The Research Trajectory
I started my creative path by addressing the concept Extimacy proposed by Jaques Lacan and developed by Jaques Allan Miller. This concept refers to the blurry relationship between the interior and the exterior and has several acceptations. I focus on one: “Extimacy says that the intimate is Other -like a foreign body.” (Miller, 1994 p. 76) In other words, those cases when we perceive some aspects of ourselves as external.
This inspired me to do creative writing exercises and movement improvisations from my own hidden aspects. In this way, I found a wolf-like bodily state that, even though was unexpected, fascinated me. Since the beginning, Wolfe, as I call the character that I have been developing from that state, was showing a special strength that I recognised as female. In general terms, this journey has been about getting closer to, and understanding ‘my inner wolf’ as a source of female strength.
My first association was to the tale of Little Red Riding Hood since its characters are a wolf and a woman. This motivated me to do a critical review of the story that finally questioned that first association. While doing this theoretical action, I was also working on an artistic outcome, the video-dance Becoming, where I present a deconstruction of the tale and I started to explore the expressive possibilities of projecting a body on the body of the dancers. Also, I introduce a wolf paper mask that became quite central in the project. Meanwhile, I offered a video-dance workshop where I was able to study the interconnection between choreography and cinematography. From this workshop, I was able to organise some principles from the audio-visual field that became useful in further experimentation with live video projection. This developed into a ‘vocabulary,' still in progress, presented in videos of the possible relationships between a physical and a projected dancing body, which is the basis of the expressive device I am interested in. In this stage of the project, I did a collaboration with Niels Jansen, a creative technologist who has a computer science background. Specifically for this project, Niels developed a computer program to do live video projection mapping, which allows me to do live motion tracking on moving dancers.
The literature review done for Becoming, led me to Clarissa Pinkola’s Book Women Who Run With the Wolves (1992). Pinkola’s argument that women and wolves have a lot of characteristics in common such as being intuitive, possessed of great endurance and being very brave, became far more interesting to my research. Pinkola also argues that both women and wolves have been misunderstood, persecuted and overpowered in real and symbolic terms throughout history due to the fear of their wildish nature. Reading Pinkola’s theory re-signified ‘my inner wolf’ and opened a new door to explore my feminine identity. I found her association key to continue shaping the research and I moved forward to my next artistic residency where I created the stage piece WolFloW.
In that process, I became interested in finding ways to make ‘the inner wolf’ emerge through movement and it was the opportunity to refine my previous discoveries regarding the relationship between dance and projection. For example, I included an exploration with a large origami sculpture in order to have other paper elements beside the mask that could also be a potential projection surface. In the beginning, this element was supposed to be secondary but very organically within the process, it became quite central. From the transformation of this big paper structure, new dramaturgic aspects emerged. I treasure this serendipity finding because it relates to the meaning of wild that I am addressing to; wild as something that grows without being cultivated (Oxford dictionary online, n.d.). The actions to transform the paper from a fixed geometrical structure that gets disassembled, reconfigured and finally torn apart, can be seen as a metaphor of how feminist movements have been questioning the patriarchal system in order to transform the role of women in society to gain more rights and freedom.
However, while the dramaturgy of the paper was gaining focus, the development of an expressive device from the tension between projected and live dance was getting lost. Also, the body of the wolf-woman started to vanish and the movement materials became too clean and elegant, lacking in wildness. Therefore, I decided to leave this experimentation aside and come back to the kinetic interplay between imago and physical presence and the somatic experimentation. I use the term somatic to describe the type of movement-based inquiry that I have been doing because my approach shares many of the principles that other somatic practices have. For example, it is a practice that starts from a deep awareness of the present moment in movement, it is an inquiry “experienced and regulated from within” (Ferris Lester, 2017, p. 31) and uses kinaesthetic and proprioceptive sensitivity (International Somatic Movement Education and Therapy Association, n. a.) Also, as other somatic practices, mine has been informed by a physiological understanding of the body, yet experienced in a manner which is creative and intuitive (Mullan, 2014, p. 254)
The understanding of Wolfe as a personification of the female wild nature that I could locate through the body was interrupted by the ideas of Judith Butler and her critique of the binary distinction between genders. Her proposal questions defining womanhood through concepts such as nature or essence. So, a new question emerged; how to address female strength if The Woman, as a unitary category does not exist? Reflecting on this question led me to contextualise the research discoveries from a personal perspective and to address gender as ongoing construction. Looking at my investigation from this perspective was definitely enriching and I decided to expose the old tension between nature versus nurture through the tension between body and language. In my last work, the dancer moves from her bones, muscles, blood and teeth, but also uses her voice to present sounds and words, to tell stories and to make statements. That is why the voice is part of the project as an aural element of the dramaturgy.
Derived from my readings about feminism, I discovered a lack of respect towards the voice of young women in the patriarchal society. It became important for me to listen to that particular voice and to embody the words that some young woman have said in political speeches that have instigated social and political change. I also see them as wolves, reclaiming their territory and making the whole pack move. In addition, from autobiographical methods of creation, I found some aspects of the experience of being a woman that have changed dramatically in the latest generations and some others that sadly remain the same. These two topics are expressed in the project as embodied speeches where there is an interest in giving a dance feeling to the use of voice. This was achieved thanks to the collaboration I did with opera singer Karin Deddens who helped the dancer play with different intonations, speeds and pitches.
I would like to give a special thanks to all the dancers that participated in this project in different stages: Alice Gioria, Giorgia Belotti, Ewa Sikorska, Bellaluz Gutiérrez, Daniela Gomez, Dalia Velandia, Manouk Schrauwen, Felix Feenstra and Donna Braber. Also to my peer Olga Spiraki who invited me to Greece to offer the video-dance workshop, to Suzan Lemont who open her space Pandora’s Playspace in Utrecht to do creative experimentation and to Liat Magnezy who offered me a residency in her program DinO.