Marlen Pflueger and Yasmina Lammler / Berlin – Germany
“Life Narrative Documentation”
“Life Narrative Documentation”
by Marlen Pflueger and Yasmina Lammler
Berlin – Germany
the skin blanket instructional performance
many unknown faces,
many curious smiles,
different rooms with different window views,
different portraits of sometimes not so distant realities,
different birds singing different songs,
sun and moon – all rising and setting underneath the same screen.
How do we take care of ourselves?
How do we take care of one another?
Through the screen.
Eyes and ears have to be activated.
Sometimes a feeling of diving through a lukewarm lake, swimming underwater with beautiful fishes, pressure in the ears,
a mind that sometimes doesn’t want to swim and tired eyes,
trying to stay focussed on the underwater stories.
A new way of communicating and creating.
Losing words in translation.
Finding presence in absence.
Being absent whilst present.
Too many information on one surface.
Wishing it to smell more real.
Then a warm breeze of loveliness fills the screen.
Support from strangers.
Listening to each other.
A little PM from someone, a little wink as a response.
Imagining each person’s lives.
How nice would it be to meet in flesh and blood, somewhere, maybe Indonesia?
Giving each other a hug.
Dreaming of this country we have never visited. Now we discover it through the background of someone’s screen,
an open window with a blurry view.
A little boy appears behind Krisna, maybe it’s his brother?
Densil’s hair – gracefully blown by the ventilator.
Ela, surrounded by dark green tiles.
Melati shutting off her camera because she is smoking.
Ferry hiding behind the camera, sometimes delighting us with a big smile on his face.
Eva looking to the right, thoughtfully dreaming through the view of her window.
Keni’s beautifully organized notes hanging in the background whilst her dog crawls on her lap.
Ogik looking gorgeous.
Torsten needing to finish the zoom meeting on time because he will pick up his daughter from Kita.
We get a collage of short glimpses of different lives, small frames capturing time and space.
Suddenly we find ourselves in the Indonesian rainforest whilst wearing jogging trousers, Pantoffel and eating German Haferbrei (porridge).
One contrast contradicts the other, creating so much friction that we fear our laptop might make a pluff and explode like a volcano from the overload of information.
But then it’s all fine.
This is what is there, and this is what we can work with and in fact it’s a privilege.
It is 2021, we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic
and this is how we do it.
Someone from the group shares how their good friends died from Covid while we are travelling to France or Italy.
We can feel how the word „border“ carries a different weight within different countries.
We try to understand local challenges and individual concerns.
We are connected through the experience of this sharing.
We give importance to each other.
The journey with Bodies of Care started for us within an unknown realm. We were not sure how, where and with whom or for whom we would create an instructional performance. Both of us started a collaborative movement research on how to take care of one’s own and another body long before Bodies of Care, so we started the process with a clear intention to go deeper in our physical and philosophical research: from the closeness of our Body-Clump practice, feeding from its physical and emotional explorations, into letting it being shaped and inspired by the input of our new collaborators, mentors and lectures that were held about the history of the performing body. Sometimes we seemed to travel far away from our main research, so it was helpful for the two of us to reflect after each session how we wanted to take our research forward.
The research within BOC, which was led by the mentors, was focused on the elaboration of our initial idea for the program. When we as a group got to the point of creating one common piece, we could not imagine how our locally embedded performances could be readapted to another context. We were all valueing each other’s ideas, and didn’t want to abandon the richness of this bunch of propositions, so we ended with a lot of different instructional performances. We did collaborate with Hadi, with whom we shared a similar point of view since the beginning of the research, and it was really interesting to share our thoughts and creativity, to support each other within the creative process.
When we – Marlen & Yasmina – met for the last month of creation, we could finally experience the process and tryouts together. Part of it was spent on the road through Italy. Meeting with BOC every Thursday gave us a sense of routine, but also meant to find a good internet connection in the middle of the mountains, between the grunting of a sheep and the smell of thyme. It was a very particular experience, to be bound to a creation for such a long time with such variable implications: sometimes it was a full time job, sometimes just a weekly meeting that accompanied our daily life. Even though this project was very enriching, it did take a lot of time and was unfortunately not paid accordingly, especially since the two of us shared the payment. It was hard to coordinate the organisation with other paid jobs, while wanting to commit our time and energy fully to an important project like this. Maybe this is something to consider for the next BOC edition.
However, every zoom session with Bodies of Care opened new questions, new tasks to give to ourselves. We had a predominantly female selection of lecturers giving theoretical and practical inputs. One of the lectures was held by Butet Manurung, a pioneer for alternative education for indigenous people in Indonesia. We felt very inspired by her approach and were reinforced by the importance of adjusting the content to the context. As collaborators, we were not working with one familiar community, because we were Nomads – during most of the time of the process, but also generally in our dancers and choreographers lives. So we asked ourselves what is the context, the community of a Nomad? What connects us as human beings, that goes beyond set borders, cities and communities? What is the commonality of us as a human species in regard to care?
These questions were with us throughout our artistic process and led us to dig deeper into our fascination with the skin. Skin is something we are all covered in. A blanket that takes care of our insides and enables us to connect with the outside world. A border and bridge. It comes in many colors and materials, a diversity we wished to embody and cherish with our work. With our instructional performance we wanted to awaken people’s awareness of their sensing skins and sparkle their imagination through forming a skin creature with a fluid architecture „an endless mass of shared skin, a breathing clump of colors, textures, genders, flowing into each other and becoming one„ (min.:17.52, Skin Blanket).
The principal question we asked ourselves was how we could create a space for our instructional performance, where people feel carried without being touched. Especially as dancers touch is an essential tool that cannot be replaced. However imagination is equally essential and can enable us to practice empathy and care. Furthermore it enables us to imagine different perspectives and realities and to understand the commonality of experience (this thought is inspired by artist and activist Adrian Piper).
Our main intention for this performance was to create a sense of intimacy in a public space, on the street, creating softness on concrete ground. We wanted to share the performance with people we did not know and who did not necessarily connect to the art world. We decided to add a musical component to our voice instructions which shifted everything to a new level, and gave the performance a lot more space. We asked Bonzaii – a German Musician, to create the soundscape to support our meditative movement journey. Music does something in such a gentle way that words cannot make you do and we experienced that the musical soundscape that spread around the public space on the day of the performance was what made people most curious about the event. Curious ears asking questions, making bodies move.
On the 25th of september we shared our Instructional Performance Skin Blanket in Marseille, a still unknown city to us with unknown rules and no network. We hang invitations all around the city to connect to strangers. We had to face the fact of not knowing who would show up, of letting go of our own expectations, of being as surprised as the people that would share this journey with us.
We were stressed, overworked, slightly disappointed that not so many people showed up as we wished, but in the end very moved as we went through a unique and intimate journey. The skin creature was born after the voice instructions to build it ended, when we danced with the memory of it, accompanied by Bonzaii’s ambient soundscape.
We played, we danced, we hum lullabies and wrote down some words. It felt real, honest, humble and beautiful. We took what felt good to us, and left the rest behind. We realized that the performance is still within its creation process, and not a finished piece. It actually felt like a new beginning: taking this moment and experience to restart the research, to go further and deeper into it.
It is an open door for more to come. Maybe it could be more daring?
Offering a performance like this to strangers made us realize how little is necessary to awaken a sense of care, joy and self discovery within people. We realized that the content of this type of performance does not need to be too complicated, because the act itself is already very complex and rich. The simpler the better.
Moreover this deep acknowledgment that art has to happen on the streets grew inside of us. Art can touch people passing by, even if just for a second, people that are not used to this form of communication and interaction. A feeling of wanting to invade – spread – share within public spaces arose in us, acknowledging that art is embedded within everybody.
What made the day special was the collage of performances that happened throughout the day between Indonesia, Germany and France and the support we gave each other by thinking of one another and knowing that we are experiencing this as one part of a bigger picture. The Bodies of Care performances were spreading the notion of care in different rooms, environments, with more or less people, and it was thrilling to see the same instructions performed by such beautiful people, giving birth to unique and ephemeral events.
How incredible is it to take part in a performance that is happening somewhere else in the world at the same time?
From the first meeting at BOC we talked about the principle of being a family, to create a kinship amongst us. We remember the word „mba“ meaning sister in Bahasa Indonesian. Indeed we formed into a little family throughout this process, meeting almost every week and caring about each other. At times it felt a bit lonely as the main beating heart of organization and support took place in Jakarta, but we knew that emotionally there was a lot of support and care. We gave life to this notion amongst us. Because care is something bigger than us, deeply rooted in our daily actions.
It was beautiful to form relationships through this format that will hopefully last beyond this project. What connects all of us now is not a spatial matter, but a passion for movement and an attempt to keep that alive through practicing care as an essential part of our individual dance practices. Something that, especially in the dance industry, often gets smothered by goal oriented companies, pressure, competition and elbows. But we can change that through projects like this. We can attempt a radical shift in how we move with one another through care.
Radical care. Radical Softness.
There was curiosity
There was empathy
There was thursday afternoon meeting thursday morning
There was beautiful sounds and melodies of not understandable languages
There was translation
There was glimpses of the rainforest
There was women teaching
There was inspiration
There was history
There was a lot of work
There was frustration
There was time pressure
There was support
There was detachment
There was blank minds, empty eyes
There was connectivity
There was technological glitches
There was the creation of a common sense
There were familiar smiles
There was a lack of skills to do certain kind of things
There was imagination
There was a sensation of being a beginner in everything
There were proposals
There was ideas
There was softness
There was new experiences, a lot of tryouts
There was the communality of experience
There was an attempt to shape an international work into a local embedded performance
There was doubt
There was a lot of questioning
There were a lot of thank you
There was some anonymity
There was absence and presence
There was the desire to support others
There was a huge amount of work
There was humbleness and simplicity
There was gratitude