the n+2 dimensional space for n>1 — day 7

The first day returning after (most of) one day off, and ten hours rotating between studio and kitchen with a string of meetings to remind that it’s the end which is looming. To begin, a cup of tea and one and an half hours talking about what we needed to do; all quite practical, from the production elements – lighting, sound, videoing – to what we would get through today in rehearsal.

After some scruffing around it was already midday, so we warmed our ligaments and bones for an hour and were about to begin beating up on some ropes when Silvano arrived. By the time he’d departed most of the day’s first meeting questions had been sorted out, an incomprehensibly rough lighting plan scribbled together (we hope for absence of rain, hail, snow, general wetness on Friday), and it was two o’clock without a single leg having been swung.

The rope beating/flailing idea, which has gone through three iterations now, arriving somewhat back where it started, has possibly become what it will generally resemble on Friday. If I could make a more qualified statement emphasising the complete lack of certainty, I would. Our right hips get quite battered, so we thought we’d warm up next by doing it on the other leg also.

For music, we try André Jolivet’s Pastorales de Noël for Flute, Harp and Bassoon once more, occasionally underlaying Throbbing Gristle to fill it out somewhat. Music has been a peculiar problem for these days; something that deserves more time to attend to, but also keeps getting pushed to one side.

Two hours later, we pause for a late lunch, before I wander off into some self-bondage of an especially disorderly type. Dasniya hangs herself by the neck, and so we move erratically through our day’s list.

I had an idea last night, that I thought could fix, or return to something we’d worked on last week that hadn’t been so successful. We’d been trying to make some kind of movement from knot theory tables, but it looked kind of empty. It seemed to me that if there was a need for movement as movement, it already existed in the tying of someone. Remove the rope and the other person (and either blindfold oneself, or close one’s eyes), and restage the process of tying a Takatekote or Teppo or suspension, and it’s possible there would be the foundations for movement (or to call it dance). This, as with the next project, seemed to have something in it.

Approaching tiredness, the final idea we worked on was something of room installation bondage tying rope-knot mess. I’d also been thinking about untying – possibly one of the rings with all the leftover ropes attached. Our studio has a terrace with a glass door leading to it at the far, southern-ish end. It’s large enough to work on, and so it seems we may be splitting ourselves here; one to tie all the ropes together, the other to untie what was removed.

And so, we now have six or seven small scenes somewhat connected, overlapping each other, certainly unfinished and needing the coming days to make sense of, elaborate upon, find each other in. There are one or two (or three) more we have yet to reach, which may have to wait for the next rehearsals, though it would be good to find time for these also. No pictures again, and words that are mostly descriptive of what we did, missing all the in-betweens, the talking back and forth, worrying at ideas, finding things, breathing rope dust.

the n+2 dimensional space for n>1 — day 4

It helps to remember that what is seen in a small studio with green dance floor, big windows, and other distractions, with two people in rehearsal clothes, would look very different and have a commensurately different weight were it to be seen on a stage of sufficient volume to make visible the emptiness around us, and us being clad in something appropriate. Or, it helps me, anyway.

We have some stuff now. End of day four. We worked on the unshibari messy tableau, kind of a still life, or corpse-tying for some time; lso on the Japanese Kyudo/tea ceremony walking, forward and back – better in socks; and on the leg battery/repetitions. A short time on my self-bondage. There is enough now to say we’ve made a start, and to say there’s a lot missing. It’s a delicate thing, only two weeks and to wish to have something concrete by the end, though of course not finished, and yet what is lost by rushing through everything in a matter of days when months would be more suited?

What is this work then? We talked about post-modern feminism. I wasn’t sure of what a definition of this would be, though my guesses were more-or-less in accord with what I later read; I simply never described it that way. It feels slightly odd, though also it makes sense. (I remember a lecturer hawking along about Habermas and the others, Lyotard and Modernism, Late-Modernism, Post-Modern versus Postmodernism …)

We are obviously saying something about something here. If it were a performance I was making on my own, I’d likely have a text I’d be working from, whatever philosopher I was currently in bed with. Once I made only dance; I choreographed. Then came theatre until it was more-or-less performance art that I made. Lately I can only seem to do the former if I have the latter in mind. Maybe to read some theatre or a play?

the n+2 dimensional space for n>1 — day 3

Experiencing a little fatigue today – I haven’t done yoga for five days in a row since such a long time. We started a bit late also, detouring to watch a Kraftwerk and history of Krautrock documentary in ten minute chunks before wandering over to Bains.

We had a long discussion about what we are doing before the lunch-ish break – no dinner break it was already 17h – which resulted in a final couple of tasks where things started to coagulate.

On Saturday we talked with Ivo for a while about dramaturgy, or the perceived necessity of having an external dramaturge. I had been trying various things from Dasniya, and finished with an un-shibari experiment that had something worth repeating, yet was also empty. I think the issue is neither one of dramaturgy, as we are both well-versed in the milieu within which shibari, bdsm, and all the other facets of rope resides, nor is it one of direction – as in stage direction. What isn’t clear is what this work is about.

We have a lot of ideas, topics of research, small things that have become entire processes for working with rope; we’ve discussed from feminism and identity theory to physics and knot theory along the way, and obviously these things somehow fit into the work, along with the specific Japanese aesthetics of traditional shibari and so on, which we also play with. The question of what the work is about is perhaps better understood if this was a theatre work, if there was some text to work from and characters who must arrive in the room. Coming from working with Daniel Schlusser on Ophelia Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, also with shibari, possibly my thoughts are a little this way.

It’s also for me the need to have something to hang on to, that helps in pushing a work along; that I can use as a reference point to criticise and justify my decisions. Obviously working in a collaboration changes this and might even make it the not-possible way to continue. So, we talk, maybe for me to be able to make sense through words what is allowable so I can do things with conviction.

There are some almost formal things – flicking to uncoil ropes, the sliding walk of the tea ceremony or kyudo archery … – that will probably recur throughout, and cause a rupture in the mess of ropes. Other things – at least in what might be construed in my head as the section we’re working on at the moment – need a day or two refinement before I suspect they can be deemed coherent enough to make a remark on.

It pulls between an abstract, close to formal dance or movement and another that is perhaps a metonymy or representation, and yet another, lurking beneath, that is … neither of these. Maybe corporeal, sensorial, coming from rendering a character as much as an own internal emotion …

It seems likely we’ll be working all weekend. After all, it’s only two weeks, so twelve days instead of ten counts for something.

the n+2 dimensional space for n>1 — day 2

There is a kitchen, where we cook a late lunch or early dinner, eat baguette and drink tea or coffee, right across from the door to our studio. We arrive before 10am, and leave after 7 in the evening. The walk there and back is in one direction a slight warmup and on the return, a calming down.

What to do with rope? Quite a lot really. The inner life of inanimate things lends itself though to clichéd symbolism, so in fact there are many limitations. We have a lot of ideas, which is good, yet these do not necessarily transpose into useful events. It is good nonetheless to discard things. It becomes more of a question of which performance is being made here.

There is a frustration in rope, in handling it. It tends to get knotted up, tangled, not behave the way it should, slip out of fingers or never get there in the first place. It gets caught on things, or doesn’t go where it’s supposed to. We are supposed to regard this with equanimous poise. Suppose we don’t though.

I try scratching at the ropes until they stick, thrashing and yanking. It’s again something of an idea of un-shibari; pathetic, failed ropework. Dasniya continues with what she was doing yesterday, feet in ropes, active/passive, leading/led. We try beating the ropes against the floor, or slinging them back and forth – repetition. Something here also.

We spend the beginning trying to walk the way Japanese Kyudo archery masters do, a kind of sliding of the feet that is beguilingly difficult. Forward then backward,over and over on our grass-green dance floor.

Lunch. Silvano drills some holes and fills them with metal bars for us to hang suspension lines from. We eat together and talk about ourselves, where we are from, what we do, ow we live. After this, it is 1630, so a short pause and to continue.

Dasniya wants to try movement, somehow in a circle of rope. We begin using knot groups as something to move from. It’s obvious in some ways, recreating these shapes with our arms or legs. Possibly something there, possibly not. We try again, covered in rope, ties together. It becomes something of a baroque dance. It works better when we have a unity of movement, but equally looks largely nonsensical. It’s an idea that might go further, or like much of today, might depart. It’s good to eliminate things.

We talk about doing everything below the height of the suspension rings. They are quite low. Also about endurance and exhaustion. Some ideas for tomorrow. Perhaps the idea that remains is the one that appeals in the moment of rehearsal and in itself has no special, unique value. At another time, what was discarded now would be the one to remain.

Two days is not much time to talk about what I or we like, don’t like, what’s working, not working, though equally, we have little time for indulgence, or for worrying at an idea until it yields whatever we suspect is within. Still…

Repetition, flailing ropes, on the floor, on the floor yet not relaxed, discomfort. Sometimes unison, sometimes alone (unison is nice, but equally takes time to get it looking worthwhile). This Japanese Kyudo tea ceremony tatami mat sliding walk. Rope mess, but also rope order. The ever-present suspension rings and their enticements. For me personally, pain, humiliation, disgust, or rather not the representation or literal act of, but things that could cause these, for example clothes shibari, where the cinching of rope exposes, or rope in mouth. How much do we want to show also? 15 minutes? Half an hour? One thing? Many? Perhaps other warmups besides yoga would lend our bodies something else? It is enjoyable being there from early to late, thinking that remaining even later is also possible.


the n+2 dimensional space for n>1 — day 1

We arrive at Bains around 11am. It’s a half hour easy walk from St Gilles Vorplein to beside the park in a part of town I was last in for process/unprocess. No macrobiotic lunches this time, but an entire industrial kitchen, plenty of coffee, and a stroll to buy our standard cuisine of shibari: broccoli.

Silvano was there to meet us, and by late afternoon had supplied us with our studio for the next two weeks, pillows, blankets, and a large bolt, which sometime tomorrow shall be drilled through the ceiling beam for us to hang from. It seems we leave a trail of drill holes and bolts wherever we arrive.

Once we’d settled – Dasniya cleaning the floor while I procured said broccoli and sundry lunch ingredients – we ate a baguette. And then made yoga. The last two nights we’ve been doing this, so for me at least there’s a bit of energy and fatigue from all the asanas. Yoga today was not so heavy; just enough to remind us we have told each other how we’d like to be exhausted quite often the coming days.

How to start a rehearsal? Last night we talked about our notes. I spent a couple of hours going through all my rope folders – everything from Japanese traditional Shibari to Forsythe’s Suspense to knot theory to BDSM rope work … – and old writings here on the topic, coming up with some pages of ideas that we have talked back and forth since early last year. Dasniya had a similar wad of pages in her notebook, some which overlapped my notes, others not.

Being practical, what we’d do each day for a warmup, how long we might rehearse, and so on gives something of a framework for the less tangible elucidation of ideas. Today then, we started apart. Me working on Japanese Kyudo / tea ceremony footwork and walking (something of a formal sock-slide), a pathetic, unshibari suspension failure which might get taken somewhere in the coming days. Dasniya with feet. A single rope and some things that we talked about for much of the rest of the day, over dinner (broccoli), and which after dinner I tried something of a repeat with, with my hands.

Quite an opaque description. We have far more than we can possibly get through in two weeks, and have talked through much of what we did today with a depth that would suffice for a day’s work even without the rehearsal. Tomorrow more of the same and something completely different.

Michael has sent some thoughts on music, including a trio for bassoon, flute, and harp.

abjection — night 4

Another night. One of the coldest recently. Still, I rehearse with windows open. There’s something intrinsically horrible for me about unmoving air, air that sits and congeals, languishes in a closed room. A window cracked open is enough to return the circulation, to create drafts and eddies.

It’s easy to find oneself lying on the floor, wondering what’s the point of it all. A simple remedy for me is to just keep hacking away slowly at whatever it is I’m working on; even if it’s just repetition for the sake of not stopping, something useful can be found in exhaustion.

I work through my usual-ish warmup, some boot camp, half an hour of a couple of specific movement tasks that leave me slightly nauseous, and during which I am shouting in my head at the music I am listening to, to hurry up and finish. A peculiar ghoulish love and hatred of causing self-suffering, and gradual depleting of endurance. Some more grunt-ish stuff, (though leaving out proper floor work as the first studio I was in I didn’t want to use my clothes to clean the floor), more movement tasks building up and pushing tension and release further in both directions … it’s almost two hours before I’ve even finished this. It does though, serve a purpose. I couldn’t do the movement I’m attempting without this, or rather, it wouldn’t look or feel the same.

It seems though, I need more than four hours to get anything done. I spend half an hour feeling slightly dazed, then begin working through last week’s videos as well as some stuff I’ve been watching. I didn’t want to have another rehearsal like the previous three, where I just improvise repeatedly on the same ideas. It’s only been a month of one day a week, so in a normal rehearsal period, perhaps it’s Wednesday afternoon, but I feel like I can say something like, “ok, I know what I’m doing”, enough to concentrate on one or two things a bit.

So I spent maybe 40 minutes working on a few things that add up to perhaps 15 or so seconds, possibly less. A lot of it is quite dry and technical, recreating what I did in an improvisation, working out why it looks unlike what it feels like, working out how not to throw myself over when swinging arms fast, yet also not slow them down as a solution … does it look better if I’m agape at the ceiling or hair-forward, all metal?

As with last week, it’s the final 10 or 15 minutes that turn out to be the most useful, and also when at last, I don’t want to stop. At least I have a beautiful, cold, night bike ride through the centre of Berlin from Theaterhaus Mitte to Wedding. I dawdle to enjoy the city, then hitch onto the back of two other cyclists cutting the red lights from Mitte to Pankstr.

The next two or three weeks I won’t be rehearsing, as Dasniya and I go to Brussels for a residency at Bains Connective. Mid-December to return to this.


abjection — night 3

Friday night, until the last half hour, was either frustrating or glum. It’s a different thing to push oneself through the hours than it is to be in a studio with other people. Especially a studio that is a former classroom, fluorescent lights, and a closed door. It’s possibly becoming time to be more concerted in what I’m doing.

I arrived early, and spent an hour in the café reading, looking at last week’s videos, realising I didn’t have a pen, so I’d have to write with keyboard and transpose later. Once again, my similar warmup; boot camp strength-work and relearning how to roll on the floor.

Perhaps an indication of my mood, I became deeply frustrated with and tormented by a simple floor roll, from knees to knees via my back, or higher, from squatting or standing. The utter variability in how I could use arms and legs to accomplish this, according to how fast I moved or how close or far apart my feet were at the start … I could easily spend the night working on this, and all I wanted to do was warm up a bit.

Last week, I watched the videos at the end of the rehearsal and made notes on what I thought was working in each, so this week, I started with that. Maybe it’s knowing the camera is on me the whole time is stifling me a little. It’s fraught. On one side, I need to be able to choreograph myself, which when working with others I do by being outside and watching, so the video fulfils the role of this. On the other, I have an awareness of the camera being there, and needing to do something good for it. On top of this, I don’t watch myself as I would another dancer, and have to make sure I don’t confuse choreographing with being self-critical.

Things are starting to repeat though. So I take pauses to work on these; how to throw my arm in a particular way, how to uncollapse … these things I think will evolve later into other things, once their initial paths are known.

It feels sometimes academic, this description of analysing movement, when I’m working on something perhaps poetic in its most tangible and apprehensible sense. And yet it is this academic. I have to stop and spend time working out what the feeling is that is driving a movement, and why the movement doesn’t look like it feels, and then how to move so it both looks the way I imagine it, and feels … well, feels coherent in a sense that it can then be used for other things. That is to say, I spend a lot of time at the moment working singular movements that I imagine can later be combined with others, so that a multiplicity of movements can occur from a single beginning.

I listened to Gorgoroth again, some Burzum, couldn’t find anything that would give the pace I needed to not try and do everything in the first fifteen seconds, so returned to Sunn O))), with Attila Csihar and Malefic. (Finding the names then just led me on an hour sidetrack romp through the awfulness of obnoxious US black metal.)

I was watching the videos again, and the thought last night, in the last 30 minutes I’d finally got closer to what I’ve been trying to make. Up till then, the whole rehearsal had felt stodgy, really not useful. It feels a little early to show anything, only one rehearsal a week for a few hours means it’s like inviting an audience on the second day. Still … a video: abjection Rehearsal Video 1 7 minutes 41 seconds, around 100mb, shoddy quality, sound is Cused Realms (Of The Winterdemons).


Madrid rehearsals day 3

Third day, the middle of the week, only two remaining and Friday already planned with Shibari in the park and later in the afternoon Gala and I dealing with process/unprocess again.

I taught again this morning, and moved from that directly into working on these ideas I’ve been toying with. I found myself a little unsatisfied, and wonder if this is partly because some of these things I’ve been messing around with since I first started making work, and having had a break from making, this return has left me somewhat disinterested in my previous methods. It feels peculiar to abandon them; they are, after all perfectly adequate for making movement, and I could spend decades on them – but it seems more interesting, more useful to do something unknown, to start again. Perhaps it is the obsession with the result that detracts from the experimenting.

No Michael today, so straight to Gala and ropes. These things have a quietly obsessive quality – once they become a thing of interest, they make a habit of turning up. Michael and Dasniya had a long trial, followed by Gala and I, more on the floor though. Some things worked brilliantly, others didn’t. Often it turns out that what really is captivating is neither attempts at movement, nor attempts at rope work, as if both are extraneous to the task.

Dasniya finished, working more on the duo, and also brought in ropes – many ropes. It made sense of what she was doing somehow. Often I think that sets, lights, costumes and other decoration on top of the movement is a disguise and a deceit, hiding the lack within the choreography. I was happily surprised then to see for once that this isn’t always the case, and that something potentially cheap (it looked very close to Spartacus at times, as we were tying), could instead raise the movement to a completely new place.

I’ve been wondering in all this what I want to do in making theatre, or dance. It feels necessary to start again somehow … maybe to try tomorrow.


madrid rehearsals day 1

Some photos from Monday – three each from my and Dasniya’s rehearsals after ballet in the morning with Michael…