StM is the latest piece in a series in which you examine the dramaturgy of the gaze as choreographic material. How was the idea to this piece and to the whole series born?
StM was the first solo I made in five years, in which I wanted to play more with performer being exposed to the audience. I was already working on the gaze as choreographic material, where the audience is both victim and perpetrator. In StM I wanted to see how I could manipulate the audience and let them manipulate me and the work, create an interactive piece where they could still be seated and not have to do anything but watch, which is quite a lot already…
I think first time I realized it was a series, was when I started to work on StM. I saw previous works appear and knowledge from previous research took shape again. I wasn’t done with some of those topics, the side material that didn’t fit in earlier works had matured.
You are creating your own music, or soundscape for your performances. Could you tell us more about this process and your interest?
Music has an important role in my work. It’s always made specifically for each piece, and if I haven’t made it myself, I’ve collaborated closely with a composer. For StM I knew I wanted to work with drums and saxophones. I found a great MIDI-orchestra, brass and woodwind instruments, and some basic 4/4 drumbeats that I composed. Music and choreography were then created in parallel, informing each other. The music helps bridging the gap between performer and audience, it has almost two voices that sometimes collide but are still in conversation. It’s also something that I can rely on throughout the performance, that’s slightly different depending on the interaction with the audience. I know every little part and detail of the music, which I as a performer can always play with and lean on.
You also made a short movie based on StM. How was it to exchange the spectator’s gaze with the one of the camera lenses? Not being able to work with the direct gaze of the spectator anymore, like in the live performance?
It was fantastic. I’ve always been a fan of film and have been inspired by classic films from the 50s and 60s: the close ups, narrative made from framing, suspense, postures and angles. I wanted to move the audience in the same way I try in my performances, despite it being pre-recorded and through a screen. In a way it’s scary since I don’t know how it’s received, in that sense it’s much more vulnerable. It’s perhaps the ultimate piece for masturbation, where the subject has become mute and cannot confront you. On the other hand, I can have perfect control over what I show, how I frame things, what I decide you to look at. New things were also possible. There’s a power play between me and the camera that becomes a one-sided communication between the film and the viewer. It made the play with assumptions stronger, where I ascribe identity on to the spectator, since I cannot know their experience and they cannot tell or show me.
Interview conducted in July-August 2021.
Photo: Natan Gullstrom