Confronting hyper reality
Margrét Sara Guðjónsdóttir in a dialog with Prof. Susan Kozel
“Physically, choreographically and dramaturgically I compose performances as passive aggressive experiences. This passive-aggression is vibrating at the core of omnipresent pathological states of embodied being induced by current and ancient conditioning and transference. These embodied pathologies exist in the shadows of what is considered normal life and in conceptual shadows. The work is a gesture to step into this space where it is necessary to stay until a shift happens. The commonality of these pathologies is revealed by being together in these states of incapacity to act, respond, move, feel or escape. Even though this is not a comfortable or comforting space to be in, a soft power of resistance is produced. It is this power that is choreographed, not the movements of bodies but the resonance of the internal movements and energies of the dancers in live performance. The dancers resonate with selected pathologies that they carry within their bodies, through them we resonate together in a meditative state of reciprocity. The intensity and information ripples outwards. The audience may be confronted by pathology, but this is done to initiate release and transformation and further cognitive processes on the topic, not to re traumatize.
This is a different sort of documentary with a different sense of fiction: it is documentation because the dancers bodies have spent many years doing the practice; it is fiction not that it is not real, but that it is hyper-real. The way the dancers vibrate differently is an invitation to a different body state that is a state of affective potential. The dancers bodies offer the potential to attune and align the audience bodies and thoughts. This happens both in live performance and the archival versions of the work, revealing different performative materialization of hyper-reality. This archival project called Somatic Archiving is an interdisciplinary scientific collaboration that uses augmented reality technologies to generate further opportunities for the vibrations of the dancers to radiate into the world. The archive functions in such a way that a somatic body state is viewed through a digital device which kick-starts that state in the viewers’ bodies. This archive re-choreographs the mobile device into something that enhances human experience rather than using it primarily for commercial purposes. It helps to expand our digital realities and lets the somatic states of the dancers travel into the wider world.
The practice, the performances, and the vision in combination evaporate the context of the theatre. The archival work ripples even further to expand what dance can be”.
Icelandic choreographer and dancer Margrét Sara Guðjónsdóttir was born in Reykjavík in 1978. She studied at the dance department of the Art Academy ARTEZ in Arnheim and Amsterdam in the Netherlands and graduated in 2002. She currently lives and works in Berlin.
Margrét Sara co-founded with Sveinbjörg Þórhallsdóttir the production house Panic productions in Reykjavík Iceland. A production house which was active from 2004-2009 and produced and initiated collaborative performance works with foreign artists.
For the last 10 years the main themes of her works have been a study on the social political body within our own body and how that reality is expressed and felt. Consequently she has focused her professional research on physical doorways into physiological, psychological and emotional sub worlds association with deep tissue release. Developing the sensation and state-oriented practice FULL DROP into the Body which questions older concepts of how we relate to our professional body and methods of disciplining and dominating that body in order to gain control over it and have it perform for us. Once the plasticity of the human matter is recognized, healing through unwinding and de-conditioning our formerly imprinted body memory, can be seen as a political act and activism.
In 2010 Margrét Sara began the process of mapping out a new category of performative body language, ways of developing it further, and transferring this knowledge to others. The first artistic work created from this on going research was in 2013. From then onwards she and her longer term collaborators put emphasis on dedicating a longer period of time to work in-depth on specific artistic topics and develop the ambitious and detailed physiological language and performance practice necessary to convey it. Electronic music maker Peter Rehberg (PITA) director and owner of the music label Edition MEGO has created the soundtracks to all the performances. The performers Laura Siegmund, Suet-Wan Tsang and Johanna Chemnitz are long term collaborators, amongst other female dancers that deeply engaged in the work such as Angela Schubot, Catherine Jodoin, Louise Dahl and Marie Ursin and Marie Topp.
Margrét Saras work has been supported consistently by MDT in Stockholm, Inkonst in Malmö, WP zimmer in Antwerpen, Sophiensaele in Berlin, Dansehallerne in Copenhagen,LOKAL & RDF in Iceland. During 2015 Margrét Sara became the first artist in residence at the Cullberg Ballet in Stockholm. Creating her second commissioned work for the Cullberg Ballet in 2017. Since 2017 she has had an on going collaboration with philosophy Professor Susan Kozel at Malmö University in Sweden. Which is where phenomenology and the artistic works and practice meet. Margrét Sara was one of 10 selected artists sharing working space at the Flutgraben artists studio building in Berlin during the period march 2019- February 2020, and curating collaboratively the ”Flutgraben Performance Series” events. Margrét Sara started a long term collaboration with Icelandic visual artist and filmmaker Hulda Rós Guðnadóttir in 2019. Professor Lucilla Guidi ( postdoctoral) at Hildesheim University is currently working on the research project “Performance and language games as transformative events”. Which focuses on the systematic relationship between aesthetic and philosophical exercises based on Guðjónsdóttir’s somatic choreography and Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language. The research project aims to establish a systematic connection between aesthetic and philosophical practice.
Research and vision
FULL DROP into the Body is a practice where de-conditioning meets artistic research and a choreographic vision
The research work is grounded in a practice that brings together the physiological and psychological states of the body with a focus on working and exploring pathologies of the social-political body within our own bodies. Displaying the politics of intimacy is a core theme within the work and the aim is to create an environment where both performer and onlooker are able to question their inner and outer realities through it. Over the course of the last 10 years, the professional research has been focused on the physical doorways into the physiological and emotional sub-worlds associated with deep tissue release. The practice FULL DROP into the Body is based on deep tissue release through the means of meditation visualizations with the focus on development of intensive deep inner listening and surrendering to inner body systems and rhythms. Through the action of letting go of control by entering into an active-passive state of inner listening, and surrender to non-action, a space open up for de-conditioning of the omnipresent body memory and the cognitive wiring linked to it. The research during the most recent years has been around full body auto compositional performative states, reached through coming into contact and symbiosis with the forces latent in the deep tissues of the body and forces present and active outside of the body. Creating the circumstances to be undone The FULL DROP into the Body practice questions older concepts of how we relate to our professional body and methods of disciplining and dominating that body in order to gain control over it and have it perform for us. Once the plasticity of the human matter is recognized, healing or de-conditioning our formerly imprinted body memory, can be seen as a political act and activism.
The research into the FULL DROP into the Body practice during the last 10 years catapulted a processes of mapping out a new category of performative body language, ways of developing it and transferring the knowledge both practically and theoretically to the wider international dance scene and academia. In 2017 a collaboration on Somatic Archiving with Professor Susan Kozel began in relation to her Living Archives project at Malmö University in Sweden (2012-2018). With the aim to continue to deepen a phenomenological research into somatic materialism by exploring the translation of embodied states into writing and back again. Using as a base the 10 year journey of Guðjónsdóttir somatic research into the pathological body and its inner systems.
Three categories of the researched introspective body initiated to serve the performance works made between 2013-2017: The Alienated body (2010-2013), The Exhausted and Empty body (2014-2015), The Subjective Private Emotional Pathological body (2015-17)
The first three years of research into the practice from 2010-12 were carried out privately by the choreographer, with and through her own body and with the single aim of de-conditioning formally imprinted body memory related to professional dancers training. This led to the creation of a practice and onstage body language for the performance Step Right To It (2013). Which was a commission created for the graduating BA dance students at Uniarts/DOCH in Stockholm. The aim of that performance for the choreographer was working with the physicality (and cultural phenomena) of the alienated isolated body created by the overpowering visual digital culture which the millennials performing in the piece were born into. Reflecting on the reality of this often unconscious state.
The Blind Spotting Performance Series was created during 2014 and 2015. Through the expanding practice the overwhelmed, numb, burned out, exhausted body become the central figure of the artistic exploration. A state which first hit generation x and quickly everyone else within an incredible short span of time. A representation of a state that was a taboo in our neoliberal society. On stage condensing it to the vulnerability of the anti-hero, a paradigmatic type of our performance-oriented society. The body of this anti-hero stands for all that remains of it after exploitation, exhaustion, psychological implosion and overstimulation. Exploring this physically and choreographically enabled unique bodies to be presented on stage, from which the consequences of increasing isolation, victimization and commodification within society could be pondered on. In a market place and within national funding systems that put emphasis on the new and maximum 2 months working processes. A series of four works that revolved around this topic was launched. In order to create working conditions which made it possible for the people involved to dedicate longer periods of time to work in-depth to develop the ambitious and detailed body work necessary to convey these specific artistic and political themes.
Within the FULL DROP into the Body practice a new cycle of research began in the autumn of 2015. It was into so called full body HYPERSTATES and continued over a period of two years. With the specific aim of expanding from the more general physiological body states, towards subjectively experienced biographical sensorial states. Concretely moving from composed somatic choreographed material towards auto compositional states used as performance material. Through these new technical means derived from the HYPERSTATES research two new performance works were premiered in 2017. HYPER, which was commissioned by the Swedish dance company Culberg Ballet and Conspiracy Ceremony: HYPERSONIC STATES which premiered in Berlin at the Sophiensaele with a group of long-term collaborators. Where the realm of subjective private emotional pathological body was explored. The focus was on showing a world in which outward appearances and consciously motivated actions do not represent our lived reality. The dancers presented affects unfiltered as extreme physical states, the territory of their uncensored bodies breaking through boundaries of the inner and the outer.
From the introspective to the interactive body, the most recent phase of research and performance work 2018-2020: The Subconscious Energetic body (2018-2020)
This research phase 2018-2020 was build on the Full Drop practice and HYPERSTATES research while moving somewhat away from a focus on the introspective body and further towards recognizing the body as a component part of a dynamic, energetic landscape. Stepping from the introspective into the interactive, a step out of the frame of the personal within the context of the subjective private emotional pathological body, and into a landscape that considers energetic forces at play around us. Through the work developed in 2018 titled Pervasive Magnetic Stimuli, a research was done into the hyper-sensibility to and hyper-awareness of the intersection of the inner and outer energetic fields, and how the energetic forces that move us traverse this boundary. This research encompass the outer and larger tides that move through us, pulling our matter along in their wake. Exploring the lived reality of quantum entanglement, interconnectivity through the plasma of connectivity, connection, and reciprocity, and the nature of the resonance between individuals. The aim was to make visible and get deeply in touch with the colorful reality of the energetic landscapes we navigate on a daily basis partly or in some cases completely unaware. Leaving the introspective body behind and creating the availability for a conscious and submersive dialogue with the energetic forces that move us, swirl around us and through us. In this way exploring a new performative vehicle where the onus is removed from the dancer to perform according to a strict set of externally or internally imposed criteria. Instead offering energetic dialogues both within and beyond the limits of the physical body to arise.
This research opened into philosophical dimensions, integrating the deep fascial release practice of FULL DROP into the Body with philosophical thought and language in collaboration with Professor Susan Kozel. The collaboration has expanded the concept of Somatic Materialism introduced by Kozel in her previous writings and has already produced several outputs such as philosophical essays, conference presentations at international symposium on phenomenology and an archival prototype using Mixed Reality. Through that work, the proposition is to investigate further the concept of immediacy in the FULL DROP into the Body method: the place in the now that occurs before cognitive refection; immediate presence and how it is possible to act from that place. Physically, our organs all shift into a direction before we can even sense the starter of the movement that happens. This can be picked up by us sensorially, and training is possible for how to sense this starter in the body before movement occurs – the starter would be the rise of a momentum in the body and (re)organization of the matter into certain direction. Following this, the movement gets animated in the body and the body is moved by that movement. Kozels interest overlaps with this immediacy and sense of initiation, for in various philosophical writing on affect and in phenomenology this has been called the pre-reflective (Merleau-Ponty), the pre-categorical (Husserl), or even the missing half second (Massumi picking up on a concept from cognitive sciences). This simply means that the body comes first. Somatic states and affect first. In the collaborative work the proposition to understand states of immediacy, and then to see how these can enter into dialogue with philosophy on their own terms: not simply as illustrations of theory. The somatic states that make up the choreography help to construct an understanding of somatic materialism something that is well-needed in the worlds of philosophy and design. Of course, artistic research borrows from theory but in this case the art enters into an equal power relationship with philosophy, nudging it into greater nuance and power to account for liminal bodily states. Written language has to follow the sensorial states of immediacy. Susans goal is to write a book on the performance works and FULL DROP into the Body practice.
The work has political relevance to the ongoing discourses of the international dance scene by engaging in the ongoing discussion of healing, feminism, interconnectedness, notions of energetic citizenship, and the pathology of the social political body within the choreographic context. The works made over the last 10 years function as safer spaces for collective exploration of the maze of connections and dead ends that constitute the interface of the pathological body with our achievement-oriented society. Creating a platform for the examination of the antihero, the burned-out self, the over-exposed, the imploding, the alienated, and the isolated and marginalized private body. In observing this work, the audience experiences a rush of intimacy from being party to genuine heightened physical and emotional states. This fact reinforces the theme in the practice of allowing the performer and viewer access to states that are usually extremely private, thereby opening up the way for a profound experience that is disarmingly radical in its manifestation and politics. These body states are celebrated as visceral denials of the externally and internally imposed imperatives to achieve, and draw a contrast with the logic of hyperactivity by presenting an alternative kind of energy and strength. A body that opposes influences that are unhealthy to it exerts a subversive power over its environment. It transfers itself, as a kind of physical-energetic contagion, onto the bodies of the audience. From a starting point of letting the body fall and surrender, this body continues its emptying and disintegration to an extreme state during the course of the performance. This disintegration of the bodies of the performers is taken into the inner reality of the audience through the steady, slow, and hypnotic transformation taking place in front of their eyes. The result is a cohort of radically de-bordered bodies that portray the anonymous multitude. The dancers surrender to and are moved by inner forces, both political and energetic in nature, both ancient and current, and of a magnitude and power far greater than all of us. Forming a corporeal language that serves as a doorway into the subconscious. This language is marked by an infinite presence that reveals and provokes in the same moment. It breaches the divide between performer and audience in a meeting that is explosive in its intensity. Together, exploring and confronting the inner landscape of the de-bordered body, offering up an alternative reality of physical pleasure and pain that with surrender to our shared reality.