Today is a day off, my first in two weeks, so I am sitting on a train, north of Antwerpen towards Amsterdam—a weekend (or rather a night in parentheses of two part-days) visit to see Lewis and wander a city I last visited after my first time at ImPulsTanz in Vienna.
How do I remember the week, then? The first three days were very much spent on working with rope. Our initial ideas and talks moved around making something of our shared idiocy, but what we were doing these days was quite serious. Out of which, came what?
An unsurprising proof, that one can, using all the messy tying (untying), quite easily suspend oneself. Really, it’s just a matter of getting enough rope between self and floor. It’s somehow more comfortable that traditional shibari figures, as well as being much looser—especially when I tied myself. Contra this, many of the ideas for working together fail once suspended. The tension on the rope is simply too great to allow for easy unthreading. Instead, thinking of the long tying (long, loose connections between limbs), and applying that to the ring and body, it’s possible to make a low suspension with a lot of movement in it.
We left this on Thursday—also Lewis’ last day with us. Thinking back to what had entertained us that night in La Monnaie, it was a single rope (or maybe two). So we tried long messings-around sometimes with one rope, sometimes with many, until some ideas began to appear. This became the kernel of Friday.
We also had ideas to work with texts from Niezsche (Gala) and Wittgenstein (me). I was thinking back to last time I spent a holiday with Ludwig, and what had interested me then. It wasn’t the Tractatus, though admittedly I have a fondness for that, which is also a fondness for his thinking. I was thinking of his later writing regarding that text, but could only find an unpublished collection of his writings that may have become a text had he not died first. It is titled Über Gewissheit — On Certainty. Much of it deals with Wittgenstein’s thoughts on Moore’s ‘Proof of the External World’, and ‘Defense of Common Sense’, in a manner immediately recongnisable as in his style.
Gala and I spent yesterday—in-between trips to the café for macrobiotic lunch, coffee and pauses—making some sense of what we’d done in the previous days. It seems to have resulted in perhaps 20 minutes of unrefined yet interesting enough things to be worth spending more time on. We dance even.
We dance a lot in fact, and probably shall dance some more. It won’t be a finished piece of course, but it seems to have something within which is what we were trying to find. How is it possible to reproduce stupidity without loosing the original enjoyment? Stupidity here being a kind of play, for example like children do which has elements of taunting, cruelty, nonsense, hyperactivity (probably also not stopping when we should and living to regret it). It also has a duo of Wagner and Nietzsche (well, me humming the Tannhäuser overture and Gala reading the aftersong From the High Mountain ending Beyond Good and Evil.
There are other things to try next week, but after a week of a process I went into completely and intentionally unprepared, it seems to have found something a small but useful distance away from failure.
As for unpreparedness, it’s normal for me to go into a new work with much reading, research (yes, that word), and some notebooks worth of ideas. I can usually talk about what I intend to do with some clarity and coherency, and have enough ideas to work on to ensure that we won’t all be sitting around waiting for me to feel inspired.
It’s a curious method then to start with barely anything. An idea to work on our shared amusements, another to have Wittgenstein and Nietzsche make a showing, a third to have something of rope and shibari. That’s all. Sure all of this is not unfamiliar to me and occupies for some years a part of my attention, but to have no notebook, no roll call of tasks to try, no real idea what the first day might hold, let alone what we might be trying for is an uncanny way to make performance.
Somehow it works. I certainly wouldn’t use it as a working method for most of my work (for example abjection has over a year of systematic research, enough notes and ideas for more than a couple of works and has reached a point where I can almost watch it in my head as a film), but for this work and with Gala, it seems to allow both of us a freedom to entertain ourselves.
It’s also very nice to return to making performance. I feel like I haven’t done anything the past three years, even though I’ve been busy with others’ projects. This weekend is to think about Ludwig and Friedrich a bit more, maybe they can have a conversation next week.