If Only (2021)
Tools & Turning points
Removing a core idea (microphones)
Handheld microphones played a crucial role in the explorations from the very beginning. Many tasks, exercises, practices were developed with the acoustic voice and the voice amplified through microphones. We worked with microphones as a voice amplifier, as a hanging/leaning objects on the body, as sound generator in contact with various surfaces, and worked with the cables to create spatial patterns/landscapes. We also investigated how the microphone cables could be used to construct and deconstruct structures through entanglement with several bodies. Many interesting visual references arose from working with microphones, yet it also raised many questions about hierarchy and power. What was their function when the performers could be heard perfectly without it? What power did it hold over the acoustic voice? How did the performers handle/relate to it? Often the handheld microphone created a feeling that the text and language had more importance by being enhanced over the other materials.
During the production period in 2021 the microphones became more problematic after the establishment of the modules while experimenting with sneaky runs. It quickly became a dominating feature visually and auditory. In each run it represented something new that needed time to be established, yet quickly became chaotic due to the nature of the cables getting entangled. This created situations where movement came secondary to the microphone tasks due the concentration they required. It created three main expressions; 1) theatrical entanglement, 2) poetic image/visual element, 3) practical play. If I decided to use the microphones it was crucial that I was aware of the influence they would have on the “reading” of the performance. The microphones offered a lot associatively, through their flexible form and how they were activated. They also demanded attention/focus— never quite managing to get fully established or find their form. Through the sneaky runs I became aware that the ordering of the modules had an effect on how meaning was being read and created. For example, if a sneaky run began with all the dance mats rolled up along the wall, elements would gradually be unpacked during the course of a run through text, movement, dance mats, sound, microphones & cables. This generally resulted in chaotic and overwhelming amounts of information/references/associations to take in. However, if the elements were already active, dance mats slightly rolled out to different lengths and microphones visible there was a tendency for the materials to merge, becoming blurred and unclear.
After many trials and discussions with Janne-Camilla and Ingrid, I made an attempt to do a run without using the microphones. Taking out a core element of the research felt like a dramatic choice. However, it was an important realisation to see that the way language was being probed became more distinct in the existing modules, once the microphones and cables were removed. The dilemma was resolved and I felt that the subtle nuances and complexity in the work came to light, without the dominating feature of microphones.
photo by: takumi morozumi
Dance mats as scenographic element
I wanted to create an intimate performance in the black box. Originally my vision was to have a clean space as there would be many layers of complexity within the materials being worked with. The initial idea for the grey dance mats was to have them rolled out before the microphones were introduced in the performance. This was to create a scenographic shift and make the floor lighter so that the microphone cables would be visible against a contrasting surface.
photo by: takumi morozumi
Dilemmas with collective agency
The nature of my working process was to encourage horizontal structures and include the voice of the performers in the work. I wanted to give the performers agency and a sense of ownership to the materials in function. This became a fundamental ideology in the research.
By flattening the hierarchy between choreographer and the dancers, a good working environment flourished, interesting discussion arose and different perspective came to light. It was important for me to understand the work from the performers perspective in order to challenge them and push the work further. Since the performance, I’ve been thinking about the roles/dynamics between choreographer and performer, especially as I structured my work based on my concept of pliable form, where the performers must actively research in a live performance setting. What happens when the performance depends on particular listening strategies for building and transforming, and this isn’t met? What’s at stake in the performance? I realised after one of the performances that within the group of performers there were different levels of understanding around the core principles and strategies. That the openness in the pliable form was being mistaken as ‘free for all’ improvisation sections; without notable intentions and specifications. This may have been another effect of not having all performers present during the production period, where vital information was produced and established.
I realised that I took a certain risk by structuring the performance with a pliable-form which was dependant on the performers fidelity. The role of the performer was vital, they carried the work. For the performance to function optimally it relied on the performers ability to listen, be present, tune into the collective building and transformation of language in playful scenarios. These were the conditions that made the performance “work”, resulting in unforeseeable specificity and sublime moments. In other words, there were subtle nuances that affected the work for the better or worse. The attempt to define strategies in the modules was to create a safety net; known elements to work with in the unforeseen. The performance occurred through this liveness and subtleness.
photo by: takumi morozumi
After seeing three grey mats in the space many questions arose about their function and role in the work. The first idea was to have three dance mats rolled from the corner in a diagonal across the space. However, this created a large dominating line intersecting the space, a significant sign which could be misinterpreted in relation to the concepts of interlinks, nodes and multi-linearity. Questions began to arise about how the mats were rolled in? What expectations would the audience have when seeing them lined up/placed around the space? How much time would it take to roll them out? Would it be a quick shift or changeover that could be of significance, or would the mats slowly unravel and transform the space throughout the piece? Would all of the mats get rolled out? Which directions were they rolled in? After discussions with Ingrid Berger Myhre, a solution was to add more dance mats to the space and see what occurred by testing different scenarios each day during the sneaky runs. The effect of many mats in the space created a scenographic landscape resembling scrolls of paper and paths crossing. During the sneaky runs I took pictures of “end results” and made adjustments to the placement in space, and how much the mats were already rolled out or “activated” in a sense. Modifications were made over a three-week period until I landed on a setup that functioned throughout the performance. It was important to create a balance in how the mats covered the space, which directions they came from, how the lines were placed in relation to each other.
Beginning of performance
End of performance