E=mc2 Danskonst / E=mc2 Dance
E=mc² Dance


SITE-SPECIFICS Danshögskolan Stockholm January 6, 2006
 Some 20 years ago... It was some months after having performed at a solidarity campaign at the City Theatre in Göteborg I passed through one of the central parks of the city, Trädgårdsföreningen, with two of my comrades. A sculptural exhibition had opened, the first one in Göteborg held by the city council, and suddenly we stopped and looked. “They” were there.....the large sheets of paper we had used for the performance on stage. They were just lying there in front of us on the grass as sculptural elements. Wow! And then to the left on a small hill we saw another sculpture, three pieces of stone put together to form something like a Stonehenge- construction. We got so exited, climbed the hill, looked through the narrow opening between the stones, to narrow to be touched by hand only to be caressed by the eye that could get through and see several 100 meters along to meet the old beautiful greenhouse at the other side of the park. And we got the idea to do something, to create a dance, to add something, live motion to this figures and formations that were placed there, lying there. We phoned the two artists Graham Stacy and Pål Svensson and asked their permission. And of course they said yes, why shouldn’t they? And so one sunny late september sunday 5 dancers suddenly stood there like 5 copies of the statue, also with one hand lifted like carrying something. Then they changed their forms, turning and twisting until suddenly facing the hill, climbing, rolling back, climbing again. At last they reached the top, looking through the opening and then rushing down forming a line between the gate and the greenhouse with their bodies. And I think all people watching it also saw us setting nature in motion. It was a big success and gave our company a new direction. We became “Dancers of the City” in a serie of events connected to specific places in Göteborg that we wanted to give attention to and make people look upon with new eyes. My interest in sites and site specific art was born and has growned since then. Of course I have thought a lot since then of what is happening when you choose a specific place for a piece of art or..... if a certain place chooses you to express something that needs to be shown. This first piece that I told you about, Trädgårdsföreningen, I have the feeling that we were the ones chosen to give dance in Göteborg a new possibility to act - both with forms and structures not belonging to stage theatre and drama ... but to pure form, geometry, to express the dramaturgy and stories of spaces and interspaces between bodies, materials, buildings...but also to give us a new public place to act upon, a new arena for dance. And at the same time, when chosing to move into places which already has their own life so to say, their own rules, the role they already play in peoples life ... you cannot simply change that and turn it all into an ordinary stage. Instead you have to cooperate, interact with these existing “meanings” of the place. There is already a formula written or not written and you may add something or give a new view but not take away what is already there. You can give a new magic dimension to the place - and there is always magic in the dancing body - and people will keep in memory what you added as an inherent possibility. So from Trädgårdsföreningen we started to look upon our city with completely new eyes. We started to wander, walk, stroll to discover again all the familiar places where we used to pass. And we found the stairs of Götaplatsen, where I passed 4 times each day to get to school, the bridges that united the old city with the surroundings, we found the alleys, squares, streets, the green lungs of the City - the parks- the buildings....... And we made a programme for these investigations and proclaimed ourselves as nomads, turning from place to place in order to know the city and reveal its hidden secrets to the public. The starting point of this work was Götaplatsen with these enormous stairs leading up to the Art Museum. This is a place and building of a giant format once constructed as the entrance to the World Exibition in 1923. But when you look at it closely you can see that it is in fact a giant Prop like a false front but very impressive at a distance and to public. From the top of the stairs you have a fantastic view over the city. You see the big Avenue leading all the way down to the old center. And at the same time everybody may see you from a long distance if you dare to climb all these stairs in order to visit the Museum and all the fine arts. You feel it to your skin the voice of power! In the beginning of the 80ies when all this happened we had a very lively discussion in society about social class and culture. Who had the right to define what was Art or Culture and what was not. What should we do with our institutions, tear them down or turn them into something new fitting for everybody. So we decided to make these stairs a little less severe and impressive by making a choreography totally “against” the “stagesetting” that was already at hand and opposing everything normal for stairs: by for example lying down, dancing horizontally, moving in circles or rolling down the steps. To underline the visibility we chose yellow raincoats which made our activity possible to see miles away, attracting the attention of people way down tthe Avenue. Of course it was also a suitable dress in November when it is rainy and dark, but after that it also became the “logo” of “Dancers of the City”. We also happened to look the same as the workers taking care of peoples garbage, cleaning the streets and so on. Two years ago I let some students at the department of Architecture work with the same theme and try the same movements. They had great fun and I know that their “staircase-dance” was regarded as one of the highlights of the workshop and a very clean demonstration of space-specific movements that ordinary people may develop in relationship to a place and its architecture. Then we went on doing “Bridge to bridge” a nice Summer evening when school closed in the beginning of June, 4 dancers changing position very slowly placed on small floats in the canal. On the 5th there was a cellist playing his favorits. At the same time 22 other dancers forming a group sometimes stretched out to a line, sometimes created a circle or a square, danced over one bridge passed the shore over a second with fast set movements and continued. Luftvärnet “the AIR defense” made a manifestation to save the air in the innercity from pollution and cars and we danced in front of the trams. Today we should have talked in terms of “reclaiming the streets”. But at that time it was all very gay and friendly and our participation was paid by the city. We started to show up in any place and in any connection during the following years and became a real concept. Of course this lead us to several new questions as “What happens when you as an artist intervene in the public space - and it ́s obvious that it ́s something else than just placing sculptures, which of course often gives reactions in the press. Dancers are live sculptures, and this is happening Now! And choreography is a conscious use of movements abstract or socialy defined ... this makes the whole thing very special. What are we allowed to do? What is not allowed? It’s obviously easier with a site whose “rules” and “codes” are familiar to you. In one sense you could say that there is freedom if you don ́t know the rules, if you are a perfect stranger. Then you act more by chance. And you might provoke reactions that tells everyone just one thing - you are a stranger. So what provokes? Remember that the conscious provocation often is a failure ... As I said before, the most provocative thing is that you are there, dancing -- you are not supposed to do that. Often when you rehearse you are attacked by people - shaking you, demanding immediate answers or even stepping on you. We did a piece on park-benches in one of the avenues - Almost every dance company has done that. I was lying there in my yellow suit, and a man from the so called “A-laget” - a friendly drunkard - came up to me. And said: If I lie down here beside you the Police will come and get me! And I suddenly realized - it was all true. As an artist I had the freedom to do things that are generally not accepted or socially well coded. And people think you are blind and deaf as well. I remember doing a site-specific at the huge Book-fair in Göteborg. The national board of Cultural affairs had asked us to do something in front of their stand. It took some consideration, because as you know these fairs are very crowded and noisy places, everyone is busy, stressed etc ... so we placed ourselves under a 20 meter long cloth, and slowly, very slowly we moved on our backs making the sheet longer and longer until it blocked a great part of the walkingpath, and entrances to the stands ... and there was this text painted which read something like “Is silence the only expression, in a crowded space where everyone competes to make themselves heard ... And when we passed the booth of the Cultural board, awake but eyes closed - we heard someone whisper “Who the hell has ordered this”. But afterwards we got a very nice article in one of the morningpapers. In Shades of God - I Gudars skymning One early morning in the state between sleep and awake I saw an image for my inner sight. A row of women dressed in black walking along the horizon on the rocks by the sea. It was a very strong image, I had to get it down on paper and it filled me with a strong conviction. It was completely necessary to create a dance from this image. When telling the rest of the company I got no response at all. Noone thought it was a great idea. But I still felt the same. It had to be done and I just had to do it myself. It was necessary for me. So in 1989 I opened a new chapter in my artistic life. I made this largescale Site-specific - In shades of gods ... the inspiration was this images with the women towards the horizon and the structure was a piece in two parts with a turning point in the middle, formed like a Mass ... the movements decided by nature itself but connected to the different parts of the Mass like kyrie, sanctus, agnus dei... The site was that of my childhoods summers, at this place I learned how to swim, shivering in the cold water - a place of new skills, filled with good memories - the warm sunny rocks, the setting sun in the long evenings ... But it was also a place linked to my mother ́s experience (now more than 90 years of age) of the harsh religious believes that still live in this region. But the church also created a necessary fundament for daily life, in a world where nothing was taken for granted - the sea gave and it took ... So here they are the fisherwomen dressed in black, bent by nature, the conditions and the sorrows of life, but never breaking, tough just like the pines, ... and of course the older myths and rites, the figures on the rockcarvings which are common in these parts of Sweden. The names here Solberga, where the church is situated also reminds of an older site sacred to the Sun. The Sea and the setting Sun to the west, the Rockcarvings to the North, the Church in the east and the huge rocky mountain Blåkulla in the south. (A place where the witches go on Easters Eve. So I brought all these images into the work - images that can be clearly visualized on the “surface” - recognisable for most of the spectators. As a spectator you saw the dancers show up one by one walking towards the sea like a procession, then stopping making their tribute, collecting pieces of the rock turning it to an offer to the sea. In this first part I used stylized counted movements, scupltured like rockcarving towards the horizon ... The turningpoint, a small androgyne creature, dressed in red. Giving a new impetus, a new way of moving ... more freely.... in circles, spirals releasing the women from selfdestruction, boring themselves into the rock, fertilizing the rock with their bodies and giving new hope and perhaps a hint of a new way for the future in the final walk through the water and through the audience. The whole choreography also could be seen as an open chain making turn by turn starting north-east and ending south-west. I strongly believe in form and structure, and the existance of several layers in a work -- but the surface must be enough ...for the first image and then you can put all the other deeper or inner levels above that sometimes demands more knowledge. ... and I also think it is very important what relationship you as an Artist has to the site. We have performed this at other sites ... in the north of Scotland, where the rocks are harsh and rough instead of smoth an polished ... but the theme, the images, the sea, the women dressed in black were well related ... and the old Fishermen, turned their heads away and nearly fainted of anxiety when the young women walked into the Sea. This was a very strong indication of the viability of the work ... The leader of the Clan, an old woman, had seen the history of her ancestors in our work ... For me this performance deals aspects of my whole adolescence, of the heritage from my mother, from her family of fishermen with this rigorous moral where nothing was allowed. It was also a final settlement with that christianity I grow up with in spite of my parents not beeing relious themselves. I was on all levels surrounded by this harsh black fundamentalism( Schartauanism) which allowed no excesses whatsoever. I was forced to make this performance at this point of intersection of these forces. Still in these days Solberga has a vicar that is openly against female priests. When we performed in 1989 the priest arranged a special youth service at the same time as we performed so that young people should not be seduced to look at the sinful dance. That’s why the title that in Swedish has two even three different meanings is so important. “I gudars skymning” is both an imperative “Oh my god”, what happens, what is going on. But also more concrete In the shades of gods this drama is taking place, that is with all the former mentioned forces in the landscape and in ones minds. And for the third, a country or society that is loosing contact with the spiritual forces and are abandoning their former gods and now lives in the land of dusk. The final picture with the dancers facing Blåkulla looking into the future puts that question What is our future what is happening now. People from all the western part of Sweden attended the four performances in the middle of August - more than 3 000 persons. I know that noone attending this event will ever forget the experience of man and wind and sea Nature and culture, the question about how to handle the interaction with nature and a complex greater whole we are belonging to. The counterpoints Nature and civilization - countryside and the City Almost at the same time when we left Vadholmen and went back to Göteborg I knew I had to go further. In shades of God was something completely different from the Dancers of the city work. Now I had created something on a completely new scale, something that was extremely important for myself. I could in dance express the existential questions of human life that occupied my thoughts since a very long time. The needs of expression had decided the site, the size, the number of dancers and I had to make a lot of planning to make it all possible in the end. It was far more complicated than making a stageperformance. How do you get all permissions, how do you get people to find the place, how do you handle the logistic problems, Where shall people park their cars, toilets, rain and wind. And how should we get electricity for the musicians. All this was huge questions and we learnt a lot on this project. But we also got to know many new human beeings ready to help, and a few that were very hard to deal with. We learnt a lot about the “swedish way” to be. We had affected peoples lives, we had created something specially for their place so far from the mainroad and they were very proud of “their” performance. One afternoon I took a coffee in the restaurant of the big warehouse. I sat there looking through the panoramawindows with the inner town before my eyes. Göteborg is built by the dutches in the 1700century situated in the mud between some rivers and therefore with low houses. An interesting view, a landscape of roofs, small pumpstations, chimneys, verandas in a somewhat anarchistic way. And there it was again, a new picture, Suddenly I saw figures coming up through the roofs, pressing themselves out of the chimneys, sitting there watching the world around them. And I felt the same exitement as I got from In shades of Gods. This was the starting point for another performance this time dealing with the City itself. The City with wellestablished, welldefined lines and directions, of movements organised and structured by man - cityplanners, traditions ... Here in the very city I had lived almost all my childhood and youth. My father worked here just beside the Dome. Just under the roof was his little attic where I helped him to sort out old papers. Just under the roof lay my balletshool and the shool for ballroomdancing which I attended almost every evening for eight years. Here was the Dome with the choir where I sang and the organ I practiced on. These streets were my streets and have formed me as a person. The image was there but how should I manage to create a performance about the whole city and how it effects us. It took four years , an enormous amount of planning, looking for money everywhere and many many hours of reading. At last it became a whole box of inspiration, I reread books that have inspired me through my youth such as Kirkegaard and Sartre, Kjellgren and Stagnelius but also more rescent like the futurists and dadaists. Together with me in all this research was my lifecompanion Lars. Together we read Walter Benjamins Passageworks, Peter Cornells theories about the city as the big mother and Jungs Memories. The most important among them all was “Nedstigning” “Descending” by Maria Bergom Larsson who in her book describes the problems of the Western World between male and female structures, between Harmony and Development, Evolution. She gows back to the prehistoric phases 3500 b Ch. and refers to the myths of Inanna godess of fertilization and her sister Ereschkigal godess of death and extinction. The theories about the city lead to questions like Where to find the same freedom in the City as in the open landscape? What should represent the open chain from In shades of God this time? in the Dance, in the Choreography. You are seldom looking upwards when you are in the City - you are aware of the placing of your feet, looking into the shopwindows, or looking at other people (i smyg) rarely meeting their gaze .. and definitly not looking to the roofs -- the chance of colliding is too great. But Upon the rooftops I found this freedom, the open air, the horizon .... It ́s a world of it ́s own ... anarchistic, greatly without planning ...untouched by any architect. On the roof you meet the same sky as if you were on the top of a mountain. So proceeded this vision born that sunny afternoon at a rooftop café. And as all visionary ideas, there where no limitations ... no economic, no practical, no physical ... So this four year long process started - developing the artistic, choreographic idea - side by side with all these planning, negotiating with landlords, chimneysweepers, ... everyone involved in these buildings - well over 300 meetings are protocolled - from looking at suitable roofs ... to asking permission from the local policestation The name of the performance “Roof of the World - Pamir in our hearts”, refers just to this vision about freedom and equality between all people. The high flat land Pamir is often called Roof of the world. Even this time I created a Mass for the city to deal with the negative roles it could play in peoples lives and make it change to something positive and deliberating. The turning point this time was the offer of the most precious jewel “Inanna” who had to face seven doors down to the infernal regions where she got robbed of all her insignia and instead got eyes of Death all over her body. This offer made it possible for a new world to appear. You have to risk your life to win it again said already the alchemistic philosophers in old China. The outer form of the choreography became a circle and a spiral. The circle because the city is a closed area, formerly by high and thick walls, today not that visable but with as strong bureaucratic and economical borders. I used 13 roofs in the innertown, and through the whole performance there were 5 dancers moving from roof to roof to register and survey, they ended by the audience which then recognized them as parkingguards in their uniforms. It was a little fun when so many started to dig in their pockets for money trying to remember if they had paid enough. In another circle i had 5 birdlike figures watching the city, black like ravens during the first part. Ravens were the wise birds on the shoulders of Oden. Red phantasy like and more playful in the second part after the big transition. In the inner circle danced the other 20 dancers telling the story of Inanna in my modified form changing costumes from black to colours after the offer. There was this Agnus Dei part in the Mass, a dinner part, and we made it to a quite burlesque happening more like a dionysean party with bread, fruit and wine. In the very final all the participants at the same time raised 13 ladders to the sky and then we let pink smoke cover the whole city as a vision for freedom and liberation. Our hopes ascended up to heaven More than 80 persons were involved in this huge spectacle . There were 20 musicians to play original music by the german composer Volker Staub, soloists and a choir placed upon one of the roofs. I even got the two big construction cranes to take part and I made a special choreography for them where they slowly swept over the audience sometimes together and sometimes in different direction. The crane-maschinist had never acted in a dance performance before and was really amused. Some nights we also got volunteers in the play through the imposant balloons that used the upwinds to ascend just before us. The audience of course were convinced that we had arranged even that. This is still the most overwhelming danceperformance I have created. In shades of god I had the pleasure to set up again 1995 and 1999 in similar places as Vadholmen. In 1999 we also made it at Vadholmen again at the same place and the audience came back. But Roof of the world I don’t think I will ever be able to set up again. Too many things have changed - I mean physically. The place for the audience is gone - student appartments have taken its place. Many of the buildings we used has new owners and have changed their constructions, we cannot use the same roofs and so on. And this is part of the natural development of the City. But a site is also part of its time not just only its physical appearance. Site is something more than just a place. It is constituted by its context that has references to society, cultural environment, personal interests, the spectators’ expectations, political standpoints, architecture, and even the season and natural light ... For my latest work “Omtagning - med nya förtecken” “Repeat -Again!” I had no physical site at all to start with - I just knew my vision. The Choreography demanded a very special place - no stage. It had to be a huge space, but indefinable in several senses. It should give a scent of time but still be timeless - past, present and future at the same time. An abandoned place waiting for something. We were looking for old empty factories, you know the kind of sites where activities had been going on, but ceased and disappeared. There should be artifacts, remnants of some earlier human activities. And it should be situated “somewhere else”, one of those not easily accessible places ... forgotten or secret places very few people visit at the outskirts of the city. I was looking for a site and non-site at the same time. And during all that I rehearsed with the dancers convinced that the place for the performance must be out there somewhere. And it was. After 2 years of fruitless searching It was there, abandoned, in our own city. Nobody knew about it, it was topsecret. I wrote about it in the programme The place - ”Site” Dan Wolgers’ exibition “Här slutar allmän väg” ”End of common road” made a strong impression on me many years ago. It contained a supreme standpoint - how simple is it not to follow the mainstream, to connect to trends... it is not until you get off the beaten track however that the real challenges start. There you also find the reward for the artist as well as for the audience. For Repeat again I searched a place beyond. - something abandoned, where activity has ceased. It could be an old factory with huge empty etages. An abandoned place rests in something, has a history - but has also a freedom to start something new. A nuclearsafe,secret, underground aerohangar at Säve. When I saw the doors of the big underground hangar at Säve open and made the descent the first time I knew that I had found the right ”site” for my dancepiece which I had carried during such a long time. The rockhangar ”Aeroseum” carries already its own vision, but just now, these evenings it is dance and the choeographer who have chosen the place and who defines the conditions for the experiences. Wandering - Descending As an artist you return to certain questions, certan temata again and again, you turn and twist your earlier pieces, structures, your movement vocabulary... Wandering is one example of this. ”In shades of God”- The dancers are wandering in front of the audience, initiating the performance. The audience is allowed to follow this wandering, let time into their own bodies. ”Roof of the world”- The dance statists are wandering the whole performance through from one roof to the other, starting in the peripheria and taking themselves in a spiral all the way towards the seats of the audience, writing the lenght of the performance right into the bodies of the spectators. ”Repeat again” - The audience starts the performance by wandering down into the underground, placing physically every step into their bodies, signyfying the work through their own movements. ”There must be space and time for preparations before a meeting - approaching is part of the architecture” says Tandao Ando, a wellknown Japanese architect. The rock - The mass ” With their bodies they fertilizes the rock” one dance critique wrote about ”In shades of God” 1989. This time the dancers are inside the rock.The pitcups (skålgropar) which represented an important inspiration at that time finds its inverse form in the roundings of the parabolas. The rock is magnificient, monumental.. defines time beyond humanity . Its mass offer resistence. We asked if the heating could be higher in the space. - It is already done, but it takes at least six months before we notice, was the answer. This about the site. What about the theme? There is something magical about the repetition, the strenghtening of the windlings of memory ... gradually the shifting, the small unbalance, rather than the confirmative repetition, becomes the important preconditions for development, creativity, creation ... We test the validity of our thesis, turn and twist, try to look at the same question from every possible angle. Once more ! ” You can never descend twice into the same river”, Herakleitos said and made the formula for the philosofy of repetition. These thoughts find their modern parallels in the new french novel, in the minimalism for example in the music of Steve Reich, in the discussion about postmodernism. One movement, one again, it is the same movement, I recognize it. But something is changed. My memory of the first one influences my experience of the second one. I look at the movement a third, a fourth and a fifth time perhaps fifty times. The images of them are stored one on the other until the movement seizes to act like sign and just becomes itself, movement without subsidiary motive. . Through repetition I am striving to reach the very essence - the abstraction of the important. As in the music of Steve Reich where minimal shifts are collected, until you suddenly experience a distinct change, we repeat, again and again, the same movements, the same forms with minimal differences of energy or direction... no repetition like the one before... In that way the flow in dance is created - time is working. “Repeat again” deals more or less with our attitude towards the surrounding world. How do we handle new outer or inner conditions? How should our lives turn out if gravity should disappear or slightly differ? Our bodies, our reliance on our senses and our way of relating to the world are built on these conditions - we take them for granted. For that reason I have let the dancers affront radically new conditions. What is consistuating mankind? Today when we expand our body and our senses with new communicative tools... what is counting? Man has a rare skil to see new possibilities - with curiosity and playfulness he solves different tasks... but he does it at the same time in the light of earlier experiences... repetition with new signatures. Finally I will give a few examples that broadens the definition of SITE: Site-specific is often in public or cultural discussion used as a synonym for Outdoor performances, or an already existing space. As I said earlier in my world a site is not only defined by it ́s physical appearance - for me a site is not even necessarily a physical place - it might as well be a mental space or a mental state. In one of these performances the question was: Is i possible to eradicate space? To make a dance performance in complete darkness and still call it dance. We tried that in Images of Dream and Death with music by Ákos Rózmann. An hour long piece, and It took time for the audience to adapt to the barely visible light, but then they began to see, or should we say experience things ... In TM11 we tried to destroy the space by letting the audience bathe in bright, very bright light, it ́s called a Ganzfelt, just like in the mist or in a snowy landscape, so everything on stage disappeared except the dancers when lit up, they could move and float into space - light thick enough to walk on ... a perfect illusion or reality? Tabula rasa was a gigantic deconstruction and reconstruction of the same space, 3500 sheets of paper constituting a new space, a new site ... that I as dancer inhabited. In all these works, that were performed at Atalante - a small dancetheatre, we tried to extinct or at least neutralize the performing space so wellknown to us. It ended somehow when we ourselves now and then lost our landmarks, not even recognising our own theatre space. Light and darkness changed it all and our conception of reality became uncertain. Site interacted with non-site, and the specific showed to be non-specific ...


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