ABOUT THIS SITE >>> This site is a blog as well as an archive. It gives visibility to the continues working of radical_hope, its current move to radical_house, the research project Distraction As Discipline (2016 - 2019) and the process of OTÇOE - works for passers-by, a working trajectory (2013 and 2014).

radical_house is a long term project and has a threefold nature: it presents a physical place, a framework and a logic. When in 2013 teaching and mentoring became an extension of Langsdorf's artistic practices now radical_house stems from her pedagogical experience where 'being in dialogue' with others is her main principle.

Distraction As Discipline is an investigation into enactivist principles in art and education (research trajectory at KASK School of Arts Ghent 2016-19). It considers the potential of performance art and pedagogy in general, in resisting the current and massive desubjectivation, by critically reclaiming both, attention for the moment and participation in a process.

OTÇOE - works for passers-by was the development of radical_hope's artistic practice in the city and questioned how and by whom this practice (and its bodily, social and economical aspects) is perceived. The title refers to the public of a city and to how we encounter and register most things on our way through the city: Out of The Corner of Our Eyes. OTÇOE.

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SITTING WITH THE BODY 2013 ...
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DISTRACTION AS DISCIPLINE 2016-19
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CONVERSATIONS

Renée Copraij - Overtoom / Amsterdam

23-03-2013 [• sitting with the body • making images ]
SACRED SPACE
Renée Copraij worked with Jan Fabre for 20 years on several of his dance-, theatre-, and opera-productions as a performer and later as a dramaturg. For many years she has been connected to the School for New Dance Development (SNDO) in Amsterdam where she was advisor and teached workshops choreography. She has been curator for Huis en Festival a/d Werf in Utrecht where she produced and programmed projects on the verge of theatre and visual arts. Currently she is curator for the Guest Artists pillar of ICKamsterdam. As dramaturg and curator she is exploring the limits of perception and experience of our body and that of others.

"Two years ago I told you that I felt the need to confront the classic theatre-complex - the body on stage and people looking at it - again. The ten preceding years I was mainly deconstructing this complex and creating derivative performances: interventions in a wide variety of contexts and events for public spaces. Although this kind of work required me ‘being present with my body’, I stopped using the body as a context in itself. So after all these years I felt the strong need to unlearn what I cultivated in myself while ‘dancing with situations’ and rediscover what it meant to ‘dance with the body’.
 
During our first brainstorm we came up with the idea to ‘retreat in public space’. You told me about medieval female hermits, who chose to be locked up in a little chamber in the church – the only cultural institution in these times. Through a little window they were in daily contact with the outside world. People asked for their advice and guidance. We could consider these hermits as the first feminists and maybe even as the first female artists. They turned their back on a life of housekeeping and raising children. Instead they dedicated their time to studying religious texts and conversing with the clergy. They literally retreated ‘physically’ from public life in order to be ‘socially’ present as well as ‘presenting’ (their ideas).
 
Inspired by these medieval hermits, who combined a radical autonomy and a close connection to society, I wanted to reconstruct the black box or white cube, the ‘sacred space’, the ‘temple’… a kind of autonomous space for producing and presenting work which is directly related to the life of the city: people dwelling, working, consuming, amusing themselves, passing by all kinds of things…
 
Where do I head to in the morning? What does ‘my work’ consist of? What is the practice I want to be busy with day after day? What does ‘being productive’ mean? What does my work produce for me and the others I live with? HOW DO WE SPEND OUR TIME?
 
We decided to depart from a practice we both execute (to different degrees of experience though!): yoga. More specifically we chose to focus on ‘Zazen’, meaning: ‘stop and watch'. This sitting with the body is an ancient exercise for body and mind which is accessible for everyone and teaches ‘to look inward’. We wanted to develop moving images for public spaces which let passers-by experience the space within their own bodies. We organized ‘retreats’ in spaces where we were inside and outside at the same time, art gallery spaces for example, where a big window seperated the ‘stage’ from the street.
 
Our personal and professional relation would give structure to our working process: I asked you to behave as my teacher and you accepted this request. The work you do today with me, you call this ‘dramaturgy with the body’."
 
1. How would you describe what you do when ‘dramaturgically working with the body’ and how do you differentiate this from other forms of dramaturgy?
 
Renée :  For me there is no difference. My conceivement of dramaturgy is trying to look at/to see the work of the artist. You want to know his or her direction. Then you try to see which tendencies he or she has. And basically, what I try to do as a dramaturge, is to get the work back again and again to that direction he or she wants to go. You could say that how I do it ‘normally’ is maybe more in an mental way. You work with the intelect, with theoretical and historical references. Together with the artist you put the work into a broader context. I think the tools you use are simply different. When you and I go into our retreat and we sit on the stone floor, I use the presence and awareness of my body, just being there and moving together. I observe the tendencies within your body from my experience in my body. And by doing that I provide a context for you. A context created by body and mind together at the same time.
 
2. What does it mean for you to have a ‘practice’ in your life and (how) do you differentiate between ‘life practice’ and ‘artistic practice’?

Renée :  Again I don’t differentiate. What do you mean by ‘life practice’ and ‘artistic practice’? For me practice is not a form or a specific activity. I am reading Ken Mc Leod's book 'Wake up to your life' these days and here he says: quote: "It’s a way of living through which we accumulate momentum in attention.” And here’s another quote: "All that is present is moment to moment knowing.” So the question is: how can you become more and more present? And this is actually what I always try to practice, also when I’m working artistically.
 
Sébastien : For me, as an outsider (I don’t practice yoga), there seems to be a difference between a yoga practice and the daily practice in an artistic context.

Renée : Yes I understand you diferentiate, I think that's because for a lot of people yoga is synonym to a series of postures for the body, a muscular workout. But actually that’s just one of the methods you can use to 'evoke' yoga. Yogic action has three components: discipline, selfstudy, and orientation toward the ideal of pure awareness. The practice can consist of sitting, breating exercises, postures, study of texts etc. You aspire to integrate body, mind, heart and consciousness. But if you want to talk about this concrete practice you do each morning on your mat in comparence to an artistic practice… ...,that’s an environment which is very private I would say. There you actually practice what you also want to practice throughout the rest of the day. The more advanced you are as a practitioner, the more you can do that practice during the day, even when you are being very distracted. So, I don’t differentiate between yoga and work: I try to practice all the time.
 
Heike : The moment I wanted to work with you, I discovered that I had a yoga practice, but that I would somehow separate it from all the rest I had to do to realize my artistic projects. I felt the need for a better communication between the two spheres…
 
Renée : A better integration…
 
Heike : Yes, a better integration… I wanted to be able to keep the calmness while doing my artistic work in the city, ... while ‘dancing with situations’ like I mentioned in my introduction.
 
3. What is for you the potential of ‘Sitting with the body’, as we apply it now?
 
Renée :  ‘Potential’ is a dangerous word in this neoliberal world where everything is about becoming and not about seeing what withholds you of just being. We want to go the opposite direction, I mean, we want to be a source of inspiration for people who want to go the opposite direction. It’s not about ‘evolution’ but about ‘involution’. ‘Zazen’ means: “stop and watch”. We want to make images with a body that is moving, a body that is not really teaching the other in a literal way but that is inspiring the other person to stop and watch.
 
Sébastien : So the difference with the original Zazen is that with your practice and the displaying of it, you want to give inspiration to passers-by?

Heike : Yes, we put it in a public space.
 
Sébastien : And also in an artistic context.
 
Renée : Yes we do. It’s not a private place where you just practise for yourself, but we do have to construct it in such a way that it stays somehow private. We have to create this privacy also when we do our retreats, even if there are these big glass windows between us and the street.

Sébastien : I understand that ‘potential’ can be a dangerous word, but maybe this question could also be an opportunity to reflect on what might come? How do you see the working process developping?
 
Renée : The next step is to get Heike dancing with her own body.
 
Sébastien : For me, as an engaged outsider, I ask myself how this ‘sitting with the body’ is connected to ‘dancing with the body’.
 
Renée : I think her dance would be a dance that really starts from within, from what she needs or wants in that moment. Probably the challenge is to keep an inner alignment in the body while she is dancing.

Heike : It has to stay in such a high concentration as the sitting is. The next step is not to lose this very quiet and concentrated state, but go into other movements.
 
Renée : It’s really about ‘knowing from moment to moment’, about keeping as much awareness as possible throughout the whole body and the space around it. Which is not always the case when someone is dancing!

Sébastien : How to bridge the gap between what you ‘feel’ as a performer and what you experience as an audience? I’m sure there must be a lot going on inside, but what can I see from the outside?
 
Renée : The objective is to make a dancing image, that is definitely creating a certain experience in the body of the spectator. And that is going to be a difficult thing to reach, because the practice I’m talking about is not necessarily ‘art’ or ‘performance’. What do we have to do to change that? Well, of course you have a lot of religious paintings that are really to look at and that really ‘work’, like mandalas for example. You have to look at them… maybe it’s not really ‘looking’, it’s more something like ‘seeing’. We should make a dance phrase or a movement pattern that works like such a painting!

Sébastien : Just a side-comment here: I find this very interesting! because there’s also religious paintings that are not meant to look at, or at least not in the first place. I’m talking about icons here. The fact of them existing and being present is the most important thing. Worshippers don’t take the time to look at them - just quickly touching them or kneeling in front of them is enough. In that sense, icons are the opposite of mandalas.
And another side-comment: it’s interesting how you are talking about ‘images’. Images now, in our extremely visual cultural context, are very much defined by their reproducibility, which makes them lose their ‘aura’. That’s what Walter Benjamin famously wrote about. But then the both of you are talking about this religious imagery, which in turn seems very ‘auratic’!
 
Heike : We want to make images which make the passer-by, or the ‘stopper-by’ experience his or her own body. This means we also have to look for movements with which a ‘whatever-body’, I mean someone who is not specifically trained, can identify. And at the same time it has to be so strong that you want to spend some time looking at it.
 
Sébastien : A Western example of religious imagery which is made for concentrated contemplation is the ‘Andachtsbilder’.
 
Renée : Yes, in fact that’s what you (Heike, red.) want to make: ‘images of attention’.
 
Renée Copraij, Sébastien Hendrickx & Heike Langsdorf @ Overtoom, Amsterdam, 23-03-2013


[>>> here you can find all OTÇOE-conversation >>>]