Artistic part#1: to take place 25.4.– 29.4.2016
The process of the first artistic part focused on the starting point of my practice, which is that the human body is always somewhere. I took the concept and phrase ‘to take place’ as a core around and through which I processed various works where the examination of the relations between place, human body, and movement come together as a choreographic work.
I experiment with the verb ‘to take place’ in the first artistic part from two main perspectives: 1) as an experiential spatio-temporal process in which the human body exists and makes gestures somewhere as the materialization of particular motional conditions and 2) as literal comprehension how the words ‘to take’ and ‘place’ produce the process of being located and situated somewhere. In the first artistic part, I have critically examined this understanding but in a playful way.
There are other verbs proposed to describe the relations between experience, place, and human body, such as ‘to embody’, ‘to experience’, or ‘to receive’ a place (e.g., Hunter 2015, p. 95). I have chosen to keep the verb ‘to take place’, because it keeps the process of embodiment open in terms of giving me the chance to explore how taking place happens and operates as one kind of an embodiment instead of taking the embodiment as given. This also includes leaving space for disembodiment, by which I refer to failures caused by following certain assumptions that have directed my life. The decision of choosing these certain words thus gives me conceptual space to move about. It is obvious that I cannot escape my body, but this possible playful distance from the process of embodiment as a starting point provides potential to the choreographic practice, which I am interested in. It also puts me in the position where I have to choose which direction to take and must take a closer critical look at the position that enables the choices in the first place. With the title of ‘taking place’, the process playfully offers the possibility to think – that it is not me who takes place, but instead it is the surrounding circumstance that are taking me into it. This shift in understanding in directions of taking place has been the starting point for the works in the first artistic part when it comes to exploring the emerging choreography between the human body, place, and movement.
This process can also be seen questioning the power-relations between the environment, practice, and the human body. I am not only taking place as a creator, I am also taken into the place, and the movements created are not superimposed by my human body but reciprocally generated with the surrounding material and its forces and affects. As a critical stance, I suggest that various kinds of place-responsive practices can approach place as a concept, which is not out there to serve artists or to be used as a source of instrumental inspiration.
In the works of the first artistic part, I am playing with these environmental power-relations and showing how a place appears through action and reaction and how it operates as an active agent simultaneously and reciprocally in my practice and in the process of building understanding about the choreography as a reading practice.
Taking place from out of place
To choose ‘taking (a) place’ as a framework and strategy to create works implies the idea of being out of place in the sense of being dislocated as a certain bodily perspective and as a starting point for the choreo-orientated practice. Since my practice has changed significantly within the doctoral process, I can approach my current practice – and in fact the problem that led me to the doctorate in the first place – with the experience of being out of place. In order to understand this position better, Sara Ahmed’s Queer Phenomenology (2006) has functioned for me as a main study reference. Studying Ahmed’s take on queer phenomenology, I have become aware of how things, objects, and bodies are in their places or ‘in line’. Artistically, I have been interested in what this being in their place or in line means, and how deviating from those lines can create choreo-orientated dynamics. Her writing has also helped me understand which repeated and habitual ways of making art became insignificant for me and how this emptying-out motivated me to explore choreographic thinking and practice in a new way.
The notion of orientation and turning
The way Ahmed writes about the concept of orientation has offered me a way to build understanding of how places and spaces are dependent on bodily inhabitance (Ahmed 2006, p. 6). Ahmed connects orientation to the sense of familiarity and to the sense of being home. Being home has not been the aim of my works, but by exploring the choreographic potential of ‘taking place’ I have also come to realize the artistic sensibility of the experience of being out of place or being out of line. This perspective manifests itself through the choreographic place-taking practice in which these deviant states operate as the starting points for being orientated in a familiar way. Ahmed writes, ‘The starting point for orientation is the point from which the world unfolds: the “here” of the body and the “where” of its dwelling. Orientations, then, are about the intimacy of bodies and their dwelling places’ (ibid., p. 8). In my practice, this means that the deep, interdependent relation between place, space, and body is choreographic, because all these elements are formed with and through movement, and in my understanding choreography and movement are coupled.
I was not aware of Ahmed’s book while making the works of the first artistic part. I read it March-April 2018, and it was easy for me to relate to her writing through the works done. The key argument in Ahmed’s book is that the body gets directed in some ways more than others (ibid., p. 15). Ahmed also writes about the collective direction nations and countries are going, which means that in order to become a member of such community one must follow the directions that are formed by the community. If this is the case, turning becomes an action that can multiply the prevailing direction. My research project can be understood as an examination of a turning-away from the common understanding of choreography as writing practice.
In two of the works in the first examined artistic part, turning is a concrete action I have facilitated and which I consider the core of the proposed work, namely in the A Guest and in Hiding videos shot in the Research Pavilion in Venice. To activate the sense, need, and possibility of continuous turning is one element that constitutes my current practice instead of choosing a linear direction to follow. This element is explored in the second examined artistic part, #CHARP, more intensively. Continuous turning in practice does not mean I do not get anywhere, because this orientation creates another kind of space, a space which escapes the familiar over and over again, and by doing this the choreographic practicing-thinking is challenged vividly all the time. This is why I sometimes have experienced the development of the practice in this research as quite exhausting.
Ahmed’s writing about the lines that are followed and which direct us has been also a revealing reading for me in order to understand why my previous practice became meaningless. She writes, ‘Lines are both created by being followed and are followed by being created. The lines that direct us, as lines of thought as well as lines of motion, are in this way performative: they depend on the repetition of norms and conventions, or routes and paths taken, but they are also created as an effect of repetition. To say that lines are performative is to say that we find our way and we know which direction we face only as an effect of work, which is often hidden from view’(ibid., p. 16).I understand this quote through my practice in a way that throughout the research project, in my works I have aimed to activate the hidden lines that have been part of my practice but to which I had not previously been paying attention. During this research project, I have experimented with the choreographic and artistic dimensions of these hidden lines. Maybe the most literal example of this is the work Mesh.
The deep experience of being out of place is something that affects the starting points of my practice. In the doctoral process, I have come to realize that the works have been kind of a reorientation of my previous practice, in which I did not recognize this deviation as an artistic potential. Even if I have deviated from that path I took in my MA studies and practice after graduating from the Theatre Academy, I have also retreaded that same path in order to understand why it became meaningless, and during the research process I have critically reexamined the basic elements of my practice. Due to this process, I have started to work with more awareness about the lines I experience as deviated and oblique. This process has led me to become familiar with the state of being out of place, and I consider it a sensitivity instead of feeling anxious about that kind of a state as something to be fixed.
I have started to see the previously experienced linear and orientational failure starting to unfold the space in which the oblique lines open new directions. For me they are the directions in which hope for alternative existence resides – hidden and marginal but vivid, imaginative, and generative in its wondering viewpoint towards the shared and lived world. To bring this deep background to the fore and examine that critically as a starting point in my practice has been a necessary move for me to continue working as an artist. The motivation to do so lies perhaps in the vision of future shared living environments in which the binaries of straight and oblique lines are unnecessary and non-operative and where known orientating directions must be reinvented.