Monday, September 7, 2015

Interview with two-women-machine-show (DK) & Jonathan Bonnici (UK) by Kristóf Farkas

“If violence has a contemporary form, it is in the language” 
interview with two-women-machine-show (DK) & Jonathan Bonnici (UK) by Kristóf Farkas

After researching contemporary forms of violence for two years, choreographer-performer Marie-Louise Stentebjerg (two-women-machine-show) and her co-creator Jonathan Bonnici came to the conclusion, that it is rooted in the ‘description practice’ motivated by contemporary capitalist society’s abuse of language, as a means to categorize the world and thus create descriptive boundaries to it. In an attempt to go beyond language and using Baudrillard’s idea of reversal, the performance TRANS- on L1danceFest – on the 16th of September in Bakelit M.A.C. – exposes this all-pervading description practice, what may be a (trans-)formative experience for the audience, who become the source of this performance.


photo: Lars Kjær Dideriksen
The title of your performance is TRANS-. This Latin prefix has a double meaning: as ‘across’ or ‘beyond’, it always presumes that there are two sides; and as in transparency, it also refers to itself as a foil. And if something transforms into something else, there is the step of the change. During the creation, did you work with all of these layers, or one or more is totally up to us?
The title TRANS- reflects the accumulation of words surrounding the project that contained the prefix ‘trans’. We’ve been working with the idea of the trans- moment, which we defined as the process of movement from one binary to another. What is being tested in the performance is whether in the state of constant transition there is a viable rebellion against the immanent violence embedded in the all-pervading static taxonomy of definition? The performative practice, which has been developed over the rehearsals is one in which the performer aims to channel everything present. The (naïve?) intention is that the space and its contents find their full expression through the performer. What is required on the performers’ behalf is a complete dereliction of their own (habitual) self-monitoring, in favor of changing the site of description. It is an act, which ideally affects transcendence in the performer and the space.
There was very much an awareness of the layers in play. The structure of the performance, visually, aurally and in the syntactical structure of the description practice aims at playing with the layers of subjective/objective identification until – in the denouement of the piece – there is a complete interchange between the two.

In TRANS-, you are literally labeling the audience all the time, describing their look and guessing their emotions, while you are attempting 'to go beyond language'. Is it really possible like this? 
We were inspired in this by Baudrillard’s idea of reversal; what is presented as monocultural/monoformal (in our case, the act of ceaselessly trying to describe and encapsulate the subject of description) will, if raised to a certain intensity, effect a violent reversal; and in doing so, it exposes its dualistic nature. This is the ideal. Maybe in the description practice we are highlighting the failure of language to escape the normative and really respond to the evolving surface of description. And from these cracks, these fissures of absence, what may emerge?

The performance is based “on a research that attempted to define and understand contemporary forms of violence.” How did you get to labeling as source of violence? Is labeling universal or are there any cultural differences?
Zizek gives a theory of 2 coexisting forms of violence: on one hand the masked, insidiousness of systemic violence; on the other the directness and visibility of objective (physical) violence. It seems that if violence has a contemporary form, it is in the language system of the globalised liberal consumer capitalist ideology.  It enacts its violence through the constant categorization, what forcibly incorporates everything that exists outside of it, and self-regulates through the ultimate (self-inflicted) violence of shame.
We are not specifically working with labeling though this appears as a natural byproduct of the practice. Ideally, the performers are not fictionalizing, they are simply responding to the impulse given to them by the subject.
As to cultural differences, the globalized nature of consumer capitalist system and language works effectively to erase cultural difference. Still, cultural discrepancy – as exhibited in audience sensibility – provides the uniqueness of each performance.

The circle, in which the audience is seated, can be found in rituals and mysteries. How do different spaces and audiences affect the performance?
The circle is directly inspired by our experiences of traditional Native American ceremonies, and Baudrillard again, who theorizes the ceremony as a space of pure participation, devoid of traditional hierarchies. Resulting in individual experience of varying intensity, unique from any other participants, but not in contradiction to the shared whole. The circle defines the constitution of the space and the relationships therein; each variety becomes the content of that space.

You are co-founder of the companies two-women-machine-show and RISK:RECLAIM:ENTERTAIN. Both names are very exciting. Can you tell more about why did you pick them?
two-women-machine-show actually started out as the title of the first work we (Ida-Elisabeth Larsen and Marie-Louise Stentebjerg) did together. It contained two women, a (loop) machine and a show. During this initial research, it became clear that our two bodies and minds had a weird bonding going on already, so we kept it as the duo name. The name refers to the fact that we are the primo motor behind the work and that the main body of our work evolves around the duo itself, as well as there being something quite mechanical about how we work with the performer on stage; as an executor. This approach comes from our choreographic method, Body Host, which is a method where we, through a rigid daily routine of applied training systems, the act of copying and doing everything together, let our bodies become hosts for something other.

RISK, as it is called now, is a collective founded together with 2 other Danish choreographers, Marie Topp and Gry Raaby. It was formed as a response to what we back then (2009) saw as a quite stagnated contemporary performance scene in Copenhagen. And it was, and is, about reclaiming territory and visibility. RISK mainly works as a host entity investigating Space and Availability. It is on the one hand an interest in finding sustainable ways for the choreographic cambium in Denmark to share their resources, both in terms of space and research, and on the other hand, it is a place from which we draw artistic inspiration for the collectives’ and our individual practices. So far we’ve unfolded our interest through a pamphlet of events such as platforms, sharing-events, writing projects, open lectures, collective moderations, mapping projects, group performances and workshops.

KÖM by L1 Association

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