Excerpts of a lecture demonstration on the occasion of the symposium "Geste. Sich bewegen" in Düsseldorf, December 2nd, 2006, at Tanzhaus NRW
I want to sketch the relationship between my choreographic work and the work of Austrian filmmakers and composers and their references to each others' work: the experimental filmmaker Peter Kubelka, whose "metric films" of the 1950s were influentual for the next generation, for example for Martin Arnold. As much as Martin Arnold's work points to Kubelka it is equally influental for other art forms and artists, such as composer Bernhard Lang. As a choreographer I collaborate with Bernhard Lang, and earlier I worked with Peter Kubelka. Martin Arnold has also influenced me.
The four of us are joined by a structural approach to movement, be it physical, musical or cinematic movement. At the core of our working methods lies Kubelka's finding that film is not movement per se, but a succession of 24 projected stills per second, which we as the viewers interpret as movement. The consequence for Kubelka was to define the notion of material quite specifically. The essence of film, he concludes, lies in the work with the single frame. Structurally, film is related to music and architecture and not to theatre or literature.
In my first collaboration with Bernhard Lang, TRIKE summer (2004), musical movement and physical movement proceed with the same fundamental intention. In "A Room Full of Shoes" a computer program developed by Bernhard Lang works itself through an orchestral phrase in a stuttering, jittering way, which out of a few bars generates a half hour work oscillating between nervousness and meditation. In our loop aesthetic we use a notion of repetition, which - different from minimalism - is striving for complexity. Repetition is nurtured by complexity if some parameters change within the repeating element or if the rules of generating the repetition are complex. The repetitive elements have to be extremely small, in music something like split seconds. In dance the movement can be small as long as it still shows impulse and intention.
Bernhard Lang and I explore irregular non-static operations of these smallest entities that produce the opposite of mechanically performed repetition, role model DJing. The movement has the appearance of being looked at under a microscope: short images of content, even psychology and narration come up, only to be manipulated the next moment. A fleeting movement-image, constantly oszillating between form and change.
With "A Room Full of Shoes" Bernhard Lang emphasizes his references to the films of Martin Arnold. Martin Arnold's trilogy (Pièce Touchèe 1989, Passage à l'acte 1993 and Alone. Life wastes Andy Hardy 1998) consists of found footage of film scenes lasting twenty seconds each. He deconstructs them and then multiplies the single frames. Through repetition, reversin g and inversion he produces jumps in the movement of the scene. Arnold's method dissects the material and shows structures of sexuality and violence in superficially harmless situations.
In contrast to film- and video images human movement offers fundamentally different parameters in order to travel tiny distances forward and backward along an outlined movement track. The rehearsal process of TRIKE summer was an exploration of the physical consequences of cutting an originally organic move into loop segments, setting loop-points at surprising moments – in the midst of a movement impulse, against gravity – but in a way that is not too tiring for the dancer. Beside obvious differences in the repetition concerning speed and dynamics there is also the variation in the coordination of human movement. While the viewer is still getting used to the irreglular, scratching movement, the dancer can shift the coordination between head and arm, arm and leg, left and right and thus find herself in a precarious situation. Veronika Zott is especially gifted to play with these coordinative shifts.
The challenge for the dancer is that she finds herself in a situation suspended between linearly conceived movement and the execution of the movement, which in contrast to the imaginary line is stuttering, folding in and out, copying itself. She has to keep track of the future of the movement and at the same time, at every second she has to know exactly what kind of tiny movement she has just performed in order to be able to slightly alter the form of the next move. She is the one responsible for setting the timing, dynamics and coordination at every moment. She has to stay very present in order not to fall into automatic reproduction; she has to stick very precisely to certain aspects of a movement while changing some of its parameters. And all that mental work has to be visible crystal clear in her performance. Questions of synchronization, precision, mistake and the continuous changes between short-term, ultra short term and long term memory are just a few of the issues raised by developing and working with these physical techniques.
TRIKE (2005) is the continuation of the collaboration with Bernhard Lang and is also based on the work with Peter Kubelka. Beside the dancers there are actors and musicians on stage and therefore one of the mayor demands on the working process was to make the performance of dancers and actors compatible. We "emptied" the specific representations of actors and dancers in order to develop the possibilities to the full instead of having competition on stage. In the first part of TRIKE dancers and actors together create a moving sound landscape lasting half an hour. At this point in the collaboration we no longer painted the physical movement onto the musical movement or vice versa, as we still did in TRIKE summer, but the performers generated movement and sound on the spot.
The whole piece consists of looping operations, either one-to-one or forward/reverse, varied in sample length, and of scratched movement. In order for the gestures of both actors and dancers to be of equal importance in the performance space we used two principles: 1. we created the basic material for all the performers at the same time in the same space and 2. for all the material, whether sound or physical, we used the exact same procedures. As in ADEBAR/KUBELKA (2003, the work with Peter Kubelka) the appeal was to notate a set of rules to create a mixture of acoustic and visual rhythms. The movement and sound of the performers is notated in individual scores related to each other through a cueing system. The audience is seated in two opposite areas with the performance taking place between them. This allows a continuous back and forth of two reception modes: contemplative for the composition of visual and acoustic rhythms versus active observation of details in the individual performance.
At an early state in the process of TRIKE we made a decision against using digital media technologies in the performance situation, even though we were working with video and audio looping in the rehearsals. Now, a year later, I am working with Bernhard Lang to bring the machine into our collaboration, to explore and make visible the friction between human repetitive movement and automatic repetitive movement.
In V-TRIKE we are making a statement encompassing both the fundamental and the continuing nature of our joint loop aesthetic, subject of all TRIKE versions. Sampling and looping is used to contrast human movement with a programmed machine. During the performance I as the choreographer together with the dancer Veronika Zott realize a score in which human movement at times attempts a congruent reproduction of the projected programmed movement, at times contrasts with it and at other times, completely ignoring it, holds its ground next to it. In a live choreography and performance the score is executed afresh and differently each time. As a result the audio loops, recorded on a brass plate, create a variety of percussive pieces of music.