Tomorrow early I am flying to Madrid. My first time there or in Spain, and yes, one of the reasons I wanted to live in Europe: to go to these countries that are so close to one another. Gala, Dasniya, and Michael have already been there for a week, so I am the tardy one.
This idea to spend time together came out of – well for me anyway – seeing Einstürzende Neubauten a couple of months ago, and thinking of how bands rehearse and work together, and how this makes performance, comparing this with how dance and theatre is made. So we come together in the studios of Compañia Nacional de Danza de España where Michael dances and for some time work on our ideas.
Gala and I will make a short time to return to process/unprocess, and I have some ideas that may eventually fall into either abjection or black metal, (the piece coming from Michel Serres’ Genesis, and something of a ballet). As for the others, I shall try to record bits and pieces as I can to leave scattered here.
I slept much of the way, or rather failed to stave off falling awake. It must have been not pretty for those close enough to endure watching me struggle so.
Having decided the difference between flying from Brussels to Berlin and catching a train was around the order of three hours (one and a bit hour flight means nothing when check-in is two before and airport is another one to get to), and with the extra pleasure of no baggage weight limit nor irritation of customs, I thought sitting staring at the fields being harvested, train stations, small towns I’d never visit, let alone remember a day later, would be a pretty way to spend an afternoon.
Ah, well, the air-conditioning breaking down, getting stuck in aforementioned small town for half an hour, thus missing the connection at Köln, so waiting there for over an hour, to find myself on a train going extremely slowly (which is to say not moving at all) somewhere east of Hannover while the entire contents of an unassembled railway line thudded past almost as slowly in the opposite direction … I was close to dehydration by the time Berlin hove into view, and decided unanimously that waiting for the U55 line to be finished was not as desirable as catching a taxi.
In Berlin again, after more than three weeks absence. So long that riding my bike caused suffering. Lucky Wednesday was the Wedding Markets behind the Rathaus, so I succumbed to the cries of, “Bitchin! Bitchin! Angebot!” (In truth, they are saying ‘Bitte Schön’, but it’s abbreviated in such a way as to annul resistance to buying 2 kilos of peaches for 1 euro).
Some books had arrived also, one of which I shall write on when I experience lucidity.
Along with all this, I have been subjected to getting up early. Rehearsals with Daniel Schlusser over Skype. Shall write of this also.
The train station at Liège is one of the most ‘smooth, cool lines of the future; arriving now’ cocoons of architecture I’ve seen. It says, “Please photograph me”. So I did.
Quick, no? Two weeks and it goes and everyone packs and leaves and within an hour no trace is left of us being there. And as quickly, the feeling of emptiness and the other feeling of disappointment. The two are entangled, wondering if we should have done more with the time we had, wondering if what we did with that time in fact amounts to anything.
We went through what we had four times today, including one which was the showing. There wasn’t much reworking of things today; a culling of a couple of bits to make things more manageable for me being a one-legged hoppity invalid, much talking between runs to sort out details, mostly though it was ‘set’. After two weeks, what did we have?
The showing and today wasn’t everything. Last week we spent a lot of time on ideas with ropes and knots for the first three days before moving off onto completely other things. This rope stuff showed up in the final part a little, but in itself perhaps represents an entire body of ideas that might go off into various other things and not show up here much at all. The rope stuff that did show up—low, semi-suspensions in a mess of ropes, many ideas that have been played with in the last several months, had a quite different feeling to the rest of the stuff; it’s difficult to know each time if it will ‘work’, as the randomness of the ropes means it evolves in unique ways each time. Though the ideas that cause one clump of ropes to be chosen over another are what’s important anyway.
The other scenes – wild dancing together; a dialogue on knowing if I have hands (while having them nibbled on); truly awkward floor partnering; a poem by Nietzsche with hummed accompaniment of Wagner – all feel like they could become something more, and were really just initial sketches. Maybe they need to be tighter, allowed to expand more, grow through reiteration, and maybe they seemed nonsensical to people watching, or incomprehensible, but I think for what we are trying to do they have something coherent enough to continue with.
We have a video, maybe some images from it will appear shortly (though me watching it at the moment is improbable). Of course we are musing on how to continue.
That is all. Cleaning up, dinner later with Hans and Anuschka … a plan for a day off in Ghent on the weekend.
Also to say, Gala and I would like to thank Rosas and the people there who invited us for the Summer Studios, and who made the two weeks there an absolute idyll. Working there in such a relaxed and friendly environment, and in such a beautiful, huge studio is quite the luxury. And to have a garden, trees and solitude to be surrounded by … also the lunches, macrobiotic three-course meals which I am going to miss very much. I could be happy working this way for a long time.
The macrobiotic lunches are what we wait for, first into the cafeteria. Also coffee. There is a so-so café around the corner that makes up for its slot-machine ambience with tables outside and rather strong coffee. We also talk a lot. Luckily most of the time when someone comes into the studio we appear to either be deep in process, or better yet, standing. In truth, much of the process, if it could be said to be present at all, is an unprocess.
I was thinking about the personal humour aspect of this today. It could be said to be a connection between two people. For example, often on stage or in an improvisation, what is important is feeling the connection between you and the other person or group. This is a somewhat mystical thing, as it, “I don’t know what it is, but I know it when I see it”. It is usually accompanied by a significant amount of seriousness, of “being in the moment”, which lends an air of great, yet unquantifiable importance to the goings-on.
What we originally thought and talked about was if it might be possible to not just recreate the gestures and goings-on of our conjunctions of stupidity, but more importantly, to keep the real laughter and enjoyment. Luckily it’s not so hard for us to lapse into juvenile comedy routines, so we don’t have to search too hard or long for amusement. But this thing between us, perhaps it is like the above ‘connection’, which dancers can drop into quite easily—it’s a signifier of authentic performance after all, so somewhere, attention in training is given to it.
So I thought, perhaps what we should be doing is paying serious attention to maintaining that slight delirium between us, and from that everything else would follow.
We had to rethink two of the main sections today, as I decided to trash my ankle yesterday afternoon, so chaotic partnering on all four legs is off the table. Turns out what can be done with four legs is funnier with three. Sometimes I feel like we’re the Encyclopedia Dramatica of dance, or at least we get the crumbs from that table and gnaw on them. I was enjoying endless movement jokes we amused ourselves with though. Still, it’s become ever so slightly more scary-funny. As for the other part, now that’s just a long line on floor partnering, and it’s funnier when one of us get the wind knocked out.
After two weeks then, with a showing coming up tomorrow, I wonder what it is we have. It feels like something we’ll go on with, it feels like it could be a lot more involved, possibly to the point where it’s relentlessness is exhausting to watch. It’s also not all immature gags, though to go from the former to the latter without seeming cheap or saccharine or painfully earnest is tricky. The last thing I (we) want is for people to watch it and feel some kind of heart-warming resolution.
How do we want people to react? Is that even a question? Do we want them to laugh when we do, nod seriously when we do? I don’t thing there’s a simple coherency between the obviously (personally) amusing stuff and the (seemingly) more calmer and sober. Or perhaps it’s a performance of what we do together, but isn’t a sentimental story of us. (Though I watched a bit of Black Books and was startled by the culinary similarities.)
Tomorrow, last macrobiotic lunch, last day in a huge studio, last day wandering down and up the hill, to and from. Plans for more though.
A short invitation to a showing of some sort this Friday:
The last two weeks, Gala Moody and I have been in residence at Rosas in Brussels working on something.
There is some:
dancing (including, but not limited to: jumping, turning, hopping, skipping, mostly together, (perhaps only using three legs)),
philosophy by Wittgenstein,
poetry by Nietzsche (read by Gala),
music by Wagner (hummed by Frances),
at least one breast,
We will be in Studio 1 for 20 minutes to half an hour this Friday afternoon.
Van Volxemlaan 164
Friday 29th July at 1620
it is free,
we may talk about it after,
there might be drinks later.
Gala stands over me. She is reading the Aftersong from Beyond Good and Evil. We look at a couple of translations and the German text. He is quite unfriendly.
I am humming still. Most of today was spent humming. Or when I couldn’t make enough volume, then, “Da Daaaa Da Daaaa LaLaLaLa—La La-La Laaa”. Yes, Wagner’s Tannhäuser overture.
We are not playing this scene for comedy.
There is quite a bit of (for us) potential comedy in all that we are doing, but this scene we both feel has a gravity to it, no matter how much our desire to play it for laughs of the schadenfreude type seek to overwhelm it.
Earlier, we worked on the other scene that has quite some text in it. This time, Wittgenstein. He talks about hands a lot. Coming back on the train from Amsterdam (much fun! much sleeping!), I read over On Certainty. He has a tendency in this text to pose questions as though someone was speaking, a rhetorical device. When the encumbrances around these spoken sentences are removed, one finds what is left is a strange but logical conversation. (For brevity in the performance, I removed the excess “I have a hand”s, as it lent a certain monomania to the proceedings.)
This week we are in another studio. Big? Yes! Places to hang? Also yes! Unfortunately the wall we have to jump off and I get to bounce off is decidedly concrete. Nonetheless, it should add an element of torment to our fun.
Here is the text. Perhaps to say that what I am referring to as a hand, which Gala is doubtful of, is not the hand you might expect.
Gala: I don’t know if there’s a hand here.
Frances: Look closer. I know it is so. There is a hand there.
Gala: She knows that there’s a hand there.
Frances: I’m incapable of being wrong about this: that is a hand. I know that here is a hand for it’s my hand that I’m looking at. What right have I not to doubt the existence of my hands?
Gala: How do you know?
Frances: Here is my hand. I know where you touched my hand. I know, I am not just surmising, that I am seeing a hand.
Gala: Have you got two hands?
Frances: I know that I have two hands. That I have two hands is an irreversible belief. I could not accept any experience as proof to the contrary.
Gala: And what is a hand?
Frances: Well, this, for example.
Gala: I don’t know if this is a hand.
Frances: I know that it means now for me. At least that I shall act with a certainty that knows no doubt, in accordance with my belief. I know that that’s a hand.
Gala: Is that really a hand? I doubt whether that is really a hand.
Frances: I know that this is my hand.
Gala: Are you sure? Do you know it is?
Frances: How do I know? I know that that’s a hand. I have two hands. This is a hand, not… This thing that looks like a hand isn’t just a superb imitation – it really is a hand. I know the position of my hands with my eyes closed.
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.
Straight from seven days of yoga + shibari workshops into getting up early for class. Lucky it was only a 15 minute stumble down the hill to Rosas. Unlucky the teacher had missed his alarm. And on to day two!
Last time I was in Brussels, I found an application for Rosas Summer Studios in my email, and having abstained from application writing for some time, thought perhaps it was time to do this again. Gala and I have had vague ideas about working together on something for quite a while, and two weeks working time, along with macrobiotic lunches and a vegetable garden is quite a luxury.
What are we doing then? We are joined this week by Lewis, who came down from Amsterdam (by way of Suisse Alps in an old Renault) to do the workshops last week. Gala and I have been talking about how to make something of the stupidity stuff we do, though certainly this is harder than it looks.
We decided then, to start today with where we’d both just come from: ropes. I’ve been wanting to work on some kind of installation/performance piece, and feeling particularly inspired at the moment coming out of the workshop and much talking over the previous weeks with Dasniya, so this seemed a fairly uncomplicated place to start.
I failed to remember almost everything I’d written a couple of days ago on the various things we have been doing with rope, but somehow it all came together, all three of us bound and connected and rolling across the studio (Lewis even managing a counter-balanced headstand). The studio—large and a wall of glass along one side looking over the train line, has the addition of a solidly bolted bar on the ceiling which we wasted no time in throwing a sling over.
One thing I’d been wanting to try for a while was using all this messy tying and also suspending, for which Lewis was happy to try. It was unsurprisingly easy, and the subsequent generated tangle of ropes was also rather beautiful. Gala also tried this, and I ended up watching for half an hour or so as many of the various ideas we’d been talking around somehow emerged.
Tomorrow it’s my turn, along with some idea of vocalisation. Lately, I’ve mostly been listening to Attila Csihar.
A very early train. Not as early as a plane. For some reason there was an absence of cheap flights to Brussels, so I opted for the slightly more expensive ICE from Berlin Hbf to Brussels Zuid, seven hours of backward momentum. Considering it takes around five hours to get door-to-door via 12-thousand meters, the extra three (including getting to and from said stations), without the harassment of ‘check-in’, two-hour waits, more waits … seemed like a good compromise. (On the minus side, no take-off and landing fun ride, nor turbulence.)
I slept half of the way, plugged my ears with Tannhäuser from Köln onwards, read most of Iaiaiain M. Banks’ Matter, ate a carrot, an apple, a brötchen, arrived to find a sweaty Gala and within 30 seconds we were off. Stupidity! Oh yes, we will make a performance out of this.
A wander into the city to articulate limbs, some coffee, more snoozing. Giacomo is also here, Dasniya arrives shortly, possible climbing tomorrow and then the week of workshops begins.
It was Michael Carter who I think coined the name, but I can’t find where. Last time I was in Brussels, I decided to throw together a quick application for Rosas Summer Studios, something Gala Moody and I could work on together for two weeks after the Yoga + Shibari workshops with Dasniya.
We don’t really know what we’ll be doing; which is something of the point, an un-process, an un-preparation. We have some ideas, things that amuse us – this is tricky though, can what makes us laugh when we’re messing around transcribe itself into something watchable? And not in a transfixed horror of , ‘What are they doing?’, but something quantifiable as a performance.
So we have three ideas to begin with. The first is our shared love of making each other laugh. It’s hard work. I wrote, “We would like to work with this in a more coherent manner, to see if is possible to make something repeatable from our improvisations, and to see if it can fit in with the other interests, and can transcend into subjects of debate and serious issues in performance.”
Then we like reading. For me, there is something of Wittgenstein in this. I’m thinking of what he wrote post-Tractatus on the contents of that. For Gala, she’s long had a Bertrand Russell lying about, but has instead gained a fondness for Nietzsche. He wrote some poetry at the end of Beyond Good and Evil.
And of course, Shibari. Ropes and bondage and all this.
We start in a little over two weeks, and I return to Brussels next weekend with Dasniya. It really is my second home. I am planning on writing again on what we do also.