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Dialogues with artists in residence

Interview with Emma Lindgren
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Emma Lindgren
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Interview with Emma Lindgren
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Interview with Rémy Héritier (FR)
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Interview with Tawny Andersen & Alexandre Le Petit


Maybe to start and since I don’t know you can you speak a bit about your background?

In terms of artistic practice my background is quite eclectic I guess. I started with improvisation or contact improvisation and then searched for the technical tools that could support those practices. I danced for a while, studied physical theatre and Butoh. Studied for two years with a Swedish Butoh choreographer called SU-EN and after that I really wanted to do my own work, to start choreograph. I applied for Laban in London and went to Amsterdam where I worked for that application. In London I did a bit more then 1 year at school and took a break of 8 months. I went back there last summer for my last project. Then I moved here!
I came to Belgium for personal reasons and because it seemed a good place to work since there are so many dancers. I don’t follow classes so I didn’t meet a lot of people in that way but put an ad at Contredanse’s website and gave a workshop, there I found the dancers I am working with.

How do you define improvisation as a field?

A lot of choreographers use improvisation in creating. Some people have parts of their work improvised.
I work with pure improvisation at the moment. And what we do in the ‘improvisation lab’, which is a part of my work are explorations, find out ways to get into improvisation, structures and other things with the aim to know how to use that knowledge in a performance situation.
The 2nd part of the lab is for remaking my final project from Laban, which is a performative installation, based on improvisation and focused on the interaction of performance members and audience members. It’s a very informal improvisation.

I am planning to have an improvisation evening at bains::connective with dancers and electronic music composers, also improvising. I would like the performance to open up to a jam where everybody can take part.

I’ll also perform the piece “Only To Do Nothing”

I find that title very nice. Could you talk about it?

It’s very connected to when I took a break to my studies, I was really overloaded, kind of a bit burned out and had this great plan take it easy and watch all the art movies, and read all the books. I wanted to do things that I before didn’t have the time to because I was always working. But then when I took that break I was just exhausted and I didn’t do anything connected to arts. Even considering going to an exhibition was too much. I was just sleeping, reading novels and seeing comedies or thrillers.

It was so necessary for me to take a step away from all that pressure and wanting to get better and to know everything that is going on.

How did you re-start?

I started by working on video. The idea was to make an installation with video and then have it inhabited by people. I had the idea of placing mattresses on the floor and having people looking to the videos at the ceiling and that that image would be very simple and with very simple movement.

This project was to be hosted in a festival where a lot of things would be going on and so I wanted to propose a quiet room with fewer impressions, where people could relax. I started to work with the artists, 2 professional dancers, 1 actor, 1 singer and normal person (laughs). Working with them changed what I was doing and it ended up being more focused on what happened between the performers and the audience members. I was quite scared of starting again because of pressure, but it became a lot less stressful and much more playful. I stopped being so worried about how people would perceive my work. College was very confronting because I couldn’t fit in it and that was good in the sense that I had to define my artistic choices.

If you had to define yourself or your work, how would you do it?

I really don’t like defining myself. I think I can define myself as a person who is searching, who wants to go somewhere but I don’t like to define myself as what I am, as something fixed. I still feel quite fresh – new as an artist!

I would say, improvisation in any field and the emergence of things, letting things evolve as we work in them. I am interested also in the interdisciplinary, in being able to bring together different approaches and in not creating an art piece as such but rather create a situation where both performers and audience can participate more.

For instance in “Only To Do Nothing” the boundaries are loosening up - it’s not so easy to say who is what and that interests me. I am also interested in the meetings that occur between performers and audience or even audience and audience sometimes.
I focus on the experience of the event rather than on the visual results.

How did you come to think of this form?

I think it comes from the fact that I always wanted to come closer to the performers in the performances I was going to. I wanted to break through. I don’t think every performance should be like this. This is just my way to look at it.

It comes from a reaction to mass media culture where a few people are giving everything to a mass of people that are maybe also longing for more human interaction. I’m longing for human interaction.

Audiences can be more active. One can’t fulfill the idea of democracy when people are passive; to live that idea the audience has to become active. Our culture is passive, we are passive much of the time, consuming and working.

To create a space where you can relax, where you don’t have to achieve anything, even the dancers they don’t have to achieve anything, they are free to just lie and rest and look. They don’t have to present and give something all the time. Is it possible to have an intimate relation with someone you don’t know, with a stranger. Also the touch, I think we lack a lot the sense of touch.

We as dancers get this kind of experiences, we move, we get touched and in improvisation we feel free. I think it’s important to give a little bit of this experience to the audience, that they can in some extension have that way of perceiving.

Do you think art can feed this gap, and be a tool for interaction, communication, touch?

Yes, definitely!!! Art can be anything!!! Art is a very broad field.
When I start I never think in terms of what functions the piece will have, but in, for example, the creation of a space where people would be free to say let’s do this or that, but I also think that if you have an urge in your mind you work on materializing it in what you are working with.

How do you support you research?

The most importance thing is the practical research in the studio and discussions together with the dancers about what is happening and the 2nd one is reading. I love reading and I get a lot of inspiration from that.

What kind of books do you read?

A lot philosophy, I like to read works of phenomenology applied to performance and to film.
An important author for me is Nicolas Bourriand and his work about relational esthetics. And Buddhism.

Do you practice Buddhism?

Not so much with meditation but I try to practice Buddhism in everyday life. I am just inspired by it.
It’s a lot about allowing yourself to be in the present and accepting anything that happens. It’s also about compassion towards you and towards others and having an open mind.
Trying not to judge, trying to not shut things down but to let negative and positive things be.

There is an American woman, I think she is a nun and she is writing quite popular books about Buddhism. Her name is PEMA CHODRON and I like her very much.

And that’s something that has also to do with Phenomenology, which is about immediate experience and the sensory experience of your environment. I try to integrate this into my practice.
For example, working with what you perceive while you’re moving, in order to find a strong presence or finding how to be present. It’s almost like a meditation practice where you are sensing and you are allowing the sensation of what you see and what you ear flowing through your body. Your body becomes almost porous, and then you move with that sense.

Could you mention one or more phenomenologist that you appreciate?

Writings around theatre and performance, for instance “Great Reckonings in Little Rooms: On the Phenomenology of Theater” by Bert O. States and “Bodied Spaces: Phenomenology and Performance in Contemporary Drama” by B Stanton.
David Abram is a writer who is mixing environmentalist thoughts, anthropology, phenomenology and linguists. He has written a very inspiring book called: “The spell of the sensuous”.

I guess the most important fact is being in the world and trying to be present in the moment. That is of course a very important attitude in improvisation since you are always trying to respond to what is happening in the moment.

What about words? Do you use words in your work?

Yes, in “Only To Do Nothing” I use a string of words that you follow through a corridor, leading you into the installation space. That text is partly written by a dancer, something she was writing about lying in bed staring at the ceiling for a very long time. I completely recognized myself in that experience and incorporated it into my text.

As I mentioned before, in “Only To Do Nothing”, when you come into the space there are mattresses on the floor and in some of them there are images projected from the ceiling. There are pillows and pillows hanging from the ceiling and in some of them there are tiny speakers that people had to put their head on the pillow to hear the recordings of discussions in the rehearsals, stories told by dancers and improvisations with text.

Do you reformulate your show each time you do it?

Yes, “Only To Do Nothing” is a very open and flexible show. I articulate it in relation with the space, the possibilities, etc. The first one in London was a more visual experience, using multiple video projections; the second one was more physical and interactive. The group of dancers I work with constantly changes depending on where I live and we also make new material, new videos etc.
Now we are 7 people working including myself: Natasha and Hanna from Germany, Meredith from USA, Saioa from Pays Basque, Amelie from France and Caroline from Belgium.
I am also very happy to invite people into the rehearsals for a shorter period without necessarily taking anything thing from them to the show, but having people responding with their own experience of what we are doing. So if there is someone visiting, a friend or so, they can come and join. And the people that participated before are always welcome back to rehearse or perform. I like to have strangers visiting once in a while because it helps keeping the work quite open.

Do you have money support?

No, I’m in Belgium for a short time and in Sweden they don’t support work that is produced abroad. So… it’s kind of hard.
At the moment everyone is working voluntarily, on an unpaid basis. We work part-time because people also need to work for rent. But I think that’s fine, I don’t think I am a person that wants to work creatively 40 hours a week. I need to get in touch with reality on a regular basis…
I have to say that I just started a job 2 days a week and it’s good to have a foot on the outside world, it’s quite liberating, takes pressure away from what you are doing and the feeling that art can easily become very important. I think it’s actually healthy, and there is less risk to become pretentious. (laughs)

Can you describe one session of work?

We usually start by a warm up that deals with preparing your body and mind to start working. For instance to work with the senses would be to start perceiving things and moving while perceiving.
It’s very different each time. I never really plan what we do.
We could do contact improvisation work or for example do some short improvisations in duets and then from the feedback received, give two other performers a task stemming from that feedback.
There are so many things one can do…so many different things we can focus on.

Focus on time, space, relationships, do I contrast or follow what others do, does my energy seem to be the same all the time. So many aspects of the improvisation you can concentrate on. When you choose one aspect to start working you find five others to explore and so on…

We discuss a lot about things that interest us. If someone doesn’t understand it can bring you to reformulate and focus on solutions and it can be very, very rich.
I really appreciate if you get somewhere collectively, if we work with misunderstanding and understanding rather the working everything out in one persons mind.

I also invite the dancers to lead a sessions or exercises. Even if I am the artistic leader of the group, the people of the group shape the work with their interests, ideas and desires. It’s not just me deciding.

What interests you in the collective?

A shared experience, common ground of knowledge, the state we work in. I think it comes from me appreciating every dancer qualities and being much more interested in what can happen between several minds then just inside one mind.
1 and 1 is more then 2! (laughs)
Everybody comes with their experiences, different people perceive things differently and I think is a shame to not pick up on that. In the future I would like to explore further what a collective process could be. I would like to do that also with artists from other fields. I am interested in a process where not one person is pushing her/his point but rather together seeing what is happening in between everybody.
If I take my role in this group, I am not a clear director. I am trying to find my way to shift that relation ship with flexibility and responsibility! For me it’s important that everybody finds their way of functioning in the group.

06 06 2007

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