Untitled Stills

Untitled Stills 


Within the 4th Antistatic Festival for Contemporary dance and Performance 2011 in Sofia, the Berlin-based dance and visual artist An Kaler presented  “Untitled Stills” – a studio practice format which An is working on in exchange with Alexander Baczynski-Jenkins and Rodrigo Sobarzo. An interview with An Kaler about its  points of aesthetic-practical interest and the process of inquiry.


 In “Untitled Stills” the movements are ruptured into minute stills. This does not discontinue only their flow but also the very process of seeing that falls apart into single “gaze acts”. What does interest you in this way of performing and dealing with movement and performance situation?

The thing that interests me in these ruptures in movement is how they happen. It is connected to the idea of the still image. What you see is not one specific thing that could be read as such, but rather stills that constantly shift and therefore produce a lot of potential readings.  It has to do also with testing a position or a place or a holding that you are in and then changing your relation towards it. For me it’s not one fixed place, I don’t know where I’m going continuously. Arriving is constantly postponed, never quiet settling, but again that’s not something one can actually achieve, rather it’s a way of approaching.

In your performance different affects seem to appear like for example aggression or vulnerability. Do you work intentionally towards them or they are a matter of perceiving and reading on the side of the viewer?

Yes, affects do appear. I’m trying to treat affects as movement – so if an affect is close to being physical you can work on reintegrating and feeding it back into your system of working-through material. If affects appear than the question is how you reintegrate those appearings. Relating to affects is similar as relating to the music that is constantly there – I perceive that (music, affect..) being-present and try not to relate in one specific way to it. Again I’d want to open up a variety in terms of potential affect_movements, rather than formulating a closed number of qualities or textures. The connection between a physical investigation – i.e. “scratching” – the effort of it, the inscriptions, image_s and affect_images it produces, is something I want to look at more closely.

You make a distinction between technical and somatic work. What is at stake in it?

Maybe one distinction can be made in different approaches towards “technique”. So, besides a more traditional understanding of “technique” that would be based on form (and consequently would form bodies), my interest lies in somatic approaches and systems exploring perceptions of/in movement – as an unfolding, reflexive/reflecting approach towards technique. Almost as if activating reflexive / thinking / dreaming bodies that by working through and constantly shifting function as displays.

How important in this aspect is the music in the performance? Has it been especially chosen or it can be any other?

Alexander and I haven’t had any music (or at least almost none) in “classes” during our studies, so when we came together in the studio afterwards we decided to constantly have music playing… sometimes that would be too much, as a too much of any kind… but since we were busy with looking at how to integrate various exterior impulses and how to deal with them, it seemed appropriate to have it as an additional layer present. Since we’ve been going on working with that extra layer it seemed reasonable for the sharing of the practice to use the album format – so for each showing we’d use a different album and that would also give us a timeframe. The only rule is not using one and the same album twice in a row. Still the choice of the album isn’t random and to me it feels like each time it contextualizes the event and the location we’re at/in. What I do like about using an album from beginning to end is that it’s an indication for the time passing, without us specifically relating to the music (even though it definitely gives a colour or texture to what we’re doing) in terms of duration and our effort is to work through that. Similarly to that relation and conception of sound/music it was a choice to work with a very simple light set-up, trying to not distract too much from sharing in a formalized way our studio practice.

It seems that the practice format of Untitled Stills investigates in a specific manner the relational system of pre-set elements like space, audience, music and the performer’s body and seeks constantly to redefine it and to recondition the perception it might evoke.  What’s your specific starting point and approach for entering into such a relational system?

To me those systems are like layers operating simultaneously. Sometimes those layers can be perceived as one surface and then in one instant unfold into neighbouring, overlapping or simultaneous systems again. Related to simultaneities – our functioning within, of activating and actualizing material, is close to functioning as a display. We invite projections and at the same time the work is to operate in a space constantly shifting, or shifting in-between. From this perspective we talk about inscribing movement through actions or investigations or in terms of (spatial) relations. Sometimes it’s almost as if you would carve out something, carve out a space. So we’d start i.e. by each one establishing/inscribing/carving out their space_s and at a later point we might manage to fuse those into shared space_s again. In my perception this produces a trace of various spaces in the actual space.

How did you come to the specific movement material in your performance?

We have been working a lot with a set-up of one (or two) performers investigating while the other/s are watching. Then there’s a growing catalog consisting mainly of formulations and  names we’ve come up with for some of the investigations and practices, and approaches towards the material, as well as some image material. So there’s a practice of talking / writing and non-verbal exchanging on the material,  that seems very delicate to me. Within that frame the practice and therefore movement-material really is developed through the exchange between the three of us. I’m not interested in displaying one way of doing a certain thing, but rather in allowing for different approaches in a shared frame to emerge. What’s thrilling to me is when each of us finds their own way of embodying or activating a specific focus and still there are overlappings or something shared (that doesn’t necessarily look alike).

So each time we share the practice in performing it with an audience it is about finding an entrance to it, actualizing it from where we’re at in that very specific moment, almost as if we’d contextualize it anew.

Actually your interest in performing arts comes from the visual arts. How do they condition your perspective to dance?

In terms of thinking about practice, working methods, the use of media I feel there’s one link. Then another is due to having worked with video previously, I feel that my perception and conception of space is in a way close to reading a video-image. My interest is in exploring the notion of the still in different media. I think of it often as an unfolding of layers. As a performer – coming back to the idea of  display/ing – there’s an effort to indicate the moment of framing and reframing.. to render gaze, displaying the action of looking and framing, and looking back, reframing. There’s no such thing as an objective viewpoint, this needs to be clear. And then remains the question of what is visible and how. That’s a starting point.

In somatic work I have a strong response to applying images and imagery. To me there’s a strong connection between proprioceptive[1] work, visualization and sensations. That’s something I’m sharing specifically with Alexander, where we’re exploring ways of making up, inducing, proposing (fake) body_maps, images, textures or concepts of another context to a warm-up or scanning practice.. thus fine-tuning and reflecting on actual and imagined conditions and states of bodies.

 You graduated from the pilot bachelor program Contemporary Dance, Context, Choreography at the University of the Arts in Berlin. It has been established as a program that tries to apply new approaches and formats to teaching and conveying knowledge and practical skills in dance. What was your experience with this program? Was it useful for you and in which way?

To me the BA pilot was the right experience at the right moment. It’s a very personal viewpoint though, since the group starting in it was and is quiet diverse. Everyone had different backgrounds from previous dance training/education or no dance training at all, or studies in different areas (not at all related to dance and/or the arts).

To me the mix of somatic approaches and approaches on improvisation and moving in a broad sense plus the opportunity to develop my own sense of working, having to reflect on what it actually was that would feed my interests and support me with a base for developing further in different areas, was a good and at times challenging starting point. I feel that what comes out of that experience is my emphasizing on practice as something that is an ongoing process of finding and actualizing routines and at the same time reflecting on those so it does not become a fixed or rigid system. I could imagine that our experience there it was amplified also by the fact that the program was a pilot one, therefore taking us sometimes on detours and providing us with space to bounce at other times.

Something else that I realized recently during an exchange session in a group of “young / emerging” artists and makers was that I had expected to come up with a format of how one’d share, present or give access to one’s current quests, practices etc. that would extend the format of talking about work and showing video-excerpts. It felt there would have been much more potential in trying out formats for sharing that would have informed how each proposition would’ve been received, and eventually would have made the exchange richer in terms of ideas, experiences each of us could have moved-out and on with.

 Questions by Angelina Georgieva

An Kaler studied Transmedial Art at University for Applied Arts Vienna. Her artistic practise combines dance, performance and visual art. In 2010 she graduated from the BA Pilotprogramm “Contemporary Dance, Context, Choreography” at the University of the Arts, Berlin. An’s solo performance SAVE A HORSE RIDE A COWBOY premiered at Tanztage Berlin in January 2010 and was presented at Imagetanz in brut Vienna. In2010 An participated in the residence-program Accumulations at Tanzquartier Vienna. As a performer An Kaler worked with Philipp Gehmacher in the videocreation of At arms length, as well as for the performance In their name. Currently An is working in exchange with Alexander Baczynski-Jenkins and Rodrigo Sobarzo on Untitled Stills.









[1] Proprioception is the sense of the relative position of neighboring parts of the body. It is a sensory modality that provides feedback solely on the status of the body internally. It is the sense that indicates whether the body is moving with the required effort, as well as where the various parts of the body are located in relation to each other.