Transkripsjon av samtale med deltagere og publikum i etterkant av Workshop og Performance, 15 oktober 2017.
Sophie: Perhaps to start this conversation Ane could introduce what we have been working on for the last two days.
Ane: We have been working on The Mark on The Wall, the first story Virginia Woolf wrote after setting up a printing press of her own. This is the second story she typeset, after setting up her husband Leonards story ‹‹Three Jews››. This is the first time she is a completely free writer, that could publish whatever she wanted. That was our starting point, and we – I – wanted to emphasise the actual process of typesetting in relation to writing, as something going back and forth. Your ideas, the text, and how your working on that also in composing. The acts before you arrive at the printing. The printing always takes up a lot of space – a lot of attention – because it is very visual, very direct. It is something we are always very drawn into, so I wanted to take out the printing and focus on her writing and her ideas - in relation to setting type.
Sophie: Any comments or things you wish to discuss?
Theo: We could see it was two inflections of Virginia Woolf – the character. One is the author, the other is the typesetter and the kind of evolution of the relationship between these two characters in what became a new start for an authorship. And then – seeing type enacted in black and white with people is quite funny and unusual. It kind of gets the message through that this work was something at the level of ideas as well, that the characters are embodiments somehow. They are not just lead (type) with ink and paper. There is something more to that like the imagination of Virginia Woolf, as a literary talent, but seeks how to express it. Then she has an opportunity to write freely in a way that no other British woman at her time was able to do. And so it is the beginnings of something. I heard a lot of mumbling thoughts, like this pre-language, language before language, literary stuff before literature. And The Mark on The Wall as a start of all that. Before the beginning. And so - the language is as it is.
Sophie: The participants may jump in as well. It would be interesting to share your reflections on the experience you had this weekend. We are from very various fields: Theatre, dance, graphic design, art, history.
Laima: It was a very interesting interpretation. I saw the embodiment – its not only a letter, it is a creation and a process. It has a boundary because you need to be very precise, it is a kind of floating – and stopping. I had some of the same experience as you mentioned (Theo). It was kind of beautiful, to mix graphic design and dance and it was interesting to have this interaction – to understand the process, and seeing Virginia Woolf from a whole new perspective. Not just as literature, not just as pure text.
Sophie: I think, coming from a theatre perspective, that the way you are thinking about the characters in your typecase is very intriguing as an idea, because when they come alive there are two sides to it. We were talking about the private and the public, which was interesting because theatre is very public, while reading is not. So what happens in this process? It is a kind of movement between the two.
Shah: Beeing a student in art in public space (KHiO) it is interesting to see how we can engage the public or audience with the performance. So, one nice idea that you offered was this setting that the audience actually sit on, the placing of the chairs on the paper. In that way the audience is characters aswell. I wanted to ask you; was it enough to feel engaged with the piece, or are you feeling confused? For me, its interesting to know how you could have felt more engaged or active.
Lucia: How much distance did you experience? What could have brought you closer to feeling like a character?
Annelise: I just wanted to add something – that we knew we were going into a research process rather than to a finished performance. I was thinking ‹‹Ok, which group am I going to, obviously there is some kind of task connected — or that in som way you are involved because of this set up››. We know that you have been through a process for a long while and now you are inviting us in. It is a kind of difficult situation to come into, because its more of an intellectual state. We need to hook on to the discussions you have had. This is one kind of “hook”, and of course we will never be on your level, because you have been repetedly reflecting throughout the workshop. And I am sitting wondering – how have you been working? Because we would like to understand. Did you sit down and reflect individually? Or did you build up parts, like the characters which you created?
Ane: We started of by dividing into two groups. One was the Virginia Woolfs, in bathrobes, focusing on interperating her, particularly as a maker. The other group was being characters, more like “sorts”. We started of with printing, but after a while there was this one Virginia Woolf crystallizing. She just rolled her self a cigarette, sat down and watched everybody else mess around with paint. And then gradually everybody more or less developed into characters. I think that for the first day I was just beeing my self, typesetting. Trying to control all the characters. And not succeeding in figuring out how this works. I tried to move that situation into working as a typesetter, working with the characters but also the characters had their own will and their own interpretations. They developed into a picture of Virginia Woolfs ideas and the words she was trying to control and put into play. There was a kind of conflict between me trying to put the characters in place and control them, and their own individual freedom that I can’t have 100 percent control of.
Kristin: We had a discussion today about why exactly this putting together, this setting. Why exactly that and not print, or the kind of pre-world? This understanding, like a contradiction between this sort of “set thing”, that is supposed to be about Virginia Woolf, which is really dreamy somehow. I found that interesting. Those two are kind of opposites, that effected us somehow, being between two worlds and trying to find a connection between the typesetter and the dreamer.
Trond: I dont know Virginia Woolf or the story of her. So she bought a press for her self so that she could self publish, and this made her able to publish in a way that would not be possible if her writing was controlled by a publisher?
Ane: Yes, because up to that point she had editors, and they were restraining her. Her editor was a stepbrother that apparently was abusing her when she was younger. But after gaining the freedom of a press, also being a woman with freedom of a press, makes this story a sort of rush of freedom. She is free to say whatever she wants, and she is free to attack systems and even people she bears grudges against. She is now able to bring subjects to the table that you can find again in her later works. It sets the mark from which she could develop into the writer that she became.
Trond: And she still managed to distribute also?
Sophie: You showed us the little notice where people could order copies.
And that´s how she started, was it not?
Ane: Yes, a very poorly printed little notice.
Trond: It is quite a contemporary project, because a lot of these issues are up in the air now to self-publish and…not just thinking of print and the printed word, but publishing of music or video film, newspapers, whatever. How this is being reproduced and distributed is all changing.
Ane: I find it interesting to look at her from our point of view. Our way of designing and publish are much more free and wider than it was in her time. She is compared to the private press movement of that period, to William Morris and his “books beautiful”. She is compared to a league of professionals playing a game that she was not even a part of, because that was not her thing. It was not what they were doing. They wanted to publish to spread their words. They had much more of a punk rock attitude towards their bookwork than trying to make nice “coffeetable books”.
Sophie: That was reflected in what she (Yendini) did in the beginning, making the sketchbook, folding it and using it straight away. It was not very neatly done, it seemed purely functional. Even how Virginia Woolf was cutting out the labels on her front covers not straight or well trimmed, just sticking them down. Just — print and put it out there! I think that´s quite interesting, because today that happens a lot.
Yendini: When I came to this workshop I knew nothing at all about that part of Virginia Woolf´s work. It is something of which I have learned from Ane. And we do not know each other, we met for the first time yesterday, and then worked to get into the two sides of Virginias work as a writer and also how she designed books. I think it has been very exciting, very cool. I have learned much about work which is not shown. I did not know at all how much work typesetting is, it is something I know nothing about. Thank you for theese two days. We have been quite a large group with many voices to be heard. We have had to listen to each other and try finding out how to work together. It´s been a very rich process and everybody has contributed into the story. It´s not Ane that has said “we are going to do this and that”. We have done this as a group. And it worked out quite well.
Martin: How did you work with the relationship between words and typeset characters? Theo mentioned it, that characters to be printed in lead are very stiff and not organic things. The way they were played here was quite soft and organic in a way. What did you think about that? Was it more about the words? Because as I read your project, you are interested in the relation between Virginia Woolf´s literature and that her writing was very influenced by her being a typesetter. It would be nice to hear how you worked with that, because the group here played characters, right? But also words?
Ane: Well, that was a really tuff thing to solve. That is why we did the shift, meaning that when Yendini was in the bathrobe, they were characters in her mind.
Martin: Because Woolf printed in her bathrobe.
Ane, Yes, and I think it serves as a good illustration of being both public and private at the same time, because a bathrobe is a very private piece of clothing. You are not undressed — or dressed. You are something in between, and it´s also reflecting the wall, which is also something between the private and the public, being both inside and outside. So we have tried to use the bathrobe as the shift, between when she is trying to find the words and the characters for her story, and when we switched — I don´t know if they did it, but the characters were supposed to freeze and stiffen, and then go down to being the base of the character. Being characters in the typecase, not characters in a play. Then I would try to find the characters that looked most like the characters that would make up this word, or that word. Before the performance Katarina had this spontaneous, fantastic reflection on being the m-space. Being the space in between, as very present and important, but still she is not there, not being a character but still a very important piece in the play.
Katarina: Being a concrete character and a person on the stage, but also this tiny little thing you place in between the words. It´s not like a space button on the keyboard that you can’t really see, where it´s just nothing. In typesetting with lead there is this concrete little object and that is the space. You are visible on the stage, and you are there — but you are also not.
Ane: It is really hard to play typography. It´s really weird having a gigantic composing stick with characters, that in fact are not characters even.
Sophie: We also talked about how they were escaping and being unruly. Because when you are doing this sort of labor, sometimes it doesn’t go all that well, and the sorts are living their own life and this is part of it as well maybe in Yendinis world, where the characters needs to be set, and they are still floating about, still forming. And when Ane come in they come down, become their “real selves”. Sort of proper characters. I think that is a very nice way of showing the work. Really, what it is all about because it´s not done in a whiff, you have to really focus and things can go wrong along the way. You feel that the material is slipping through your hands and sometimes you have to restart. This part of the work - with humans - is really interesting, it becomes very natural, because we are so different as characters as well. We are living our own lifes – suddenly slipping away a little bit and then coming together again. It became very embodied.
Ane: In the beginning of the workshop yesterday, when we started to work on that idea, it was kind of like trying to learn typesetting again, because everybody was trying to run away, and I tried to put them in place. And then they ran off again, and it became some sort of battle where I tried to be like this sheep herder, having everyone in place and every time I placed one, another one ran off, and it´s kind of similar to teaching yourself how to typeset, because you really struggle to gain control.
Annelise: I was thinking about resistance, as I understand, typesetting is very structured and it´s all this resistance, problems, obstacles that you have to work with and find ways of solving practically, and I was wondering where the resistance was? It is not like chaos and then order, its several more steps. You probably experiences that in the workshop, as you said — everyone was running away, but since black and white are so strong positions it was a bit difficult to see them in chaos, how did things gradually fall in to order?
Laima: We were discussing a lot. She (Yendini) represented the creativity from the text, which is a stream of consciousness and therefor drifting like a reflection – You see the mark from which different characters appear. We are not just sorts, but characters. She (Ane) represents how to fit this text physically, design it in an actual book. I wonder if it was clear — this kind of distinction between the floating and the conventious setting up?
Annelise: Yes, that was clear.
Sophie: That´s the part of performance in general, I mean being subjective as well.
Theo: I am looking at Virginia Woolfs self-bound books, because I borrowed some sources from Ane. And what struck me when I looked at those was a quote by Paul Gaugin, the painter, he said: ‹‹The ugly can become beautiful, but the pretty never.›› Which is in a way another source of the literary impetus in her joint work of both typesetting and binding books that come together. I was thinking of what Katarina said about the blanks. Some years back I looked at the famous 50 year jubilee film of helvetica and then they had this comment about how the white was holding the black. It´s not only the space but its actually holding the black, and that brought me to think about Virginia Woolfs relationship to windows as a place that she would reach beyond her windows, though making books. It was important for her to be from her home. Because it was the heart of femininity that she would reinvent the world from her home, beyond the windows, to define that feminine space. So in terms of space, I think that coming in here for me, coming into something with walls, a little worn down white cube. The floor with lots of sweat and work in it. A space kind of between the white cube and the black box, so it could go both ways, and I suppose that´s also why it could be a fertile place to work on this sort of project. Looking at you, it was as though communication was flowing freely through the entire system, so when I see that, it´s as though each and everyone has an idea of the work. Not only one person, but everyone has an idea of the work.
Lucia: Well, we discussed a lot. I think it worked because it was a lot of pre-communication between us about how to work in this format. Yesterday it was much more about the ideas and today it was more about mixing these ideas — and the body. Today we had a warm-up for the second part of the day, about establishing a common bodily rhythm. There could be a thousand ways to do this, but when you rehers it, and you discuss it, everyone understands in their own way. This kind of communication worked very well, it was a language. It has been very much about language these two days, any kind of language.
Theo: That´s exciting!
Shah: I was just thinking, that what I got from this workshop was the power of enactment in a process to make it clear for you. When you enact it, all of a sudden some part in the middle of a project becomes very clear.
Trond: When Virginia started doing the publishing herself, did she also reach a different audience, that it got distributed differently to a different audience as well?
Ane: In the beginning they distributed to their friends and circle, as they were part of the Bloomsbury group. It was like a, in today´s terms, “hipster-group”. But after a while The Hogarth Press grew. It got bigger and bigger and they published more complex work. After a while they started to sell outside their group and made a name for themselves. The 1921 edition of The Mark on The Wall has been rewritten, and she has cut out some personal attacks on named people, because they saw that it was not just inside their group anymore, now it was moving out in to the wider public.
Trond: There is some very strong feminist aspect in this I think, in her project.
Ane: As she became a feminist icon, that is very present and obvious. Whenever you bring up the name Virginia Woolf, thats imminent. I discovered her reading “A Room of Ones Own”, her major feminist work, (which was Martins advice.)
Theo: If we speak of experimental archaeology, where doing stuff like this would make you discover new things about Virginia Woolf. Did you make some new discoveries?
Ane: I think I need some time to reflect on that. My mind is a total mess right now.
Sophie: For me it was really cool to see you going into this. You had some ideas, but in the end you did not know what it would become, and I think it´s so nice for me, organising Schouskollektivet to be able to have you here and have designers for once, because we have been theatre people and dancers and musicians, and sometimes people from different fields, not much designers. I felt it was so nice to be able to work in this way, stepping out of the comfort zone and work in a different way, talk in a different way, and just explore different formats completely. Apart from the fact that
performance is performance, but it is performance in another setting. So you are not analyzing you character in advance, as I was being The Mark, I was thinking of the conversation we had about the mark and how I was affecting the space by just walking. And that´s not necessarily the theater mind you have to turn on, but you have to turn on the other mind. To work in this way, that we did for just two days, is very well done of everyone here. And I hope this is something that will develop. That we can meet in the future, and communicate across fields of profession. That´s what it´s all about, and that´s what we really did this weekend!
Ane: Yes! It was totally uncomfortable! But in a good way. Oh! I have one thing that spontaneously came to mind: In the beginning of our performance, I was working on the first line of the text, because I wanted to act on if it was room for every word on the line or not, and I started to think of which words Virginia Woolf could have changed in this first sentence. Because this is one of my assumptions - that I think she changed some words and phrases to make the lines add up. I chose the word middle in “Perhaps it was the middle of January the present year”. If it was the end or if it was the beginning or the middle would not change the story that much, but it makes a big difference technically because the words requires quite different amounts of space in your composing stick. It was fun to experiment on that idea by using people.
Sophie: I think that was a nice ending, no?
Thanks to: Sophie Barth at Schouskollektivet & the participants:
Katarina Caspersen, Lucia Fiorani, Yendini Yoo Cappelen, Sigrid Stokker,
Shahrzad Malekian, Laima Nomeikait, Emma Champanil, Kristin Nango
Supervisors: Martin Lundell, Annelise Bothner-By & Theo Barth.