Notes on Watching

Our works are Space Choreographies because they deal with the mobility of space and the spatiality of movement. We are interested in the simultaneity of what happens and where it happens; in such a way that the place of the event does not exist before the event, but is created along it. A Space Choreography is not a stage set in which an action takes place; nor is it an installation that exhibits a space. We understand Space Choreographies beyond stage design and installation and beyond performance and exhibition. This raises the question of what the participants in a Space Choreography actually do, how they do it and who or what they are while doing it. And this question comes up for both aspects of participation, that of making and that of watching. We understand the performers participating in a Space Choreography as a Space Chorus and a Space Chorus is determined by the fact that its movements – physical and/or vocal – create a space. This creation of space also includes those who attend a Space Choreography. What does this “inclusion” of the visitors mean and how does one visit a Space Choreography?

Opposite and Event

Usually in performances we watch subjects acting and in exhibitions we look at objects in their form and shape. In performances we sit, in exhibitions we stand and walk; in one case what we watch moves, but we do not; in the other case we move ourselves, and what we watch is immobile. The performance takes place in time, as a spectator you follow something (plot, story, dramaturgy…) that develops, at least unfolds in the course of time; the exhibition is spatial, many things are there at the same time, you walk through as a visitor, observe something from all sides. In the performance one watches a movement, in the exhibition one is oneself in motion. If you think in terms of exhibition and performance, movement is activity and either on the side of the performing or the visiting subject. But it is not a spatial event that takes place between all participants.

What if movement is distributed differently, for example, if everyone is moving and being moved, not just either the performers or the visitors? And what if this movement of everyone does not happen for the purpose of interaction, dialogue or exchange between the participants? If nothing but this movement itself takes place, nothing is added to it – no task, no story, no plot, no action, etc.? If it is a movement that encompasses the whole space and all participants, that exhibits itself and is sufficient for itself. – Where and who or what are you as a spectator and how do you watch something like that, and is what you do spectating or something else?

Experience and Structure

If one looks at our previous Space Choreographies in terms of what being a spectator can be in them, one comes across ways of participating in a spatial event. There is a transformation of being a spectator itself, when there is not a subject and object, active and passive, that face each other, when being a spectator does not mean watching something, but rather sharing a spatial experience. Sharing does not mean that performers and visitors become “the same” or (should) do the same, but it takes place before or beyond identification as performers or spectators. It is about watching as experience and structure. Structure means that what is meant by “watching” – more generally: the way in which one participates as a visitor – that lies in the centre of the artistic work itself, is created by it and is not something that only happens when a work is “finished”. Watching takes place much earlier and comes much deeper from inside of a work than one might think at first. One thinks like that because of rehearsing without an audience and then thinking that watching is what comes when you don’t rehearse anymore. That makes things complicated and contradictory: while the way you experience a work is rooted very deeply in its process of creation and is part of its essence, spectators are at the same time that which eludes production. In contrast to the artistic participants – the Space Chorus – one does not normally rehearse and train with an audience. The more spatiality is involved as an all-encompassing happening, the more essential and tangible this difference becomes, the more one can and must work with it and think about it. One has to be concerned with what kind of invitation to what kind of participation is in a work, and the way in which spectators are prepared and become aware of it. Ultimately, it is a matter of looking at each work in terms of what kind of spectatorship it produces. For spectators, this means first and foremost being able to accept the invitation to participate in a work and to explore how one is part of it while watching.

Fortress / Europa (2015)

Fortress / Europa begins as an exhibition, the visitors walk around looking at paintings, the performers are initially invisible, the wall elements stand statically in the room, the paintings are attached to them. In the next step, the performers begin to move, the walls open up, leaving an audience space free, the visitors sit down.

There is a change in movement: Those who stood still before, now move, those who walked around, sit down. What follows can be seen in this way: An exhibition that passes in time, in a certain way performing itself. As an audience, one watches a moving installation. The wall elements are reconfigured again and again, the performers carry and move them, their faces towards the walls, you only see them from behind, they almost merge with the wall objects, the objects almost become protagonists. The audience space is in the centre of the action, the room is reconfigured around it, so you only see a section, something always happens behind one. At the same time, you sit in the audience space aligned to each other in such a way that you always have other viewers in your view and are seen by others. You are very exposed yourself, while at the same time there is a temporal course through the permanently changing spatiality, but neither individuals representing something nor an action that you could or should follow.

Probably the overall situation is something like this: An installation is moved, the performers become components, the components become protagonists, the spectators become exhibits. In a certain way, all of them find themselves in a space that moves and exhibits itself in this movement. In the change of who is what and how (object, exhibit, protagonist) a space appears in which everyone is embedded. Which everyone shares, even if they – performers, spectators – do not interact and do not do the same. Being part of this space and sharing this space is what happens. Nothing more or nothing else happens. As a spectator I can get involved in this happening, i.e. participate in it in the literal sense of the word, by seeing, feeling, perceiving, surrendering and surrendering myself to my own being exposed. Then I am in and with it, I participate without doing anything specific in the sense of interacting. It is a very corporeal process and has to do with relaxation and silence and letting things happen. When this happens, when I let go and do not want something (to understand, to be entertained…), the work goes through me and can actually take place in the in-between, in the interrelation of all those present. But it requires of me as a spectator a change in how and what I look at. As long as I am curious, looking for what you can call action or story or statement or concept, as long as I am interested in what you can understand as the performers’ skills, I see nothing. On this level there is really nothing, nothing takes place. The gaze that wants to understand something or find something ingenious and skilful fails. But if I succeed in letting what happens simply happen to me, a transformation takes place in me as a spectator: The “I watch something” becomes less, instead I become a zone of contact and feel an intensity.