Black Metal 1: How it Started and Some Notes about Music

All this began a couple of months ago, when Isabelle Schad said, “looks like I won’t have time in April to get in the studio with you, so here’s a week for you, call it a mini-residency.” Her studio, Wiesenburg Halle in Wedding, is in a 150 year-old, abandoned former homeless people’s asylum on the Panke canal that was built on funds from the Berlin Jewish community, then appropriated by the Nazis, used as a factory for manufacturing insignia, then munitions, then bombed and shot to all crap, then quietly returning to forest while the original owner’s descendants live in the front apartment building (an entire story in itself) – and a few years ago, Isabelle and the Wiesen 55 e.V. got funds to turn one of the decrepit halls (well, mostly its walls) and neighbouring areas into a rehearsal space surrounded by gardens. Huge and airy, and with a full lighting and sound rig, plus a kitchen, mezzanine, garden full of birds and life, a lot like being in the forest and not in a big city.

So I arrived on Monday with bike (cos I was taking full advantage of being in Wedding to go morning cyclocross-ing in the forest), two bags of stuff, and one “I have no idea what I’m doing.” It’s been a long time since I was in a studio making art, and a solo … that’s something I’ve not really ever done. Solos are the present currency of performance makers of all stripes, in large part because they’re cheap to stage and tour, in part also because of the ongoing fixation on autobiographical authenticity, but I’ve always preferred the intermediary of dancers (even if I performed in my own work). Doing a solo has always been a mix of “I have nothing to say,” and “I have no idea what to do,” and inflicting one on myself … maybe now I’m capable of it cos I don’t really give a shit anymore.

Black Metal is a lot about that last bit, doing stupid stuff in my bedroom to amuse myself, not caring about potential audience (or lack of) or all the usual games of funding, producing, venue-ing. Of course watching the video of the showing it has to be ‘good’ in the sense of I myself as my own audience have to get a kick out of it and go, “fukkenyeeeaah!” which means I have to go all spectacle on my own arse – to put it another way, in choreographing and performing myself, I have to be convincing to my other self as audience, I have to be good (competent, artistic, compelling) at what I do.

Lucky I had some ideas. Not big ones, not many, only four – really only one but call it four – not very ambitious, not wanting to make something big or complicated or involved. I’ve been trying on and off for a few years to get a solo out, and kept falling into the trench of unrealisable ideas, paralysed by too bigness, things that require budget and support and all, and seeing Germany is consistently uninterested in what I do, the likelihood of making a big work with several dancers and all the rest is highly improbable, which left a solo, which kept failing when my thinking modality banged up against incommensurability with budget. So, basically bedroom stupidity. With metal.

Things I love: Heavy metal. Hoonage. Swearing.

When I was a student in Australia, SBS used to have Top Fuel drag racing on a Friday night. Fukken heaven. This isn’t a piece about that or swearing, but there’s something of the cultural displeasure at both in it, what’s acceptable and what’s not. Heavy metal – in any of its derivatives, death, speed, thrash, hair, black, folk, doom, power, and on and on – is only really palatable to an outside audience if it’s made ironic. Metal might be many things but it’s never ironic. The commitment to the theatre of the act never lets up, never gives a knowing wink at the audience, no matter how ridiculous and embarrassing it might look – listen and look at Lost Horizon, or Gorgoroth’s Kraków, brilliance all round.

There’s a close relationship between punk, goth, and metal; I’ve been all three and can say, Metal Rulez!!! In seriousness and partisanship here, I think there is a larger possibility for creativity in metal than the other two which comes in part from the—wait, must headbang to Sword in the Metal Wind for a bit—ok, back … comes in part from the theatricality (not to confuse that with playing pretend, theatricality here is the performance of image), and part from the joy of music. Listen to Sword in the Metal Wind or Gorgoroth’s Antichrist, constantly changing time signatures, rhythms, melodies, keys, even Slayer’s Raining Blood goes all over the place. It draws on the history of western classical and folk music (or for Taiwan’s Chthonic, traditional Taiwanese music), and for me there’s a lineage I can hear with say, Trelldom or Sunn O))) and Hildegard von Bingen across a thousand years. Which is maybe to say there’s a greater intellectualism (as differentiated from politicalism in punk) in metal that its theatricality doesn’t always make apparent.

Metal, yeah, I could go on about it all day. I’ve used metal music in pretty much every work I’ve made, it’s probably one of those things I should deny myself in the interests of getting over my habits and devices. This piece I wanted to go into the least-liked of subgenres, the one of church burnings, murder, neo-Nazis, Norway, corpse paint, that inadvertently made some incredible and influential music. And as I went along, Gaahl, the lead singer of Gorgoroth, and with his own project Trelldom (and others), tall Gaahl from a fjord village north of Bergen with the haunted eyes and penchant for burning churches and torturing people who cross his line, gay Gaahl, became central. I’d planned to only use music from him or in which he sung, but that didn’t work out during the residency, limited to what I had on my laptop. So, Sunn O))) which I’ve used so many times it’s a cliché, Gorgoroth from immediately before Gaahl joined (the incredible eponymous track from the Antichrist album), fucking Nazi Burzum – going to go into why I’m using Burzum and why it doesn’t seem like a bad idea right now: maybe it’s possible to appropriate his music, and maybe within the context of black metal and the history of the last millennia of northern Europe it’s apt, maybe also it elucidates without nuance the arrogant misogyny, nationalism, hetero-bro-ing, racism of black metal, and by extension all metal and most contemporary music genres.

And then there’s Hildegard von Bingen,  who you should really read about cos she was well awesome. I wanted to use some mediæval music, and obviously my proclivities and interests meant the composer should be a woman, and best if it was from 12th century-ish northern Europe. This doesn’t leave so many possibilities, but lucky my ongoing enjoyment of Mechthild von Magdeburg led to her, though they likely never met and were on opposites of Thüringen. I was trying to find some non-folk music that was instrumental, but seems like gaping yaws is the default, so her O Tu Suavissima Virga swings between too beautiful, too easy, too overbearing, too saccharine, quite a few other toos, but also might be the piece. After the showing we had plenty of talking about music, about Hildegard and soaring mediæval sacral music, and how the showing was a one-to-one relationship of music to dance. A proper sound design is one possibility, though I wonder if that might become too complicated and not crap enough. For the moment I’m not sure. Same goes for lighting, though I’d love to have Giacomo Gorini along. Either way whatever I do needs to be convincing even without sound or lights.

Inadvertently I’ve jumped from a general what I was doing and how it came about to a long blab about music. Which means I’ll have to save writing about what I was doing for next time.

Video

Black Metal 1: Wiesenburg Halle Residency Showing Video

And here’s the video from the showing of Black Metal at Wiesenburg Halle on Sunday, April 24th. 33 minutes of bedroom metal idiocy plus mediæval chick music (that’d be Hildegard von Bingen).

I haven’t actually watched this all yet, just a quick cleanup edit (it was a showing, a bit of start-stop) – and thank you Dasniya Sommer for pointing camera very nicely at my highjinks. I tend to video most of what I do when I’m working, so I can be my own choreographer / director, and in the context of my residency in Wiesenburg Halle, this was just another day and first attempt at stringing everything together plus having a few people watching. Some of it I like; some of it I’m ambivalent about – writing through the whole thing is for another post.

Music-wise, yes, that’s Burzum; yes, he’s a white shit fucking Nazi. Other music was Gorgoroth, curiously not with Gaahl on vocals, as he is somewhat a primary part of this piece and his solo work, Trelldom has been fully thrashed while I was in Wiesenburg. More Gaahl; less Varg. And yeah, a conversation about black metal and Nazi fuckery is one I am both having with myself and putting aside. Also Sunn O))). And at the end, Hildegard von Bingen, who is metal as hell. Which is to say, the audio is a semi-placeholder.

Anyway, enough bollocks. Here’s the video of me, black metal bedroom. (It’s  462mb, so prolly not a good idea to slay it on your mobile phone or crap internet.)

Also: Again thanks to Dasniya Sommer for video and a huge number of other things; Sarah-Jane Norman for metalicity; Charlotte Pistorius for make-up, costume, and other assistance; David Young for art & theatre discussions; and Isabelle Schad & Wiesen 55 e.V. for providing my residency in Wiesenburg Hallen.

Gallery

Black Metal 1: Some More Images

Lunch on Friday with the glorious Charlotte Pistorius, who send me a bunch of pictures (and she has more!) from my showing of Black Metal 1 last Sunday. Much talking this week with friends who came along, clarifying somewhat where it needs to go next (sound and light design, thankyouvrrymuch). Next for me is the enjoyable task of watching the video and next week continuing bedroom rehearsals.

Gallery

Black Metal 1: Some Images from the Showing

Before I get to watching the video from yesterday’s showing, and writing the crap out of my residency at Isabelle Schad‘s Wiesenburg Halle in Wedding, at least I can throw up some photos of what I got up to, thanks to Dasniya Sommer (who also filmed it, and gave some valuable coaching on ballet port de bras on Friday, as well as years of shibari and being a good friend). Also thanks to Charlotte Pistorius for costume and makeup help, Sarah-Jane Norman for general metal-icity, and David Young, Melanie Lane, and Georg Hobmeier.

process/unprocess – last day

Yes, finish.

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.

process/unprocess showing at rosas

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),
rope bondage,
at least one breast,
laughing,
hands.

We will be in Studio 1 for 20 minutes to half an hour this Friday afternoon.

Where:
Studio 1
Rosas
Van Volxemlaan 164
1190
Brussels

When:
Friday 29th July at 1620

Anything else?
it is free,
we may talk about it after,
there might be drinks later.

We would like to see you there,

Frances + Gala

process/unprocess showing
process/unprocess showing

the tighter you squeeze

Lina is in Adelaide, working on a development of a new performance, with a showing next Friday. Lucky I’m here too so I get to see a bunch of new work in the next couple of weeks getting made by Adelaide’s. More on the others in the next couple of days.

I would very much like to invite you to an exclusive showing of the first creative development of a new dance work by myself, Lina Limosani.

Currently titled “THE TIGHTER YOU SQUEEZE”, the work is exploring the concepts of Attachment and Detachment.

Your presence and feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Please feel free to forward the invitation to others who may be interested in viewing the development.

Please RSVP to this email address if you wish to take up this opportunity.

Hope to see you there.

Lina Limosani

The Tighter You Squeeze
(a first development showing)

Friday 4th April, 7:15pm

Devised and directed by Lina Limosani
Choreographed by Lina Limosani and dancers
Dancers: Adam Synnott, Lisa Griffiths, Aisdair MacIndoe, Emma Stokes
Media Designer: Edmund Chiu

Ausdance Studio
Level 3, “The Atrium”
Station Arcade
136 North Terrace
Adelaide

lina limosani – the tighter you squeeze
lina limosani – the tighter you squeeze

Image

monadologie

Frances would like to invite you to a showing of the development of monadologie.

“In so far as the concatenation of their perceptions is due to the principle of memory alone, men act like the lower animals, resembling the empirical physicians, whose methods are those of mere practice without theory… For instance, when we expect that there will be daylight to-morrow, we do so empirically, because it has always so happened until now. It is only the astronomer who thinks it on rational grounds.”

— G.W. Leibniz – La Monadologie 1714

monadologie has been:

choreographed and danced by Bonnie Paskas, Frances d’Ath, Lina Limosani
an ANAT/Arts Victoria Arts Innovation Residency (AIR)
at Swinburne Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing
and Maximised by Chunky Move

important things:

when: Friday 22nd February, Saturday 23rd February
what time: 7:30pm
where: Napier St Theatre, cnr Napier and Church Sts, South Melbourne

what else: blogging at supernaut.info and www.anat.org.au/blog/dAth and dance stuff at www.francesdath.info

contact me: frances at francesdath.info or 0419 586 227

Please RSVP by email or SMS

monadologie
monadologie

in the bones of children

In William Forsythe’s Improvisation Technologies dvd, he demonstrates the drawing of lines in space as an exersise in geometric analysis. The visual appearance of the lines is done in post-production, an addition to help clarify various operations on pre-existing objects. Adam Synnott started his development showing of In the bones of children in much the same way, except in eight years or so the ease with which technology can allow us to do really complex things means we get to see dancers Alison Currie and Kynan Hughes do all this is real time.

I would characterise this showing as something of a lecture as much as a work in progress. Adam received a grant from SA Youth Arts Board to develop visual and audio tracking techniques, and his work with Jason Lam in designing the software and hardware and Sasha’s audio is as much the focus of this research project as the choreography and narrative structure of the emerging work. Conceptually what they are doing is close to Frieder Weiß in both Glow and with Emily Fernandez in sense, though their use of infra-red triggers on the dancers’ bodies and begins from their bodies rather than a development in interactive lighting.

I’m struggling with the difficulty of making a rather dry descriptive log of what was said, who moved where and what happened, and the far more thrilling, visceral performance of bodies extended by objects. I suppose it is convenient to imagine our bodies finish at our skin, a surface between self and other, but how far does the haze of influence, of heat, the faint electro-magnetic fields, the aura of bacteria and other symbiotic organisms neither us nor individual. So I don’t really ascribe to the conceit of bodies merging with technology, rather it’s objects that unfold what is already present; our world becomes larger because of this.

So, the showing was divided into two sections, the first a clear description from Adam and demonstration from the dancers of the results of the research, and the second being In the bones of the children itself. Holding the triggers, the dancers draw lines that appear on the back-projected screen behind, improvising, and looking a lot like early Chunky Move choreography from the days of Luke Smiles. There’s something really amazing about this simplicity, what Forsythe originally could only make apparent in post-production now is done easily in real time through the incredible flowering of simple, accessible technology in the last ten years.

Technology certainly gives me a thrill in a very geeky way, but it’s the poetic ability to cause gasps of pleasure that is for me what makes it so human. One of the demonstrations was Rain, that could bounce off extended limbs, and flow like water over the outlines of Alison and Kynan’s bodies, and when they touched hands creating a small pool that slowly filled, then pulled their hands apart, the puddle splattering and dropping away … something quite sublime.

Following that was the Quake Arena frag-fest of Blood Guitar, drawing portraits in blood across a 9-square grid on the screen, sucking it to a point, moving in and out to generate it in myriad ways, and maybe to add gravity, wind, turbulence, then rotating it in space to pour down in torrents. Then the pin grid, combining all the ideas shown previously as individual concepts. From what Adam was showing me in January this year, in early stages of coding, it’s astounding how far he and they have all come.

Something I thought with Emily Fernandez’s sense was the nature of projection, the need to back-project in order to eliminate the issue of shadows cutting the video, and the general lack of intensity of the projector light source itself. This tends to under-lighting on the dancers becoming wraiths and shadows lost in the transfixing luminance of the screen. The screen itself is also an issue, being structurally no different from a cyclorama behind a proscenium arch of a classical ballet mise en scene of previous centuries. Within the wonderful play of technology there also needs to be a critique of the elements used to frame it. Modular led screens, stacks of televisions, multiple overlapping projectors, archaic Baroque illumination, so many ways to not fall into the easy choice of a background. Illumination, both of the dancers and of the projection is something that can’t be one compromised to the other.

Some things I was also thinking of was of piping the information sucked in from the cameras instead of into a video projection to go into avatars in Second Life, to have them moving and performing as sinister split personalities, not necessarily even human, maybe avian, maybe not even of Earth. For us we would see the real performers and the projection of Second Life, and for those in 2L, they would see the avatars then the real performance as video.

And on to the work itself, a somnambulistic nightmare in a witching hour nuclear facility, Mr Stewart-Baxter and Miss Cumberdale meet at 1:11am, the old lag handing over the reins to the new girl. I thought if it was November 11, that would have also been appropriate. My immediate thought was of the creepy BBC nuclear terrorism drama from the 1980s, Edge of Darkness, ghosts, spies, treachery, a hidden facility beneath the guttering bowels of vertiginous subterranean caverns, part of the blackness of the late 80s nuclear desolation of Thatcher, Reagan and the eviscerated Soviet Union.

Also was a reminiscence of Chris Morris’s Jam, slow-motion, unfocussed, a narrative not begun on the first page, maybe a commencement of hostilities, maybe a duel of preternatural wills, maybe the correct protocol for nuclear training. Narcoleptic gongfu, occluded pronouncements, words drifting in and out of focus, tension and a horrid waiting for something to happen. Then both of them standing, a dim background of heavy metal, Alison stuck hand extended like a car crash, jumping and getting shoved, damaged fighting bodies. Alison as a dancer and performer is vastly more confident from a few months ago, possessing a clarity, sharpness and ease in moving, making time to dance in the choreography. Together with Kynan they have become one of those duos who seem to have an unearthly connection, that only grows the more time they are together.

For me the first chair-bound confrontation was the most successful and coherent in terms of choreography, the second duo was perhaps diminished by steps. There is a vast territory to explore within the context of the narrative in these aerial collisions and destruction of orbits, that didn’t really get satisfactorily developed. Perhaps that’s just my current disinterest in making steps and the profusion of sameness in movement that on occasion In the bones of children got so far from.

This dissatisfaction also extended to the soundscape when it slipped into ambient beats and electronic blandness. It’s just too easy and sounds like a bunch of random loops in GarageBand. Contra this, the audio of the first section was entirely suited, slowing the progress down as if holding back time.

I think a lot of any criticisms I have are probably minor given that this was a two week development, and one thing Adam repeated constantly was that, yes we could do that but we didn’t have the time. The time to develop the technology should be measured in months and years, and the choreography and narrative needs a separate block of months just for itself. Two weeks is a painfully small allotment.

arrive lah!

Rong Yi in Guangzhou said to me on the first day I arrived, during weeks of monsoonal deluge that it was very auspicious to arrive somewhere when it was raining. Four days of constant precipitation I suppose, while bereft of flooding, lightning strikes and black storm warnings, is also … auspicious.

I’ve had a wild couple of days seeing friends (who all look as beautiful as ever and I am so happy to be near again), eatingeatingeating, going to showings, a party in a mansion (in East Terrace, with at least three staircases, a similar number of fridges in the kitchen, an elevator, a white marble pillared bathroom with jacuzzi and bidet, an indoor swimming pool – more pillars, gourmet pizza frenzy, and more friends I haven’t seen for a long time), cooking, occasional bits of dance (ballet, and so now sore calfs), and now a lazy Saturday. My wardrobe though is decidedly not a winter one, and I think I’ll just have to go to Zürich to rectify that. But first more of the same.