I saw Anna Westberg’s Elektrakomplexet at Stockholm’s WELD on October 29, 2015. This staged work is accompanied by Viktor Wendin’s light design and Ronja Svenning Berge’s drawings – some of which are featured in this article.
In her written introduction to the staged work, Anna expresses the following:
I have worked with dance & choreography for more than twenty five years now and often in collaboration with composers of electronic music. They have all been men. When I started looking for women in this field, I found a lot of exciting music and I wonder why I hadn’t heard it before. Elektrakomplexet is a way to highlight this amazing music and the artists behind the work. I chose to focus on the pioneers, being grateful to these women who were at the head of development, opening our ears & minds and pointing towards all possibilities. AW
I decided to reference Anna’s note in its entirety because I think her writing reflects a nuanced combination of calm and interest – of passion that moves quickly, but is not in a hurry or concerned with arrival – which was crucial to how I saw her perform and to what I admired in her performing. Another way of approaching her delivery would be to say that it comes across with confident authority, which does not seem to be busy with itself in any way, positive or negative. It simply is. And then there is the information offered.
I bring this up because what impressed me most about Elektrakomplexet was how generous, yet not-self-conscious it was in it’s delivery – which is not something I can say about many a work put forward by single freelance dance-artists that I get to see these days. Another thing that Elektrakomplexet is, that not many a work of single freelance dance-artists that I get to see these days are, is a means to an end – a means to an end that is not an end concerned with the wellbeing of dance in the world. Or, to be even more specific, it’s a means to an end that is not concerned with the wellbeing of dance in the dance world. (Dance, choreography, you name it.)
It was refreshing to see a dance artist using her abilities, her language and her context to focus the audience’s attention on something almost-entirely external to the world of dance: which, in this case, is the world of women pioneering in electronic music making.
Featured in the performance-lecture are this artist’s personal reflections on the relationship she had and/or maintains with the world of electronic music (both as a dancer and as a person), her insightful thoughts on history and the writing of history; and the music of Delia Derbyshire, Daphne Oram, Else Marie Pade, Laurie Spiegel, and Beatriz Ferreyra. Referred to is, too, the work of Éliane Radigue.
When dancing to their music, I though, Anna’s performance allowed me not to watch dancing that was made to music, or dancing that was made to express, explain, interpret… Instead, what she did was enabled me to listen to some music in the same time as I got to watch some-one dancing. This particular sensibility, allowed me – almost demanded of me – to consider at least two sources of information at the same time – and in a way in which I could observe how each related to the other, and when; in a way in which I was free to decide when to immerse myself into Anna’s world of impressions, when to observe it from a distance, when to reflect intellectually, when to do so emotionally, when to daydream… This sensibility suddenly seemed to me to be a politically relevant sensibility.
What I was watching, I realised, was not only a informative performance-lecture, or an unconventional dance-piece. On the contrary, I was given the opportunity to participate in a social experiment; in an exercise of attention from which I was obliged to learn – because why not learn from this space in which attention was given to multiple sources at the same time, none of which suffered from the other’s presence, and none of which suffered lack of attention.
For a moment there the environment I inhabited was free of fear, and full of consideration – which I thought remarkable at a time when fear is lurking behind every corner, even in the most friendly of environments. And for a moment there it was good to be reminded – experientially – that it’s not a matter of possibility, or probability. It’s a matter of initiative, authority, heart and will. It’s a matter of taking space to make space. And it’s a matter of priority, I guess. So – you know. I leave you with that.