WomenCinemakers, Special Edition

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w o m e n JO CORK VICKY VASSILOPOULOU MAY KESLER ELENA ANTONOPOULOU DARIA LIPPI ANJA GALLAGHER-SYFRIG MEI CASABONA MARTA ARJONA BLASCO LUCIA LUPU MERLI V. GUERRA EKO TUMI ANNIKA HANSEN

INDEPENDENT

WOMEN’S CINEMA


cINEMAKERS W O M E N

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Contents 04 Annika Hansen Tabitha

24 Eko Tumi Descend to earth

38 Merli V. Guerra

108 Daria Lippi Creatures

128 Elena Antonopoulou SOMNIUM

156 May Kesler

The One I Keep

Into Blackness

62

184

Marta Arjona Blasco & Mei Casabona

Vicky Vassilopoulou

QUADRANT

Scratch

82

202

Anja Gallagher-Syfrig & Sanne Clifford Jo Cork Transience

Sensate


Women Cinemakers meets

Annika Hansen Lives and works in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Annika Hansen is a dancer, maker, and collaborator from Minneapolis, Minnesota . She is interested in honest performances and choreography that expresses the range of textures in the body. She pursues dance with a joyful, socially-aware practice that aims to engage personally and politically with audiences. She graduated summa cum laude with a BFA in Dance from the University of Minnesota in 2017, where she worked with Justin Jones, Susan Kikuchi, Marcus Jarrell Willis, luciana achugar, Brian Brooks, Michel Kouakou, and Joanie Smith. Since graduating, she has performed works by Elayna Waxse, Sophia Pimsler, Jeffrey Peterson, and Maggie Bergeron. With her collaborator, Abigail Whitmore, Annika creates works to fill both theaters and ordinary public spaces. Together they have designed performative events for a donut shop, a swimming pool, and an artist warehouse. They strive to excavate their own experiences and to undo narratives of power and oppression in their bodies. Annika also experiments with dance films as another way to capture a live experience, to arrange a form of art that is always fleeting.

An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com

Hello Annika and welcome to

: we would

like to invite our readers to visit in order to get a wider idea about your artistic production and we would start this interview with a couple of questions regarding your background. You have a solid formal training and you

recently graduated summa cum laude with a BFA in Dance from the University of Minnesota, moreover you completed a year at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance in Jerusalem: how did your studies inform your current practice? Moreover, how does your cultural substratum due to your number of collaborations with other choreographers as Abigail Whitmore direct the trajectory of your artistic research? I recognize that my studies have had a large impact on my artistic identity, and it was a privilege to attend university and learn from many teaching artists. My studies really set up a


Annika Hansen (photo by Ari Aisenberg)


Women Cinemakers base of critical and creative thinking that I draw from, not only considering the aesthetic and technical aspects in a work but also the intersectionality and social context. My time at the Jerusalem Academy gave me more tools for moving, but also caused me to question the bias of what I was learning and its context. Before university, I didn't know anything about occupied Jerusalem and the lives of Palestinians, and now I am sorting through the power dynamics involved in learning Gaga, an Israeli dance methodology and its implications in my body. I draw from contemporary dance forms, improvisation and composition techniques, as well as research my own methodology to create art that engages social and political spheres. This is also something my collaborator, Abigail Whitmore, and I are pursuing collectively. It helps to have another brain with unique strengths to draw from and to ask difficult questions of each other: what can we do with our privilege and art-making? What subject can we explore that is an issue in our communities? Why is dance and movement important? This collaboration is fuel for all of the art-making I do. For this special edition of we have selected , an extremely interesting dance short film that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and that can be viewed at . When walking our readers through the genesis of , would you tell us something about your process? In particular, how do you consider the relationship between the necessity of scheduling the details of the videos and the need of spontaneity? How much importance does play improvisation in your process? The process of this film began with the idea to explore feminine creativity, and to work with my good friend and fellow dancer, Tabitha Steger, to create movement. I wanted to work with her again before she moved to the West Coast - to connect personally and also artistically to explore our own creativity and choice-making. I’d been inspired by the Casket Arts Building, a former casket factory dating from 1882, that has since been turned into artist studios. I was drawn to it because of the sense of age and character that each floor had,


A still from Tabitha


A still from Tabitha


Women Cinemakers whether filled with plants or mismatched furniture, and I also couldn’t help but love the paned windows and the warm light that bathed the wood floor. So I came to Tabitha with the space in mind, this theme of feminine creativity, and some movement ideas to explore the theme, and then we just tried things out together. I’d decide, for example, to film a still shot, flat-on in front of these windows, and have Tabitha try out an improvisational score involving carving her limbs through space and catching currents of air in her joints. She’s an incredible mover, so I was happy to step back and let her play with movement. With this work, there was a lot of space for making decisions as I went; I chose to let the process unfold and focus less on deciding details. I had a very minimal list of shots and types of movements I wanted to capture, and the rest came from experimentation. Improvisation is always an element in my process; it is such a rich space to surprise myself and to hone in on ideas without overthinking them. It also offered a space for Tabitha to research the idea in her body without the pressure of my capital “v” Vision, evening out our roles a bit more in the process. We have appreciated the way you have provided your short film with such a poetic quality, capable of establishing emotional involvement in the viewers: what were your aesthetic decisions when shooting and what did you aim at triggering in the spectatorship? You are really very kind! Aesthetically, I was celebrating the location: the light and textures and plants... The space was a canvas for the world of Tabitha - a woman in her process of brainstorming and forming an idea - so it was mostly about framing her experience and movement in ways that pleased my eye. I could capture that corner or that bit of carpet or that frondy plant as her setting. I wanted the viewer to witness this woman’s movement without ownership over it. I wanted them to be engaged in this story as a witness, while Tabitha herself crafted the trajectory. Tabitha takes up her own space, she sees the viewer head on at the beginning, and then she creates and ponders and grooves without acknowledging the viewer again. I arranged the scenes to follow



A still from Tabitha


A still from Tabitha loosely how I perceive the artistic process: one of trying and rethinking, pursuing an idea, breaking focus...all this mental and physical work. I also wanted to link different shots in a way that both joined similar movements to create a choreography, as well as to vary opposing qualities like stillness/movement and closeness/distance. I arranged it to “make sense” to my eye, and hopefully to the viewer’s eye. What has at once impressed us of Tabitha is the way it brings the nature of relationship between the body and the surroundings to a new level of significance, unveiling the ubiquitous bond between the individual and outside reality. While introducing us to the initial idea of this film, would

you tell us how do you consider the relationship between perceptual reality and our inner landscape? The initial idea for the film was to depict the creative and artistic process from the perspective of one woman. I wanted to show this woman trying out ideas, starting and restarting, revising, finding things she liked - and all this through physical embodiment. It could literally depict the work of a choreographer, but it also makes me think more broadly to the landscape of the mind. I think the film’s location could blend reality and the inner landscape; it’s metaphorical but also physical; it’s imagined but also perceived. Maybe this is a room that looks like the inside of her mind. But it’s also a place that affects how she works; she touches a plant and pauses; she leans out a window to think.


A still from Tabitha I think our inner landscape shapes our reality and vice versa. To quote contemporary Indian dancer and choreographer Ananya Chatterjea's words, "creativity is a feminine modality". Over the recent years many artists, from Martha Wilson to Carolee Schneemann have explored culture’s expectations about what women are supposed to be: as an artist interested in questioning the shapings of the modern woman, do you think that contemporary art could be a conduit for a kind of social criticism capable of making aware a large part of the population of the condition of women in our globalized, still patriarchal societies? Moreover, do you think that your being a woman provides your artistic research with some special value?

Yes, I agree with the the first question, definitely. Art is an arena to bring broader understanding; it can be a channel of activism. Ananya Chatterjea is a former professor of mine, and her company, Ananya Dance Theater, is one such effort to join art and social justice. They work primarily with women of color to tell stories of women through Contemporary Indian Dance and social justice work. I am still learning how I explore social issues in my work, but it is a passion to go deeper there. I don’t think my position is necessarily special, but my privilege as a white, cisgender, queer, college-educated woman offers space and opportunities to bring important issues and voices to my audience. Women’s issues are connected to trans issues, POC issues, Native issues, environmental issues, etc, and I want to engage more in this kind of intersectional work.


Women Cinemakers It's no doubt that artistic collaborations as the one that you have established with Abigail Whitmore are today ever growing forces in Contemporary Art and that the most exciting things happen when creative minds from different fields meet and collaborate on a project: could you tell us something about the collaborative nature of your work? Can you explain how your work demonstrates communication between two or more artists ? Our collaboration is really a shared process. We do the work together, from brainstorming to production, and we are always challenging each other to think differently than we would working alone. We often make performative events that gather people and share dance outside of a theater setting. We’ve made performances for a donut shop, a swimming pool, the Casket Arts building (where Tabitha was filmed), and most recently for a sculpture garden. I don’t know if I can entirely articulate yet how our collaborations are different from our solo work, but I know that they are. There is a fullness to them, a dispersion of ego as we share the process, a multi-layered performance of groove, texture, simplicity, and aliveness that beckons movement in and out of forms. When we perform together, there is a deep trust and communication embedded in the work that I believe is visible in the way we move and interact. features essential cinematography with a keen eye to details and we have really appreciated your successful attempt to capture the resonance between gestures and indoor environment: how do you consider the relationship between space and movement playing within your artistic research? When my work takes place outside of the “blank” theater canvas, the way a space looks and is layed out is important to consider. It can be a starting point of inspiration: drawing from the room movement that feels fitting. For part of Tabitha, I wanted to utilize the feeling of indoor and outdoor space in referencing the windows. At one point, Tabitha traces an imagined horizon line with her eyes and rotates in a circle; like looking out a window, she sees beyond what is in front


A still from Tabitha


A still from Tabitha


Women Cinemakers of her. The space can also be a logistic consideration for movement. The Casket Arts Building has these wide open floors to use, so I knew I could and wanted to see Tabitha travel the length of it in the frame. The associations of a space also affect what I make for it. With Casket Arts, I was already in the context of resident artists at work in the building, so it felt very fitting to tell Tabitha’s story of creating an idea in this place; she was among a community of artists. I consider space and movement to be equal elements when creating a work, as they so often rely on each other and require choices to shape them. The way you have sapiently combined the performance by Tabitha Steger and the soundtrack by dné and Cosmo Sheldrake & Jana Eidse provides Tabitha with such an ethereal atmosphere: how do you see the relationship between sound and movement? With this work, it didn't begin from any idea of the sound I wanted, so I knew after filming that the soundscape would help define the atmosphere of Tabitha's exploration. I loved the layers in both pieces of music, as well as their relaxed atmosphere and beauty, and I wanted to layer them even more with added sound effects. To relate to the theme of creation and artistic process, I recorded the sounds of different art-supplies to imitate the movements that Tabitha makes. A pencil scrawls the pathway of her arms, and a stapler punctuates her forceful gesture. I think these additions blur the line even more between her inner world and outer expression, and they emphasize the creative process while overlaying the visual component. Many artists express the ideas that they explore through representations of the body and by using their own bodies in their creative processes. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once underlined that "it is always only a matter of seeing: the physical act is unavoidable": as a multidisciplinary artist deeply involved in dance, how do you consider the relation between the abstract feature of the concepts you explore in your artistic research and the physical aspect of your practice? Ah, that’s a great quote. I think use of the physical body is such an important element of contemporary art. It’s a political act to use the



A still from Tabitha


Women Cinemakers body in performance. As the saying goes, “the personal is political” and what is more personal than the body? Seeing movement and dance performed can connect the audience to their own bodies. What is abstract can be interpreted in a performer’s body; there is context and relationship and life on display while performers interact with abstract themes and movements. And it can also be such an honest exploration of self as a performer. My body is a sensing and feeling vehicle of expression and my most immediate tool for making art. It’s a way that I process abstract concepts by placing them upon my body. I once created a piece about my connection to “home” by using a tree stump as a prop, and I explored how my physical relationship with that object reflected my inner feelings about being connected and disconnected to my home. I used the symbolism of the stump, of being cut off, and the image of growth and life that trees have - and these symbols spurred on movements that touched, surrounded, and moved the stump. Whether these abstract concepts become fully visible, is not necessarily my goal. It’s not about having an audience completely understand by being quite literal or heavy-handed, but to allow deeper processing by intentionally creating movement from abstractions. At the same time, I do consider how to communicate these ideas in a physical manner, so that an audience may glimpse my themes. It’s a balance of trusting your thinking audience and the way you choose to engage symbolism, gesture, posture, performance qualities, etc. to get ideas across. And isn’t that the great task of artists: to create work that investigates our world and communicates complex ideas? - Over the years your works have been showcased in several occasions: how much importance has for your the feedback of the festival circuit? Do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process? It’s less about reception and more about engagement. As I make decisions, I’m considering how the audience is integrated and how I can craft an experience for them. It’s an angle from which to look at a work and ask, what might the audience see and feel? How can I consider and form their connection to this work? I do value feedback as a way to develop, and that is an important component to how I


A still from Tabitha


stillfrom from Tabitha AAstill


Women Cinemakers move forward and learn from projects. I’m always curious to learn what the audience interpreted and how my choices affected their experience. Feedback can help me see where my ideas needed better communication or when aesthetic choices are more indulgent and less important to the work. It helps me evaluate my process. And if I don’t hear from the people experiencing the work, then I can’t really know the complete scope of it. I want my process to be a sharing between both maker and audience. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Annika. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Thank you for all the lovely questions and for letting me be a part of this. Currently, I’m working on the idea for another short film, taking place partially in a crowded antiques store, and I’m curious to continue dance film experiments and see where they might lead me. Abigail and I are developing a piece about the limits placed upon women and femmes and the space they are allowed to take up in society. We’re also leading and performing dance workout tours of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden this summer. We’re intersecting tours of the sculptures with movement exploration and exercise routines to get people moving in an accessible way. So looking forward, there are more collaborative works and events in new spaces; we are sort of carving out spaces to produce our work and see it realised. Our goal is to continue defining our artistry and practice, to name our duo, and with that, find clarity to gain the space and funding and opportunities to create. The future is uncertain, but it can only hold more art-making and deeper exploration. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com


Women Cinemakers meets

Eko Tumi Lives and works in Tokyo, Japan

Descend to earth is a brilliant work by Japanese performer, singer-songwriter and researcher of mythology and folklore Ekotumi: creating an accountatmosphere marked with captivating allegorical qualities, she invites the viewers to explore the ubiquitous relationship between ancient heritage and refined contemporary sensitiveness, to trigger their perceptual and cultural parameters. Featuring elegant cinematography and sapient performance composition, Descend to earth is a moving tribute to universality of culture, capable of encouraging cross-pollination of the spectatorship. We are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to Ekotumi's captivating and multifaceted artistic production.

An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com Hello Ekotumi and welcome to WomenCinemakers: we would invite to our readers to visit https://www.ekotumi.jp and we would start this interview with a couple of questions regarding your background. You have a solid formal training and you graduated from the prestigious Tokyo’s prestigious Waseda

university: how did this experience influence your artistic evolution? In particular, how does your cultural substratum due to your Japanese roots direct the trajectory of your artistic research? First please let me say thank you so much for this pleasure. I couldn’t believe what’s happened when I got your message. Because before this selecting I am just a performer, singer-songwriter and recently novelist, not movie style artist. Although I graduated Waseda University and majored




Women Cinemakers theatrical play and frame department, I was interested in only theatrical play classes. There were not a class connected with Japanese roots directly. But I enjoyed the atmosphere to learn and absorbed the attitude naturally. Yes, I went to watch KABUKI, KYOGEN, NOH, JYORURI, RAKUGO, many Japanese traditional arts by class assignment. But I have to confess everything! I didn’t know much about Japanese things until graduated the university. I was born in Tokyo and had a romantic notion of overseas stories like a greek myths. Of course I knew Japanese things like others ( maybe more than others a little bit) and I liked Japanese atmosphere. That’s all. And when I tried to compose a new song, I don’t know why but suddenly I conceived ‘Next song is about ONI (Japanese monster in folklore)!!’ and I studied several books in Waseda’s library. That was amazing time for me to know and imagine about the old days and feel the emotion of people in the past. From the time, I sang about those things. And one day, my friend of Waseda recommend me KOJIKI (book about Japanese mythology) because he was born in Mie prefecture where has ISE shrine. He knew about Japanese mythology, not so much but he just knew. But me, how ashamed! I am Japanese but I didn’t know that there are myths in Japan. Not only me but also the young generation don’t know about Japanese mythology. So I tried to read the book,

KOJIKI but it’s so difficult because of an old written style. I tried to read three times. And finally I could see the scene and feel the emotion. I was moved. At the same time, I think it’s difficult to make people to know about Japanese myth because this book is too difficult although story itself is so interesting! That is why I started to express those with performance and music. I feel if I was born in not Tokyo and felt Japanese traditional things naturally, I might not sing about those. For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected Descend to earth, an extremely stimulating work that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and that can be viewed at https://www.ekotumi.jp/descend. What has at once captured our attention of your artists research is the way it provides the viewers with such an intense visual experience, enhanced by elegant mise-en-scéne. While walking our readers through the genesis of Descend to earth, would you tell us how did you structure your work in order to achieve such powerful results? Almost all my works were made by one impressive moment with music. I can see the scene. I can listen the music. But that is just one moment. So I repeat repeat and repeat the moment in my mind, the


Women Cinemakers moment becomes longer little by little. Sometimes

that makes me almost crazy. Sometimes that makes meets me cry with the ethereal feelings. During the days I just walk around or bicycle. When I can, I go to the forest area and local small shrine far from Tokyo. And finally, I just talk to myself about the budget! As you have remarked once, the white costume was inspired by Tanoura (skirt dance in Egypt), Loie Fuller(American modern dancer) and Japanese Kimono: we have particularly appreciated the way you create such insightful combination between the spirit of Japan’s ancient myths and refined contemporary sensitiveness. How do you consider the relationship between ancient heritage and contemporariness? At the beginning, I have to introduce one wonderful costume designer, yuha. Once we and MIYASHITA ORIMONO CO., LTD(fabrics company) collaborated and made beautiful white Kimono style costume like an angel's raiment from their fabrics. It’s beautiful, flat and fast, so I loved it. Last summer, when I moved from NY to Paris, I learned about Loie Fuller by chance. Although I already knew about Tanoura I was so surprised because of the beauty atmosphere. And I’ve noticed the figure with air of her costume looks like our costume. So I felt strongly that if our costume become bigger it will be more beautiful.Oh and if I use the musical instrument of the ancient




Women Cinemakers times for the long arm part, it will be more amazing. I talked this idea to yuha. And she suggested this wonderful costume by the method of Kimono. You may understand originally it’s just by chance. But I believe every fortuity about the express is born by everyday’s thinking, feeling and learning. This was just by chance and at the same time it was fate. Descend to earth reflects a conscious shift regarding the composition of performative gestures: how would you consider the relationship between the necessity of scheduling the details of a performance and the need of spontaneity? How much importance does play improvisation in your practice? For me, scheduled performance and improvisation are almost same. Of course the way of approach is different. Before, I thought the artists are people who can show the vision. And the vision is at the other side. Recently I feel the artists are people who can show their inside. And if the inside can be a vision, they are the artists. I mean both, scheduled performance and improvisation, are born from my inside. And everything in my inside was came down from the ancient time. Not only me, but also everyone. In addition, I really love to play improvisation. I can feel some concentration by the audience. I can feel that now we, I and the audience (and staff) , make

this performance together. To make the work, scheduled performance, composing music, write a script, is an isolation sometimes. The feeling which making together, helps me a lot. You are a skilled singer and sound plays a crucial role in your artistic practice: the echo of the ambience and the excellent singing performance of your collaborator provides Descend to earth with such a ethereal quality capable of challenging the viewers' perceptual categories: how would you consider the relationship between performative gestures and sound? Sound is the first. When there are no sound part in my performance, that is not ‘no sound’. That is just ‘silent music’. I don’t mean John Milton Cage Jr’s 4’33. This is like a Japanese traditional arts NOH or Japanese-style painting / ink painting. There are no ink, but there are something. For me, sound ( even a silence ) is first and they ferment my feeling, heart, body and soul. That makes my performance. Many artists express the ideas that they explore through representations of the body and by using their own bodies, as you effectively did in Descend to earth. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once underlined that "it is always only a matter of seeing: the physical act is unavoidable": how do you consider the relation between the abstract feature of the ideas you


Women Cinemakers aim to communicate and the physical act of creating your artworks? I feel my body totally knows everything I think. When I practice the voice training, I just concentrate to listen my voice, not to sing. If I notice wrong point for example pitch, length, tempo, my throat change to fix these automatically. I mean thinking is so important especially about the ideas and at the same time entrusting to our body is also so important.These are same and both are just ourselves. Featuring stunning landscape cinematography, Before you were born has drawn heavily from the specifics of its environment and we have highly appreciated the way you have created such insightful resonance between the environment, choreography and music: how did you select the location and how did it affect your creative process? Oh thank you! You watched this video! In this song I would like to express the way of thinking about Japanese mythology. In Japanese myth, there are so many gods and goddess like greek myths. They are so humanly. And from the beginning there were something like water, although early gods, IZANAGI and IZANAMI created by bearing lands and various gods of nature. Oh no, I may talk 24hours about Japanese myth! Anyway I mean we exist together with nature from the beginning. And because of feeling

four seasons, the nature is so close and familiar for us, Japanese. So, for this song I needed the rock with moss, running water, breathing trees, calm mountains and lights through leaves. After so many places finally I found this place. (I really went so many places!) I could imagine the scene and listen this song. The natures stimulated my feelings. Although I already have scene plots, but this place helped me.


Women Cinemakers

Of course not only this place, but also so many staff especially the director and camera team supported me! You are an accomplished artists and since 2015 you have expanded your activities to a global scale, to bring Japanese myths and legends to new audiences around the world: what do you want to

trigger in the international audience? Are you particularly interested in structuring your work in order to urge the viewers to elaborate personal associations? First I have to talk about my childhood. When I was a child, I couldn’t find my place in this world, although I loved my family and friends and they loved me, I


Women Cinemakers believe. I often felt I should not be here, I have to be an invisible person, there are a big long script by God and there are no my part only. I don’t know why but I felt. Only when I read the books, fantasy, mystery, animals, folklore… I could feel there must be a script for me in another place, another world. As I grew, I forgot about this feeling although I still had an uncomfortable feeling. And when I met folklore and old age’s book especially Haiku and Waka (Japanese seventeen-syllable poem), suddenly I felt their emotions. I was moved. Those are same emotions with contemporary us. That helped me to feel I am not alone. There are someone who can be with me and who I can be with at least in the past or in the future. Then I started to sing about the old age’s story. After that, I met Japanese mythology. Until I met myth, I felt shrine’s gods are perfect from the beginning. But in the myth, they are not perfect. That means they became more perfect existence from imperfect existence. That’s the progress. One continue way. So I feel this world has real continue fantasy. Yes, it still continue. Why I can say there are no my part? Japanese myth is close, familiar and living fantasy. And it has a way of thinking that you has your god in your soul. Although gods may sleep, but there are. This idea encourage me always to express what I feel. I really want to express about these thing



Photo by Richard Lee Costume by yuha. Accessary by qama


Women Cinemakers

with my works for someone who feel alone in somewhere like my childhood. And for that, now I’m making new project! Before leaving this conversation we want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in contemporary art scene. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from producing something 'uncommon', however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. How would you describe your personal experience as an unconventional artist? And what's your view on the future of women in this interdisciplinary field? Like you and the others, I got several sexual harassments and power harassments. One became stalker criminal case. It was just a hell. Not only by working relationship, but also by stranger, I got the damage. Once I was attack by man with the blade. That is still on trial in the court, although I am safe. So sometimes I feel jealous to men. To live as a woman itself is so hard. But at the same time, I feel it is wonderful thing to born as a woman. We can watch this world with other perspective. We don’t need to be as same as men, you know. We have so many possibility to make new works. In Japan, there are so many silent pressure ‘women should~’. That means ‘men should~’. But we are just

artists, before we are men and women. Gender is just one essence of us. Because of wonderful foregoer, women’s position is changing little by little. I think someday we will be able to concentrate just our works. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Ekotumi. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Yes, please listen. I have a new project. I will publish Japanese mythology book in Japanese with publish company on next year. But before that, this July I will release Japanese mythology novel in Japanese and English. After that I will release the song along the story. I would like to express with several ways, music, novel, performance…. It will be more understandable work, entertainment. And I will make a new art performance, of course about Japanese myth, it will be ‘not’ more understandable work but you can feel what I want to express and you can feel the atmosphere of Japanese myth. Please check my HP. I hope you enjoy these. Thank you so much. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com


Women Cinemakers meets

Merli V. Guerra Lives and works in Boston, MA, and Princeton, NJ

Played in reverse, Guerra's film The One I Keep questions the secrets we withhold versus the multitude we share, and is told through the eyes of a solo performer caught in the turbulence of thousands of flying paper notes. With social media becoming an ever-increasing force in our lives, it's easy to let the world know more of our personal secrets than one might realize. This film, created from the real-life online journals of the artist (complete with a few secrets never publicly shared) toys with this concept of revealing oneself to the world. The hope for this film is to encourage viewers to reconsider their own expressions of revealment. What are the secrets we keep? The thoughts we share? Are we aware of how quickly our words take on a life of their own and fly away from us the moment they leave our lips? Let's take a moment to hold onto that one secret only we know...the one we keep.

An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com is a captivating dance short film by dancer and award-winning interdisciplinary artist Merli V. Guerra: elegantly composed and marked out with refined choreography, this stimulating work is a successful attempt to create a brilliant allegory of human condition capable of drawing the viewers to a

heightened and multilayered experience. One of the most interesting aspects of Guerra's work is the way it encourages viewers to reconsider their own expressions of revealment: we are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to this gorgeous work of art and to Merli's multifaceted artistic production. Hello Merli and welcome to : we would like to introduce you to our readers with a couple of questions regarding your background.



Women Cinemakers Are there any experiences that did particularly inform your current practice? Moreover, how does your interdisciplinary cultural substratum due to your studies of ballet, modern, and classical Indian dance direct your artistic research? Thank you, WomenCinemakers; it’s such a pleasure to be speaking with you! As a choreographer and visual artist, I frequently find my work revolves around the concept of the present intermingling with the past. Be it facing a past iteration of one’s self, or connecting with those who came before us, my work has been described as “haunting,” and “cyclical.” To achieve this, my work is often loosely narrative, and requires that my dancers reach beyond the physical nimbleness of their bodies, and instead incorporate every part of their beings—from face and fingers to the inner emotions driving the movement. Each choreographic phrase is a breathing act of artistry first, and movement second. Similarly, my work in classical Indian dance (in the Odissi style) has trained me to use everything from facial expressions to intricate hand gestures (mudras) for the purpose of storytelling. This, coupled with my lifelong training in ballet and more recent work in modern dance, has prompted me to focus on every tiny detail of the body: kinetically, visually, and emotionally. All of this can be seen in , from the attention paid to the soloist’s eyes, to the choreographic intricacies of her fingertips walking up her throat—all of the dance disciplines in which I’ve trained are so deeply engrained in my muscle memory that a naturally occurring hybrid is often the result.




Women Cinemakers For this special edition of we have , an extremely interesting selected dance short video that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and that can be viewed at . This captivating works questions and what has at once captured our attention of your insightful inquiry into this relationship is the way you have provided the results of your artistic research with such refined aesthetics. While walking our readers through the genesis of , would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea? Fantastic question. All of my artistic works—be they in dance, film, or installation—tend to begin with a singular visual image in my mind. This is exactly what happened for this work. Luminarium was in the process of creating its 2013 Feature Production based on the concept of secrets. In the midst of creating choreographic works for the stage, my brain began feeding me a new image: one of a woman sitting stoically as tiny paper notes swirled around her, as if caught inside a snow globe. I couldn’t shake it! Each time I’d close my eyes, I’d be haunted by this visual. I soon decided to take on the challenge—realizing that film would be the best tool for creating this new work, as it would allow me to play with gravity and directing the viewer’s eye to its many hidden details. Conceptually, my work is largely autobiographical, and this piece is no exception. I quickly came to recognize that my snow globe visual was meant to question the secrets we





Women Cinemakers withhold versus the multitude we share, as told through the eyes of a solo performer, caught in the turbulence of thousands of flying paper notes. As a dance critic and arts journalist, I regularly promote my personal views, stories, and insights not only through the regional and international publications I write for, but through my own public online journal . I spent an afternoon physically printing everything I’ve written that’s available to the public, then cutting them up into over 1,600 paper notes. Mixing them up in a bag, each note contained snippets of sentences, thoughts, and phrases from my professional and personal ramblings. Sifting through them, I found that I often had no clue what I was reading, while other pieces instantly brought me back to the moment I wrote those words, now showering like confetti onto my dancer below. In looking up past notes for this interview, I came across a post on my artist journal chronicling the behind-thescenes of making this film. I highly recommend taking a peek, as it provides a fresh, in-the-moment take on the meaning behind, and experience of making, : merliguerra.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-one-ikeep-my-thoughts-in-thousands.html We have appreciated the way your approach to choreography conveys sense of freedom and reflects rigorous approach to the grammar of body language: how do you consider the relationship between the necessity of scheduling the details of your performative gestures and the need of spontaneity?

How much importance does improvisation play in your process? is an interesting example for this question, as it’s at once the most intricately planned film I’ve created and also the most spontaneous. Despite the apparent oxymoron, it really is true! In the past, my films have always involved a combination of set choreography, structured improvisation, and the ever-present delight of “happy accidents” that come with the nature of filming. This work, however, provided two polar opposite extremes. In order to create the illusion of the paper notes flying upwards, all but one scene in the film is played in reverse. Meanwhile, to make the choreography appear as it was originally set, this meant that my incredibly talented and trusting dancer (and long-time Company Member of Luminarium) Jess Chang needed to first work with me on setting the phrases forwards, then work with me on performing them in retrograde. Subtleties you might never think of, such as the way it feels to roll a shoulder backwards rather than forwards or maintaining the initiation point of the movement, became mental challenges. Example: If Jess’s knuckles knock her chin, causing her to look up, the retrograde needs to mimic the exact cadence in reverse— beginning with looking upwards, dropping her chin slowly then quickly to hit her knuckles and lowering her hand with the appropriate speed, in the hopes of the whole movement looking relatively realistic when played in reverse, or “forwards,” as perceived by the audience. Confused? So were we! It was an infinitely tedious


Women Cinemakers process and required a step-by-step script to ensure accuracy as we went. Yet at the same time, we had the additional element of the fluttering notes, which could not have been less scripted, and resulted in some beautiful surprises throughout the filming process. At one moment, by complete chance, the words “look up” landed on a strand of hair, right next to Jess’s downwardly gazing eye. At another, the papers swirled around her in a wide spiral, a trajectory we could not have predicted, but visually loved. Ultimately, this constant juxtaposition of the unpredictable with the overlyprecise made a challenge to film, while being a humorously frustrating experience for all involved. Elegantly shot, features essential cinematography and rich colour palette with keen eye to details: what were your aesthetic decisions when shooting and editing the footage? In particular, what was your choice about camera and lens? has a very clean aesthetic. It was important to me that the colors be limited to a simple palette of black, white, and the rich golden hues of Jess’s skin, the wood floor, and warm lighting. Attention was given to capturing closeups of Jess’s eyes, lips, and fingers, creating an equally minimal glimpse into who this woman was, alone in her stark space. At the point that this film was shot, the funding for its production was non-existent. As a result, I relied on borrowing equipment from another film project Luminarium currently had in the works, which involved low




Women Cinemakers lighting and the need for a camera that could handle those conditions. The equipment I borrowed for this film was extremely minimal. We had two Sony NX5U HD Video Cameras, a stool, and access to a local building with a loft high enough to drop the paper notes successfully. As a general rule, I am a purest when it comes to using film. I never employ special effects, nor do I manipulate the footage to great lengths. I have never used opacities in any of my films, and am proud to have achieved layered imagery with the use of physical projectors in the space, rather than superimposing images in Final Cut Pro in postproduction. This isn’t to downplay those who do! It’s simply a personal preference on my part—preferring to use film predominantly as a means of capturing real moments. Hence, my decision to toy with reality by presenting this footage in reverse was a purposeful one. Encouraging the spectatorship to reconsider their own involves expressions of revealment, the audience in a dreamlike and heightened visual experience: we daresay that you seem to urge your spectatorship to challenge their perceptual categories to create personal narratives: how much important is for you to trigger the viewer's imagination in order to address them to elaborate personal associations? In particular, were you interested in providing your work with an allegorical quality that reflect human condition? Absolutely. With social media continuing to act as an everincreasing force in our lives, it's easy to let the world know more of our personal secrets than one might realize. This


Women Cinemakers film, created from my own real-life online journals (complete with a few secrets never publicly shared) toys with this concept of revealing oneself to the world, for better or worse. The hope for this film is to encourage viewers to reconsider their own expressions of revealment. What are the secrets we keep? The thoughts we share? Are we aware of how quickly our words take on a life of their own and fly away from us the moment they leave our lips? Let's take a moment to hold onto that one secret only we know...the one we keep. As an artist particularly interested in how do you consider the relationship between direct experience and creative process? In particular, how does everyday life's experience fuel your artistic research? I’m so glad you bring this up. To me, “past self” relates to everyday life’s experiences. The example I always give when explaining this concept to others, is the night I found myself at a stoplight six years ago. Here is the entry I wrote in my online artist journal on May 30, 2012: There are a few things in this world that particularly never cease to intrigue me emotionally, physically, psychologically, and artistically: Glass, light, water, and space are among them. Tonight I found myself focused on the last. I think everyone has a moment when they stop to contemplate where they were in their lives the last time they entered a space. Perhaps it's as large a gap as revisiting one's childhood home, or as subtle as contemplating just how many times you've walked by a



A still from


Women Cinemakers certain store week after week. Whatever the moment, it is an awakening experience to realize that a "past self" has stood in the same space you now occupy; to compare who you were in that moment with the person you are now. Driving down Mass Ave in Lexington tonight, I found myself connecting the dots—retracing the breadcrumbs left by my own past selves. I first passed the site of Vinny T's, a high school favorite and a chance to feel like an adult while ordering too much Italian food for our budgets. Fastforward five years to June 24, 2010. Kim and I meet to discuss the possibility of putting together our own dance company, or maybe just a single show (I mean, who knows how to start a dance company?). I invite her to the restaurant I know so well, and as we yank on the permanently bolted door, I realize the restaurant I once thought of as my meeting place is now closed for good. We try various venues and eventually whip out our notebooks while sitting in the window of the local Starbucks across the street. Fast-forward again to February 17, 2012. I'm sitting in Nourish next door, also in the window, meeting with members of a new dance company I am a part of (in addition to my own now established company, of course), mourning the unexpected death of a fellow company member (and my dance partner within the group). Fast-forward one more time to tonight. I am sitting in traffic, stopped in time. To my left is the space where the restaurant was; to my right are the two windows of Starbucks and Nourish. I am suddenly struck by the intense proximity of the two, not even ten feet apart, sitting there side by side like two windows into another part of my life. It's moments like this when I can almost see myself sitting in one window laughing with an old friend, completely unaware of the dance adventures awaiting us, and in the other (at a very different point in my life), deeply saddened—surrounded by people I love, yet never knew existed when I sat next door two years before.


Women Cinemakers So, too, is this film—and my work as a whole—fueled by this research. In , the soloist (a representation of myself) sits in place as pieces of her (my) past experiences literally flutter around her, physically bathing her skin, and racing away with the brevity of time. It is in many ways the visual representation of that moment I felt at the stoplight; the flurry of memories rushing around me, as I sat in the same geographical space for the fourth time, leaving me questioning, Overall, this research is an underlying current that keeps my creative mind running—whether intentional in its presence or discovered later on—and it has led to the creation of some of my key works, among them: films (2008), (2009), and (2013); and live choreographic works (2010), (2012), and (2015). Many artists express the ideas that they explore through representations of the body and by using their own bodies in their creative processes. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once underlined that "it is always only a matter of seeing: the physical act is unavoidable": how do you consider the relation between the abstract feature of the ideas you aim to communicate and the physical act of creating your artworks? In my case, as a dancer first and foremost, I would argue it is my body which is the final result, while my mind is

the creative process component. So for me, I may change this quote to read: “It is always only a matter of : the act [of creating] is unavoidable.” As I mentioned, my works nearly always begin as a visual within my mind. From there, the act of choreographing is in essence my attempt to release this visual from inside me. It is the thought that drives my movements: A moment of internalized pain might result in movements that are very inward, concave; while feelings of lightheartedness and freedom might manifest as bounding energy with chest lifted, and arms open. Very rarely do I begin my work by moving—rather it is my mind that begs to be expressed through the actions of my body. It's important to mention that you are also the CoFounder and Artistic Director of , —an award-winning contemporary company based in Boston, MA, that is regularly hailed for its unique combination of dance and light, and that our readers can discover at . How do you consider the collaborative nature of this projects? In particular, can you explain how a work of art demonstrates communication between several creative minds? Luminarium is absolutely a collaborative company; the most important of which is the ongoing collaboration between myself and my Co-Director Kimberleigh A. Holman. The two of us founded Luminarium in 2010 in response to our disappointment with the Boston dance scene (at that time) for its lack of merging dance with




Women Cinemakers other artforms. Kim is a professional theatrical lighting designer, and I was doing a lot of work with video projection at that point, hence “luminarium” took shape. Since then, the company has presented 18 major productions in addition to our choreographic works and dance films being presented by more than 80 events across the U.S., and abroad in Romania and Italy. We feel proud to present professional annual dance productions that feature our seven strong, inciteful dancers, with whom we also collaborate on movement, intention, and long-term company development. Likewise, Kim and I deeply believe in our yearly community outreach programs ( and ) which challenge the limits of dance while enriching community: Giving choreographers a creative overnight outlet; using dance to highlight local historical and cultural landmarks; bringing professional performing arts experience directly to underserved local youth; and offering classes that merge dance with other fields such as science, music, technology, and light. Not only do these events actively engage Luminarium with the guest artists, historic sites, and public organizations involved, but they also open the door for active communication between the company and its audience members. So often, post-performance conversations lead to new works and new collaborations of their own, thanks to engaged viewers

and participants taking the time to share with us their thoughts and experiences with our work. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Merli. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Luminarium is currently working on a new feature production that will debut at the Multicultural Arts Center in Cambridge, MA, USA, September 21, 22, 28, and 29, 2018. It’s a collaborative process between myself and co-director, as we work to create a dreamlike narrative spanning an evening-length production. In 2016, we were commissioned to open the largest TED Talks event worldwide—presenting a work that celebrated innovation, creativity, and the power of unity to 2,600 viewers at the historic Boston Opera House. Since then, we have spent the past two seasons developing this short piece into a full-length work. One section of this production is a duet for seven dancers—yes, you read that correctly!—which I’ve been working on over the past year. Two dancers enter the space, searching for connection through echolocation. Upon seeing each other across the expanse, the two begin a movement-based dialogue, as the remaining five dancers gradually drag, lift, and push the two closer and closer together. Their gaze remains unbroken the entire time, as if completely unaware of their bodies moving physically closer together.


Women Cinemakers This work, though still in process, is one that I’ve begun imagining for film. It’s been five years since I’ve created a dance-for-camera work, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this piece breaks that hiatus. The whole work deals with concepts of interpersonal connection—the forces that bring us closer together beyond our own control versus those that pull us away. In these early stages, I currently see this work being filmed in a public place (a café, perhaps, or mall…somewhere that naturally demonstrates the constant rush of society) and proffers a deeper connection to be found in the midst of chaos. As this section—and the production as a whole— continues to take shape, I’m finding I’m looking forward to experimenting with the choreography beyond the stage space, and weaving it naturally into the vibrant world around us. As always, I welcome thoughts and feedback on everything touched upon in this interview, and hope to form new artistic collaborations as a result! Please feel free to contact me via my website at .

An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com



Women Cinemakers meets

Marta Arjona Blasco Mei Casabona Socially, the big sense of identity, of gender, of finding a role in the closest environment, makes us living prisoners from each other. Why is so important how we are seen? Why we take so much trouble in the fight of liking, in power and control? Gender defines us, but the comparative between men and women that marks our culture jails us. This fight between femenine and masculine duality is what QUADRANT wants to transmit, and it makes it in the alabaster's quarry la Coma-Ral, a life environment surronded by the memory of those MEN who in 1917 occuped and extracted the stone with their own hands. Year of revolutions, year of fights for achieving fonamental rights such as the equality between each others. It has been 100 years, and like Sarral is celebrating the centenary from the aperture of the first modern alabaster workshop in the village, an event that created a unique artistic tradition that today is still alive; we have to still fighthing for a fair and equal world.

An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com

Hello Marta and Mei and welcome to : to start this interview we would ask you a couple of question about your

background: are there any experience sthat did particularly influence your evolution as chreographers and videomakers? Moreover, how do your cultural substratums direct the trajectory of your artistic research? MARTA: In my case, what had a gread impact in my professional development, it was meeting Mei. I



started being one of her dance students and she made me change my view of dancing. I started to understand dance in another way. Since that moment, eventhough I had been dancing for many years, I could understand the dance technique and dance became a language that could be used to tell stories. Moreover, in that moment I was finishing my studies in Audiovisual Communication, so I started to work with both languages, the movement and the audiovisual one. MEI: I had an impact in Marta’s work as a teacher and in my case, both teachers and dance companies where I have worked have had a big influence in my artistic development. But, since I moved to Sarral in 2010, a small village where hadn’t been any cultural approach before, made me change my view and I started to promote dance in another way, so, I thought that the screendance format was the perfect format to promote dance in a place where hadn’t been anything like that before. It's no doubt that collaborations as the one that you have established together are today ever growing forces in contemporary scene and that the most exciting things happen when creative minds from different fields of practice meet and collaborate on a project... could you tell us something about this effective synergy? By the way, Peter Tabor once stated that " ":

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Women Cinemakers


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Women Cinemakers what's your point about this? Can you explain how your work demonstrates communication between artists from different disciplines? MARTA: As I said before, Mei made me change my point of view and way of understanding dancing. In some way she pointed my future, and this is so valuable! Working with her it is always a pleasure and a chance for learning. Both dance and audiovisual are two formats that alone can explain very different stories; dance in a stage and audiovisual in a screen. But when they meet, then comes magic, and audiovisual and movement are formats that as time goes by, they are working closer. On the one hand, what happens on a stage is ephimer, on the other, when you work with audiovisual, it lasts forever. Dance on a stage has only got one point of view and the audiovisual format permits you to direct the audience eye wherever you want them to look and create a total new meaning for it. The aduiovisual format gives you the chance of modifying time and space, of breaking a choreography. In fact, this is what we did with QUADRANT, up to the point that it’s dancers didn’t recognize the piece once it was finished. MEI: We come from very different worlds but the good thing is that we conceive and understand dance in the same way; as a communication and




expression language, and we have a common objective, that is to give importance to good dance. we For this special edition of have selected , a captivating dance film that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article nd that can be viewed at . We have been fascinated with the way your insightful inquiry into

the conflictual relationship between the feminine and the masculine identities provides the viewers with such an emotionally intense visual experience, enhanced by elegant composition. When walking , our readers through the genesis of would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea? MEI: QUADRANT started being a choreography for the stage which we later adapted to the screen. When I


started working with it, my inspiration where the dancers themselves, because they are teenagers and I wanted to create and transmit a story to get them know the paper of women and men in our society, because is something that they need to learn, because at this age is when they start thinking in relationships that are more than friendhsip. Elegantly shot, features gorgeous combinations between refined landscape

cinematography and a keen eye for detail: what were your aesthetic decisions when shooting? In particular, what was your choice about camera and lens? MEI: When we talk about the choreography itself, we were not giving as importance to the aesthetic because it was the whole place that gave us that esthetic. The only decisions that we had to take where because of the adust and hard environment because


Women Cinemakers dancers had great difficulties in moving and dancers had to learn to adapt and change things within a place. MARTA: We recorded the whole video with three DSLR Canon Cameras and another one which was working with still photography. We had the master shot with a wide angle lens, a tripod and a slider, and then to closer shots, one with a 7D recording at 50fps with a FlyCam operator that was moving with the dancers, and the other one with a 70-200 lens that provide us closer images of the dancers. For the first time, we had also had the chance of working with a drone. We have appreciated the mix between sense of freedom and reflects rigorous approach to the grammar of body language: how do you consider the relationship between the necessity of scheduling the details of your performative gestures and the need of spontaneity? How much importance does play improvisation in your process? MEI: In this case there was not any improvisation when talking about movement, but there was a lot of spontaneity when we started to shot because of the difficuties of the environment, and also when editing it, because we broke all the choreography into pieces and this was not planned.

MARTA: When talking about the cameras, in this case we could not plan any images before because we were adapting to the environment movement through movement, so, in some way, even though Mei and I were taking the decisions together; we were improvising the images we were taking. Using a naturalistic and well orchestrated camera work, has drawn heavily from and we have highly appreciated the way you have created such insightful between the environment and performative getures: how did you select the location and how did it affect your shooting process? MARTA: QUADRANT was recorded in the alabaster quarry la Coma-Ral because it was part of the celebration of the 100 years of the opening of the first modern alabaster workshop in Sarral, and gave us a perfect environment for it. What’s more, the form of the quarry reminds a natural amphitheatre, MEI: Yes, we choose la Coma-Ral because it’s historical importance and as we said before, we had to adapt lots of movement to the environment and there were different sequences of floorwork from the original choreography that dissappeared because dancers were not able to do it.




Women Cinemakers Music plays a crucial role in your work and the minimalistic sound tapestry created by provides with such a both capable of challenging the viewers' perceptual categories: How do you consider the role of sound within your artistic research? Moreover, how do you consider playing within your work? MEI: In the case of QUADRANT, there is a part where music goes tohether with the dancers and helps them with their moves, but there is another part where music and sound are part of the quarry and then, we are giving importance to those who were working there 100 years before. MARTA: Yes, specially in the first part of the piece, sound is very important, because while dancers are moving we can hear the sound of machines extracting stones from the quarry and also the own dancers sounds when moving. Here we wanted to transmit something with sound, because it plays a very important role in every production, and we did it. Your artistic research is pervaded with insightful socio political criticism and as you have remarked in the ending lines of your director's statement, . Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once stated,

" How do you consider the role of artists and filmmakers in our unstable contemporary age? In particular, does your artistic research respond to a particular cultural moment? MARTA: Art has always been a medium used to fight, used to express and used to explain. In QUADRANT we talk about a fight but we also talk about a particular moment in history. Each production is different, but what I like to do is to explain, to tell, to express and to make the audience think about something with my works. Because this is what creators should do. MEI: Art has always wanted to respond to the social times lived in one or other moment. Nowadays, life goes so fast, and so much importance is given to aesthetics. Dance has always been different from the other arts because it is ephimeral and thanks to technology, we now have another type of dance that will last forever. The fact is that we are not only recording a show; we have the chance to create productions for the screen, and here you can say, tell and express wherever you want. Another interesting work that we are pleased to and introduce to our readers is entitled can be viewed at .


Since the first time we had the chance to view this stimulating dance project we have appreciated the way it unveils the point of convergence between the abstract nature of movement and the physicality of body and space. Art historian Ernst Gombrich once underlined the importance of providing a space for the viewer to project onto, so that they can actively participate in the creation of the illusion: how much important is for you to trigger the viewer's imagination in order to address them to elaborate personal associations? In particular, how open would you like your works to be understood? MARTA: We produce screendance wanting to tell one or other story, but we talk with no words and that is what makes screendance interesting: the fact that anyone can understand something different from that. MEI: One of the difference of dance from the other arts it is its abstraction because it is a llanguage through the body, and here, everyone makes its own interpretation; that’s why we do dance, because there will always be something depending on the audience. Highlighting the interstial points between past, present and future, captures emotionally charged moments and seems to respond to German photographer Andreas Gursky when he stated that . How did you

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Women Cinemakers


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Women Cinemakers structure the structure of in order to achieve such brilliant results? And what do you hope it will provoke in the viewers? MARTA: NIGRA was a very personal project for me, and I wanted to go from darkness to light, from the feeling of being alone in the world, to know that life will always go on. Some viewers have told me that they had a profund feeling of sadness when wathing it, and as I said before, here everyone has to make its own interpretation, because what I really wanted to transmit is that no matters how hard is your life, there will always be a reason for fighting. Over the years your works have been showcased in a number of international festivals how much importance has for you that you receive in the festival circuit? And how do you feel previewing a film before an audience? MARTA: Having the chance of screen our works worldwide is incredible, and when you know who are the members of the jury in some of the festival where we are selected we feel so proud about it. Before leaving this conversation we want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in cinema. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. What's your


view on the future of women in cinema? Do you think it is harder for women artists to have their projects green lit today? MARTA: We live in a world when slowly but without stopping, women are being included and taken into account in more aspects in life. More and more women filmmakers are working day to day to find their place in this job that had historically been so masculine. I think that if we all women work together, we will find our place in it. In fact, we are now finding it. MEI: Contemporary dance is a world full of women, and so does dance in general. And I think that artists are very open minded are give so much chances for women. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Marta and Mei. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? MEI: QUADRANT is the second project that we direct together, and there will of course, come more. MARTA: Yes, I hope Mei and I will be working together for many years; and from DansPXL, we never stop creating new screendance stories. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com

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Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers meets

Anja Gallagher-Syfrig Sanne Clifford Live and work in Berne and Amsterdam

Transience plays within the ruin of an ancient Monastery close to the Swiss Alps. An interdisciplinary collective of artists tries to capture the essence of this magical place through movement, imagery and sound composition and addresses the univerale themes of becoming, blossoming and decay

womencinemaker@berlin.com

inner world and external reality: we are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to this captivating and multifaceted work of art.

is a captivating short Dance Film by dancer, choreographer and filmmakers Anja M. Gallagher-Syfrig and Sanne Clifford: inquiring into the themes of blossom and decay, their artistic research unveils the elusive still ubiquitous relationship between human nature and its surroundings, to initiate their audience into highteneed experience capable of encouraging a cross-pollination of the spectatorship. Featuring elegant cinematography and sapient composition, speaks of the elusive bond between

Hello Anja and Sanne and welcome to : before starting to elaborate about your artistic production we would invit our readers to visit and in order to get a wide idea about your artistic productions. You have both particularly solid educational background in dance & choreography: how did these experiences of training influence your evolution as artists and creatives?

An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant



Women Cinemakers

Anja: I think my liberal arts education gave me the basis to dare to ask questions such as “why do we do things in a certain way?”, or “how do we humans operate in a particular situation?” It’s this curiosity for research: to get to the bottom and find the origin of a particular behaviour, feeling or even a situation. Sanne and I met and produce together because we are often driven by the same questions we are looking to find answers to. Sanne: to develop a career in dance and choreography takes time, and I believe on each level or step of your journey you need input and coaching. Of course being in different dance studies helped me to develop my artistic voice and take small steps at the time. For this special edition of we have selected , an extremely interesting short dance film that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. While walking our readers through the genesis of , would you tell us what did address you to explore the themes of blossom and decay?




Women Cinemakers

Anja: There is a famous dance piece by José Limòn that I was fortunate to dance in. It is called “There is a time”… and it talks about the different circles one goes through in life. A dancers stage career usually finds its end around the age of 35. The confrontation with the fact that the body starts showing signs of wear and tear and that the chapter of being a professional stage dancer is over is just one example of such a circle coming to an end. Arriving in “the middle” of live, having kids and seeing your parents grow old, confronted me not only with my chapters of live, but the bigger overall circle of growth, blossom and decay that we experience over our lifetime. was performed and shot in the ruin of an ancient monastery close to the Swiss Alps and we have highly appreciated the way it brings to a new level of significance the nature of the interaction between human body and surrounding environment: what did you draw to select the locations and how do you consider the relationship between performative gestures and the surroundings? Anja: Realizing the film in a ruin seemed the perfect location for our theme; a ruin shows the remnants of what it once was; it lets us wonder what it might have looked like in full blossom. The monastery ruin is a




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place of special atmosphere and power. The main artistic interest lay in the experiment, whether it is possible to capture the atmosphere of such a magical place on film through movement, sound and poetic imagery. The interaction between human body and environment was important to

us, because we often perceive ourselves as existing separately from nature and lack to recognize how connected and dependent on nature we truly are. Featuring elegant cinematography and rigorous is marked out with composition, stunning landscape cinematography and


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sapient use of close ups: what were your aesthetic decisions when shooting? In particular, what was your choice about camera and lens? Sanne: we worked on alternating the aerial and long shots with close ups, mainly to have different approaches to the body in camera frame. Also we

wanted to let the site speak, as it was core of the concept. We filmed with two different cameras. It was raining a lot while shooting, so we choose to use it in our advantage to create the atmosphere. To emphasize the ubiquitous bond between an artist's creative process and everyday life's


Women Cinemakers experience, British artist Chris Ofili once stated that "creativity's to do with improvisation - what's happening around you". How would you consider the relationship between the necessity of scheduling the details of a performance and the need of spontaneity? How much importance does improvisation play in your process? Anja: We prepared movement material in the studio before the shooting in the monastery, in which we included the historical research of the ruin. However, most of the interesting movement material was created through improvisation upon arriving in the monastery. The dancers were given tasks that they instantly put to movement. I think that both, the researched / prepared material as well as the spontaneously created movement were necessary to get the multi-facetted outcome in the end. Sanne: Anja and I both like to play with a clear concept, which could include set material, and then take it further in the moment. The improvisation also lies in the way of filming of course, not only from the movement perspective. As we both did both, it kept us sharp and playful at the same time.




Women Cinemakers Another factor was the fact that I saw the site for the first time on the first day of shooting. Therefore I let the site also speak to me, this inspired me a lot. We daresay that your inquiry into provides with such : as a collective of artists whose practice is deeply concerned with the physical, dimension, how do you consider ? Moreover, how much important is for you to trigger the viewer's perceptual parameters in order to address them to elaborate personal associations? Anja: I am a firm believer that we are the creators of our personal reality. Therefore, a personal reality starts with a personal thought, an idea, an imagination if you will. Having a clear vision of a future profession for example, will help in taking the steps to making the desired job a reality. Triggering the viewer’s perceptual parameters is just one way to connect the viewer to his or her own self and inner personal world. Accessing this space can also be done through the music, nature or as in our case, movement. We are literally overwhelmed with information today, we are constantly connected to what




Women Cinemakers is happening around us; it is easy to lose touch to our, so vital, inner world. It's no doubt that collaborations as the one that you have established together are today ever growing forces in Contemporary Art and that the most exciting things happen when creative minds from different fields of practice meet and collaborate on a project: could you tell us something about the collaborative nature of your work? Can you explain how does your work between several demonstrate creative minds? Anja: Sanne and I are the founders of Choreolab Europe, a platform for peers to exchange choreographic research and creative approaches. We research our ideas in our labs with dance creators from all over europe. Ideas are tested and further developed. The research for transience was also part of such a lab: an idea is presented to a group of creative minds and they are given specific tasks in relation to the theme. The outcome is then shared with the peers and we discuss, how the idea can be further developed. So our collaborative process is one of constant exchange and communication, in a very playful and experimental way.



A still from


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The stimulating soundtrack by Rupert Lally with such an and a provides bit unsettling atmosphere, to enrich the footage with an emotionally powerful sound tapestry: how do you see the relationship between sound and movement playing within your approach to dance? Anja: They influence each other greatly; however, they are two completely separate art forms and should be treated as such. If dance and soundtrack are combined in a way where they are clearly linked and in communication, but still keep their own essence, that is when they reach their full potential and create a work of art. Many artists express the ideas that they explore through representations of the body and by using their own bodies in their creative processes. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once underlined that " ": how do you consider the relation between of the themes you explore and of creating your artworks? Anja: In our research, we explore what an abstract theme means within our bodies and the bodies of our dancers. As we are all individuals, every physical answer




Women Cinemakers will be a different one. And therein lies the potential for us to create our works; layering and composing these very personal physical responses into a multilayered (dance) work. Sanne: as dance is a language, it expresses both abstract and more concrete matters, feelings or themes. It’s mostly in the how, not the what. We chose a site that already speaks and shows a history, an atmosphere and power. To move within asked for a type and quality of movement that relates to the theme (on the inner world), but not describes it. This balance between site and movement is a dance by itself! Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Anja and Sanne. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Anja: I would like to further develop our research platform Choreolab Europe. Meeting artists from all over the world and exchanging ideas is a neverending source of inspiration to me. In my personal artistic work, I am starting the research for an interactive multidisciplinary dance piece for children. I am thrilled to dive into the challenge to create work for a very young audience




Women Cinemakers and to find out how to communicate and interact with the spectators in live performance. In regards to film making, I am interested in creating another work, which dives even more into the relationship of the human being connected to nature - if opportunity arises. Sanne: Anja and I want to continue the development of our choreographic platform Choreolab Europe. More information can be found on www.choreolab.eu. As individual makers each of us is working on a new choreographic work. I’m currently working on performance called ’NOTE TO SELF’, which will premiere in September 2018 in Amsterdam (NL). This work addresses a contrast in daily life I see around me: on one hand many of us are trying to make it all work, doing everything at their best with a lot of pressure to deliver and striving for perfection and on the other hand the search for silence, taking time and some form of inner peace. More information about this and my other works can be found on my website www.sanneclifford.nl. An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com


Women Cinemakers meets

Daria Lippi Lives and works in Bataville, France

An old factory. A dark forest. A run-and-chase between a horse and a dancer. They cross paths, spaces, lose each other, then find each other again. Who knows for how long? Who knows why? They know each other, or maybe they knew each other… They wake up and reveal Bataville’s forgotten sets just the duration of one song… « May the beauty make me walk ... »

An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com Czech-born philosopher, writer and journalist Vilém Flusser once defined ‘imagination’ as the ability to abstract surfaces out of space and time and to project them back into space and time: CREATURES is the successful attempt to unveil the points of convergences between the materic essence of body and the abstract idea of resonance with other forms of life. Sapiently conceived by choreographer and experimental video artist Daria Lippi, CREATURES combines sound and images to walk the viewers to snatch the bond between time and movement, providing them with a heightened and multilayered experience, and we are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to her multifaceted and stimulating artistic production.

Hello Daria and welcome to WomenCinemakers: we would start this interview with a couple of questions about your background. Are there any experiences that did particularly influence your artistic trajectory? Moreover what did address you to focus an important part of your artistic research on the intersection between choreography and video? Hello WomenCinemakers, thank you for your interest in my work. And thank you also for considering me as a choreographer, though I can not really say I am one. I followed a multidisciplinary artistic trajectory : I indeed studied classical, then contemporary dance as a young woman. With this background I started working as a theatre actress, which still is my main job. I was also doing much photography, participating in exhibitions, winning prizes … but the stage was more and more engaging and I ended up


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by putting my camera aside. In the meantime, without quitting the stage as an actress, I started working as a director, which provided me with extremely important tools. Some years afterwards, when the new digital video cameras became available, I bought one with no definite project in my mind, and started filming the plays of the theater company I was working with. What concerned me at the time—and still does at present because things have not really changed—was the poor quality of theatre-play recording. Even using sophisticated means ---many cameras and professional editing for example--- the play on screen is always poorer as compared to the live one. This is a consequence of the structural differences between two dramaturgical forms: for example, a rhythm may be good for the stage but not for the screen. Or, which is even more important, whereas at the theatre the spectators are free to choose their framing---we often “close up” on a detail or an actor at the periphery of the “main” action---when watching a video the framing, the point of view has already been chosen. So I started experimenting on different forms, trying to translate rather than just reproduce. Now, translating an artwork written in a language, that of theatre, into another language, that of cinema, may in some cases require deep transformations. I then used my viewpoint as an actress, filming from the stage or taking the actors and the performance out of the stage, on a hill, in a living room… It was a good training. My training with cinema tools was rather selftaught. I use each new project to learn something I need. Summing up, my esthetic toolkit comes from three different disciplines: dance, photography and theatre, both as an actress and a director. The idea of creating specifically for the screen occurred to me only recently and CREATURES is my first realization. Four years ago I decided to quit the institutional network to create a new structure aimed at research, interdisciplinary formation and production of artwork at the intersection of different fields. The Fabrique Autonome des Acteurs (FAA) is a network of artists and researchers who collaborate, peer to peer environment, a crucible of crossbreeding and experiments stimulating us to try what we are not -yet- able to do. Moreover, FAA

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Women Cinemakers is located at the heart of a manufacturing facility, which has no longer been operating for fifteen years and is fascinating for the esthetic diversity and richness of its landscapes. Creating forms in order to exploit this fourteen- acres scenography is what pushed me to get the camera out of the closet. For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected CREATURES, an extremely interesting dance video that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and that can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/300166238/74cab7aca5. Deviating from traditional dance videomaking, your film has particularly impressed us for the way it challenges the spectatorship's parameters, involving them into a mesmerizing visual experience, where they are continuosly asked to question the duality human versus animal: when walking our readers through the genesis of CREATURES, would you tell us how did you come up to explore the resonance between dance and animal realm? It's a long time interest. I’ve been working for years with a group of ethologists on different projects mixing scientific research and artistic creation on stage. Ethology is the study of animal behavior, humans included. Actors being as well researchers on human behavior, many bridges can be built. But CREATURES was also commissioned by the Animal Parc of Sainte Croix, which location is very close from the FAA head office. They had this idea of the horse and the dancer. My first concern has been to thwart the cliché of the « nice looking fragile female dancer (preferably blonde) versus big wild stallion ». Which is why I chose Lucile Guin as a protagonist, who is not only a good dancer, but also a « creature », visually as powerful as the horse, eventually more. With Lucile, we built the choreography by observing and —again— translating the horse’s movements and dynamics, but also a young crow, that lived by us then. Between Lucile and the horse, it was more the similitudes than the differences I was searching for. A Criss-Cross as a leitmotiv is also a way to avoid assigning a role to any of the creatures, for both chases, both are fleeing, defying, both are startling, avoiding and seeking each other.




Therefore, the moments of physical contact are not constrained in a preconceived dramaturgical meaning, but open to what the spectator projects in it. At least I hope! Elegantly shot, CREATURES features sapient landscape cinematography and a keen eye for details, capable of orchestrating realism with intimate visionary quality: what were your aesthetic decisions when shooting? In particular, how did you structure your editing process in order to achieve such brilliant results? My choices while shooting where mainly dictated by the landscape. I know quite well this environment and I wanted to reveal its visual potential. While choosing the locations I looked at each of them both as images---the photographer point of view--- and as stages--- the director point of view. My

choice fell on those which fulfilled both criteria! As to editing, I started by throwing away the screenplay which gave us a reassuring frame while shooting. I chose the shots in terms of their visual pertinency, then I edited using a rhythmical criterion. When I edit, to make my choice, I need that a sort of percussion score materializes within my body while I am watching. If I found myself dancing on my chair than it’s right. And I am very particular with entries and exits of the shots. I want that actions be sort of sucked in, forced to enter, by previous ones. I learned this essential tool by 25 years of practice on the stage, where an entry or an exit can, by themselves, make or destroy a scene. Featuring essential and well-orchestrated choreography, CREATURES involves the audience into a heightened visual experience, urging them to challenge their perceptual


categories to create personal narratives: what are you hoping CREATURES will trigger in the spectatorship? In particular, how much important is for you to address the viewer's imagination in order to elaborate personal associations?

perceive the difference. If we want the spectators to co-create

I am very happy that you noticed it, because it is something that I constantly try to achieve in theatre. There is no recipe for this. But we have tools, the difference being that a tool can be used in different situations and needs practice to be efficient. To obtain that spectators be concerned in what they see, they should be able to project their own histories on it, their sensations, recollections, images, so that their own emotions are prompted. The word « association » you use is the very exact process. In this case we have what I call an active spectator, and when you are on stage you can clearly

fiction, or the meaning for exemple. I am speaking here as an

the play, we must leave them space. We must try not to completely « stick » to our matter, leave some space between us and it for them to project. There are several technical tools allowing us to focus our attention and work away from the actress but the editing or the direction work much in the same way. Actually I do not know what my work will trigger in the spectators. This is not something I am interested in while I'm in the process of creating. This fact, that I am not aiming at a specific reaction, that I am not trying to deliver a message, that I'm not “spectator focused”, results in giving space to the spectators. They then have the freedom, and even the need, to create their own meaning and messages.


Women Cinemakers We have appreciated the way your approach to dance conveys sense of freedom and reflects rigorous approach to the grammar of body language: how do you consider the relationship between the necessity of scheduling the details of your performative gestures and the need of spontaneity? How much importance does play improvisation in your process? In my theatre work, improvisation only occurs during rehearsals, never, or only by accident, in the final form. Personally I'm passionate by finding freedom in constraint by trying to keep an established form alive. But again : this is theater. On stage you must be able to repeat the same form, representation after representation, while the camera allows you to capture “moments of truth” that, if not completely random, are not reproducible. For CREATURES, for example, Lucile’s script was fixed, what kept changing was the context, the environment. The very unpredictable feature was the horse, so that all of us had to improvise somewhat. In particular Lucile improvised every time we filmed a scene where she and the horse appeared together. We knew what kind of relationship between her and the horse we wanted, we knew what the dynamics were and exactely where we wanted to shoot it, but then we had to « ride the wave » of actions and reactions of the horse. This caused memorable rage crises (though we had to restrain ourselves not to scare the horse) but also moments of great satisfaction. We like the way CREATURES has heavily drawn from the specifics of its environment, highlighting the resonance between the body and the space: how did you select the locations and how did they influence your shooting process? As I mentioned, it is the extraordinary landscape at Bataville, from its Bauhaus buildings to its wood and pond, which spurred my filming activity. I work and live in this special space for sevenheight months a year, in this ex-factory, once producing shoes, with its village for the workers, built in the thirtees in bricks and glass in the middle of nowhere in the beautiful Moselle countryside. The Fabrique Autonome des Acteurs holds here masterclasses and




Women Cinemakers research sessions, for which we use the magnificent workers dancing room. However, when we produce artwork, the artists get hold with hunger of the industrial and the natural spaces, both for stage performances, during the Festival, and for films. Another example can be seen in Bataville 1932-2003, the shortmovie directed by Thusnelda Mercy, and to which I collaborated, and which you have reviewed as well. The combination between music, spoken words and visual is crucial in your practice and we have appreciated the way the sound tapestry provides the footage of CREATURES with such an ethereal atmosphere: as an artist particularly concerned in the connection between sound and moving images, how would you consider the role of sound within your practice and how do you see the relationship between sound and movement? First of all, thanks to Emily Loizeau (composer, singer and president of the FAA) who allowed us to use her song “May the beauty make me walk�, which appears to bear a strong dramatic link both with Bataville spaces and run-and-pursuit game between the dancer and the horse. At the Fabrique we stand for team work. I think that an artistic team should share the whole creative process rather than having the artists employed only when their specific competence is required. Juliette Salmon, who designed the sound, is actress and musician. She worked on the screenplay, the rehearsals, the shooting and editing. The soundtrack has been realized once the editing was done. Juliette made proposals, we discussed them and then she started to compose. It was a back-and-forth work between her and me. So I asked her to step in the interview and describe the process leading to the production of the soundtrack. Juliette Salmon: As an actress, I have always paid attention to sound and how you listen to it. I'm interested in processes where sound is not only a passive support but a real partner for actors and spectators. With CREATURES, we wanted to make the sound


Women Cinemakers matter palpable, to work on sensations, to play on spatial contrasts (size, direction and texture of the sound). Also we aimed to support image and motion without illustrating them. Owing to Daria’s interest in science, at the beginning we thought of the soundtrack as that of a “fake wildlife documentary”, which led us to choose Charles Darwin’s texts on horses. Eventually this idea has been dropped and Darwin has remained as a poetic and rhythmic matter within the vocal performance of the actress Laure Catherin. What makes the sound creation extremely interesting is that you can play with the spectators’ ears. You can let them get used to an ambiance and suddenly surprise them. In relation to the images, sound opens the meaning and awaken our interest by going with or against what our eyes are seeing. For CREATURES I used a sort of a filling-airing accompaniment, with the sound thickness supporting physical rises and disappear layer by layer to let the image breathe. Finally, it was important for us to give life to the amazing Bataville spaces, and our feeling of such spaces is much influenced by how they sound. It's a very peculiar, contrasted sound landscape here, that changes radically between the factory and the countryside, between interior and exterior. Many artists express the ideas that they explore through representations of the body and by using their own bodies in their creative processes. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once underlined that "it is always only a matter of seeing: the physical act is unavoidable": how do you consider the relation between the abstract feature of the ideas you aim to communicate and the physical act of creating your artworks? I am interested mostly in the physical act of creating, the brain being very much included in the “physical”. I never start a project thinking of what I want to communicate. What is communicated, emerges from and within the audience, including in me when I'm in the role of director. But this doesn't mean that I start from scratch. I prepare a lot, and I have ideas of course, but they are



A still from


Women Cinemakers more structural ideas, even sometimes protocol research ideas. Rules. For CREATURES, I wanted for the changes of locations not to be narrative, a bit like if scenery paintings canvas were changed behind the protagonists while they continued acting. Even if in the final editing it doesn’t always work like this, this structural idea has framed the shooting, preventing us from a building up a poor fiction for fear of missing the transitions. Another protocol helped to us to build the choreography. We started from an accurate observation of the animals behaviours and movements, inspired from ethology method, then we worked on translating those —and not on imitating— in Lucile’s dance. When we work in a team, a research protocol is more easy to share than an idea, an image or even a message, because it has rules and methods that we can explain, as a game. You have recently organized a festival: would you share with our readers some news about this stimulating experience? Since 2014, we organize every year an event in order to share with the public, because researching, in our field, results in forms that need to be confronted to the audience and get feed-back. This year we have done thing big. Three days of performances, theatre, music, dance, but also neuroscience, mathematics, photography or pyrotechnics, with artists and researchers from all over the world. This is the first edition of the Festival des Antipodes, which from now on will take place every two years. As all we do in the Fabrique Autonome des Acteurs, this is a festival thought for and by the artists (which are incited in going to see other’s performances – it may at first sight appear trivial but it is very rare in festivals). Each artist invited by FAA, invites another artist, so it’s a co-programmed festival. Of course, we take advantage of the entire site, the industrial buildings, the forest, the village, the fields... Until the next edition in 2020, there is another way to get closer to the work we have carried out in FAA, and mainly the visual and

video artworks : it is called Maps-The Game and it is a free video game. The gamer walks his avatar in the Bataville’s maps and he has to reveal the contents scattered all around. Each content is placed where it has been created : it can be photographies from archives of the workers’ life since 1930 or artworks created by the artists since 2013. You can also browse the game as a catalogue, for them who know what they want to look for. For your readers who want to know more the beta version of the game is here: https://faa-maps.eu. We have really appreciated the originality of your artistic research and before leaving this conversation we want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in contemporary art scene. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from producing something 'uncommon', however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. How would you describe your personal experience as an unconventional artist? And what's your view on the future of women in this interdisciplinary field? Well, we are bound to face the fact that the theatrical community, the french one but should I say more generally the western one, is especially retrograde concerning the recognition of women’s work. It’s organization is mostly pyramidal with a very large majority of male directors or producers. I don’t have the exact numbers in my mind, but more than 70% of actors in France are women, for less than 20% of parts in the plays, let us not even talk of leading parts… In such a context, if working alongside a man, having one’s own work recognized as a co-director is almost impossible. It is one of the reasons why, after 23 years working with the same company, I decided to start over. Everything at FAA is challenging, but being a small team exclusively made of women, we tend quite naturally to invite a majority of women artists for our projects. I have the feeling that both the ability and the desire to collaborate or to confront with one another


Women Cinemakers through horizontal relationships are more to be found in women. It seems to me this quality’s origin is more historical than congenital. When we have opportunities to get ourselves out of a castrating system, we would think twice before replicating it…! Still, there is no rule about it and since there are more differences between individuals, than between any human group, it all depends on the person we’re facing, man or woman! That being said, should the interdisciplinary field be more explored, which I really wish, I think women’s contribution would be truly consequent. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Daria. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? I am now rehearsing on a new show that I direct. It is the second step of a process which has begun with a scientific research, conducted in collaboration with the ethologists from the University of Rennes. L’expression du tigre face au moucheron has come as a laboratory-performance where actors and spectators were measured to know if, as most animals, the human brain process positive interaction with the right hemisphere and negative one with the left one’s. From now on, the ten actors and myself will put aside all the measuring instruments and continue the artistic work, using all the process and knowledge that has been generated by the laboratory . And as the virus of shooting is persistent, we are going to make a movie as well, with the same actors and materials. This time, I will be co-directing together with a professional, Michele Cinque. He directed lastly the poignant documentary Juventa, shoot on the ship bought by young Germans to save lives in the Mediterranean Sea. These two projects will bring an end to this FAA’s season (our website is mostly translated in english and we keep it updated : www.fabriqueautonome.org). For the next one, I will certainly find myself doing what I don’t know —yet—how to do!



Women Cinemakers meets

Elena Antonopoulou Lives and works in Athens, Greece

SOMNIUM is a captivating dance short film by F73 collective: elegantly shot, the film takes place in the urban landscape of Athens and addresses the viewers to follow the journey of a young woman who starts her epiphanic trajectory of self-discovery and transformation. SOMNIUM is a successful attempt to create a brilliant allegory of human condition capable of drawing the spectatorship to such an heightened and multilayered experience. We are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to this gorgeous work of art and to F73 collective's artistic production.

An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com Hello Elena and welcome to WomenCinemakers: we would to invite our readers to visit https://www.f-73.com in order to get a wider idea about your artistic production and we would like to introduce you to our readers with a couple of questions regarding your background. Are there any experiences that did particularly inform your current practice? Moreover, does your

cultural background direct the trajectory of your artistic research? Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to present to your readers the work we have been doing in F73 and especially the dance film SOMNIUM, which was collaboratively produced last summer in Athens. My current artistic practice is through the work of the F73 collective, which, in its core, is constituted by London-based screen composer and sound artist Konstantine Pope and myself, an architect and researcher based in Athens, GR, while in its periphery includes artists and researchers from multiple fields. Our different



educational backgrounds (music studies & architectural design) coincide in the idea that space and sound composition processes can interrelate and produce a common ground for artistic practice. Thus, our works follow a multidisciplinary approach, trying to equally involve space and sound, set and music. Moreover, we are very much interested in exploring the idea of collaboration and openness in the production of artistic projects in a more horizontal way. The dance film SOMNIUM constituted the perfect setting for doing so, as we attempted to bring together an eclectic mix of Greek up-and-coming artists and performers: a young dancer and choreographer, rising star of the Greek National Opera Dance School, a cinematographer and director working in underground and independent film projects and a set and costume designer who has collaborated with world-renowned artists, all of whom managed to built brilliant careers despite the harsh social and financial conditions in contemporary Greece. All these creative people brought their expertise, working together in an open and collaborative way rather than in a strictly predetermined manner, following a rough but strong initial idea, in order to create a “participatory� work of art. For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected SOMNIUM, an extremely interesting dance short film that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of

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A still from SOMNIUM


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A still from SOMNIUM


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this article and whose trailer that can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/240347885. While walking our readers through the genesis of SOMNIUM, would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea? The initial idea for the dance film SOMNIUM came up after discovering a really interesting spot in the city, Latraac, an open air skate bowl in the center of Athens. Along with the architect and co-producer Eirini Vouliouri, we viewed Latraac as a playful landscape which invites the body to move in unusual ways (with skateboarding being just one of them). We were intrigued by the idea of temporarily transforming this space and use it for different type of movement, i.e. contemporary dance, which would be filmed to capture this ephemeral transformation of space. This idea was also encouraged by Latraac’s strong DIY character (the bowl has been designed and built as an assemblage of digitally fabricated elements), that welcomes spontaneity and the emergence of unpredictable actions and events. Generally, as architects, we are very much interested in discovering any alternative interpretations of space and create events or situations for users to imagine and experience them. Thus, space can be conceived as the field for the unexpected, carrying a dream-like (character) or even a ludic (playful) dimension of the everyday or reality itself.




Women Cinemakers Featuring brilliant urban landscape cinematography by Charalampos Krekoukiotis, SOMNIUM is sapiently composed and we have particularly appreciated the combination between long takes and keen eye to details: what were your aesthetic decisions when shooting? In particular, what was your choice about camera and lens? I would like to invite Charalampos to offer this answer, who believes that after carefully considering a number of technical and aesthetic factors, we concluded that the optimal choice was to go pretty guerilla on this one! We knew we had relatively limited time for the shooting, as well as a short period of stable natural light conditions, mostly around noon. For the rest part, the trajectory of the sun would drastically change the quality, hue, intensity and angle of light at our filming location. Since the space itself was equally important and in dialogue with our dancer and the choreography, and actually an element of the latter, we naturally wanted to convey the feeling of "being there" as much as possible. This consists of both conveying the obscure wideness of a very particular space such as a skate bowl, as well as all the grinding wear-andtear, sweat-and-blood textures, punky but chill skate aesthetics, and urbanness of a downtown Athens hood, which by the way also has an ancient history. In addition to that, the flowing, improvisational

A still from SOMNIUM

character of the piece required to leave the tripods in the bags and go handheld. In order to follow the flow of the choreography, camera movement had to be precisely choreographed as well. So, in terms of the aesthetics of lighting, the hard light of the relentless Greek summer sun was utilized to augment the rough character of both place and action, by washing


everything out in hard, clear natural light. This of course went perfectly hand in hand with our decision to free camera movement and avoid losing filming angles by lighting rigs, which we wouldn't have the time to move around anyway, since the sun was chasing us. Our two main characters to film, were our dancer/choreographer Dafni and the urban

landscape itself, in various scales. So we had to switch between wide angle, architectural-facadestyle frontal, rather geometric cinematography, to slow motion mid and close-ups, to depict the feeling of a body dancing against rough surfaces in scorching skate bowl. We decided to go with a RED Epic on a handheld Ronin gimbal for a couple of


A still from SOMNIUM

reasons. We wanted to capture a RAW image crisp enough to maintain and deliver all these textures in the coloring and grading process, while affording us the ability to film in various frame rates without having to deal with camera style matching problems in the post-production workflow. It also had to be as compact as possible to operate with

handheld on a very hot day. We paired the RED with a compact set of 4 Zeiss Milvus prime cine lenses ( 21mm f/2.8, 35mm f/2, 50mm f/1.4, 85mm f/1.4), out of which we mostly (if not only) used the 21mm and 50mm. Because one thing that we have taken home from the last years in Athens and Greece, is that restrictions can really boost creativity.


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relationship between environment and movement? And how did you select the location?

SOMNIUM has drawn heavily from the specifics of its location, that is Latraac skate bowl in Athens and we have highly appreciated the way you have created such powerful resonance between urban landscape and human gestures: how do you consider the

As I mentioned earlier, the discovery of this particular set for our dance film constituted the starting point of this project. However, this is my view as an architect who I am always intrigued by space itself. I cannot resist imagining the potentialities or the different stories a place can tell through the possibilities for actions that it allows. At the same time, myself as well as the entire team were intrigued by the spatial interpretation of Dafni Stathatou who was not only the dancer of the piece but also responsible for the choreography. Dafni wanted from the very beginning to fully use Latraac as a space with different levels, inclinations, depth and height. She did not perceive it just as the background for the action but rather aimed for the moving body to get “incorporated” within the space. This was the main reason for inserting elements such as jumps, rolls, fallings, running, that would eventually end up taking a very large proportion of the choreography. But then she came across this specific music piece, which was elaborated in parallel, but also the main storyline: a “creature” who discovers an oasis in the middle of the urban landscape. Thus, she decided to insert also other kind of dancing vocabulary. “The music




brought to my mind something really powerful”, she mentioned. “I imagined an animal trying to conquer and ensure its place. So on the one hand this creature tries to conquer Latraac but on the other hand Latraac beats it. It's like a play, or a fight. A discovery”. Sound plays an important role in your film and we have appreciated the way the audio tapestry provides the footage of SOMNIUM with such an ethereal and unsettling atmosphere: how did you create such captivating soundtrack? And how do you see the relationship between sound and movement? After the concept and location for SOMNIUM were decided, the music was the first thing to be created, before the choreography had even begun to take shape. “This was an unusual but welcome challenge for me as -being a film composer- I am usually invited to compose the music once the film is complete” says Konstantine Pope, the music composer and coproducer of SOMNIUM. We started the composition process by focusing on providing a solid footing for the emotional and intellectual backbone of the project. We wanted to create a piece of music that emphasises equally the process of transformation that the individual is going through and the setting in which this transformation takes place. In this context, the skate bowl at Latraac acquired a spiritual quality, almost like an altar upon which the old state of the

interview

Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


interview

Women Cinemakers protagonist is sacrificed in order for a new one to emerge. Instead of composing an original piece of music, we decided to rework Vivaldi’s ‘Cum Dederit’ from ‘Nisi Dominus’. Being a religious piece of work, steeped in history and written for the human voice, it provided the ideal foundation on which the music could develop. We re-recorded the vocals with Marios Lazarou, a brilliant Greek countertenor and decided to leave the vocal line unchanged, allowing Vivaldi’s age-old melody to come through, bringing it’s text of life and death, destruction and rebirth to the foreground. The accompaniment however was radically changed. The orchestra was replaced by a dense, slow-moving tapestry of ambient textures, rumbling pulses and primal tribal percussion that builds throughout the piece. In this way, the voice is forced to interact with this intense accompaniment, sometimes in relative harmony, other times in conflict but never ignoring it or being completely at ease with it and always transforming through the process, reflecting intensely the way the protagonist interacts with her urban surroundings in the process of her own transformation. In terms of the relationship between the soundtrack and the choreography, we wanted to firmly establish the mood but without limiting Dafni. Hence, we tried to create a score that would set a firm pace and direction but without being too angular or tight. A slow moving soundscape that would have enough cues to firmly establish the tempo and emotional dramaturgy but in a




Women Cinemakers way that would leave plenty of space for her own interpretation and vision to come though unobstructed. We daresay that the discovery of such a 'secret garden' in the middle of the sweltering urban landscape could be considered an allegory of human experience, that address the viewers to a multilayered experience, addressing them to explore the themes of self-discovery and transformation: were you interested in providing your performance with an allegorical quality that reflect human condition? In particular, how much important is for you to trigger the viewer's imagination in order to address them to elaborate personal associations? The work contains a series of binarities such as: urban - natural, formal - informal, day - night, slumber - awakeness, dream - reality, old contemporary, calmness - violence, movement stillness, etc. We believe that through the exploration of such dipoles and the in-between states we comment on aspects of human experience and transformative events which potentially lead to some kind of self- discovery. It is definitely important for us to trigger the viewers’ imagination, but we believe we should do it in an abstract manner that remains open to interpretations. In other words, we offer hints or multiple triggers for questioning, imagining, interpreting rather than a

A still from SOMNIUM

consistent or well-defined allegory. We dare say that we offer fragments of allegory or allegories which the viewers are invited to assemble on their own ways. Eventually, we consider as key concepts notions such as transition, transformation and metamorphosis and we believe those elements are depicted and catered in a symbolic manner, something that is also reflected in the approach of the costumes, created by the talented and well-


established designer Tina Tzoka. Along with the dancer’s self-exploration, her iconic, stylistic mask collapses, to reveal her inner, instinctive personality or being. What was your preparation with actors in terms of rehearsal? What were the most relevant aspects of the collaborative nature of the making of SOMNIUM?

The way we decided to approach this project in terms of workflow, and the fact that this, in its core, was a solo piece meant that there was minimal need and use for rehearsals with the dancer. Instead we focused on holding a series of working meetings during which all the contributors would get together (producers, director, composer, choreographer, costumes) and discuss the progress made so far as well as the next steps. In this way,


A still from SOMNIUM

everyone was constantly up-to-date with all the

relationship between the necessity of scheduling

aspects of the pre-production process and the

the details of your performative gestures and

project was allowed to take shape in a collaborative

the need of spontaneity? How much importance

way that was building towards the day of the shoot.

does play improvisation in your process?

We have appreciated the way your approach to

I believe Dafni Stathatou, choreographer and dancer

choreography conveys sense of freedom and

of SOMNIUM, would be the one most suitable to

reflects rigorous approach to the grammar of

answer this question. Dafni strongly believes in

body language: how do you consider the

improvisation as a way of work and artistic


Women Cinemakers some parts of choreography and a little bit of improvisation to best approach the initial idea of the concept but also having in my mind the limited time we had for shooting”. After all, we must admit that during the editing process, which was also a collective effort under the lead of Charalampos Krekoukiotis, we revisited the project even in terms of choreography, recomposing Dafni’s line of movements and also combining it with the powerful skateboarding scenes, filmed in an unscheduled way on the field of action. Moreover, we spontaneously decided to stay on the spot longer and attempt to shoot during the night, giving an ending part to the story, bringing it back to reality and awakeness by using another vocabulary of movement more casual and ordinary this time.

production. However, when the work in question is to be filmed -resulting in the need for the performance to be repeated multiple times- some well-structured parts of choreography had to be composed. In her own words: “Both improvisation and choreography have their difficulties or even “traps”, each one in its own way. I personally believe that they both demand a great deal of consciousness, study and time. I chose to include

Before leaving this conversation we want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in contemporary art scene. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from producing something 'uncommon', however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. How would you describe your personal experience as an unconventional artist? And what's your view on the future of women in this interdisciplinary field?



A still from SOMNIUM


A still from SOMNIUM


Women Cinemakers An unconventional artist? I would like to become one at some point! Unfortunately, I do not consider myself as such yet. However, I very much appreciate this question, which is difficult and multilayered at the same time. I believe that creativity and productivity by female subjects in general have already started flourishing in some parts of the world. These last decades and after significant feminist struggles, we are able to enjoy amazing works (of art) by women. The future however seems extremely harsh and precarious not only for women but everybody who considers herself/himself as nonprivileged. The working conditions, in general but also more specifically for our conversation, for the non-established indie creative people are really difficult, sometimes even cruel. I believe in the role of women as the “avant-garde� in a process of demanding better working conditions and more respectful arrangements for the artistic production, not only for themselves but also for everyone who wants to be creative while, at the same time, leading a happy and dignified life. This is a really emancipatory thought for me. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Elena. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Thank you for this opportunity and the great conversation, I really enjoyed it. There are still some

future steps about this particular work, as we are in the middle of its journey of screenings in festivals around the world. And this is the reason why the film is not yet online in its full length. After completing its festival run, sometime in 2019 and before distributing it online, we are planning a public screening and a party most likely in Latraac, transforming the space, this time into an open air screening venue. As far as new projects are concerned, at the moment we work on a new dance film which is focused substantially on research and experimental processes. The project attempts to construct and define possible notions of identity, beyond the established concepts of race, gender and sexoual orientation. At the moment, this project is in its fundraising stage. Finally, we continue to work on projects commissioned by other artists and/ or organisations such as composing music for the works of renowned London-based choreographer Georgia Tegou. You can always stay updated with what we are up to by following our social media. F73onFacebook>@f73noisework F73onInstagram>f73instagram An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com


Women Cinemakers meets

May Kesler Lives and works in Chevy Chase Maryland, Washington DC area

Dancing outdoors and in specific spaces is not something taught or learned. Dance learned in the studio is essential but the visceral feeling we are searching to release is so much more accessible in unique spaces.One's surroundings dictate the movement more than any planned choreography can. I've been dancing my whole life, on stage, in studios, but use those lessons most significantly in the spontaneity of dancing. I was inspired by the time that had passed in this centuries old structure, the music, the stories both real and imagined that happened there, my dress that made the red of blood and life stand out so starkly against the gray stone, and the whipping biting wind. Filmed at Blackness Castle, Scotland, Into Blackness is influence by Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon. Blackness Castle was used as Fort William in the Outlander Starz TV show. Tortuous events of flogging, kidnapping, men in chains, and one gallant Highlander who saves his lady at serious risk of his own life. I didn't try to tell the story; I wanted to dance how it felt to be in this place. I saw the open door at the top of the stairs and had to go there. Later I found out that area was named the Witches Hole. The effects on the video were conceptual; once I saw them I was fascinated with the depth of the story that they told.

womencinemaker@berlin.com

capable of drawing the spectatorship to such an heightened and multilayered visual experience. We are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to this gorgeous work of art and to Kesler's artistic production.

Into Blackness is a captivating dance short film by choreographer, dancer and therapist May Kesler: inspired by Outlander book series by Diana Gabaldon: the film takes place in Blackness Castle, Scotland, and it's a successful attempt to create a brilliant allegory of human condition,

Hello May and welcome to : we would invite our readers to visit in order to get a wider idea about your artistic production and we would like to introduce you to our readers with a couple of questions

An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant



regarding your background. Are there any experiences that did particularly inform your current practice? Moreover, does your cultural substratum due to your fifty years log career as a dancer direct the trajectory of your artistic research? The details: May Kesler has been dancing her whole life, studying ballet and modern dance in New York and Washington Dc areas. She is also a licensed physical therapist with 36 years experience, specializing in hands on healing and fascial release. She is the director of Kesler Physical & Massage Therapy in Chevy Chase MD and the founder of Keslerdances, a contemporary dance company. May received her MS in PT from Columbia University and her MA in Dance from American University. She has training in Alexander, Feldenkrais techniques and is a Floor Barre teacher. May also coleads Tarot in Motion workshops, using originally designed body oriented Tarot cards with Miriam Jacobs, MTh, who will be assisting her here at Four Quarters. More of the story: Years ago I was standing online near Rockefeller Center in NYC. I don’t like waiting, much less standing still. So I stepped out of line and danced on the NYC sidewalk. One of my high school friends from 20 years past saw me, recognized me because of my movements, and ran up to say hello – a delightful occurrence that’s happened more than once. Its not that I want to dance in public as much as it is impossible for me not to move. I never understand how at a music concert people are forced to sit, whereas I will find a part of the theatre to dance in, unless the ushers throw me out. It hurts to sit still. I feel tight constrained and restless. The need to dance comes as an impulse more than a decision. I danced as soon as I could walk. My mother, a pediatrician, noticed that I walked with my feet turned in, and suggested ballet

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Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


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Women Cinemakers classes. I loved the sense of my body moving in space , the music and best of all the sparkly costumes. I studied ballet and modern dance through college,but injured my calf at a dance intensive. I was unable to walk. Because I had no idea how to heal this injury, I kept aggravating it and it took years to heal. When I finally did get better, it was through a physiatrist help. I noticed what the PTs were doing in his office and I was intrigued. It appeared to be - and is true- that it is a perfect integration of who I am and what I want to do- guide people to heal with movement. After graduating college, I moved to NYC , danced with every great teacher I could find. I was accepted into Columbia University College Of Physicians and Surgeons School of Physical therapy - sorry thats a mouthful- and graduated 1982. I opened Kesler Physical & Massage Therapy within a couple of years of graduating,and have maintained this private practice for 36 years. I always was guided to use manual and movement therapy as my specialty in PT. In the past few years, with my daughter almost an adult, I returned to dance with renewed zeal. I always thought that I’d be done as a dancer by age 40, at the most 45. That became 50, then 60, and now at 63 I am actually dancing more than ever. Research in fascia, the 4 dimensional (it moves) spider web-like connective tissue that we live in, has lead me to explore how this new scientific information about anatomy compliments investigations in movement. Choreography has always been the most satisfying and difficult task, using everything I’ve ever learned and experienced to create dances. For this special edition of we have selected , an extremely interesting dance short film that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and whose trailer that can be viewed at

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Women Cinemakers While walking our readers through the genesis of , would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea? I am a huge fan of Outlander , a 9 book series by Diana Gabaldon. The book starts with Druids dancing in a standing stone circle being watched by a woman who was about to travel to her past. Their dance was layered with smoke and mystery. I needed to experience it. Could I make that chill down my spine happen? Would viewers also feel the hair on their neck rise? I raised my hand to present a Druid dance at the first Outlander fan event in Williamsburg Virginia. The attendees reported they were crying and felt chills as they watched the surprise performance. Having done that once, I wanted to try it again, this time in the place it occurred - Scotland. We did film the Skye Boat and Druid Dance at a Cairn site. Pictures from that video are included. Blackness castle was one of the film sites for the more horrific scenes in the Starz TV show of Outlander, where the Scottish Highlander, Jaime, gets flogged by a sadistic British captain. Those scenes were incredibly hard to watch, especially with all the work I’ve done to be kinesthetically aware. There’s something that happens when we are involved in or witness to traumatic events, and that is recreating the scene until we reach a point, if it’s ever possible, that we understand it and can release the trauma from our bodies. That’s why dance is so vital to our well being. If we hold onto the physical reaction to the trauma, we keep the trauma alive in us. I knew, when I visited Scotland, that I would want to dance in a castle. I didnt know which one I would be able to, and left that to our tour guide who was also an Outlander fan. When I heard it was Blackness, I felt so passionate about it because I knew I would be able to access the traumas happened to Jaime - and live vicariously in


Women Cinemakers that so I could release traumas in my history as well. Some of the whipping movements of my head were imagining the whip hitting Jaime and the whip of people’s heads as they watched. The movements with my wrists together were how wrists are tied together figuratively and literally in being flogged and being trapped. Later I spread my arms, feeling the need to break free. I was so happy to see that in one short scene where I am sitting on the rock, a bird flew up from the ground to fly away from the confines of the castle. At the end , the frenzy increases, but still I could pull myself together and hold my ground. Featuring brilliant landscape cinematography by Gary D'Arcy, has drawn heavily from , in Scotland, and we have highly appreciated the way you have created such powerful resonance between environment and your refined choreography: how do you consider the relationship between environment and movement? And how was the filming experience? Cold. I was freezing. Yet I became numb to it as I danced. I started with the shawl, thinking I would need it to keep me warm. I was barefoot on packed dirt and rocks. It had rained – no big surprise in Scotland – and so the ground was slippery as well. The gray stone and the doorways called to me. My decisions on what the path of the dance would be were immediate. I love to work that way,where I take my first impulse and dont question it. Of course I worked with the idea for the hour or so we were there, but I couldn’t rehearse it more than marking it through. I obviously had to stay more grounded and couldnt do pirouettes or leaps. The important part for me though was to stay with the story line I had mapped out. I started with the doorway, thinking of the past as

if coming out of the doorway was coming out of her past (which was the future) as the heroine in Outlander does. My past includes being a 2nd generation Holocaust survivor from both parents. My grandparents and relatives were confined in ghettos, then murdered, my grandmother, mother, and I had all suffered miscarriages, and I recalled the blood of lambs on the doorways of the Israelites when the final plague on the Egyptians in Passover. The red shawl draped over myself and lining the doorway honored all those thoughts and the blood that was spilled. The courtyard was where the flogging happened, and I worked with wrists together and hitting pushing the stone wall as a futile escape. I thought of the horror of the bystanders and the visceral punch as they watched. I thought of the splitting of consciousness when a person is in intolerable situations and how they watch themselves. And I was cold and my feet were hurting and I ran away and then stood there, frozen. How could you? I asked. How can I break free from this madness? Swirling around the answers came. Looking around as I spun, I saw the stones. I sat there to mourn, and grieve. That’s when the bird showed up. I needed a way out – it seems like I was ok – but I’m not, and that’s what going up the stairs was. I grieved but the trauma is still there. It chases me, threatening, showing up again and again. The stone doorway to the witches hole called me to it so strongly I had no other choice. As I reached it, I saw how dangerous it literally was to go past the doorway.( A year later, I went there again, and that section was roped off for repairs.) So now I was stuck. I couldnt go towards the madness but I had no escape from it either. So I swung my body, forward and back, whipping my hair, using the only the walls as grounding. I wish you could hear the breath as I did this. I was literally crying and panting both, almost shouting with the effort, frustration and fear. And then I stopped, gathering myself




Women Cinemakers whole, solid once more. We have appreciated the way your approach to choreography conveys and reflects rigorous approach to the grammar of body language: how do you consider the relationship between the necessity of scheduling the details of your performative gestures and the need of spontaneity? How much importance does play improvisation in your process? The entire dance was spontaneous within the structure of the castle, the music, and the story. We did it in one take. I had rehearsed sections of the dance, and listened to the music so I knew it intimately, but didnt know what the space or where each part would take place. I didnt have the rock or stairs or doorway planned at all. I think I only knew I would walk backwards and reach my hand forward for that part of the music. That said, I have danced so long that I have buckets of ideas to fill with movement. The setting and feelings were so strong there was an inevitability to the dance. It felt like it had to happen. Sound plays an important role in your film and we have appreciated the way the music by Max Richter provides the footage of with such an ethereal and struggling atmosphere: would you tell us how did you select the music for your film? And how do you see ? A friend suggested Max Richter for my dances. I wanted to use the music from the TV show, but obviously copyright laws impeded that. However, Richter’s music was perfect for this piece. It starts with just the sound of rain, which for time constraints we didn’t use. You can almost smell the electricity of fast moving water when you listen to it. The darkness of this place and what I


Women Cinemakers imagine Richter sees in November was a match, like the red dress on gray, or the last leaf on a tree , knowing long dark hours are coming. That fit Jaime’s story, and Claire’s despair at losing her unborn child, and parts of my history, and what I was drawn to explore. I didnt choose to dance about this; I needed to. Dancers need atmosphere, with balance between movement and sound. We want to be moved by the music or sound but not enslaved to it. I listen to the music piece obsessively when I have chosen it, probably several hundred times before the dance is performed. The composer is telling his own story. Mine has to compliment and enhance it. We daresay that although inspired by a particular story, could be considered an allegory of human experience, that invites the viewers to such a multilayered experience, addressing them to explore the themes of selfdiscovery and transformation: were you interested in providing your performance with an allegorical quality that reflect human condition? In particular, how important is for you to trigger the viewer's imagination in order to address them to elaborate personal associations? Movement is universal and unique. The images I evoked I hope to capture the interest of the audience to experience this with me. We all feel unique, yet all of us have trauma in our history – just by living on this planet no one can escape it because we all experience each other’s trauma by seeing it, or if we didnt, sensing it in the behaviour of others. Our DNA changes when we witness trauma, so no one is immune to it. That is what is so strangely beautiful about Outlander. There is trauma, but when we share the story of what happened we are no longer alone. We are healing each other by telling how we felt and what we did with it. Witnessing my distraught dispair helps others cause they can feel mine without having to go through that process themselves. If you watch someone vountarily tie their wrists together and struggle to be free



Women Cinemakers

of this confinement of their own making, it cannot be anything but allegorical. Dance should always be that. Using movement, not words, is a direct line to physical sensation. Feel it physically, with all your being, and all the pain and tension within it will release. The overlay of images was what we used to not only to depict

the flashbacks of trauma, but time travel. Time travel is an underlying theme of Outlander. The heroine, Claire, is caught between two time periods – her original, and the one in the past, which is now her present. Questions arise in the story – is her future in the past? Can she bring the knowledge from her past to this future? Which of her two lives and husbands does she love? How can she be a healer and not be branded


a witch for her medical knowledge? If she could go forward and back in time again, could she have saved her child? In living in the past, she finds the timelessness in the breath and remembered heartbeats of her love. And so we layered the dance, sometimes clear on which image was the original mover and which was not, sometimes one fading into each other, sometimes creating patterns that we could not have

anticipated. Living within each of us are many parts of self, some of which are hidden, some of which can only give us shadows of what we truly feel. Many artists express the ideas that they explore through representations of the body and by using their own bodies in their creative processes. German visual artist Gerhard


Women Cinemakers Richter once underlined that " ": how do you consider the relation between the abstract feature of the ideas you aim to communicate and the physical act of creating your artworks? All art comes from physical experience. When there is an emotional event, our bodies are frozen into a shape in that millisecond that is unique to that experience. Literally the fascia changes, changing the entire shape of our web as if a thread was pulled through a spider web, weaving each moment into a timeless memory. Those moments that we remember are recalled when we come close to replicating that shape again. The viewer of dance then is vicariously experiencing those moments, though they are recalling the viewer’s experiences. In creating a work then, we are accessing an experience with all our bodies contain – bone, blood, lymph, muscle, organs, all the textures and densities of fascia and fluids. I first choose what recalls the emotional physical story in my body. Then I choose what will be accessible to the viewer, considering the space, light, costume, color, the organic forms of the group dancing. Sometimes the magic happens, and sometimes it doesn’t, but we always see something in the work that keeps us searching for it. Wrote this too – not sure which question it fits so here it is: Repetition happens to experience it again and again, as if one is punching something, gasping for breath. I was magnetized compelled to move this way,whipping my head while I held only the edges of the door. The momentum of my dancing kept me defiantly swirling despite the fear of falling out of control down the stairs before me or into the witches hole behind me. I may have lost, but I won. I could only be this free to express these dark places because I knew the future after them to be what I had dreamed of. My husband was there - he even has a spit





Women Cinemakers second cameo in the video. The dress I wore was bought when I first knew I was pregnant with my daughter, so new that the news caught in my throat, unable to speak it. And she was with me, watching this, tall and grown and beautiful. It's important to remark that your are also an accomplished massage and physical therapist: do you think that art making could be considered a kind of therapy? Moreover, how does your artistic practice reflect your work as a therapist? Does your work fuels your creative process and vice versa? As a dancer, I am too short, curvy, tight, my extensions and turnout are imperfect. But that self flagulation only serves to decrease the desire to express myself and take my place in dance. So I constantly work at accepting myself for who I am, how I move and confirm that I am doing what I have a right to do. Because I have fined tuned my kinesthetic skills as a dancer, I am uniquely positioned to be exceptionally empathic as a healer. That leads me to sense what movement patterns are influencing a patient’s pain and injury, and find the unique biotensegral forces that are perpetuating it. I cannot separate PT and dance. I am both always. I am an intuitive physical therapist. I can tell what a person's physical and emotional history is within minutes by watching them move. I am deeply involved in the study of fascia. In fact, my visit to Scotland was preceded by my attendance at the British Fascia Symposium where I presented my poster research on “the Effect of myofascial release on balance in dancers”. Basically, we are made of fascia, a 4 dimensional spider web of fluid filled light filled tubules of connective tissue. The spaces are filled with cells and gel and liquid containing nutrients. The 4th dimension here is time- the web, ie our bodies, are in constant motion. Health and the lack of it is determined by the flexibility and fluidity of our web. Injury and disease, emotional




Women Cinemakers stress cause torques or twists in the web, and inflammation causes stickiness and restrictions in web's movement. Therein lies the beauty of physical therapy and dance. We must move to be alive and the more access to movement we have the healthier and younger we are. Moving one part of the web changes the entire shape of the web. This happens at the speed of light, transmitted by the tubules. So when I dance I am unwinding those restrictions, as I do when I work with patients. I mostly use myofascial release, a manual therapy method, and organic movement learned from dance for rehabilitation and to relieve pain. Before leaving this interesting conversation we want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in contemporary art scene. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from producing something 'uncommon', however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. How would you describe your personal experience as an unconventional artist? And what's your view on the future of women in this interdisciplinary field? Any art that to be noticed must be uncommon. However, dance is unfortunetly caught in a male dominated field. I have had to pay male dancers, and ask for volunteers for women dancers and I ‘m not happy about it. Male dancers are few and females are mostly available and that’s the way it is now in the US. Another fact is that well known and paid choreographers are mostly male. The dance world is trying to change this, but hasnt done so yet. My mother, a pediatrician who was a Harvard Medical School grad, was constantly met with male doctors who wouldnt even call her “Dr. Kesler” because she was woman, though that was 50 years ago. I have chosen to not try to be - shall we say - as successful or prominent on the dancer or PT scene because I have a family and I dont want to take time away from being with


Women Cinemakers them. Being successful means travel, time, and energy regardless of how talented we are. My daughter is now 19, and so I have more freedom to pursue my artistic dreams. Being in this magazine is one result. Balancing home and work life has always been a challenge for women more than men, and I think that is changing but I dont see the end result as being a big difference. Film is a wonderful medium to experience the art of dance, and it has it’s own parameters which are quite different than stage performance. Dance on film also has the potential to reach so many more people. I think we have a lot of work to do to bring this work to society, to make dance a part of our lives for emotional, physical and societal health. There’s nothing like dance to teach people about their bodies. There’s nothing like creating a dance together to solve issues that havent found other solutions. Being creative with ways to use dance will bring it places it hasnt been used before. I am so proud to be presenting at Movementis, a symposium on movement and cognition at Harvard Medical School this summer, where my mother graduated in 1950. I am leading a workshop on “Using dance to enhance learning of fascial and biotensegral motion”. The #metoo movement has also helped crack open that door that women have a right to stand in their own place, common or uncommon. Sharing our expereinces, devasting and deep, is more encouraged now. Bravo to that!

sponsored by Harvard Medical School. I am especially honored to be part of this, as my mother was a Harvard Med grad. I am leading workshops at Bill Evans Somatic Dance Conference in Geneva, NY, and at Four Quarter Interfaith Gathering, in Pennsylvania. I am continuing to work with my dancers, having formed Keslerdances last year, and will be working towards and evening length concert of Outlander dancers. All of my work though, is informed by my understanding of the deep interactive connections within us and between us all. The movement of fascia on a cellular level echoes the movement of all living being as an individual and the interactions between us. I continue to do my physical therapy work at Kesler Physical & Massage Therapy in the Washington DC area. I am also involved in Tarot in Motion, a method of using somatic Tarot cards developed by Miriam Jacobs, a dear friend and polarity and massage therapist. We use the cards to do readings for attendees, then I guide participants to create unique cathartic dances from their reading. I do plan to travel, and find places to dance more Outlander stories and create some of my own. Here is a link to a recent article about me that may also answer

Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, May. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?

some of the above questions: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1VYIwyQ1fYRYg_FN59gpiZ1J Hy6OMXxPy/view?usp=sharing

I am working on another video taken at Blackness with another dancer. I am presenting “Using Dance and Choreography to Enhance Learning of Fascial and Biotensegral Motion” at Movementis, a symposium on Movement and Cognition

An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com



Women Cinemakers meets

Vicky Vassilopoulou Lives and works in Athens, Greece

Scratch is a captivating short experimental dance film by director and choreographer Vicky Vassilopoulou: inquiring into the sensation of imprisonment, its powerful mise-en-scène sapiently mixes the ordinary with the surreal, exploring the relationship between the language of body and its surrounding, to encourage cross-pollination of the spectatorship: we are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to Vassilopoulou's stimulating and multifaceted artistic production.

An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com

Hello Vicky and welcome to : we would start this interview with a couple of questions regarding your background. Are there any experiences that did particularly influence your evolution as a director and as a choreographer? Moreover, how does your

cultural substratum due direct the trajectory of your artistic research? I think I've always been involved with dancing. The sense of movement and my idea of dancing stem from very internal forms of expression. From customs, traditions, simple people of the village. Restrictive models of the province that evolved from ancient rituals consist memories of my childhood. Contact with nature from a very early age, the observation of life in the countryside,




Women Cinemakers coexistence with authentic people, I believe that shaped my kinesiological identity. For this special edition of we have selected , an extremely interesting dance short film that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and that can be viewed at https://youtu.be/1nvkP5bji9g. What has at once captured our attention of this stimulating work is the way it examines the relationship between body and space: when walking our readers , would you tell us through the genesis of how did you develop the initial idea? It took many years to complete this project. What you see on the screen is the result of a very intimate and very personal psychological work. The dancers are driven to psychological movements. Their shifts are highly symbolic. Their presence at this particular moment reflects their inner state of being. Every moment, our inner world corresponds perfectly to the outside, to the seemingly real. However, existence diffuses into the universe and the harmony of movement stems from the absolute balance of internal and external matching. Featuring ravishing and sapient camera work by is brilliantly composed and Aliki Souma,


Women Cinemakers we have particularly appreciated the way it provides your film with such a poetic quality, capable of establishes emotional involvement in the viewers: what were your aesthetic decisions when shooting and how was the filming experience? The choice of space, the movement of the dancers within it, became almost magical. It was like the space appeared to us and not the opposite. All of us were led almost blindly to the environment, as if it were a need to express this whole inner journey that had been made so long. The natural environment stood in front of us without any difficulty in joining. The rocks, the sea, the recess in the harbor, the stairway to the sea, all have a match to the inner condition of the dancers. Aliki Souma, who handled the camera, was my alter ego in a process of capturing the state of Scratch. We have appreciated the way your approach to performance conveys sense of freedom and reflects rigorous approach to the grammar of body language: how do you consider the relationship between the necessity of scheduling the details of your performative gestures and the need of spontaneity? How





much importance does play improvisation in your process? I believe that accuracy comes from absolute freedom. When you can express yourself according to your absolute truth, then and only then you will become precise and the dancers in the video dance approach this concept. I work mostly with improvisation. Guided improvisation

on a particular idea. Dance for me is the ultimate expression of the inner world that we do not want to be fully exposed. It takes a lot of deep digging to reveal everyone’s hidden truth. Rich of allegorical qualities,

explores , and

questions


: what do you hope to trigger in the spectatorship? The attempt to approach the subconscious, the hidden truth within us, our deeper essence. has drawn heavily from the specifics of its environment and we have highly appreciated the way you have created such insightful resonance between the environment

and the movement of human body: how was your creative and shooting and performative process affected by locations? Scratch has this connection to space because that's precisely what it is about. The place in Scratch is essentially internal. It is the reflection of dancers’ inner state. It is, we would say an existential space.





Women Cinemakers Sound plays an important role in your work and we have appreciated the way the music by with Stelios Giannoulakis provides such a ethereal atmosphere and as well as the way you have sapiently structured the combination between choreographic gestures and sound: how do you see the relationship between sound and movement? Music plays an essential role in Scratch. Stelios Giannoulakis is an outstanding musician with whom I have been collaborating for years. The point here was for him to find the inner rhythm of the choreographic text. And he achieved that in a brilliant and precise way. Scratch seems to develop a dialogue between human body and its surroundings: many artists express the ideas that they explore through representations of the body and by using their own bodies in their creative processes. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once underlined that "it is always only a matter of seeing: the physical act is unavoidable": how do you consider the relation between the abstract feature of the ideas you aim to communicate and the physical act of creating your artworks?




Women Cinemakers In order for ideas to become physical action, it is necessary to go through a channel. What I call an empty space. This is the space that lies deep in our soul before each creation. Before each expression it is necessary to stand for a moment in what I call a mental vacuum. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Vicky. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Ideally, I would like to dive into a world where only personal expression and freedom will have space. I see my future in a route of trying to express myself. I hope to stay consistent with my truth. All I know is that it is a road without a return. Concerning the future, I am in the process of presenting my next project “Handmade” – dance performance and videodance which develop dialectics about the authenticity that stems from the handcrafted creation and the simplicity of existence in contrast to contemporary consumerist lifestyles. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com



Women Cinemakers meets

Jo Cork Lives and works in London, United Kingdom Jo Cork, originally from the Peak District in the UK, studied dance at The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, graduating in 2009. Upon graduation, Jo choreographed independent work for contemporary dance festivals and performed in works by various renowned British choreographers. After spending time performing in Berlin, Jo moved to London where she continued to perform and joined the artistic community at Chisenhale Dance Space. After a severe injury jeopardised her performing career, Jo gave new focus to her making practice and found herself absorbed and obsessed with the potentials of dance film. In 2016, she completed Sensate; her first dance film, which continues to tour festivals and events nationally and internationally. At this time, Jo also became choreographer for Studio For Electronic Theatre, co-directing and choreographing productions based on Yevgeny Zamyatin’s dystopian novel, WE, which gave her new and inspiring insights into the possibilities of digital interaction with choreography. Her following independent film work, The Intersection Series - four experimental shorts - afforded her the opportunity to further research and develop her practice and was screened at events and galleries in the UK and Berlin. Jo delivers regular dance classes in central London and hosts Dance and Film Creative Labs in which film makers, dancers, and choreographers explore and develop their individual cross-disciplinary practices. Jo is intrigued by the imagined visuals in the minds eye of a choreographer; the close ups, angles and cuts which the mind applies to movement when we play it through in our head - and how these imagined visuals instantaneously and instinctively consider how the choreography should be seen and experienced... which aspects of it should be noticed, which exist merely by default, and which can inspire intrigue better by their absence than their presence. Through her work with film she seeks to hone her intentions as a choreographer, to expose the richer potentials and authenticity of dance work by prescribing the way in which it is viewed, and to use the medium of film to translate her imagination directly for the viewer. Her current project, Calibrate - an installation of multi-screen dance works - is supported by Arts Council England and will be shown as a work in progress in May prior to a complete exhibition in London in September 2018. She hopes to further her research and practice through an MA in Screendance at the highly regarded London School of Contemporary Dance. You can follow Jo’s work on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter: @jocorkdancedigi

An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com

Sensate is a captivating dance short film by Jo Cork: elegantly shot and ravishingly choreographed, this film

addresses the viewers to follow the journey of woman’s fight to shed the emotional inhibition which prevents her from feeling any true physical connection to her life.Sensate is a successful attempt to create a brilliant allegory of human condition capable of drawing the spectatorship to such an heightened and multilayered experience. We are particularly pleased to introduce


WOULD YOU LIKE THAT HERE WE PUBLISH A PHOTO OF YOU?


Women Cinemakers our readers to this gorgeous work of art and to Cork's artistic production. Hello Jo and welcome to WomenCinemakers: we would like to introduce you to our readers with a couple of questions regarding your background. You have a solid formal training and you graduated from The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts and upon graduating your started your professional career as a choreographer and a performer: how did these experiences influence the evolution of the trajectory of your creative process? Moreover, how does your collaborative experience with the artistic community at Chisenhale Dance Space address your artistic research? I was lucky enough to have some fantastic influences within my training experience. There was a very strong ethos amongst the faculty - and within the school as a whole - and an objective, to nurture and evolve independent dance artists. The graduates went on to a broad range of pursuits. It was the care and invested interest in growing the individual - with their own agenda, practice, ambitions and self-sustainability - that allowed me to begin discovering and building the artistic career I sought… Mary Prestidge was a huge influence on me during training - she was a senior lecturer at The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts at the time and still today, I call on her for mentorship and advice. She was part of X6, a dance collective who instigated the 70s British New Dance scene; X6 was an independent group of artists who adopted a space at Butlers Wharf, London to produce performances, classes, discussions, and a publication in which they found new ways to talk about dance. New Dance Magazine had a clear intent: “New dance needs a new language, it’s time we began to define ourselves and our work”. The collective created new choreography, but also created new modes of production for dance. In creating a space for independent artists to meet, share practice and work with one another, they directly challenged the dominant conservatoire model that sustained throughout the transition from ballet to modern dance. They created, and




Women Cinemakers championed the notion, of a non-hierarchical network of independent artists - a model more common today, but at the time, fairly radical, and not without criticism from more classical perspectives. The thinking and values around this approach to making work and interacting together as artists is something I intuitively connect with; it’s empowering; it demands trust in your own artistic ideas and pursuits, and demands that you work with artistic integrity… if you can harness this - or in the least, work toward harnessing it - it’s a very liberating model of working. It helps artists to shed the inhibitions that come with the perceived necessity of achieving expected outcomes; of ticking boxes; of making work in any prescribed or pre- approved way, and instead allows the artist to truly create the work that is in them to make. This ethos was embedded in the faculty as a whole and the four years I spent there was a real coming- of-age challenge to seek and familiarise with my own personal artistic agenda; to become confident in it, and to skill up in the tenacity often required to make things happen, against the odds. In hindsight, it’s no surprise at all that I found myself seeking an artistic community after my first year of living in London - a group of independent artists to draw upon, be of use to and feed o . Chisenhale Dance Space is part of X6’ legacy; the group expanded and moved the space from Butlers Wharf to it’s current location in Bow, London in 1980, taking with them the beautiful and signature maple floor which was lovingly transplanted into the performance studio, where it remains. Chisenhale is a member-led organisation operating very much on the same non- hierarchical notions that X6 established in the 70s. I created the choreography for within its studios and the support and shared knowledge of the Executive Producer at the time, Laura Sweeney - an independent producer working with some fantastic artists in London and the North of the UK empowered me to relentlessly build the conditions I needed to bring the work into being. That place… it’s my creative home, and I know many others feel the same - it’s where to go when I’m frustrated with obstacles, feeling creatively overwhelmed, or unclear about where to go or how to move forward… it’s a place for artists to regroup and




Women Cinemakers

strategise, explore and experiment - without apology for the incompleteness of their ideas, to come back to their purpose and intents and to seek, find and cultivate their next piece of work in a supportive environment. we For this special edition of have selected , an extremely interesting dance short film that our readers have already started to get

to know in the introductory pages of this article. What has at once captured our attention of your insightful inquiry int the theme of emotional inhibition is the way your clichĂŠ-free approach to choreography highlights the authenticity of dance: when walking our readers through the genesis of , would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea? In particular, what did address you to explore such combination of feelings?


Women Cinemakers instinctively, in the hope that something would, at some point, click. I have a vivid memory of working through a score and feeling a real sense of fire in me; I was pacing the room (something I now acknowledge as a sign that something good is happening!) alone, hitting the walls as I relived the movement that had instigated such an overwhelming feeling. I knew that was going to be it. There was a real clarity and a sensation of a fiery core, which suddenly was blazingly apparent and palpable, in a moment where all the surrounding anxiety and uncertainty had been suspended. I was focussing on my making-practice, and meeting new people at that time that were helping me understand myself in ways I hadn’t been able to before - seeing, and shockingly to me, even commending things in me I hadn’t noticed or acknowledged before - and the sense of emerging as something more refined and empowered out of what had felt like an inarticulable hotchpotch was such an overwhelmingly powerful sensation… It was absolutely clear in that moment that this work was what I was supposed to make; it was what I was equipped and prepared to make; it felt visceral and authentic; it was asking to be made. We have appreciated the way your approach to choreography conveys a sense of freedom and reflects a rigorous approach to the grammar of body language: how do you consider the relationship between the necessity of scheduling the details of your performative gestures and the need for spontaneity? How much importance does improvisation play in your process? I suppose in some senses, the work was born in a single moment. At the time, I was still in rehab from an fairly devastating injury which had thrown me into a pit of questioning my validity as an artist, and having connected with Chisenhale, I had a real personal urgency to reconnect with my making practice and prove to myself that dancing was not now only in my past. I would spend time in the studio creating improvisation scores and working

Improvisation is key to me. It’s the process of embodying, and becoming vessel to the growth of an as-yet intangible notion. I work a lot with how something “feels”. From improvisation, I find words, colours, sensations, emotional journeys, ebbs and flows of the physical language that evolve to help me put some sort of convention and articulation to what would otherwise remain unreachable in another world. Authentic movement practice has such a clear function and it’s not only a


Women Cinemakers tool to discover what is truly right for the work, but in practice it also provides definitive decisions about what the work is not. There’s something about zoning into “it” and entering an almost meditative state; that’s not to say the state will necessarily be calm - it’s allowing embodiment of the feeling. By doing that you can place yourself in a state when you’re more able to ask and answer questions about that feeling; to hone it, refine it, explore the facets of it and to understand the external things that may or may not impact or alter it. It’s a place in which to get to know that instigating thought that first made you think “Pursue this; there’s something in it”. There’s something really fascinating in the layers of improvisation when using it to develop material or a physical language that is becoming more and more honed and refined… Each time you come back to that space, you’re a little more welcome, a little more familiar, a little more able to interact and eventually - hopefully you’re able to initiate the conversation. But even as you enter that state of familiarity, there’s a humbling reality of practicing improvisation; You can always be surprised - and I think this serves to remind me that the work is bigger than me; that I’m there to serve it as fully as I can. In this way, improvisation is a tool of integrity for me and, if the impulses for a new reaction completely cease, it is a marker that I have likely veered o track. Remaining open to those spontaneous responses is what keeps the channels open for the work to communicate with you, the maker; for it to ask you to provide what it needs to come to life. Featuring a brilliant combination of wild landscape and claustrophobic ambience in the cinematography by Orestes seems to address the viewers to Chouchoulas, explore the conflictual relationship between our inner landscape and the outside world: did this choice reflect the

inner struggle that you aimed at exploring in your work? And how was the filming experience? Yes, I think that’s right. Very early on I knew that the earlier sections of choreography needed to be seen in close proximity; that a broad view of them would create too objective of a perspective. I wanted it to feel more personal than that and I wanted the viewer to feel almost uncomfortable at viewing such intimately personal moments, and to be reminded of similar feelings in themselves; of that sense of being trapped and absorbed within ourselves; of the inability to step outside of our proximal surroundings and perceptions. It’s an uncomfortable place, but a place many of us unconsciously choose to stay within… It’s familiar, and however di cult, we have ownership and jurisdiction in that place - we are responsible only to ourselves; the potential to be harmed or cause harm to others feels contained. The security of that is appealing when pitted against the uncertainty of outside and unpredictable experiences - it’s a case of Better The Devil You Know, right? The filming experience was a huge learning curve, and a very was my first film, and as I mentioned, intense few days. it was initiated within the recovery process from an injury. If I’m truly honest, some part of my reason for pursuing it was because I was simply so scared of the idea that I might not be able to dance again - and I desperately needed to create a circumstance in which I did just that. I had no budget, and no film making experience. My good friend and a fellow artist, now producer for a leading UK hip hop and music company, Annie Taylor-Gooby, agreed to act as a rehearsal director for me once I’d gotten to the stages of choreography where I really needed someone to drill me as a performer; I was wearing the many metaphorical hats of choreographer, director, producer, performer, etc, etc, and to hope to do it all by myself at that crucial point would have been to the detriment of the work. I had never drawn a storyboard and what was in my minds eye



A still from


Women Cinemakers seemed too complex to begin to draw in endless boxes. I very much had all the shots I wanted in my head and painstakingly, together we spent time in the studio and I took her through them all, doing test shots on my iPad and listing in an entirely unconventional way, everything I needed to capture. She familiarised with the project as a whole in a very generous way, but specifically she got to know the framing and shots I wanted and held space enough for me on shoots to allow me to commit to the performing role; checking that Orestes was capturing the shots I needed and ensuring that the intent of the work was being met whilst also taking care of me, as a performer and inwardly fretting choreographer who was trying, but admittedly in isolated moments, completely failing to fend off perfectionistic panic and stay focussed on delivering a strong performance. It was really very difficult to be crossing so many different roles and she was invaluable in so many ways that ultimately allowed me to complete the work. I suppose this is another example of how support from fellow artists, to me, is so precious, meaningful and, well - completely crucial! has drawn heavily from the specifics of its location: the ambience doesn't play the mere role of background and we have highly appreciated the way you have created such powerful resonance between the location and your choreography: How do you consider the relationship between environment and movement in ? And how did you select the location? So much of was really about texture, and the visceral physical sensations relating to emotional states. The environments were a direct reflection of this and a key element. As I said, I knew the first sections needed to be seen in close proximity, and also that the space should feel almost like a vacuum - a contained but indistinct environment; Where are we when we’re in such a blinkered

head space? - It doesn’t feel like any “real” place, and that’s kind of the point - it’s safer not to be anywhere; not to be truly present in any situation but to exist only in our own little box. As the piece develops, and we begin to see the process of liberation from that state, the textures of the environment and the sense of those textures against our body are observed though the choreography. I needed a wall - a good wall with lots of texture. You wouldn’t believe how hard that is to find in London! A wall without double yellow lines in front of it, or a huge public footfall, or council restrictions, or that isn’t littered with broken glass… We were actually filming the first sections of the film in a theatre space and still hadn’t found a suitable location. I was speaking to Orestes about this as we sat in the neighbouring park on our lunch-break; Annie cut in - “Err, there’s a wall there?” And there it was. A tall railway wall with good space in front of it that would allow for wide shots; in a relatively clean park, great texture, beautiful mossed patches and dappled with pebbles, no yellow lines… We went back that Sunday to shoot the second section. Of course the local church happened to hold Mass in the park that week and every dog walker in the area made an appearance, but we got lots of Labrador bloopers so it worked out brilliantly! The third location was a matter of finding an open space something that felt so much more expansive than the first scenes and which would allow for wider shots to contrast those first close-proximity shots. I didn’t want to see the London skyline; I didn’t want to specify a location in that way, and I particularly wanted gravel or sand - again, that texture was so important for the work and something that couldn’t be compromised on. I found a sanded overflow car park fairly close to my home and the wilderness of the trees lining it not only




Women Cinemakers concealed the skyline behind but also lent itself well to the idea that our protagonist had shifted into these deep, unknown and wild surroundings. It took months of searching but each location felt right immediately when I finally came across them. Sound plays an important role in your film and we have appreciated the way the audio tapestry by Bartosz Szafranski provides the footage of with such an ethereal and unsettling atmosphere: how did you create such a captivating soundtrack? And how do you see the relationship between sound and movement? Finding Bartosz seemed like serendipity. I had emailed many music institutions to seek a composer suited to the work; my email was forwarded to his colleague’s inbox and knowing his style of work and influences well, he suggested Bartosz take a look before the brief was publicised more widely. A Soundcloud review and Skype conversation later, we were both completely convinced that this would be a collaboration that was going to work. The process of working was one of experimentation and an unapologetic “Let’s say everything we’re thinking” precedent. That included many singular words and isolated phrases, images and music references that I’d been using in the studio to create and develop the choreography. We spoke a lot about particular sounds, sensations, pitches and emotional responses. Bartosz would visit rehearsals and we would go back and forth in email exchanges that became so enmeshed in the “world of the work” that they almost certainly wouldn’t make any sense in isolation… We were formulating the auditory language that the work was asking for, and in order to do that we had to let the work speak itself, rather than presume to speak for it. Many of the same images, words, phrases and ebbs and flows that came to being through physical improvisation and development of the choreography became our anchoring ideas for the score. As we hoped would happen, sure enough, what felt like an authentic response which served the




Women Cinemakers integrity of the piece started to emerge in the demos Bartosz was producing. It felt like such a huge leap to begin working with Bartosz because despite our different artistic mediums and the fact that we’d never met or worked together before, it felt very much that we wanted to make the same work. Within only a month or two we could talk in incomplete sentences and know exactly what the other wanted or intended or needed; I remember preparing notes for him prior to Skype meetings, and with my reams of paper in front of me, talking to the screen for only a couple of minutes before being stopped: “Jo, I’ve got it. I know. I’ve got it, yes. Absolutely.”… A few days later, I’d open an email sent at 4.30am containing a demo that was somehow an inexplicably accurate auditory transcript of my notes and hopes for the score. I suppose the sense of wholeness within work has always been important to me; the concept that no element of a work should be simply laid on top, and though the choreography was made before Bartosz came on board, there was a whole world of information surrounding it from which I knew an integral score could, and should, be formed… We were meticulous and that notion of “serving the work” was, I think, really key in the success of it. There were masses of choreographic moments that, to me, needed to be referenced or highlighted within the score and Bartosz was tireless in meeting those demands that had come to feel as if they were non- negotiable. The idea of placing something meaninglessly ambient and superficial on top of the choreography, at this point, seemed nothing less that outrightly indecent. It was a case of mining the foundations from which the choreography had grown, and in doing that, formulating a new intricacy and complexity of unified structure that was unique and wholly what the work intended to be. could be considered an allegory of We daresay that human experience, that address the viewers to a multilayered


Women Cinemakers experience, addressing them to explore the themes of selfdiscovery and consciousness: were you interested in providing your performance with an allegorical quality that reflects the human condition? What is it about the imagined visuals in the minds eye of a choreographer that you find intriguing and how does that influence your work? I think people seek di erent things and relate to art in different ways. Some find their appreciation in seeing the overt beauty of pieces, the skill or craftsmanship that has gone into creating it, a message communicated by it, profound ideas that inspired it; for me, it’s finding, or experiencing, an emotional resonance with it. Art that has the capacity to stir real feelings inside the consumer and, by a default extension, initiate an extended response in which they are compelled to ask questions of themselves or a circumstance - to consider - is the stu I’m really interested in and excited by. So it does feel important to create work that reflects the human experience and I’m very interested in exploring all of those many aspects of our being and identity, but I often feel conscious to stay mindful that whoever we are, our experience is very limited. I can only hope that by staying true to my ideas and by maintaining the integrity of them, I can stay close enough to the core of an idea to allow other individuals to relate to their own experiences in my expression. Ever since I was very young, whenever I made up dances in my head, remembered choreography or imagined others dancing, I rarely saw the whole person; it was always a part or section of the body, or the isolated movement fleetingly in my vision. It wasn’t really until a few years ago and I started talking about that and found people to be surprised by it, that I realised that isn’t the same for everyone. It fascinates me because it links in with that improvisatory practice, and instinctively and intuitively considers how the choreography should be seen and experienced; what aspects of it are important, what parts of it are really delivering on the intent of the work and what should




Women Cinemakers be noticed by the viewer in order that they truly see the work and it’s intended identity. It’s a mental process that I use to hone the choreography and reveal it’s intentions more clearly. And eventually when those ideas have shifted around and are roughly settled, they form the shot lists. By omission, it also signifies aspects of the movement that exist only by default in order to facilitate the movement, but which perhaps don’t contribute to the intent, or expression, of the choreography, and allows me to understand their contribution to the movement more fully. Importantly, it also helps me to understand which areas of the choreography are weak or yet to be more fully explored and discovered - or scrapped! Working with film was such an exciting prospect for me because it provided a medium which, albeit with extreme diligence, I knew would allow me to directly translate the images in my head and truly show the audience my vision of the work. As my practice develops, I’m thinking about this much more now as a choreographic tool and practice, not only for film works, but also purely in the studio. By scrutinising the movement in a methodical way and hypothetically considering film shots, and asking ourselves: “What is crucial in this moment? What do I want them to notice? What do I want to see? What is speaking? How can I make it speak more loudly or clearly? If nothing is asking for my attention, is this moment functional to anything - or does it need to go?!”, we can challenge ourselves to undertake a deeper understanding of our choreography; it’s functional and expressive aspects, and hone our intentions to enrich the content and let go of that which only hinders the clarity of the work. It's important to mention that few years ago you became choreographer for Studio for Electronic Theatre, a company focussed on digital interaction in performance, that has addressed you to explore the combination between dance and digital technologies: how does technology support your creative process? In particular, how in your opinion, is




Women Cinemakers technology a ecting the consumption of art by an ever growing audience provided by online platforms? I’m very passionate about how technology can help us to advance our art forms. It seems necessary to keep the conversation evolving as technology and the uses people are finding for it continue to emerge; as cultures change, the modes that are common and initally progressive can become the opposite, or eventually form a tangent of art making that is its own genre with its own legitimate and established boundaries. What is so interesting to me about Studio for Electronic Theatre and the work of its director, Nuno Selihbegovic, is the notion of technology interacting with performance - not dictating it or utilising it as a mere component of what might be more accurately termed as “technological art”, but rather a point of intersection where the technology meets the art form to create possibilities that would not be possible without both crafts. This is why Screendance is so interesting to me, and when I first got to know the festival circuit, it was great to see that the majority of dance film festivals recognise “Dance Film” as a form where the choreography, filming and editing processes are all integral to the creation of the product. It’s not some mindless dance moves shot in a really interesting way, nor a documentation recording of some stunning choreography. It’s really wonderful that dance is so readily accessible on social media and video websites now; it gets more people interested; it helps the wider public to understand a little more about our craft and our capabilities. It also provides what is often an invaluable marketing resource for many artists, allowing them to showcase their work, develop their audiences and cultivate relationships. It’s important, but perhaps obvious to acknowledge - particularly as Screendance becomes increasingly established and understood as an art form in its own right - that documentations of class sequences or performance recordings are very di erent to Screendance works: They’re entirely di erent entities, with di erent objectives, benefits and capacities, which each can




Women Cinemakers achieve very well; however their common platform of the screen does not give them a shared identity. As artists, it is our ongoing responsibility to ensure we continue these conversations and continue to articulate how we want our work to be consumed as the industry is impacted by the advancing potentials of technologies. I’m very interested in how technology can be used to broaden our audiences, and that’s something I’m really questioning within my current research. I feel very strongly that in our digital culture, digital dance work provides us as artists with a new tact with which to engage new audiences. There is an increasing amount of dance in Fringe venues and some music and comedy venues programme niche dance work in more recent years, but so many of the traditional dance venues, beautiful and vibrant as they are, are very alienating - even intimidating - to those who have little to no experience of dance. I’d like to see my work programmed not only in festivals and dance or film events but also in unusual spaces, for example, cafes, galleries, foyers, waiting areas… to create engaging artistic interventions among every-day life. Utilising dance in conjunction with visual artistry can draw in those who mightn’t look twice at contemporary dance otherwise, and I’m keen to use this to expose and engage unlikely audiences; to reveal to them the love they might have for contemporary dance, if only it were made in a way that is accessible and unalientating to them. has screened at 15 festivals Over the years nationally and internationally and also received an award for Best Film in the Female Solo Category at international festival Videomovimiento Festival in Colombia: how much importance has for your the feedback of the festival circuit? Do you consider the issue of audience reception as a crucial component to your artistic development? Audience feedback is so important. It’s so informative and particularly when you become consumed by the making process, it’s very di cult to maintain an objective perspective on the work; it’s very easy to lose sight of the fact that not everyone has all the




Women Cinemakers thinking in their head that has lead you to make the decisions you have, so understanding what of your intent is reading to the audience is a sometimes intimidating, but crucial part of the making and developing process. I feel incredibly fortunate that has had the exposure it has, and my experience of the festival circuit has really helped me to orientate a little in this sector of the industry. I haven’t been able to attend all of the festivals at which it has been screened, which is unfortunate, but clashing schedules and flight costs are a barrier. Not being able to attend does of course e ect how well you can read the response of the audience and how much information you can gather; there’s no opportunity to have conversations afterward and people are far less inclined to send an email with their thoughts, rather than, if you were able to be present, pass a comment to you on their way out of the venue - I do wish it was more common for festivals to have a structured feedback process by which both those who can and cannot attend can gain that valuable information. It is so important to the process of an artist and it’s a shame to think that artists are making work that is strong but they don’t have access to the responses they really need to keep evolving; it kind of isolates the work to a single moment in time… it’s seen, hopefully appreciated, and then is put to bed, and the artist is left to draw their own conclusions about how best to move forward in their practice. But giving artists a real chance to understand the response to their work, whether they are able to be present or not, would really allow the festivals to facilitate meaningful exchange that can help the artist and art form become more sustainable and progressive. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Jo. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? I’m very lucky to have developed the relationships and , and later, partnerships I have since I completed . I’m now working with Spin Arts - an

organisation dedicated to providing production and fundraising support to empower artists to make their best work. They’ve been really helpful in getting the current project off the ground. I’m currently in a research and development phase and it’s been really wonderful to have support from partner organisations and Arts Council England to continue developing my work. I’m working in partnership with Chisenhale Dance Space to expand a workshop programme: Dance and Film Creative Lab. The first instance facilitated what felt like a very full and vibrant creative environment; it’s not about teaching people how to make digital dance work or dance film - it’s about informing participants about some elements of my own practice and providing space and support for people to learn and exchange skills and ideas, and work together to initiate and explore their own interests. We’ll be hosting another Creative Lab in September in conjunction with the R&D sharing - I hope the weekend will be a chance to get people as excited about the potentials of dance and digital work as I am! We’ve also hosted Dance and Film workshops at schools and universities - it’s so great work with hungry young artists and to make them aware of the possibilities before them, and I find that I’m learning more about my practice as I develop the workshops and find ways to articulate all that I’m trying to achieve. As my own making progresses, I’m really keen to explore how I can expose digital dance work to wider audiences and we’re looking at ways to get my work into more unconventional spaces. I’m experimenting with different configurations within the editing process and using hardware which we’ve designed ourselves, to create holograms which alongside iPad displays, televisions and projections will form installation pieces that can be programmed together as an exhibit, or individually so they’re suited to smaller spaces and can be programmed in atypical venues. The work is really in it’s infancy and there are a lot of ideas that I’m looking forward




Women Cinemakers to refining more and more, but we’ve already made some really exciting developments and the interest and response so far is really encouraging. looks at broad aspects of personality and places them on polarised scales and we’ve used references to children’s literary characters - perhaps our very first informants about character and identity - to express these poles of personality traits. The work highlights the spectrums we all rest within and in identifying with the traits of the characters on screen, asks the viewers to consider their own position in the spectrum - who they closely relate to, and who they don’t. It’s about asking people to reflect and recognise themselves - or elements of themselves - in the work… Perhaps some will connect with aspects they didn’t expect to; or would rather not admit a connection to! We shared the work-in-progress at London College of Music in May - it was a great opportunity to get some feedback and thoughts from both regular dance and film consumers, and people who rarely engage with The Arts. After showing the results of the research in September we’ll be continuing to develop the project over the next year. Simultaneously, I’ll be undertaking an MA in Screendance at London Contemporary Dance School (also known as The Place), so I’m really excited to be in a position where I can absorb masses of information from fellow professionals with lots of experience and insight to share… It’s going to be an incredible chance to continue to explore my practice and develop the work while discovering more about how I can really evolve as a practitioner and maker; I’m looking forward to having dedicated time and space to examine and really find the true potentials of this - It feels like a very exciting time! An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com

You can follow Jo’s work on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter: @jocorkdancedigi


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