Shadows of Tomorrow

    23/05  | 22:00
    24/05  | 22:00
    25/05  | 22:00
    26/05  | 22:00

€ 16 / € 13
40 min

Psychedelic hip-hop is characterised by complex sample-based beats and abstract lyrics, often filled with unconventional references. Starting from her fascination with this music genre, Oslo-based artist Ingri Midgard Fiksdal has created the choreographic project Shadows of Tomorrow. There is no music to be heard, and yet we are transported in silence into the immersive experience of a psychedelic concert, through the movements of twenty performers. The beats move through them, recreating numerous rhythmical layers, and transforming them into a single body, oscillating between the liberating anonymity of the dancefloor and the affirmation of each singularity. The performance takes its title from a music track by Madlib and MF Doom, two key figures within the genre of psychedelic hip-hop. The song was a homage to the poem The Shadow of Tomorrow by Sun Ra, with the sound of the cosmic trip from his 1974 movie Space Is the Place sampled in the track. These dynamics of sampling and questions about circulation often feature in the work of Fiksdal, whose practice reflects on the circulation of movement and the transfer of its perception between performers and the audience.

Choreography: Ingri Midgard Fiksdal
Light design: Ingeborg Staxrud Olerud
Light technician: Tobias Leira
Costumes: Elena Becker, Ingri Fiksdal, Mia Melinder and Signe Vasshus
Original cast of performers: Rosalind Goldberg, Pernille Holden, Sigrid Hirsch Kopperdal, Marianne Skjeldal and Venke Sortland
Performers in Brussels: Rosalind Goldberg and students of ISAC (Institut Supérieur des Arts et Chorégraphies, Brussels): Laura Battistella, Joséphine Bonnaire, Raoul Carrer, Estelle Czernichowski, Laura Elias, Sophie Farza, Marion Gassin, Lydia Guez, Helio Hoarau, Lucas Katangila, Jean Lesca, Shankar Lestrehan, Camille Meyer, Kiko Nickel, Juliette Otter, Clémence Péguy, Aela Royer, Lotte Van Gelder, Milo Van Praet, Ilana Winderickx, Castelie Yalombo
Producer and administration: Eva Grainger
Producer and distribution: Nicole Schuchardt

Presentation: Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Le Lac
Supported by: Arts Council Norway, The Norwegian Artistic Research Program, Oslo National Academy of the Arts and ISAC (Institut Supérieur des Arts et Chorégraphies, Brussels)

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An Anonymous, Yet Profoundly Human, Dance

Choreography as landscape

As most of Ingri Midgard Fiksdal’s works, Shadows of Tomorrow is a choreography slowly unfolding as a landscape made of moving bodies, costumes, light and sound. And as it happens with landscapes, we are just absorbed into it, are becoming one with it. During the whole performance, a multitude of patterns accumulate and intertwine with each other: scores, movements, costumes, lights and soundscapes all contribute to compose a moving landscape that unfolds in duration. The starting and ending point of the work is, way more radically than with other performative set ups we may encounter as spectators, the audience’s experience. Fiksdal operates choreographically with and within it, moving her steps into something that she can’t know or control: the opaque otherness constitutes by the bodies, gazes and subjectivities of those who are invited to view and experience the work. The title of the piece is taken by a psychedelic hip-hop music track by Madlib and MF Doom, that was a homage to the poem The Shadow of Tomorrow by Sun Ra, one of the key figures of Afrofuturism. This reference already suggests some of the layers of the compositions (dynamics of samplings, production of the future, immersiveness of concert experience…). Fiksdal’s choreography and visual composition of the piece, and the dancers’ movement patterns, add many more layers to the initial suggestions, contributing to generate a very complex moving organism.

The twenty dancers are masked, their face covered by several layers of colorful fabrics with different patterns. Their whole bodies are actually covered with the same fabrics, organized in different layers of clothes. Only their hands are uncovered while the shapes of their bodies disappear under the textile materials, making them unrecognizable and genderless, yet unequivocally human. The dancers move very slowly, with repetitive everyday movement that acquire a particular quality because of their extra-quotidian pace and because of the impossibility to see the expressions of those who act them. Something gently unfolds there, that reminds of our entanglements with non-human, non-living entities: the stage lamps placed in clusters on the floor, the small sounds produced by the moving bodies and the fabrics of their clothes, and the big shadows that they project all over the audience, on the four walls that contain the performative space.

Everything happens very softly. The slow pace affects us physically, makes our heart beat slow down and our expectations for spectacle vanish. Soon we will realize it will not be about rapid changes and surprises, there will not be a lot to see here. Rather, it will be about diving deeper into the experience of watching, about seeing more. There are different degrees of intensity in the performers and the audience’s experience, but they all share a particular state within Shadows of Tomorrow, while space and time are constantly mold by the unfolding of the choreographic composition.

Collective constellations

Within this spatial setting, the performance dramaturgy investigates different forms of collective constellations: crowd, mass, group, community, and individual entities are constantly performed and challenged, move one into another and contribute to shape the audience’s experience of the space, of the work and of themselves as a temporary collective entity. As often in Fiksdal’s work, the performers are masked and therefore singularities are hidden. The relationship between anonymity and col-lectivity is at stake here: humans are on stage as individual ‘objects’ within an ever-changing configuration of multiplicity. They are not individualized entities, or rather they are, but do not carry any form of subjectivity with them. Their individual personality traits are undermined, and they become singularities, a whatever being or quodlibet ens (Agamben) that carries a latent potentiality for change and transformation in the way it articulates its own existence with the others’ one. The audience members are also part of these ever-changing collective constellations: we coexist with the dancers and with the dance, as human and non-human, living and non-living forms coexist on the same planet, sharing the destiny of living and dying together.

Dance as an autonomous form of expression

The performance’s rigorous choreographic principles and scores seem to articulate with and somehow even against a movement practice intended as an autonomous form of expression. Within this work, choreography and dance operate as two possibly independent forces. The first is an organizing principle that set conditions for potentiality to occur, while the second is given the status of an autonomous agent performing within the principles that try to organize it.

Among the choreographic principles that Fiksdal has been developing in the last year as part of her artistic research, Shadows of Tomorrow is particularly focused on that of ‘minimal composition’. This is applied as a strategy to dismantle the audience’s expec-tations for radical transformation or change. ‘Minimal composition’ does establish a new set of conventions where dramaturgy is not about constant innovation but rather about the quiet conditions that can produce a new state of perception, a new form of existence. This ‘newness’ is the altered state(s) generated by the way movement affect dancers and audience.

States of sensitivity

The audience’s state is altered also by the choice of a very intimate space and the subtle use of light and sound, that contribute to create a state of sensitivity intensified by the circularity of the choreographic structure, where stillness and movement come one after each other, with different gradations, producing a perpetual wave-movement. This activates the space in a sense that is not usual in contemporary dance, as if the dancers could move the space itself, a space that the audience is part of. A form of ‘kinaesthetic transference’ – another choreographic principle that informs Fiksdal’s work – seems therefore to operate not just between the performers and the audience, but also between the dance and the space that hosts it, as if it could be set in motion by the dancers’ movement, and participate of the experience of the dance.

Moving and being moved

In the end, Fiksdal’s work is always a research about who/what is moving and who/what is being moved. Who – considering everything as a subject – has agency within whom. As one of the main concept in her artistic research (see her book Affective Choreographies, 2018), ‘kinaesthetic transference’ is assumed as a potential effect of movement itself, no matter who or what is actually moving. As recent neurological studies have proven, mirror neurons are activated in the human brain both by acting and by observing the same action performed by somebody else: watching something or someone moving affects us neurologically and produces a form of transference that goes beyond our choice to engage with that movement. Fiksdal pushes it further when she focuses on the affective potential that is inherent in the kinaesthetic transference produced by choreographed movement.

This brings us back to the perspective of the audience in the work. If this is not a spectator’s perspective, because there is no ‘spectacle’ there, it is also not a witness’ one: as an audience, we become part of the ‘choreographic assemblage’, have a different statute than performers but are part of what is going on and literally share the same space. As opposite to witnesses in a ritual for example, the ritualistic experience of Shadows of Tomorrow is one that does not mean to produce a change in the realm of reality, to make us different than who we were when we entered the space. In this respect, Fiksdal’s choreography is not performative, does not strive to produce any change outside itself. Instead, it occupies the realm of art as an useless practice, a ‘means with no ends’ (Agamben) creating a field of experience that is affective rather than effective. What is to be transferred to an audience is the movement as such, and not the effect that it is supposed to produce. And this transference operates as a form of ‘affective attunement’ (Massumi), and as an intensifier of presence and attention.

By dismantling all expectations of change, and even of dramaturgical development, Shadows of Tomorrow molds the relationship with its viewers disclosing an open and subjective state within them. What this may generate, how we may act within this state once we leave the space, is none of the performance’s business. We are returned to the world as the same individual beings that we used to be before entering the performance’s space. The same, but just a bit different, gently affected by an anonymous, yet profoundly human dance.

Silvia Bottiroli

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Ingri Midgard Fiksdal works as a choreographer with base in Oslo. She recently finished a PhD in artistic research titled Affective Choreographies at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts. Recent works include Deep Field (2018), Diorama (2017) and STATE (2016), which have toured extensively in Norway and Europe, as well as to North-America and China. 

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