texts

pic by D.Hartwig, all rights reserved.
Foreword
Reflection marks the conclusion of Isabelle Schad’s five-year choreographic project on the collective body, a profound and multilayered research of movement which has explored multiple forms of physical co-existence and bodily subjectivities on stage. This publication invites the reader and the spectator to get inside, around and beyond those forms, to consider how they are generated, how they are looked after, how they transform, resonate and proliferate in the outside world. Contributions from long-term collaborators, people who represent the embodied and embedded collectivity that has contributed to the research in different ways over the years, are here brought together with contributions by guest authors who were invited to enter into dialogue with the work of Isabelle Schad for the first time, producing fresh and unexpected perspectives on it.
Reflection suggests a sense of urgency, a sense of bodies constantly ‘at work’, intent on finding the collective and individual strategies that we need to exist, coexist and persist. As Övül Ö. Durmusoglu reminds us in her text on the following pages, ‘It is said that we are in the middle of a powerful learning arch. There are no more cheap, temporary solutions.’ Our response to this urgency should be to acknowledge that the precondition of all potential change is putting the body back in the foreground in a deep, physical and almost visceral way.

Elena Basteri

AMBIGUITY OF HUMAN WEBS
In the new creation by Isabelle Schad, Reflection, there is a kind of ambiguity concerning theatre and its social, representative, energetic, and contemplative power.
At the beginning of the performance a large group of dancers gradually inhabits the stage by entering from the audience, and initiates a multi-layered relationship with the theatre machinery. The theatre apparatus interacts and affects dancers’ movements and, from that point, a complex game of the relations between the performers emerges, creating a dreamy landscape charged with meaning: inanimate and living bodies resonate; parts of the body become alive, resembling machines; protagonists are constantly confronted with the chorus, or, at least with their own shadows; clothing becomes a sign of their new skin. Theatre revives as a classicistic cave for projected phantasms about the relationship between an individual and a group.
As a strategy, ambiguity is not coded in the dance language or choreographic score but exists as an impression, a hint of something that cannot yet be revealed. Reflection is inspired by The Gospel according to Matthew (Il Vangelo secondo Matteo), a black and white film by Pier Paolo Pasolini, the great Italian cinematographer and poet of theatre. Pasolini was impressed with the theatre, he described it as a great, magical, divine craftsmanship, able to create weapons for gods and instruments for people.
Reflection obscures the understanding of human webs by the usage of theatre apparatus, insisting on the permanent transformation and creation of transient figurations, while offering a complex game of interdependencies of the individual and the chorus. At first glance, it looks like a group-made and group-owned work, but within the choreographic score there is a rotating responsibility of individuals, with different combinations of people in charge of particular dance sections, at times personified as protagonists, prophets, or sages. In Reflection, the abundance of interdependent relationships between those individuals and the group are closely related to concepts of power, function, knowledge-sharing, dilemmatic processes, and constant change.
The overcoming of the polarisation – an individual versus a group – intends to create preconditions for everyone, both on the stage and in the audience, to recognise themselves as human beings in constant interaction with others and to understand society as a figuration1 constructed by numerous interdependent individuals. Thus, such categories as an individual or a group come to express only differences in the viewpoint of the observer, who at times may focus on the individuals forming the group or the group formed by those individuals. Reflection calls for the active engagement of an observer. Above all, it is an appeal to the humanity of the observer – an appeal that could have been defined as ludic or perhaps an alchemical one.
Saša Božic ́

1 For the concept of ‘figuration’ cf.: Norbert Elias, The Court Society, University College Dublin Press, 2005.

Forming Bodies
Hands grasp shoulders, elbows. Soles of feet come into contact, and legs lever back and forth, back and forth. One step follows the other, adhering and disengaging, going on to different partners. Bodies entangle into sculptural forms, into circles, tubes, mythical beasts and cell structures. Forms that contract and expand, that rotate and pulsate, that turn inside out, that rub up against and repel one another.
At the rehearsal of Reflection I stand towards the back of the auditorium. I shuffle from one foot to the other, swinging lightly to and fro. My three-week-old son sleeps at my belly. Bound together in a sling, we are almost a single body again. My rocking rocks him. When he stretches his arms, legs or back, my body is set in motion.
Sculpture is important for Isabelle Schad’s choreographies, I read in an email. Rodin, for example, says Isabelle when I meet her for the first time, and his idea (as described by Rilke) of form- ing not so much the figure as the space around it.1 As the bodies onstage continually reorganise themselves, sculptural form appears here primarily in its ambivalences, and with Rodin an artist who in many art-historical narratives becomes the forerunner of a self-reflexive sculpture. In Rodin’s work, says Rosalind Krauss, for example, representation and narration yield to the revelation of the production process. Meaning now arises on the surface of the figures, which is entrenched with the marks of fingers and tools.2 The skin is no longer a reliable contour; the figure is only formed in its contact with the outside.
For Krauss, who actually has her eye on the art of her own time, Rodin brings in a kind of sculpture that primarily questions itself and the conditions of its production, and is more interested in process than in the object itself. But production isn’t only thought of in material terms here (more joke than self-analysis, for example, is Robert Morris’s Box with the Sound of Its Own Making, 1961). For artists counting on viewers’ activity (from Allan Kaprow to Alice Aycock or Mary Miss), sculpture seems only to come about in the encounter with a perceiving subject. In other cases sculpture emphasises the mechanisms that produce its value or meaning (Duchamp’s Fountain as much as institutional critics such as Michael Asher or, in a second generation, Renée Green). At any rate autonomy begins to slip – and not only that of the sculptural object. The observing subject (in the 1960s Husserl and Merleau-Ponty had just been translated into English) also seems to observe itself and its body only in relation to the objects in its surroundings. Object- subject-object relation. And vice versa.
We walk together, in step. You forwards, I backwards, the floor beneath us swiftly flowing. Then you stand still and let yourself be carried away. I hang back, walk on, making no headway.
The revolve as the prompter of movement sequences. Metal bars and control cables visible above the dancers’ heads. Shirts hanging on hooks and levers at the back of the stage waiting to be worn. They are thrown on, wound into the movement. Crumpled together and carried about or swung in great arcs, slapping down onto the floor. Isabelle Schad, too, makes the institutional framework of her choreography visible: the theatre as an apparatus whose structures and rules the dancing bodies can never quite cast aside (even if they rub up against them).
Perhaps it lies in the visibility of the technical conditions that in the interlocked bodies I initially see machine parts or hydraulic levers pushing each other back and forth and up and down. But very soon irritations creep into the rhythm. The movements aren’t in fact synchronous, but follow different tempi, barely perceptible at first, and begin to jolt and fray. The theatrical machinery communicates with organic forms, which arise and disintegrate, divide and open up to one another.
Rodin and what followed. The sculpture that Isabelle Schad invokes is that of the vibrating, iridescent, fleeing form. Not only the danced figures but also the bodies from which they emerge are in a state of becoming. They too (mounted together on joints or in the slipstream of their counterpart) only take on form in their encounters or in relationship to one another. As with Rodin, it isn’t always clear where bodies begin and end.
The body, or the self, shows itself in its lack of discreteness from the Other. My swaying mother- and-child body is perhaps only a particularly conspicuous example. We aren’t autonomous. Isabelle Schad’s organic figurations allude to it: even our materiality is porous. Our skin is permeable for microbes; it sweats and breathes and (hardly any different from the surface of Rodin’s sculptures) allows the touch of the Other to de/form the underlying body.
‘The body is not bounded by the skin, where we understand the skin to be a kind of container for the self, but rather our bodies always extend and connect to other bodies, human and non-human, to practices, techniques, technologies and objects which produce different kinds of bodies and different ways, arguably, of enacting what it means to be human. The idea of the body as simply something that we both have and are is displaced (...) as the focus shifts to what bodies can do, what bodies could become.’3
What bodies can do (on stage and in their social contexts) depends not least on their relation- ship to other bodies. Who exerts force and who feels its effects? Who determines the movement and who has to follow? When Isabelle Schad’s pieces speak of the relationality of being (maybe foremost where they touch on sculpture), they present bodies and the relationships between them also as mutable. And this not only acknowledges the inevitable but also offers a sliver of utopia.
Oona Lochner

1 See Rainer Maria Rilke, Auguste Rodin (1902), trans. Daniel Slager, Brooklyn: Archipelago Books, 2004.
2 Rosalind E. Krauss, Passages in Modern Sculpture, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1977, pp. 20, 28, 37.
3 Lisa Blackman, The Body. The Key Concepts, Oxford, New York: Berg, 2008, p. 1.

FOLLOW ME
‘Follow me,’ he says. The scene depicted is the interior of a tavern. The man he is speaking to seems surprised, the light painted over his side confirms for the viewer that this is the man being addressed. Everyone around the table except one seems excited. Caravaggio modelled his biblical scenes using real people from his circle. The bodies of his figures are down to earth, de-idolised, entangled in motion and full of emotion. The Calling of Saint Matthew and The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew, made between 1599 and 1600 and installed on opposing sides of the Contarelli Chapel at the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome, brought him immediate fame and drew harsh criticism from conservative ecclesiastics, who disapproved of their real-life naturalism.
Some two thousand years later, in 1964, Italian film director Pier Paolo Pasolini, known for his atheist Marxist position and poetic cinema in the neo-realist tradition, shot The Gospel According to Matthew in Calabria with non-professional actors. Defining himself as a non-believer with a nostalgia for belief, he remythologised the gospel by bringing non-mythical, down-to-earth bodies together with a movement and energy similar to Michelangelo’s timeless work in the Sistine Chapel, though in this case Pasolini portrayed their close-up reality as emotion. His search is for a forgotten muscle of collective affect and belief, forgotten because of its institutionalization, which took it far from its origins. His black-and-white framing shows expansive landscapes, bod- ies in choreographed masses and facial close-ups that operate as a yin-and-yang system, checking back on the twofold reciprocal reality of the world.
‘Follow me’ has now been transformed into a social media command, a regulated affection. Decades later, when the body has become a cult of over-performance, photographing and circulating itself over and over again in various controlled and predefined poses, the need to rediscover that collective muscle of affect, belief and tenderness is far more urgent. We have subsumed our political and social subjectivities under micro and macro models of control. And confronting the hard facts of the world again and again, day in, day out, is tough on the chemistry of the body. Can we trigger different thought processes and solutions by feeling, locating feelings and making our sensory receptors more open to emotional impulses?
Modern Western thought separated mind from body, rationality from emotion, spirituality from everyday reality. Addressing this shortcoming of mainstream philosophy, Luce Irigaray says: ‘In our tradition [...] truth has too often been considered to be something exclusively mental, unless it has been treated as the reality of natural beings, of objects or things of the world.’1 In a similar frame the human mind has been taught that ‘change’ is only deserving of the name if it constitutes
a radical rupture from one day to the next, and massive ruptures such as this may well be rendered impossible by the singularity of the human mind. But it is possible to refuse to surrender to the partitioning of the world, to irreconcilable differences, binary divisions and oppositions between species and genres.
Change is relational and cumulative; it is a willing exercise of will. To have the body working in relation to the mind, to make the mind follow the body relationally day by day, is the main route to reconditioning the collective muscle of affection. Ancient healing techniques from different parts of the world call for ecological co-creation of bodily postures and mental states, whereby physical shapes facilitate mental qualities and mental states inform physical shapes. Such reciprocal co-creation allows for an initial nurturing of ‘auto-affection’ that can then be communicated to other bodies in collective action. When you’re in touch with yourself and the world you can stand like a perfectly balanced set of scales and move like a spinning wheel at the same time.
Luce Irigaray’s poststructuralist feminist phenomenology regards touch as a new model of relating to the world, a model that turns phallogocentric understanding, based on mind and vision, upside down. It is an expression of infinite possibilities. Touch is not just about mediated relations with the outside world; it is also about auto-affection, which is a way of being in touch with yourself ‘with a positive feeling’. However, like a rite of passage, touch should also pave the way from ‘self- affection to affection for the other and with the other, and also lead us toward a possible Other.’2 It should be a guide along the path of becoming divine, attaining wisdom, finding and recovering our lost selves. She asserts that our relationships are prone to violence if there is a lack of immediate touch in our mediations. Going back to Pasolini’s Gospel According to Matthew, the baptism scenes address the connection between earthly, bodily and spiritual energies through the agency of touch. We touch, we mediate, we separate and we relate again.
Yvonne Rainer’s super-8 film Hand Movie, shot in 1966 by her fellow dancer William Davis when Rainer was confined to a hospital bed recovering from major surgery, is a powerful poetic abstraction of touch, mediation, separation and relation as everyday choreography. As she moves her fingers and joints through different constellations as though playing an imaginative children’s game she reminds herself and her viewers to undo the monumental moment. Rainer finds a simple secret where mind tends to see nothing but boundaries and exercises for transgressing the mental limits she might impose on her body. She adopts a posture for connecting to the reciprocal reality of the world. To borrow the words of Zen Buddhist teacher Shunryu Suzuki, whose Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind (1970) is a classic guide to posture for meditation, ‘These forms are not the means of obtaining a right state of mind. To take this posture is itself to have the right state of mind.’3
‘Some truth’s manifestations come to us intuitively, like a sparkle of light in the dark. They must not be isolated from the darkness and opacity out of which they emerge’, says poet and philosopher Édouard Glissant.4 Sometimes we need to let darkness be so that those intuitive moments come close by, collecting them for the coming change. It is said that we are in the middle of a powerful learning arch. There are no more cheap, temporary solutions. There is nothing hidden in the darkness any more. Existing escape routes are shut off one by one. Our inner and outer Caesars, who still want to dominate in the same old ways, are in a state of panic, reflecting our values, beliefs, thoughts and fears. Bodies, singularly and together, will eventually learn to rebuild that collective muscle of affection, tenderness and belief at the centre of our hearts. Life leaves no choice and says: ‘Follow me.’ Let us take that posture.
Ö v ü l Ö . D u r m u s o g l u

1 Luce Irigaray, Sharing The World, London: Continuum, 2008, p.88.
2 Ibd.
3 Shunyru Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, New York: Weatherhill, 1970
4 Manthia Diawara, Édouard Glissant’s Worldmentality: An Introduction to One World in Relation
https://www.documenta14.de/en/south/34_edouard_glissant_s_worldmentality_an_introduction_to_one_ world_in_relation (last access 05.05.2019).

Traveling Attention
Here we are: facing one another, wrist against wrist, pushing and pulling.
We draw circles parallel to the ground with our hands and arms. The movement generates from our feet, it travels through our legs, pelvis and back. It lasts. I receive the pushing force of my partner, redistribute it to the floor, take another impulse from the ground, let it travel up until her wrist, down until her feet. For a moment it seems I can even feel the floor beneath her. It lasts.
I focus on the lines of forces in my body as well as in my partner’s body, through her wrist; this is the technique at the base of the movement.
I let my attention travel to my teeth. Can I generate the movement from there? How do I perceive my teeth within this movement? Shifting my attention to them, it creates the sensation of a volume and of a defined inner space. It enriches and expands the palette of my attention. As my teeth don’t have the same materiality as our movement, I enjoy for a few seconds the contrasted tastes of those two consistencies.
I lead my attention directly down to my feet, more precisely to my right little toe. It gives me the sensations of length, like a nerve which runs up to the top of my head. I can almost feel the beginning of my hair. Without lingering further around my feet, one pillar of the movement, I return to the eyes of my partner in search for a social contact; I perceive the danger of becoming mechanical and I remain watchful. I need to release my arms, release my attention, release my brain, I smile at her. It’s like drinking fresh water after intense effort. Releasing and unifying body and soul! The work demands from us that we stay both technical and human. At this stage of concentration, smiling is my strongest help. It’s the breath, the outlet of a too-loaded technical attention. It is the expression of the joy for being here in this moment, it is a way to address my partner. And actually, smiling is just the result of me of me feeling alive ...
I include the others standing on our sides in my peripheral vision. I enjoy for a short while the balancing movement of us going back and forth. I observe how my fingers react to the movement. The energy flows through them, echoing and completing the whole movement. No dead fish, and no stiff stick! Something in the middle! How far can I move them intentionally without exaggeration?
I need to switch again, my attention gets loose. Time for me to get into the next module: spread- ing the line. I increase slightly the push-pull movement to communicate my partner my wish, I begin eventually to discretely move my feet. She seems ready to move on as well.
The connection, two by two, slowly fades, our wrists separate and I am now back in the space as an individual. I release the specific attention I was in until now, and activate another one, embrac- ing the whole group and the whole space, not to bump into each other. I savour this transition.
The movement gets a bit wild now, and the lights darken softly.
Naïma Ferré

Reflections on pieces, elements and jumping, collectively.
Care is a practice that brings our bodies together. That keeps them together. That creates a group.
We commit and engage. It is a persistent – even stubborn – process of holding on to something which matters to us.
We recognise and accept that, even if we do not have the same bodies, the same backgrounds, or the same feelings, we do practice on a common ground.
The practice teaches us what we value, rather than simply what is of value.
We devote ourselves to care for togetherness. It is precious, affective, empowering.
We care through the body; we insist on it.
We care for our own singular bodies as a way to – gradually – unfold into other bodies. We invite them, we embrace them. We share our vulnerabilities.
We encompass the wholeness of the self, its fragility. We become porous membranes.
We let the movements leak out. We amplify inside-out and outside-in movements through our own membranes. We draw out, we absorb. We receive and give back.
We trust the process. It continues and expands into the time and space we share. We insist on being in relation.
We care for our individual trajectories. We become threads of energetic lines, we trace them.
We meet and cross. We continue the journey into unforeseeable yet-to-comes.
We contemplate, we go through a collective plan.
We care for the promise we share. The promise that must be conceived together, must be set into motion, and must be dared – collectively – into existence.
We sharpen awareness to all the fleeting moments. We sink into them. Momentarily and for the moment. We find tranquility there.
Przemek Kaminski

Published 14 June 2019