De Portugese choreograaf Clara Amaral schreef een verslag over The Permeable Stage, een ‘performative conference’ in de Brusselse Kaaistudio’s georganiseerd door de Deens-Belgische choreograaf Mette Ingvartsen.

The performative conference  is the third and conclusive part of the cycle The Red Pieces by Danish choreographer Mette Ingvartsen. The other works in this cycle are 69 Positions and 7 pleasures. In all of these works, Ingvartsen researches sexuality and the way in which bodies influence the structure of society through movements and acts. The Permeable Stage focused on the politics of sexuality in relation to both public and private realms and brought together an impressive selection of guests invited by Ingvartsen; Anne Juren, Daniela Bershan aka Baba Electronica, Claire Bishop, Mette Edvardsen, Caroline Godart, Eszter Salamon and Gérald Kurdian aka Trk_x. I was curious and excited not only because almost all of the guests were women – which is rare – but also because it was a performative conference, which is also rare. I jumped in the car with my homies from Amsterdam, road trip style, to take part in this 10 hour long performative conference at Kaaistudio’s in Brussels on Saturday the 8th October.

The day started at 09.30 with Mette Edvardsen’s The Unwritten Scene. In this proposition Edvardsen analyzes the relationship between language and physical experience; specifically how language expands itself into the real space. It made me think of her piece Black – which insists on the repetitive naming of things in an empty space. In the Unwritten Scene, Edvardsen sits in the theatre tribune among the audience and reads from a script proposing through the use of language different universes and how they can unfold in the empty space. This proposition made the stage permeable to what our imagination can contribute to it.

Edvardsen’s generous contribution was followed by Claire Bishop who gave an entertaining lecture on the history of participatory art and how the “stage” has became more permeable throughout art history, thereby loosening the distinction between performers and viewers. Bishop questions the implications of that gesture. Although I’d heard this lecture before, in the program of the Studium Generale, ARE YOU ALIVE OR NOT? in De Brakke Grond, Amsterdam two years ago, this time Bishop reframed her ideas towards permeability. She reminded me once more about the difference between the amateur and the deskilled body. According to her, deskilling comes from a desire to look amateur. This doesn’t necessarily mean that one is amateur, it rather means that one has tried to reject, erase or overcome a skill once learned or acquired. On the other hand the amateur body is a body where a specific skill is not yet acquired. In contemporary stage practices one can observe a strong desire to work with amateur bodies that can often lead to audience reactions such as: “I can do that as well”. Instead of this Bishop wishes for another thought to be evoked: “I want to do that!” – this is the permeable stage worth fighting for.

After Claire Bishop’s lecture I, along with all the participants, had to choose between Daniela Bershan aka Baba Electronica with Cavemusic- Somatic Djing for horizontal people or an extract from the TALES OF THE BODILESS called Substitution from Eszter Solomon. Since my body was craving for horizontal practices I went on with Baba Electronica. Daniela invited us to a semi-dark room, with mats and pillows on the floor. We had to practice three rules while she was dj’ing; Be comfortable, be horizontal and be still. Daniela used well-known pop songs like Back to Black by Amy Winehouse and Feeling Good by Nina Simone with their tempo slowed down to the point that the vocal pitches were very low. What was interesting to me was the horizontal practice of collectively experiencing different spaces in the body and within the space itself. It created a geography of abandoned bodies. Throughout the day, Anne Juren lead 3 choreographic sessions, which are based on her artistic experience in unfolding the relationship  between movement and language as a choreographer, dancer and Feldenkrais practicioner. In this specific research she is interested in opening up a creative space in which the choreography is placed directly inside the person’s body. I joined the first group and we lay on mats on the floor, once again exploring horizontality, while Juren guided us with her voice through a narrative – that sometimes would evoke fantastic images and other times purely somatic –  but the stage being always the inside of our bodies.

The body of Mette Ingvartsen became permeable to the voice of Susan Sontag with a Lecture on classical pornography from 1964. Ingvartsen was listening to a lecture by Sontag on her laptop with headphones and voicing it to us at the same time. In this lecture Sontag defines pornography as “works of art which embody, reflect, react to or against the idea that lascivious or lustful thoughts or acts are inherently immoral”. Importantly Sontag also insists that this definition is rather arbitrary. By reactivating the lecture of Sontag, Ingvartsen does not only expand or discourse topics of sexuality, but practices permeability by doing so as well. The voice of Sontag travels in time through Ingvartsen body – proposing that ideas too become permeable across history. The proposal seems quite in line with her work 69 Positions that goes through a history of performances starting in the sixties. In this work Ingvartsen takes different positions, offering her body to different permeability’s – she reactivates her own choreographies and embodies parts of historical pieces while guiding us through time.

Late afternoon, Caroline Godart brought us a lecture on romantic love from the point of view of three French intellectuals and artists: Luce Irigaray, Gilles Deleuze and Claire Dennis. To be honest my attention span was gone with the wind by then. I suppose that is the risk of a 10 hours performative conference, but a risk worth taking. To top off the evening, we drank some bubbles, ate some sweets and watched the performance HOT BODIES by Gérald Kurdian aka Trk_x that explored the notion of stand up comedy. To round off with this performance produced a quite light ambience but at the same time it seemed to be a predictable way of dealing with the dramaturgy of the conference, producing the effect – cherry on top of the cake.

With this performative conference Mette Ingvartsen enlarges her body of work to include events, in this case a performative conference that moves beyond the conventional theatre frame. Ingvartsen is employing a concept which she calls ’soft chorography’. She uses different strategies to include the audience and to research the theme of sexuality in a non-aggressive and non-confronting manner. The proposal for this conference, clearly, unfolds the desire for a different confrontation of the body of the maker and the body of the audience.

Ingvartsen named The Permeable Stage a performative conference and I think this category should be taken seriously. Seriously in the sense that this format is not about presenting performances side by side with lectures, or becoming too creative with conferences. No, we are not talking about that. We are talking about producing other forms of looking at theory. We are talking about bridging theory and practice. We are talking about making theory permeable to practice and the other way around, so that knowledge is not segmented. We are also talking about accessing the theoretical territories with a permeable body, touching “other” terrains and mapping “other” sensitivities and sensibilities.

Clara Amaral (Fundão, Portugal) studeerde vijf jaar dans in Lissabon voordat zij naar Nederland kwam voor de opleiding SNDO, waar ze in 2013 afstudeerde. Haar meest recente werk is Low Tech, opgevoerd bij Frascati Theater en Dansmakers Amsterdam.

Foto 7 Pleasures: Marc Coudrai