Young people from Wuppertal tell us what’s important for them in the world now, how they see the future and what they will need to get there.
A Cie.OFEN project during the (now)digital Under Construction festival November 2020 in collaboration with young people from Wuppertal, the City of Wuppertal, Pina Bausch Center, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch and the Pina Bausch Foundation.
It seethes behind the facade of the human being, it screams, rages, cries and laughs. It forces its way out, even though this is precisely what the directorial team is trying to prevent. By commanding the four figures (Bénédicte Billiet, Tsai-Wei Tien, Brenna O’Mara and Julie Shanahan) in their shapeless costumes. They chastise them and then ask if they are comfortable. Which is visibly not the case, oppressive and amusing at the same time. Cie.OFEN (Gala Moody and Michael Carter) see their choreographing as social practice. “New People 3.0” was born out of the utopian desire to work together in dance in a sustainable and holistic way; the experiment failed. The audience likes it.
They’ve built a golden tent. We can all meet there and have a common experience. It is a place that protects us from the world out there, it´s warm and cosy. It even gives you the illusion of being inside an ufo on another planet. Based on a fictional image of aliens looking for a better life, they created utopian visions of collaborating and working together.
Their work deals with social systems and seeing their choreographic practice as a social one. This is also reflected in their way of using the camera as they do it in a very respectful way, protecting the well being of the collaborators and showing an honest perspective on the topics in space: frustration, (dis)empowerment, disappointment – feelings and topics that all of them came across during their dance career. All of this was listened to and used as material for the creative process.
Moody’s and Carter’s work is all about the creative process itself, not so much about the product in the end. That is also how they understand their role as film makers and directors. I would even say that they are more observing, joining, accompanying than directing. Their interest is grounded in the transparency of an artistic process, having an honest gaze on the people who are part of it, with all their thoughts and struggles, wishes and ideas.
Film as a medium can be very intimate and is used as a tool to dive into moments and worlds you wouldn’t be able to enter otherwise. In a sensitive way they are following movement and atmospheres in space, having a rather intuitive approach on filming than a technically professional one. The focus should be on their work and not so much on a high quality video.
What I find special in their video installation is, that often the dancers work under the choreographer, finding themselves in a position of fitting in frames and supporting the choreographers idea. But in this work the dancers, the humans and their processes are elevated and given space to choose where to go and what to initiate. Both the good and the bad experiences, the highlights and difficulties are seen as relevant. At the same time it is not about reproducing their archives, reliving the experiences they made. It is about being aware of them and then daring to alienate from them, finding new ways of reacting to impulses, following new paths while encountering the unknown.
It is brave, I feel. One of my personal highlights of the festival and so important to be shown. The dance is not visible but the taste of it is all around. Free and true, a multi-layered expression, heavy and light. It’s a poetic and political statement that provides an insight into a creative process based on respect and non-hierarchical collaboration.
It rushes. I’m sitting on the train back to Berlin and it’s still rushing.
It rushes. I’m on the train back to Berlin and it’s still roaring. The abundance of films I have seen in the last four days has made me tired. And yet here I sit, with a head full of thoughts, questions, opinions and trying to put them into words. I have an urge to move.
“There’s no fire,” says Klaus Dilger, and I can feel what he means. The opening as well as the award ceremony resemble a soap bubble, colourful on the outside and hollow on the inside. What happens on the screen during the festival often remains distant and unapproachable, the formats impersonal and on the surface. Take, for example, the panels that were tailored to the IMZ, ARTE or other larger or smaller institutions, but only in very few cases initiated a fruitful discussion of artistic questions and positions.
Who are the people behind the perfectly made films? Where are the ideas and concepts, the passion, the drive for expression?
A presentation of the films, an introduction of the artists and specific audience formats such as talks, feedback rounds or more open exchange opportunities would have helped to understand and perceive differently. I would have liked more accompaniment in the dance noise labyrinth.
What is a good dance film? A question that has remained open until now. Are there general criteria that create a broader level of discourse than the purely subjective feeling of whether something carries me away, moves me, touches me? Who chooses jury members, which jury chooses which films and why? A network of those who want, those who have, those who decide. Promoters, sponsors, producers, producers, promoters, sponsors, institutions, producers. I don’t know what’s going on, and that doesn’t bother anyone.
In retrospect, the festival motto “WE LIVE FUTURE NOW” leaves a pale aftertaste.
Art in which the polished appearance is more important than the content, a predominantly white, European society sitting passively in cinema seats and staring side by side in a given direction? A festival director who opens with his own film, digging into the past and dragging memories through forests in plastic bags? Is this what awaits us in the future? I’m not looking forward to it. And anyway – who is this WE?
What I am looking forward to, however, is the golden tent of Gala Moody & Michael Carter at the Schauspielhaus. A place to retreat to for a moment. Immerse yourself in a world where cooperation works differently. Non-hierarchical, respectful, close. Perhaps illusory, one might think – but it is better to develop utopian visions than to deprive dreams of the air they need to breathe.
This has shown me how important the space, the place is where we experience dance film. A cinema brings with it certain conventions and expectations. Being entertained on a Friday night, maybe the second date. Cinema is a service. I don’t have to do anything for it. Just watch. In the end I can stick my thumb in one direction or the other and afterwards we go to Burger King and talk about cars.
It works differently at the Schauspielhaus. There I can look, move at my own pace through the unfamiliar landscape of screens, sounds and visitors, embedded in an architecturally fascinating space that smells like art. And outside, the trees dance when I lend them my gaze.
Isn’t it wonderful to land in unfamiliar places after the thick fog has lifted, after being TRANSLATED from familiar to unfamiliar terrain? Dance film can do that.
I want to be challenged when I look at art. I want to be stimulated and navigate through new worlds, to be enchanted. And yes, also to be disappointed, bored, confronted with my limits and systems. We have forgotten how to endure. To expose ourselves, to surrender to friction. We have forgotten to surrender to places that hold up a mirror to us, that shake our foundations and yet are the ones that make us grow. I want to be allowed to think, to feel my body and to feel like I am someone else when the film is over. I want to feel that I can now feel more, understand more, see differently – people, spaces, things. Maybe I’m asking too much. But if art can’t take it, who can?
Dancescreen2019 + TANZRAUSCHEN Wuppertal, a festival that means well, smacks of mainstream. Does it want to? Or was the setting of the feast just not the right one?
Perhaps a campfire around which we all gather and share lightly charred stick bread would be sexier than the expensive high-tech kitchen where we sit motionless at a long table and are served overly pretty morsels that don’t fill us up.
I wonder where the festival is going. What impulses it gives the city of Wuppertal and what the vision for it is. To establish it as a fixed component of Wuppertal’s cultural landscape? To build it out of the ground as a castle of sand and then tear it down again when all the guests have left?
Will the IMZ help clean up or is there not enough money in the budget? Come on, let’s make a social project out of it, I’m sure it’ll work. But no popcorn this time.
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.