I be seen
(Performance lab / film )
when we were invited to make something for the Ibsen festival I wanted to collaborate with the local community. Originally I wanted to meet with young people who represent a minority, who aren´t considered mainstream and who don´t have any previous experience of being in the arts. I was open to just speaking with them and to take it from there. Those in charge of the festival didn't think this could be done this year.
Social art is an important part of my work. For the last fifteen years I've worked a lot with young people on creating space where they are allowed and able to express themselves in a safe space. My focus is always on them being allowed to listen more to their inner selves rather than immediately doing what they think is expected of them.
I want to provide them with the opportunity to go within and not least to wait until something emerges, something they couldn't possibly already know.
I wanted together with young people, living in Skien, where Ibsen was born, to make something around the theme of the Ibsen festival - "designing the self". I wanted to base what we together would make on the young people's voices and thoughts today.
The elements I used:
Telephone for filming.
I contacted a local ballet school in Skien and asked if they wanted to collaborate.
I was in a long dialogue with the dancing school on how to invite participants and the content of the workshop in order for the participants to be interested and prepared for working in a way that might be new to them.
Right before I started the Lab, it became clear to me that I didn´t want to push them into making something with me, and I shared that with them before we even started. I decided to just hang out with them, do exercises, and see what happens.
I truly felt that I did not need to finish or make a project together with them. I kept reminding myself, during the day, that I didn't need to finish anything and I also told them that they were free to leave at any time. No one needed to do or finish anything. We could leave at anytime.
I was trying to build a safe space and getting to know young people, to see what we together could create, document and share with others. I focused on here and now, honesty, conversations and dancing. I facilitated a performative lab with different exercises, where I as a facilitator and performer joined in and we all danced for each other doing the different exercises. We spent time getting to know each other and building trust after each experiment. We all took risks and accepted vulnerability and spoke freely about our experiences and thoughts after the dance improvisation tasks. We together made a dance video where we all improvised a dance solo and we all , each one filmed one who danced.
In performance labs I always participate in all the tasks I give:
Check in - everybody sat in a circle and shared one or two words about whatever they wanted to share right now
Exercise - Two people talking while keeping eye contact. A says: When I see you I see.... ( for example, When I see you , I see your eyes ) B responds: When I hear you say that I feel.. ( for example, When I hear you say that I feel warm ). A describes what A sees while keeping eye contact with B, B responds while eye contact about how it was to hear what A said. Then B and A change roles and the whole sequence is repeated 5 times.
Check in - How was it, what did they experience doing the exercise. We discussed our experiences, as I also paired up.
Exercise - Share a few words or a sentence about something you don't usually share
Exercise - Moving across the floor - keeping eye contact - in pairs. Changing partners each time. Everybody danced with everybody.
Check in - How was it to cross the floor while holding eye contact?
Group discussion - about what makes them feel seen and heard, what it´s like to be growing up today and what they wish for themselves in the future. Before the group discussion started I asked them if it was ok to record the discussion. And every one said that that was ok.
Exercise - Drawing meditation while listening to music, I asked them to listen to different kinds of soundscapes and draw whatever images, sensations, or thought that came up.
Check in - How was it to draw to music?
Exercise - Dancing impro - one by one based on how they experienced the day, and to just dance freely in the moment. Standing still and not moving was also an option.
Check in - How was it to dance alone in front of the others?
Experiment - “Dancing Camera” All participants were dancing a solo and filming another solo being danced. A: Is dancing a 1 - 2 min solo, B: Is operating the camera, recording a video in a creative way, thinking about choreographing angels and distances with the camera. The rest of the group follows behind the cameraman in order not be in the way and to support the situation and keep the group concentration. Everybody got to dance a solo and everybody got to film someone else dancing. Everything was done in one take, and all the material was included in the film we shared at the festival.
Check in - How was it to do this experiment? How was it to dance, and how was it to film?
Check out -All of us shared what we thought about what we had experienced during the day. I thanked them sincerely and told them how grateful I was.
Meditation - a silent 10 min meditation with calm music in the background.where we let go of the day in order to prepare for them to go back into “the world”
When working with the participants I tried to build a relationship with all of them.
I had to consider each person's ability to enter into something new, in a new way.
I have never met a group of people I don´t know before and at the same time worked so extensively within the same day. From meeting the first time we even ended up making a film together.
Here my ability to trust myself and allow for the void was experienced and practised on a whole new level. I wanted for the young people to enter their void, and accept what came up for them. When they did that, I had to accept whatever came up for me in relation to this, and be open and honest about that, in order to hold the space safe. Doing the exercises was always optional and everyone was free to interpret them.
After the video was cut and edited, before the showing of I be seen in the gallery, I contacted the young dancers and invited them to meet me for coffee and to evaluate the whole process. I met some of them individually and some in smaller groups. I also did another evaluation with them a week after the festival had finished, in case something had come up since the first evaluation.
All of them agreed to the video being published. I am thankful for how they chose to open up their hearts and collaborate with me. I learned how complex and rich improvised work can be and how much can be accomplished in just one day.
What I wanted to achieve was to give them an experience of being in a supportive environment, for them to be able to trust, talk, and be free with each other in a group setting.
I be seen- Part 2
(video-screening at the Ibsen Festival)
I wanted the audience to see the dance video I be seen in a loop on the big wall by the DJ-booth during the festival´s closing party. I hoped the guests would walk over to the wall and pick up the headsets I had hung there. There they could listen to the sound from the dancing video while viewing the film.
The elements I used:
I made sure the headsets were noise canceling.
I added a video clip of one of the participants editing something she had written during the workshop. I also added part of recordings of the group discussion.
I printed out notes the students had written during the workshop and put them on the wall next to the headsets. I asked those who run the festival to invite the young dance artists to be present at the gallery as artists when the gallery showed the work and they agreed to do so. All of them were able to be there.
The “I be seen”, dance video was projected on the wall and played in a loop in the Spriten gallery to view for the invited guests during the festival closing party. All of the guests in the party watched the film, but not everybody used headsets. A few people read the texts that the young people wrote.
I created, together with the young people, the I be seen video, as a collective experience. They expressed themself freely, made a video, exchanged experiences with other artists in the festival, and saw their own work on the wall. They got to be a part of the festival. I wanted to put the dance art of young upcoming artists up on the gallery wall in the same way as painters and other artists are displayed there. This as a response to, and a comment on who and what gets to be on the wall in galleries.
I wish I had prepared better and researched more regarding how to invite the audience to wear headsets and perhaps also to speak with the young people. In the future I want to spend more time on the installation of the film in a gallery, and also work more with graphics on the text that will be displayed on the wall and the placement of it.
I was reminded of how communication, time and details always matter when the time is limited. How I share a film, the whole setting, how to invite the audience and how a film behaves in a gallery, what does the film do to the setting ? How does the film, the content and the fact that it is an added element to an already defined setting influence or change the setting or the circumstances. I learned more about how I can take care of collaborators after the process is finished, which is deeply important to me.
MAIN PHOTO : IS THE NOTES THAT THE YOUNG PERFORMERS WROTE DURING THEIR PROCESS