It’s humbling to feel a rope between your hands, when you are connecting with another human being. It opens up the door to an existential dimension and it requires attentiveness and trust to deal with it. It’s like holding onto a piece of life that changes with every little movement you make. As if it was an actual being suspended between you and the other.
Feeling restricted in movement ignites a whole range of unpredictable emotions. You can control what happens only to a certain degree. The confinement and pressure of the rope against your body can release and inspire you to act beyond your habitual ways, but it can also hurt you or the other and evoke pain. In both cases it’s a profound experience, that I had the opportunity to explore in front of an audience last year.
It’s me in the picture (on the left) together with my close friend and collaborator Clara Burgio. In the past couple of years I have mainly worked as a director, but this time I’m performing as well. We are at the MUSEO NOVECENTO in Florence doing an improvised performance called LAVA & NEVE as part of a 4 hour collective FLUXUS event produced by Andrea Cavallari for FIRENZE SUONA CONTEMPORANEA.
On this occasion the entire space of the museum was inhabited by musicians and performers, who were given the freedom and space to stage their individual pieces within the broad and experimental frame that FLUXUS inspires. This enabled the audience to create their own connections between the various performances presented simultaneously on both floors of the beautiful space.
LAVA & NEVE are the names of two female figures molded by the idea of white snow and black rocks; as contrasts of emotion. The rope works as a visual metaphor that carries the story of the two women with the heat and the coldness that they have lived. Everything is tied together in the rope: that which is behind them, between them and in front of them. Apart from functioning as a conceptual idea, the rope worked as an essential tool for the improvisation. We opened up the story through playing with the closeness and distance we could create placing the rope in our hands and on our bodies. The movements were often instinctual and raw, motivated by the desire to connect and be free at the same time.
A few weeks before the FLUXUS performance Clara and I held an outdoor rehearsal for another version of our performance. The intention was to deepen our sensory relationship with the earth and let ourselves be inspired by it. How does gravity of emotion work? What happens when you shift from upholding yourself in a vertical position to being horisontal and stretched out?
There is an innocence in sitting or lying directly on the ground. It’s an exquisite experience to feel the magnetism of the earth, not only through our feet, but with the whole body. It enables a return to something basic. We spend our early childhood crawling on the floor and the ground: touching and tasting what ever we find. The ground is a vital but often forgotten part of our first memories.
A couple of years before I moved to Italy, I went to Sicily where Clara Burgio grew up. My visit to the volcano Etna became a turning point for me. Like so many others before me, I felt magnetized by the energy present in the raw landscape and it was hard to leave again.
The idea of compressed heat shooting up through a frozen and rocky surface later became part of my inspiration for the performance. Meeting the audience enabled me to release both passion and pain through the character. When we had completed 1,5 hours of performance, I could almost sense the cooling contrast of snowflakes melting through the open wound, I had created in my imagination.
Moving the narrative of LAVA & NEVE from nature and into the museum made our characters more dramatic. At times we would pull emotion and movement upward and out, other times we would burden ourselves with the weight of our emotions constricted within the tension of the rope; loaded with the the figures’ conflicting wants and needs.
Letting go of perfection became a natural consequence of this experiment for me. With the desire to heighten my sensitivity, I continue to explore new artistic roles and art forms. Dancing has been a vital part of my self expression, since I was a child, and as a documentary director I have produced several projects based on contemporary dance performances.
But only recently have I taken the step to perform in front of an audience. I have no formal training, unlike Clara Burgio, who started studying classical ballet when she was 5 years old. As a 19 year old she discovered the avantguardian Butoh dance from Japan at LA SCUOLA INTERNAZIONALE DI NEW BUTOH in Palermo. She fell instantly in love with the visual and metamorphic quality of it and immersed herself in studying and performing with a number of acclaimed teachers such as Giulia Materia, Valentina Samona, Sayoko Onishi and the master Yoshito Ono.
After 10 years of training, she herself became one of the first Europeans to be authorized as a teacher within this tradition. My meeting with Clara has nurtured my desire to unite my relationship with nature and art in a deeply satisfying way. I have participated in two performances directed by her in Florence. Both of them had at the core of them the relationship between human beings and nature: rootedness, interdependency, growth and unfolding. From this experience a beautiful friendship has evolved and it continues to birth new artistic questions and answers. Every meeting we have is a ritual in which something inside of us seems to transform.
In 2018 we met during the summer in Palermo. It was natural to continue our spontaneous journey of dance and movement on the same streets that had been the scenery of Clara’s childhood and youth. A random cast away madras worked as a simple setting for what we needed to express on the day the above pictures were taken.
It’s an ongoing process to ground a curious and creative mind. Lately I’ve been dreaming of earth quakes. There was a small one not long ago in Florence, where I woke up by the feeling of my bed shaking. Now that I’m momentarily in Denmark, I sometimes feel like the ground is shaking under my feet here too. Even if I should be on solid ground.
Maybe it’s a memory from an imagined childhood in Italy? Or maybe something fundamental has shifted in me?
“Lava & Neve”
Improvisation Directed by Karin Grand
Performance by Clara Burgio and Karin Grand
for Evento “Flash Fluxus!” in Florence 27th September 2019
with FLAME ENSEMBLE
produced by Andrea Cavallari
Photos from Denmark and Sicily by Karin Grand