A couple of weeks ago, Isabelle Schad offered me a second impromptu residency in her beautiful Wiesenburg studio in Wedding. I was there last week until this Monday. Some nights it rained, hard. The garden looked sepulchral. I also jumped around with my bike (not on the garden!), but that’s another story and another artwork.
I shall watch it with eyes averted. Or, perhaps glimpse it every so often. Nonetheless, tomorrow night I won’t exit the room as I did on saturday at Bains. Still not quite ready to see the whole thing, and enjoying actively not thinking about the last two weeks (which is to say the intensity of those weeks is being busily devoured somewhere in my unconscious, so I can get on with such things as eating).
So, all the information is here: the n+2 dimensional space for n>1/ Yoga & Shibari Berlin Dezember
And here is the other pertinent stuff for the rest of the month:
Tomorrow we will be showing the video of the Performance ‘n+2 dimensional space for n >1’ after the ‘Yoga & Shibari’ Workshop. Frances and I have been in residence at Bains Connective, in Brussels. We have been trying to question conventional Shibari/Bondage tying and performance methods, in terms of constellation, technique and dynamic handling of ropes. Text
We would be very happy to see you, and talk after the screening. Tea and sweets will be there : )
Frances & Dasniya
When: Wednesday December 14th, appr. 22.30 h, after the workshop
Where: Uferhallen Kulturwerkstatt, Alte Kantine, Teatris, Uferstr. 8-11, 13357 Berlin, U8 Pankstr/U9 Osloerstr, Map
2) Wednesdays ‘Yoga & Shibari’ in December:
December 14th and 21st from 19 -23 h in Wedding.
The workshop combines Yoga and Japanese rope Bondage… Class description
3) Shibari Technique Workshop
Sunday, December 18th, 14-20 h.
For every one who longs for rope inspiration before christmas, or enjoys a cosy Shibari Sunday. More information and registration: firstname.lastname@example.org, costs: 40 euro
4) *Christmas Gift*:
Present a three hour workshop voucher to a friend, to get introduced to the art of tying, or present a rope session to yourself with Dasniya Sommer. More information: email@example.com
… Where was I?
Brussels. It took longer to get from Schönefeld airport to home than from Brussels to Berlin. Monday was a day to pass without the hectic routine of the previous weeks. No rising in a stupor, no walking the route to and from Bains, no rehearsals on green dance floor, no baguettes and coffee for lunch, nor cooking in the kitchen.
Some organising of suitcases and luggage which results in meeting the weight allowance for what goes beneath in the hold, and transferring the excess to carry-on. Hence, carry-on weighs more than suitcase.
I meet Gala in Parvais/Vorplein around lunch. We begin with a coffee, continue with another, and talk for hours. One of the results of that is she is off to PAF Riems in a week, and we have plans perhaps to be there in late January. So it seems I’ll be passing through Brussels again soon.
We amble up to the commune for the market, and I discover the delights of Piadina. That it is made with pig lard only adds to the oral splendour. Dasniya joins us after a morning finding her way through an old cemetery south of Parc Dudin.
And then to finish packing, to airport, to sleep on the flight, to arrive.
It’s already over. We performed last night and today is Saturday, the residency finished. In-between now and Thursday morning, we spent most of our time in the studio, walking to and from, or asleep.
To Thursday then. A day for technical sortings out, with Silvano calmly attending to our needs, and the mess we had been accruing getting shifted to one side to be replaced with lights and other equipment. We worked out a couple more sections before, after, around this, and got through most of the list piled up before ‘tech run’.
After six o’clock, on our own, we prepared for our own run, which fell apart right where I begin tying Dasniya. This messy tying breeds uncertainty. Will the ropes hold or slip? Cinch in a bad place or begin sliding apart until all previous efforts are rendered null? It’s so unpredictable for me and the anxiety of it was making it impossible to even consider why I might be doing this, to concentrate on performing and directorial issues.
To make a performance in which the audience sees suffering or experiences it personally is one thing, and a thing which I’ve always had an attraction for. Against that, the last thing I want to do is cause the performers I work with to suffer, for the performance to be an unpleasant endurance. It’s easy enough when one is outside and observing something not working and causing pain to stop it, take a pause, try it in another way. When I’m inside it myself though, this ability vanishes. And so I became quite overwrought because of lengths of recalcitrant rope.
After much experimenting, failing, trying other approaches, we had something that worked, and commenced the run again. Alas what worked for me did not for Dasniya, and sliding the ropes off thwarted her.
Thursday finished around eleven in the evening, and Friday began twelve hours later.
Warming up three times, rehearsing some parts, getting through a dress run with Silvano, taking pauses, rummaging through the checklist, it starts, we wait, Jolivet begins, Ligeti, we progress through the scenes (five or seven depending on how you count), and it becomes over.
We have the videos, and some time next week photos from Silvano, so these shall make it here and elsewhere in due course. Today and Sunday we are still at Bains with a Yoga and Shibari workshop (which fortuitously has led to some China and South-East Asia connections), and Monday afternoon the flight (would that it were the train) t0 Berlin.
Some thank yous:
Bains Connective have made these two weeks possible and a joy in many ways. Dasniya and I would like to thank both Lilia and Diana for inviting us and our ropes. A particular mention must be for Silvano, for numerous things, not the least for operating sound, lights, filming with two cameras, taking photos, drilling suspension points, and keeping everything running smoothly. Also to Gala, who came in on Tuesday, watched through our first attempt at a run, gave an hour of of very appreciated notes, and cooked us dinner.
The last proper day of rehearsal, where we have the entire time to ourselves. Tomorrow we find our way through a couple of tech runs, make something of light and sound, and have an approximation of a dress rehearsal. Friday is dealing with the detritus of that and fixing whatever remains for the evening showing.
I spent some time on my own, working my way through Gala’s notes, trying to change things into something I can feel comfortable with, analysing each scene to define the changing relationship to the ropes, getting stuck once more on the only scene without ropes. It wasn’t until around 2 o’clock, schedules for the coming days written up, all the impedimenta between us and Friday evening accounted for, that we began rehearsing.
Yesterday in the last time before our first run-through, we played through a scene of tying each other together, which ends on the floor and somehow became tormenting each other, savaging nipples, lips, nostrils with pinching toes. We worked through this again, from my self-bondage (for some reason I think of Ophelia and Gertrude, or more precisely of what I imagine Daniel Schlusser’s recent performance looked like), to paired humiliation (which is really not the right work, it’s more of causing discomfort with rope), and through this scene of shame.
I’d found a video of Osada Steve tying Madame Butterfly, and this roughness, along with some videos we’ve watched a while ago of Japanese Shibari masters grunting and muttering as they tie fell into this scene today. It’s a little rough, also painful, and has sometimes for me a disturbing air about it.
Dasniya and I swapped roles in the final scene in darkness. Now she ties part of the room into an installation while I am outside untying the remaining ropes. She thought this scene should go for around half an hour or more, depending on the first half.
I find myself spending much time disentangling nests of ropes that are the leftovers from each scene and run-through, coiling, laying them in order … We began a run-through around 6 o’clock, this time taking 45 minutes. I’m not sure if we were much slower, or if all the scenes together now last that long, or if yesterday we were just fast with nerves. It’s a lot for only a few days rehearsing.
Questions of music remain. We’re using André Jolivet at the beginning, and some Ligeti also – both wind chamber music compositions. Throbbing Gristle also make an appearance. This is, along with lights, something for tomorrow to sort out. I find it difficult being on the inside to hear the music; it’s not like we are counting to it, so it rapidly leaves my attention. Everything is reducing to technical questions, transitions, where to go when so it works with what comes later, all the usual arrangements of objects in space over time. What it looks like by this time tomorrow is probably mostly what it will be for Friday.
… which was yesterday and last night.
A day of running through what we have up till now and making it all slightly more coherent, also finding one more idea come clear just before dinner, and assembling something of an order. So we have around half an hour of stuff at the moment, which will condense once we’ve sorted out how to get through it and added/subtracted things.
Gala came in around 1930 to watch this, us on green dance floor, lit through the glass back door from outside, and we tried to work our way through everything. Fairly obvious what needs attention, but nothing felt from the inside that it needed to be excised. An hour or so pre-dinner conversation between us three after going through the piece scene by scene, has given us plenty to work on.
We have a skeleton now, and what needs to be given attention today and tomorrow in the small time we have is clarifying what we’re doing, and how this shapes differences across each scene.
Dasniya thought the last scene in almost darkness should continue for half an hour or so, which could be beautiful depending on what happens before. Not for this week though, but hopefully we’ll have time to see where that might go once we find our way to Guangzhou.
It’s already morning and past time when we would be warming up.
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.
On Friday, 9th December, Dasniya Sommer and I will be having a showing of the n+2 dimensional space for n>1, which we have been working on during our two-week residency at Bains Connective.
The anarchy of knots or the n+2 dimensional space for n >1 or the rope was a plant
By Frances d’Ath and Dasniya Sommer
The two week residency at Bains Connective in Brussels is the first phase to work on raw material for a performance/installation collaboration with Michael Garza, principal bassoonist of the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra.
In this project, we are regarding the history and culture of ropes and knots.
We use rope as a tool for binding, tying, restraining, lifting. Knots can also be mathematicised, as in knot theory. In Japanese rope bondage, it is as if we do something forbidden by taking this object of use and turning it to play.
We work into a dismantling of traditional ropework rules and the logic behind these. While tying the body and the room, we bring in theories of Taoism, ‘Wabi-Sabi’, ‘Ma’, which allow us to be less perfect; impermanent. A rather european analysis of bodies, gender identities and role assignments in Shibari culture accompanies our experiment.
Too fast go the days from Friday to Saturday and now the unexpected one day off. I go to the market in St Gillis Vorplein and buy bread, cheese, fig jam, fruit and vegetables for the week. A day of not thinking about what we’re doing, to let it settle and rest a little.
Dasniya and I have spent much of the last two days working on the repetitive, exhausting leg rope ideas. These ideas are a little like the tide, it comes in, pauses, retreats; sometimes they seem like they’re really making sense, other times wondering if they will also be assigned to the list of ideas that went nowhere.
Last night, after we’d finished and while angling towards bed, Dasniya played the video of us working through this section, into and out of the humiliation stuff, along with some music Michael in Guangzhou had sent — André Jolivet’s Pastorales de Noël for Flute, Harp, and Bassoon.
Trying to find the singular discussion in an idea, also without distilling so much it becomes reduced and tends to wards nothing, finding how it fits together with itself and with other ideas (here I mean the above-mentioned presenting the representations of humiliation), and finding where the air leaves the room in this, where the idea is empty or has an overwhelming lack.
This music, on its own I would not have expected to be something I’d use, but seeing the video with this overlaid, somehow it worked. Perhaps it won’t work when we try it again … nonetheless … It’s not a case of the contradictory and opposing creating a complimentary milieu.
The first week is finished. We have some ideas, hopefully they will evolve in the coming week, as well as be met by some other things we haven’t worked on. Having a pause, even for a day, is a welcome occurrence. We’d planned to rehearse every day, but Bains is closed on Sunday, and towards the end of last night I was feeling decidedly unable to coerce myself to be inspired or creative.
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?