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[中][ENG]旅歐舞記 Dance Travelogue: 微塵積聚。人群聚集。事件交錯。 Dust that accumulates. People who come together. Events that collide.

旅歐舞記

Dance Travelogue

 

[中] 微塵積聚。人群聚集。事件交錯。

文:約翰(自鬼與約翰)

 

容我以一個畫面作開首:

 

男子將紙巾從一角剝開,分成三層薄片。身穿白色服裝,坐在地上,他把三張薄片鋪在身前。然後撿起左邊的,又從一角,將薄薄的紙巾由方形撕成長條形。他綁起三條紙條成為一條更長的紙條,他站起來,舉起一端,紙條仍然依附着地面。

 

空氣的流動令細條不能維持它的形狀,末端輕擦地面。男子在房間中遊走時,幼條成了他手臂的延伸,在空中留下一道動態軌跡。紙巾的脆弱可由指尖與紙條末端的碰觸傳到全身。他慢慢地跑起來,腳掌不停地拍打地面,以至他的重量在地面留下印記。

 

我凝視著男子和紙條的舞動,然後有更多人加入:男的,女的,髮型、身高和眼睛顏色都不一樣。 他們身穿白色服裝,舉起一層紙巾,格外小心地將正方形撕成長條。 當紙條靠近並擠這是一件讓我們練習相互協作的事。

 

過人與人間的縫隙時,紙巾撕開時發出的微小聲音讓這片脆弱的白色通過我們的凝視而被放大。

 

阿鬼和我自2019年3月起構思這個全新的多媒體群眾作品。我們追求劇場效果,亦希望為觀眾帶來既創新又真實的體驗。在表演計劃中投入多元媒體,建立一層又一層有關我們研究主題的感官刺激,理解和意義。我們旨在盡能力所及、打造一個規模大的計劃,務求打破時間地域的邊界,在表演製作中,將來自各地各個媒介的新進藝術家聚集在一起,從而使觀眾成為活動的組成部分。

 

我看到一個球,一個由襯衫結成的球,一個由不同顏色的格子襯衫結成的球。它被一群人扔來扔去。他們穿著白色衣服走來走去。其中一個接到球後,便立刻將球扔向圓圈的另一邊。當我抬頭看時,我發現到處亂扔一團格子襯衫。未幾,球鬆開成多件襯衫,變得越來越小。人們逐個把格子襯衫穿在白色衣服外,步速開紿慢下來,由跑步變成走路。

 

這是一件讓我們練習相互協作的事。

 

《Meniscus》;編舞:鬼與約翰; 攝: Dominic Farlam

 

1960年,黑人大學生在幾乎整個美國南部舉行午餐櫃檯靜坐活動。黑人學生點餐後,坐在白人的午餐櫃檯上,用身體實在地佔據了這個空間,以抗議當時的種族隔離。這種只坐在「僅白人」座位上的非暴力抗議,引起了白人的各種憤怒反應。黑人學生仍然被動,他們的身體無聲地吸收了各種傷害。但是他們的行動並不沉默,許多人正在觀看並記錄靜坐。

 

1980年代末,在美國愛滋病危機期間,一群人成立了ACT UP,以應對政府對愛滋病的遲緩反應,甚至無視。當中,他們製作了海報,用「愛滋病罪犯」的照片在紐約百老匯下游的New Museum窗戶上進行裝飾,展示有關因愛滋病損失的數據,以及一個粉紅色的三角形。這些圖像朝外(百老匯下游社區),向公眾大聲疾呼愛滋病危機的緊迫性和政府的無能。他們還進行了著名的「 die-ins」和 「sleep-ins」,用自己的血肉佔領街道和建築物。他們激進、直接,手法經精密訓練且毫不猶豫。

 

2019年8月下旬,鬼和我在倫敦The Place的舞室裡,看到網上有關香港的圖片,不知所措。我倆都沒有說話,但房裡卻充斥著喧鬧,憤怒和恐懼。一個小時後,我們的舞者到達了,我們給他們每一位遞上一個方形鏡子,然後打開一台投映機。當他們拿著鏡子跳動時,投射影像的一部分會被反射並照在工作室的牆上。他們凝視著牆上的燈光,試圖理解投放出來的香港圖片,理解事件的背景。

 

也許當這些歷史事件與物體和身體佔據同一空間,為存在的本質意義抵抗時,每樣物件在這些事件中都有其位置。每個人在這些空間中都苦苦掙扎。我們絕對不是要說歷史和藝術具有相同的價值和分量,但是,如果藝術可以成為歷史的詩意類比,又可否為我們的社會帶來一種功能?

 

「藝術確實具有挽救生命的力量,而正是這種力量必須得到承認,培養和支持。」 - 道格拉斯·克里普(Douglas Crimp),1987年

 

作者注:Meniscus -由Ghost和John執導的多媒體群眾作品。 於2019年11月1日在倫敦的地方首演,隨後於2019年11月29日在倫敦Rambert演出。

[ENG]Dust that accumulates. People who come together. Events that collide.

Text: FrancisJohn Chan from Ghost and John

 

Allow me to start this article with an image:

 

Peeling the tissue apart, starting from one corner, the man separates the plies into three thin separate sheets. Sitting on the ground with his legs crossed, wearing a white costume, he is laying out the three sheets on the ground in front of him. He then picks up the one on his left. Starting from the corner again, he tears the square into a single long strip, then does the same with the other two. He ties the three long strips into one, stands up and holds up the strip by one end. He is a very tall man, yet the strip touches the floor even when he holds it above his head.

 

The thin strip cannot hold its shape against the movement of the air, gently brushing the floor with its end. The man walks around the room and the tissue continues as an extension of his arm, leaving a trace of movement in the air. This fragility of the strip, working in reverse, flows from the contact between his fingers and the end of the strip into the man’s whole body. Slowly, he starts to run. His footsteps mark the ground with his weight as his feet slap the floor repeatedly.

 

My gaze follows the movement of the man and the strip of tissue across the whole room. I then see more people joining in, men and women with different hairstyles, different heights and different eye colours. All in white costumes, they hold up a single ply of tissue, then tear the square into a long strip with great caution as if they are demonstrating a very dangerous task. As they approach me and squeeze through the gaps between people in the room, the tiny sound of the tissue fibre is amplified through our gaze at the fragile white piece of material.

 

This is an event about how we occupy space, with movement, objects and sound.

 

Ghost and I started devising this new multimedia ensemble work in March 2019. The project was originally titled Gallery of Liminality. An experimental session was done through a platform called The Playground at the Rambert Dance Company studios in London in May 2019. We invited the audience to digitally react to the performers’ task-based movement through Telegram on their mobile phones and to rove around the space as if it was a gallery, except that in this case the exhibits were human bodies, transformed into different scenarios through movement and performance states.

 

The challenge we set for ourselves was to aim at providing a new experience for the audience, theatrical yet also real. By incorporating different media in this performance event, we built layer upon layer of sensory understanding towards the subject matter that we were investigating.

 

In the end, the project (now called Meniscus) involved twenty-six artists across four continents: twelve devising performers, one costume designer, one lighting designer, two musicians, one rapper, two photographers, two illustrators, three videographers and the two of us, Ghost and John. There were actually more: production assistants, costume fitters, producers… It was big yet manageable. That is what we intended it to be. We intended to direct a project that challenges the borders of time and space in performance production, that brings people of different backgrounds together, that gathers emerging artists from different art forms together, that makes the audience an integral part of the event. I remember staying up late at night to facetime with Hong Kong videographer Michael Mui to get the narrative of the video right. I remember a long email conversation with Japanese musician Meitei to get the mood of that one section right. I remember hunting visual references with Vietnamese-French photographer Nhu Xuan Hua to get the right colour for the background of the poster. I remember the long discussion, nearly an argument, with Ghost about how the audience should be instructed when they come into the performance.

 

I see a ball, a ball of shirts, a ball of checked shirts in different colours. It is being thrown around by a group of people. They run round and round, in white clothes. As soon as one of them catches the ball, they throw it across the circle to another. When I look up, I see a ball of checked shirts being thrown here and there. Soon, the ball gets smaller as it loosens up into individual shirts. One by one, people get checked shirts to put on over their white clothes, slow down from running to walking.

 

This is an event that drills us to collaborate with one another. 

 

Meniscus; Choreographers: Ghost and John; Photo: Dominic Farlam

 

In 1960, lunch counter sit-ins by black college students took place in almost the whole Southern USA. The black students sat down at white-only lunch counters after ordering, physically occupying the space with their bodies, in protest against the racial segregation of that time. This non-violent protest of merely sitting in ‘whites only’ seats evoked a variety of responses from enraged white people: a policeman observing them and hitting the palm with his billy club[1], other customers spilling and throwing drinks at them, dragging them to the floor, punching and kicking them. The black students remained passive and silently absorbed this aggression with their bodies. However, their actions and non-reaction were not silent. The sit-ins were being seen and recorded by many people, including the white Presbyterian minister and college professor Merrill Proudfoot. In his book, Diary of a Sit-in, he described the reaction of the white bodies surrounding these black bodies and how the white bodies became awkward, agitated and outraged. At the Knoxville sit-ins, the white lunch counter manager became increasingly agitated before he finally exploded. “Well, why don’t you go home now? You’ve proved your point, haven’t you?”[2]

 

In the late 1980s, during the AIDS crisis in the USA, a group of activists formed AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), in response to how the government was being slow to react, or was even ignoring, the pandemic. There were friends dying, families losing members, lovers witnessing their partners passing. An organization with an urgent call to political action was needed. ACT UP activists went on the street, rallying and marching. They made posters, decorated the windows of the New Museum at lower Broadway, New York with photographs of ‘AIDS criminals’, data and figures about the loss of AIDS and a pink triangle. These images faced outwards, projecting their voices loud and clear to the communities of lower Broadway, telling the public about the urgency of the AIDS crisis and the incompetence of the government. They also performed the famous ‘die-ins’ and ‘sleep-ins’, where they physically occupied streets and buildings with their own flesh and blood. The approaches they took were radical, direct, well-rehearsed and without hesitation.

 

In December 2017, Ghost and I decided to make ourselves into artists. I was working as a research assistant at a marine biology laboratory at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Ghost was an analyst programmer, mainly building Android mobile applications. We came to the realisation that we were both probably not doing what we were ‘made for’. Hence, we embarked on a journey to rediscover who we were. We came to London in September 2018. Nine months later, our understanding of ‘making ourselves into artists’ reached a pivotal point, where it was no longer only about what kind of work we were making, but also what kind of experience we were providing to our audience, our collaborators and ourselves. In this age of great political, social and environmental instability, how can we do things with art?

 

In late August 2019, Ghost and I were in a studio at The Place, London. Our minds were overwhelmed with the images we’d seen online through our iPhones, iPads and Macbooks. Neither of us was talking, but the room was filled with noise, anger and horror. An hour later, our dancers Lauren, Jim, Claudia and Annie arrived. We passed them each a square mirror, then turned on a projector that was placed on the floor aiming into space. The mirrors were ones from IKEA, slighter larger than A4 size. As they danced with the mirrors, fractions of the projected images were reflected and shone onto the walls of the studio. They stared into the light on the wall, attempting to comprehend the visuals and understand the context.

 

Perhaps it is the coexistence of all these historical events and personal episodes of objects and bodies occupying spaces, resisting and fighting for the essential meaning of their presence, that are lingering in Ghost and my minds. Every little object that has its place in these events. Everyone who has been struggling in these spaces. We are in absolutely no way trying to say that history and art have the same value and weight, but what if art could be a poetic analogy of history which can have a real function and bring purpose to our society now?

 

‘Art does have the power to save lives, and it is this very power that must be recognized, fostered and supported.' - Douglas Crimp, 1987

 

[1] Cited from the chapter ‘More than Hamburgers’ from Choreographies of Protest, where describes the behaviour of this policeman in the Greensboro incident, which marks the emergence of the sit-in movement.

[2] Cited from from p.58 of Diary of a Sit-in, from Merrill Proudfoot’s first-person narrative.''

 

Writer’s note: Meniscus - a multimedia ensemble work directed by Ghost and John. Premiered at The Place, London, on 1 Nov 2019, later presented at Rambert, London on 29 Nov 2019.

 

 

 

References

Crimp, D. (1987) AIDS: Cultural Analysis/Cultural Activism. October, Vol.43, Winter, pp.3-16, USA: MIT Press.

Proudfoot, M. (1990) Diary of a Sit-in, pp.58, Urbana: University of Illinois Press

Foster, S. L. (2003) Choreographies of Protest. Theatre Journal, Volume 55, Number 3, pp.395-412. USA: Johns Hopkins University Press.

 

 

 

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