The journey home

A Meeting Place will be marked by our absences in each others’ processes. I have attempted to visit each artist in their own space, process, time zone. I have visited London six times and passed through France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. Last week I flew to Amsterdam for 12 hours. This weekend I have travelled from Nottingham to London, to Brussels, to Cologne, to Essen and back again. I missed my connection from Cologne to Brussels last night so spent the night in a hotel thinking about meeting places. Thinking about how on these journeys to meet artists involved in the project the journey invariably takes longer than the meeting and everything I want to say when I get there does not have the same rigour and energy as it did on the train when I was writing it down. This blog is my attempt at clarity, at finding sense or logic in my scribbled notes. We are pulling into Brussels now as I make my way home for the final time before we meet in London next week. By then I hope to have a clearer sense of a running order that everyone will follow. Of the way we move the audience around the QEH and the way the soundscape moves with them, through our voice and our thematic focus. In two weeks I will be sitting on a train coming home from London thinking about how it went and I think the process is one of thinking, not of making. I hope we can engage the audience in that process of working something out. I hope they will join us on the journey. I hope they will find a meeting place too.

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The role of the dramaturg

I see the dramaturg as sitting somewhere between the artist and the creative process, and to choose between being instructive or reflective. To be a rear view mirror. I have been a dramaturg for different processes across different disciplines. Every experience has been different and developed in response to the process. Different relationships have emerged out of different modes of communication. From face-to-face meetings to Facebook. For A Meeting Place, I intend to meet each of the individual artists face-to-face. I see my role as to facilitate a creative dialogue. I am reminded of Goat Island saying ‘The work is the dialogue’. To be an outside eye. To provide an overall shape or structure for the evening that will evolve from whatever happens here, happens next. To identify a ‘line of enquiry’ – thinking of Tim Etchell’s (Forced Entertainment) recent Guardian blog post when he said they ‘eliminate things from their enquiries’. Respond to change and the now. Change in our practice in 2010. Change at the Southbank Centre. Change in the nation? 6 May 2010 pencilled as date for election. I want to ask ‘going forward’ – what does it mean? Are we on different trajectories? To find a way for artists to make a process visible. A process of thinking. A process of making. A process of working out. Working out what is important to them now. We may not know what the process will be. We might consider this a process of not knowing.

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Bathysphere

I meet Chris Cousin from Bathysphere who will be working with the interviews. There is a lot of material to listen to. Eight hours of interviews broken up into 30 clips from each interview of at least 30 seconds each. Out of this Chris will create a soundscape which reflects the flow and dynamics of each artist’s work. We talk about how, instead of separating each presentation out with a collage of voice samples from each artist before their work is shown, we might arrange the composition more thematically. So we might hear a collage of different voices reflecting on what A Meeting Place might mean to them as we enter the foyer and Lea Anderson and her dancers are ‘quicksilvering’ the audience. Or clips talking about the role the space plays in their work as we walk into the QEH and see Boris onstage waiting to deliver his electrified talk.  We decide on themes from the questions Nicky and I drew up at the beginning and from the ‘word cloud from our first meeting: Space; Process; Southbank Centre; Change; Past; Future. We visit the Queen Elizabeth Hall where there is a musical recital in process. We talk about how Chris might sit onstage with his laptop, mixing the sounds live, to create a sense of a process. The soundscape will be unfinished, and each voice might have its own effect, condition or shape. e.g. Gauri – a loop, Sue – a circle etc. For more information please go to www.bathysphere.co.uk

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Candoco

I meet Pedro at the Southbank Centre where he says Candoco often have meetings. They try and meet here after a performance. To talk about the work in the space where it took place. He talks about the carpet and how the Southbank Centre keeps the carpet company in business. Everyone tells me this story and I wonder if it needs to feature in the final piece. Gauri takes me to a space upstairs where the carpet has been cleaned. Lea talks about how you can tell which areas are corridors and which areas are destinations by how worn the carpet is. We talk about how the space at the Southbank Centre is hard on the outside and soft on the inside. I ask him to relate the four dynamics of Labanetics to the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Time. Space. Flow. Weight. He offers his dancer – Vicky – to work with other dancers and to interrupt their flow, to collect breath, sweat, thoughts etc. To work as a bridge, an interface, between the audience and the work. Pedro talks about trying to describe music to a friend who is Deaf. Or trying to make sound visible by having blackouts in between the sections where the soundscape plays. Vicky might work with Lea’s group in the foyer. Or Sue’s section. Walking circles in the space. Describing what she sees. We talk later on the phone and I suggest that Vicky might introduce the piece from the stage in the Living Room. To introduce herself to the audience and lead them into the QEH.

Keywords: interface, dynamics, collect

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Thomas Lehmen

I meet Thomas at PACT, Zollverein in Essen. He’s jet lagged. I’m train lagged. He takes me on a tour of the old mining shower block. We talk in the dance studio about how he is working on Schrottplatz where he explains the dance and his self to objects. A tin of sardines. A tomato. A hatchet. A microphone. He explains how the microphone works to the microphone I am interviewing him with and takes it apart as he’s talking. He will present an extract of Schrottplatz at A Meeting Place. He wants to explain what a human being is. What art is. What choreography is. Then do a dance. I say it reminds me of Joseph Beuys explaining contemporary art to a dead hare. He says that is on the map but it is not the territory. He says Beuys was right. Everyone is an artist. His is a philosophical dance that contemplates the interrelationship between human beings and objects made by human beings that will outlive human beings. He talks about Heidegger and his thinking about thinking and his thinking about things. He says he doesn’t want to talk to the audience he wants to talk to the objects, about their forms and materials, for example the ergonomics of the hatchet. He shows me his hatchet. He says I can observe anything and think it’s the most amazing thing. I think he might be right. He drives me back to the train station and I spend the rest of the journey thinking.

Keywords: objects, observation, thinking

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Boris Charmatz

I meet Boris at Springdance in Utrecht. We go for a walk and he begins by talking about formats and protocols and finding new models for making work. He proposes an electrified talk. A performance lecture. An introduction. I had been thinking on my journey to meet Boris, having read his manifesto for la Musee de la Danse in Rennes, that he might be well placed to deliver a manifesto to ‘announce the night’ and to resonate with the General Election. We talk about how his work has evolved. His first piece: Bras a mon corps. A dance that ages with the dancers. He says how dance forgets its past and I ask how a meeting place might mark this loss of memory. We talk about the Southbank Centre. He says he fell in love with the space when he first saw it. We talk about how museums are places to meet with your muses and we explore the current trend for reenactment and how you might ‘touch’ a dancer through a museum. How the museum might stimulate plagiarism through the use of other texts, video, documentation to represent the work itself e.g. texts on Manet that replace his paintings. We talk about impossible tasks and how the museum might be a present moment rather than a collection of past moments. The manifesto states the museum exists as soon as the first gesture is complete so I ask Boris to be the first gesture of A Meeting Place.

Keywords: manifesto, museum, electrified

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Gauri Sharma-Tripathi

I meet Gauri at the South Bank Centre where she is artist in residence and she tells me that the QEH looks at its best without a dance floor. The wooden floor radiates warmth. She has been thinking about suspending performers above the auditorium and how she would like to consider a multi-dimensional mode of delivery where the audience is surrounded by the work. She is keen to extract one element of her work and experiment with it, in this case, the voice. And would be interested in presenting a vocal rhythm from a seated position on some kind of swing, that is then lined with bells. The loop of the swing becomes some kind of journey. For her, for the other performers, for the audience. It will become something that is about the air where the audience look in new directions, with new eyes. She says she would like A Meeting Place to be an unconventional place, a meeting space between artists, between ideas. A waiting space for us all to discuss and our ideas to develop. She might consider it as somewhere to explore how her voice carries, how she uses language as rhythm and how this material can be more organic in relation to the other artists’ work.

Keywords: velocity, voice, dynamic

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