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the remainder of the weekend

I don’t understand what I’m looking at. This afternoon, again in Rosenthalerplatz, I decided to walk much of the way to Kreuzburg, with a ubahn diversion through Kottbus Tor, and walked much of the way along the canal, adrift in though, a day of conversation, and despite my newly arrived status, much time was spent in the netherworld of internet with friends distant from here.

So, along the canal, often wondering if I was in the right direction, passing by very photogenic buildings I imagine have been worn smooth by too many photographs, and perhaps wanting some anonymity despite their bulk and imperiousness. A brick-red block vault like an upturned lump of wood with copper-green chisel roof jabbing thuggishly at the heavens, the reclining body of the edifice lurking behind, its own roof split by droopy buddha eye window slits, something abject in their curvature and presence on an otherwise smooth array of architecture.

Then this. At first I thought it was abandoned this complete, then looking more, and at the detritus of rusting girders and intricate graffiti of engineering markings I decided it, whatever it was is coming apart, and through such formidable design is resisting until the very end. I thought, seeing the sepulchral block of stairwell, amputated in the void beneath the steel mechano and large enough alone to be an apartment block, it might have been a vast theatre or aditorium, but couldn’t imagine the shape, how a theatre would fill these remains.

This morning I went to my first class, ballet, on a Sunday, packed in the warmth with 30 or so dancers. A new teacher, always disconcerting to elucidate what is desired from what is displayed. Simple yet hard and I was soaked quickly, my legs and body having forgotten how to dance, how to ballet, after a month without and what feels like this year where training has been so sparse. And fast and exhausting, to move so quickly, and not for just a few counts but both sides twice or keep going till you reach the other side of the room. mmm I’ve missed feeling speed and my body becoming possessed.

More of the same this week, and things to see, maybe an apartment to live in later this year, and… Berlin.

Paea and Daniel in Freiburg, Gala in Adelaide, moving and new beginnings…

I’ve been walking around Berlin feeling that I don’t want to leave, that here somehow is what I need for the next some years. A permanent stop? No, I’ve never managed more that five years in a place but certainly for a time here is where I feel I should be.

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ADL-SYD-FRA-BER

Adelaide to Sydney, upgraded to business class due to length of leg, and three seats to myself, the opportune westerly blowing us out into the ocean to turn and come at the city, sea cliffs, Bondi, Coogee, looking north to the centre and Newtown. I spent the day with Victoria walking around the harbour at dusk and later Roland, both whom I haven’t seen for years, and not spent time with since Vevey… Breakfast in Newtown with someone I’m very glad I got out of bed early to see.

I’m writing this at midnight, oh yes jetlag and soon to sleep with elephant ankles tingling and warm, a mouth of cotton wool, s tired I can’t recall these recent hours too well.

The plane to Taiwan. China Air and exit row seats… Oh they are now not a favourite airline. A stopover in Taipei, so I did yoga in the departure lounge, a marble floor, humid and sultry, the ripe smell of summer and pollution at night. The cleaning lady said, “Shenti hen hao. Hen bang le!” I tried to remember how to listen and then speak. Oh two years murders a language.

Another agonising 12 hours to Frankfurt, feet want to depart my legs, little potato blimps, and then some hours on the train to Berlin. Five? I’m not sure. I arrived at 1pm.

The train was a relief, i stared and let my brain collapse, thoughts a murky slob, often dozing, quite beyond exhaustion. Fields of unnamed crops, defined by colour, length and size of leaf, some sown so tightly as to be a blue-green mat, others open enough to see dirt between, other fields shot with purple, red, white clutches and streaks of flowers, a herd of lazy cows…

A Smart car burbled on the road near the horizon, a small trundling ladybug that if its brakes were applied too forcefully would flip head over tail until ending to rest in a muddy culvert, would right itself, shake the mess off and continue on its way.

Later the rain finally broke, sending silver drops flickering across the glass, a school of tiny Smart cars skittering up and down in unison on their rearwards journey with the roll of the carriage. I thought here I was at last reaching delirium from a score and ten or more hours of my biology stretched across hemispheres.

Berlin. I go to put €2 into a phone and Daniel says to me, “You won’t be needing that”. Fortuitous and absurdly perfect timing for my start to Berlin. (I think I’m staying in a Gay men’s guest house though. Oh confusion. I thought gay meant, you know… a variety of genitals, oh well, it’s a room and a bed and rather pretty out the window. I shall eat occasionally and sleep here and that will be all.)

I post this the next day, sitting in the café I have found in Rosenthaler Platz. We had lunch here yesterday, it reminds me of Vienna somehow.

pestilence days 15-17

I’ve been editing DVDs this week, first all the people i can remember sleeping with…, then monadologie, and in the background, this, pestilence. Mostly because the source material will take some time to prepare, images, audio, remembering to de-interlace the video when I export to m2v… And I was looking through my folder of choreography, the works I’ve made since 2002, and thinking, ‘ooooo!!! would be rather nice to start another piece!!!’, except I have three now in varying stages of completeness that may never see anything further eventuate.

I wanted to not choreograph, and this was something that came from monadologie, how to evolve rules that could operate from initial conditions to generate something the same, something different every time. There my realisation was that it’s formidably difficult to do this to the entirety of a choreographed body in a single instant. This time I think, rather than focus on the minute details, it was the gross, most easily seen dancing and dancing together that somehow seemed to be made.

I was interested in the Tarantella both as a formal dance of the era blanketed by pestilence, and as some ecstatic, frenzied, mad collective convulsion brought on by a spider bite, or the plague, or typhus, or an expurging of the horror of war, famine, disease, suffering. So it was initially a retinue of corporeal, digestive and pulmonary spasms, we’d do and video and watch and criticise and repeat, eventually to make something consistent between us.

Lately I keep returning to Kristeva and abjection, and perhaps as is similar with my favourite Baudrillard quote, her musing on this horror represents an over-arching concern in my work. Perhaps a good name for a piece sometime. These same days rehearsing I made a remark about calling a piece, ‘ugly stuff for beautiful people because i hate you’, a continuation of the idea in ‘i like hate and hate everything else’. And around this time I was talking with Daniel about how precarious my existence is because I am held at the whim and pleasure of a medical establishment that is acutely conservative and perhaps without the cultural and political pressure exerted by queers of all stripes, collectively we would find ourselves pathologised in ways and degrees we hope have been consigned to a shameful history.

So the tarantella was both a possessed malady and transcendentally ecstatic, and furthermore communal. So Daniel and I learnt to do this together, to convulse and shiver and trip, stagger, fall, lose balance and control, neither follow nor lead, both anticipate each other and keep going for as long as we could. Over time with this… mmm it becomes unverbalised, all the rules or parameters or suggestions, and maybe this is so much of this work. We got quite good at moving together and fast without preexisting steps…

Unverbalised. Possibly explaining the paucity of writing in my notebook, the cursory research, and unpredictable blogging. So much of this work was made from talking around it, one or two lines maybe and then frequent scatological digressions and bodily humour. So different from my long-standing over-compensating, evenings spent planning the next day, justifying every decision. But of everything in this piece, the Tarantella, set to Wagner’s Tannhauser overture is possibly the one unfolding of a new thought in all the previous several weeks.

airports

Daniel stayed the night, after our witching hour last rehearsal, and it was past 3 before sleeping. Later, after I walked to the market, sore and my throat dry and hoarse, for coffee and porridge, I tailed him by almost an hour for midday yumcha.

As I walked, the sky autumn blue and faint, high haze, a jet left its evaporating contrail, four lines bulging out then sliding together like a long fine tail etched towards the eastern horizon, where after a time they became erased, in places until… nothing.

For me the sight of these ephemeral lines reminds me of Europe, where at times a stratospheric filigree crisscrossed the sky.

Daniel leaves today. First to Frankfurt, then Berlin and, for a time, Freiburg. Sometime in winter so will I. But in-between…

My beautiful wild Daniel, I love you and miss you already.

pestilence last days

If I’m looking for acceptable, believable excuses, then lack of internet at home, necessary for late-night bed blogging, and an on-going crappiness with internet at Cibo are amenable to this patheticness. Other more feasible excuses include lack of interest compounded by the above two, and a sense of pause or finishing in my life.

Friday night was the last rehearsal of pestilence. Daniel and I worked in the afternoon for some hours on the six sections and returned in the darkness with Alison to video it all till past midnight. We dance well at night, something fragile in the world, a timelessness, not awake, nor tired, not hungry nor sated, and minutes, hours speed past.

I was walking home this afternoon along Gouger St, past the entire block of former car dealers and other nondescript warehouse industry, white painted film-set uprights, all now fenced off for some, I imagine, gentrification-of-the-West-End project, or perhaps multi-story carparks. In the weak sun I thought it was necessary to blog in hindsight these last couple of weeks, something otherwise missing from this long and unusual project.

It was a project unlike any other, not the least for not having a end-of-project showing of some type (and Friday night while feeling in our bodies like a performance, was… something other), and further for the lack of methods I’ve used in other projects, or more precisely maybe, a lack of my usual obsessive analysing and daily preparation.

I just couldn’t bring myself to do that again this time. I couldn’t find any satisfaction in any of the texts I’d read in preparation, I couldn’t drag anything from this, I desperately didn’t want to repeat myself, and yet had no idea how to make something I’d not done before.

The day before, we revisited the Holbein stuff, grab-bite-drop, which came from all the people…, and has been sitting there doing nothing for about a month. With unusual application, we managed to relearn them and add in extra bits for some 1 1/2 minutes of madness. Choreography of a type. It was fun to do and injected some life into us, and terror, and bruises, swellings, numb funny bones, abrasions and other expected menaces of falling over.

And then the Tarantella. Tannhauser. Ecstatic, desperate wild and transcendental dancing, how to choreograph without steps, how to remain together, how to endure this for what feels like an eternity.

I’ve started editing the dvd of Friday night, and… it’s not usual for me to spend too much time watching my stuff after I’ve finished, I need to remember it in a way from inside, unlike perhaps when I’m not performing in it. But I’ll have to watch it somewhat in the next week, and make some statements, vague, blind gropings for what this piece could be if it was to be finished in some manner. So perhaps to write them here also.

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pestilence day 14

Obviously today I am completely distracted and nervous and managed to do little except lie on the floor spontaneously falling asleep, inbetween working on the abjection stuff and going through most of the scenes we have already. I won’t be rehearsing till later this week for reasons to do with aforementioned nervousness.

Anyway, until I return from a small holiday, here are some photos of flowers, Lilies.

pestilence day 13

Friday, rehearsal 13, night and darkness. Daniel and I seem to work rather well when the building creaks and groans, possums scurry in through rotten guttering, dust and the rot of building disease fall from the rafters in a gentle drizzle. The darkness is eerie, and we turn off man lights, warm ourselves with the bar heater, cluster around laptop, chocolate and notebooks and entertain ourselves past the witching hour.

Abjection. Yes, we finally got it, all nine or so minutes after a couple of walk-talk-throughs and then it became … fun. There is a skeleton of motion which is largely the same, cycles of repetition that unintentionally came from both the improvisations and the editing of video. But that’s not the scene. Retching, gagging, mouths running with saliva, eyes watering, involuntary bodily noises and shudders, mess and the smell of spit, fingers probing noses, ears, mouths, asses, the taste of other orifices, tongues licking and biting feet and anything that can be reached, this is the choreography, the fun in the scene.

I spent the previous night and Friday morning reading Baurdillard and Foucault, and watching some of epidemic again, preparation for the night. In the end only one scene was played with, a description of the Black Plague as it ravaged a town in 14th Century Italy. We reduced his description down to the bones, bodies dragged to mass graves, thrown in piles, dogs digging up and devouring the barely inhumed corpses, the contagiousness of breath, crosses marking the stricken.

It’s fun to do this as improvisation and then tailor it, talk and watch the video – the camera in my MacBook Pro is exceptional, it seems to have a noticeably wide lens and is so receptive in low light mmm… perfect for recording rehearsal stuff and not wanting to lug a video camera around.

So we have much of the second section of the work in some state of existence, and a couple of bits of the first half. Monday we’re going to spend most of the time going over this and hopefully it’ll all come together and be something.

pestilence day 12

Inadvertently, Daniel and i have spent all of this week working on the one scene that came from Kristeva’s abjection, over and over until our brains were fried. I don’t know an easy or simple or fast or effective way to learn complex stuff from video and retain it. Today we were repeatedly mocked by our inability to remember what comes next, finding ourselves with toes in mouths pondering just whether we fell to the left one more time or perhaps stuck a finger in an ear again.

It’s not just the complexity of the skeleton of the scene that is causing our eyes to water and brains to drone, “lalalalalalala!!!! I can’t hear you!!!” and bodies to seize in moments of catalepsy when we try to endure one more attempt, it’s that everything is so similar and for some reason we are always on our left sides.

We have though, only been working methodically on this scene this week, and it is currently around ten minutes of very intricate movement, a shadow of monadologie and the delirium of learning improvisation from video. So therein lies the imperative to make sure we burp and fart often and laugh a lot and go for coffee, and remember the moment when we spat copiously in our hands, rubbed them together then, while rubbing our spit in our eyes vigorously, we realised ArtsSA is paying us to do this.

No more of this though. Henceforth, we just reiterate what we know and don’t spend too much time fretting over forty or so small phrases. Friday brings another night rehearsal, when the gloom and hysteria seep a little too close and the old building shudders of its own life.

I have all my books with me again. For the first time in four years, all my possessions are in one place, here in a small cottage in Adelaide, near the Central Markets. Unpacked mostly still, I did burrow around like a truffle pig in a couple of them for sundry oddments… books. My belongings total six large and heavy boxes of books and a suitcase of clothes. (Other boxes, a couple for additional things not so important.) Two books surfaced I’m now reading in an exemplarily cursory manner, Baudrillard’s Symbolic Exchange and Death, which was the heart of this work, failed to stimulate me in Melbourne, was injudiciously packed away, resurfaced and caused me to go, “Oooh!!! Rather good!”, and Foucault’s Birth of the Clinic which I read by staring blankly at the page and turning it every minute or so, hoping his style of writing, which I find reads like a pompous twat droning, will miraculously appeal to me.

Other things for tomorrow night: Lars von Trier’s Epidemic, still. Bodily detritus, necessitating reading Foucault, other things I hope engender fun, mania, bouts of terror, involuntary bodily functions… I burp in public now. Loudly.

pestilence days 5-11

Night rehearsals.

I’ve been slack at blogging this project. It’s taken me an awful lot of methodical, patient, slogging to get this piece to happen for me. I can say I’m tired all I want and creatively a little empty but nonetheless, I have to do something now and have an aversion to tardy approaches to rehearsals.

Last week has been a slow process, much talking and thinking, eating, smoking, chocolate, water, a lot of the week was spent working on the scene from Kristeva’s abjection, and taking a break on Friday, we returned Saturday night when it was dark and empty to try some things.

What was left on Monday from this was something that will come together into a couple of sections of the piece.

This week has been a return to early stuff, Kristeva’s abjection and the corporeal stuff we were doing in the first week. Today we got to a point where we’ve learnt most of it, and it’s possibly far too long, though speed and recklessness could help. A few more things to learn tomorrow and to make sure we know it in some form so we can decide what needs to go. I love cutting things, it’s the best part, callously destroying hours or days of work, being merciless and dispassionate. Shame I’m a sentimentalist and leave too much in.

We have another night rehearsal on Friday, and I promise to try harder to blog more, every day even.

pestilence day 3 & 4

Friday and Monday and the weekend at the library.

I’ve been struggling somewhat with this piece, possibly because I’ve been making or researching work since July last year and I’m feeling rather bereft of ideas and creativity and … a little burnt out also, would rather just get up, go to class, go to another class, go for a run, do yoga, do some reading, repeat. And also I’ve found the original ideas for this work, as a third part of extermination and hell and as a study in disease coming from Baudrillard is not quite what I’m thinking of right now.

I spent the weekend at the State Library experiencing disappointment because it’s not the one in Melbourne and have failed in finding almost all the books I was looking for, but reading Kristeva (avoiding the psychoanalytic stuff) and then going back to dancing plagues and manias which led me to Hans Holbein the Younger and his woodcut cycle of the Dance of Death.

Daniel and I spent Friday working on a scene that comes from Lars von Trier’s Epidemic which ends with Daniel in a trace in hysterics. Somehow this set the tone for the entire piece and after seeing Gabrielle’s development Witch/Red on Saturday I started to feel more determined and ready to be submerged in this for the next few weeks. Also it led me to listening to Wagner, which I have no idea where this will go.

Today Daniel and I started with something we played with in all the people i can remember sleeping with… we called ‘grab bite drop’, which is pretty much what we do. So working with Holbein’s woodcuts we spent the day grabbing, pulling, pushing, twisting hair and skin and limbs and biting sensitive places then shoving each other to the floor, maybe to bite a little more. Much saliva and drool was exchanged. Many limbs and joints were squashed, bruises are likely to appear tomorrow. The hardest thing though was getting up over and over, and wondering how some people can do it with such ease.

So the piece is moving more towards Kristeva’s idea of abjection, wherein disease and the manifestations of illness are seen as a part of the horror and revulsion of this. A bit of a discussion of bodily fluids and detritus, and then an evening at Cibo with Gala looking at videos of the Tarantella dance, the ballet and folk dance versions. I started to think it is beginning to make sense and then remember everything I need to do, but it doesn’t feel as empty as it did last week.