming an adult. Sweden’s, and to some extent the world’s, history is intertwined in the text and consequently reflects upon a society that is undergoing change. At the end of the program Isadora Duncan’s life appears and her dance history is put side by side with mine. In the script I go from being a romantic person with the 7
conviction that I can change the world to a more pragmatic and skeptical person who longs for something to believe in. The text itself is an attempt to problematize the undeniable fact that while some people are forced to relate to their histories, others, with privileges, can choose how to relate to their own. In the solo, most of the time I sit with my back towards the audience, emphasising the spectators experience as a group of people that spend time together. It was very important to call the piece Radiodance. It is a dance for sure, but it starts with me talking about dance and dance history for more than 20 minutes without moving any part of my body except my mouth. But exactly because the audience is invited to watch a dance, they’ll soon experience that the theatre space that in its structure is built for looking/seeing is now transformed into a space of listening together. In making Radio dance I thought about choreography in different ways: the choreography of the radio program, what you hear if you would only listen to the radio show, the composition of the text, the composition of the music, words, the way I use my voice. But I also thought about dancing. Not only as something I (after a while) do on stage in the solo, but also dancing as a personal sensation, a physical memory that could be brought back to the audience while experiencing the work.
Four people sit around a table in a clear inflated dome - On air - Photo Credit: Märta Thisner
The other piece I made in relation to radio was On air. A collaborative work that was made together with dancers and choreographers Halla Ólafsdóttir, Zoë Poluch, Jessyka Watson-Galbraith, set designer Chrisander Brun, sound designer Elize Arvefjord and dramaturge Caroline Åberg. On air continued the ideas, practices, and approaches that I had found interesting in the making of Radio dance: dealing with
radio as a format to explore the activity of listening together in a dance context. But since On air was a group piece, listening together also implied us four performers listening to each other while having long conversations throughout the process. These long conversations, we realized, were deeply connected with our dance practice. And our listening became a way of performing the piece. We started the process in January 2014, in a sauna outside of Stockholm where we recorded a conversation. The process then continued with a residency in PACT Zollverein in Germany, where we spent every day making one radio show. Dance and radio were explored as two parallel tracks, disconnected to each other and thought about as forming meaning or content in the eyes/ears of the spectator. We were working with layers and expressions that were pointing in many directions trying to create space for the spectatorsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; own interpretations. We were practicing presence and liveness and the device - the personal is political, thinking of our radio station as a confident friend, an unruly sibling or a pushy neighbour with all of its attendant meaning or meaninglessness. Meaningful or meaningless. In the performance we sit by a round table, in a big plastic bubble that covers half of the theatre space. The bubble is filled with radio equipment and plants. The first 40 minutes is an improvised conversation between the four of us. We have a score, a structure determined by time and music but the conversation itself is completely improvised. We talk about whatever we want, often about anecdotal daily life, things we read about, the meaning of life and death, aging... and so on. The only things we are not allowed to talk about is the situation we are in (the bubble we sit in, the theatre space, the city we perform in etc.) and art. This is in order to not fall into a meta situation where we talk about the piece itself. For the conversation we use different strategies - zoom in to details, ask follow-up questions to each other, make statements, think about the personal, bring up the macro and the micro perspective. The radio situation enhances the listening and, for us performing it, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s about finding rhythm, texture and dynamics, something we were practicing during endless conversations in our rehearsal process. In the second part of the performance we literally step out of our bubble and do a movement practice that we call the Fucksnake. We sometimes describe it as an ineffective eternity machine. The score is to move in unison, inefficiently and use listening as a strategy for moving. Words central to this practice are: initiation, effects, repercussion, sensation, capacity as one, get things going, dissolving, emerging, organic, group dynamics, inefficient movement, moving, listening, communal mechanics, and weight. What is interesting is how much the Fucksnake practice and our radio conversation have in common. That it is the same mechanism that leads the conversation that also makes us move. That the same words are central to the conversation as for the movement score.
Four dancers crawl with their heads between each other’s legs - On Air - Photo Credit: Märta Thisner
Four dancers inside a clear plastic dome - two of them stretch upward while the other two unzip the sides of the dome - On air - Photo Credit: Märta Thisner
So even if On air is a performance that moves through radio broadcasting, it at the same time moves through dancing and playing, even in the talking. It is important that we are four dancers that are broadcasting a radio show. Our knowledge as dancers makes the conversation how it is. It is also important that we are four feminists and four choreographers, again - the personal is political. On air is dancing as radio, radio as dance, radio as format, radio as scenography, choreography as radio as something that brings people together, and more than anything On air explores different ways of being together. Working with On air and Radio dance has made me start to see the potential of the theatre room again. The choreography of the listening together, accentuating this particular activity of the spectators. Thinking about dance pieces as those oldfashioned radio apparatus, something to gather around. And thinking the theatre room as full of potential where different perceptions of time can take place. A space for thinking and being together that is, at the end of the day, quite beautiful.
Four dancers laugh and smile as they sit in a row, one behind the other - On air - Photo Credit: MĂ¤rta Thisner
Four people stand naked inside a clear plastic dome - On air - Photo Credit: Märta Thisner
Nadja Hjorton Bio
Nadja Hjorton is a Swedish choreographer and dancer based in Stockholm. She did the MA program in Choreography at DOCH from 2010-2012. Nadja is interested in thinking choreography through different contexts, seeking to challenge norms and notions of what choreography and dance is and can be. Amongst her works you find Radio dance, On air and Medea - it is a classic and they have been presented at several venues and festivals around Europe. Nadja is part of the feminist collective ÖFA-kollektivet and creates work in the frame of the collective. ÖFA-kollektivet has been presented in several venues such as Imagetanz, Brut Institute in Vienna, Sommerszene in Salzburg, Nordwind in Berlin, Tweetakt in Utrecht, Uppsala City Theatre and National Theatre in Stockholm. Nadja also works collectively with Zoë Poluch, Stina Nyberg, Ólafsdóttir and Amanda Apetrea and together they constitute a group, SAMLINGEN, that is working with dance and choreography in Sweden, with a shared interest of dance history and history writing.
Horizons in Flux Lz Dunn
Two men walk holding cameras in tall grass with a city in the background - Aeon - Photo Credit: Bryony Jackson
This is about Aeon, a project I’ve been immersed in for the past few years. Aeon is a relational choreographic work made in collaboration with sound artist Lawrence English, dramaturge Lara Thoms and choreographer Shian Law. It has many facets that I could discuss here, however, what I have felt most compelled to write about are the deeper ontological considerations at its foundation that have been prominent in my reflections of the project as part of my broader practice and life. These are concerned not with a ‘choreography without the body’, but with the choreographic interplay between bodies that are simultaneously unfolding in response to elemental, environmental and social forces acting outside their perceived physical form and the physiological, psychological, emotional and spiritual shifts experienced inside. Artistically, Aeon is an attempt to activate encounters and shift perception; to foreground the emergent aesthetics and micro-politics of bodies organising and being organised. It’s been described as a convergence of silent walking meditation, a yoga class and a queer dance party. In each new site it occurs, it is implemented by a few touring artists and, importantly, a larger group of local artists who become allies and actants tasked with inflecting and supporting the experience for other participants. Aeon is situated outdoors in parks. Participants arrive at one of several starting points and are received by an artist-host who gives them a hand-held
speaker and a card containing a line of text. The texts draw on bird flocking facts, queer ecological theory and evolutionary questions. They are shared aloud by the group, which civilly and socially finds its speaking order. Aeon is participatory. Activated by a shared agreement to walk and to be unspeaking, there is otherwise no instruction given about what people should do. The utterances from the cards become hovering frames that may occasionally intersect with unfolding events to articulate a passing moment. The shape and direction of the flock is left to emerge while being supported and informed by collaborating performers whose presence becomes increasingly revealed over time. Along the way the speakers emit a sometimes harmonious and sometimes cacophonous sound score creating a sonic cloud that morphs with the shape of the travelling group. I’ve been asked what the title Aeon means to the work. I like how ambiguous an aeon is. It is a measure of some long, indefinite period, one that seems impossible to put an exact boundary around. The process of change is ongoing and incremental. Uncountable particles, actions, individuals, thoughts, interactions and moments collectivise to configure forms, lives, values, movements, species, extinctions, aeons. What instigates an evolution? There is a theory called, ‘from the ground up’ which proposes that bird flight evolved from small fast predators that ran on the ground. Perhaps one individual creature ran so fast that it undid its fixity to the earth. Was it chasing or being chased? What kind of momentum is needed for a being to completely reorient its relationship to the ground? To become the initiator of an entirely new way of being? For us Aeon became a site of registering the impact of the personal and the person within the larger schemas of the group and public world–a process through which to perceive micro transmissions and their amplified affects. Aeon emerged as an experiment of floating together two concurrent inquiries–bird flocking and queer ecology. The latter I have been drawn to as part of a deep-seated need to question and understand the enculturation of my own body and beliefs. And so, here I must also talk about Catholicism. This is uncomfortable for several reasons, not least because of the horrific abuse that has been brought to light in recent years. This has often been referred to as institutional abuse, which though true, can inadvertently dilute the reality that at every specific moment it occurred the abuse was enacted by and on an individual body.
Five people walk in tall grass holding hand-held speakers at dusk - Aeon - Photo Credit: Bryony Jackson
A woman runs in a park, carrying a megaphone - Aeon - Photo Credit: Dan Grant
I have not experienced such abuse. My own Catholic inheritances are not so malevolent and persist through my interest in epochal, grand themes. I went to Mass every Sunday and prayed everyday until I was 23. I came out at 24. I have been irrevocably shaped by the morality and practices of that faith in various ways. Apostatising is a difficult thing to do. It requires that you reorient yourself towards a new set of foundational principles, reject a core formational relationship and undo a lifetime of habits. Of obedience. Of guilt. Of certainty. Of prayer. Catholicism, like other religious traditions, is also a practice of communing–of regularly being among many bodies assembled to reflect on our guiding values, our individual and collective impact and our relationship to the world. The repercussions of my severance with Catholicism are iterated through much of my work. Queer ecology refers to an emergent range of practices that aims to disrupt dominant and institutionalised ideas around sexuality and nature. It invites us to reimagine evolutionary processes, ecological interactions, and environmental politics from a queer perspective. I have been especially interested in how these ways of thinking could advocate for living in uncertainty–embracing chaotic contradictory complexity and allowing ourselves to be many things at once. We are, things are, always more. We are Also. In exploring queer ecology Aeon proposes that, “Everything is natural. Nothing is normal.” One of the ways we addressed this in the work was through sound. Sound is also movement. It enters the body as a felt understanding. Sound waves created by the vibration of an object, cause the surrounding air to vibrate, which causes the human eardrum to vibrate, which the brain interprets as sound. The sound that compels Aeon’s journey is a concert of ambient, ‘natural’ sounds in the environment and ‘artificial’ sound inserted via hand-held speakers. The speakers are a reminder that there is no such thing as a natural, neutral soundscape. We hear the whole gamut of noise and attribute a hierarchy of value according to personal preference, edified over a lifetime of contextual listening and cultural encounter; walking, speaking and listening are instinctive and learned behaviours. Participants are invited to refrain from speaking throughout Aeon. Though silence can be devastating (the Catholic Church’s culture of silence is testament to that), it can also be deeply liberating. It can release us from the public pressure to describe or label and enable us to attune to our bodies’ other methods of interpreting intention, expressing desire, demonstrating allegiance, challenging paradigms and transmitting information. My initial training in interior design, also supports my interest in private and public interiorities. However, my practice really emerged through visual art and I now think of myself mostly as a mover. A desire for direct physical experience compels me and I’ve always understood myself most clearly when in motion. Movement–running, dancing, yoga asana, walking, climbing, the wind–simultaneously unfixes and relocates me. As for many people, the giving over of my body to movement activates a concurrent state of mental spaciousness that leaves me more receptive to the emergence of new ideas and possibilities.
Bodily intelligence is of course critical to the phenomenon of bird flocking, the dynamics of which have fascinated humans forever. Birds flock in many formations: messy clusters, neat ‘V’s for travelling, and most beguilingly as morphing clouds– thousands of individuals synchronised as a singular aerial organism. From our faraway, tellurian perspective they’ve become symbols of sublime unity and consensus. And up close? Amidst the chaos of beating wings and split-second manoeuvring? These uncanny aerial displays are the collective echo of each single body’s furious attempt at survival. It’s a predator evasion tactic. Every individual engages in this self-protective cooperation that sustains the whole.
Over the shoulder shot of hand holding a speaker and a card that reads ‘Everything is natural. Everything is normal.’ - Aeon - Photo Credit: Dan Grant
Scientific studies determine the movement of bird flocks to be based on three principles: separation, alignment and cohesion. Yet at any moment there is significant uncertainty for each bird about who to follow, where to go and how to respond. Aeon asks how flocking behaviours might relate to humans in this era when we are sensing ourselves under threat as a species. How do we encounter ourselves when we are in groups? How do we navigate our personal desires with collective responsibilities? What or who do we align ourselves with? What repels us? What might we perceive of ourselves only through witnessing our effect on another? Birds in Aeon are an invitation to consider our capacity beyond humanness. They are the animals we encounter more than any other. Tuning attention to birds opens an empathetic dimension where you become curious about their experience of place, what their lives entail alongside ours, what needs and desires we share, and what we can never assume to know about another’s experience.
Twenty-one people walk in different directions, holding cameras, in a field at dusk - Aeon - Photo Credit: Bryony Jackson
My partner says I craft experiences for people to hover in the spaces between– between what they see and feel, what they think and do, what they are told and what they reveal for themselves. This act of navigating the in-between spaces, the interior and exterior stimuli, is what impels Aeon–being in and of a body that is in constant relation and response. I’m curious about what it means for my body, any particular body, to be in any particular place. How does each of us fluctuate between feelings of belonging or exclusion–to land, to community, to built forms, to the familiar and the foreign, as matter and as spirit? For me, being outdoors heightens my sense of porosity and connectedness. On stepping outside we are exposed to whipping wind, falling rain, sodden earth, searing sun, crunching leaf litter, used condoms, aeroplanes overhead, neon sunsets, dog crap, people yelling at us, dog walkers ignoring us, strangers eyeing us, birds singing, birds swooping, birds shitting, other people carrying handheld speakers and passersby holding cameras up to our strange presence. We are exposed: to the elements; to distance; to the gaze of the world. Our horizon is in constant flux when we walk outside. Sometimes the world can feel very close and contained, then five minutes later the sky becomes massive and we glimpse our tiny earthbound selves as part of a cosmic limitlessness. For the collaborating artistic team Aeon has occurred over a period of significant personal change connected to a larger sociopolitical shift. Over the course of the project I’ve become a parent with my partner Paris, along with our donor, close friend, and Aeon collaborator Shian. Lawrence became father to a third child with his wife, and Lara gave birth to her first baby with her two partners. Each of us, in 18
different ways, has fallen into the intimate and epic experience of Homo sapiens species evolution. In September last year my parents flew a rainbow flag for the first time at their home in regional Queensland and my Catholic Mum wrote a Letter to the Editor of the local paper in support of marriage equality and her two queer children (of four kids). It was her contribution to a movement that saw same-sex marriage legalised in Australia just following Aeonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s last presentation in 2017.
People walk with their backs to the camera in a field at sunset - Aeon - Photo Credit: Bryony Jackson
References  Jagose, A. (2017, Oct 21). Liveworks 2017 Conversations - Annamarie Jagose and Lz Dunn. Retrieved from https://soundcloud.com/performancespace/liveworks-2017-conversations-lz-dunn  Sandilands, C. (n.d.) Queer Ecology. Retrieved from http://keywords.nyupress.org/environmentalstudies/essay/queer-ecology/  Johnson, A. (n.d.) How to Queer Ecology: One Goose at a Time. Retrieved from https://orionmagazine.org/article/how-to-queer-ecology-once-goose-at-a-time/
Lz Dunn Bio
Lz Dunn practices across movement, sound, participatory, site-responsive and choreographic processes to consider perception, interrelatedness, and interiorexterior experience. Lzâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s recent project, Aeon, was commissioned by Mobile States, produced by Performing Lines and developed across Australia. A listening movement through open spaces, it links concepts of queer ecology and bird flocking, is site-responsive to
public parks and engages local artists as co-performers. It was created in an interdisciplinary collaboration with Lawrence English, Shian Law and Lara Thoms. Aeon premiered for Arts House at Dance Massive 2017 and later toured to Liveworks Festival at Sydneyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Performance Space and Tura New Music Festival in Perth with PICA.
The No Body? Considerations from the Culture of the Non-Sighted World Sarah Hoboult
This article is also available in audio form on SoundCloud.
Two dancers face each other smiling, Sarah Hoboult stands between them - Workshop with Sarah Hoboult, Interchange Festival 2017 - Photo Credit: Matthew Syres
Imagine a life where words and touch are the only way to experience dance. Don’t close your eyes, but recall how words affect your intake of dance, or how you might use words to describe your dance. Don’t close your eyes to listen harder. Let’s open our ears. The blind and partially sighted community has historically not attended dance presentations. We are new audience. We experience bodies on multiple layers, and if there is silence, there is no body. If there is a music track accompanying the dance, there is just a music track. So we want dance that is visceral, and verbal. An awesome choreographic work would be one that is developed with sound and text in mind. Text to describe the world and set and expression, sound to convey the emotion, weight, direction, duration, for example. Touch could also be used in interesting ways, with audience consent (asking before doing, for someone who is blind). Our deeper experience of the world can not be found through a blindfold, but through an acknowledgement that there exists a whole non- sighted world, where sight is not prioritised.
Last year I brought together a small group of blind, partially sighted and non-blind performers, thanks to AusDance NSW. We sat on the floor of the dance studio and discussed at length the opposite ways of thinking that bridge the cultural gap between the sighted and non-sighted world when teaching dance. It was clear that we, in the non-sighted world, know much more about the sighted world, than people from the sighted world know about the culture of the non-sighted world. In my investigations of blindness and dance, which have thus far spanned across New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, England and America, the common message in learning dance is, please don’t grab our limbs, please let us touch the instructor. We are much more attuned to reading through touch than anyone who lives predominantly in the sighted world. Indeed, when I visited the Associacao Fernanda Bianchini in São Paulo, I wanted to know how my community best consumes and learns dance. It was clear that after basic verbal descriptions, everything was about the dancers touching the instructors. The Associacao Fernanda Bianchini is the only ballet school in the world for blind and partially sighted dancers. My experience of the body relates to my partial sight. I use screen readers, I use my iPhone, my cane and human assistance so I can travel the world. I have so many questions around the role of audio description, audio enhancement, hyperproximity, and other techniques in creating work. I enjoy watching performances that also embed these elements, because then I have equal access to art. I feel sad that I try to adapt to the sighted world, and all of it’s sight-based cultural protocols, to receive breadcrumbs in the consumption of art, and in daily life. Whether a workshop participant or audience or performer is blind or partially sighted, it doesn’t matter how much we can see, but whether our cultural protocols and processes of prioritising hearing and touch are valued. When I was in New York, and talking to both designers and blind/partially sighted artists, I found their conversation was also about how our experiences can inform innovative practice. The access barrier is access to information about the body that others can see technique, movement, quality, form, style, aesthetic, facial expression, gesture, posture and relationship to space. These are the elements that new forms of dance need to address. For me, proximity to the performance plays a huge part in whether there are really any bodies present to view and absorb. Sitting further away means that not even the breath is present as an indicator of body in dance. For me, as someone who understands the form of dance, dance is feeling.
A person walks with their back to the camera, running their hand across a wall of the Drill Hall Workshop with Sarah Hoboult, Interchange Festival 2017 - Photo Credit: Matthew Syres
For audience who are totally blind, it’s very rare to find someone who can ‘feel’ the performance, and it’s unfair to ask them to do this, which means the very existence of the body in dance is problematic unless strategies are in place to consciously address this. I remember consulting on the audio description of a dance production in New Zealand many years ago. I’ve heard many audio describers since stumble around how to describe dance, saying it’s too difficult. What I’ve found though is the knowledge base is out there, the frameworks and research has already been established. Globally we are talking about the need for the audio describer to talk with the choreographer about the intent of the piece. The audio description becomes a dance in itself, words become body, as it dances with physicality, thereby creating innovative performance. In circus sideshow, this dance of words and extreme visceral physicality is done really well. Probably because the performer themselves creates the words to describe their physicality. My Create NSW fellowship is about exploring blindness and dance. The simultaneous consideration of the body and the no body is a paradox worthy of exploration. Blind and partially sighted people have the right to touch the body in dance, hence the rise in popularity of kinaesethetic touch tours before a show. Touch is a language, and a cultural protocol of my community, and in non-touch societies, we are robbed of our language. So the body is important. Description is equally important. Description tells us what to pay attention to, and teaches us the labels and language of an art form. Touch and description benefits everybody. The good news for my community is that verbally describing dance is a device already used in conceptual dance, by performers aiming to take away the priority of the body in the art form. I spoke with performance artist Estela Lapponi in Brazil 23
about this importance of conceptual dance, for this article. We sat at the kitchen table in her artist warehouse, Casa de Zuleika, in São Paulo. I met Estela on my travels while studying at Associacao Fernanda Bianchini, she had done the DanceAbility training in Austria. We instantly connected over the politics of disability; performance; possibility. Estela, with her Masters in Performance Art, has investigated integrated dance and has much to say about inclusion, the body, the importance of accessibility and the no body in art.It echoed my thoughts and I’m thrilled to find yet another disabled independent artist who uses her expertise of the unique body to make performance. She gave me examples of Brazilian performance that uses audio description in spaces where no one can see the body, and I share the experience of performances that I’ve seen where the narrative, the sounds, the environment set up, the colours, the characters, the lighting, and the imagination take precedence. The need for these extra elements pushes the boundaries of dance, and justifies more than ever the presence of the no body. At the same time, there is a danger that the presence of the no body slips into a style of sensory deprivation, rather than this strategy of addition and layers. Sensory deprivation, like watching dance in the dark, has the danger of conveying that blindness is only darkness. I don’t want to rule out people’s experimentations, especially those led by other blind artists, I’m just super excited as to the opportunities that emerge from other concepts around the no body and our cultural stories. Artists with disability, who might be missing a limb or have an alternative way of using their senses or their bodies, will have their own relationship to the body in dance. These unique perspectives are gems to push the boundaries of dance forward, and it is artists with disability who have the expertise to consciously know what makes accessible performance when we are considering the body in dance. As an international artist, I’m thrilled that we are talking about sensory methodology and the concept of the no body, which I was sure is not new, and how we consider the valuable cultural knowledge that blindness and partial sight has to offer. In New York in fact I was reminded that it’s not new. I met dancers who knew that Alvin Ailey himself developed a framework for blindness and dance. I’m humbled to hear this. I don’t want to forget the things I’ve uncovered. I’m excited as to what happens next, and super excited and supportive of any concepts and ideas that help my community engage with dance.
A woman places her hand on the shoulder of another dancer - Workshop with Sarah Hoboult, Interchange Festival 2017 - Photo Credit: Matthew Syres
Three dancers lay with their bodies intertwined on the floor of the Drill Hall - Workshop at Interchange Festival 2017, Critical Path - Photo Credit: Matthew Syres
Sarah Houbolt is a Paralympian turned international performing artist, with skills in circus aerials, acrobatics, hula hoop, sideshow, physical theatre and dance. She worked for six years in New Zealand with companies such as Touch Compass Dance Co. The Dust Palace, and Tim Bray Productions. She has also worked for Cirque du Soleil. Sarah dances contact improvisation and contemporary; most recently speaking about her practice at TEDxSydney 2017. In 2017 Sarah received an AusDance NSW IDP grant, and Critical Path residency. In 2018, Sarah trained ballet with Associacao Fernanda Bianchini, in Brazil - the only ballet school in the world for blind ballerinas.
Who Moves Who? Interview with the Artist Geumhyung Jeong
A collection of objects, including a walking frame, mannequin legs and an inflatable doll. - Private Collection: Unperformed Objects - Photo Credit: Dan Weill
Adelina: How are you?...it’s late there, isn’t it? Geumhyung: I’m good! I am in Berlin. Adelina: You have a residency, or what are you doing there? Geumhyung: Oh, I am making a show. I’m doing my solo here and doing some performances for a month. Adelina: You know I have never seen you perform live...but we did do “Monsoon” together so I have seen your work there. Geumhyung: Yeah, that’s true. In a way it is a very different way to what I do in general in my work. What I did at Monsoon was something new, kind of different, but I am curious to know what you think about this kind of work, never having seen
my work but having done the two-week Lab. Adelina: It was really interesting to me how we got to follow your thinking around your practice and how to approach different material and objects. It was always about your thinking around the objects and my experience with you during those two weeks was to marvel at how many different ways, how many limitations, layers and rules you apply to the practice. Geumhyung: I was also improvising with you guys. We were having fun and, in fact, though we were using objects, it was more about rules. More rules can be made without objects. We were doing many things without objects, and were were busy following the rules, but that is also why the objects ended up having many different ways of being used. Adelina: So, you felt like you were improvising? Do you make work like that? Geumhyung: I had plans for the workshops, but when I tried it with people I also tried to forget about my plan - because there was always something new that came from the people. It went somewhere else sometimes. Adelina: When you make your own work, do you use the rules and games? Geumhyung: I think in a way - yes. I wasn’t like “ok, now I need to have this rule.” I try to make rules about the technical difficulty in order to make the objects alive. I am more focused on puppetry, but I am collecting the technical possibility and the methods of how I can make the objects alive. Sometimes I try to avoid the conventional ways of puppetry. That is my idea of the technique, and sometimes when I am doing this kind of work...(Geumhyung pauses) Adelina: When do the objects become “performers”. This is what I found new and fun in your workshops...you give us an object and it is just any “insignificant” object, but when they start to become “alive” and a “performer” then that moment is really interesting. Do you see your objects like performers? Geumhyung: I think I already had an idea that hopefully I could make the object become a performer. So, I started preparing something, and began to find objects. You know, in our workshop we just found any objects and suddenly they became something else. But when I started making work it wasn’t like that. I was very clear with what specific object I wanted and so, when I thought I had everything prepared,
I tried the movement, and it didn’t work. It wasn’t what I imagined. So, it just stayed as “an object”. So then I tried more and more movement, but it still didn’t work. People were watching and understanding what I was trying to do - but it never really worked. So I thought timing could make the objects alive. We need time. I thought slowness could help us see the object as a performer. But if it is too slow then it also doesn’t work. It needs a balance between timing and movement. Sometimes if I move too much you only see my movement but if I only focus on the object there is not really any exciting movement happening and then you also only see the person concentrating on the object. You don’t really see the object either. Adelina: It is interesting you say this because that was my question about puppeteering... the relationship between you and the object is also very much about you as a performing body. You as the second performer. Geumhyung: In fact, even if the object is functioning as the performer, we actually see the other performer - the person. I thought in the beginning, people already know what I am, but that is not the main reason why people are interested...and I thought “Oh no, I shouldn’t show this part (me operating the object).” Do you remember what I wrote you in my email about your mirror piece you did in the Lab? That was exactly what my experience was before. I remember you were saying that you wanted to do something that wasn’t technically possible, but then you found a solution. That was a very similar approach in how I found my solution and how I now make work. Adelina: The one thing I remember strongly from that performance was that I actually had to focus a lot. I tried to disappear but in order to disappear I really had to concentrate a lot. Geumhyung: Yes, we can already see everything in the space. Because we already know that you are pushing those large mirrors, we don’t need to focus on you pushing the mirrors anymore. So now, we begin to see more of what is happening in the mirror (the reflection), so (in a way) you disappeared. Adelina: Although I have never seen your work –it’s weird – but it is almost as if I can imagine your work. That is strange, right? But maybe that is because you have guided us into “how to be” with objects. I wonder about your works “7Ways” and “Unperformed Objects”, for instance. What is 7Ways?
A mannequin sits wrapped in a pink shawl. In the background a modified vacuum cleaner has a fake head attached to the end of its tube - 7Ways – Photo Credit: Alex Wojcik
Geumhyung: “7Ways” is making performance with 7 different objects. It was my first work. It wasn’t planned to be “7Ways” but I had 7 actual pieces so I decided to put them together to make a one hour performance. Adelina: This is the work that has the heads, right? You know how you described earlier that you carefully choose your objects and sometimes it doesn’t work. Are these heads those kind of objects? Geumhyung: Yes, sometimes I buy many things because I don’t know which ones are going to work. So, I bought a lot of heads. Sometimes I buy things not knowing for what. I don’t have a plan for that particular object but I feel like I should buy it when I am in a creative process. Other times I really believe it is right for a work and then it doesn’t work, so I buy another one. Adelina: What makes an object not work? You know when you say “it didn’t work?”. What is it that makes an object work? Geumhyung: Usually it doesn’t work from the beginning, and so finding the reason to make it work becomes the (start of the choreographic) process. But when I have a very clear idea and it turns out that it still didn’t work, that is actually because I
didn’t have enough knowledge of the mechanical function of that object. And so then I start to really learn the mechanics of the object. That is how the movements come –through the object. I think it is important to take time with an object. The performance is the final thing I decide. Adelina: This sounds like you are saying: there is an idea, then I look for the object and then I try the object with the idea and if a couple of them don’t work, I’ll find other objects. Do you make work like that or do you also develop the work from the object as you just mentioned? Geumhyung: I think I do both. It takes time to buy the objects and then sometimes it takes time for it to be delivered and sometimes they are also expensive. So, actually, by the time I have everything I don’t have much time to develop the movement. It is not a good way to say “there is not enough time” because all this is part of the process. Sometimes, once I see the object, it gives me more ideas than what I could have imagined, so it goes faster. Adelina: I wonder what kind of relationship you end up having with your objects? Geumhyung: Sometimes I just buy something to see how it functions. But it is not meant for any work. Adelina: I wonder how much the objects become “alive” for you? You know like children, right. Children have so many objects around them and somehow those have their own character. Kids go and look for a specific object, because suddenly that object gives them a certain feeling, or they have a personality, and so, when I saw the image of you surrounded with all the objects in “Unperformed Objects” I wondered, with all the objects you have ever worked with, what kind of relationship do you have with them? Do they hold a memory for you? Do they start to have particular qualities for you? Geumhyung: I think they show the history of the process. And they show the failure of them, as well. Because sometimes they just fail and are unusable. Only when I receive them I realise they are not what I wanted. There are many different reasons for why I couldn’t use some objects. Sometimes I need to buy this mannequin but I only need the head. So, I cut the head. So the rest of the body is left. I bought a medical mannequin once and it had all the simulation of being tested and it came with the insides of the body, but I actually didn’t need all the objects inside the body because it makes the dummy heavier. So, I dropped them, but then I have all these
organs - intestines and all the stuff I don’t know the names of (laughing). And the mannequin has a penis but the mannequin could change the sex for the nursing students to see the...you know. So, sometimes they change this part so they can have a vagina. But in performance I only use the male body. There are so many weird objects that I didn’t try for my performance because it just came together without it. I made the collection because I discovered I had so many things. And because I was making an installation - I was making an arrangement, what object should be next to another – it was about making a story. The objects weren’t really relating to each other, but it was like a montage. Some objects doesn’t seem to connect to each other, but for me, it makes sense because maybe I used that particular object as a body part. The first one “Private Collection” was mixed with performed and unperformed objects and the second was “Private Collection: Unperformed Objects”. Adelina: It is nice to hear how you put the montage together. It is very choreographic, how you arrange the story. Geumhyung: Yeah, it was really fun to make this narrative. It should make sense to me and be able to explain why they sit together. Adelina: I am curious about how the objects become part of a sensual act? It is like this fantasy relationship. Like the work where you use the truck that scoops up... Geumhyung: I didn’t have a plan to make something sensual. I just wanted to make some movement with objects. It was more about who is moving who. And then I found that it was very similar to a real relationship - a sexual relationship. It was a coincidence using the mannequin... I was trying this and that movement and then it just happened. I thought maybe this is a good way to make it move and to make a kind of story. Then, I began to repeat the method. Using the relationship between objects and body. Adelina: What is the difference between objects that we used in the workshop to working with objects that have the human form...like the heads or the dummy. Geumhyung: We (in the lab) were not making a piece, we were using the objects to find solutions to an exercise. The process of finding the solution was the key, but not the result. My role was to add difficulty, so we just picked any object that didn’t look interesting at all and put more rules and limitations to exercise the limitation. Without the rules some performances wouldn’t have been interesting. The process
to find the solution was the workshop. But when I do my piece I already have a plan of what I want to do. What was similar in the workshop is that it is the same process to find solutions. I had my subject and object and I built my situation and then I found the solution from the frame that I made. You guys were in a situation that you didn’t choose, but it was fun for you because you wouldn’t have been there if you didn’t do the Critical Path Lab with me. Something is given to you by someone else, but you could make your own solution. Adelina: The first time you started having the performance being more sensual... Geumhyung: No, I didn’t try to make something sensual. Adelina: Yeah, because it just happened, right? After that time - is that when you started using the more human form of objects?
Geumhyung Jeong faces the camera, while assorted model heads and anatomical pieces line the shelves behind her - Private Collection: Unperformed Objects - Photo Credit: Dan Weill
Geumhyung: No, in fact, really from the beginning I was more interested to make some part of my body transform as a character. I was using masks and hats put on some part of my body. It was like I was having some sort of relationship with my body but put on another part of my body. In transforming my body it started to look
like something else. The first thing I made was putting my head on my foot and covered my body in a black costume. I didn’t make some unique movement but because it was opposite to normal I became some sort of creature. And I put my head between my legs so my legs became my arms. When I put the head on my arm my fingers became like legs. Adelina: Yes, I have seen this video where you started to deform your body - would you say? Geumhyung: Yes, I transformed my body to something else and I was making a relationship with that body to my body. I kept looking for something else and so I started to think, what next? And then I began to use more objects, like putting a head on an object. In the beginning it started from my body - put a head on the body, then a head on an object - the vacuum cleaner. Like the machines with human heads, like the character, the train with the human face, something like that. But then, I used human shaped objects. Adelina: So, there was this transition from you transforming your own body having a relationship with that transformed body with your own body and then you do a separation where there is another human object-form in relationship to you. When do you make a difference in your mind? Or, do you treat everything the same? Does the mannequin feel more different to you than the vacuum cleaner? Geumhyung: No, it’s not really. Because I think it is connected to...(she pauses) because I treat the object as a partner. Making them alive is my goal. What is more difficult and what is more interesting is - a vacuum cleaner is easier than a dummy. A vacuum cleaner has wheel so it can move around. It is quite big so it can carry me on its body, so we can roll together. There are more interesting possibilities that I can try. And also, the vacuum cleaner looks more alive because of its mechanical functions. It can inhale and roll around. It is more human, in a way. The dummy doesn’t have many possibilities. It looks human but it is really an object, not really moving. So it is more difficult. And in one of my pieces I am just giving CPR on the dummy, trying for it...not to die. Adelina: (laughing) Geumhyung: And now “SPA beauty” is a dummy, but I am trying to make them like human shaped brushes. I have implanted hairs into the dummies and I am scrubbing my body on the human shaped brushes, which are the mannequins’bodies. It
becomes quite sexual. Adelina: You said before “who moves who”. And that it reminded you of the sexual act. Geumhyung: I don’t think it can be the same all the time. I am moving this object, but also the object brings me certain movement. Like when you pushed the mirror, the mirror made you move that way. Sometimes the mirror moved you...I don’t know. It is quite similar to real relationships, I think. Adelina: Do you mean relationship to anything or the sexual relationship? Geumhyung: I think there is all balance. Someone has more power. It can never be the same. I do something wrong, you get angry. If you accept my apology when it is the right time, you would forgive me. But if you resist, not accepting it, and keep insisting - I get tired, then I give in. Then the person who didn’t mean it –since the other person was also sorry...it goes back and forwards...(she pauses)I don’t know if you understand?
Sitting on a chair in the foreground, a keyboard is attached to a mannequin head by a tube, while another mannequin head and a mask rest on the floor in the background - 7Ways - Photo Credit: Alex Wojcik © Tate Photography
Adelina: It is like movement - the way you describe it.
Geumhyung: Yeah, and it is about timing. When I move too much, you donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t see the object. And if I move a lot, the object becomes more interesting and if I move too slow, you wonder why ...so I think it is all about balance and timing. Adelina: Listening to you speaking now reminded me of the conversations we had in the workshop with the papers. If I was working with someone and she would tell me the story using the paper and I had to respond using words or using the paper, I was thinking about the listening part in the conversation. The conversation being what the relationship is - if it is a strong expression or if it is an apologetic expression, quiet or moving backwards... Geumhyung: Yeah. Adelina: Then I wonder, what goes on in your head when you are working with an object? Even when you are just experimenting or making or when you are performing with an object - do you think of it like that? Like a relationship? Like a conversation? You say - timing and balance. A conversation is timing and balance, right? Geumhyung: I think in my head what happens is that I try to see the direction of this situation. I use my body as a performer and try to make movement with this object, and there is also myself, to see how it looks like. Adelina: Because they are all different moments - one moment is the process of experimenting, another moment is you performing the result. So then you start to craft the work and the other moment is you performing it. And I wonder in these moments - do you think of yourself in this moment like a conversation? Geumhyung: In the moment, I am not really aware of it. Adelina: Well, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m trying to think again how it felt to be in the workshop. It was often actually that I had chosen an object or I was given an object and I was not sure about what I was going to do, but as I am moving it after a while.. it starts to tell me what it is doing. Or it starts to tell me what kind of character it has. Or to tell me who I am in relationship to the object. It is almost as if I am an observer before I know what kind of relationship I have with the object. Geumhyung: Oh, so you just start and then you find more information about the
object and then you begin to know what you have to do? Yes, that is quite similar (to me). And yes, that’s why I need actual time to be with the object. How to flow with the movement. Then it becomes more like choreography. Adelina: What is choreography for you? Geumhyung: That is a big question. Adelina: I wonder in your case, working with something that is not a human body. How do you see choreography happening? Geumhyung: Do you remember during the workshop we talked about what choreography is, and there was an agreement between us in some moments where we felt something - “this is choreography!” Adelina: Because I haven’t seen your work, it becomes very much about the experience of the work, being on the inside of the work. Geumhyung: It feels like you understand the work because you know the process in detail. (She pauses) When I perform I have to be more like a tool. Adelina: You called yourself a tool. Geumhyung: If I am not trained well in executing the movement to move the object, it doesn’t work. So, I have to practice a lot. I need to be an object on stage, I think. It is a live performance so it is good to be really alive, but I need to stay consistent. In a way, you need to keep the same. I do different rules. Some shows I only do my rules but other times I make rules for my character and for the object - so I have to be two persons. So my brain is really busy. Adelina: So, you have your rules, and do you mean that the object also have their rules? Geumhyung: Yes, because I am trying to make a partnership. So, even though you know that I am doing everything, that I am manipulating the object, you still believe that the object has a character. And you are following the story. So, I shouldn’t concentrate too much on my own rule. With the vacuum-cleaner, I use my hand for the head, and pretend that I am sleeping. In “7 Ways” I try to turn myself off, because then the object becomes more...(she stops). Because, we compare me and
the object. I am too alive. Compared to myself, the object looks very dead. I try to be more still so the object can become more alive. With the vacuum-cleaner, it moved the whole time and so the audiences were feeling that the vacuum-cleaner was moving the person.
Geumhyung Jeong Bio
Jeong is a choreographer and performance artist. In her work, she constantly negotiates the relationship between the human body and the things surrounding it. Through intense, risky interactions with her own body, she bestows a bizarre, disconcerting life upon plain, everyday objects. Geumhyung explores the potential of the body â&#x20AC;&#x201C; its sensuality, power to change its surroundings, and ability to undergo transformations through the power of desire. Her projects combine dance and puppetry and bring attention to technical aspects of theater. Jeong studied Acting at Hoseo University in Asan, Dance and Performance at the Korean National University of Arts in Seoul, and Animation Film at the Korean Academy of Film Arts in Seoul. Her works have been exhibited and performed at Liveworks Festival in Sydney, Artspace in Sydney, Tate in London, Delfina Foundation in London, New Museum Triennial in New York, ZĂźrcher Theater Spektakel in Zurich, Malta Festival in Poznan, SPIEL ART Festival in Munich, ImpulsTanz Festival in Vienna, and PACT Zollverein in Essen.
How to Disappear Expanding the Possibilities of Choreography in a Post-Fordist Era (An Extract) Vânia Gala
In an era characterized by our obsession with knowing everything in the moment and that trades on immaterial goods - flexible organizational forms, ideas, event creation, affects - intensive and unstoppable communication is encouraged. Under these conditions, I contend that the long-time dedication to the idea of “being present” in late 20th century dance has suffered destabilizations, opening the way to the critical potential of absence (and the non-human) in choreography. To consider objects as live, to reveal invisible sounds behind a space, to create new “live spaces” outside the proscenium using sound or other performative strategies (time extension, fragmentation), to withdraw sound or bodies from the spectator’s eye, and to consider the performer as “performing” when (s)he is absent or even to consider this absence the actual performance are all strategies to advance a choreography of disappearance. My practice is informed by 20th century composer and sound-artist Alvin Lucier’s explorations of acoustical properties of space. It draws inspiration from artist Boursier-Mougenot’s oeuvreby relying on acts of attending to invisible things or systems as central players of the performance. Notably, the role given to animals and objects as performers in these systems. In this respect this study engages with the recent philosophical “turn” towards objects lead by Graham Harman. Finding particular echo in the practices of theatre director Kris Verdonk. I am interested to uncover new understandings of the problem of the body in choreography, “liveness” and spectatorship that can challenge the present information era.
A person holding a book with one hand, while their other hand turns the pages - Cooling Down Signs Photo Credit: Kesnija Spanec head and a mask rest on the ground in the background - 7Ways - Photo Credit: Alex Wojcik ÂŠ Tate Photography
Performing in a Time of Mass Art Production and Hyper Capitalism
In 2006 Andre Lepecki analyzed a series of early 21st century artists who have moved away from what he portrays as the modernist project of constant motility in dance. However, little is said in his argument about the role of absence of the performer as a possible mode of resistance to the conventionalities of dance as spectacle or the role of the non-human (objects, sound, architecture) as a form of advancing new presence(s) on stage. In his reflections in “Exhausting Dance” Lepecki gives examples of the various choreographic strategies that move away from the centrality of dance in choreography either through movement interruption, interruption of movement flow, through acts of stillness or even through the total absence of dance. Lepecki’s project of critique of dance ontology associated with dance is a critique of modernity. For him this mobilisation and kinetics of choreography mirror modernism. He follows the ideas of dance historian Mark Franko in the description of the birth of modern dance. Franko links the movement’s central role in dance and movement’s monopolisation of this art form with increase transport speeds and the birth of american capitalism and nationhood. As such the various strategies of “exhausted dance” described by the author are seen as a political act. In this critique Lepecki’s centrality of choreography rests still in human subjectivity. What is at stake in “Exhausting Dance” is the absence of dance or movement not the idea of going “beyond the subject object” divide. Nor in his project of critique of modernity is there a claim of moving away from choreography’s centrality on intra-human activity (human performer-audience). It is true that 2012 Lepecki’s article “Moving as Thing: Choreographic Critiques of the Object” opens territory to things and perhaps to a new relational presence of things with the performer in the choreographic. The article describes four works. In the given examples - where the performer is “the human” - ecological concerns are unveiled, blackness, the utilitarian use of people (audience) and invisibility are explored. Two other performances object of the essay focus on the accumulation of items and even on the subject’s revolt against the consumed products. However, in the article’s analysis not much is advanced about the particularities of the engagement with objects characteristic of our current time of hyper-capitalism and their relation to modernism and the choreographic. The increased intimate relation with laptops, mobile phones, or simply how our relation with objects as consumers and spectators came to define new relations that moved away from our simple role of object “users”. Moreover, the possibility of a radical move away from human subjectivity is not mentioned, where the object would alone be performing. The extreme potentiality and implications of objects becoming lone performers themselves remains unexplored. What I want to open with this text is the possibilities choreography can unveil by focusing on the absence of the human performer. What I would like to propose is that present conditions of capitalism have changed our relation to time, to objects and to creativity. To rethink our relation to commodities and objects is in my opinion fundamental. In this sense I am arguing for recognising the affective power of mass produced objects of modernity in hyper capitalism and perhaps reconsider their status. To ignore this in choreography would also be to ignore the long tradition of proximity with objects in the performing arts and the critical potentiality of this art form in this domain.
In a time when in the west “the right not be watched” no longer seems to be accepted it might be feasible to explore the prospect of the human body becoming evidently absent from stage and even the extreme possibility of a choreography without people. Franco Berardi speaks of exhaustion as a key idea for the creation of an autonomous “time-space” that subverts the present conditions of a flow of information too fast for any elaboration. In a sense to focus on (in)visibility, disappearance and auscultationis a strategy to speak about the present times, to understand if liveness is still possible under these conditions and if so to find a new subjectivity that translates this onto stage. The uncontested value of presence and “the live” in the performing arts has ignored the present conditions of production and its affects in the ways art is being received. David Harvey argues that artistic production in the present time owes its discernible features to the ever-intensifying compression of time and space through technology developments. The exploitation of increased speeds in transport and information exchange by capitalism has made representation increasingly more problematic. One of the new conditions of this new “economic globalization” is the role of capital. This change in the role of capital occurring after the crisis in capitalism in 1972 Harvey coined “flexible accumulation” which later on Lazaratto would name as Post-Fordism. Until this moment production relied on working on an assembly line with specific equipment and the use of molds by unskilled workers. The objective was mass production but also higher wages for workers who would be consumers of these goods. This mode of production first introduced by Henry Ford in the U.S.A. was generalized through Europe by the mid 20’s. The 70’s crisis propelled companies to experiment with more flexible forms of organization that could allow for quick changes of production, this was accompanied by a decrease in barriers of global financial system giving rise to an increase in the creation of fictitious capital. The new role of fictitious capital or the financialization of the economy at a global scale would become central in future crisis such as witnessed recently in Europe. In these new flexible forms of labor a shift from manufacturing to services occurs, the inclusion of new technologies in the production processes demands skilled workers with decision making faculties able to work across different teams and where a degree of decision making is required. As Lazaratto (1996) said: “the worker’s soul to become part of the factory”. The new form of labour he calls “immaterial” requires worker’s that are rich in knowledge, able to cooperate and that are able to participate with their subjectivities in the production process.
This project is an inquiry into the problem of the body in contemporary choreography and what new set of problems arise in a post-digital world where immaterial labour plays a key role. Bojana Kunst  points out that the rise of immaterial work has turned language, imagination and creativity into major capitalistic suppliers of value. Our constant connection to the “now” through access to the internet, mobile phones and other devices has changed our relation to time. The constant updating of the current value of time is very much part of contemporary existence. Absence, the interruption of time by creating gaps and playing with our expectations are ways of interrupting this present subjectivity. Gerald Siegmund  highlights the critical potential of absence in performance in a time when presence seems to be colliding with a society of spectacle. Moreover, I am here accepting Ranciere’s ideas of aesthetics and politics by seeing art as inseparable from the present given social and historical context. To unsettle the assumed conventions of: presence, live/liveness and object/subject is a way of causing dissensus in our current partition of the sensible. Doing so is a way of revealing the contingencies of our contemporary and conceptual order in which our social arrangements, the way we live develop. To consider objects as live, to reveal invisible sounds behind a space, to create new “live spaces” outside the proscenium using sound or other performative strategies (time extension, fragmentation), to withdraw sound or bodies from the spectator’s eye and to consider the performer as “performing” when (s)he is absent (or even to consider this absence the actual performance) are all strategies to advance a choreography of disappearance. The intention has been to explore several of these questions, uncertainties and anxieties. This project considers a number of questions: -
What possible forms of resistance can choreography offer in a Post-Fordist world that feeds on ephemeral forms (flexible organization, event creation)?
How useful is a “choreography of disappearance” as a cultural response to contemporary issues of manipulation of affects and destabilized systems?
What new ideas of the body and performative modes might arise from considering acts of withdrawal and disappearance of the performer?
How will a series of auscultation procedures reshape the conventional theatre space?
How will these reframe the audience-performance relationship?
What are the implications for choreography and dance conventionally constructed around ideas of embodiment, constant motility and spectatorship?
What is the significance of a body that disappears beyond sound and objects as a presence on stage?
What are the implications of considering objects, the space or other entities as performers?
Pieces of cardboard lie on a white surface; each piece has a distinct hand-written phrase on it. These include: ‘Part Subject’, ‘Maliciously Missing’ and ‘Upside Down’ - Maliciously Missing: The Potential of the Missing Performer in Choreography (study II), performance lecture - Photo Credit: Vânia Gala
A dancer in a white room is suspended in the air with their back to the ground - Cooling Down Signs Photo Credit: Kesnija Spanec
The potential of the missing performer in choreography in the present time. A time of mass art production, a time of hyper presence in the media, the time of the selfies. Not only my interest derives from finding strategies that might provoke and interrogate the current presentism of our times but also the modernist paradigm that disables choreography of engaging with things and other entities in particular in a non-instrumental way. Therefore, my project is also a sort of invitation; an invitation from choreography to let those in, to open a kind of an entryway to other possible choreographies. Choreographies where the human is no longer the centre but where there’s a continuum between all the performers be them things, imaginary entities, inaudible sounds, environment, other beings, humans or ghosts. Or even to think of a choreography without people. To open a doorway, to imagine the unimaginable of a choreography yet to be experienced.
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Vânia Gala Bio
Vânia Gala is a choreographer and researcher based in London. She holds a MAC with Distinction from Trinity Laban. Since 2015 she is PhD candidate at Kingston University and a PASS studentship awardee. Collaborations as performer have involved Les Ballets C. de La B., Constanza Macras and Sonia Boyce. Recent creations include “Cooling Down Signs” a Pan- European commission by Beyond Front@ performed at Dance Week Festival (HR), D.I.D (AT), Front@ Festival (SI), Bakelit (HU). Gala’s choreographies, scores and performance lectures rely on acts of attending to invisible things or systems as central players of the performance. Her work explores the potential of absence (and the non-human) in the present information era.