Fragile archives with Anna Bontha

Anna Bontha is one of our residents that has been busy in the studio during the past month. She has been working on the new project “Ömma arkiv” (Fragile Archives in English), a performance that investigates the tradition and methods of dance as a bodily practice. We seized the moment to talk some more about the work process as the performance will premiere this weekend at Weld.


Photo: Fredrik Wåhlstedt

The performance was initially described as a playful and poetic investigation of the question “What is a tradition?”. How would you describe it now that you are ready to premiere the work and how has the investigation developed during the process?

– The question “what is tradition” is really to think of it as a process and not a content of some sort. In Swedish there is the word “tradera” it translates to something like to hand down, and is a verb instead of a noun. In this performance it has been more and more important to investigate this process. Somehow to label things tradition can be a dead end, like trying to hold on to something too hard, and that makes the very thing that was important to begin with disappear.
To be in a tradition is always very present in dance practice. The physical experience of for example learning a dance is to implement something given in to one’s own body. Taking some concrete movement material on, making it your own. When working with this project this aspect have been put forefront. It has been important to be make conscious that we are doing things in tradition.

When and how did you first think of the idea for this project and how did you know that you wanted to work with this topic?

– I was reading a text by André Lepecki called Body as an archive, where he writes about reenactment (to perform again) of dance. His main point in this text is that the body is the only place you can “store” dance, every attempt to preserve dances for the future results in making it in to a dead object. This made me reflect on the way folk dance (and other things considered cultural heritage) holds this impulse to preserve and protect, which results in creating archives. At the same time there is a notion that these means of archiving, for example writing dance descriptions, is objective and have no impact on the thing being archived. I thought about what impact this history of history making must have had on some of the dances we today call folk dance. And that it would be interesting to experiment with how these dances transform using other non-objective methods for passing them on, relying for example on sensorial impressions. Anyway this was the point of departure for the project, thinking of other ways of handing over dances through physical practices.

The word tradition and its etymology seems to be a point of departure for this project. How have you been working with tradition in the process and how is it taking place in the final piece?

– Well it was a question for some time, if the “tradering” /handing down was a method to create some dance material to perform, or if the main point was to make a performance where the process of handing over was still visible. Now we do the latter, as a result of which the performance almost entirely consists of improvised material.

You are a dancer and choreographer, but you have also a background in writing. How does your experience with text affect your artistic practice in terms of work methods and dealing choreographic material?

– I think it’s more that the artistic practice affects the writing. I usually incorporate text in some way in my performances, but I’m much less sentimental about these texts than the things I write for literary purposes. A text in a performance is a practical thing to be put to use, and it collaborates with all the other things, and must not be given a higher status. Words can sometimes be very dominant and become the key of how something should be interpreted. I want the text to work on the same level as any other part of the performance.

In this project you are working with the musician Linnea Aall Campbell and the two dancers Anton Schneider and Hanna Bylund. You all seem to have very different artistic backgrounds. What has that meant for the work and collaboration?

– It has meant that our “archives” in terms of what we brought to work within this performance is very different. But we also have things in common. We all have experience of folk dance but to different degrees. It has been amazing to work with live music and Linnea in the performance, and I never want to do a performance without it again. In this project it has meant that the music can go through a similar process as the dancing goes through, the music plays a big part in the performance.

Read more about the performance here.

More about Anna Bonthas previous and upcoming works is found on her website.