I arrived on the 26th of September. Until now, it was mostly a process of observation. I needed to see where the dancers and choreographers are, in order for my interventions to be appropriate. I followed Sophiatou Kossoko and intervened only when thinking it was interesting or important to comment or address something.
My position is always complementary with that of a choreographer. I'm scenographer (French term for space/stage design), which is another practice, a different point of view. I'm thinking from outside, from the position of the audience. I observe and read what I see and feel, in link with how my mind, my body engages with what happens on stage, a different perspective in the work with directors & choreographers.
These few days when I mainly observe, are also the time to decide on what I'm going to focus in my interventions in relation to where the dancers are in terms of practice, their thinking of dance and choreography, in relation to how they want to address their subject and the content of their projects:
I define a few points to work around.
Every morning we begin with an hour of training. Then, a series of experimentations: today it is around how the dancers can perform in front of others, without telling stories, without being narrative through the dance. The audience chuckle when they perceive narrative coming through dance. The audience has to make a difference between a narrative coming from their imaginary and a narrative coming directly from the dance (a story the dancer want to tell). This is a difficult exercise, as the dancers have to perform 3mn with the audience chuckling every time (right or wrong) they sense narration appearing (but at times they confuse the two sides of narration). We are sitting on the dance floor in half a circle. One after the other the dancers enter the centre. They start to dance, the audience chuckle… The dancers get lost. We see the dancers' difficulty to just be, without doing something, without tics or gestures. And we see them in searching, we see when they begin to narrate, when they don't realize they are, when suddenly for a second, or longer, they give up and immediately an interesting state of presence begins to emerge. When, in wanting to do something, they fall back to narration. They are reaching. The audience is captivated, they chuckle, they are too strict with the performers. Everybody jumps into it with pleasure, they want to experiment. Sometimes the audience chuckles a bit, sometimes there is a consensus that what we see is narrative and everybody chucles: even this rule is subjective, everybody doesn't see narration at the same time, in the same way. What is also evident is the fact that narrative appears spontaneously, all the time (one doesn't have to generate it, it's already there). And, of course this exercise is about the performers, but in fact a lot happens on the side of the audience, one has to be active, observe carefully in order to decide whether to chuckle or not.
From 12:00 to 13:00, I give a lecture (one hour per day). The key word is STRATEGY, having observed the dancers think via narration & story that they want to stage by turning into dance. Strategy is a more interesting word. It includes dance, but not only. How you engage something in a specific place, in a context, social, political, cultural… How one addresses people, the audience. We show 5 short videos, mostly contemporary art: 2 performances by Francis Alys (Hielo - the ice cube, and Railingsfitz – the walk in London with a drumstick playing on a metal fence), one by the Pussy Riot (the performance at St Sauveur Cathedral, Moscow), one by Jordi Colomer (Anarchitekton) and finally a fragment of a dance piece, 'Laughing Hole' by La Ribot. The idea being to show clear strategies (apparently simple and evident, at a surface level) turned into action in the city or a specific place - a church, or the stage - an action that opens various levels of meaning. The dancers watch then ask questions. They are not really questions but rather interpretations. I cut this short, at this point and time it doesn't matter, as the they speak as if to kind of "deliver a truth" about what they've seen, and also as the lecture is about the scenic forms, the strategy and the dispositif, and not the purpose, the reading or interpretation we can derive from it. What interests me, and I put it on the table, is the fact most of the narration, or the meaning, is not on the side of the performance, but on the side of the audience. There is an inversion. The audience can work much more, and imagine, question… This idea of strategy is also about considering the context, where you are, where and who is the audience… A question is raised about the difference between dance and "non-dance", and if there is a specific audience for non-dance. Always - categorisations, limits. We respond around the notion of PERFORMANCE, which is a very open way of thinking, denoting many languages, many practices, many sensibilities. It is a question of making choices by preference, by appropriateness to what you wish to address, and the way you want to stage it. The other question is about the audience. I postpone it, as we will specifically speak about it during the week. In general, it is visible that there is perplexity, that we are opening questions, spaces, doubts… I keep it fairly implicit, in order what they see the process in their minds. In the afternoon, the next morning, the questions start to come.
The afternoon work is on projects. 5 seem to appear, we group the dancers in order for them to experiment in each others projects. They have 1h30 to work with the key word STRATEGY, and 5mn to perform. After, we will go back to discussion.
The presentation is a bit more disruptive than the previous ones. They try things, begin to try, still shy of-course. These moments are always a question for me, as at Strasburg school of art where I'm teaching on a long-term basis, I know I have 4 years with the students, sometimes 5. We have time but here there isn't. What can we expect from a one/two weeks process? But at the same time, it is important to put a maximum of things on the table, and hope the dancers will take time after the workshop, to integrate things.
I read: "L'art politique adéquat serait celui qui assure d'un même coup un double effet: la lisibilité d'une signification politique et un choc sensible né, au contraire, de l'étrange, de ce qui résiste à la signification. En fait, cet effet idéal est toujours l'objet d'une négociation entre les opposés, entre la lisibilité du message qui menace de détruire la forme sensible de l'art et l'étrangeté radicale qui menace de détruire toute signification politique. " (J. Rancière, Et tant pis… 514).
'An adequate political art would be one that simultaneously ensures a double effect: the legibility of a political signification and a sensible shock born, on the contrary, of the strange, of that which resists signification. In fact, this ideal effect is always the subject of negotiation between opposites, between the readability of the message that threatens to destroy the sensible form of art and the radical strangeness which threatens to destroy any political significance.' (J. Rancière, Et tant pis… 514).
The question of being political is floating upon us. But it's not easy because many of the performers don't necessarily want to go explicitly in this direction. And also because in the context of the African continent, it is particularly uneasy. And I'm not sure it's up to me, as foreigner, to push this. I can put it on the table, but not sure I can push it. But I can suggest directions in order to do it, to find a appropriate levels of address, find tactics to play with the way to address something to an audience, to a context.
This morning, the experimentation is about the relation between the audience and the performer, and the fact there is not a clear boundary, limit, between the two terms of the performance. One is related to the other. How do we put this in a concrete way, in the space, for the dancers. We are going to work on an experiment where they dance in groups for 3 minutes, and then they have one minute to transmit the process to another group, which is in the audience, without interruption. They have to develop an intermediary time, where they are no longer performers, and not yet audience, or on the reverse no longer audience, and not yet performers.
We experiment it 4 times in the morning. At the same time each group has to experiment in space around the idea of sign and about the relation to the audience. Each group, is 2mn performing in space, and then 1mn in transition to the next group. No interruption between the 5 groups. The first time, they just shift, nobody pays attention to the audience, nobody pays attention to the next group (almost), their eyes are at the level of the horizon, abstract. One group ends, the other begins without any link between them. They don't at all consider the presence an audience, they don't address. We stop the process and step by step, we bring them to the possibility of playing with this intermediary time. But they are quite distanced from this possibility. During the next experiments they begin to try, they perform closer to the audience. But we see it will take time. And also even though they jump easily into the experimentation, they are too serious and don't play enough with the idea. A lot needs to be deconstructed, questioned. The idea that performance is about a relation between individuals in space, and not primarily about a stage, a frame, a frontality and an audience sitting passively (even though they are never passive), has to be installed in their mind.
The 12-13h lecture focuses on being there, with an audience, and the fact that just with the elements you have around you, and the way you render them conscious, you can stage something.
Dan Graham, Performance, Audience, Mirror, 1977.
This performance is conceptually radical in the sense it is all about the presence of a performer in front of an audience, and the presence of the audience in front of the performer. The whole piece is based on this. G describes himself, and then describes the audience. He turns himself to face the mirror and describes his gestures, and then the one of the audience. All is about being there, and the distance which comes through the fact the performer describes himself, and then the audience, and as audience you are being described and at the same time you see yourself. How this acquires levels of the imaginary, of the real and fictional at the same time, into representation... And how both performer and audience are at some point at the same level.
The dancers are silent. They ask questions about yesterday. About responsibility and risk. It's quite obvious what we bring on the table is huge, they discover. The discussion about responsibility is interesting even though it's addressed through this question "Am I allowed to, can I…"…
In the afternoon, work on the projects and 5mn presentation. I don't intervene so much in this process, managed by Sophiatou and Opiyo. I just discuss what I saw during the presentations.
Tactic vs Strategy. What we are working on with the dancers is more at the scale of tactic. How to find a way to perform, to address with what you have in hand, time, space, capacities, ideas…
We are not yet going in urban space (as I originally planned to). We need a good reason to work in non-conventional spaces. Also as our main space of work is a dance floor, but not really a theatre – we can work in many directions/relations with an audience. We can experiment there.
This morning for the experimentation: We ask a difficult question they have to answer individually via 2/3mn on stage. The question is: WHY YOU ARE HERE? And they are not allowed to 'dance' (in the sense of modern dance). Such an open question, in such a short time is a sort of impossible situation. So one has to find a tactic, a way to do something, or speak about something, a fragment, a presence, a… Whatever. The first serie of experimentations is fairly tentative. As usual the dancers jump into it, they want to try, but the fact they have to address something personal, makes it difficult. The possibility to interact with the audience is not really envisaged.
For the theoretical moment (12h-13h), I choose to show the dancers long series of images and videos about audiences in different contexts (not only theatrical) and situations. They are all about representation, performance, theatre, show up, addressing something, shifting from a position of audience to a position of performer… And I ask their observations on images or video that catch their interest.
This serie of films and images, one after the other. A 15mn sequence. Watch and select one which is meaningfull for you. And what emerges clearly is two things: the video of protesters on the tank after the revolution, and the Korean mass (mass meeting where everybody in the audience is "the same" – funerals of Kim Jong Il where people cry…). Some others images too, but none of the pictures where the audience is free to choose, to experience, like for instance in the Chinese street theatre. This is a very interesting point, as it makes clearer what the dancers have in mind, their imaginary of the stage. Representation space is mostly a space of constraint, of danger, being watched by a mass of audience you don't know how to deal with… The space of freedom comes more easily when you are out of the theatre. When you see this, it becomes for me clearer why the interaction with an audience is not really an option in a theatrical space. It's more about the street, others contexts, where there is of course a theatrical / performative dimension. But theatre is at the beginning a space of constraint, a space where you are watched. One of the dancers also focuses on the human zoo image, he says there is something strange in it. But none of them knows about that history, and they discover it. Human zoos were a dispositif of representation, in the most violent way. My intuition is there is a memory of this past in bodies.
Chinese outdoor circus.
At the end of the discussion we speak longly about this image, where the audience can focus freely and choose what they want to experience, and the way they want to do it. But reactions are strange because the dancers think the audience is too free, as if they were scared again with the possibility of that freedom. They also have difficulties to notice the multi directional space, the fact the audience's vision is not only in one direction, but can be multiple, the fact bodies can move, both performers and dancers. The "architecture" of the space is only by bodies.
After the training, we go back to the WHY YOU ARE HERE experimentation. But this time the dancers had time to think and prepare it. The content is often clearer. A lot about being shy in the way to speak and stage this. About bags, travelling, carrying a heavy bag. About dancing without dancing (as it is not allowed), about being together on stage, bringing others. A bit more political too: one woman is brings high heels, and asks a guy to walk with it. She shows him how to, with authority. And another takes 5 dancers, stands them on a line in the middle of the bi frontal space, and asks them to sing their national anthem. And also some singular propositions, very small, minimal… During the group discussion I ask the dancers to talk about the places where they usually perform and for whom. I envisage they will talk a bit, and then I'll put on the table the questions of emancipation and partage du sensible, by Rancière, but all of them speak longly about multiples experiences, and we ran out of time. But it's great as we learn a lot about the contexts in which they are, how they deal with it. There is a lot of similarities between the countries where they come from as their practice is quite marginale and highly instrumentalised. They dance for the politicians (with the power directly expressed on the bodies, through types of dance, moments you perform, and the fear of performing in front of such people), for the gurus (when the guru moves, you moves the performance into his direction), they dance for the tourists (not so much in fact), they engage with disabled children, with kids, with prisoners, families, communities, with a lot of specific audiences. They of course perform in the CCF for foreigners (white) and artist audiences (and these places are high spaces of validation for their non conventional practices). The discourse about educated and non-educated audiences emerges too, very clearly, as as evidence. The picture is quite scary, about what they have to face as dancers, and how they deal with it in their social, cultural and political contexts. They really try to push, to defend contemporary dance, to engage with non-conventional audiences, villages, to be political, to exist as individuals, but the space is very small.
Yann presents his practice of sound, as a noise/sound artist. He speaks about the difference between noise, sound and music. From that he develops around the psychological effects of sound, the practice of musique concrète, the theories of Pierre Shaeffer. He shows examples of pieces created with kitchen objects or printers… He also speaks about his work with dancers, like Dinozord, and how through microphones on bodies, he develops sounds which are come directly from the performer. Very interesting approach as it shifts completely the question of music, as an added sound, as this question of noise and sound becoming music, allows to focus on space, on what is there, how it speaks about scenographic space and time, via sounds. And how for the dancers, it's no longer about working on codes which are from outside, but deal with what they have around them, and turn it into sounds and music.
Then, I give a lecture about audience, emancipation, and performance, as an "answer" to the conversation of yesterday, and the way the dancers spoke about their practice, the audiences they work with, and the way they perceive spectators, educated or not.
In link with J.Rancière. I start from the fact the audiences are, as they observe, compartmented, and the fact there is a kind of language or an idea of language for each compartment. How things are in fact separated. Then I go into the difference between viewing and acting (agir). And the fact historically viewing is associated to passivity, which is bad. And one of the ways the avant gardes in the 20th century were re interrogating the practice of XIXth century theatre, was via reintroducing the action in the experience of the spectator: active spectator who will change the world, who will live and not only see and imagine, etc. Then from this idea of passivity, I went to the fact it is often associated to the audience as a mass of people, and this non-defined mass, has to be educated - they don't know, they have to understand before they can for instance change their life, make the revolution. But the point is, who is telling them how to change their lives, the ones who knows? the ones who are educated? Pedagogical logic, as Rancière says. So comes the point to reconsider (or consider) the spectator as an individual who has his own way to experience, in relation with the fact viewing is not at all a passive situation. When you experience something, you select, you decide, you choose what you want to see or not. I wanted to address the fact, as performers, dancers, choreographers, they can always try to take the situation in which they are and work, play with it, turn it in their own way, not just accept the codes, even imposed, but shift them. And at the same time, stop considering audiences as "non educated", but accept the fact everyone, whatever his background is, has his own way to deal with things, and as performer they can take this into account, in the way they open space, in the way they "tell" a story, open questions. I took the example of the Hollywood cinema which takes you by the hand into a story, gives you everything, until the conclusion, and doesn't open any space for your point of view.
One of the dancers raises the question of taking risks, how to know what is possible or not. But in fact they know, as they do it all the time in life. The question of risks is also not necessarily the point, as you can also work on very little, almost invisible things; the point is not about being revolutionary, or doing visible and dangerous things.
And also, the fact a relation between an artist on a stage and an audience is a human relation, as complex as any human relation can be. This dimension of focusing the creative relation at the level of a human relation is interesting in order to speak about scenography, as the question of convention of spaces, of references, of traditions, and also the diffused question of power which is unclearly often there when you work on a stage, they becomes secondary, giving the major point to the human dimension.
In the afternoon, again, work on the projects and preparation for the next day's experimentation in urban space. We explain what is expected from the dancers in terms of interaction with audience and space. This is not completely a public space, as a shopping mall is a private area. But it's an interesting space for experimentation, as people are coming there, especially on a Saturday.
Comment: Yann's interventions were through a combination of lectures, sound auditions, exercises, analysis, discussions. He also recorded and proposed sounds for a number of participant projects. He also mixed and ran sound for the presentations at the end of the process.
solid golf = body, respiration / movement / steps = air / bodies /floor
noise, sound, music noise is the raw sound, generally what we do not recognise, that which disturbs sound is recognizable: the sound of a siren, the sound of water music is a pleasant arrangement of sound an isolated note is a sound, an arrangement of notes becomes music the art of noise, the art of sounds Scheaffer - solfage of the sound object concrete music, electro-acoustic music sample - electronic music Listening we say listen to a piece of theatre: psychoacoustic: how the mind interpretes hearing as a primodial sense, animal, alertness we can recognise the cry of a baby quite far or in a mass of sound in a boring show the best way to make the public attentive is to produce a very loud sound, we are sure to wake up everyone reversed sound, bass in horror film, the importance of detail, contextualization applications of psychoacoustic: supermarket music, acoustic weapons, films, suspense examples: 'Symphony for dot matrix printers' by (The User) (http://www.undefine.ca/en/projects/symphony-for-dot-matrix-printers/), Acoustica by Kagel afternoon: beginning of work on individual projects sound recording with Alacoque & Adam discussions with Gody Ngosa, John Ulawi & Patrick Haradjabu voice recording for Romual Kabore
Coins - Alacoque: new sound recording in underground parking, installation performance - sound facing cash tills at the entrance