The title Dark Field Analysis refers to a method of analyzing blood samples. You are influenced by the notion of “extimity”, the desire to render visible certain aspects of the self previously deemed too intimate.
The German word unheimlich means uncanny or weird, the “disconcerting strangeness” of the inner self, of what remains hidden. I often work with that concept in mind. Dark Field Analysis refers to a method of blood analysis used in alternative medicine. Whereas blood is usually analyzed in a laboratory, in dark field analysis the blood sample is immediately placed under a microscope, in order to examine it while still alive. With this method you can see the living blood, the activity of the corpuscles, of bacteria. I’ve peered down such a microscope, taking that dive into the inner body. It was strange way of plunging into my anatomy, of looking at myself, extracting part of myself for detailed observation, like enlarging or getting closer to a very intimate part of oneself. I wanted this performance to be like sitting down together in a lab, in a human anatomy lab.
I was also fascinated by the strong feelings experienced when meeting someone for the first time: that suppressed intensity during moments of conversation. What happens when you meet someone and start talking to that person and an actual exchange takes place? When the content of that exchange is not very unique, when it is maybe even mundane. But when the experience in hindsight, on the other hand, can prove to be quite profound. I wanted to find a way to stage that. Lately I’ve made a number of large-scale shows. I felt the need to get closer again, to zoom in. This performance demands that, a peering through a microscope.
Someone wrote about you: “He can turn space, sound, light and bodies into performative drugs.” Is that a desired effect?
My performances are not based on a collective experience. I am not particularly interested in the aspect of watching a show together. What interests me is each individual experiencing something remarkable, involving bodies, sound, lighting, materials. Dark Field Analysis starts off as a collective experience, but as the performance progresses, it is transformed. Two men are seated on a rug, naked, in a state that appears to be calm and relaxed. They philosophize in an elementary fashion, they are not professional thinkers. Emotions emanate from them, but especially from the structure of the piece: the sound, the lighting, the cinematic aspect. A certain melancholy takes shape, generated by the music and the beauty of the images. There is also something harrowing about the piece, linked maybe to the idea of transformation. At the end, we no longer know where we are.
You create a space of body, sound and light where the spectator feels free to experience a series of sensations. How do you direct that experience?
I am very much interested in potential stories that might arise from what is presented on stage, what people project onto what they see. At the beginning of the performance one of the men asks the other: What is your first memory? That question gets some spectators deeply involved. They ask themselves that very question; they remember their oldest childhood memories. From there the two depart: two individuals engaged in conversation, each curious about the other and trying to get under the other’s skin.
To me, the question of human and post-human, the organic and the synthetic is of importance here. At a certain moment both bodies reach a point of convergence, become a single organism. The performance talks about what makes us human, how we differentiate ourselves from things and other beings. In our highly technological society we cannot any longer consider ourselves separate from advances of other forms of life. We might imagine ourselves unaffected by such changes, but what is no longer possible is to ignore them. There is already plastic in our organism. I do not think that Dark Field Analysis is a glorification on humanity, but rather a performance about the complexity of living in the world, in conscious relation with the animal, with desire, with instinct and technology.
By Diane Jean for Festival TransAmériques