In Diorama you are both working with natural and urban landscapes. You are also placing human and non-human bodies alongside each other. Could you tell more about your interest and the starting point regarding this for Diorama?
With the Diorama performance series, particular views of natural and urban landscapes in various cities and contexts are “staged”. The word diorama means through that which is seen, from the Greek di- (through) + orama (that which is seen, a sight). Diorama often refers to a three-dimensional model of a landscape, such as those displayed in museums of natural history. Another use of the word is for the French diorama theatre invented by Louis Daguerre in 1822, where the audience were sat watching large landscape paintings transform through skilfully manipulated light. Later, sound effects and live performers were added to the images.
Diorama invites a meditation on well-established dichotomies such as dead/living, human/non-human and culture/nature. The audience spends time in a given landscape and observes the gradual changes that take place there. The choreography is slow and minimal. It tries to become part of the landscape, whilst simultaneously drawing attention to it.
Relating to how the total performance was a mix of performers, sound and surroundings, we worked with the elements’ influence on the bodies of the human performers to generate movement material. The landscape becomes a total “body”, and the bodies become landscapes. This fusion between environment and corporality became new object that merged aquatic movement with mineral stillness. The idea is to (with a wink to Jane Bennett) revisit and become temporally infected by superstition, animism, vitalism and anthropomorphism; a childhood sense of the world as filled with all sorts of animated beings, as a tactic to treat non-humans such as animals, plants, and earth as well as commodities more carefully, strategically and ecologically.
Thinking of your work in general, slowness, slow movements appear in several. Would you like to speak about your notion of time regarding your work?
An audience that has come to see a performance generally expects something to happen. Approaching these expectations with very slow, minimal, repetitive and/or monotonous movement themes is an attempt to attune the audience. My experience is often that the approach makes people give up on expectation, and at best, find another mode of watching/hearing/feeling new details or small variations within what was at first glance just one thing. I believe that there is potentiality for affect to occur within this slight alteration of temporality and the consequential shift of attention.
For instance, with Diorama, which is often staged by the seaside, the piece is so minimal that the audience (feet in sand, or sometimes snow) will spend time looking at how the waves hit the shore and feeling the wind on their faces, as much as looking at the performers. This links to your third question – see below.
You finished your PhD in artistic research at Oslo National Academy of the Arts, with the title “Affective Choreographies”. Could you elaborate about your notion of choreography?
The performances created within my PhD project are structured in a way where the light design, sound, dance, movement, costume, scenography, performers, props, audience, audience set-up and site are equally important, although weighted differently from one piece to another. The performances could be seen as systems of interaction between both human and non-human lifeforms. The performer is connected to her costume, the costume is connected to the air of the space, the air of the space is connected to the stage lamps, the stage lamps are connected to the grid, the grid is connected to the ceiling, etc. This goes on forever and is what philosopher Timothy Morton calls a context explosion. With this potentially infinite “web of life” we can never reduce something formed by its interconnections to the sum of its parts. And similarly, we cannot reduce the whole to its parts either. I see this as a way to describe how I attempt to create choreographies of all elements within my work. Everything is interconnected and interdependent.
In Diorama, the co-existence of performers, costumes, rocks, snow, seagulls, waves, boats, sunlight, speakers, beach and wind creates a choreographic assemblage. Hence, the potentiality for affect lies with all matters present in the choreography, human and non-human alike. I see this as a doing as much as a horizon of thought. One can always apply this set of thinking to a given performance; however, I believe that for the audience to have the experience of distribution of affective potentiality within a piece, one has to work with this explicitly through giving the different bodies time and space.
Erkki Huhtamo, Illusions in Motion: Media Archaeology of the Moving Panorama and Related Spectacles, Leonardo Book Series (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2013), 139-48.
Timothy Morton, Being Ecological(London, United Kingdom: Penguin Random House, 2018), 74-92.
This interview was conducted around July-August 2021.
Photo: Kerstin Schroth