Notes on Choros III (Koroška)

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Choros (III) Koroška, Exhibition View, photo: Kunstraum Lakeside / Johannes Puch

In summer 2017 we worked together with the singer and performer Christine Börsch-Supan for several weeks outdoors, in the mountains, the Hohe Tauern in Carinthia/Koroška. We continued our artistic research on voice, space and movement, with the intention to work for the first time only outdoors, in a landscape, and to get to know its acoustic, visual and choreographic possibilities. We showed the result of our work from 8 Sep to 6 Oct 2017 as a video and sound installation at Kunstraum Lakeside in Klagenfurt/Celovec, curated by Nora Leitgeb.

The summer of 2017 was characterised by extreme weather conditions caused by climate change. The south of Europe burned in the sun, while the north drowned in rain. Our artistic questions about the relationship between man and nature also arise from the massive climatic transformations to which our living environment is exposed.

Choros

For some years space is a strong topic in our artistic work, and in the course of time we have begun to think space and movement together. Movement as a kind of “spacing” – giving space to oneself and creating space – has led us to the ancient chorus, e.g. in the artistic research projects Choros I + II, and this in turn to the question of landscape. The ancient chorus before the beginning of theatre was a singing and dancing choir that did not have a fixed, architecturally predetermined stage, but performed outdoors. It prepared its stage through its actions; at first simply by stamping a circular surface into the ground in a round dance. “Choros” is the name for this ancient choir, the round dance and the place where it danced. This simultaneity of movement and place interests us: Choros as a dance place does not exist before the chorus, the stage does not exist before doing. We are looking for ways in which what happens and where it happens are created simultaneously and go hand in hand.

Intimacy of Expanse

Landscape as an open space, a place of interaction of elements and forces, not primarily made and inhabited by humans, an exposed and unpredictable environment dependent on geological durations and environmental influences. – In working outdoors we became involved with this openness of the landscape. We neither hiked in the mountains to reach a summit, nor were we interested in landscape as a backdrop. We went to the same places over and over again, and stayed there for a very long time. Without us knowing or planning it beforehand, it was high grounds that attracted us most in the end. These are flat places that open up into the horizontal inbetween steep slopes and in front of rocky walls – in the middle of the verticality dominating the mountains. Here, it is not so much height and depth, and the conquest and abyss associated with them, that determine the landscape and its affects, but expanse. On these high plateaus we spent many hours again and again, staying and letting light, air, underground, sounds affect us. With and from these elements we found body movements and ways of speaking and sounding. We worked with the landscape, the nature of the surroundings, made ourselves permeable to them, but not with the intention of merging with them. Christine’s movements and her voice stand out from the landscape and at the same time they are embedded in it. What happens is not a unification, but an affection. In the long stay at a place and the physical, sensual opening to the landscape, in the feeling of its elements – the intonation with a breeze, the dancing on the blades of grass and walking on the stones in a stream – an intensity is created that is due to a very specific relationship between closeness and distance: In the human body, which sounds with the air, feels the stone, rolls in the grass, the vastness comes very close.

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Choros (III) Koroška, Exhibition View, photo: Kunstraum Lakeside / Johannes Puch

Breathing Gaze

We spent a long time in places in the mountains that are not destinations in themselves, places that are remote, on routes that are scarcely used; places through which one only passes, if at all, when being on the way to a peak or a hut. In these places we have heard, seen and felt the surroundings and have intensively studied the relationship of the human body to these surroundings. In several senses, “recordings” have been created: the body recording the landscape by dwelling in it and moving with and within it; and audio and video recordings of these voice and body movements.

The video recordings are related to landscape painting, if it is a matter of this painting to first putting landscape into the picture and letting it be seen in a certain way; in other words, not to be the image of something, but to produce a view that belongs to what is seen. The videos are filmed in such a way that the gaze capturing them is physically present, it sees with them, it breathes with them; as a viewer, one sees in the movement of the image the breathing, the pulse, the weight of the filming body, the gravity that acts on it. And also in the image space itself, everything is organised around the relationship between rest and movement; one sees a distribution of the unmoving and the moving, which relates the human body and the environment of light, wind, water, clouds to each other and permeates all elements: Sometimes the body is completely still and thus allows the course of water, sun, clouds to emerge and become visible, sometimes the rhythm of movement of the body fits into that of light, wind or stream. In this way, each picture breathes as a whole and in each picture you see an interplay of different rhythms; the longer you look, the more you immerse yourself in the pictures, the more varied and finer the various elementary movements that relate to each other become.

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Choros (III) Koroška, Exhibition View, photo: Kunstraum Lakeside / Johannes Puch

Listening Voice

The voice moves with the water, the wind, the buzzing of the insects, it is another soundtrack that blends into the environment. With this insertion it makes itself and the other sounds audible, it is not the foreground to sounds in the background, but in the resonance with the stream and the air the interplay comes out. As with the body movements and sometimes simultaneously with them, the voice is also about participating in the elementary movements and sounds of the landscape. It is about a sounding, vibrating breathing with the air and the sounds that are already there on the one hand and that you find when you go out into the open air, but which at the same time only appear when they are added to the sound of the voice. Christine’s voice receives the landscape, it sounds out of hearing, enters into what she hears, brings what she hears into her own voice. From the recordings of this hearing resonance, the sound environment for the listeners is created.

Free Writing

The texts spoken in Choros III (Koroška) come from a cycle entitled Into the Open and are nature lyric. They describe a space in which one body becomes another, carried out once more, again and again, from the ground, from the earth, from space. They speak of this space as a free one. The texts want to write about this free space and write from this free space, they want to write (themselves) freely and write something free. They try a reversal, which is similar to what the movements, the images and the voice are all about: to take up less of oneself, to do less on one’ s own initiative, but to take up something from somewhere else – the landscape, the surroundings, nature – and be set in motion. Not only wanting to go out into the open as a direction of liberation, but also wanting to be approached by the open and being touched, changed by the open. In lyrical writing, this freedom is not only a motif or theme, but also and above all a movement – that of the rhythm and sound of language. In the sound of the words and their stream one also hears a freedom from their other use, from information or communication.