Pushing Air with Sanna Söderholm and Carima Neusser

Sanna Söderholm and Carima Neusser have been recurring residents in our studio during this spring, working on their project Pushing Air that just premiered in Verkstad konsthall in Norrköping. We took the opportunity to get to know some more about their residency, working process and plans for the future.

Photo by Magdalena Åkerström

What are you working on?

Sanna: We work with the project Pushing Air, which contains two parts: (We Are) Made of Star Stuff, which is a dance piece and Conversation Practices, choreographed/organised conversations, carried out sometimes with an audience and sometimes with colleges. The project as a whole has its point of departure in a desire to modify repressing structures of power, that we experience on a personal level but also perceive on more general/structural level in society and in the dance field. We decided to elaborate and concretise two ”simple” activities – take and give space. Through the process we have distilled two key notions that we perceive as urgent to enable and challenge the feministic project further. From several perspectives we investigate: space and embodying.

When and how was the project initiated? How did it start and develop?

Sanna: Our collaboration started about a year ago when we performed another project together. We discovered a common interest to discuss the conditions for working with dance and choreography, its discourse and more specifically the power structures we experience on a daily basis as female practitioners. One thing led to another. We started to invent dance practices, we read a lot of contemporary feministic philosophy, we articulated the concept through periods of residencies (c.off, ccap at Svarta Huset/ Designhall, Weld, Tegelscenen), doing work in progress showings, writing all kinds of texts, inviting colleges for conversation practices etc.

Photo by Cecilia Ahlqvist

What are your methods?

Sanna: We have two passions in this project, we work through the mediators dance and conversation. Together it constitutes the levels of expression and communication we perceive as urgent and powerful. The poetic meets materiality through the corporeal and can then be analysed, shared and become the starting point of a conversation format that is not only including cognitive levels, but operates and gets experienced choreographically with spacetime as a central player/factor. In the dancing we have dwelled on what it would mean to embody, concretise and practice some of the theoretical feministic concepts we are interested in. But also the other way around we distill theory and articulation verbally or in texts from within the dance practices that we perceive as relevant and interesting. Thinking is for me an exercise in negotiating with and also exceeding the conditions of the present and not corresponding with dominant representations. This means that we work with reflexions or representations of reality, but more often with warped alien inventions, actualising an embodied utopia.

How was your working process in the c.off studio?

Sanna: Truly wonderful for several reasons. To have the opportunity to work in a space where you get the understanding and trust that the process takes time, where you are left alone and not having to explain everything too soon, where others who work there are artists which means you have a contextual environment of creativity and a dedication for the artistic perspective around you. I might be bias to some extent but I do cherish artistic freedom and trust since it´s rare and valuable support for making art.

In what way would you say that the residency enabled progress of the artistic process?

Sanna: Bodily work takes time. Especially since we are interested in change. We are not interested in reproducing the same kind of dancing over and over again. Our budget is not big enough to have a studio long enough to work and invent these specific practices. The residency gave us the possibility to really go into our craft and also to invite colleges and co workers and share the work.

Photo by Emil Bergström

How was the premiere and performances in Norrköping at Verkstad Konsthall?

Carima: It went very well! It was exciting to be in the space and to finally experience how this specific context shaped the work, both aesthetically and conceptually. The second part – Conversation Practices with the audience was amazing. I was a bit nervous about the second part. Some of the formats we proposed were new and I had no idea how people would respond to it, but in the end I was amazed how engaged people were. The formats generated interesting conversations that lasted for hours and the work expanded into new areas of reflection together with the audience/the participants. It was thrilling to see what the work produced in this setting with dance and conversations as a whole – working with space as a concept also created space for many new possibilities to occur!

How will the project proceed after this premiere?

Carima: Now we will take some time to digest, reflect and formulate the project further. We will continue to invent new conversation practices and develop the dance piece further for spring 2017 when it will be performed at Köttinspektionen in Uppsala. Conversation Practices is an ongoing process and further we will invite colleges to join us again, as we did during Sunday_Run Up at Svarta Huset/Designhall earlier this spring. We are also looking for opportunities to perform the work outside of Sweden and are at this point in close contact with dance theatres and art venues in Östergötland, Stockholm, and internationally. Soon to be announced!

Until then – watch preview trailer here!