5 Days of Making Shibari (3 Workshops, A Performance), & Stockholm

A slightly unannounced workshop (compared to the other two, I mean), three days of making performance with NYXXX at Rökridån, co-organised by Kokoro 2. Eleven people, some artists, one engineer (always one engineer), a social-anthropologist, part-way underground in the meat-packing district. We stay almost on the edge of Stockholm, one stop before the end of the line, Bagarmossen. The forest begins nearer than that last stop. Roads and cars encircle but do not enter. Wide, curved paths, trees, eruptions of glacier-smoothed granite. Most other places this would be the dead-end. Here, it’s like the ideal of high-modernist urban planning architecture—the antithesis of Le Corbusier—made real. It’s a little disturbing at first.

Rökridån is half-way from Bagarmossen to the centre of Stockholm, probably an half-hour walk, 15 minute brisk spin on a bike. We take the train, walk the last bit. Only four hours a day, though with warm-up before and drifting over the finish time, this stretches to five, six. And then we rehearse. I haven’t hung myself up since teaching at ImPulsTanz last year.

This is writing for remembering. Since working regularly with Florian, Dasniya’s teaching, performances, general ideas and interests have changed.

In-between stuff. Friday, we rehearse in Bagarmossen, then end the afternoon in Östasiatiskamuseet. Also walking around the harbours. Wednesday night we see a performance at MDT. It causes me to doubt that people with acceptable bodies (identities, desires) can have any understanding of those without, or even care. Sunday I go to the Historiska museet. A bus driver plays Swedish folk music. Later that night, we use it in a performance.

I eat a lot of liquorice. Sweet, salty, chewy, rubbery, stuff that melts and stuff that erodes. The sky is the kind that comes from across oceans, open, tattered clouds, the air sharp and polished. It’s often windy. Inside, or in the sun, it’s warm; if the sun was higher, it would approach harshness. As soon as the sun is gone, it chills like stone in shade. If the public transport doesn’t work, they pay for people to take taxis. I didn’t eat reindeer. Or fish.

Thursday night is Valborgsmässoafton, Walpugis Night. No burning of witches north of the Baltic, only celebrating the arrival of spring with bonfires. Stockholm seems to have a lot of immigrants. It felt a little like Sydney or Melbourne. I liked it more for that (I know it’s not straightforward or rosy).

Both Tova and Christian have a lot of books. Walls of books. Cheese comes in at least 1kg blocks. Smaller is possible but not encouraged. Coffee also. I wonder if in winter they are snowed in, and need such large amounts to get through. Granite is everywhere. The city and trees are a thin scraping on the surface, you could probably clean the whole place back to rock with a brush, vacuum cleaner, and an afternoon. It’s insanely beautiful.

The word for ‘child’ is the same as in Scots: barn, bairn. I try and not find similarities with Scotland and Northern England. When people greet you, even in shops or at work, they say, “Hey!” It’s so ridiculously friendly. If a ‘k’ is followed by an ‘ä’, it’s pronounced ‘sh’. I ask Tova who inflicted this upon them. She laughs and tells me about ‘sj’. ‘Hen’ is in the Svenska Akademiens ordlista as a gender-neutral personal pronoun. People we meet use it easily.

What else?

Monday we arrive, are met at the central bus station, cross the road to the train station, find ourselves on the T17, south-south-east to Bagarmossen. A long meal together, roast aubergine with walnuts. Tuesday we are early heading to Rökridån. Dasniya sent photos of our performance, we both took many photos throughout the week (as did everyone). I’ll defer a description in lieu of those later. NYXXX are LARPers. I found that out late in the week. When she told me it was like the secret that makes coherent everything which preceded. First day: a warmup, some exercises/tasks/trials with ropes. Second day: a warmup, Dasniya showed some of her work from rehearsals, talking about how performance is made. The difference between performance for each other, playing publicly, and performance as a branch of theatre are discussed. Third day: an assemblage of objects, ideas, wishes, things to try; an agreement of who does what with whom; experiments with rope that become installations. I said, “Wow, that’s really fucking good” to myself quite a bit.

Friday. May Day.

Saturday, Yoga and Shibari. On more familiar ground here. The performance workshop went into new things for Dasniya (and myself). Some things worked, others not completely. Working or not-working for me are somewhat questions of engineering; it’s the ground they operate on that’s either fertile or arid (pushing a shaky mixed metaphor there). I think the performance workshop, especially with LARPing was really this, several things coming together that fit so neatly and I’m kinda watching myself watching it thinking, “Faaark! This can go so far into Weirdsville…” and wanting that in all its rawness, messiness, bits of failure and bits of sublime on the stage at MDT cos it’s so much more relevant, so much more real.

Dasniya’s yoga approaches Isabelle’s warmup from different directions. I’m doing all the same all over the place. Same. Different. Slightly different. Kinda the same. We rehearse before and after. Firstly after is a Podcast dinner. NYXXX, a Tascam, a table of food (yes, large block of cheese). The talking goes from performance to stomach bacteria to cosplaying … I thought there was an interesting formality in how this was prepared, which contrasted with the informality when let to run on its own accord. After that, full stomach, more rehearsing.

Sunday. I go to the museum. The bus driver and his music. Later, after the Self-suspension workshop, Tova helps me find the music, poems of Gustav Fröding arranged by Torgny Björk. People start laughing immediately when we play it. Different people in the weekend workshops to the week one. Many the same. Different energy in Rökridån also. I try suspending myself in two different hip harnesses. I’m unsure lately if I want to hang at all. I do find some possibilities, but there’s a physical reluctance towards pain that comes from dealing with chronic injuries, as if the surface of my skin is too sensitive.

Performance. Rubber dog mask for me. Cat for Dasniya, Pig for Tova. A green bicycle. A white calico skirt, beaded green vest, also a black ballet tutu, gold glitter heels, a table and chair, a ladder. From the inside performing with masks, it can feel nothing, or stupid, or whatever, but from the outside with these not-quite human not-quite animal masks, it’s dead strange. It’s like they become blank signifier volumes. It’s not anthropomorphic either; more like becoming animal. The practicalities of dealing with much-reduced vision and hearing, the inner experience of wearing this cave-like helmet causes a different mundane physicality and movement. They’re also good for shy performers.

It takes an hour to pack the ropes,

A rope jam takes place. Stockholm people are well-handy with shibari. All quite astounding, really. Dasniya and I have a beer in the local pub. It closes early, by pub standards. The sky still has a faint tint of the sun riding the horizon at 11pm.

Monday, pack, train, lunch with Tova, we don’t manage a ferry ride and wander. Bus to airport, liquorice and chocolate. Plane makes land somewhere around the border of Germany and Poland. We see Uferhallen on the descent. Florian is at the arrivals gate with a sign, “Shibari Express” and chewy sweet stuff.