EDIE&EDIE is a show presented as a joint creation of Amanda Apetrea and Emma Tolander (choreography and performance), Chrisander Brun (set design) and Anna Sóley Tryggvadóttir (sound design). In a ‘prepared studio’ at Stockholm’s MDT, EDIE&EDIE is performed by two dancing women.

“…it’s about their struggle, love, friendship and community. They are ugly, sassy, sexy, angry, happy, funny, loud, clumsy and rowdy. They stumble around, fumble, embrace, catch each other, support each other, scratch, hump, rock, hope and yearn. They fight to be who they want to be deep within. They want to dance for everyone who ever felt someone else’s skin against theirs, who ever felt that they are searching for something, who ever felt that they maybe don’t fit in, who maybe thinks that something should change in this world.” (1)

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photo©MärtaThisner

The environment in which EDIE&EDIE takes place is visually extremely rich (also: full); to the extent that provokes, almost irritates, in me the question of identification immediately upon entering the studio. This visually extremely rich environment consists of neon colours, military camouflage patterns, heavy make-up and glitter, acrylic fabrics and various prints, incl. animal, the combination of which, in my eyes, leans towards the aesthetics of the 80s.

As for the question of why create such an aesthetic environment, I presume but two answers. One is evoking affinity towards queer aesthetics. This I see as elaborate but basic, in terms of provided visual landmarks that can be seen as referential. The other – I would dare call “an embodiment of imagined emancipation”. Masks are presented to be divorcing Amanda and Emma with societally normal, expected, prescribed and marrying them with an image of themselves created by themselves. These, EDIE and EDIE, are absolutely fabulous and loving little monsters, created to signify and carry the idea of possible potential.

The idea is proposed, however, without ever becoming, due to the consistency inherent to the undeniably precise craftsmanship that built this space; historically-proven and successful craftsmanship that is inherent to all mediums by which this space is created. EDIE&EDIE ends up being read as a very conventional work, especially when thinking of its use of visuals-to-promise, while maintaining a safe physical distance to actual risk taking.

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photo©MärtaThisner

And as for the problem of identification?

When an aesthetic logic becomes dominant to a creative environment, when it takes over and becomes visible in multiple sources (artist’s work) at the same time (also: place) – the public gets used to it and is much more likely to habitually “like”. Such behaviour supports, if not creates, a “like” based identification process that is comfortably uncritical, and we are back to fashion, acceptance, fame, aesthetics and capital.

Not to say that my worry is about what the practice of dominant aesthetics over time does to the public. My worry is about what it, eventually, does to then homogenised and “normativised” art practices.

1 quote taken from MDT’s website : link

 

6th of March 2014 saw the premiere of Kenneth Kvarnström’s new choreographic work entitled YOUYOUYOU. Said to be a conclusion to the trilogy which saw Kvarnström expand on the subject of death, the work follows six dancers in their attempt to deal with high aesthetic demands put forward by Kvarnström’s strong “artistic signature”.

Disclaimer! This article will not be a review so much as a brief analysis of what I think I saw while watching a piece of conventional dance theatre.

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My first impression of watching these six dancers at work was that of commitment and discipline. Pär Andersson, Sophie Augot, Richard Cilli, Jyrki Kasper, Misa Lommi and Robert Malmborg are all young but confident, technically advanced dancers whose stage presence is soothingly convincing. They carry the movement through its predetermined structure with impressive decidedness and fail not at pitching physicality as that staged element which is supposed to dominate the audience’s perception.

However successful at pitching physicality’s priority these dancers are, their job is not made easier but harder, as you mightn’t expect, by others who shape YOUYOUYOU’s perceptive landscape.

During the whole duration of the show, the performing space is saturated with a tireless presence of smoke. And while its presence seems to be the key to the concept behind the show’s light design, without which much of the current design would, in fact, make little sense – it is the precise combination of the two that keeps distracting the perceptive observer from the dance and focusing her on a variety of possible associative remarks instead. Another way of saying this would be: in combination with the smoke curtain, this show’s light design is organised to keep the space from ever establishing itself under the same recognisable theme or topic for more than 5 minutes at a time.

Same could be said about the music which changes its assumed genre on a regular basis; ranging from something that reminds you of an old, but definitely good-old sounding rock song, to something that would qualify as the soundtrack to the soon-to-be popular Sci-Fi movie. At times it also sounds like lady Gaga, then there’s more soundtrack sounding music and finally I remember melodies reminding me of a world-music sounding cocktail-bar compilation.

Unsurprisingly, costume changes are numerous, too; primarily splitting the show in two – between all the combinations that either cover and uncover the dancer’s face. Amongst all existing costumes, my favourite must be the costume that has been (ever-so-popularely) referred to as the Spiderman costume; even by Sweden’s infamous dance critic Gunilla Jensen in her review of YOUYOUYOU for SvD Kultur.

youyouyou©PetraHellberg

As you might have noticed, I am of the opinion that Kvarnström’s “artistic signature” is not so much of a signature as a talent to overpopulate the available space and the given time with – basically anything that qualifies. Point being that, given the example, what qualifies stands for no apparent or visible consciously or attentively made standard. There seems to be no significant long-lasting or memorable consequence to any of the choices that shape YOUYOUYOU’s perceptive landscape.

The puzzling thing is: all in favour of still using signifiers, such as “artistic signature” is, seem to be unchallenged by the apparent non-consequentiality inherent to Kvarnström’s work. I’ve also seen, and many times at that, that when non-consequentiality becomes a source of confusion between the work and its receiver, especially if that receiver is a professional (not necessarily but potentially a critic) – it is exactly a signifier, such as “artistic signature” is, that is used to justify any lack of sense or consequence in the artist’s work. The more so if the artist is well connected, or of a certain age and/or of a certain gender.

I could call this an appearance-protecting system or a “genius”-protecting program. Whatever the name, its logic is inherent to the man-built, patriarchal, economy driven society and its logic is visible in the priorities that interest, build and carry the conventional art fair. Which I am extremely critical off NOT because of all the obvious political reasons that we could debate forever but because the six hardworking young dancers who, for legitimate if not ideologically supreme reasons, spend their time devotedly re-presenting an old man’s vaguely engaging, mildly interesting, highly inconsequential take on choreography, theatre, or dance.

The rare young, who get to be rare artists with stable employment and corresponding benefits, get to be thankful and oppressed. Because, even in Sweden, no one (artist) can, obviously, have it all.

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YOUYOUYOU is a premiere production of Kulturhuset Stadsteatern’s new in-house dance company whose appointed house choreographer is Kenneth Kvarnström.

In the Inside There is Sleeping is essentially a performative practice presented in a theatrical context.

Structurally, the work refers to and confirms a lineage well established within the realm of contemporary choreography and concept based dance theatre; a lineage of interest in a particular methodological approach that exposes a desired sample (for example: a sound or a movement) to a repetitive or a loop-like structure over a long-enough period of time.

Such a system is then, in its length, presented to the spectator, who, by witnessing the change actualises or actually materialises artist’s claim to practice’s performativite value. I understand this process of materialisation by witnessing as the most impressive value made available by this particular methodology.

Witnessing is, at times, followed by a process of identification with the recognised sample. Spectator’s emotional, intellectual or spiritual relationships to any recognised elements that are materialised through performance are the methodology’s by-products. These by-products can (later on, often conceptually or choreographically) be categorised and presented in different ways, depending on their imagined purpose.

Understanding the process of materialisation through witnessing as a process that takes place prior to the process of individual’s identification to recognised trigger or sample is crucial! Calling effects of identification (that manifest through emotional, intellectual or spiritual reactions and relationships) by-products is also crucial.

By-products, separate from the otherwise homogenous environment that is the work of art, can be used as choreographic tools and as such could be used on purpose exactly because they are not being seen as a fundamental, inseparable part of the work of art’s landscape. By-products could, under such circumstances, also not be used; which, as an option, does not exist in case of homogenous environment that is the work of art.

(Whether not using by-products is possible or not is another topic.)

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LeaMartini&KirstenBurger > photo©KarijnKakebeeke

Seeing the work of Lea Martini made me extremely conscious of lineage. Being so extremely conscious of it made a double impression on me. I asked myself: what does lineage mean to an artist’s sense of creative autonomy? And why is autonomy suddenly so present in my understanding of artist’s integrity?

My previous understanding of lineage was primarily focused on the sense of belonging it provided for. To know someone else is trying to crack a similar coconut makes one easily feel less alone AKA mad. That is a very positive understanding of lineage. With Lea Martini I became aware of a negative understanding of lineage.

Recognising similar interests Martini’s work shares with my own, seeing she came up with similar understandings of what’s at stake and how to choreographically make it readable made a very positive impression on me. I immediately identified and cared for the work. When she then started to make choices that went against my own understanding of how best to deal with the responsibility given to the choreographer by the material he discovered (which is how I usually work with materials – as a choreographer I am as much in control of as i am in service of) made me almost mad, instantly dismissive and unsatisfied with what I was witnessing. At that point, I judged her choreographic solutions as – wrong.

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I was provoked and to that provocation, or shall I say self-provocation, I reacted in an extremely conservative way. For a moment I claimed the right to call the difference between good choreography and bad choreography. When provoked, I failed to engage with the work and engaged with private ideologies instead – which is not how a reviewer should interact with a work of art.

How else are we to see new if we don’t work hard to let go of the old?

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