The Conversation: May 24th Afternoon

S: Su Feh
Z: Zab
J: Jennifer
A: Anis
H: Hari

S: Umm, I'm going to ah, keep using the word violence. Because I like it, because I feel often, and I say violence without any judgment upon violence. Or moral judgment on violence and I feel, often, we run away from violence. And the denial of violence doesn't actually help us have very interesting conversations, let’s put it this way. But, it’s a political choice also for me to use the word violence because it makes us think in more activist terms, I think, you can think of art as an action, which I guess is my agenda. But I'd like to take us to the body of the performer, of the, of being, and to consider um, the violence of being watched and, and if we were to turn that around and look at the people that are watching us, uh, what happens? And can we do that easily, do we need permission to do that, etcetera, etcetera.

J: Well I see in the studio, that we, I try and call violence when it comes up in the working ensemble and um, that's hard. So, it leads me to think that amongst the dancer choreographer relationship, violence is often implicit, or not acknowledged in some way. And that there is a look, an eye, or there's a little gesture and so for that to be recognized as violence, in the room, itself cause friction. Which suggests, perhaps this little violence, don't even notice that I'm going to talk like this to you, don't even notice. Just like, let me express myself. But to recognize that that was violent, that I just-with, again not with judgment, but just to get someone to even focus on it is a, a thing in itself in the room. And then I think of the eyes that we work with, we work in the, in the studio with eyes. Like the, we work off in improvisation, we work with the eye of the beloved and when I think of the eye of the beloved, it makes me think of babies. And babies, um, in the developmental patterns when their, they haven't yet sat but they know their pushing pattern.

It's the call from somebody who loves them, that allows them to twist

What I've been taught that leads them to the pushing pattern when they’re on their stomach (Jennifer demonstrates on floor) and they’re ready to push up, but they haven't sat yet. What allows them to sit is their mother saying, "Jennifer," which allows them to twist, which allows them to turn around. So it’s the call, the call from somebody who loves them, that allows them to twist which suggests that if they weren't seen, if they weren't seen, and they weren't loved and they weren't called, the baby might not develop as fast. That, that draws them into that and similarly, the baby, when they, when the baby goes for a walk, it goes, or a crawl, or a creep, it goes for a little and it turns around and looks back at the mother. And then it goes on a little more. Or else once it gets older and can actually extend the leash more, the child walks, and then puts a thumb in it’s mouth which is essentially going back to the mother, and then takes a rest and then heads out again. You see this again and again, and that's like a way to allow them to grow without the eye, the gaze that we're talking about. And then when I get dancers-

S: The gaze of?

J: The gaze of the beloved, the gaze of somebody who loves them, which allows construction, development to take place. And then in the studio we work often with dancers, will suddenly say:

"Who are you dancing with here?"

Because they'll be dancing and I'll see them, they'll just keep, they'll keep checking in with somebody over there and the person's invisible. The person's invisible in the room, and really they’re checking in with, well it takes quite a bit of work to figure it out, after you know, a number of rehearsals but if we figure out, maybe it's their mother. Or they're carrying the judges around in the room, they're actually dancing to them all the time. So, what they've got is a history of, a history of somebody who has been watching them for a while that maybe has now changed from being the voice, or the gaze of the beloved to somebody who is judging them or judging their dancing. Maybe they've never seen their dancing. It's not like they're having an overt dialogue, because they don't even notice, because after twenty years of dancing they don't notice that they’re always like, checking out this way as though they’re noticing people. To dismantle that means recognition on both parts, recognition of me looking, trying to take the time to help the dancer recognize, they, they have to want to recognize it and then they have to actually work to say, you know, I don't want to. I don't want to spend my whole life under the judging eye of an invisible partner. Because what you actually see is, that if you are working with impulses going through the body, that the impulse is going through the body, but if somebody's, if there is a judge there, the impulse won't go, won't flow. It will be like ukah, uggas-ha- like this. And that, so that actually doesn't, isn't very creative work. To be impeded constantly by the-

S: Judge.

J: Invisible judges.

Z: Well.

S: Sorry, can we just do a very brief, because I just kind of dived into it and I sort of promised everybody that we'd do a little round of introduction. So, can we really quickly do this and come back. So, we were at the eyes of judges, yes, and now lets just introduce ourselves, going to Jennifer.

J: I'm Jennifer.

S: And?

P: Aisha.

P: Lynette.

A: Amy Pelletier.

SD: Sameena Darr

P: I'm Caroline

D: David Macintosh

R: I'm Raquel.

A: I'm Anis.

H: Hari Krishnan.

Z: Zab Maboungou.

S: Okay, yes an now we can go back to the eyes of the judge.

A: Who's the judge? The judge, the judge.

J: In our work room, the judge can be any host of people that is actually-

A: It has to be people?

J: No. The ah, ah, partner that is impeding the craft of the dancers development. Creative development.

S: But why do we assume that the judge impedes?

J: Cause I just see it physically, I just see it physically that the flow of the impulses are always checked. They're checked. I'll see them wanting to go somewhere but they'll check. And often, when we actually deal with the partners, it leads to violence.

A: How do you put this? It's, it’s a performance that is void of that human presence, but it is for the gaze, what you call judge of the spiritual presence. How would you relate that in the same context you argued? You know, how would you place that?

J: Um, I experience that quite differently and there's a woman I've been studying with named Judith Colehide* who teaches authentic movement, and she's been doing this practice for thirty years. And so, she actually comes and does what she calls, hold the room. And she's the only one with her eyes open. And she holds the room, she watches you and we admit that she is going to watch us. And the places she takes us through us dancing with our eyes shut, I would say is the eye of the divine.

Authentic Movement - Daniel Burkholder

S: What is the eye of the judge for you, Zab? And you, and you-

Z: Well, um, I don't believe in impurity of any kind of movement. Whether it be movement or, or the ones gazing whatever entity or instance that is in a place of gazing, or judging me, or the being that I am at the time, that I am and so forth and so on. So when it comes to movement, um, the first thing you have to learn is to, of course, de-, de-socialize yourself from basically these representations that you are supposed to carry in you. Uh, you have to learn to take a distance from them. And I say take a distance because of course you are getting rid of them, but at the same time you still are what you are in the context that you're in, in the place and time that you are. You cannot stop people from putting what they want, but you're working at de-stabalizing the gaze, and the look at the expectations and the beloved one. You have to learn to not count on that love anymore. You have to question the idea, the very idea of love. You have to question all that, put it, not count on it, not think that it's there for you. There, you are there as an artist, a mover, a dancer, um to, propose uh, another reality sort of. Propose something else. A place where things are of the unknown. And to do that you need to work specifically at dismantling things that deal with the world of representation. Social representation, body representation, imagination in the very deep ideas we may have of what love or emotion is. And all of this has to be dismantled. And we've got to work at finding the ways, the means, by which we can do that. So um, that is one thing.

So, the violence is there already. You have to have some violence on you. You have to be able to apply the violence on you because you are a social product, and if you're an artist you still are a social product, you still have to live in society. So these um, the societal pressures are always there and you have to fulfill your other duties while you're an artist. You may be able to totally exclude yourself from it, but hardly you still have to live in a society, so it’s a constant work. It's something that you constantly have to do, and if you're teaching, to other people you have to be able to put that thing, put them in that situation that they're able to do that, but it’s still something of your capacity to, um, to deal with the situation of being a dancer, uh, basically this art of dance is supposed to teach me that you have to be able to get rid of these expectations. You are not dancing for the ones who love you, precisely. You are dancing for people you don't know about. Now what about the dance, the traditional dances, or the dances that, any kind of tradition it could be the tradition of ballet. It could be some African tradition, that means it is referring to a repertory and it is referring to a certain public. And these people love you in advance sort of, because it’s a tradition, so you are loved in advance. Let’s say. So of course, then this issue of, of taking a distance from that love, of dismantling that love is not the same. The contemporary artist may be faced with that issue, but the one who is involved with tradition dance, traditional dance, is dealing with it differently. He has to accept the love and propose even more to be loved more, so his excellence is to go beyond what's expected of him already, but to show more of it in a better light, but he's still counting on that love already. That's there, because he represents, he's identified as such. So, we have really different perspective here, are we not? If you want to dismantle the love then you are in for another kind of violence. If you want to count on that love that is already established, maybe throughout centuries? Through the institution or all sorts of things. Then the violence is on you in a different way, as Anis was explaining yesterday when we were talking about the monkeys. There is always a violence, but it may be expressed and dealt with in a different manner. And we have to be able to recognize those differences. Because from then we will have a different form of artistic endeavor.

S: Because often I feel, um, love itself is violence. It’s violence done to, it’s violence on our body, it’s a burden, there's a burden of love, you know. Violence in a sense that it’s one of the pressures on our bodies, on existence. It's one of the things that we live and grapple with.

H: Well it depends on, this whole issue about the judge. We are applying a value judgment right away. That there is something, a negative quality in terms of the judgment value. A.

B. Sometimes being loved in advance, it depends, if you are doing comfortable repetoire, um, recognizable, sorry not comfortable, familiar recognizable repetoire. Being done by an indigenous native, as opposed to being done by a foreigner, not from that particular tradition or culture. So, you have to earn to be loved in advance, you have to earn that respect, you have to earn that kind of um, love. Accolade.

S: So you're saying, if you're doing, if you are say a Chinese person doing Swan Lake? You don't have that love in it. So if you're a white person doing Bharatanatyam-

Swan Lake

H: Because the values change, the expectations change. The kind of things you are made to not be privy to changes, the quality control changes, the framework changes constantly. Secondly, umm, the judge and the beloved can be the same person, which is what you had just talked about. I'm very intrigued as a dance artist, who is the judge? The judge could be the critique, could be the rehearsal director, could be the teacher, could be the collaborator, could be the rehearsal director, could be yourself, um, trying to add new values and new, try to increase the yardstick for excellence. Now, in that process of reevaluating, of trying to reassess that kind of judgment value. Does it increase the pressure of maintaining some kind of tangible framework or are you creating an invisible framework, does that make sense? What I'm talking about is, when you are, when you are in that process of judgment being applied upon you or are you judging someone else, what are the kinds of rules and regulations one has to adhere to? Is there, is it, is it, is it invisible, is it spoken, unspoken, is it subtle, is it forced, is it compelled, is there a certain kind of cultural, um, resonance that dictates those values. So that's, that for me has always been an interesting qualm. And also this thing about judgment being comfortable if it’s familiar, and judgment being harsh if it’s unfamiliar. That is if something is classical or something is contemporary. Something is culture specific, or something is fused. Or made into a new hybrid space. So, what are the kind of case, or what are the kinds of policy that effects that kind of quality control, that effects that kind of judgment quality, that effects that kind of presentation mode.

J: I think what you're saying is that it, it requires an analysis of who for the dancer, for the work. What are all the judges and that the impulses that they would inhibit, if they do inhibit, what would be different depending on the judges. In my situation, I don't want those judges in the room because they are inhibiting our work together. But that doesn't mean we don't discuss them and recognize that, these invisible judges, like how did that dance critic get in my studio, right? We're not even on the stage yet. Have you been carrying that dance critic with you now for ten years? And has that always been affecting your right side? Like what is, how does it effect your dancing and then? So, that's one orbital and then the next one, like go to the stage and then things actually coming, that kind of judge. To me that's another kind of work.

H: Mmm. And also in the process of close interpersonal relationship with your judge, when you are discussing, there's also a judgmental quality that is also a judgmental value in that process of discussing, how objective can you get? How subjective can you get, what the issues of judgment, what are the issues of discussion and what are the physical labels, interpersonal proximity between the relationship? And what's the history?

J: For, for me it’s, the whole thing is about what is our work here, and how do we continue to do our work without letting it be warped by anything on the outside. It might be altered by the space you're in or altered by things that we don't want necessarily to alter it. Like how do you hang on, hang onto the reins? It's how I look at it.

S: It's about authorship-

J: It's about authorship.

S: Of the dancer's body and you are an authorship of that, for example. You don't want the judges that the dancer has carried from other experiences in your space.

J: In this dance. Let's have this dance free of those guys.

H: Right.

S: So, it’s the notion, of um, authorship. Do you have any thoughts on that, Anis?

A: I'm thinking a lot now, hmm, you see, I can see where, where there is the difference in looking at, the whole idea of the invisible judges. Um, I'll put this question out there. If you are performing a piece that deals with the proxemics of humans that is slightly different I suppose, way we look at it, to whose gaze are you performing? As opposed to, when you are dancing, the proxemics of the other, in the sense if you are looking at the whole divine fashion of the presence of God, Spirits whatever you call it, and there's always a continuous presence of the judge because the product of the process is a salvation, is devotion as opposed to the product of the ego, in dancing without the presence of that. So, it's a slightly different way of looking. My current work, um, because of the lakunan the understanding of Islamic dance, and you know, of all the faiths in the world, the most misinterpreted notion of dancing and music making is in Islam, because you know. And I always ask this question to the Mullah, mufti- whatever, people of the faiths and I say:

"Cite to me one citation within any of the page of the chapters of Qu'ran's texts, that prevents you from dancing."

There's none, there's none. But there's a verse that's there, God is so beautiful, so you can't imagine how God is so beautiful. And because he or she, or what it, is so beautiful it laughs beauty. So when you can make anything that's beautiful, not only to the eye, to the ear, to your senses, then you are trying to reach or sublime reaching the divinity. And then we look into the dancing of the very specific sectorial group in the Muslim community the misunderstood Mevlevi, the Whirling Dervish, so said imperial analyst. You know? And that has nothing to do with whirling. What whirling, comes from the observer who observed it. From a preconceived idea of turning around, which is not what the Dervish are feeling. So, that is how I am saying here, is how would you teach a person who is not of that particular group of methodology and teach to do the dance of the Whirling Dervish. It looks like a Whirling Dervish, but do you have that quality. You have that elements of violence, you see, to get closer, you always in constant state of violence.

Whirling Dervish

Um, put it this way, it's very confusing, since this is raised I would like to share this afternoon, um. You need even during the prayers, the Muslim prayers five times a day, every time you do the prayer, it looks very serene from the observer who is observing, it’s so serene. But the person who does it is continuously trying to focus the focus, cause focusing the focus is so difficult. Because you cannot be distracted because you are, at that point of time, emailing God. Put it that way (laughter) and you cannot have that transmission, you know, being broken. You have to finish the last sentence. That is the best analogy today, I can say, because you are connected. The moment you got in and the other bell rings, you're dialoguing, you cannot break that dialogue, because if you break that dialogue, there's no prayers. You have to redo it again.

Therefore, the act of doing that is always and you ask people what it is, even they answer quite differently, but I'm trying to relate to this idea, because personally I go through this balance of the need of wanting to tell and feel that my telling is heard. As much as, I want to dance and be able to project that my dancing is acknowledged. I want to do a traditional form, and that my traditional form is traditional. I want to do a classic form and that is classical. Now that continuously pushes you, pushes me in a constant, constant emotion of ruptures because I want it to. Whether it is a question of the invisible or the visible judges. I like Jennifer, I like this wonderful, I've copied this statement impeding that, I love it. Because I think, I feel it now that it is quite true when you say, whether it is visible or invisible it doesn't matter, but the context of you being gazed by the other, and whoever, whatever the other is doesn't matter, you have to define who the other is. But obviously when we do dancing, aren't we not constantly aware of the fact that without anyone hearing us, still facing something that is staring, a something and then you interpret it another way. And then you see that, of course, cause eventually when in that invisible become visible. When you are on stage, the invisible in the studio become visible on stage and that is a different issue entirely I think. So I think the, eyes of the beloved that you citied, for me if I look into this, this spiritual divine dancing, it’s very potent, it very powerful because I believe in, in trying to deliver the baktiash*, the devotion. You have to find the best ways that you cannot break the communication of the communion. And that, in dance, is an ever present thing. So again, I will affirm the fact that yes, yes by acknowledging the visible, invisible judges, you would say invisible, but I would say, some others would say, the invisible are visible, while others would say otherwise, right. For example, a good example, I work with the aborigines in the rainforest in Malaysia, in the mountains, it’s very interesting, performing at night, nobody but us. And they are always, constantly refer to the presence.

"Can't you hear, can't you see?" There's nothing you can hear, nothing you can see, but, "Can't you hear, can't you see?"

In fact, that kind of words are put into the chant as almost a reminder of the constant presence of the gaze of the other.

Baraka – Balinese Chant

So I think, I think this whole idea of whether it impede your work, or not again, is very culture specific. I don't think it impede most of the work, but it does rupture, it does provide that position of time and movement where you are constantly pushed and you try to push aside because of the reasons you're trying to-

J: I think the example of the-

S: Sorry can I, just um, David?

D: Oh, I just wondered about the word, the idea of judgment and if um, if you conceive of making a dance or a creation, and performing it on a stage in front of a public, you are automatically judging the output from the beginning, because you need to do something particular or something good. So, you can't avoid, it’s all about judgment, it's about um, and then either you want to create something that will be judged by others as a higher quality or direction or something. Or you want to create something that will be an indictment of the people watching so there is a judgment going out from the (mumble low). So, I don't see how you cannot embrace judgment from the outset, because the function of making something we call art that is going to be performed in the public is an engagement of judgment isn't it?

S: Yes.

Z: Yeah, I think that goes a little bit with what I was going to say. Yesterday I think I, ah, was trying to express at least one aspect of the idea of gaze. Because gaze is a position, it’s a perspective of one instance being, watching you and not, it takes away the idea that such an instance made me not identifiable as something. Being able to just watch you, it’s ah, it’s still about what you see. The gaze is a fixed position, watching another fixed something happening. Where um, when I talk about the unknown, and not the invisible, when I talk about the unknown, I refer to forces that are in you, they are within you already, you don't need to be gazed from an outside point of view. You are penetrated by forces. There is no such thing as something standing outside of you being able to seize your, your being or what is being presented and so forth. You are being penetrated with forces while you are performing, or before you are performing, even working with studio. So you are actually, when you're saying you have to be able, this is what I call the power of integration. You have to be able to integrate. It doesn't mean submit. To be able to integrate those things doesn't mean you're submitting to them. And you are, you accept just being judged. Because by the way, you think of an instance judging you, well you're able, you're also one of those judging? You're still such a human being capable. You have consciousness, you're constantly judging where am I going to place myself, I'm not going to be, put myself here, no, I'm going to be there. No, let’s start here. There's all sorts of things that makes you also somebody who judges. But to be able to deal with the unknown is to be able to create a space within you, so this inside space. And one that can come up outside, where various forces, that you know you don't control, are circulating there. And you are a place where those forces are circulating too, you're not excluded from them, and you cannot control all of that. There is only certain things you can control, but the rest will still go through whether you like it or not. So, it's the opposition in front of this, that will change maybe the way you're perceiving your art form and the way you understand what people do when they watch you.

S: And what about the, the dancer as the watcher?

Z: He's also a watcher, he's also cut into that, we're not separate like that we can't be, we're not separate. That’s the point, that's the point. We integrate, all these ah, all these situations these different situations are integrated into us and we play them again. We play them again, and when we try to dismantle these relationships we're trying to dismantle our own representations and our own way of dealing with ourselves. We are part of what is happening. We're not excluded, we're not protected from it. You may be the best artist in the world, one that is the most open is one that is able to recognize it’s constantly, is constantly exposed to these forces. You will be, that's what makes him alive. And functioning wherever he is. So, it’s a challenge to constantly address that and be vigilant about this, you know. So, of course, we may function again in a space that is more institutional, that is more protective, I like to talk it that way. If you, if you deal with certain art form you are protected because this art form has been developed for many centuries in this specific context, specific places that has it's own masters, it’s won criterias, it’s own schools and blah, blah, blah etcetera. And then other forms of dance belong elsewhere, less in the institution, they may be aware of the institution but they belong elsewhere, so this all depends, you know. But when we're dealing with the human expression of dance, that an individual decides to make, basically to embrace as an art form, it all depends, but the understanding that the individual has of what he's doing, whether he belongs to the institution or to the street when he's doing his dance, is his position as an individual within that art form. He may be very restricted, have very little, um, how would I say, choice in what he's doing and he may be just repeating, you know with a good, very well, what he's been asked to. Whether he's in the tradition or he's in the street. He's in the street, he may not be asked the same way but there are other pressures also, in the street, that he may just do certain things that are limited to that context of the street, and may not push it more than he has to. So, it still comes back to the ability of the individual to, to understand his position in the world that he lives in and the, the context, that specific context that he is living with constantly.

J: I'm ready to go back to what Anis said about the Dervishes, and I feel like it’s a good analogy for the gaze that we're talking about. That the, to maintain the eye at the centre of the spinning and to change your center. To change your center from here, to hanging this way, to going over to your back requires the dancer to ah, actually watch themselves like a radar, to keep the radar that they would stay at the eye of the cyclone, which would be like the eye of the divine or could be considered your work. You're just holding onto your work and the circles around could be used as an analogy for the judges, that you don't want to be, you don't want, you want to be able to hang on to this, and, and suddenly you look up, you're performing and you look up and there is a big judge sitting right in front of you, you want to be able to hold onto this as opposed to let that gaze of somebody throw you into the thing that would throw you off. So that, I think it’s a very good image for what we're talking about. In that the artist is trying to hold onto their work, their work with this gaze watching themselves and letting themselves be gazed without the, being um, taken away from their task.

S: That, the word you're using, "hold on" is something that bothers me, because when I think "hold on" I see white knuckles and I see tension in my body. And when, um, I think of the Whirling Dervish, and the spiral to me it is not so much about holding on, as it is about a series of letting goes. And a series of, um and, to acknowledge the violence of all the gazes of love and of judges, of anger even, and as we encounter them to, to soften around the gaze and allow it to change, and in the changing somehow, in the movement from one gaze to another I think for me is where you find um, who you are.

Z: The space.

S: The space to, and this notion of who you are is.

A: That's also holding on though (laughter).

Z: I'm not so sure.

J: You see I understand it differently, I understand that to hold, the thing that I am holding onto, work, requires enormous letting go, but requires the effort that might be what Anis was considering violence to actually make the effort to pay attention to your work without being distracted.

H: Sometimes, it’s also interesting to think about whether you are very much conscious and aware of what you are holding onto. A. And in that center in the eye of the cyclone whether you are aware of the various components that are fabricated together to piece together the eye of the cyclone. Um, I met one of the um, a Whirling Dervish group that came to Toronto a couple of years back and I spoke to him. And he said that:

"When I'm in that circle, in that moment of ecstasy, I don't see a circle, I see a flat land."

So in that circular tumult we think for us, we might think that it’s a beautiful aesthetic experience but that interpretation of that aesthetic experience is very, very different.

J: On the inside to the outside.

H: On the inside to the outside. That's why I say being, ah, having that knowledge of being aware of what one is doing is a great amount of commitment, it’s a great amount of enlightenment in the very broad sense of the word and if you're not aware, it’s okay too.

J: Well you see, I think the whole purpose of these two days is to say it’s not okay, not to be not aware of the context. Or whose looking or whose, what the, all of that is. I don't think it’s okay not to be aware.

Z: It depends, that really depends because of, this about the holding on and the not holding on. Umm, I would tend to think that to find a space is to not hold on anymore and that to um, to be able to be in the dance is the right to not be anymore, it’s a part of that space that you find. It’s giving in, giving in basically. If you can reach that moment where you can do that, that specific space as an artist, it's quite unique, I would say and it doesn't happen all the time. It's, but, maybe it is part of the quest. Now, as for the difference about what you are perceiving when you're performing or what is perceived, of course there is a difference, it’s one of the main differences of choreography and dance. The choreographer sees what is happening outside and the dancer cannot control. And so there is two, two perspective in terms of choreography and dance at the same time, which is actually one issue, should a choreographer be a dancer before or should he not be a dancer?

H: Mmm. Exactly. Yeah, exactly.

Z: And that's something that's important.

H: Talk about the process.

Z: And what is dance exactly? Uh-

H: What is choreography exactly?

Z: Yeah, what is choreography exactly (laugh)?

H; What's the transmission of knowledge?

Z: Yes, exactly. What do we mean when really we are convinced that we've seen a dance? And then we're not sure that we're seeing a dance, we're seeing something else. But the dance is not so obvious or we're being, you know, so all these issues are about processing the perception of what space are we dealing with and who is occupying that space? Or what?

H: Yeah.

S: Anis, when you say it's a kind of holding on, uh, what I uh, what I hear is um, because what I, of course, am concerned with because I am a choreographer and as well as a dancer, but is authorship, and when I think of you in the, and I find this when I work with dancers too is, I want to be the judge of that room. And yet I want to get away from language that you know, uses the word judge because that brings up all the other judges in history, etcetera, etcetera. But I have to face that fact that I am, my regard as the choreographer, my authorship of the word, is an act of violence on the dancer’s body. So, that's interesting in terms of the relationship between the choreographer and the dancer. But um, in in, is it possible, there's a kind of authority at work and I guess one of my questions really is, can you be an author of a work but relinquish authority? Is it possible? So, when you talk about hold, it’s a kind of holding on to authorship of who am I, it's an authorship of my body. And if I let go of that, what happens to my body? Because my, I guess, ultimately my you know when we work with violence I have to, to be not destroyed by that violence, I need to know that I have a way of transforming that violence into something that can nourish me. So, when you talk yesterday about the dancer working with the outrage to transform it to something else, he gives it, he gives it as an offering of this dance, you know? This, uh-

Z: This outrage.

S: This outrage (laughter). But um, what happens to his body at the end of it.

A: His body to me is the crucible. It's a crucible by which the um, the whole manifestation of ideas, energy, space, physical, spiritual passes through. It’s a conduit that you allow because by allowing the body to be that kind of conduit, you are able to grasp all the others that makes the body move that way.
Z: So the training.

A: If you, if you don't allow your body to submit to that particular systemic, then you will never get the level by which you were, and that's when one antagonizes yourself for wanting to first achieve that level that you may have to see whatever it is and after that. Because the goal is not just to achieve that level, there's always the goal beyond that level, I mean dancers always think, I mean learning is learning, doing is doing, dancing and choreography, this whole hierarchical structure that we all want to go, you know. I mean, yes, authorship, right, being acknowledged as the artist, being acknowledged as the doer, the maker. I mean, and it’s slight, slightly different from, just allow me to go back to the devotion thing, cause yes, there's always a continuous yearning of trying to perfect a way of communicating, the Whirling Dervish for example, you know. But, the authorship is when you feel the exhilaration of having reached because that you cannot compare with others, because you just don't know how much you got it, where you go it. And there's no way of communicating how much, an A+ or A-, whether you achieve an A level and A minus (laugh) or what, you can't. But, but, you yourself. No, this is the very person that becomes the author then reaches a level by which you can get that exhilarating feeling of having reached the other and being one. The whole context of the Sufi school is that God is within you, it's reaching because God is within you, God is not anybody-

Z: So, being your own judge.

A: Exactly, yes exactly. To achieve that level. That's why you, you, it’s constantly violating, it's constantly rupturing, it's constantly wanting and yearning. And, and when you ask oh, you’re such a good person, you're so devoted, you never miss your prayers. Well that's because you are looking from a different gaze. But-

J: You have another agenda.

A: Yes, yes. But for the person who is like, we're talking about it's never complete. And I'm finished now, I've got to do another one, I haven't yet got to that level. And there's another way of delivering what's in the Sufi school. Ahh, you go because the communion, because God is omnipresent is there. It's not up there, it's not down there, it's everywhere. God is not us, so that idea of reaching that level is the idea of authority, of being, of beholding that beholder, that power, that presence. It's very difficult, this level of discussion is only discussed at the level of the, the South school, this is the pathway school of Sufism. But it’s interesting I can speak like this now, I've never done this way before (laugh). Really, I think, I think because there were so many things between today and yesterday, that we have, I've come to some vocabulary that I was not able to reach, I thank all of you. I'm beginning to feel I can make sense out of something that was quite difficult because, see, I never openly talk about violence until you, you've become the provocateur for that.

H: Mmm.

A: I mean we try not to talk about it. Because we dancers need to try to please so many things including ourself. But most of the time we please us last. Don't we? We please the grant people, the grant money, the workers, the makers, whoever gives us whatever and that's the point I'm trying to make.

How to Write a Grant Proposal

So, this is, well, I think it is there. I mean, it’s there and whether it impede or not is a question of how you address it. But yes, there is always that presence of a gaze. It is not necessarily you know, whether it is human, non-human whatever, because every, every dance person who does anything for classical, traditional, ritual, especially healing dancing, there is a lot of healing dancing you do. Um, then you find that the communication of what was verbally said and what cannot be said, is there all the time. Because halfway, I don't know what happened after that, whether he or she is speaking in tongue, you as the gazer sees that but the doer has no knowledge. And the only thing the doer knows is that at the end of it, he or she become extremely exhausted. And you're right, right? Don't you see that happening all the time. It’s a lot of work of this nature when someone wants to appropriate say, in choreography, appropriate shamanic style then we have problem you know, because yes, it becomes extremely superficial it becomes extremely visual.

J: They don't know the concepts.

A: Exactly (everyone talking at once)

S: Representation.

Z: It is shocking to me-

A: Exactly. Exactly.

Z: As far as I'm concerned. Because we see it often actually, when, actually for example Haitian dance, are, are, I worked in Montreal with a dancer, very good at Haitian dancing. He learned his craft in Vodou ceremonies, his father was a Hougan, so he grew up with that and he learned from his father who was a dancer also, a Priest of Vodou, and he learned the dancing a well as eating fire and doing all sorts of things. And he was asked to perform at the D'arts St Denis in Montreal, years, twenty years ago in Montreal by some producer in Quebec, saying:

"Oh, you're going to do some Vodou dance at D'arts Centre St Denis."

And he came out with this chicken and cut the chicken at the D'art St Denis, yeah, so the RCMP (laughter) had to come, the sirens, it was a whole thing you know (laugh).

J: Murder, murderer!

Z: Yeah, yeah. And I told to him, I said:

"How could you do that? Go to perform what kind of fake Vodou ceremony on stage?"

Because this is inadmissible, as far as I'm concerned, because this is being practiced. This is still live traditions going on, so there is live rituals going on. So, there is live rituals going on in Africa, in Brazil, Cuba, Haiti and to think that you can go just perform an event onstage like that is the equivalent of having a Priest in the church coming and do his thing on stage. Uh, a Catholic Priest on stage, and doing ah, mimicking, unless there is a theatrical purpose which was not the case. This was seen as the thing itself, the reproduction of this ceremony is enough to portray there, so basically, it’s really a prostitution, cultural prostitution that is going on and he is very much aware of that but this happens very often, it happens very often that we just transport this ceremonial aspects and unless, we have to question the theatricality and how it is being put on stage basically in the space on that proscenium space and to wonder what is, of course, what is meant there, what is the purpose? Is the purpose just to represent that in front, precisely of the western gaze? We like the exotic, we are wondering what is this Vodou type of thing and as long as we put the name Vodou, then there's going to be some chicken neck cut off and dancing with the chicken neck cut off, that will give us exactly what we want about this so-called tradition.

H: Satisfies the expectation.

A: That doesn't, I mean that doesn't worry the person about authorship. I mean the question that we are talking now, I mean, back to your question is, how do you acknowledge that authorship and, you know, just like what you've said. If you dealing with tradition that do not have any copyright by virtue of the fact that it belongs to the people you know, I mean, that's a lot of dance tradition that just belongs to the people, you know-

Z: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely.

A: I mean, there is a lot of dance tradition that just belongs to the people. So, there's no copyright. How good you are in arranging the movement, you're never going to acknowledge as whatever, you're just a performer who does it. So, then you have a problem, okay? You have, you have until now, for example, we have master teachers of the folk tradition of the popular whatever tradition, I'm sorry the word, it's now very difficult for me to use (laughter). But uh, but uh, they could be master teachers by virtue of fact that they know a lot, they can teach, they can impart a lot but in the making of the dancing, even if that piece is excellent, it’s never given the right, it’s never given to the Master teacher. Because that tradition is an oral tradition, which belongs to everyone. So, you have another problem you know, of, of, of talking about authorship when you're dealing with genres that uh, you know?

Z: But precisely, that was, you know, I, I wasn't finished there. The problem with, for example this Haitian culture, which is African culture, literally, but transport and with that truly any authorship? Historically speaking, it is African tradition-

J: So authorship as give the authority to.

Z: African traditions that were ripped off and recomposed-

J: So, he not give the authority to-

Z: Recomposed, recomposed um, disorderly. So, you see, because for example I am Congolese, so I say:

"Okay this is Congolese, the way you move, this is typically Congolese. But this is not, it's coming from Niger, it's mixed."

Then you watch the ceremonies of Vodou, you have mixture of certain rituals that are seen for example, as these rituals are dealing with the evil. These rituals are dealing with good forces. And suddenly you see something that usually was totally separate in Africa, this ritual mixed in the same ritual. It's not supposed to happen that way. We're still wondering how this mix came about and they are reversing the spirits. Some of the spirits that were good are being presented in some ceremonies are the mean spirit, why this reversal? So, there are all sorts of studies trying to figure out how Haitian culture has recomposed African tradition and under what pressure was that recomposed, because the fact is that these tradition, these African traditions were always very much pragmatic traditions. That's typical of these societies that use rhythms, dance, this capacity of connect to the living, to the life because of rhythms. It’s, the way the rhythms are being constructed they have this capacity to connect with time and what's alive. So, they’re contemporary all the time, basically. So, no wonder that they included Catholic saints with the African saints, they can do that. They have an African tradition that allows them to integrate instead of excluding, they integrate, its part of the tradition to integrate. So they take that, integrating the saints, the Virgin Mary that became also, that sits near Erzulie, who is the saint, the Vodun saint from the African religion, uh aspect. And she's sitting with the Virgin Mary, together. A lot of Haitian people would tell you that this was a way of hiding, by putting the Virgin Mary we were able to keep on, and conducting thus a ceremony, the African ceremony. Putting the Virgin Mary. But it ended up now that those two are part of the rituals, of the Vodun rituals. So basically, where is the authorship when all those traditions are clearly identifiable now anymore? You know that there is Congolese, there's Kongo, there's Dahomey, there's Yoruba. Those three main, there's three main Gdada* present in Haiti but mixed, they’re mixed in the ceremony.

S: But isn't that the authorship then? Isn't the Haiti response to the rupture and the violence-

Z: Yeah, the re-composition now is Haitian culture. Exactly that is what they call Haitian culture, Haitian folklore and seen as a necessity to be preserved, precisely as the only way to mark that presence in time and the birth of their own nation. So, they hang onto that very much. As being their culture in front of the Africans, you know the Africans are bewildered, all bewildered, they're trying to understand how is this there, you know? Oh, oh they are performing it that way but they claim it, of course now, for them, to be their religion. Except that the way it's performed, is historically speaking, was separate from the sources, from the ancestors. From the land. So the land, the ground, and you have to understand that a lot of the religious, same for First Nation people. The religious aspect is linked to the capacity to relate to the land. To relate to life, to a place, a living place with forces in it. So, if you get away from this land, you have to find this other, in this other land, a way to recapture these forces and reestablish your connectivity to the land in order to have the proper rituals. If you do not reestablish this connectivity to the land, the spirits will go away. They won't be able to, ah, to survive. So, you need to reestablish that.

J: Well, the critical part that you mentioned is that an artist if they don't know the whole context, will be working and suddenly they will end up doing the reverse to what their aim was.

Z: Exactly.

J: And suddenly instead of, in this case, engendering good things they engender the evil. And through, who knows? Through ignorance to displace?

Z: What happens is that, in Haiti Vodou is totally, it’s seen as the remaining of barbaric Africa or the dangerous place where we manipulate spirits.

Vodun Haiti II

Where we go and we meet with, well, it's not called the Shaman, it’s called the Ugot*. I'd say, but it’s the same as the Shaman basically. And they manipulate forces, and don't go there. If you're a well educated kid trying not to speak Kreyol too much and don't go to Vodou. Basically, cater to an emancipated black person of the Americas. Avoid the Vodou. Okay? I mean, just, just some students working with me are being blamed by their parents by working with an African choreographer, they're going back to their savage roots which they managed to emancipate themselves from. Which is, of course, part of a class and race struggle in Haiti, they're very much together. In Haiti, you literally measure the colour of a person. Like, I'm see as white in Haiti, I'm seen as white and after that you have a little bit clearer than me, and darker than me, and even darker, there's like about thirty, thirty five, they measure, they literally-

H: Caste.

Z: Yeah, according to the skin colour which refers to your class and your, and your status, the position you have in your society and so forth. So, Vodou means the peasant, the people who, Haiti is really divided like that. You have the peasants who have no say, they basically don't really exist, they represent this dark space of Haiti and then you have all the others who are fighting and talking for Haiti who have my colour and even clearer, who represent, and are basically always talking about Haiti and the future of Haiti and the past of Haiti and so forth, they’re educated people. But Vodou, nevertheless, still remains the, um , the space that is the folk space, the space for the folk. That is how they were able to survive in spite of the corrupted states. Various governments that they have to gone through, they're used to not counting on the government. The only way for them to survive, on the, on the land, was to develop this Vodou laku* which is, ah um, organiz - popular organizations where you have these people serve as healing, education. Vodou sows all that. They heal, they educate, they take care of what happens in the, on the community* you know, with the peasants. Basically, the collective is handled by the Vodou Priest and the Vodou associations of people. So, Vodou is quite important. So, it is part of this contradiction that, it, it’s denied at the same time, it is what helped Haiti survive. Basically as a people's nation, let’s say. Not just as a nation, but people's nation. Because-

H: Nationalized.

Z: Yeah, exactly. So, you see again, so when we're going to talk about authorship those people learn the folklore, the Haitian folklore, because they taught, they use that term. The Haitian folklore. What do they learn? They will not be introduced to the Vodou aspects of their dance. What is, they will avoid specifically, specific garments, specific signs that are relating to Vodou. The, you dress differently, and yet you do dance, that we're very much informed by Vodou ceremonies, but once you're dong folklore, you're not doing Vodou anymore. You're doing folklore because I've seen this, see them in groups rehearsing and if a drummer, starts drumming a bit too heavily, he's being stopped by the professor of folklore who is saying:

"Hey, this is not Voodoo."

Because this specific drumming puts you in trance. And Haitian people go in trance. This is another thing, I say that, because in Montreal I keep telling them:

"How can you guys go into trance because, as Africans, we can never go into trance just like that in any place, it's impossible. How come you go in trance in places that you're not supposed to go in trance?"

So, you see, those codified things, and um, that's an interesting issue that I've had with ethno-psychiatry, basically about Vodou and the fact that you go in trance in places you're not supposed to and it happens with Haitian people, but not with Africans, so how come? You know? So um, anyway, so have all of these distinctions between folklore, Vodou and hardly about modern and contemporary dancing because really the folklore aspect was really influenced by Catherine Denha, the modern African American choreographer who went to Haiti to find her roots. Trying to find her roots she was initiated into Vodou, she got initiated in Vodou and in Haiti, she launched a whole era of new dancing in Haiti, because she was the African American so therefore the American, simply the American, arriving in Haiti telling the Haitian people:

"Gee, we love what you guys are doing."

And since she was American she had the power, to instigate a new movement in dance uh, that basically told the Haitian people your folklore is interesting, you know, it’s interesting for American people, so maybe you guys should really pay attention to your folklore.

S: So, it's a similar-

Z: Then you have the gaze okay?

S: To the history as the Philippino history that you talked about.

Z: Yeah, developing. This new thing starting from Catherine Denham where they developed this Haitian folklore, that is truly inspired by Vodou, but was totally separate itself from the Vodou and insists on being separate, because that's not what they're doing. Vodou is Vodou, we're doing folklore dancing. And I might add another complexity that is typical to African societies; the profane and the sacred are always buried in the dances. This is part of the way spirituality is spread in Africa and this is why you may not go for church, you don't need churches and representatives.

Vodou Brooklyn

You don't need, have you seen my studio in Montreal, you don't know where I am, but Hari you've seen. And I'm on top of the Balattou. Did you notice? Balattou is a club. Where you drink beer and you dance, you dance the modern African dancing, actually very Congolese. Because we were at the start of modern music, Congolese people. So, you go there in the Balattou, in the middle of a, of a group, a music performance, you will have these African people dancing these dances and suddenly you can see there is a shift between the urban dance and suddenly they are coming out with their traditional dances in a club, you know? Around two o’ clock in the morning because usually African people wait, they never get excited immediately. It is part of the habit of being part of a circle of dance. You never just jump into dancing, what's the hurry? Dancing takes a long time, you take your time, you're just there. You absorb, and then you dance. So, it always takes a long time, so around two o’ clock you see them dancing in the middle of the club, and you see that the dancing, this is where the gaze changes. Right there in the club, you see something else happening. It's another dance happening. I have to tell my students:

"You guys are always wondering about Africa. Go in the club and go see what's happening because you will find African immigrants there who are there, and end up in the club expressing their, dancing their traditional dance and changing the posture, everything."

You see, they relate to another space completely and they're not there cruising, they’re not the beer drinkers, and cruising and looking for the other sex trying to find something, it's another thing. Because one specific traditional piece of music is being played and they suddenly shift, you know?

H: So it’s a visceral response.

Z: And they do another dance and this is where you, and it's possible in the middle of the club to do it, because those dances, the way they are umm, that you're basically they kept on, surviving in Africa is by mixing, precisely, the profane and the sacred being always there. You shift, all of a sudden you can go from there to there and that allows you to never be away, completely from the spiritual an always have the elders part of what's happening with the younger generations.

J: And other people on the outside maybe can't tell the difference.

Z: They can't.

J: So, it’s secret, it’s secret in public.

Z: Yeah, but, but, yeah exactly. They perceive a change you know, but this is, this is African dancing you know, generally speaking these are the Africans you know, they come in-

H: Generalizing.

Z: With their tribal rhythm but they don't know what is happening. That, there is a shift. This not just African doing what they cannot, um, um, stop themself from doing. They’re not doing it just continuously out of, no, there is a decision. You suddenly say:

"Oh, I'm getting up, I'm going to do this." It's a decision.

You see it clearly and we do that very often in the middle of the club, you see, especially if there is many of them and you can recognize ourselves, let's go do it. And you can capture it and you will see a circle and suddenly the thing changes, you know? And it's not that it’s unstoppable and suddenly a primitive urge is coming and we're suddenly changing into Africans, while we were urban emancipated Africans in Montreal (laughter) suddenly we're changing into, you know. Because that's how it is perceived you know, I can see with a lot of my students looking and they’re totally, they’re always amazed and they think that we can't stop it, that it's an urge. No, we are able to shift and change the context to suit what we need. If the right music is there and we have counterparts, people with us, we will shift and this place will change. Because we will change it, this place that is an urban club, a city club, we will change it with our dance.

S: Because the codes, in time, but it's also in the configuration of space and um, and um, I guess, uh I'd like to take a little pause so we call all sort of ah, take a drink and pee, but I'd like to talk about transmission after and um, how codes are carried.

During the break there is a brief discussion on "stealing."
Zab asked, "Why must you steal?"
Su-Feh went to the washroom to pee and think about stealing.
There is also a brief discussion about codes or translation of codes even within a "white person" who has trained in one form.


S: (To Jennifer) Yeah, you are representing the white person here.

J: Well that's why, I was wondering why you had me here (laughter). Um, so why must you steal? Well, I think that it comes back to the fact that we're working in a framework where it’s the market place. You buy, you sell, and you own. And so then the only way to subvert it is to steal, is to tell lies and to, to work to acknowledge violence as an artist. I speak as an artist.

Z: So, whoever steals, has in mind of doing something that does not just belong, that is. That doesn't just go with the norm, that does not just belong, that doesn't just go with the norm. Or the institution that is already there. If he's stealing it means-

J: Something's there.

Z: Some how an originality of some kind, or an attempt to come out with something original, that would be author-ized.

S: Authored, yes. The word original also worries me because I also question the idea that anything is original, but I think we steal, we lie, we engage with violence so that the norm is affected. We, we change the lens a little bit, we-

Z: So, it requires a specific intention. Because I may just want to join, you know with the reference, the main reference, that such art form is represented by and say, I'm not going to steal. I'm going to just go get it and ask to be given such thing. In which case I submit to the, the-

S: The rules.

Z: The norm or, you know, whatever represents what I'm trying to achieve and I just submit to that and follow the right path. But if I steal, that means I go outside of this norm basically.

S: But do you not think that even if you um, say, that you work within the norm or that you subscribed to a tradition, and you go through all the rituals that you are required to, to get, get permission to do this. It's as Jennifer says then you know, the improv is within this degree instead of that degree. So, instead of taking your glass and put it over here, my theft is just that.

Z: Yeah, that's considering the fact that you admit improvisation. Let's say you are just somebody following, very strictly and rigorously, what is being imposed on them. As the norm for performing or being trained in such art form that you may not just, not you may never be a thief. Or see yourself as such, because to be a thief-

H: So then maybe, ah-

Z: Doesn't it require that you see yourself as a thief?

J: No, I don't think so. I think people steal things all the time.

S: There's lots denial.

J: And don't even notice.

S: Yeah. There's tons of denial and delusion going around.

Z: So, we're talking about the unconscious thief.

S: Sometimes it's unconscious.

Z: How is that a thief?

S: Kleptomaniacs are, like (laughter) are the unconscious thieves.

Z: They know, they know that they’re stealing, excuse me (laughter), but they know that they’re stealing. To steal, you need to know you're stealing. To be a thief.

S: There's a lot of, true, well the unconscious, maybe there isn't an unconscious thief, but there is a lot of thievery going around where you construct lies to convince yourself that you're not stealing. Oh, they won't really notice it if I, you know, just take this, it's okay to steal from a big department store because you know, it's okay to take this little pencil from a giant department store because they don't. It's so big, they're not going to miss it. It's still stealing.

Z: But I would say from an artistic point of view, once you've taken, once you've come to the um, this awareness that you're conscious - you're stealing. And you know why you want, then you're at a certain level artistically speaking. That's what it takes precisely, to perceive yourself as an artist.

S: Yeah.

Z: Is to be aware that you're a thief. And to know what you want to steal. And what you're stealing. And when you're not aware you're doing something that maybe, a lot of people are doing when they live in a place where they have to, you know, somehow be pressured into. It takes the awareness and the decision. The, the clear intention that, yes, I want to steal this in order to do that. I'm going to steal that and nobody has to know, but I know what I'm going to do with it. This is why I'm stealing it.

S: Because we talked about, um, earlier you know, when you're in a tradition you have to love in advance already but you want more. So, you're stealing that love and you do that by striving more, further, for that divinity.

H: Yeah, then I have- sorry can I just - I have a question that in terms of ah, what's original. Is the packaging, I mean for a trained artist as you said, with the transmission of knowledge has been on a very specific path and you've acquired blah, blah, blah, you have, you have jumped through all these loops. Is the packaging original or is the core original? What is the art of stealing then? From the time you write the particular grant application, until you give birth to that particular project, until the project is premiered, what path of the process is considered authentic or stealing.

Z: An art of author-

H: The art of offering?

Z: Auth-, not offering, ahh-

S: Authoring.

Z: Authoring, yeah? The art of authoring. It would be more that, more than being authentic, is how do you become an author? Authenticity is a, you know this is long. It may take time to identify authenticity if there is such a thing exactly.

J: I think-

Z: But, to be an author you may steal, it may be in the packaging. It may be, as you call it, the core, but it depends what you do with the packaging. That may be able to put in question the core or, at least, trivialize for somehow the core, because you put the accent on the packaging for some reason. It depends on the intent and how is the intent carried on. Artistically speaking, you know, because packaging and the core becomes hard to distinguish at a certain point depending on how you treat this material, you see? So, so, it’s the art of, precisely, the author. How do you become an author, it’s by treating this material a certain way out of your decision to steal.

H: But what you're the master of that core? You know the core inside out, but you don't know the packaging inside out and packaging is where you have to go to external, external sources. So, I don't know.

Z: Okay, how do you know the core inside out without knowing the packaging?

S: Yes, how do you know that?

H: I'm grappling with that question, constantly.

Z: It's impossible, you have your core you have to deal with the packaging somehow. Somehow.

J: Sometimes it seems to me, if you're talking about the packaging, about how performance is delivered it, it's how a performance is given to other people sometimes makes it accessible whether an author can take it in. And I think, in some ways it doesn't ah, sometimes it destroys the integrity of the work and sometimes it doesn't even alter it. I made a work one year and the things that I was really interested in, the things that I felt like were my work, and my work by the author of that I think of it is, the work with which I think I am supposed to be doing as an artist. I think there are certain questions I have to answer in my life, and they're not your questions, thank goodness and uh, I just have to stick with them but many people aren't actual interested in seeing my questions, seeing the work that I do that are my questions. And so in this particular case, I put the part that I was really, that I was totally interested in. It was a solo for a woman, but I was in a dance, I was making a dance for seven people. I gave her this solo and they, we were in an environment, a house and I made all these other dances around that I liked, but they weren't, they weren't like the essential thing I had to do.

Z: The core.

J: And I felt like the dance was completely successful, people loved the dance the dancers loved doing it. And there was the hidden part in the centre that was my work that only a few people who know what I'm interested in, got. That, that was the real dance was right hidden in the middle, but the other. I didn't do it for packaging, I just did it for other reasons. I made dances around it and people got the dances and they received the work.

Z: But you didn't make the dances around it.

J: I made it simultaneously, but I knew that this was my work. This thing in the middle.

Z: Sure. So, it was a form of packaging, these dances around.

J: Yeah, that was a form of packaging.

Z: So you see the connection between the core and the-

H: Well I think, I think the way that I am interpreting it, core in this, in lieu of this particular dance training in terms of your dance mastery, in terms of your dance craft, how well you know your craft and using that as a ploy to try to make it, to try to build new bridges with new audiences and try to make that core accessible, try to make that core sexy, try to make that core presentable, try to make that core palatable. Then you talk about packaging, you talk about production quality, you talk about-

J: Lighting does that, in terms of the stealing question, in that part of our studying, I know, I learned it through visual arts. I knew a painter and he'd go to the MOMA in New York City and he'd sit there in front of Degas and he'd do it until he got Degas' brush stroke, then he'd move to another painting and he'd do the painting. He'd sit there and he'd do, and what he was striving for was understanding:

"What do these guys know?"

And in dance it's so different because we don't have, we don't have it right? We have some videos but we don't have the dance in front of us, for us to say:

"Oh what are they learning, what are they?"

Z: And it's not as fixed as a painting is to be reproduced on and on and on and on.

J: Yeah, it’s not fixed like that. And so we go to the teachers, we go to the classes and we try to learn what they do as a way to elaborate our understanding, or another way would be to lift a phrase from somebody's dance and say, why did they do this or trying to explore. What space, what are they doing in spacing there, why were they always doing this or how they work with, so there is a kind of thieving that is not-

H: Then-

Z: But Hari-

J: I don't think that's originality-

H: Yeah, yeah. Exactly.

J: I think that's striving for understanding.

H: My question is, who owns that core then? You are trained in that core, you are trained in that particular craft, who takes, is it, because it's part of your lived collective life experience is that yours to keep forever? Do you take responsibility of that core? Or is this part of someone else's teacher or whoever?

J: I have an opinion, I think that's irrelevant. What you described is core, is completely irrelevant, simply the master of a craft which is the language you are speaking to, then transmit the art to somebody else. And I don't think it's ownership, it's just like a neutral body a neutral thing.

H: It could be anything.

J: It could be anything that will become the way, the method, or something or help you make the method of which you're going to pass on the work.

Z: Cause, I don't think that's the core.

J: It's not the work itself.

H: Hmm, ah that's not the core.

J: It's not the work.

Z: It's not the core, it’s the ground by which you are-

H: What is that Zab?

Z: You know, it formed the ground but not the core.

H: Your foundation?

Z: You know, it's one foundation, it's just a way, but what you're striving for should be the core.

S: Deduction.

Z: That thing that you are striving for forms the core, a constant move, constantly moving core. The core is, is something that is, again it wouldn't be an absolute though some people may see it as such. An absolute that you can never attain. But absolute cores, ah, destroy you-

S: They're heavy.

Z: For an artist, how do you do, you know?

H: Dangerous. They’re dangerous.

S: It's a burden.

Z: It's terrible, you so know to make it absolute I would say is really terrible, especially for a dancer because a dancer is alive. He has to carry a body, a live body, everyday he knows that as a dancer. You know, and choreographers have to deal with live dancers. So, what do you do with the core is something that you are striving for, it's constantly moving, they way life moves basically, and that you are able to question your life. Every morning you get in the studio or everywhere that you are precisely training and, and you know, doing that art craft you are confronted with your ability to meet again. Say hello to the sun you know? And say the sun is there, whether you're sad, happy or not, or you don't want it, you want it to die today, well sorry. The sun is still up there in the sky. So, the core may represent this ability of sustaining.

H: So, the sun doesn't become the core?

Z: But certainly, the sun is not an absolute.

H: Mmmhmmm. That's interesting.

J: I see it as the choreography.

Z: Isn't it the greats made it that way (laughter), but it's not an absolute.

J: By addressing yet again these same problems that we would deal with in an empty space. We have to look at them again and again-

Z: Again and again.

J: And that revitalizes them in some way.

H: Right.

S: And the, and I think, as a, I'm slowly figuring out as a choreographer it’s very important that my gaze not be fixed as a choreographer. For me to engage in the, in a dialogue, that engages with the, inherent violence of this meeting between a choreographer and a dancer, but if I were to take responsibility for not, to engage with the violence in a way that doesn't destroy and annihilate either of us, then I have to um, let my gaze be fluid and not be fixed in this notion of my core as a choreographer and impose that on another body. Just as I demand that as a dancer, as an artist, and as a visible minority that I am not fixed in any one gaze. That I have the ability to move. I as an artist must also practice a gaze that is fluid.


A: Yeah, perfect. That is perfect. For you because you are, striving to get that as your destination. To produce that, therefore, you are freeing yourself from having to, to answer to this invisible going back to the same word, you know, presence of the judge the judge, um. And I listen to all your stories, um. I have a dilemma myself, because when I did my study, way back researching this dance that now, is a big thing, is a big, big thing in my country. It was 1990's when I did my doctoral research in um, mid eighties, early eighties there were only eight living master teachers left. This is very ancient tradition that came with the coming of the first Arab traders to South East Asia. So, it preceded all other colonial powers because the Arabs did not colonize, they came by trade and that's how they did stuff, religion is what, only when you have the Portugese and the Dutch as the bodies that came (laughter), um. When I did this, I found that there were only eight of them. I learned as much as I could, I befriended, actually twelve by the time 1990, it subsided to eight. I went to every master teacher, I really went into this Gurusheshwa. My resolution was to really understand the emic knowledge, not just the dancing. What it means doing that. Because I was trying to be scholar. I had this challenge, then it turned out by middle, by the 1990's after my book came out from Oxford publication, the state, the state of Johor realized that their tradition so ancient and old is tiny. So, I was commissioned by the government to do a revival program, now this is very dangerous. And now I have to live with the guilt (laughter). The sin. The thieving and the lies. I mean probably you will go through a same process, but I, it’s a bit peculiar. In this particular tradition, the state asked me to run state-level revitalization workshops. So, what they did, there were eight provinces they took people from the provinces, there were fifty-five of them, all the fifty-five came and worked with, right by one of the mountain in Johor. Completely secluded, they were there almost thirty days, I could train them. So, I trained everyone. What I had learned from the Master teachers, because the Master teachers were all, everywhere. And that was the first beginning of the revitalization of the Malay Zapin. The fifty-fives who got the training were given funds to teach another fifty. So fifty-five, each of them went back to teach fifty people. So, it’s almost the Amway marketing plan.


S: (Laughing) Pyramid program!

J: Did you have permission from the eight Masters to teach them?

A: Yes, yes. I had to ask (name of teacher)*, because before I wrote my thesis. I wrote, annotated by notation. So, that alone was a, I mean, there were one or two of them who initially refused, because they don't want them you see at the age where they are so senior and they haven't done the Hajj, because a thivianic individual, because dancing is supposed to be evil.


I mean that whole notion of, I don't go into that story, but it's very difficult, so I was negotiating and continuously interrogating myself. I always, always in the state of, you know, well, the violence that you use. Always, always in the state. Until I got to develop this and the motifs were given and I was very particular because I know this, I knew that I was sitting on a moment in history. Either this may or not, whether I am going to lie for the rest of my life or not, you know. And of course, you know, I say this I am quoted in the bio. The moment you observe something, naturally, automatically you want to change it. I can't help it right, it's a case. I mean, you can't force me to take two cups up sugar, I don't. I still drink coffee, but I don't two cup of sugar, you drink you're two cup of sugar. So, this is when the state gave the power, the power Pontica* power, gave me the chance to revive something that was almost dead and fifty-five times fifty, every of them, and by two years, very concerted effort. Went to school we had workshop, today we have 35,000 practitioners. And next week is the state level competition, I'm the chief educator (laughter). It's a horror, you know. Because suddenly, suddenly before I came they wired me, they call me and say:

"Anis, we need to have this, what is it? You have to have the most recent, recent biography."

"What for?" Well they had me in this stadium, this huge, they had in this stadium they have to put a station in this stadium to have a competition.

They say, "We need to pull up the gallery of all the Master teachers."

"Fine, do it, I have all the documents."

"We have to have you."

I say, "Why me?"

"Well, you are considered to be the Master."

And I had goose bumps, because suddenly why I should, why me I'm just the educator, I'm just providing you that. No, no. The state acknowledged the fact that had it not been for your publication, and your effort, and your ethnology and your blah, blah, blah, this particular form would have not seen the sun at all. So, we have to have your big picture mounted on the thing (laughter) and your biography and all that next week, and I'm scared because it is the first time happening to me, and I'm asking the same question, you mean, my silence is really violence going on all this while, this today, yesterday you know. Because I'm contesting this what, if I can share this to you, I'm sharing now that it is so difficult even for people like me in my own culture. Where suddenly you, you, you become that person. The Guru, I was Sayshwa,* I was just a student become a Guru Master because I know all that, I know also all the Malay achipelagic dance of that particular style. I happen to have an affinity to that form, many years when I was a small boy. And it happened to be my doctoral dissertation because there was money, I never thought I would be a… But that evolution, that process of creating something, now when I go down and they say:

"Anis could you choreograph this for the opening when the King comes? And we don't want a recent choreographer to do it, we want the Master."

No, I am not the Master. In a span of twenty years I become Master, you know? And then I can't say no because that's political hegemony, right? You cannot say no, because that means cutting your head away, right? I get grant from them for my research that's why I can continue, so what do you do? Now, I am in a position almost like you now but, I'm going to have people so critical of my work because everybody, everybody had thick prior context of that tradition. I mean this is not exotic, it is the emic which is not the etic. It is the feel, the wanting the behind, the present, it's so tough. So, what do you do? Exactly, exactly what you’re saying. I had to do. Because if I were to name a motif, exactly as the motif coming from the village or from the hamlet, there's nothing new, it's done already it's been revived. They want something so special, they want something coming from me, the Guru. So then, not, don't all Gurus they become thieves and liars themselves? No, and it comes back to me and you think, oh well, perhaps. That's what, you know, I've come back to where you are coming from. Stealing and lying is the nomenclature of the artist and the role as a dance artist. You can't escape it, because it is so intangible that you, you, there are different things that you can go into serious and pick them up something and put them in your pocket.

Z: But-

A: Yes?

Z: But the Guru is a Guru because he is not a thief, that's how he presents himself as a Guru. He's a transmitter, he has the right to transmit, he's given what was given to him. It's not stealing.

A: But the Gurus before you, the Gurus before me, the same question I ask.

S: How do you know that he hasn't stolen.

A: Exactly.

Z: No, no. I'm perfectly aware that he can be stealing all sorts of things, but that's not how he presents himself.

S: Ahhhh. The packaging.

A: The point is-

H: That's exactly what I said, that's exactly. The core versus the packaging.

Z: We're not upset where the artist, the contemporary artist who says:

"Ya, I steal."

Uh, he can make it clear or not clear, it is less shocking, it is not forbidden-

A: He cannot afford, he cannot afford-

Z: Certainly not the Guru! For the Guru represents the ethics of not stealing.

A: He cannot afford because the power, the patronage that provides him the longevity to live as a Guru doesn't allow him to announce the fact that whatever he had was a result of the accumulative system that he put himself in, but in my position I'm not, I'm negating the fact that I'm not a Guru, but nation state wanted to acknowledge me as a Guru, I'm not a Guru!

Z: So you're lying, playing the Guru? Like cultures lie?

J: Well, will you bring the teachers to the competition?

A: Yes, as far as the competition is concerned it's fine (overlapping chatter) because it had to do with my work, if, if for example you have a village performing a certain village, the master teacher from the village is brought in for an entire event, and then if he or she wants to command, they command. If they, they want to be involved with the discussion, but they are so, you know the Asian is still about, you know, they see a professor in front of them and, and I can't get any more from them because to them I have done what they could have not done. I have done something that they in any, in no position could ever, ever invite this. So that honor, and it's difficult for me to communicate anymore to the point where I was able to twenty years ago, so the shift, and I am not ashamed of telling that you know, this is a purely creative work that I have. The word I use and I told you this just now, the word I use is curi, c-u-r-i, which means steal. In English (laugh) exactly! And I say it:

"I just curied this from village x, y, z. And this is my presentation."

And applause is deafening (laugh) for stealing. Because I acknowledge the fact that I stole-

J: So, do they think you're being humble then? Because you say that?

A: It's not humble, it’s awesome, awesomeness of the fact that you acknowledge that you stole from a village and become honorific, a big honor for the village

S: That you stole? Ahhhaaaa (laughter)!!!

A: Yes! Yes, the village, the village say:

"Oh my god he took it from us, fantastic (clapping hands)!"

That, that shift.

Z: That is not stealing at this point because they gave him permission. They gave you permission to.

A: Well, still steal because I didn't ask the permission, I never asked for permission.

Z: We see that in Africa too, they give. No, they give it to you because you represent, you're a representative.

A: No, no they give it to me because at the public presentation when the VIP's of the village is acknowledged as being the source of my stealing.

Z: Yes, yes. I realize that.

A: How would you know they, they. No I don't think they, I mean they, they are more, they are more, they’re happy to be put as part of this baggage of things being stolen then. But I think, I'm trying to address this issue of whether you perform-

Z: Whether you're an honorific thief, that's what it means.

A: Perhaps, perhaps. At that - (laughter- overlapping dialogue). You have to add that into our vocabulary.

H: Or a terrific thief. I think a terrific thief (laughter).

A: Whatever it is you can call me a super-, or, I'm still a low lying thief who just go around because it becomes a consuming object now. In that state, in the whole country. It took like one fire*, everybody wants to perform it. It’s, it's nice, it's neat you know, and, and you can do variance. It's not one particular dead style you have this variance, in between the variance there is this improvisation section that you can do. And if you learn the laws, you can improvise that particular improvisation. So, it's a lot of challenge, but at my level, it's very, it is a dilemma I go through because, okay, I've done that. Put that the other way and I have, inevitably invented created and produced, perhaps a monster instead of, you know, because I-

S: I mean, I hear-

Z: The politics of invention.

S: Yeah, and you talked about integrity earlier and how, and I guess, you know, when we, we embrace these words of stealing, violence lying, because we have to if we are going to challenge the status quo that runs on language on ownership and buying and selling, and if we accept that art is not, is beyond ownership, it’s not something that you own, but it's an energy or a gift that has to move, then the only way you can, then you know, I use these words provocatively so then as an artist you are, you are challenging the status quo, you are you are subverting it.

Z: That's right. So you steal, and you steal the thief. You steal the thieves.

S: Yes and, and but then I think that the dilemma at the end when you are alone is how, how do I keep my integrity as a human being if I'm stealing, lying, cheating all day long. How do I, against a system that you know in order to survive.

A: But what's more you know, see the part that I stole and created now becomes traditional. So, it is really-

S: The burden (laugh).

J: I think there are ways, I think there are ways to do this kind of things. There, there's, I have a composer friend who went to Madagascar cause he's a, he's really interested in music. And they were having fires in Madagascar and he got to know some of the musicians. He taped their music, he came out here, made a CD, made money, gave all the money back to the woman who was living in a cardboard box there. The same time he was there, there was a French producer who came to Madagascar who did the same thing, went and kept the profits. I think there is a way to be ethical within the marketplace. So, maybe in your case, it’s to say if it's traditional then it's made by a nan* and not by a neece* (expression?).

A: Well.

Z: Well, I think it goes beyond economics, this idea of integrity that you are talking about, it goes beyond economics. Because economics, actually, are quite easy to deal with.

S: Yes, because you said something last night that was cool to me, which was you're wary of completing the circle. And I think economics is a way of completing the circle and move, getting away from the violence of life. You know?

Z: But life goes on.

S: Yes, but life goes on and it's constantly violent.

Z: And it's constantly violent, yes.

S: And as an artist for me, the integrity as an artist is to engage with the violence constantly, to not shy away from it.

A: That's why I relate to that violence very clearly because that's how it is.

Z: Yes, but to answer to you when you said uh, okay, so you, you stole, you became a thief and okay. Ah, the thing is that we either participate in the lies or we decide that we can't just go on fulfilling the expectations of the expert liars who are deciding what goes on, and there's many lies and some of them date back, they come from very far, some of them are more recent. It's very hard to identify where those lies come from sometimes. Sometimes it's easier, but even when it's easy, it may be too easy to believe, you have to dig a little bit further to find out that this lie came from a long, you know, from a long history for example. So, that depends on the capacity of the artist, of the person, to really reflect on these issues and engage in those questions. Because it destabilizes you as a human being, and certainly as a human being, but certainly as an artist it destabilizes you. What am I going to do? At least for me, it's one of the question, what am I going to do is the same as what am I gonna produce? What work, these are the same questions. So, it deals with the integrity. Precisely, so when we say that we're lying and we're stealing, we're stealing all the time, no we don't do that all the time. Precisely, there is a strategy of stealing, you, you, you have to reflect on what you have to do and how much you need to steal it. And how much is something else, not stealing but, precisely, giving back, proposing, paying tribute, paying homage to the capacity that you have to really interpret those lies, to question. And instead of like, you say, um, having your own gaze and beware of your own gaze, which is still a term that I am careful about the artist has to really, not so much develop his own gaze he should really beware of that, but openness is what he's striving for. An artist has to be open. It is this openness that you are constantly faced with. The lack of it or the ability to maintain and sustain this state of openness when you are an artist. That is the heart shape of an artist, that's where the integrity, that's what it’s all about. So if you're stealing something, is that obviously, you are trying to subvert the act of stealing that occurred before you. And you will steal in order to subvert this act. You will lie in order to subvert the lies that came before you, that are presented in front of you constantly. So by also lying, being aware of these lies you're subverting the lies and maybe proposing. Offering a new space for people to meet, to converse, to meet the encounter may be very brief it may be during the time of a performance, or not even a performance, during a minute moment of the performance you'll be able to express a space where people maybe go, able to go beyond the lies. And then it distinguishes itself, it disappear, but maybe a trace will remain. That is what the artist is striving for, not more. At least dance, I don't know for visual artists how they would do it but, see it, a painting, a sculpture how does it operate but-

S: I think it's probably similar.

Z: They would have, yeah.

S: Subversion is the underlying artistic principle I think, what authorship is about. We have ten minutes.

J: I wanted to read this quote based on something you said earlier but I think it's appropriate right after this. It's from James Joyce:

"There are certain times when there is only one proper defense for an artist and that's to choose silence, exile and cunning (laughter)."

I thought of it when you were talking about the African dancers in the bar.

Z: Yeah.

J: And I had another thought about the violence that when it's useful is when it goes like, like uh, violence, sorrow, joy, violence, sorrow, joy, violence, sorrow, joy. If you can just keep it, which is the movement that you're talking about.

S: Yes.

J: But what's hard is when it gets into a pump, when you go violence and then its just violence, and then it's violence again. That's the, sort of self destruction.

H: Counterproductive.

S: Yes. And then you get depleted.

J: What you need to know is to recognize the force of violence.

S: That it's ah, part of a cycle of transformation. And that we, I think that's the creative principle is that we can encounter violence and turn that into an offering. That is our power as artists.

J: Well I think of it, you can use the violence as catharsis. You can use it as catharsis, because each of those stages you need to have some kind of regeneration or you won't be able to come back. You won't be able to come back, and so I see one of our studies as this constant study of what's regenerative. How can we source again to write yet another grant application? Yet take another rejection and pretend that it didn't hit us? Or take the hit, take the hit and then put it back.

S: Turn it into something else.

H: So you're seeing violence as empowering-

S: Yes.

H: Violence as a causation of change in a positive manner.

J: Yah, I see it as a form, an action. Su Feh has been bringing it up as action and I see that as-

Z: Movement.

J: As movement which means a shift of dimension, so you're like you're here, you're passive you're not, you're just on you're weight and then, then you take it and you move forward. But you have to have a spiral in the middle of it to change the dimension. That's how I see it. To move into action you can't just like be here and then go action, you have to take it and then move it and then move to that.

H: Toronto has, is the largest diasporic community of the Sri Lankan because of the ethnic strife between the Tamils and the Sinhalese, Toronto is the home of the largest Sri Lankan diaspora. What the Sri Lankan Thurmar* community has done is they've used Bharantaratyam as a means to empower change as a means to instill a kind of nationalistic pride in their Tamil land in Sri Lanka. So, they have come up with-

S: So this is Tamil, it's not Sri Lankan.

H: It's Sri Lankan Tamil, which is different from South Indian Tamil entirely. So, they've done Bharatanatyam repertoire, Bharatanatyam based programming about the militant occupation in Sri Lanka. They've come up with new mudras for machine gun (laughter), for helicopter.

Bharatanatyam Mudras

Z: Yeah, (laugh) they do that in Africa. They do the same thing.

H: To cause change, to empower change. The downside of that is, kids who are born and in raised in Canada are dressed up in soldier, militant costuming come on stage with the machine guns and dancing Bharatanatyam. So, in terms of reinstalling new values of change, reinstalling values of nationalistic pride, are you proud of being a Canadian are, are you proud of being a Sri Lankan Tamil and going back into some imagined homeland, uh, vision or fantasy? So, it's very interesting when you talk about violence that this is a very, very clear example of violence as a causation for change. Whether it's bad or for good, or for in between of something, ambiguous.

J: That makes me think of what Zab brought up about place, so the violence that they are talking about is violence from another, the ground of another place the forces that took place in Sri Lanka. And, and what's that doing here?

H: Yeah, exactly. And what is it, indicative of a community.

J: Is it like a violent pump for memory.

H: My question is, how valuable or meaningful is that change?

J: Yeah, that's true exactly, I agree with you.

Z: Is it meaningful change? Because I see the same thing in Africa.

H: Is it a productive change? That is exactly my question, I constantly have that dialogue.

Z: I don't think so. The only thing that it informs you of is that truly Bharatanatyam this art form allows for-

H: The ability to transform-

Z: The ability to transform, exactly. You know it contains that because they allow themselves to do it, it is possible.

H: And to capture new aesthetics, new genres.

Z: That is why it gives you new information. But the, those gestures that are being integrated in it. It doesn't really have a strong effect.

H: What's the, it allows your picture, it allows your issue.

Z: Yeah, exactly.

J: Well, when would it stop being Bharatanatyam?

H: Yeah, that's right. Once again, going back to what classical means, going back to what tradition means and whose the judge of that, who, who lays the framework, who decides the rules and regulations?

S: But it changes I'm sure, I'm sure it changes.

H: Pardon?

J: This question is the one I asked you about who decides whether or not what's in front of you, in that competition, is a good example of what is folkloric dance?

H: When, when, in a specific example like this, is the community romanticizing violence?

S: But I think in the end if you are faced with a bunch of people in army fatigues doing new mudras for ah, the artistic proposition has to be clear enough I think. The authorship, and the justification and the clarity of what they have stolen, the observation of what they have stolen and what they are making with it is what, if that is evident then how can you judge how that is-

H: Transmitted in the community?

S: Yeah, or what good that will do? You know in a sense, I don't know if we need to take the responsibility to make the world a better place.

H: Right.

S: But we certainly-

Z: But this is not the issue, actually. They actually reduced, I would say in that sense, you're reducing the idea of gesture that is contained. You're transforming, actually, the meaning of gesture that was relating to sacred, basically the sacred world, the ability we have to connect to the sacred world with gestures that are specifically arranged for that and now gesture becoming, yeah, the more modern gesture I can use my hands and this is a gesture and this gesture can be transformed in another gesture. It's just, I'm representing a new reality. Was the gesture, is the gesture in Bharatanatyam representing, how much is it representing? What it supposedly represents is the question.

H: Yeah.

Z: So that I suddenly take the mudra and use it uh, to, to, to represent an act of violence or an instrument that leads to violence. So, is the gesture so literal in Bharatanatyam? For example? That is a proper question to ask.

H: Are you spoon feeding the audience once again?

Spoon Feeding a Snake

Z: Exactly, are you, that is my question. There are the technical aspects that moves you to reflection.

H: Of creating some kind of abstraction and challenging them.

J: But surely those, along with what Su-Feh has brought up about transmission, these gestures came from something sacred, but you said at one point it was many, many times ago that those gestures must have been an arrival of some kind of understanding that if they’re not come from that same place, they’re now representing, they’re depicting things on the outside, that emptiness, that emptiness because it is referring to memory, it’s not living memory, or it’s not living the thing that made it sacred in the first place. But surely, it could end up on somebody's t-shirt or end up in a fashion situation because the, it doesn't matter if it's this, or this, or this, or this.

H: It’s decorative and ornamental. I see what you're saying.

S: I guess for me, training in martial arts and as you, when you learn moves sometimes there's these lyrical terms for goose landing na, na, na, and those terms help you get the feeling of the move but ultimately there's a function to the move that determines whether or not it works. So, you know, if you do snake creeping grass and it doesn't actually work as a martial move on another body, then it’s-

H: Contrived.

S: It's contrived, then it’s just representation.

H: That's exactly what you said about those kids dancing.

Z: That's right.

S: And but, what I find because it's about the body, the functional body what happens when you do those things in martial arts too, in the exertion of the function on another body, you actually have to organize your body in a way that is healthy. So that action actually creates the integrity in your body. Whereas if you were to just represent the picture-

Z: Yeah, the action is probably-

H: Empty.

S: It's empty, then you could be-

D: So the integrity is not in the form, but it's in the application and practice of the form.

S: Yes, and it’s in the engagement with another, with the, the resistance or the violence.

D: I was uh, I was-

Z: There are not so many short cuts to the body.

S: No.

Z: That's the problem.

D: There are many shortcuts? Or no?

Z: There are not so many shortcuts to the body.

J: You either do it or you don't. Yeah, yeah.

Z: That's right.

S: Yeah.

Z: So if you're going to use the body as an, for your art form-

H: You only have one chance.

Z: You have to inevitably be confronted with that issue. So, you may stop playing with your body, thinking that you're doing something with it and your body will send you back the answer immediately that you can't play with me, too long.

H: Right. Make a decision quick (laugh).

Z: Make a decision and start stealing properly (laughter).

H: That's right exactly! Exactly, yeah.

J: No one discriminates. Target your theft!

Z: Exactly.

H: David, you were saying something, yeah?

D: I was just thinking about, in culturally specific forms of a, like racially specific culture. They also become like a depository for, for political agendas that sometimes are buried in the past. Like if you take something for me, like Celtic culture like the, or Scottish culture with the really sentimental songs about injustices, that sentimentality that is nursed, they just keep nursing it for hundreds of years. That, that function's, maybe that function is to enable you to be like a police officer all over the world or to (laughter) you know about the sorrow and everything's gone wrong so, tough shit. Or these, these, these forms still exist as this nostalgia for the past like, like even something modern like the Burning Man festival which is vaguely Celtic for white people about, I've never been but you know, that kind of new age Celtic idea of connecting to some kind of mythical, uh white, agrarian pastoral society. And it's very similar to the Klu Klux Klan which is also a Celtic organization that involves a burning object too.

Burning Man

H: Right, right. That's true (laugh).

D: You know the, cultural practices are very powerful too as a, as a political tool, as a reservoir for political agendas and so when, you have a form that you use to, like a Sri Lankan Tamil, can use it-

H: Has a ploy, yeah.

D: That's ah, it becomes, that's political, that's a political use of culture and that's what culture's for.

H: And they’re making no bones about it. They’re very, very vehement and very clear and very open. It is a political statement they are making, using the arts as a ploy to talk about the struggle of the artist and taking back ownership of the land. But once again-

D: Or maybe to raise money.

H: It's usually to raise money because a certain percentage of incomes of these Sri Lankan dance schools goes towards supporting the militant tigers.

S: But that marriage between art and politics is as-

Oliver Stone on Art and Politics

D: Art and power.

S: Art and power, yeah.

H: It's inextricably intertwined. It's true.

S: And we, we have to always observe it. Um any, it's five past five, any other thoughts or, from anyone. Questions?

J: It was a great day. Thank you.

H: I won't think about stealing the same way anymore (laughter).

J: Is there something you would like to think about for tomorrow or should we just think and then talk tomorrow morning.

S: Yeah tomorrow-

Z: I have a suggestion. But maybe you have plans again.

H: Yeah, she's going to surprise us.

Z: A new violence on us (laughter).

H: On us, yeah. Let's violent each other!

S: What's the suggestion?

Z: I don't know, how about moving on to the art practice itself and see how some of these issues that we are confronted with, when it comes to the various forms of traditions that we are relating to in our art practice, and the fact the we relate to it, we're aware of that of their presence, how does it impact, what how do we deal with them in terms of the creative art form in terms of the art practice itself, how do we deal with that? What do you do with that, do you simply ignore it? I'm not concerned I don't think about it and I do as I feel and I become an expert feeler. (laugh) What do I do? You know? Have you met with specific um, technical issues, aesthetic issues, technical in your training for example, aesthetic issues about what is being seen and your ability to subvert what you, what people think they see in what you do, what you want them to feel, you don't care, I mean this whole-

S: Yeah, for me it's about uh, this notion of you can ignore the language that is at work or the, the you can say you can ignore that we, we, watch art or watch dance in these proscenium places and go well, I don't do any of that, you know, my practice is this. But if you ignore it and you do it there, then you are not engaging with the space, with the place. Um-

Z: It would be nice to discuss this tomorrow, like what does it mean to ignore it if we do, anybody, maybe some of you decided that they have to ignore. Okay, so what does it mean? Can we, is it possible, how does this position of ignoring, what does it mean, surely for an artist who’s engaged in this practice uh, creatively. If you don't ignore than what do you do? You integrate, you exclude, you do what? You subvert, what does it mean to subvert. What are the specific elements that you faced with in your art practice specifically, your art practice, when it comes to, to create something. Produce, I like to say produce, I even like to say fabricate but create always bothers me.

H: (Laugh) That implies stealing.

Z: There is an obsession with creation in the Western world that bugs me so much. The centrum of the creator, we think we're so big creators here. But if we're so good thieves, maybe we're just (laughs) moving on with the material then can-

S: Circulation.

Z: Recycling, maybe we're just recycling stuff.

S: Recycling.

H: There we go (laugh). Aesthetic stealing, recycling.

Z: Yeah, yeah you know, so-

S: Re-gifting.

H: That's right, gifting! There we go.

Z: So what you think?

S: Yeah. We could talk about that.

H: Yeah. I like that yeah, taking from my examples.

Z: Anis?

S: Any other requests?

A: Yes I think, you know I tell you what. Anything we talk about, you know, is so interesting. I mean I, I must make a note of this and tell you guys, I'll just mention this to you to Su-Feh just at the break I said:

"It's so wonderful that all of us could articulate it to the point where we don't have to ask question about contextualizing, it's, it's there and that the grasping of it is so clear."

So anything that comes is fine, you know, I mean yes, there's a big issue that you just raised, why don't we talk about it tomorrow, but also, I think colleagues, you guys have something to add to. I mean, um, I'm getting to feel that I'm being gazed at. And therefore, I don't have the privilege of gazing you, so if it would be possible I'm suggesting tomorrow-

H: Roundtable discussion.

A: That we could have this disper* of dialoging because it's crucial in extending of whether, whether there are things that you didn't want to say, and wait for us to talk privately outside, or I think that would be, as tomorrow is our last day. That's a suggestion but we also propel to come to something else.

H: Good idea. We come to something else. Great.

A: That would be very nice.

H: That makes so much sense, yeah.

S: Yeah, I'm relinquishing authority (laughter) but I am the author of this conversation (laughter).

J: As you said yesterday, it's your party, too late to relinquish authority (laugh)

H: That's right.

S: Well-

H: But the core remains the same (laughter)! The packaging is going to be different tomorrow.

A: No recording?

S: No recording tomorrow.

H: Great.

P: I wanted to thank all of you for today and yesterday. I won't actually be here tomorrow staring at you while you talk about all these interesting things. So, just wanted to say thank you.
H: Thank you.

P: Yes, it's been wonderful to be a guest in this environment.

S: Thank you for being here.

The Physics of a Champagne Cork

P: And if we can come tomorrow, what time do we come?

S: Tomorrow is eleven o'clock and we are in the boardroom.

D: We'll bring some salmon and maybe some champagne (giggle) for lunch.

S: It's a brunch.

D: It's not being recorded, so you can have a drink.

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