’Sæt i gang’
Boaz Barkan describes himself as a creator and facilitator in the field of dance, performance and somatic education (BWL, Feldenkrais, Iyengar Yoga.)
He works with movement and embodiment as transformative mediums for performers and audience, practitioners and participants.
Read more about his work at boazbarkan.com.
The neo-liberal trends today would like performance to practice and develop new modes of ‘domination-speech’. We have to be suspicious about our dominating desires towards ourselves, each other and the performance situation. Yes, all this might leave us too careful! But that would be just an excuse and a form of hopelessness. We must dare to ask: Was I dominating?
‘Sæt i gang’ – on non-dominant practices of performance
Seimi Nørregaard and I created a performance-installation last November at Warehouse9, titled “Hjem”. We developed some of the ideas for the piece during a two-week research residency in September 2015, at Forsøgsstationen.
I would like to elaborate on a practice we have been working with, something we call ‘sæt i gang’, and it was used throughout Hjem. In this text, I will not discuss the content and readings of Hjem, but focus on one practice.
One of the form-related propositions in Hjem was to involve the participants (audience) in the arrangement and re-arrangement of the performative installation. We were attempting to create a cycle in which the actions of the participants influenced the installation, thereby creating new meaning, and in turn opening opportunities for further transformation, action, and meaning.
Our role as performers was to keep the participants/situation progressing into new states of potential transformation and meaning-making. We were experimenting with the interrelation between the participant’s embodiment (actions and physical relationships) and the material, physical properties, of the installation. By influencing the embodiment of the participants (building shelter, carrying piles of cloths, resting, crawling after hidden food) they were driven to perform upon the installation, and vise a verse; By influencing the installation (introducing new materials, darkness, sound), we could establish new embodied relationships.
The purpose of this practice was to allow the participants to sense their own meaning-making experiences. Giving them the opportunity to modify the level of participation and level of action (carrying more or less cloths, building more or less, watching or participating, etc.)
I think that ‘sæt i gang’ as a practice worked with varying success in the performance installation Hjem. Reflecting further on this practice during the performance, I feel that what I was gravitating towards, was not the immense creative potential of the participants, or a sense of them deciding their own fate, so to speak. What I was enjoying, was a relaxed sense of playing with the process of meaningful-experience-making through manipulation of action and material. I only felt responsibility towards the materials and the options of embodiment. I tried to avoid getting swept into the meaning-consequences of these situations (yet I could not help it at times, and failed.)
The participants’ responses to the ‘sæt i gang’ practice in Hjem were very different. Some felt childish, and yet others felt a non-dominating interaction about somber issues. Presently, I would like to continue to cultivate a relaxed distance from meaning-consequences, while at the same time be rigorous in my exploration of the relationship between material and embodiment. I would like to learn more about non-dominating practices of performance. By non-dominating I mean, that I myself, as a performer, am seeking to loosen my alignment with a role of power in the performance situation.
I have found it to be true, that less dominating performance occurs when the audience and performer feel they are on the same side, and together are responsible for a certain creative manifestation, regardless of who is on ‘stage’.
And this not about symbolically abandoning power, and forcing the audience to take charge. No. What I mean is a subtle attempt at identifying the dominating tendencies during the act of performing. Dominating the body, dominating the meaning, the sign, the presence.
How do I move in a non-dominating way? How do I communicate in a less dominating way, in my speech and tone, etc? How do I deal with the pull to dominate?
This is certainly political. Performance always includes politics but can never be reduced to politics alone. The neo-liberal trends today would like performance to practice and develop new modes of ‘domination-speech’. Performative ways of controlling and ‘playing’ with the public, encouraging us to internalize domination patterns towards each other. A participation through mutual domination.
We have to be suspicious about our dominating desires towards ourselves, each other and the performance situation. Yes, all this might leave us too careful! But that would be just an excuse and a form of hopelessness.
We must dare to ask:
Was I dominating?