Visit on 22 October 2017 (One-time guest performance)
THE VASE (Gala Moody, Michael Carter) at Move!, Krefeld, Fabrik Heeder
[translated from German]
In principle, a great story, these Krefeld Days for Modern Dance, which have very originally given themselves the title MOVE! If we assume that more than half of Krefeld’s population uses English as their mother tongue, of course everyone immediately knows what it’s all about. The municipal theatre in Krefeld is supplemented in a meaningful way with its exclusive ballet offer and, in addition, funding can be raised for the Heeder factory. This is already working for the 16th time. More or less.
For all the joy of cultural diversity, it has to be said that most of the names on the programme of the festival, which runs from 14 October to 25 November, are already familiar from the Tanzhaus NRW in Düsseldorf. Whether someone from Krefeld travels to Fabrik Heeder or Tanzhaus NRW should make little difference in terms of time. Quite different synergy models would be conceivable here.
Instead, there is a conceivably uncharitable design, for example, an evening slip for which a back-office manager is presumably responsible, who is not able to translate an English text into German, but instead inserts it into a German template. And more information is then not provided. Audience interest is accordingly modest. But who cares about the audience when the funding is secured? Yet the programme is certainly top-class. Like, for example, on a Sunday evening when the Compagnie Ofen performs its current piece The Vase. In German, it is quite profanely called Die Vase, a title that is completely misleading. It is based on an artistic event from 2005, when Kris Martin destroyed a blue and white Chinese porcelain vase over two metres high, reconstructed it and then exhibited it. He repeated the process over and over again. This inspired Gala Moody and Michael Carter not only to deal with the metaphor of the object, but also to apply it to a completely different situation. They drew on the play Purgatorio by Ariel Dorfman, which in turn deals with the story of Medea by Euripides.
The atmosphere on the studio stage in the Heeder factory is as cool as can be. A clay-smeared black sheet on the floor, a few chairs, a table with technology, that’s all that’s needed on stage to portray the worst imaginable situation of all. Jason has deeply hurt Medea by trampling her love into the dirt, Medea has taken revenge by killing his beloved. So far, so bad. You part, hate each other, maybe one will still kill the other at some point and life goes on. But what if there is now a renewed rapprochement, so the vase has to be putty again? It is almost unthinkable what the Compagnie Ofen wants to dance there. It can hardly be done with theatrical illusion, says Carter, who is a member of the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch. In order not to get completely lost in emotionality, there have to be anchor points. So the two operate the stage equipment from the stage. This creates distance and breaks, also lengths.
At the beginning there is an incomprehensible spoken text by Moody that ends with the words “Have you said any words of love today? There are no words of love today”. It is not about the meaning of the text, but about its effect. The coldness enters the action. In the following hour, the man and the woman, as they are called in Dorfman, will fight for their salvation. Constant attempts at rapprochement fail again and again, the horror of what has happened is too great. The mental exposure is expressed in the undressing, which then does not reach the final consequence. Subtle movement language that seems to avoid dance, only to break out again. Pounding beats, created by Sascha Budimski, underpin the insoluble conflict. Even hysterical laughter, which is discharged every now and then in between, does not provide relaxation.
There is no redemption through forgiveness. But there is no other solution either. The conflict remains when Medea or she disappears. In the end, no sympathy remains for the dancers. They have conveyed all too impressively what their concern was. Many audience members leave the performance frustrated after having applauded in a friendly manner. It is a pity, because they have just experienced a very strong piece of dance without being able to recognise it.
The cultural office of the city of Krefeld really doesn’t cover itself with glory as organiser. Of all the festivals visited this year, MOVE! is the most uninspired and loveless. And no English name and no exclamation mark will help.
By Nicole Strecker
(translated by Veronica Posth)
October 25, 2017
A woman who is not to be held back, not to be saved. Medea, the most brutal, most uncontainable hero of all the Greek myths, mother and monster, lamentable victim and incomprehensibly vindictive perpetrator. In 2014, dancer Gala Moody played Medea in Wim Vandekeybus‘ production “Booty Looting“, and it is understandable why this character who is a primitive force of nature even in the present-day, who radically destructed the concept of the love story, doesn’t let go.
A year later, Moody and Michael Carter started development on “The Vase“ which is a piece about a couple in the mode of eternal power-struggle, like at one time Medea and her husband Jason. But who manipulates whom? Moody and Carter succeed magnificently in making the emotional power struggle between man and woman cliche free, with steep calculated changes, to stage. It remains a game – and yet it is painful harassment.
The performer Gala Moody – already the name is a promise! – appears in a long beige dress as a pale hero. Her fair hair uncombed and her arms, legs, also fingers, feet, all fairylike, long and thin. She seems to come from another era, but then she mundanely goes to a mixing console, which stands in the middle of the stage; she dims the lights and tips a sound file on the computer. Preparations for her scene, a self-made setting and a statement: – what is happening here is just a theatrical illusion, an experimental arrangement to understand the nightmare “love“ – Here, Euripides’ tragedy Medea is quoted and its adaptation by an unknown Chilean author, Ariel Dorfman who, in his biography written in Chile during the the dictatorship by Augusto Pinochets, was clearly possessed and obsessed by the themes of revenge and forgiveness. In The Vase we find ourselves in Sartre’s hell, which is what others are for us. We are in Heiner Müller’s famous piece about a lovers quarrel „Die Quartet“, in which man and woman are playfully destructing themselves, in the process changing the gender roles. Thats what occurs with Gala Moody and Michael Carter.
After Moody, alone, continuously recites the first words of the Euripides drama, Carter appears. They measure each other up. Their bodies are tense as if the bare look of each other provokes a painful spasm, as if Jason has already betrayed Medea with another, or as if she had already murdered their children. Then Moody suddenly jumps back with a laugh to a much earlier point in their relationship.
Carter then claims “I am her”. He is Medea; the immigrant, the powerful. And while he babbles to his beloved one, she jumps around and grabs him, keeps his mouth closed, jostles him, bounces on one leg as he accidentally steps on her foot. The rough tenderness of two bodies without suspicion nor shame. But are not the shoves now a bit crude and the arms around the neck a bit too tight? These are kisses that become Penthesilea-like deadly bites, the interaction between Moody and Carter becomes imperceptibly harder, from stroking to clawing, from gentle tangle of the hands into forceful constraining.
This evening the two have worked sensationally on the ambivalence of each gesture. Two star dancers. She worked with the wild fellows of the dance scene: Romeo Castellucci, Ivo Dimchev and Wim Vandekeybus. He has been with the Tanztheater Wuppertal since 2014. Having the charisma of a sensitive melancholic, he us intrinsically a wonderful counterpart to the rigorous action women Moody, this makes their still young company “Cie. OFEN“ absolutely attractive.
This time, however, Medea-Moody removes her gentle Jason to the corner, as if his sarcastic, cruel attacks are more like cautious attempts to subdue, the ’suspension of hostility‘ in the erotic power play is somewhat unbelievable.
Nevertheless, it is captivating how the two have so enchantingly and intensively rummaged into the physical sensibilities of their characters and how cleverly they reflected on the stereotypes of the subjects doing it without any chintzy effect, it wins you over. Love as a war in which there can be no winner. Gala Moody and Michael Carter tell of this age-old disillusionment of all romantics with the passionate resignation of two psychologists, even with the most shrewd analysis, one will not be exempt from the pull of emotions. – By Nicole Strecker
Original article by Nicole Strecker
AN INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTISTIC DIRECTORS OF Cie.OFEN GALA MOODY (AUS/BE) AND MICHAEL CARTER(AUS/DE) BY MARC WAGENBACH -28 July 2017
M: Welcome both of you at Ekeby. Maybe you can introduce yourself by telling us a bit about your work.
Mi: I am Michael Carter and a dancer from Sydney. I am co-director of Cie.OFEN and dancer of Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch.
G: And I am Gala Moody also dancer and co-director of Cie.OFEN, which we’ve had for five years now.
M: And you know each other from Australia?
Mi: Yes, we know each other from 2005. We worked at a company together called Leigh Warren & Dancers in Adelaide. Since then, we both created different works for stage or film and we were both in each others creative lives. We did two and a half pieces together: One Final Evolutionary Note and Evolution/Repetition, and The Vase.
G: So, two full works really.
M: And this is basically the beginning of the research for the third one.
REBELLING FROM COMFORTS
M: How would you describe your artistic process?
G: We are very much rebelling from our own comforts. We don’t believe in having a set vocabulary in our work, that doesn’t sit well with us at all. So in that way we are mainly a research company and we create movement purely from an idea and a conceptual stand point rather then fitting the movement into a concept that is new. For example for: “One Final Evolutionary Note“, we worked with the idea of evolution from Charles Darwin. We researched movement over 4 months: from the positioning in space to the movement decision itself and the timing. It was all directly influenced from the research material.
M: Which kind of research material was it?
G: We had the book: “On the Origin of Species“ by Charles Darwin and…
Mi: … we watched lots of videos on how animals and organisms interact, fight and survive.
G: What are symbiotic relationship with animals?
Mi: ….and how planets move, and evolution in thought “I think therefor I am’.
G: In our second piece, I was going though a very hard break-up, when we started; and I was also studying Medea for a theater play. We were looking for a text to start with and we found a modern version of Medea which we both found interesting. We wanted to work more theatrically with body language. We used a lot of text in the piece also.
Mi: .. and we wrote a lot of stuff and quoted from emails.
M: So text was a very strong reference in this process?
G: Yes. We were very curious about text and the voice, and very scared also. In the piece we quote the theater play that we were looking at; “Purgatorio” by Ariel Dorfman, and Euripides “Medea”, and our own biographical texts. It had these three layers of the narrative which had all the same themes but different time periods.
Mi: We wanted the movement to be true to the idea that “Everything is valid“. We were interested in the randomness of life and we wanted to make movement that was true to that, also feeling it would work well for these volatile characters of Jason and Medea.
G: We also liked the idea that we could play with theatricality. So one minute we were Michael and Gala on stage and then next we were Medea and Jason. Therefore, we could leave the characters and retake them again throughout the piece.
Mi: Physically we had to learn how we were as well. Because as a performer you usually go into performance mode and your body changes for the role, but we had to be ourselves.
G: We found when it came to performing the clue was in each other. As long as we keyed into each other.
Mi: In that moment. In that day. How were we reacting to that movement and the text. Otherwise, it became something that was learnt and rehearsed and distant somehow and actually we weren’t in the moment.
G: It had very much the feeling for us of Performance Art. You are there and paying attention.
NEW PEOPLE. A CROSS-DISCIPLINARY LOW-FI SCI-FI
M: Now to your new production: “New People“. Could you tell us something about the idea?
G: After re-premiering The Vase last month, we had a really great response, and we weren’t expecting that. Somehow it gave us a whole new lease of life for the company..
Mi: …to trust in the work.
G: What we were trying to say got across and that was huge for us.
Mi: That was especially great because we didn’t make it easy for an audience. We wanted to challenge the audience also. For example we wanted to see how long we can wait before we did an action.
G: There was no music hardly. We weren’t following anything we have seen on stage before. It was really a conglomerate of randomness. It was clear that we had to make another piece!
Mi: Somebody said on the last piece that they felt they were seeing something they haven’t seen, that was something, we worked hard to get that. We are not on the worst track we could be. So let’s make a new piece.
M: And why aliens?
Mi: When we are on stage, we are often seen as a man and a woman, people project ideas like lovers, married..
G: Married lovers. Lovers married.
Mi: We also talked a lot about gender: How people perceive you in public if you are dressed more feminine more masculine. It is a kind of a common topic what we like to talk about. So, we thought, we take all this away.
G: Those things don’t aline with our own ideas of gender. In life we are much more gender fluid.
Mi: And so we just thought, we take gender away from the audience straight away and make these two characters aliens that do not have race or gender or skin color. Actually, we will have a skin color but we not quite sure what color. So, the conversation is not about that. To have a look at the “real thing“ we are doing: not a man or a woman.
M: And what is the real thing?
Mi: Identity. Integration. Power-play. Power struggles. Finding your place in life and then learning to adapt.
G: Having a voice.
Mi: Yes, having a voice. Existing. Having some control over your life in terms of your surroundings and the people around you.
G: And therefore, what is it to be human? Can an alien try to be human?
M: Is there also a wish to fit in?
Mi: Anyone that comes from a foreign place to a new place find that the people around them want them to fit in. Everyone loves the “happy foreigner“ who makes an effort and not the angry foreigner who doesn’t want tochange and adapt. We thought, these aliens would be happy and would really make an effort, who really want to be part of this society. But I think in terms of us: do we want to fit in?
G: Well, I think it is quite prominent in our lives, fitting in, putting down roots.
Mi: To be part of a group. To move to a new place. To able to fit in. To get a house. Or to learn a language. The bureaucratic side of it. It is always so complicated. You can do it with humour, or you can do it with bitterness. We would like to see if you could make a funny piece.
G: I think in life there is a need to touch subjects that are difficult with lightness, in our friendship we like to joke and in our work we use humour to get through things that are hard.
Mi: I think, Australian humour is quite sarcastic, it had a dark side.
G: It is also a new medium for us. You don’t get to explore this too much in dance.
END OF INTERVIEW
How do we want to live today?
ear maintains a network of independent artists and scientists: the Ekeby Associated Artists and Scholars Program. Research undertaken at Ekeby is focused on developing and documenting methods and strategies for the description of work processes in the arts and research. Our research is driven by the experiences of artists, scientists and friends of Ekeby – their beliefs, world views and inspirations. They are Ekeby.
We are Ekeby!
Executive Director Dr Marc Wagenbach
+ 31 613 40 77 68
Cie.OFEN just spent a fruitful week in residency at Ekeby International Research Center for Contemporary Arts in The Netherlands where we plotted out our new creation for 2017/18.
New People (working title) will be a cross-disciplinary sci-fi comedy featuring homeless aliens who come to Earth hoping for a better life. Premiering end of 2018 as a live performance, New People will also involve a year-long dramatic lead up including live and online media events including TV interventions with the main characters.
The development of New People continues the following month in residence at ROSAS in Brussels, Belgium.
Cie.OFEN would like to thank Marc and Jan at Ekeby for a wonderfully refreshing and inspiring time in their beautiful early twentieth century summer house and studio. You will find interviews into Cie.OFENs creative process on the Ear Productions website in the coming weeks.
Gala is in Adelaide commencing some research, please read below.
The concept for this piece was the result of research I did when I was artist in residency at WAM Festival in Faenza. My initial proposal to the festival director (Paola Ponti) was that I wanted to interview residents in Faenza about their everyday gestures. For example asking them how they express themselves through body language, what actions they repeat everyday, gestures that are specific to their region or ones that they identify with personally. I wanted to curate a body of gestures that I would construct a work out of. The director agreed to this approach and at the start of the residency, equipped with a translator and camera man, I started to collect material door to door. It soon became apparent to me that people were not in their homes during the day and in the evenings they were too busy with commitments to be interviewed, and as I had limited time I changed my approach. I took to the streets and noticing people were self concious when approached in this environment I decided to film scenes of people on the street in a documentary style without their knowledge. This was a very natural way to gather material, people were acting authentically and going about their business in their usual ways.
One thing that became important was that this would be a study; and therefor the material would be collected in an academic manner. I constructed a grid over a map of the city and my video footage spanned equally the whole city. I was not interested in movement that stood out from the everyday crowd but rather the details of the most normal ways people respond to their surroundings and each other. In this way it has its heart in social anthropology.
Afterward gathering the video footage, I learnt the material trying to stay as exact as possible to the original, and then constructed it as a long line of segmented movement sections. Some sections were several seconds and some were longer, they all began where the other left off but the tempo and quality changed from one to the next.
Because of the short time period of my residency, I wasn’t able to delve deep dramaturgically into this piece, I could only brush the surface, but I had very interesting feedback from the local audience. I had the sense that this performance was equally about what is not done then what is, by the way we don’t act as the way we do.
Gala is in residency at LWDance Hub in Adelaide, Australia and then in Rosas in Brussels, Belgium.