EXTERIOR INFLUENCE AS METHODOLOGY
The Oslo National Academy of the Art
– booklet by MA Choreography and Dance
Photo: Hinda Fahre
As a noun, exterior is defined as the outside, an outward form or appearance. As an adjective, the exterior defines what is outer – e.g. an exterior surface or an exterior decoration.
(Definition found on www.dictionary.com)
In this text I use the term exterior to denote what the body is exposed to in the form of decorations, surfaces and other outside elements. In performing arts the creator or performer can work together or against exteriors. Either way, the exterior will always be distinct in the prosecutor's actions. The exterior, the outer, creates a huge field of matter that can include the infinite, excluding other individuals. Everything can be perceived as an outward form.
I find it interesting to see how the body relates to and is affected by exteriors. All human beings relate to different forms of exteriors, due to tactility and our sencory apparatus, as well as psychosocial norms. Be it related to the outside; space, site or surroundings, or exterior decorations; being costumes and clothes, it will form and affect the way we act, perceive and the way we are viewed. In other words, the external factors will automatically form our physical appearance, the way we move (perform ourselves) and how these are understood by others. Both the performer and the viewer are affect by external conditions. Being the subject of oneself is always formed by the context we are in or being submitted to.
As long as a person has social and cultural references, he or she will move, act and speak through experience. It is a result of representation, the production of meaning of concepts in our minds through language. The link between concepts and language enables us to refer to either the "real" world of objects, people or events, or indeed the imaginary worlds of fictional objects. "Cultural objects convey meaning and all cultural practices depend on meaning. The objects, the exterior, work as a language". (Hall, Nixon, & Evans, 2013, p. 17).
In this way references to what is outer will naturally come into light. We are all individuals, formed by what is around us due to semiotics and connotation of signifiers.
Not taking the exterior into consideration, working against external factors, becomes a specific action in itself. I have to focus, to ”pull myself together”, in order to work against the exteriors and what they represent.
All exteriors and what they represent form individuals due to psychological, behavioral and sociological aspects. Working with exteriors as an influence in dance and movement can be linked to the process and tools in method acting – conciously letting ones body be affected by outer elements in order to understand, shape and control emotions, ways of being, roles or characters.
There are countless methods based on exterior conditions. In the methods I use, I am interested in the body; its intuitive and kinesthetic response and the specific sensations I get in relation to the exterior environment. I give in, but can still have a focus and a direction connected to what I am doing. Technique and training has created a set of sensations that I am interested in challenging, and methods allow me to do so, in the process of creating on my self and others, and a tool to influence set movements/choreography.
The body will automatically be formed by the element it is in. The elements challenge the normative body, both psychological and behavorial. This method has a behavioral aspect because it forms how we can use our bodies in the elements and how we behave compared to being in our normal state. It also has a strong psychological aspect because it will affect and challenge our perception of comfort, discomfort and pain.
Temperature is an important factor here. Working in diverse temperatures could be a method in itself. The naked body will not act the same in a blizzard as in a hot yoga class. The old Indian tradition of walking on coal is often referred to as dancing on coal. The word dancing is used due to the automatic response the body has to the severe heat.
In the elemental method, I am interested in how the elements enhances bodily response.
This challenges technique, kinesthesia and shapes our appearance.
I use this method in creating my work and researching movements exclusively for enhancing sensations and confronting the intuitive.
UNDERGROUND SITE METHOD
The body, due to psychosocial norms, acts differently at different sites and spaces. History and culture are factors that shape the behavioral norms and rules – techniques if you will – of how a body appears in the spaces formed and defined by society. A body can either follow or revolt against these rules. I say this in respons to the statement rules can only be broken when known. This relates to what I wrote earlier about working against exterior conditions. Deliberatly choosing not to follow the rules is a planned and conscious action. Pablo Picasso supposedly said “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
A site that is related to underground activities comes with several behavioral norms and rules. These activities are not related to society's set behavioral norms and rules. As a result the spaces are characterized by a duality; of normative behaviour is related to non-normative behaviour.
This method, due to the duality of what the underground site represents, lets me work with a double set of rules. The rules come with an edge because the exterior in itself is loaded with a sense of revolt – a contrast to the common understanding of different feautures within the space. Moving in a site, maintaining or breaking rules, effects behavioral, psychological and sociological aspects of the body – challenging both kinesthesia, intuition and how one is viewed by others.
At any space or site, features within the specific area will also evoke tactile sensing.
I use this method in my work creating movements for underlining sensations perceived in the body and for confronting the intuitive. This is evoked through tactile and social-symbolic elements – in combination or singularily.
CLOTHED OR UN-CLOTHED METHOD
The body reacts to garments, both in relation to tactile sensations, silhuettes and fit, and what the garment says in a social context. Adding a costume to a performer is perhaps perceived as the ultimate form of working with an exterior. It shapes body and poise and underlines a form of character for both viewer and performer. Kinesthesia will be effected if the performer allows it to. The way the garments are created will influence the movement of the body. "What we wear will affect how we move, but also how the audience can perceive the thing we present". (Burrows, 2010, p. 142)
The naked body creates a social statement because it breaks with convention. Nakedness gives the performer an alertness to bodily sensation perhaps through a greater tactility – something that can be explored/experienced through moving the body in space. Taking away the exterior, the garments, becomes a way of exploring the exterior itself.
Clothing displays roles and status, and hides the naked body. Clothes play with signs, denotation and connotation. The coding of signifiers and signifieds converts clothes into signs and concepts (Hall et al., 2013).
I use this method in my work creating movements for underlining sensations perceived in kinesthetics and confronting the intuitive. This is evoked through tactile and social-symbolic/behavioral elements – either as a combination or in the singular.
METHODS IN USE
Foto: Hinda Fahre
The concept behind this film was to see how my body would transform in the cold water. I wanted to depict how my movements and my movement language would change, and how having to stay in the water over time would affect me psychologically.
Being a person who loses body temperature quite fast, the process was painfull.
The movements were improvised and were coloured by:
1) The element of water.
2) The pool.
3) The frigid temperature.
In the beginning I could move quite freely and my body related mostly to the play in water and to the site. As my body temperature lowered my body reacted differently. At first shaking was added to my movements. The tiny shakes didn't really effect my improvisation. Small cramps and contractions followed and made restrictions to bigger movements. Changes in skin tone and colour were rapidly ascertained. When the shaking became even bigger, I could feel my bodily reactions to the cold taking control, forcing me to work within what intuitively felt safe. The cramps felt more like a constant locking of body parts together. In the end of the session, the contact with the water was actually physically painfull.
Foto: Hinda Fahre
UNDERGROUND SITE METHOD
I wanted to take the story behind the historical ballet, L'après-midi d'un faune, choreographed and performed by Nijinskij in 1912, and put it into a context where the site would inspire me to improvise within a movement language that would be true to the story and the style. The story and the ballet has a sexual undertone – I wanted to set the improvisation to a place in nature used for recreational purposes and with a sexual undertone. Nordmarka in Oslo is both used for sporting activities and healthy ”true-Norwegian recreation”, as well as being an underground site – a site for cruising and sexual encounters.
Doing the improvisation in these woods made me become suggestive and direct within the form of Nijinskij – inspired mostly by his arm and hand-gestures. We were met by several bypassers (presumably hikers) giving life to the illusion of being observed as a sexual being/creature. This coloured how I moved and acted, highlighting the dual norms of the site.
CLOTHED OR UN-CLOTHED METHOD
The costumes/fashions were important for the visual aspect and for my interpretation of the site, situation and character. I was only wearing a fuzzy, almost furry, mohair sweater and a small pair of briefs. These garments had a tactile aspect and a symbolic aspect to them. The furry texture referred to the faun. The combination of sweater and brief, signifying features of a faun through modern esthetics, made the interpretation of this role come more naturally into form, shaping my bodily response and kinesthesia to the site and situation.
Being a man undressing alone in these woods, made me feel, act and move as I was enjoying the exposition. What the site represents allowed my body to respond to being undressed in an organic, natural way. In this way, the two methods communicated with each other.
CLOTHED OR UN-CLOTHED METHOD
This method was used in the last step of the process of creating movements for the film. I used it as a way of research: How would using different types of outfits effect my performance of a set choreography? And what would being naked do to the outcome of the performance when only done once?
Wearing fitted shirts and vests had, naturally, a different effect on my body than wearing a loose coat. The fitted clothes created restrains and the coat added heaviness to the body. As the garments were taylor made in beautiful materials, they also contributed to posture and a general feeling of well being.
Dancing naked was done as a stunt; one run through only. As the dressed and covered up body, at least covering up genetalia, is a code in our society, it was interesting to experience what would happen in the context of the site/location (a concerthall) with the crew watching.
Dancing naked had an immediate effect to my movements and kinesthesia: losing grounding, focus and concentration – erasing the feeling of well being. Being in a room with ten people, performing choreographed movements, the sense of losing control felt more frustrating than the discomfort of exposing oneself infront of collegues.
Being naked in a concert hall felt more unnatural than being undressed in the woords due to what the two sites represent.
Burrows, J. (2010). A choreographer's handbook. London: Routledge.
Hall, S., Nixon, S., & Evans, J. (2013). Representation (2nd ed. ed.). London: SAGE.