When a French choreographer/performer, Anne Juren, and a New York director, Annie Dorsen, choose to “replay”, using magic, five iconic gestures from the history of ‘60s-‘70s performance, their purpose is not nostalgia or the creation of a repertoire. On the contrary, Magical is a piece that substantially tweaks the feminist discourse of these statements. Is the female body an illusion?
You chose to go back over 5 women performances, what are the formal and the links between these performances?
The pieces are quite diverse, actually. The dates of initial presentation range from 1965 (Meat Joy) to 1975 (Interior Scroll). So in this sense the whole piece is bracketed by the work of Carolee Schneemann. Within the di!erences, though, there are certain commonalities - all of the pieces, in their various ways, propose a specific kind of knowing, what we might call "women's ways of knowing" - a form of knowledge production predicated on embodiment. We begin the piece with a short text, also by Schneemann, in which she recounts the development of Interior Scroll, and says that she realized it had to be a performance, that she had to perform it, when she understood that the only way to truly know something is to embody it. This mode of learning stands opposed to dominant models of education - that you learn by reading, by watching, by standing apart. In these pieces, the DOING leads to understanding, and the body itself becomes a source of information, a place for experimentation, a kind of research laboratory.
To go back over the performance does it mean considering it as a repertoire as it usually exists in dance or theater?
No. These pieces were never intended to be repeated. Our contemporary fascination with re-enactment is something we think it's fair to say these artists could never have imagined or predicted. It's something we have been discussing a lot, this sort of addiction to the past. I think we have to start weaning ourselves of it. We try to use history to figure out the present, to empower ourselves towards the future. But it's dangerously easy to get entranced by all those images and stories. In the US at the moment we seem to have two main modes: nostalgia and fear of impending doom. And those two modes are actually one mode: retreat.
How magic allows you to review and to move the issue of the performances?
The clearest marker of the magic show of course is the space, the context and design of the presentation. The artists we work on all originally presented their pieces either in gallery situations, or on video. They would never have chosen such a frontal, theatrical framing. Once you see the curtain, with its stage hardware, the silver stage floor, the theatrical lighting - you are really IN theater. It's a place of illusion, of entertainment, of representation. Their pieces are about transparency, anti-virtuosity, anti-illusion, authenticity. In our generation, we tend to see all those things as nothing more than other stylistic choices. In other words, the "representation" of authenticity, the style that communicates transparency. But our generation doesn't really believe in authenticity, nor in transparency. And especially never in art.
What do you think about the feminist actions from the 60’s-70’s? The feminism today has changed – What is your point of view about the changing and what comparison or confrontation can you do?
One thing we were very interested in was: what does our generation have to say to this previous generation of female artists. I think at a certain point, and this might just be speculation, but up to fairly recently people had the idea that there might be a solution to these gender problems. That female artists could get out of these spectatorship loops, problems of the gaze, and all that, that there was a way out, but I don’t think our generation believes there is a way out. The best one can do is try to pull apart the constituent elements that make up the construction and find a little space in between, finding possibilities for new ways of thinking and being. We wonder what the power of feminism is in 2012. I mean, putting the art to one side for a moment, we wonder what this means now. It’s a very strange thing and we're sure some feminist scholars could disagree super strongly, but we have the feeling there is a certain baseline of feminism, understood as obvious, self-evident, that is no longer called feminism. Certain things that were properly called feminist by previous generations are now so accepted and obvious that they don’t go by this name. So then you wonder: What’s left that can be called feminist?
"We try to use history to figure out the present, to empower ourselves towards the future."
Solo — 2010 — Run time 50 min
Réalisation : Annie Dorsen et Anne Juren
Chorégraphie, magie et performance : Anne Juren — Répétiteur magie : Steve Cuiffo — Conception musicale : Christophe Demarthe — Régie plateau : Roland Rauschmeier — Assistant régie plateau : Sebastian Bauer — Conception lumière : Bruno Pocheron avec Ruth Waldeyer — Directeur technique (Lyon) : Bruno Pocheron — Costume : Miriam Draxl — Assistant de production : Ruth Ranacher — Manager artistique : Silke Bake
Avec le soutien de : INTPA - International Net for Dance and Performance Austria Tanzquartier Wien et des financements de BMUKK et BMeia — Accueil : Théâtre de la Croix-Rousse, Biennale de la danse
Production Wiener Tanz- und Kunstbewegung – Coproduction ImPulsTanz - Vienna International Dance Festival – Soutien Le département Culture de la ville de Vienne et le ministère fédéral autrichien de l’Éducation, Arts et Culture
Photo © Christoph Lepka - Portrait © DR