This week resident and choreographer Carima Neusser inhabits our studio with the project Baroque Architecture and Submission together with the dancers Laura Oriol and Adriano Wilfert Jensen. On Saturday and Sunday 3-4th of November we open the doors for an audience to take part of the project within the frame of Studiekretz. – an informal series of interventions by and with c.off residents in which practices and knowledge are shared, discussed and re-examined. We sat down with Carima to talk about the work process, baroque aesthetics as an inspiration, how submission is taking place in the performance and the advantages of working interdisciplinary.
The project is said to be born from Carimas meeting with Baroque churches. So we asked her to tell us about this, the actual meeting and what it was that caught her interest in the aesthetics and or concept of baroque architecture.
C: The starting point was when I was working in Mexico. You get to see a lot of history there and I always go in to different churches. It usually doesn’t look so much from the outside, but when you step in it is a totally different world. The baroque churches in Mexico have these crazy ceilings of gold. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that much gold anywhere at the same time. But there is also a lot of detail in the small decorations. Everything is so well done in detail and at the same time it so overwhelming and grand. The excess really struck me and touched me on an emotional level. The churches also have a very specific atmosphere that does a lot for the experience. They are strong believers in Mexico and you can perceive this when walking in to their churches, their faith is so passionate and emotional. First of all it was the gold that caught my attention, but then there was also the statue with Jesus suffering on the cross. The image was so excessive and glamorous with all the gold and at the same time flesh, blood and a naked body in pain. The contrast really got to me. Something else that I like with the baroque architecture is that it is not so two-dimensional or straight, it’s much more bodily in that sense. It has this curlicues and snake-like shapes and you can’t really see where it begins and where it ends. That is very fascinating and makes me want to look even more, draws me in.
- The project is intertwining the fields of dance, architecture and visual arts and use a format that is set out to dissolve the boundaries between audience and performers. Why is it important or interesting for you to work in this way?
C: I have been working a lot with visual artists, but also with scientists and other researchers. It has really influenced the way I work. It makes me freer in some way and it opens up for the possibility to break with current conventions. It helps me to get out, both from the conventions of dance and from the way I have been thinking about dance. It is so easy to stay with your own thing but this kind of work gives me the courage to break free. It gives me a lot of insights and interesting conversations, as well as it provides access to other histories or other sides of history. For example when visual art and dance history meet. Your work can really expand when you are working with collaborators from other disciplines. You can always research on your own, but it is different when you actually work together. For this project I have been doing research with an architect that is also a neuroscientist. Our shared interests lie in the crossing between the body and perception of body and space.
And about the audience, my main interest is the body, and more specifically activating the bodies of the audience. That is important because when you activate all the bodies in the space the performance doesn’t stop with the dancers. Instead it is something we create together. I guess that it is another way for me to challenge conventions.
- Another theme that the title tells us about is Submission. Furthermore, the work is described as inspired by Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini’s sculptures “where spirituality and submission meet with romantic ideals”. How have you been dealing with this theme and how is it taking place in the work?
C: First of all we have been working with Bernini’s sculpture called “Ecstasy of Saint Theresa”. It might be his most explicit artwork but many of his sculptures are very sexual and sensual. They have this interesting duality as they are saints that are submissive in the face of god but at the same time very sexual and almost pornographic. I see the resemblance to a sexual relationship where you are submissive to a partner. That is something I found interesting in his sculptures. The sculptures are also just amazing in the way they are created. They are very bodily, for example the expression of the open mouth. I instantly felt that this is the place where we are going to start from.
When we started with our first residency at Dansens hus we worked a lot with this sculpture (Ecstasy of Saint Theresa) in different ways. Bernini made the sculpture based on Saint Theresa’s experience with god and there is a text describing her experience that we have been working with a lot. In the text she describes how the angel of god pierces through her entrails with an arrow. That causes her so much pain but at the same time so much pleasure and love for God. We have really tried to work with and approach the sculpture in every possible way. For example we have tried to think that we are Saint Theresa and embody her experience. Or go in to the space and move to the text. I think it is very interesting and exciting to relate to the sculpture as a sexual act and keep in mind that they are also saints at the same time. It is the contrast of the angelic saint together with the more sexual expressions that has been the core of this process.
We have also been working with other more somatic practices where we go in to imaginary spaces and explore a state of ecstasy where you can let yourself be totally absorbed. The state of ecstasy is very close to an orgasm and all of it has to do with surrendering to the experience. In the case of Saint Theresa, she is doing it for God but you can also do it in relation to a dance practice, an object or in a sexual act.
Then there is the question about gender in relation to submission that needs to be addressed. In my mind it is too easy with an active and passive dichotomy. The whole thing about being submissive is that you can still retain control over the person who dominates. Or both people can loose control together. Therefore it is misleading when people think that a submissive woman automatically is a victim. This kind of practice is much more fluid. You have to look at it more as an expression of desire. We all have different desires and I think it is important to create a space where there is room for difference. This work is not about the general power structures in society. It is more about the spiritual in relation to art, sexuality and body. It is about relating more to people’s lives rather than structures. We all have contradictory desires and that is why sexuality is so interesting to me. You can’t rationalize sexuality and desires. It is just there. It is a force. I think we have to be more accepting about this because everything can’t fit into categories. I want to create a space, so that we don’t always talk about gender and about opposites. I am also a person and I am more than my gender.
- The project has already gone through a couple of intense work periods and public performances before this. How has the project evolved during your process and what will be your focus during the residency here at c.off?
C: We have been working a lot with images and the way the choreography is set up. Now when using this space we are looking at the transitions and how they can be done differently. During our previous residency in Malmö we had a lot of light equipment to work with and a black box. Here it is going to be different. One focus now will be to go a bit further with the audience and also to work more actively with the architecture of this space and building. What is interesting is that we have been working with totally different set ups and spaces during each work period. This gives us new questions and a lot of new material to work on, to distill the work and frame it even more.
- On Saturday and Sunday 3-4th of November you will share your work within the frame of studiekretz. Do you have any thoughts, expectations or wishes that you’d like to share related to these two events?
C: My wish is for people to have an open mind. I am very interested in art that is connected to life and the meeting with other human beings, so this is hopefully something that can be seen in the show. The audience has an important role in the work so I am very excited to see how their presence will affect the performance. Their movements will create a different space between the audience and the spectator. We are working a lot with being in the space, different positions and angles so I am curious to see what the meeting with the audience will generate and how it will take place.
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