slugs’ garden/cultivo de babosas

    06/05  | 19:00 - 22:00
    07/05  | 17:00 - 20:00
    09/05  | 19:00 - 22:00
    10/05  | 19:00 - 22:00
    11/05  | 19:00 - 22:00
    12/05  | 19:00 - 22:00
    13/05  | 19:00 - 22:00
    14/05  | 17:00 - 20:00

€ 16 / € 13

Book your entry time-slot at the box office. You can stay as long as you wish, but access is limited to 20 persons at the same time.

Fabián Barba studied dance in Quito, Ecuador before going on to train at P.A.R.T.S. For ten years he has focused his work on the history of dance, colonialism and forms of aesthetic standardisation. slugs’ garden/cultivo de babosas, created with his compatriot Esteban Donoso, seeks to bring to life an alternative perceptive field to the visual reality that dominates the audience’s experience in a theatre setting and that connects it first and foremost to rational modes of judgement. An exhibition, a masterclass and immersive installation-performance in one, slugs’ garden/cultivo de babosas is a playground dedicated to the sense of touch. He invites us on a slow tactile meander, lying on the ground with our eyes closed like worms, encountering bodies and objects. Liberated from our need to give them a name, we experience their textures, temperature, weight and resistance… By feeling our way in our environment centimetre by centimetre, we enter a new and denser space-time: that of our body.

"slugs’ garden/cultivo de babosas is een meditatie-oefening, een zwijgzame therapiesessie voor het lichaam. Terwijl het denken in slaap wordt gewiegd, ontwaken de zintuigen. [...] Dit is een oefening in tederheid."
De Morgen, 11 May 2017

EXTRA : Immerse yourself in the sensorial experience of slugs’ garden/cultivo de babosas during a workshop.

Performed by
Thiago Antunes, Josh T. Franco, Thomas Hauert, Tuur Marinus, Gabriel Schenker, Samantha van Wissen & students of the ISAC (Institut Supérieur des Arts et des Chorégraphies), Académie royale des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles (ArBA EsA): Paula Almiron, Maïte Alvarez, Estelle Czernichowski, Camille Dejean, Sophie Farza, Swan Gautier, Fanny Heddebaut, Shankar Lestrehan, Elena Moreno, Rosandra Nicoletti, Juliette Otter, Leen Van Dommelen, Castelie Yalombo, Victor Schmidt Guezennec

Research & concept
Fabián Barba, Esteban Donos

With the collaboration of
Josh T. Franco

Textile design
Ana María Gómez

Set design
Ive J.K. Leemans

Kunstenfestivaldesarts, La Bellone

Executive production
Caravan Production

deSingel International Arts Campus (Antwerp), Life Long Burning/workspacebrussels with the support of the Culture Programme of the European Union

With the support of
Flemish Government, the Province of Antwerp

Thanks to
Decolonial Summer School Middelburg (University College Roosevelt, Utrecht, NL), Centro de Arte Contemporaneo (CAC) (Quito, EC), l’Alliance Française (Quito, EC), Casa Malayerba (Quito, EC), KVS / Heidi Ehrhart (Brussels, BE), Stoffen Joëlle by Soie Unique (Antwerp, BE), Juan Pablo Plazas Saenz and everyone who has helped us developing the slugs’ practice in Quito and Brussels

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slugs’ garden/cultivo de babosas

slugs’ garden is an immersive space for tactile contemplation. It’s a habitat to be calmly dwelled in, a playground of subtle sensations. It’s an intimate context where we can consider our relationship to our surroundings – other people and other objects – and let it morph, unintendedly.

slugs’ garden is also the time to let us experience minute events of seemingly no consequence. Have you ever surprised yourself by fiddling with a piece of paper that your fingers found lying somewhere? This is the time to let those small gestures mushroom to the centre of our attention, and become the core events of a meaningless universe full of sense.

Like a garden, it’s a space in which to spend some quiet time, having nothing in particular to do or to think about. This slugs’ garden is there to be inhabited and played with; an exploration of being in the space, an experience of time. It’s to wear no shoes. It’s where things grow. It’s when we cultivate our interest in insignificant incidents. Here, we don’t walk, we don’t skip. Here, we take the time to touch our environment and to caress it, detail by detail. We slide through it slowly, with no specific intention, wandering without plans, with no goal to achieve. It is the time we take to grow into slugs.

The initial idea for this collaboration by Fabián Barba and Esteban Donoso was to investigate – by way of a performance – the memory and history of dance in Quito (Ecuador) and its relationship to Andean culture. To achieve this, the pair wanted to re-stage La Diosa Blanca (The White Godess), an ethno-contemporary dance by Paco Salvador from 1993. Soon, however, they faced a predicament: how to work with so-called non-Western dances without falling into the danger of appropriation and exoticism? How to relate to cultural expressions that might captivate the spectators by their beauty while their symbolic and political significance might escape them? How to bring to a halt preconceptions and prejudices that might limit and bias the relationships that could be established with unfamiliar cultural and material environments? These questions formed the basis of an altogether different project:

“In slugs, garden/cultivo de babosas, we are attempting to look at the perceptual framework in which performance is perceived. In a theatre setting, the visual field is usually prioritised while other modes of perception (touch, smell) are made less important. Through our explorations, we became aware that most of the time the visual field is connected with discernment and rational modes of judgement. Thus, it tends to categorise experiences quickly, and often with insufficient information. Since it is easy to slip into prejudice or an exotifying gaze and validate different sets of assumptions within a frame that prioritises the visual, we set out to devise mechanisms that purposely escape visuality and the image.

In wondering how to create contexts that favour an experience of the body, movement, and space by momentarily suspending our sets of assumptions, we came across this slugs’ garden/cultivo de babosas. Within this setting, we are working on tools to locate our bodies in space through touch; we are exploring the space around us, through each other’s presence and various objects placed in our midst. We activate an alternative perceptive field by delving into a prescribed area and experiencing its particularities without trying to encompass them in a unified image of the space, objects or each other’s bodies.

In slugs’ garden/cultivo de babosas we get down on the floor and close our eyes. We direct our attention to what we are already touching. We slowly start a tactile divagation, trying not to name, not to visualise, and not to recognise that which we are touching (oh, this is a foot! oh, this is a pillow!). Instead, we focus on the textures, the temperature, the weight, or the resistance of the bodies or materials we encounter.”

For the presentation at Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Barba and Donoso give shape to this garden of the senses with professional dancers who were involved in the creation process in 2014, along with students from the Institut Supérieur des Arts et des Chorégraphies at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. During a five-day masterclass, the students were introduced to the slugs’ practice:

“Starting from a simple, basic task (trying not to name, visualise, or recognise), the exercise morphs into an intense experience as a result of time and practice: the more the participants yield to the exercise, the more they manage to dissolve their need and desire to recognise. As they improve on this skill, a heightened sensitivity starts to emerge. This can be felt in the common rhythm that they unwittingly start to share, in the sensitivity of unintended touching, in the tiny noises caused by the friction that inhabits the cultivated silence, and in the dissolving of quantitative time.”

In collaboration with textile designer Ana María Gómez, Barba and Donoso created an intimate space in which to welcome performers and visitors alike. After passing through a playground where their tactile senses are awakened, visitors are personally received into the garden, thereby having the opportunity to shift from the rhythms and temporality of everyday life to the suspended tempo of the installation. Entering the garden is like crossing a threshold into a space where a different logic is at work:

“Contrary to how it may seem, this slugs’ garden/cultivo de babosas is not interested in reaching towards the ‘real thing’ – as if sensations were a natural (‘merely’ physiological) phenomenon that is not culturally constituted. The world of perception would have to include the social dimension of our personal experiences. We started with the premise that we don’t exist alone but in relation to the world and the people around us. In the slugs’ garden/cultivo de babosas there is an important communal fabric; even if each of the participants is navigating his/her own experience, we are all together in the space, related to each other through a sensitive and dynamic membrane made out of our listening, our touching, our caring…

Indeed, to try to suspend prejudice and to put a halt to the way preconceptions mediate our relationship to the world does not mean to erase our previous experience as if we were a tabula rasa. On the contrary, it aims to let our embodied histories operate while perceiving/relating to our environment in a way that is not fatally biased by those preconceptions and prejudices. slugs’ garden/cultivo de babosas aims to open up the possibility of reconfiguring our relationship to our environment by exercising another way of approaching and experiencing it.

It appears as though we are attempting to look at choreography as a setup that creates an experience of being together, rather than as a way of writing or prescribing movement onto the bodies. Similar to some feminist films, we are busy devising a structure that would be able to generate its own becomings and its own characteristic eventfulness – an eventfulness that may seem negligible at first glance but which can become mesmerising or even startling. We certainly depart from Aristotelian, plot-based structures, in favour of a setup that invites us to experience the body in a kind of coexistence with the time-space at hand; instead of making something happen within our garden/cultivo, we set out to accompany the completion of its own process(es).”

It is not easy to translate cultivo de babosas into English, that’s why the title of this work is presented in both languages. In Spanish, the word cultivo has an intimate connection with the word cultura – both are translated into English as culture. In its verb form, cultivar can be readily translated as to cultivate: one can cultivate the land, a friendship, or certain values. Cultivo, however, comes closer to the understanding of farming (as in agriculture or apiculture), even though it maintains its connection to the idea of culture as an anthropologically centred domain. In the Spanish version of cultivo de babosas (which would be the cultivation of slugs as farming, cultivation and culture at the same time), these understandings are mixed and thus playfully question the anthropocentric meaning of culture, an anthropocentrism absent in Andean culture. This doesn’t happen so forcefully if the title is translated as slugs’ culture. Therefore we have chosen slugs’ garden, which suggests a contemplative state wherein the experience of time escapes its chronological, quantitative, and measurable efficiency to come closer to time as durée, an occidental conceptualisation of time that resonates, mutatis mutandis, with the Andean conception of time: an experiential dimension of time that cultivo de babosas/slugs’ garden is also set out to explore.

Quotes by Fabián Barba & Esteban Donoso (2013)

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Fabián Barba was born in Quito, Ecuador in 1982, where he studied dance and theatre, and worked as a professional performer. Parallel to his artistic formation, Barba followed classes on communication and literature. In 2004 he moved to Brussels to join P.A.R.T.S. After graduation, he became a founding member of the collective Busy Rocks. He has created two solo performances: A Mary Wigman Dance Evening (2009) and a personal yet collective history (2012). In collaboration with Mark Franko he worked on Le marbre tremble (2014) and with Esteban Donoso on slugs’ garden/cultivo de babosas (2014). He has presented his work in places like MoMA (New York), Kaaitheater (Brussels), Frascati (Amsterdam), Dance Umbrella (London), Ignite Dance Festival (New Delhi), Festival Panorama (Rio de Janeiro) and Teatro Ernesto Albán (Quito). He also works as a dancer with ZOO/Thomas Hauert. In June 2016 he received his master’s degree in autonomous design at KASK (Ghent), graduating with honours. Due to his ongoing research on the legacy of colonialism and dance history, he has been invited to give seminars and workshops in several European countries, the United States, Brazil, Chile and Ecuador. His articles have been published in Dance Research Journal, NDD l’actualité de la danse, Etcetera, Documenta and in the Handbook of Danced Reenactment (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2017) and Transmissions in Dance (working title) (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming 2017).

Esteban Donoso was born in Quito, Ecuador in 1978. He studied clinical psychology at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador and Modern Dance at Frente de Danza Independiente. In 2005 he went to the United States to study a MFA in dance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he worked with choreographers such as Tere O’Connor, Jennifer Monson, Sara Hook and David Parker. In 2007 he attended Impulstanz in Vienna as a part of the danceWeb Europe Scholarship Programme. Donoso returned to Ecuador where he taught dance at the Ballet Nacional del Ecuador, the Universidad Central and the Universidad Católica among others, and also has been making his own work – both independently and collaboratively. He created and performed How to Watch T.V. and Perform at the Same Time (2009) in collaboration with Sonja Augart with the support of the Goethe-Intitut/Asociación Humboldt; 10 dancers, 10 days, 10 parts (2011) in collaboration with René Wadleigh; and 63 Mornings (2012) which premiered at the III Encuentro Internacional de Danza Contemporánea in Quito. In 2014 he collaborated with Fabián Barba on the creation of the installation-performance slugs’ garden/cultivo de babosas. In 2015 he moved to Belgium to start a post-master program at a.pass (advanced performance and scenography studies) and he currently lives and works in Brussels. Esteban Donoso’s work revolves around creating devices that alter/displace perception and communication; opening up the gaps that lie in-between thinking and speaking, or thinking and doing, hence welcoming the fragmentary, the phantasmatic and the multiple.

Ana María Gómez was born in Bogotá, Colombia in 1987. In 2007 she moved to Madrid and Barcelona to study fashion design. After graduation she travelled back to Colombia where she did an internship with the opera costume designer Adán Martinez. In 2013 she started a master in textile design at La Cambre (ENSAV) in Brussels. During this time, she collaborated with several textile factories and textile editors. In 2013 she did an internship with Atelier Africain du Design, a traditional textile and handcraft project in Benin. In 2014 she collaborated with Fabián Barba and Esteban Donoso on the creation of slugs’ garden/cultivo de babosas. In 2015 she collaborated with the design firm Pelican Avenue in Antwerp. After completing her master’s degree, she worked as a costume designer for the Zinneke Parade and with other artists like Lola Lasurt. In July 2016 Ana María Gómez received a one-year grant from the Flemish government, which allowed her to continue her textile experimentation with Belgian industries. In February 2017 she started working with William Contreras, a traditional textile artisan in Cucunubá, Colombia. Her work focuses on the role of textiles in relation to bodies, language, ways of inhabiting spaces and their relation to different cultures. In recent years she has been experimenting with different approaches to textile production, mainly as a way of enhancing awareness of different cultural and social worlds.

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