DARKMATTER, a literally dark and extremely powerful performance trying to dissolve the fixed attributions and categories given to bodies marked by images linked to skin color a.o.. How did the conceptual frame for the piece come to life?

I believe that the conceptual frame of DARKMATTER was already provoked during the creation of JEZEBEL, in which, for that solo performance, I focused on the representation of the body of Black women in our visual culture. I bumped upon a figure I would see on the television often as a teenager, called the video vixens. I started to investigate these collected narrations and images that are so recognizable in a more European and Western context. This recognizability was something that I wanted to challenge for JEZEBEL. I wanted to see how something recognizable can be distorted, potentially provoking different readings or relations to how we would relate to an image before. So this process of distortion and taking this tool of distortion in my own hands and seeing how it could be implemented and how the body could be perceived in a multi-faceted way was the first trigger for DARKMATTER. The distortion aspect, or wanting to go beyond the known, has drawn me very quickly to speculating about the future, which led me to look into post-humanism, which already brought a lot of friction in relation to the references that I had of post-humanism and the relationship it does or doesn’t have with the Black body. So, the question of what is considered human and how to be able to speculate about this post-human state was a big frame in the sense of how to make that into material.

With this piece, you have the desire to bring multiple voices on stage. In almost each city you are performing, you are forming a so called Distorted Rap Choir, inviting people from the African diaspora to record a Rap anthem. The different recordings are integrated in the soundscape of the performance, creating multiple layers of voices. Can you tell more about your thoughts and urge regarding this initiative?

Something that also got triggered very quickly when creating JEZEBEL, or closer to performing and sharing it with an audience, was representation and which stories and bodies are represented in the contexts and environments that I move in: the performing arts. And how does that relate also to the audience?
A question arose from that where, especially due to the matters that I attempt to tackle or bring about in my work. I questioned myself how the theaters that I present my work at relate themselves to the local African, and African Diasporic communities and what is the relation the other way around? Do these theater spaces feel accessible and inviting for the communities? And what would be necessary to look deeper into these questions?

So this brought me to bring a format of workshops prior to the performances, where, together with the presenting partner, we look into how to reach these communities, whether that is with other partners or organizations, sharing an open call, and where we then invite, if people apply off course, a maximum of ten people to share these two days before the performance where we work on the material that comes back in the performance, but where for me it was also essential to make this space of gathering and exchange tangible. At first, the ambitious idea was to have the people locally on stage with us in each city, but that seemed to come with several complexities, which would require more time to investigate how to facilitate that at the different places we would present the performance. So, this brought me to a different form: we record the voices of the various choirs and add them to the final soundscape so that these voices travel with us. In this way, there is also a layering or stacking of voices that might feel like, during the performance, there is a big distorted rap choir, which actually consists of several choirs.

Another choice – coming back to the public – is to then provide two free tickets for the participants, with which they can use one and they can invite someone who’d they like, and then see what kind of dynamic or shift that also brings, with who comes to the theatre. In the hope that it doesn’t just stay with seeing DARKMATTER, but that there is this sense of invitation to the spaces that is triggered and hopefully allows them to come back to these spaces ‘’or’’ witness or realize that these spaces may not be for them.

Would you like to share your thoughts on the connecting points between your earlier performance JEZEBEL (shown in Moving in November 2022) and DARKMATTER?

I came to the realization that this fascination that I have with distorting reality somehow, and thus creating a ‘’new’’ reality or a different parallel meta-reality, has been something that I keep on reaching out to: this act of distortion of movement, time, maybe more specifically, linear time, sound, light, and image. By it happening already in JEZEBEL and pushing it even further in DARKMATTER, I feel that this tool of distortion brings quite a specificity and a sort of coded reality that connects these two performances. Something that I realized very recently is that this act of distortion, on multiple levels, provides a space for monstrous figures to arrive, to be present. Meaning the performers themselves, but also other entities, the sound, the light, or entities we cannot perceive optically, provoke a sense of monstrosity.

I feel that distortion that generates monstrosity is a linking thread within these two works.

Photo: Bas de Brouwer