Eva Borrmann / Nürnberg, Germany
“Bodies of Care: A Travel Report”
“Bodies of Care: A Travel Report”
by Eva Borrmann
Nürnberg – Germany
In the “Bodies of Care” project I was clearly confronted with the question of what the term “care” actually means. In my work as a choreographer, I am very much concerned with the “socially formed body” and how social phenomena shape or deform the body. Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, the phenomenon of “care” became more and more present and caused a strong need for discussion on different levels. I felt that the topic of “care” is a field that is interwoven into the smallest and largest social structures, from one’s own family at home to political disputes.
So at the beginning I asked myself the fundamental question: how can I as a choreographer and artist make a contribution to this complex issue?
The “Bodies of Care” project was meant to offer me the opportunity to explore my question about the socially formed body in connection with the thematic field of “care” in an international and culturally diverse context.
As a first idea, I drew on a current research of my choreographic work. Even before the start of the project, I was interested in the gesture of “waving” as a performative act of establishing contact and communication over a long distance. In touchless times of COVID-19, I wanted to establish the gesture of waving as a communal act of care.
The “Bodies of Care” project was meant to serve as a reflection and resonance of my work and at the same time include different social and cultural aspects between Germany and Indonesia. The exchange between dance practitioners from Germany and Indonesia was meant to show me new perspectives and approaches.
I knew very little about Indonesian culture, the social fabric and the personal stories of the people who live there. I wanted to know more about the local people, their thoughts and challenges on care and was very interested in the performative approaches to care of my Indonesian colleagues. As a culturally diverse group, I wanted to explore the complex field of care and look for commonalities, again asking the question: how can WE as choreographers and artists make a contribution to this complex issue?
In English there are several interpretations and translations that show the extent of this term. To this day, I still ask myself how “carework” works. Does “care” mean caring for oneself, caring for others, or even caring for a whole society? And where does the concept of duty of care begin and end?
Through the various presentations in our joint online conferences, I was able to get to know some interesting perspectives on this, such as those of the curator Sascia Bailer and the pioneer for alternative education for indigenous people, Butet Manurung.
Sascia Bailer’s thematic focus is care work. I particularly remember a publication that was published as part of her curatorial work at M.1 Hohenlockstedt entitled: Curating, Care, and Corona. In addition to precarious global aspects of the often romanticised care work or “work for love”, she describes her own fragile situation as a working mother.
In her lecture/seminar we were asked to search together for new, personal, or related word definitions of the word “care”. Thus a mood board was created on which words like: pray, love or…. could be seen. With Sascia Bailer’s input, the view could be directed to adjacent areas of care work.
Although Butet Manurung, who reported on her decades of observation and research of indigenous peoples shared a very important comment on the topic of education: “context shapes content, not the other way around”. So if you want to practise “care work” you should take time to observe the needs of the people, strengthen their local culture, address local problems and recognise geographical potentials. In doing so, the local point of view should be taken into account and you should be aware of one’s own standpoint as an outsider. – Where do you stand?
The “Bodies of Care” project was also complemented by three mentors. In regular online meetings we were in contact with the Indonesian performance artist Melati Suryodarmo and the German artist group LIGNA, consisting of Ole Frahm and Torsten Michaelsen. This gave us the opportunity to check and discuss our concepts and thoughts with experienced artists.
During a lecture on “History and Context of Performing Arts” I came across the values and demands of the Fluxus movement again. At the beginning of the 1970s, Fluxus set itself the task of “understanding the everyday as art” or, as one of the most famous representatives of Joseph Beuys said: “Every person is an artist!
At the same time, the Fluxus movement opens up to me a concept of collective creation in which the individual and the subjective thinking of an artist can find a place and be represented, while at the same time the social, political, and artistic community need is clearly formulated, expressed and realised. A good example of this, in my opinion, is the Fluxus Workbook, which shows how creatively and freely the concept of instruction can be dealt with. Already in my studies and beyond, I was able to refer to the Fluxus Workbook again and was familiar with the instructions.
In the course of the process we decided on a joint group work, which consists of two choreographers from Germany, and two choreographers from Indonesia. This led to an intensive and cross-cultural exchange. In numerous online meetings we discussed our approach, the format of the realisation, and finally the performance. Through our mentors Ole Frahm and Torsten Michaelsen, we were encouraged to base our performance on an audio format. Together with my working group, we created instructions that were supposed to get the audience moving and negotiate the topic of “care” in a performative way. Together we decided to give our project the title “Practise of Togetherness” and to focus on “togetherness” as an act of care in our performance.
This meant that each of us artists presented a performative practice of “togetherness”. More or less everyday practices emerged – the gesture of waving, the search for eye contact, clapping together and creating gifts in the form of paper. My original idea of waving as an act of caring could be taken up here and emerge as a performative audio instruction.
In order to record our audio instructions we had to rely on the help and cooperation of our colleagues and our practice as choreographers was put to the test. How were we to create movement and choreography through our voice ONLY? We were used to being able to respond to our dancers individually and in real time. Again and again we had to try out our instructions with participating dancers, check and re-select our words to create a precise and imaginative audio guide.
Together we decided to record the audio guide in English, Indonesian, and German to make it accessible to as many people as possible. It was also important to us that not only people with movement experience can participate in the Audio Guide, but also amateurs can use the Audio Guide. At this point I would like to remind you of Joseph Beuys: “Every person is a (dance) artist!
The finale of my joint work with the “Bodies of Care” project and all the dear people with whom I was able to work, discuss, and learn culminated in a tryout on 25 September at the Tafelhalle in Nuremberg, Germany. At the same daytime as my colleagues from Indonesia, I was able to present our audio guide and try it out with participating dancers and amateurs. I received positive feedback throughout and a melancholy of “being touched on the inside” spreads between the participants, as I was able to experience in the follow-up discussion. For me, this is a sign that our project was successful in the difficult times and challenging circumstances of the COVID 19 pandemic.
Through the “Bodies of Care” project, I have once again come to the conclusion that there is a great potential in identifying oneself as an artist as one of many, as part of a community, a group. Looking for potential commonalities and seeing the process of negotiation as a valuable asset is essential to my work. New perspectives, ways of thinking, and diversity create space to re-examine myself and my work as an artist and to put it back into a new order of the world.