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Response 23 - Avoid being awful


Dear Alan,

Thanks for your task and the opportunity to invite you to be my performer-puppet! My response to the task will be reflections in note form on the session we did together illustrated by some frame grabs from the video I shot to document the work.






It was with equal trepidation that I went into this experiment as I know how uncomfortable you are with the idea of improvising and the thought of ‘performing’. The task conveniently coincided with a conversation we had this week around the meaning of the Danish word ‘benspænd’ as used in the title De Fem Benspænd (The Five Obstructions), the film from 2003 that inspired aspects of this project. We discussed how ‘benspænd’ literally means ‘tripping up’ and how ‘obstruction’ might be a too diplomatic word in the translation.

So, when I summoned you for a short session at the Ashtanga Yoga Shala in Aarhus (where we teach and practice) I ruthlessly decided not to be concerned with possibly tripping you up physically or mentally. I put on my best Lars Von Trier imitation!






I went in there to experiment with a few ideas for how I could imagine developing a segment or aspect of a potential joint performance about our project. The way I work choreographically in my own practice is to bring a few ideas (they could be conceptual or concrete) and see what unfolds when I materialise these ideas in my body. This session took the same approach.






I wanted to play with you re-enacting the ideas you had set out for your Response 22 - Chair Pose: five different movements involving the use of the chair accompanied by sentences from my response during the project.

My starting point was this:

  • Combine two movements from your Chair Pose response and talk about two of the subject matters you used in the film
  • Think about the difference between ‘accumulation’ and ‘permutation’ and explore how your movements can reflect this difference

From here I wanted to see how your movements and your approach to the instructions unfolded. What agency would you feel or take within the parameters of the task? How would your ideas develop? Would moving while speaking change either the movement or influence how you spoke about the subjects?

As predicted, we quickly ran into discomfort and resistance. Both mine and yours, I think. I had to stick to my guns and try not to be affected by this and persevere with my ideas (as I am sure von Trier would have done)!






The purpose of the session was not to achieve anything in particular but to get on the floor with ideas and see if they opened a door towards a new way to think about a physical element that could work in a joint performance. I really appreciate that you stuck with it for the duration of the experiment despite your discomfort.

I think it was useful for us as collaborators as it brought to the surface our inherent differences in how we think about art. You expressed after the session how the session was excruciating for you as you ‘had evolved in observing other artists [and learned from this] a set of procedures to avoid being awful and [instead] create something [you] feel is of value.’ Perhaps we have opposing ideas of what is valuable. Maybe this is something we could get closer at uncovering in the next tasks and responses.

As I finished writing these reflections you made a suggestion that perhaps next time we experiment within my ‘form’ (improvisation), you should be exploring this through your own medium, through an academic argument. I agree!

See here for next task.