performance

En karta över A Map to get Lost (in Swedish)

This text was written in Swedish, so I post it in Swedish.

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Den här texten tillkom i samband med STDHs slutseminarium, dit jag var inbjuden som extern gäst för att reflektera över A Map to Get Lost från publikperspektiv. Den handlar om mina erfarenheter av föreställningen utifrån hur olika segment opererar och kontrasterar mot varandra, snarare än om en dramaturgi där ordningen är fast.

En del av A Map to Get Lost är en den utan levande kroppar. Där spelar ljud, ljus och doft ut mot en miljö som främst ramas in av ett antal stora lackdraperier. Denna miljö tycker jag innehåller en inbjudan till åskådaren att vistas med materia och rytm på ett annat sätt än i vardagen. Min relation till rummet och även till viss del kostymerna har en sensorisk eller rent av taktil aspekt. Utan att jag som åskådare någonsin rör vid ytorna som finns i lack, päls, sammet eller flytande choklad så gör ljus och ljud så att säga det åt mig. Det finns en glans eller vibration som förflyttar sig i materialen och närmar mig till dem.

Men kostym och rekvisita innehåller även andra kvaliteter; jag tvekar inför att kalla dem symboliska. Låt säga att de i alla fall efterliknar någon sorts figurer eller platser. För mig bryter huset, tältet, fåglarna, och dräkternas karaktärer av mot det ickeföreställande, introducerar en sorts fokuspunkter som gör att jag inte länge koncentrerar mig på material i rörelse utan mer på att försöka avkoda ett teckensystem med tydliga skillnader. Det låter sig dock inte göras på något enkelt sätt. Tecknen hinner aldrig fastna, ta form. Scenbilderna byter av varandra snabbt och associativt; fåglar följer på andra fåglar, det finns inga hårda klipp – saker tycks höra samman. Men därmed inte sagt att till exempel fågeln får samma betydelse från scen till scen, eller att en karaktär kan beskrivas på ett entydigt sätt. Symbolerna varken laddas eller töms. Formen varken etableras eller frångås.

Texten utgör ytterligare en faktor i spelet med betydelser och tolkningsramar. Den är på ett sätt ett bakgrundselement i sammanhanget; många scener utspelar sig i andra ljudbilder än talets och några talhandlingar tycks inte heller gjorda för att höras. Texten växlar därtill språk, uttryck och form, vilket gör att den inte riktigt går att beskriva som en text. Den rör sig mellan tyska, engelska, svenska, den rör sig mellan ett teoretiskt modus, dirty talk, interjektioner och fragment av narrativ.

Samtidigt är vissa textuttryck framförda på ett sådant sätt att de starkt färgar min läsart av verket som helhet. Eftersom texten inte alltid är förlagd till specifika kroppar utan också till högtalarna tycks den stundtals kommentera föreställningen, erbjuda ”nycklar”. Här finns bland annat en teoretiserande röst som talar om frånvaro av mänsklig agens; materia utan sorg och utan mening. Samtidigt är texten, både när den situeras i skådespelarkropparna och när den situeras i högtalarna, upptagen av sexualitet, våld och disciplinering – ämnen som traditionellt sett är djupt förknippade med den mänskliga historiens materiella villkor.

Texten blir därför en för mig motstridig nyckel, kanske en nyckel som vittrar sönder om jag försöker använda den alltför ihärdigt. Men jag ser ändå rörelserna på scenen i ljuset av textens behandling av sexualitet, våld och disciplinering. Öppningar i dräkter och scenografiska objekt slukar återkommande andra kroppar hela. Skådespelarna arbetar ofta med mångtydiga omfamningar, låsningar och fasthållningar. Ibland tar det sig mer koreografiska uttryck, men främst är det teater i bemärkelsen att det på någon nivå porträtterar känslor i relationella förlopp mellan en sorts karaktärer som ibland framför repliker.

Det är också i första hand mot skådespelarnas aktioner som min blick riktas när det befinner sig kroppar på scenen – de ställer för mig det övriga görandet i bagrunden. Detta trots att det finns ett sammansmältande mellan skådespelarkropparna och scenografi/kostym. Kanske är det i A Map to Get Lost snarare så att skådespelarna tvingar föremålen att spela teater åt dem än att kropparna blir likvärdiga objekt bland andra. Om kropparna är sysselsatta med att iscensätta inklusion och exklusion genom mer eller mindre explicit våld, så blir föremålen också det. Samtidigt gör de visst motstånd, talar om annat och mer än kropparna – till exempel genom sin taktilitet, vibration eller glans.

Ljud- ljusbilderna är kanske det i föreställningen som är mest konsekvent – för mig hänger de samman både med sig själva och med varandra på ett annat sätt än det övriga jag har beskrivit. Starkt färgade ljus, strob och rök går i linje med olika loopade technobeats, ibland med mänsklig röst som en del av ljudmattan. Allt det här skulle för mig kunna höra hemma på en klubb.

Men huset, dräkterna, texten och skådespelarnas aktioner hör inte riktigt hemma på samma klubb, eller de hör inte alls hemma med något jag kan tydligt kan urskilja. Det skär sig, och jag tänker mig att det är meningen. Som åskådare försätts jag i ett tillstånd där jag är vilse i referenserna. Ska jag gå till spekulativ realism, psykoanalys eller genusvetenskap? Ska jag gå till Lilla huset på prärien, Min pappa Toni Erdmann eller Tadeusz Kantor? Ska jag gå till Sarah Kane, Mr International Rubber eller MoMa?

Jag upplever att föreställningen upprättar ett formspråk som frånsäger sig många av mina egna krav på form. Det är för mig ganska ansträngande att gå vilse eller inte veta vart jag är på väg, att få mina förväntningar brutna, att inte hitta bärande trådar att hålla fast vid, att inte få stanna upp i bilderna, att inte riktigt veta hur eller vad jag så att säga ställer till svars i min dialog med den estetiska upplevelsen. Men det är också intressant och inte så vanligt. Föreställningen sätter igång en process hos mig i efterhand där jag behöver arbeta för att identifiera vad jag har varit med om. Jag tänker att det finns olika sorters kraft i ett formavvisande formspråk, inte minst därför att det ställer frågor till vad form är.

Jag tänkte på olika inslag i normkreativ formgivning, som jag har lärt känna lite genom till exempel Moa Schulman, Sepidar Hosseini och Sara Kaaman. Jag skulle beskriva normkreativ formgivning som att den medvetet använder sig av formgrepp som är motstridiga eller anses fula i syfte att utmana gränser och normer inom och bortom formgivningens fält.

A Map to Get Lost gör mig så att säga som minst vilse när jag tänker på den som en sådan utmaning av scenkonstens former. Varken dans eller teater brukar se ut såhär i Sverige idag. Kanske är A Map to Get Lost en del av en rörelse som håller på att framträda, ett språk som upprättar nya nycklar till vår samvaro i scenkonsten.

Om det är så tror jag att föreställningen kan ställa fler frågor till mig än vad jag kan ställa till den, eftersom jag bara kan fråga utifrån de kategorier av estetiskt tänkande som jag själv så att säga hittar i.

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Where Were We, documentation

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This year, I’ve established a project together with Israeli choreographer Uri Turkenich. The project went through different forms. First, we played games with Inana, then we had a Derridian episode at Skogen, after that we danced with the cool kids in Berlin at 3AM and now in October we went physical in Weld. The project deals with intimate conversations as a performative practice. During the coming year we will tour a bit and we would like to tour more (so ask us to come by writing to me!).

Here is a documentation of the performance – a part of me learning to video edit, by the way. Above is an image from the performance (snapped by Marika Troili or Sofie Anderson; unsure) and here is a link to the festival we were part of at Weld. The project was supported by The Swedish Arts Grant Committee, but also by c.off, who made an interview with us here.

Realizing the Unready

In the last post and the one before that, I’ve done some process reports on an ongoing work with choreographer Uri Turkenich. In the end of March 2016, we did a series of presentations at Skogen in Gothenburg with the support of Konstnärsnämnden, also sharing the space with some other artists. A long and complex conversation about the necessities of sharing spaces and processes led us to that conclusion. In our program folder for these evenings, this is how we explained it:

Uri Turkenich: This text introduces Tova Gerge’s and my thoughts about the curatorial aspects of the three evenings we organize in Skogen in the end of March. We invited three other artists to share these evenings with us and show unready work. We want to explain why we did that.

Tova Gerge: We did it because we will also be unready, and we think unreadiness can be a beautiful condition to be in, for both audience and artists. For audience because unreadiness gives access to a certain kind of vulnerability, and maybe also a power to influence. For artists – well, it’s too lonely a condition to be in a process of artistic production where the end result is our first encounter with others. And for us specifically, to meet the audience at an early stage makes even more sense. Our whole project is about differences and getting to know the other as separate from the own identity. This means for us to explore the vulnerability of being together as we are – audience and performers alike – with all our fragilities.

U: We also enjoy thinking about conditions of production of art, and wanted to try producing under different conditions than what we are used to. Producing art alone is a precarious condition. If we do it together, it can become more sustainable. So we are very happy that the author Khashayar Naderehvandi, the choreographer Svarta fåret and the visual artist Anna Ehrlemark agreed to participate. It’s not so obvious to be willing to expose artistic processes to an audience and present work before it’s ready. It takes a certain kind of courage to do it.

T: I agree, but also it makes total sense to do it. To me, art is about being in dialogue, with friends and strangers. When we invite audience to a traditional, finished stage product, the dialogue sometimes only happens on the level of fantasy. Me and the audience are in the same room during the time of the performance, but we never meet.

U: For me every time I perform for people it is a kind of meeting. I hear how they breathe, I perceive their expressions and reactions. And they see me too. So this dialogue can also happen with the traditional finished stage product.

T: Maybe what I’m trying to say is that when it’s a finished product, we tend to give up on the conversation – including the breathing and the expressions and all that – because we know not much can change anyway. If we don’t have the means to continue working, the opinion of the audience becomes our potential adversary. It’s like when you have a conversation in your head with your lover, and you think it’s pointless to have it for real because you know what they are going to say. We hope that this format of presenting unready work would make it possible to have the real conversation with the audience.

U: Last month, I organized a similar event in Tel Aviv and my mother came there. In this event, I showed a video work about being lost, and this scared her. Maybe she was afraid that I wasn’t doing well. And when we spoke, I understood that for me, being lost can be fun. Maybe more than that – I see a value in getting lost, because it means I took risk in doing something I didn’t already know how to do. And I put myself in a vulnerable position, which means for me that I am more open to others. I couldn’t see it before talking to my mother; I didn’t realize it was in the video before talking with her.

T: I like this story, because some kind of ideology of getting lost is also part of why one would like to present unready work. When we don’t know exactly where we are or where we are going, there is the possibility of allowing ourselves to share the space differently with the audience; not always taking them for a ride but also asking them for directions, being inside a question with them.

U: Yes, we are sort of asking people – Where are we? Either in words, or just by seeing their reactions.

T: Sometimes the mere fact of sharing something can make me realize how much I actually know about my position, even though I might not want to admit it to myself before sharing. It could be that I have a darling that I don’t want to kill, or I have a problem that seems unsolvable before I show it to someone else. While it’s a horror having people commenting on this if in the bitter aftermaths of something, I become grateful if I’m allowed to see it with the help of others before the crisis, fight, publication, premiere, release… So to show things that are not ready can reverse my approach to criticism.

U: So we show something that is not ready yet, but at the same time it needs to be ready in some way. I think there are different phases of unreadiness. I show it when I know there’s something to it, but I don’t know what it is yet. In a way, it’s the point in the process of production when the performance needs the audience to realize itself. I also think that at this point it’s more enjoyable for the audience to see it. I wouldn’t like to show it before that phase, there’s no reason to show it yet.

T: It is also a question of why one would like to show it. To “realize” it as you say – or to just get better tools for working, using a test audience as your motor. As I usually work with audience participatory work, to try things out in practice has been absolutely crucial for me also really early on in my processes. But I would call it testing, not showing. Maybe that’s why it was you – usually doing a stricter separation of the performers vs the audience than me – who from the beginning insisted on the importance to meet the audience mid-process also for this work. Together, we had to reconceptualize what showing to someone then means. I think now what we are doing here in Gothenburg is not testing something; it’s sharing something.

The ambivalence of being identified with resistance is totally not bothering me right now

A text from a small solo project I recently run in the context of a residency at the University of Dance and Circus in Stockholm.Skärmavbild 2015-09-01 kl. 16.52.52

I was pulled back into this Lithuanian bowling hall from Soviet times. The party organizers had filled it with a thousand balloons popping in irregular outbursts as the feet of the dancers hit them. The soundscape was a divider. I had already spent some time out on the porch with a girl who had flashbacks from air raids. Others just hated balloons. And then there were the drinkers who would never opt for a dance floor in the first place.

I made a toast with pickles and cheese at the post midnight snack table. I was sincerely considering putting ham in despite my vegetarianism, but in the end I was being put off by the sweet and fleshy smell. I experienced some kind of vague relation between that and the fact that someone who was maybe flirting with me earlier (maybe?) seemed to be busy with something else. I didn’t know if I was mostly relieved or disappointed that I wouldn’t have to deal with it anymore. Balloons were still popping, messing up the beat of some techno remix. My head then started playing a third beat; I was invaded by Lady Gagas Just Dance like some kind of prophetic voice.

I started by shutting out the welcoming smiles. I felt my deep tissue, the pressure of damp air against my skin and the slight movement of the old wooden floor as I gave my weight to it. It was not a question of enjoying it or not. It was just what was at hand, the only reasonable thing that I could give myself in this situation. As the sweat started running I had no questions to myself anymore, just an ongoing imagination of movement in space. I could not be interrupted, because there was no sequence, just the necessary grip of my body around the circumstances. And then I spotted the hopscotch.

Identity in and out of Time

I wrote this text for The Black The Box The Theatre – Texting Textures, that was a series of events programmed by Pontus Pettersson at the stage Weld in Stockholm 11-15 mars 2014. The text was part of an ongoing exhibition, originally edited in a font made by Pontus and written about the piece Preparing for Battle.

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MOPA, My Own Private Army, is a triology. This text is about the first part of that triology, MOPA – Preparing for Battle. Pontus once told me that he thinks of the triology as a series where the last part is a preparation for the preceding, and the middle one a preparation for the first. I find this description meaningful, also because each part in itself does something with time – letting the history, the now and the future of an individual body mingle, addressing experiences of being out of time in different senses.

I saw MOPA – Preparing for Battle at Dansens Hus (Stockholm) in early 2012. To come back to the alternative chronology of MOPA, it is strictly speaking the last part of the triology; the one that concludes the two following. However, I think it is fair to say that that this show also had a past outside its future, that the battle it was preparing for in a sense already took place. The battle that I am referring to is one about the timing of identity – what it takes in order to be perceived as consistent and readable subjects over time. For me, MOPA – Preparing for Battle was very much a work about precisely that.

Before I continue analyzing my experience of this piece, I wish to use myself and my route to writing this text as an example of why the question of identity in time can have conflictual aspects, also in the most mundane social situations – that is, not only in the dramatic transfer between carnivalesque explosive parties and the-day-after confessions/discoveries. It seems reasonable to not think so much of who I was in early 2012. It does not seem reasonable to hold myself in 2012 accountable to any higher degree for what I do now, and even less reasonable to hold myself in 2014 accountable for what I did in 2012. Retrospectively, however, it seems like I was in some sense preparing for writing this text about MOPA – Preparing for Battle already that night when I spoke with Pontus after the show, even though none of us knew it back then. Because I got the question to write this text now two years later, I have the possibility to establish a reassuring line of coherency in my self-narration, introduce a sense of meaningfulness between now and past. Who I was that night two years ago obviously has useful consequences for what I become now. At the same time, the very thought that reassures me of the meaningfulness and consistency of my identity can turn into a worrying potential of losing control of my self-narration. What other things did I do on different nights two years ago? What are the lines, consequences and coherencies that I cannot identify between then and now? What am I forgetting? What am I remembering? Why? In this way, my identity constantly remembers and recognizes itself as other. If the goal of identity is to stay the same, to be identical, then it is indeed very easily thrown into conflict with itself in relation to time.

Let me thus bring this conflictual knowledge of remembering it differently into my relating of what happened that night in 2012. When I saw MOPA – Preparing for Battle, it was the second show of two the same night. The one before was Between Dog and Wolf by Frédéric Alstadt, Kajsa Sandström and Ulrika Berg. During the course of this text, I will get deeper into the fact that shows lined up after each other always influence each other (no matter who is the choreographer). But I will now leave Between Dog and Wolf  behind.

MOPA – Preparing for Battle consists of solos, almost like a set of separate shows within the frame of one performance. Each dancer – the night when I was watching, it was Pontus Pettersson, Bosmat Nossan, Linnea Martinsson and Robert Malmborg, but on other occasions also Anna Pehrsson and Joe Moran – has their own stylized characteristics in terms of both costume, scenography and movement. Generally employing one signature color (blue, red, yellow, green, grey…) and one signature object (clothes, spoons, pearls, metal, boots…), as well as directing open gazes and striking poses towards the audience, the solos give an impression of presenting individual identities as readymade commercial units, like a series of warrior dolls or boy band members.

At the same time, the cuteness, sexiness (in the sense of presenting a lustful carnal quality to, or even for, the gaze of the audience) and general accessibility of these solos have an aspect that withdraws from being locked by the frames of identity. Or rather, if identity has a strive towards sameness, the solos insist that any sameness will inevitably negate itself. This, identity reveals itself as a process or action rather than an object: a constant movement between recognition and lack of recognition. In the solo where Pontus dances himself, timing in its most concrete sense is a part of that withdrawal from sameness. Movements can speed up or slow down in a way that connotes both fast forward, slow motion and the twitchy speed of silent films. This cinematic physicality inserts a certain unpredictability in the commercial unit of identity, something uncanny. Also the other characters presented in the series of solos have different uncanny qualities inserted in what first seems to be a solid, sellable frame. In Bosmat’s solo, the glittering pattern on a bright red cardigan reveals itself to be tea spoons that fall out of the knitwork, giving an image of metal splinters or splitter on the floor, which is also somehow consistent with the sense of inside pouring out that permeates her movement. In Linnea’s solo, she is busy with eating, spitting and spreading pearls all over the space, insisting on it until it changes meaning from fun to compulsive and back again. Robert in his turn engages with the isolation techniques and stop motion aesthetics of street dance in a way that completely overrules the established commercial identity of these styles, and taps into a very human, sulky, and messed up doll-likeness. In this sense, the solos are not only connected by their respective claim to specific and distinguishable salability, but also by how they insist on attacking themselves from within. My Own Private Army thus gets a double meaning in relation to the subtitle/module title Preparing for Battle. It is not only question of a neat collection of war dolls, but also a question of launching war on oneself, breaking down the exact thing that commodifies or locks identity into objecthood.

This said, I think MOPA – Preparing for Battle should not be understood as a piece that presents a critique towards commercialism in a polemic sense. Rather, it proposes an examination of the commercial as an aesthetic category, thus getting the audience hooked through playing on the basic desires and fears of having and losing identity. ”Commercial” becomes a language with versability and adaption as defining features, since its goal is to grab the guts of the consumers and keep them hooked, with whatever means at hand – but also to keep a healthy parasitic balance through refraining form consuming the consumers. Otherwise, the consumers have no chance of regenerating themselves and return for more. With this abstinence oriented way of addressing the audience, MOPA – Preparing for Battle does not have to argue for its own discursive usefulness, cultural importance or political urgency – or at least not anymore than a cup of bubbly dark brown soft drink with a red and white logo does.

Yet, MOPA – Preparing for Battle can never be that bubbly soft drink completely. It breaks out of its own salable category, inscribed as it is in a cultural economy of giving things away for free, and working as it does on and with live dancers that also embody different kinds of resistance to the reduction that commercial unification demands. Thus, the piece becomes a game where the audience can try out different experiences of both selling and buying into the longing, yearning and anticipation that is at the core of commercial exchange, which in its turn leads us back to a three-fold relation to time. To be able to wish for something implies both a feeling of having missed something in the past, of wanting to have it now and of being able to project it as a possible thing to have in the future. Longing is thus a promise of getting control over time – but it is a promise that cannot really be fulfilled. The history and the future is always out of control; the now always cracks, explodes into something unexpected. And this is how MOPA – Preparing for Battle operates: Inviting its audience to mirror both its strive for controllable identities and its capacity of letting go of control.

Social and political soundscapes

I wrote this text (Niki Woods translated) to the festival Dans ❤ Stockholm in early December 2013, where Band by Ingri Fiksdal and Atlantic by Juli Reinartz  were performing in a double bill.

Fiksdal and Reinartz present two in many ways different works on the same evening. Band is a quartet, Atlantic is a solo. The dancers in Band are quiet with covered heads, while Reinartz turns to address the audience. At the same time, the two performances share a common theme. They both explore concert moments – not the type of concert moments that occur in controlled, bright, state-funded places, but those that happen in cramped and unpredictable club environments. Such concerts alter or direct a nocturnal collective state, injecting rhythm to social and chemical movements in people’s bodies.

Most of us – many more than those who have ever seen a dance performance on stage financed by public funds – have had such a concert experience. Some of us have also had pivotal political and social experiences in such rooms. Identity and relations may emerge in the fandom. And the darkness of the club incites stepping outside the norm, with the potential of both strengthening and undermining the prevailing order.

Fiksdal and Reinartz approach the concert each in their own way as a cultural artefact, relation and sensation. Reinartz’s work with the socio-politics of music forms a piece that likens a concert, not least in the way it paraphrases the “between-song banter”. But this talk is not there to provide an answer as to what the piece portrays. Rather, it aims to establish another type of presence among the audience, getting them ready for what is to come, from the dance or from themselves. Atlantic is on the cusp of the kind of concert moment where many different bodies find their own inner swing, together, and are surprised by it.

Fiksdal’s Band can be described as an almost silent psychedelic concert. The audience sit close to each other by the stage, mostly in the dark, inciting listening with ears and skin. How do the dancing bodies sound? How does the synchronised breathing of audience sound? How does the warmth that radiates from one body to another feel? In the darkness, with the rhythmic repetition of movement, the audience is given the chance to sink back into sensory impressions, blurring the contours of identity.

Band and Atlantic are being performed at MDT, a scene that incites other forms of existence than the singular, unpredictable pulse of the club concert. Nonetheless, this pulse is perceptible in the dance works, explored and offered both as a memory and possibilty for the audience.”And so, watching Band and Atlantic can be like seeing two dance works and two concerts at the same time, but it can also be way of finding new tools for interpreting the so-called regular concert happenings that break into our (night) life, move us and bring us together.

PS.
In preparation for the double-bill show, Reinartz and Fiksdal interviewed each other about their respective works. Their dialogue is published in the MDT program. Not to be missed by those interested in immersing themselves into the two pieces and learning more about the encounter between the choreographic domain and various concert experiences!

The Dinner Party Documentation

Middagsbjudningen is a reoccuring performance taking its inspiration from Judy Chicago’s installation art work The Dinner Party from 1974. Chicago set the table for 39 mythical and historical women, like this:

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Instead of inviting imaginary guests, the Swedish version invites people who are alive and kicking.

I was asked to do an artistic documentation of the performance Middagsbjudningen at MDT, Stockholm 30/11 2011. This is what I came up with.

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Ahpra Behn, spy and playwright who fought for women’s rights / Valerie Solanas, who would have enjoyed being in a room with only women / Hilma af Klint, one of the first abstract artists in Sweden / Alice Nordin, who fought for being a female artist around the turn of the century / Cipe Pineles, the first woman who had the title Art Director in the USA / Tove Jansson, because I always wanted to meet her / Sonja Åkesson, who wrote in a way that made illness less of a taboo / Fredrika Bremer, who was important for the women’s liberation movement and had many different roles in it / Anna Lindh who at a very young age stepped into a male-dominated political world / Margaret Garner, who did a terrible resistance through killing her own child when she was caught by the slave owner from whom she had escaped / Ayn Rand, because we could have a hot political debate / Grandmother, who was a strong woman and would have liked to have been here / Margareta Åsberg, who founded Moderna Dansteatern and fought in a male-dominated world / Medea, who knew a lot about rage / Queen Kristina, who was a strong personage in her time / Frances Farmer, a fighting film star / Miriam, the sister of Moses, who was punished for asking God why he never spoke to her / Salt ‘n Pepa, because a lot of my female role-models come from the male-dominated hip hop world / Patti Smith, who creates feminist utopias with her words / Leymah Gbowee, who just received the Nobel Price for her fight for peace in Liberia / Lynn Hershman Leeson, who made the film !Women Art Revolution that I want to show at the Museum of Modern Art because it’s so good / Robyn, because her music makes me strong and happy / Yoko Ono, because her art challenges everyday life / Moa Martinsson, to whom I constantly return / Séraphine de Senils, whose art made me start painting on my photographies / Narges Mohammadie who fight for human rights in Iran despite hard repression and a bad health / Susanne Osten, who – despite the fact that we often forget it here in Sweden – is an important person for children’s theatre internationally / A babushka who went through a lot / Rosa Bonheur, the artist who got a special permission to wear pants / Eva Dahlgren, who sang about being young and proud when no one else did and when I needed it / Madonna, who has been with me ever since I was a girl / My younger sister Josephine Blad, because she works against master supression techniques and for good political dialogue in the hallways of power / Isis in Top Model because she, unlike me, has been fighting actively for her right to be defined as a woman / Leslie Feinberg, because ze has the capacity to politicize our experiences of having our genders undone in a world of forced separatism / a newborn baby who is still like an empty page, who weighs 3500 g and who will grow up to be a woman / Romaine Patterson, who hid the aids-hating Westboro Baptist Church inside angel wings so that they were no longer visible / Martina Navratilova and Amelie Mauresmo, two tennis players who in different ways handled being lesbians in a world that often showed its disapproval / Elise ”Ottar” Ottesen-Jensen, who traveled around the whole country to talk about sexuality even though it was illegal / Edith Piaf, because she showed that one doesn’t have go be a good role-model to do something important / Virginia Woolf, because she has to be here when we talk about having a room of one’s own / Elizabeth Kamarck Minnich, who made research on what a subject of knowledge is allowed to be / Simone Signoret, who was a political film star with rebellious female characters / Karin Mamma Andersson, because she is an important source of inspiration and I would like to speak to her about art
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Really someone should have brought Elin from Högkvarteret too / Just think of what she has done to create feminist spaces / There are so many who should have been here / Who made the food? / Disa Berge, she’s been going for three days non-stop / I understand why you chose her / How do you mean? / Well, I mean that she really knows how to do it / Wow this soup / Such a rich taste and still so spicy / You’re hungry now / Really hungry / So I’ve been hanging out with the horse girls / Interesting that you’re an architect! So is my mother. It’s an exciting world. / Yes, what are you thinking of? / Well, that it’s a world where a lot happens, but I’m also thinking of the fight against the old men there / Yes, it’s very male-dominated, and with the construction industry also, there are almost only men / Yes, in the end my mother solved it by no longer working with construction people, only with natural persons / I’m also doing quite specific things within the field / I understand why it can happen like this / But I think there are also other strong structures, around whiteness for example. Like, if you’re working in an architecture office you fucking have to talk swedish / I think I was the worst stablegirl ever / How are you doing with the documentation, do you follow? / It becomes what it becomes / It’s a shame that Athena couldn’t join, is she in Palestine already? / No, not yet, but there’s a lot of stuff to do now right before / I talked to Hanna, she said she got a poet that can’t even leave her area, so they’ll have to talk on Skype even when Hanna gets there. But I guess the connection is better once you’re there? / Well, I don’t know, I think they will travel around a lot. Right now they are worried that they won’t get in to Palestine or that they won’t be let out / But they will always be let out, right? / Well, you never know / It was fun lifting their big hooves / If I want to get an idea of Feinberg’s work, what should I then read? / I chose Feinberg primarily for the role ze played in reformulating the common notion of what a trans person is, but the novel Stone Butch Blues is probably what ze is most known for / It’s a strong text / It might not be the most highly renowned literature, but it sucks you in / How I cried when I read it / What is it about? / It’s a depiction of the femme-butch-community in the US working class during the time when it was common for the police to assault bars and beat people up and so on / It’s about a person from a working class family who absolutely doesn’t understand… / Well it’s a bit edifying, like, the main character realizes hir lacks and errors / Ze wrote a lot of other stuff too, about historical trans persons for example, this I haven’t read / What I wanted was to gallop bareback through the wastelands / So who is then this Josephine Blad? / Well, she’s my sister / How does she work? I got curious when you said that thing about that she’s working in a good way / She started her social engagement in anti-bullying-organizations in school and then it has somehow continued from there / How? / That she has integrity and always speaks up when there are strange things going on in conversations, this is strong I think / Mara Lee gives a speech about the creative space / Is Judy Chicago still alive? / Yes, she is! / Do you thing she would like to come to this dinner? / I don’t know, I haven’t met her… / But how is her dinner working, is it sculptures, or how are these women portrayed? / Well, they’re not there, the table is set for them with tablemats and a lot of femininely coded symbols such as flowers and vulvas / And every tablemat has its own design in some way, maybe a font of its own? / Did you see the piece? / No / I read of it when it got this permanent place, but nothing else / To be on top of a wild horse was my image of the Woman, at the age of eight / It’s so beautiful, I’ve got two of Natalie Barney’s tablemats as fridge magnets / Wow, that’s something one should have, Natalie Barney’s tablemats as fridge magnets / Or as tablemats / Do you have a strong relation to her? / Yes, she was a big part of my phd project, it’s not like I think of her all the time, but then occasionally she shows up / I didn’t like to go horseback riding in nature, I wanted to go around and around in the manege or whatever it’s called and be in full control / So what are you doing for a living? / I’m a freelancer in the field of performative arts / It can be pretty rough, right, not knowing if there will be any money the months to come / It hasn’t exactly been a problem getting jobs, it’s more a question of daring not to choose the boring things / But this thing with always being forced to choose, that also means that one sacrifices a lot in order to do what one wants to do, or rather, that you see exactly what you sacrifice all the time / Do you think that you were inspired by your mother in making that choice? / Yes, I do, I remember that we ate a lot of brown beans and pesto when I was a child and I asked “Are we poor, mother?” / What’s happening now? / It’s pretty much the same, which I chose actively. I got a permanent employment and a good monthly salary when I was 23, in computer business / Who has a good monthly salary by the age of 23? / After a while I felt, no, this is not what I want / Katarina Bonnevier gives a speech about the physical space / This ”Never trust the decor”, what does she mean by that? /What do you think? / I’m thinking of theatre maybe, that it’s what’s behind that is the most interesting / Yes, I think I do too, or that the world is a theatre and that the environments that we move through outside the theatre aren’t exactly creating a story that everyone can agree on as true either / Or maybe the decor might even be built against you and will stab you in the back / Yes, I don’t think one should underestimate the accuracy of such an interpretation. On her curtains, Barney had embroidered a quotation from Baudelaire: ”May our curtains protect us from the outside world”, that is ”Que nos rideaux fermés nous séparent du monde”, with a French verbe that actually means to separate, divide. So there was definitely a streak of strategical paranoia in her thinking / I always choose the unruly horse that never did what I wanted / But that the walls have ears, isn’t that the very foundation of theatre? / Why? / Secrets shared through a forth wall that is the reason for everything to happen, something like this / But not all theatre have a forth wall / I think the decor always triggers conversation, even if it can’t be trusted / like here, in this room, without it maybe we wouldn’t talk / or the pink wallpaper in Barney’s house, given by an eccentric person. They have a history that must be told / When you say pink wallpaper I think of yellow wallpaper / It was too time-consuming – “I can’t because I’m going to the horse” – I wanted to read a book instead / How are you doing this, are you recording it? / No, I’m writing it down. When I understood that was what the organizers had expected, rather than a transcribed recorded conversation, I thought that it will work that way too / Why did you want to record in the first place? / From the beginning I was asked to do it with Athena, and then there would have been an interference with my interpretation, we would have been two in the retelling. Without that I wanted another interference, so that it’s not only me retelling what I remember, but that all the hook-ups, repetitions and doubts that make a conversation are there too / But oh my god what a work it is to transcribe something word by word, we did it in a project recently – even though it’s fantastic it really is a hell / I’m thinking all the time that I’m gonna start horseback riding again, but it’s too expensive / It’s tricky with documentation, we have chosen to work with artistic documentation rather than a static “objective” recording device / At the same time it might be more honest. Now everything becomes filtered through my subjectivity even though these notes might help me a bit to remember other things than usually / Everything is anyways an interpretation, and an artistic interpretation can be much more interesting to take part of / For a long time we discussed how one can preserve literary saloons and such, if it’s even possible to do it well / So much has disappeared in time / It’s easy to think that all history is authoritarian and patriarchal, but we need counter histories, and to rewrite history demands accessible archives / Talking about what has disappeared, I’m thinking that documentation is a way to be loyal to Judy’s thought on the dinner / That women have to take space in history? / Yes

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I think I’ve gained twenty percent of my original body weight / Do you still feel that your body belongs to you? / No, really not. If I would have entered a room naked, normally I would have felt ashamed, but now it doesn’t matter, because it kind of isn’t me / Does it make you angry? / No. But I can’t run and jump and the dance flexibility of the body is gone. I always had it and I miss it a bit / It will come back / Maybe / It’s actually quite absurd, that someone can make space inside your body, inhabit it / Once a horse girl, always a horse girl / I think it’s peculiar with all these cultural workers that come from the North of Sweden, it’s like the province of population decline, but then if you look at the percentage of people from there living in Stockholm, there’s a lot / Weren’t you in my friend’s class at the writing school? / I don’t remember, I’m useless when it comes to names / It was the second year / Yes, during the second year we were more spread out / If you went to the Royal Institute of Art, you know several of my friends too / Wasn’t she the one who wrote that dissertation? / No, that was someone else / I’ve been horseback riding for seven years and I don’t agree / My father recognizes people by their voice, because it took so long before he got glasses / It’s interesting that stuff, there are also people who can’t remember anyone at all, they can never recognize a name or a face / That probably also has a lot to do with what we get to hear that we’re good at / Yes most definitely it is possible to reassure people that they are capable of doing what they never thought they could until they can / Like that classical example “guys are better at math”, but when you tell people that they are equally good then they become equally good / You do what you’re told / I remember when the dog died and me and my sister couldn’t stop crying – I think that was healthy, to get a feel for what death is / Were you a regular at Högkvarteret? / Yes, I must admit / How do you feel now that it no longer exists? / I’ve started to miss it more now, it was sort of the place where I always went when I didn’t know what to do. But in the beginning when it was over I thought there was a kind of freedom in that, people meeting in other places, infiltrating them so to say / What was free about that? / That people don’t assume so much about your desire, that it’s less predictable what can happen, there’s a freedom in that / But then again there is also a freedom in not having to explain anything, being allowed to feel evident / I never felt evident there / Vanja Hermele gives a speech about power and hierarchy / Why didn’t you feel evident? / I don’t know, it was never my place / It was like all other places, in all subcultures there are key persons and strong hierarchies / Yes, every utopia has it’s outside / I even felt like that when I was working there, that it was never fully my place, my room / Can’t you be a bit more clear about how these norms manifested themselves? / No, I don’t know, it was important that it existed, but it was never completely safe to go there, maybe it was only about me, I didn’t feel so secure / But is there anything really that is only about oneself / Therese Kristiansson gives a speech about the public space and the utopian space / I grew up with punk music in Umeå and found my way back to that just a few years back, like suddenly I felt safe and at home in that punk attitude that I had forgotten. It feels like it’s with me everywhere now, I mean, even when Högkvarteret still existed. I always felt safe there, despite the fact that I’m not a part of a queer community or anything, even though I might pass as belonging to the target group somehow / But maybe your non-identification with the queerness also worked a bit like a safety card when you entered? / The animal protection laws in Nazi Germany were very advanced, actually / I remember when I was at Högkvarteret one evening when the audience was very mixed, both regulars and people from the Finnish community who came there to listen to Finnish blues. There was something beautiful with that, those middle aged men who stood there stomping and keeping fucking calm although everything was happening around them. At that very moment, I think they let go of their barriers / As a young vegetarian in Umeå, they would give you that a lot: so it’s you and Hitler now, or what? / But seriously, I would really like to have a conversation about what was at the core of the insecurity in that room, is there any way of being more specific than stating that some had friends and others not? I don’t know exactly what I’m going for, but I kind of had a guess that it could be about femininity for example / Do you think so? Do you feel that you or others have been excluded there because of femininity? / Not exactly, though there are probably still some norms like that in that world, that femme becomes an acceptable exception. But how could I say anything about exclusion there, really? I always felt I was among friends when I came there, like I was in my own living room

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I’m thinking of this thing with homes and families, to suddenly find myself in a situation where I wonder how I could be so fucking stupid I didn’t realize this would happen, just thinking I could build my own world in there? I would really like to live in a collective house but my husband doesn’t want to, and I want to live with my husband. But it wears me down, all the demands we put on each other all the time. Finally there are only demands left, and I feel I would need to live in a world where no one else before me made the rules for how a family should look / But wasn’t that a question of creating contrasts, like the people we detest are going to have worse conditions than the animals? / I live with two friends and I love them, but sometimes in the middle of winter I feel that I’m only twisting and turning in my bed wishing I was alone. It’s so demanding being with people who come and disturb you all the time, I can’t ever calculate how things and people will move in my home / Once, I was working with a circus troupe in a refugee camp, it was about giving people tools to establish a sense of privacy in the crowd / I’m thinking of a lady who used to bring her little dog to political rallies, especially anti-racist and confrontative rallies / I’m living alone and that’s ok, but I’m thinking a lot of how Sara Ahmed writes about the room as a continuation of the body, the house as a second skin. And I let my own body be alone inside that skin and I mold my subject in its form. I can miss the unpredictable / she reckoned that this little dog always had the effect that even the toughest nazi let go of his façade / You’re always talking like that about your subject, you always want to be disturbed and pushed off balance. You always want to become someone else and that everything should be unknown. Aren’t you simply in need of a decisive woman that knows how to run the show? / I’m thinking of ravens and rats and that people wanted to carry them on their shoulders during the 90’s. They said they were so intelligent / I can’t deny that thought has passed my mind! But my experience of actually living close to authoritarian persons indicates that such a situation just makes me defiant and after a while I disappear. I also don’t think one should understand the need for disturbances as solely a private psychological or sexual need, but rather as an attempt to articulate what the material consequences of for example an ideological criticism against the isolated author subject or the “male” genius would be. I am attempting to believe in shared intelligence and thus in shared spaces / In baroque banquets they ate singing birds and vegetables that no longer exist, stuff like that makes me bitter / I was only joking / Now I’m gonna speak about what’s Swedish even though I’m not completely Swedish, but I think there’s also something about personal space that is negotiated on a cultural level. Sometimes I’ve been to places where people move around me all the time, and they don’t seem to be disturbed by that at all. They seem capable of thinking with others around, even getting energy from it / I don’t like animals in general or taking care of them, but there’s this cat that managed to charm me / Are you going home now? / No, I’m continuing from here, I’ve been going hard for several days, I can’t stop now. The idea is to party like feminist utopia was already here / So you’ve been living in a feminist utopia lately? / I was singing and talking and drinking all afternoon yesterday with a friend. Some guys we know came over and we gave them our wine and locked ourselves into our room / It’s the same for me but with a rabbit. I don’t like all rabbits, they’re pretty lame, it’s just this rabbit that I like so damn much because it’s very social / How do you feel now about the separatism? / It’s ok, I just get a feeling sometimes that people take for granted that I’m with them in every sense even though I might not be / Were you bored? / Not at all, it’s just this kind of context in general, that people assume that we’re having so much in common just because we are “women” when in fact I know that we don’t think the same about transgender questions, sex work, migration politics or paid housework / I have a friend who was given a goldfish, which originally he thought was great because then he had to go to school everyday to feed it / Yeah, I had a conversation in there with someone who thought it was really important to know if someone was a man or a woman, that was a bit like eeeh / that becomes weird for me, I’m not even woman-identified, haven’t been the last seven years although I of course have a lot of cis-privlegies / But everyone is really benevolent and they listen really well / Maybe I’m not, maybe I don’t want a united front? / But then it gave him anxiety and he started thinking a lot about how wrong it is to own an animal / For me anyway there is a relief in having a space free of desire in relation to men. I am a lesbian woman and have been understood as such the last ten years. Men are boring in my company or I am boring in theirs. I think it’s as unreasonable that I should question that or do any effort to desire men as it is unreasonable that some people get upset when someone wants to do a sex change / But is anyone demanding that you question that? I mean except mainstream society / Well not exactly / Then he was thinking of giving it back to the pet shop, to let it meet other fishes / I feel that my relationships to cis hetero men is always looked upon with suspicion, no matter the format of these relationships. To relate to such persons in any other way them very remotely simply doesn’t seem to be a part of the prescribed gender roles of our movement / Are you thinking of our home or what? / Among other things / But you know, that’s a lot of talk and not so much action, men are at our breakfast table all the time / I still think this lingo that takes for granted that we share a hatred for men on the exact same conditions is boringly flattening / But at that point the fish was too old or maybe it had some disease, so the pet shop didn’t want it / I don’t hate men, I just don’t want to meet them at the breakfast table all the time, it kills the appetite / Fine, people have a need for strategical separatism, so do I, but it’s a question of how this need is articulated by people in my everyday life and how I then edit the story about my life in specific ways when I talk to some of my friends / do you mean that you’re leaving out parts of the story? / Yes, or I put it out in a way that’s aimed to get around social repression, for example by suggesting a contempt that I actually don’t share / And now he only keeps it in a non-transparent plastic bowl in his studio, yeah there’s a lot of anxiety around that goldfish / People consider social connections as some kind of accessories, especially when it comes to sexual partners. Why is sleeping with people always so dramatized, as if there was an essential difference between that and having a coffee with someone? / I’d say I’m more picky with who I take a coffee with really / Yeah, me too. I’m thinking a lot about what it means that I, as a bisexual woman, when choosing to prioritize separatist spaces also start to marginalize men out of my desire. It’s like I’m thinking that you have to be so fucking advanced in order for me to even consider you. Who I’m sleeping with really doesn’t matter that much, but when it comes to the emotional part there’s so much I have to explain to men that I no longer feel that it’s worth it / I suspect that my dad prevented me from understanding death during several years through buying new goldfish every time the old one died, because he lived in Rotebro and I was only there during the weekends. Some day, I’m going to confront him / Of course there’s an insurmountable glitch between men and women, but isn’t that the case with all sociocultural and economical groups? Sooner or later, you get to the point where your experiences differ and where you can’t reach each other. That resistance is a part of becoming a subject in my opinion, and that process will always hurt / But for me there is an entirely different compliancy in my body when I’m approaching women. I thought for a while I would start to have calm relationships, mild and unstormy relationships – that went to hell, but anyway. If it was about men I would never have gone this far