THE WAY THINGS GO
Jefta van Dinther interviews Jefta van Dinther
December 29, 2007. This self-interview was written before staring the process of creation.
From where did the idea of THE WAY THINGS GO come? Was it a direct inspiration from the film DER LAUF DER DINGE by Fischli and Weiss?
The film has been on my mind the last year or so, and has inspired me greatly, but in fact the material came as a by-product while researching on how bodies can affect each other physically. We started with the idea of one body functioning as a catalyst, a second as a transmitter and the third as the activated, whom would be catapulted away. We then tried to minimise the impact, by simply dropping an arm, or falling unto a torso, or leg, or falling into an arm, by which new, connected motion was created, which in its turn affected the next person. We soon had a small chain of domino effects and realised the obvious resemblance to the art film. Rather than going against this reference we decided to rip it off quite bluntly: the title obviously, but also the mechanism at play that remains intact (for most of the performance) as in the film.
It is obvious that the emphasis lies on the motion, on the passing of motion, and a ”reading” of this motion. How did you direct this?
Because we were only three performers to start with, it became necessary to reposition oneself in order to be affected again, meaning one of us repositions our self while the other two are still in the process of the movement, of the transferral. Otherwise the passing would ultimately stop. The logistics of these very specific conditions determined how to work. The other condition was to always succumb to gravity, that all movement was caused by using the weight of the body in collapsing, thus always moving down, although sometimes indirectly. With this in mind the work was to find as ”real” connections as possible, whereby one body affected another body with the least use of control or activation, simply letting the forces do the work. What you call the ”reading” is the tracing of these forces, the search for where the movement is taking place, the anticipation of what is going to happen next and significantly the how. The ”reading” can also be seen as the result of all of the occurring relations, the constellations that appear and the characteristics, which we performers gain, both as objects and as subjects. We are not working on creating representational imagery, iconography or narrative situations but these possible readings are rather inherent in the material and in our individual bodies and qualities. It is significant to me, however, that the material firstly functions on an abstract level, whereby movement is experienced. Semiotics and association obviously play its roles as well, but for me it is important that the cracks into the realm of meaning are passages, and that it is the physicality that is the centrefold, and transparently so.
It is this how that you speak of that seems to create an excitement. After a few moves into the piece we get the picture. We know that the body in movement will somehow connect to the body in stillness and that this will cause it to move down, but still it manages to keep an engagement.
Yes, this is of course the dramaturgical trick we use: to expose to the viewer the that but not the how. I like to think of it as an intrigue. It constitutes a drama with a mechanism of a necessary perpetuation. The necessity to make-it-happen-because-otherwise-it-stops prevails and induces both desire and anxiety. For a spectator it is not merely a machinery running, an impeccable clockwork, but rather an active doing by making connections. And this question that lingers between our bodies, in its passing – the how – functions as a suspense. It is the moment that is thought of and experienced both beforehand – in imagination and projection – as well as in hindsight – as a reflection of a memory in relation to its resolution (was that believable? preconceived? according to my expectations? etc). But most importantly also in the moment of its happening, in its passing, in process.
To me, the oscillation between seeing you as objects versus subjects is interesting and makes me sometimes zoom in on detail or zoom out to context. I see an attempt of objecthood, but how did you work with these ideas?
In principle we don’t make a distinction between the two and I think we function as both simultaneously. I wanted to let the body become visible as body and I wanted the aptitudes of this body to be present, although they might not be very spectacular. We worked with the idea of giving our bodies properties, different ones in every repositioning, which would enable or disenable movement, this giving a quality of matter to our bodies. But these properties are never used as an absolute, and any one connection can never be fully reproduced, which is where the human aspect comes into the picture. Throughout the course of the never-ending collapses we have found ourselves in places where the movement would come to a halt, had we not done anything, and this is where something curious happens. This is where we as practitioners of this activity functioning within a rigorous dispositif start to speak. The performance starts to become about fiction rather than about the natural laws that govern us. Our wishes surface and become visible: in the (re-)activation of movement. We underplay this activation as much as possible, but the impossibility of an undisturbed sequence of flow is nevertheless a fact, and dealing with this impossibility opens the doors for this expression to be part of the choreography. The expressions of a will, or a desire for change, movement, affectation, continuation.
Is this desire you speak of not present in all movement, always?
No. Well, one could say that desire precedes movement, although that is even highly questionable. More often movement is used as a pretext and not for its own sake, meaning that the connoted desire is in utility of something else, a desire for something outside of itself. When embarking upon this project I wanted to find movement that could be self-sufficient, meaning it was in service of itself. I wanted to see if it was possible to propose movement today that didn’t demand interpretation. Could people be moved by movement rather than reason it?
Are you talking of the effects of mirror-neurons that they have studied in neuroscience, whereby mirrored muscular activity is being activated in a viewer of movement?
Yes, but also on other levels. Many have expressed the felt engagement they have while watching this material. The movement of down is ever-present and pulls the audience slowly down as well, the ”reading” of the movement and the search for the how concretely implies an embodiment. The piece is presented in an empty room as a moving sculpture, and as a spectator one is free to move, and does so when the urge of the search is strong enough. In many aspects, quite literally, the audience thus also moves and is being activated to move. The range of the movement also contributes to this, not only in speed, but also in size, where a minute movement demands a zooming-in, which is then followed by a sudden flip of a full body in midair, necessitating a quick zooming-out.
Would you agree that this piece stages this desire to move and be moved very explicitly, since without the desire nothing would happen?
Yes. The desire is inherent in the singular movements themselves but also in the overall mechanism of the piece, through its rejuvenation. One can see every collapse as a small death on the way, which holds the potential of a cessation, of a collapse of the entire machinery. Consequently, every repositioning would be a wish for flux, or the wish for an affect in order to continue. And the beauty in this, for me, lies in the fact that it is a wish for the movement itself, rather than for what that movement might result in, or be in service of, as long as it keeps moving. Getting up, walking to another place, taking a new position in the room, and making ourselves available for an impact is all we do, and the implications of this is massive. Because by doing so we expose the will to continue, to change.
No, not at all, I think, since it is an experience felt due to the presence of its possible failure, its possible crash. The established mechanism is ever-present as well as transparent and thus über-clear, and so is the movement. Our method as performers is the same as your method as viewers – we use our sensorium, and our proprioception, and so do you. It communicates corporeally in a doubled way: through our bodies and through yours.