Jute Post-Disintegration

Already some days in the past, despite my intent to write on both days of the weekend; in the meantime I’ve cut the video — 22 minutes or so, which will appear here very soon. This then is slightly a decayed and abundant memory.

Once again we were in Alte Kantine Wedding, very convenient for us dragging down several loads of rope, slings, costumes, food, and anything else possibly useful. This time also, we were ten — a couple more than last time, with many from the previous attempt, and a couple of new ones we’ve picked up in the ensuing months.

Dasniya and I took a few hours last week on Monday and again on Friday to put together something of a plan for Saturday, being mainly the rehearsal day. This went between a discussion of tasks and more generally what we might or might not want in the actual installation. By the end of Friday evening we had a fairly coherent plan, though knowing rehearsals, I expected to scythe off at least a third of them as time ran out. As it eventuated, we got through all of them, sometimes assimilating parts of one into another, so while not being explicitly done, they occurred nonetheless.

Alte Kantine Wedding is a good place to rehearse, large, a lot of windows, a proper kitchen, many sofas and tables, a dance floor inherited from somewhere, and courtesy us, five hanging points in the ceiling. On the downside, it’s aesthetically pretty grim, especially the ceiling, which makes for a lot of compromises in photographing and filming.

I dragged myself off to the market on Saturday unusually early so I could get down there before 11 and begin arranging things. My music of the day was Pulp’s Different Class, which is entirely irrelevant to the procedures of the weekend other than being excellent to shove furniture around to.

And so the arrivals, including one all the way from Brussels, who found the very comfortable brown corduroy-ish sofa and took a nap, and one from Paris, who took a nap on a different sofa.

Since the last jute disintegration, Dasniya and I have taught in Brussels again and at ImPulsTanz in Vienna, as well as together or separately regularly, and been involved in a couple of choreographic projects, all of which was reflected in the order of the day, and how we work together.

Back and forth, back and forth, a task from Dasniya, one from me, talking of something from one of us, then from the other. I’m not sure how it looks like from the outside but it feels somewhat different from the usual situation where either implicitly or explicitly one person is assistant to the other and there is a permanent deferral to the hierarchy. It seems we manage for an equality and work well together. It’s good also to find that in certain situations I can collaborate and that it’s better than if I was doing it alone.

Tasks, then.

Many tasks. Some very simple, and achingly familiar to anyone who’s worked in dance or theatre, which often get used to make truly awful work imbued with Meaning, which thankfully also are just good tools to warm up with, and to teach in an uncomplicated way some fundamentals of working in a group, spatial and temporal tools and relationships, and methods of working which discourage habits.

These tasks — like grouping together and following the person who is frontmost — turn out to get quite interesting in themselves once rope is introduced, and despite the various levels of performance history or formal physical training in the group, they all have worked with rope in both the more traditional shibari approach and with Dasniya and I.

Dasniya and I watched some of the video from the previous attempt and some of the Saturday tasks were explicitly aimed at not doing certain things that occurred then, or of encouraging being aware of one’s body and actions both within oneself, and in relation to those nearby and across the room. A lot to think about all at once, especially when keeping at it for three hours.

Now it’s Sunday and already a week since — and still trying to finish compressing the video for here.

So, tasks. These began simply and became more complex as Saturday passed; new tasks began to include the previous ones, and modified them, then repeated with further variations. We ended with what we’d noted down as “3-4 choreographies”, which were five or six by then, longer ones that were building single ideas to some kind of coherent or finished state.

Rehearsing reading and unshibari, some thrashing of legs and ropes from n+2, chest-face harness semi-suspension, and the weird one for this attempt, the equivalent of food from last time, table + down jackets and sleeping bags messy tying. Which arrived us at the end of the day, and so Dasniya, Gala and I ported ourselves into Barrikade for evening beer.


Whether it was from having done it last time and knowing what to expect, or just being more organised, we had a schedule and mostly stuck to it. An hour of talking after an hour of arriving, going through items from the day before; costumes, hair, makeup; organising and a final talk on what was going when and where; I disappeared to deal with multiple cameras, and dreading a mass influx at exactly 4 o’clock like last time, we started around twenty to four, almost without ropes at all, very simple arrangements of togetherness.

And for the subsequent three hours, I wonder if the video captures it better than anything I might write; the video which is rendering now. Maybe some things from the outside, then.

Quite a few people came by, and seemed to grasp better this time the idea of it being like an installation in a gallery, rather than a performance in a theatre. Some people stayed for the duration, others for 15 minutes or so. For me, there was a definite, obvious progression through the afternoon, and very clearly this time that is was working, making sense, getting to where it is we imagine it going. Far from finished though, and plenty of new things to think about that came out of surviving three and an half hours performing.

So we intend for a next round early next year, February or March, depending on everyone’s schedules. Images have arrived, video shortly.