Extended Play

    18/05  | 20:30
    19/05  | 20:30
    20/05  | 20:30
    21/05  | 20:30

€ 16 / € 13
1h 15min

Meet the artists after the performance on 19/05

After Kinshasa Electric (2014), choreographer Ula Sickle and visual artist Daniela Bershan (Baba Electronica) continue their joint journey, remaining curious about what happens outside the canon of contemporary dance. For Extended Play, Sickle and Bershan extend the playing field of dance to encompass globalised pop culture. Extended Play explores pop as a web of references, tones, fashions, intonations and inflections, postures and gestures. Starting from concrete references and veering towards abstraction, 5 performers take over the role of the DJ, sampling and remixing sounds, images, materials and movements. Everything happens live. Extended Play is not an album. It is an accumulation of samples, movements, tracks, songs and their remixes. By stripping down pop to its basic mechanics, Extended Play proposes a space where the tensions and codes of contemporary culture are sculpted, performed, dissected. Pop is a socio-emotional machine, pulling us into the game. But are we players or are we being played?

Concept, choreography, music
Ula Sickle & Daniela Bershan

Creation, performance
Popol Amisi, Emma Daniel, Zen Jefferson, Andy Smart, Lynn Rin Suemitsu

Black Adopo

Samples, composition
Daniela Bershan

Nicolas Vanstalle

Ula Sickle, Elke Verachtert

Costumes, styling
Sabrina Seifried

Costumes assistant
Heidi Ehrhart (KVS)

Vocal coach
Didier Likeng

Third eye
Matt M. Hare

Thanks to
David Helbich, Agnès Gayraud, Jeannot Kumbonyeki Deba, Joel Makabi Tenda, Laure Ferraris, PAF, Margareta Andersen, Jan Goossens, Danny Op de Beeck & the entire team of KVS, Christophe Slagmuylder & Kunstenfestivaldesarts

Kunstenfestivaldesarts, KVS

Executive production
Caravan Production (Brussels)

Kunstenfestivaldesarts, KVS (Brussels), La Villette – Artist residencies 2016 (Paris)

With the support of
the Flemish Community, the Flemish Community Commission of the Brussels Capital Region

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Extended Play

OK, look, have you ever considered that pop might be a machine connecting us to an abstract emotional landscape that surges behind the curtain of perception? This is stupid. It is also the only reasonable explanation. Pop as benevolent demiurge. But what, then, is pop hiding in its recesses? Why is it being so coy, when all we want is to love it?

We all know the tale. Some time in the storied middle of the last century, some bozo hooked a circuit board up to a guitar and a monster was born. Seemingly without warning, there were howling wolves and gyrating hips, heretofore unknown libidinal flows harnessed into a vast architecture for the production of joy. The modern fetish for the current was given cultural flesh, a million cosmonauts went mainlining for the electric sun. After the electric, the electronic, and the digital looming behind it. Things start getting really weird. Like any good mode of production, pop automated itself, cruised past our understanding, and soon enough, hey, wait, is that guy on TV crooning a ballad through a robot voice whilst getting into a fistfight with a thousand lights? And might he be our greatest living artist?

And yet and yet… something about this story doesn’t sit right. Pop has never just been about production, has never ‘just’ been about anything. Pop is ecstatic, sad, funny and boring, it is mass-cultural and subcultural, its inauthenticity is only matched by its sincerity, it manages to be indifferent and totally needy at the same time. Something worries us about it and we wouldn’t know how to live without it. There is something urgent that we haven’t grasped yet.

At this juncture, Extended Play sets its stage and gets to work. The initial operation is simple. We take the abstract dynamics of the pop landscape and localise them onto five – mutable – bodies. The consequences are anything but. Utilising an abundance of materials, research, samples and layers, we stir our strange brew and hope to surprise ourselves. A hand is a drum is a synth is a fader. A voice keens like an electric seagull. Sites of weightlessness exchange. The mixing is happening live. MC Escher 2016! Most of all, we’ll trust our gut. One thing is certain about pop: you know it when you see it.

If it seems like we’re trying to confuse ourselves, you may be on the money. Pop ain’t what it used to be, and there’s no getting the band back together. If we want a mode of performance adequate to whatever pop ‘is’ today, we’re going to have to set our fazers on stun, our eyebrows on fleek and take a plunge. This is one reason why it was so important that the performers are also behind the boards. The samples are loaded and ready to drop. The dancers control the party, they remix each other, record, recontextualise, cut and splice. We enter a space where we no longer know who is sampling whom, whether the device is an extension of the body or the body is an extension of the device. Performers produce producers performing. Everything in the world is exactly the same and nothing is. Choreography becomes pop sculpture.

All of this is, of course, impossible. That’s why it’s a good idea. We would like to untether pop from its real instantiation in identity, production and meaning, to extend its dynamics and functions into a new space, one that is erotic, dangerous, threatening, exciting, alive. To play with pop is to take a risk. Our wager is that it’s one worth taking, and we do so with the enthusiasm of the fan, of the acolyte. Let’s make a proposition: this could be the dream of a future pop, drawing audience and performers into an extended play.

Matt M. Hare
May 2016

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