Interview with Anna Nowicka by Emese Kovács
Anna Nowicka (PL) is a choreographer and performer, MA psychology graduate at the Warsaw University, Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance, and MA Choreography at the HfS Ernst-Busch/HZT in Berlin. In recent years, expanding on her long term interest in the work on dreams, imagination and physical actions, she started developing tools to be applied to artistic creation. Her focus lies on questions of imagination and creativity, and the potential of images to expand the body into the state of continuous becoming.
From October till the end of November 2015, Anna and two of her coworkers: Aleksandra Osowicz, Weronika Pelczyńska and Burkhard Körner stay on a VARP Performing Arts residency in Budapest, hosted by the L1 Association with further support by the Polish Institute Budapest. During this time, they will develop a project focused on dreaming, using a dream dialogue and perspective shifts as tools for sourcing movement, choreography and composition.
The research will be one of numerous steps in the bigger DREAM STATES project, comprising of workshops, and simultaneously developing a performative trio based in the dreams of the dancers. Their piece will be premiered in January 2016 in the Art Stations Foundation by Grażyna Kulczyk in Poznań.
|photo: Jakub Wittchen|
The project is called Dream States and my role is a choreographer but in a quite specific way. I do co-create the work with Weronika (Weronika Pelczyńska) and Ola (Aleksandra Osowicz) and now actually Burkhard (Burkhard Körner, he was one of Anna’s Dream States research workshop participants in Budapest) will come also. I wanted to work with an other man originally but he got a baby so he was not possible. Then Ola was suggesting us Burkhard. I cannot take anyone unless I worked with them but when he came I thought it could really work because he is funny, he has the skill of acting and he is listening good. The project follows my interest in this way of working with dreams that you take a singular text of a dream and you open it to see a multilayered kaleidoscopic image that one can embody and can respond to. But I am interested in hearing what people say and I try as a choreographer to create the conditions for the work to go on. I probably have to make certain choices that which direction I want to lead it to. But I want to leave a lot of space for creativity for everyone. So the project is a shared work.
But you are performing in it as well, right?
The original plan was that I am outside completely. But when we were working (on the workshop), that was my perfect constallation for people. So that I can be most of the time outside but I can enter and perform. I have a lot of pleasure in being able to chip in but also in seeing to have a clearer picture of where we are going.
And there is also the topic that how the subjectivity of the performer can be mediatized, as I know.
There are different fields of interest but one of it is looking at how a very personal experience of dreaming − which is actually a shared experience because everyone dreams every night but at the same time is considered very private, the only moment when we have a mirror experience of ourselves − can be put on stage and what happens when this sphere of sensation and embodiment is being confronted with something that makes it into a still image, or even a camera image what is moving but is still captured. There is this discrepancy between a process of a continously changing body and the body that responds to everything around itself. Then the camera captures and, in a way, kills the flow by taking a detail from the flow, from the movement.
So you involve a cameraman as well?
Ola is a visual artist. She is also a dancer but she finished Photography and Multimedia department at Art Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław and we work together a lot on visual things. We had three years ago a little project called „Close Up”, it was about working on a close up with the camera while the body is on stage. So we will work with this skill of Ola. And we will also have a projector but everything is mobile. The whole idea is to keep working with devices that do not have cables, which are prothesis in a way for the body. They allow you to connect to internet but maybe disconnect from reality. They are with us so we can move all the time in the space as performers; we just take our machines and go to a different spot.
How did you meet your collaborators? On what kind of basis did you invite them?
With Weronika we know each other for a very long time, we have been together in a dance school in Salzburg, in SEAD, and we worked most of the time together. She is now working a lot in theatres and films as a choreographer and I have a lot of respect for her way of proceeding and doing things. Both of her and Ola are part of the dream classes − the classes I organised for the Polish community − and it was actually Weronika who was saying that lets work together. With Ola we met in 2012 in Portugal in the Tryangle Project. Then we started working without money for ourselves on diffrent photoraphic or film actions. It was clear for me now that I want to work on three roles: the one who does, the one who witnesses and the one who observes. I imaginated this triangulation originally that Ola will work with the camera, Weronika would be the witness. I was seeing the witness much more as the one who works with partnering also − there was a lot of inspiration with operating the body − and I saw originally the male figure who would be manipulated. I do not want to put a woman in a role that is manipulated but to put the man. And with Bulkhard, I met him also before, I saw his work in Amsterdam and now on the workshop I thought lets give it a try.
Where will be the premier of your project?
In Poznan, in Art Stations Foundation by Grażyna Kulczyk in January.
Tell me a little bit more about your dream classes from where the inspiration came.
There is Mala Kline whom I was working a lot. She met in New York with Catherine Shainberg who is the teacher and founder of the School of Images which is a school in New York that works on dreams, imagination, morphology and different ways of empowering people to be able to create an other reality. I joined the school, I have been there for the past five years and since September I am a practitioner, so I can start my own practice to work with people. But paralel to this I work with Bonnie Buckner, who started her own school in France. With Catherine I am working now on advanced dream opening, the procedure I will use for the project. It is the procedure of really seeing the text of the dream and how can you inmediately go to the essence of a dream. How are the images composed around a question, around the necessity to your current situation? With Bonnie we work much more now on the theme of the body but expand it towards the subject of relationships: relations to people, relations to objects and dreaming.
So now you start your own practice?
I realised during the workshops that for me the real interest lies in working on the awareness and in working with people in a continuous way that not necesserily leads to a production. I am really fascinated how everybody can use it for their own creativity. As you need time for these tools to work inside of you, I thought that the good way would be to implement this idea of online webinars also to physical work. We would meet every week to have a class where we have sharing of experiences and then we would meet in every two and a half months to have classes to meet for a week where we work with it physicaly in the space and then go again online. So allow to people to have their own life because it is very difficult to shift in a moment and be engaged in such a commitment but still keep the practice alive.
Your practice would be for performers or for all kind of people?
Since I am still interested in perfroming I think I would like to try it with perfromers and to see how does it inform, what does it change in the body, what does it change in the way one goes on stage when one is working on this level.
What were your consequencies from the workshop here in Budapest?
I really appreciated that in the end we were a condenced choir of four people. I found it extremely fruitful. I was quite revelatory to realise that everything what I do is information so any action I take brings a change and there is necessity to give it space to exist. The way I can engage with reality is to create and to recognise the sleeping potential of every moment to be creative. We went in the city with Weronika and Ola to do the excercise and it was very interesting.
You were dancing, moving in the city as well?
No, no. Actually this idea came from Mark Tompkins but I found it brilliant, it really changed my mind. Because you cannot show that you are performing, this is your task also. I know that I am performing but I am not starting to dance on a tram. I just know that I am the performer, and they know. And they know that one is a witness. It is interesting what it brings from me, what it allows.
You are also sleeping in the studios as I have heard.
We did it for two days but we decided that it is not working. For me it seemed to be so obvious to do and so stupid that I would not have done it but then I thought „okay, I have this period of research, lets allow for myself to go for the stupid and obvious”. We have found something interesting about the quality and the question of why do you do things and what is the difference between being really relaxed − also in the body − and then taking an action. But it does not work so well, I felt misplaced in the studio. Normally I have my own rhythm, I meditate, and here I cannot. So I told the girls „let’s go to sleep at home”. But I prefer that we work even at home, to wake up in the night and move. And now we came up with this idea that lets make a run room or we put a camera in over the night and we know that in the next two days everybody has to record something when they wake up.
How you differentiate between the research process and the creation? Or they run together? And what is the role of the public for you?
I have always been much more on the research side and in a certain way treating choreography as a byproduct. But it has changed now. I am very interested in how can I include the outside, the people who come, how can I communicate something. And now − as we are working specificly on these three positions − it is quite clear that there is the public. I try to really include this idea that you are being watched. That we produce an experience for the people.
Produce but not produce…
This is interesting because in this way it relates to dreams again, that they are immaterial production. We all the time produce, even if I speak now I create. It is just if I can be aware of my own creation. That I am still in my body, I am my body, I speak, that I have a possibility to make a pose. All what I say and how I say is a creation. But how do I take this in a way outside perspective or a perspective that more allows the other to enter, to be with me in the situation. It is a dialogue.
When we did the workshop I felt that there are layers of it which are close to therapy. How you differentiate then between therapy and research?
I am not interested in therapy. Maybe before I was a bit because I come from psychology. It is a good question because I think the thing that I really bring the whole of me into situations this is where the dream connects with me. I try to open myself and be in a vulnerable place bringing everything in. It still means that I as a person have my own responsibility. I think the question about the audience is what makes the difference. I do not do it only for myself to think about my dreams but I can use it as a prompt, as a byproduct. I will understand something about myself from the dream but I can still take an image that is there and use it to create choreography or movement quality. I can use the information for my own life but it does not have to stay on the level that I just ’therapeutise’ myself. I cannot really explain it but it has something about I am connected all the time. Even if I go to the studio I am not becoming an abstracted female body. You are Emese and I am Anna. And there are many sides of me, also horrible sides and beautiful sides, sides I do not like and sides that I like. And they are all me in a way. And with dreams you can open all these sides because it really exhibits you on a big palette.
This means that when you go on stage you cannot be an abstract thing or someone else, you are always Anna?
I can. I think that this image of Anna, Anna as an outside image or ego tripping Anna is not me, is just one of many me-s. I go for multiplicity of presence; I do not believe that I am Anna. I am incoherent. When I go on stage is not about me at all any more. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. Sometimes I become self-conscious and affraid like everyone. The way I want to work is not about me is about the work. The question of me − if I am good, if I am whatever − is not important. It is just „I am with this”, „I am doing this task”, „I am in this process”. Yesterday I spoke with the dramaturge of the piece, with Eleonora Zdebiak, and she was posing this question also: how much is it about a dream, or how much is it a process with the principles of dreaming. For me is much more this second then the material itself. It is more about the constant shifting of leading somewhere. Having these three positions but changing roles, emerging qualities and questions. Where am I going? What is it happening? How do I shape it? It is more about how to create facilitated dreaming then to take a material of a dream and try to stage it. For example I felt there is a lot happening when we tried in the workshop the situation when we did not know who is who. This was really like dreaming for me, the things were suddenly emerging.
How can you know that how long is something you are doing interesting if you work with improvisation? You have to see yourself from outside?
The question of timing is very important for me, especially for this project, as in dreams I am in spaces that are very awkward and the timig shifts. The space is not material, it can move very quickly, you can move between spaces, they become bigger and smaller. But I do not think that there is a general timing. I think that the more I am interested in what I do and keep interested, people will be also interested, or at least I give them possibility to get interested. To see it and to know the timig are two different things. It has a lot to do with my sensitivity. To know that if I have been doing the same thing for a while either I really stay in it because this is my statement or I need to change because people are out. But it is a question: do you want people to come with you or do you want provoke? The timing really depends on what you work on.
And what about the closing yourself, if you do not have the connection with the audience?
I think this is the difference between therapy and performance. In therapy it is valid to close yourself because you do things for yourself, you keep it in your own little bubble, it is for you to learn and then to go to the world. But in case of stage you are always visible. It is about being aware what is the game. You are there and they are there in the audience. It is really about being in the moment. If you are really in the situation you are aware that there is the audience. But it is also a practice to get used to that you are watched because in reality we think that we are not watched.
What do you think about the form, the shape?
I think we need forms. We live in material reality where everything has a form even it is a transforming form. We are in the form, you cannot escape it. It is always a question of balance between forming something and falling in love with the form too much, or not willing to form. I always had a big problem with it. But I think if you formalize it gives you an other possibility because then there is that how you chanel your energy and attention moving that forms with the trace that you created. For me is interesting to see how the form can be a process, a process that is constantly negotiated. I am awakening the form, it does not exist by itself, I am forming, I am constantly being informed. If you speak specificly about dance, here is the question of form and esthetics. I am much more interested in the body. For me this casual movement is dance. But when is the moment when I become aware that I am already dancing? But it is important to know that whatever you practice will create a specific body with a specific tension, specific desposition. The body becomes what you train.
What is your relationship with acting? Because as I saw your previous works, many of them are between theatre and dance in a way.
When I was a teenager I was doing physical theatre. I am interested in the potential of a meaningful gesture, I like when the body speaks. But I am interested in how you can make it ambigous, not close to the meaning. For example when I am laughing, how can treat it as a choreography, approach it on the level of the rhythm or scale. I am not a trained actress but I do speak. For example in the piece what I did in Budapest five years ago, I was speaking a lot.
In the end tell me about your future plans. Is there a bigger aim you want to reach in your work?
I am just interested in this what I do, in awareness, consciousness and creativity. It is defenately happening that if I am engaged with dreaming, it works somehow. It comes to me over and over again so I just keep on doing it. If I think on the stage work, I do want to move people. I think the aim is to keep expanding. Empower people to discover where their potential is and to use it to the maximum. Making them becoming who they are, who they want to be.
It sounds a bit therapeutic, isn’t it?
It is not a specialised thing that you have to cure yourself to become a good member of society. It is also a capitalistic bullshit invention that there is something wrong with us. There is nothing wrong. The only thing that can be done is to be better.
Anna gives us the chance to follow the process as there will be three open presentations organized by L1 Association (Hungary) with the kind cooperation of Workshop Foundation (Hungary).
1st presentation: 31st October 18.00 at Trafó Stúdió
2nd presentation: 14th November 18.00 at Trafó Stúdió
3rd presentation (final): 28th November 18.00 at Trafó Stúdió
more information at the FB event: