Once more going west, we take the ungodly hour flight from Schönefeld to Brussels. Dasniya and I are having a two-week residency at Bains Connective to work on pretty much everything we’ve ever talked about to do with Shibari and ropes. It’s heading towards something I’ve been slowly working on for some time, which is a return to Guangzhou.
Michael Garza –the principal Bassoon in the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra and one of the first people I met when I landed in that city close to ten years ago – and I have been talking about doing something there with a chamber music wind quartet. This led also to thoughts of taking ourselves south-west to Bangkok. So, Dasniya and I will spend two weeks working on some ideas, and making some kind of performance for the last Friday.
In the meantime, here is some text for an idea of what we may be doing.
￼The anarchy of knots or the n+2 dimensional space for n >1 or the rope was a plant
By Frances d’ Ath and Dasniya Sommer
The two week residency at Bains Connective in Brussels is the first phase to work on raw material based on the following ideas.
The cultural history of ropes goes back to the Mesolithic. It is a tool for binding, tying, restraining, lifting, fixing or lashing. It can lift cargo onto a ship, or a person off the ground. We tie our shoes every day, and bind damaged limbs or bodies with cloth bandages. At whatever level of consideration, our relations towards, and knowledge about this material, exist in thoughts in countless quotidian moments.
In topology knots are mathematicised. There is knot theory and tabulation itself, which leads to braid theory and physical knot theory, relating more practically to the real world. Back in abstract calculations there are ‘unknots’. A string with its ends joined together, creates an un-undoable loop. Or a wild knot, which is not tame, because of its so-called ‘pathological’ behaviour.
Rope is for justice. In tug-of-war games a collective has to act in concert. If they do well, an inch may decide their triumph. In Japan during times of war, prisoners were suspended and tortured with horrifying rope techniques. The status of the prisoner could be signified with the colour of the rope, and the degree of artistic ornament. Medieval rope was used for similar injustices. Ariadne’s thread, in contrast helped Theseus to find his way out of the Minotaur’s labyrinth.
Neuroanthropological thoughts invite us to perceive the rope as a tool, like a hammer is, or a pair of chopsticks, or a musical instrument. There is a dexterity added to the ability of the hand by it which it is not simply an addition. That is to say, ‘I’ am not merely ‘using’ a tool, but the ‘I’ that gains familiarity with an object, ceases to delineate between ‘me’ and ‘that’. These objects become part of us and in turn we extend ourselves into them.
In this way, the rope is my fingers, or perhaps to say the rope is my tactile organ, somewhat prehensile also. I do not merely feel through the rope, acting as an intermediary, with sensation being communicated along it towards or from me; I feel through the rope as its qualities are to touch what my skin is also.
It is almost as if we do something close to forbidden by taking this object of use and turning it to (sensual) play. Shibari, Japanese rope bondage does that. Because of its origin as a strand in martial arts technique, it needs to decisively dissociate from real methods for punishment. Instead it goes with consenting intensities of BDSM play or contemporary performance.
Between two people the rope allows for a degree of deferral, both for and against communication. Depending on the actions and intentions at either end however, the deferral in itself is somewhat neutral. It causes a possibility of communication that, by its tangible intermediary status, is not what or how one would commonly interact with another. It instigates a pause in thinking, a space for interpretation.
We work into an improvised dismantling of traditional tying rules and the logic behind these. While tying the body and the room, we bring in theories of Taoism, ‘Wabi-Sabi’, ‘Ma’, which allow us to be slightly less perfect, and impermanent. A rather european analysis of bodies, gender identities and role assignments in Shibari culture accompanies our experiment.
Musically, we are collaborating with Michael Garza, principal bassoonist of the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra. This is for a performance/installation with his wind chamber music group in Guangzhou and Bangkok in 2012.