Interview by Mariela Nestora May 2018
How would you introduce yourself?
My name is Katie Ward, I am a choreographer, I live in Montreal and I am interested in imagination.
What interests you about imagination in your work?
I am trying to break our conditioned ways of seeing – our habitual imaginations – apart. I am working on a solo that investigates how to embody one thing, then another thing and another thing… searching for a physicality that has no development in it. I am creating an ontological index that people can experience. It is an infinity dance, an algorithm.
What is your motivation?
I’m interested in the power of imagination and what it can do. I see using it to assemble things differently, as a way of shifting the way we see our reality.
So you are investigating imagination and reality?
The way we perceive reality is an imagination. I see imagination and reality as one thing. They are conditioning each other all the time. I mentioned imagination first maybe because later today I will teach an imagery class.
What is an imagery class?
It is a technique that I am developing. We start by holding hands, noticing what we feel in our bodies – seeing what images come up. We do some exercises – for example tapping the body and we notice any imagery that surfaces.
I am interested in the mind – body connections, and what kind of imageries occur from the body. I compile lists of images that occur to the people I work with.
How did you become involved in this?
The entry point was the Franklin method that I studied – this method also works with imagery. I am interested in how if you imagine something, it becomes real.
I also discovered a notion called hyperstition which means making fictional entities real. A great example of hyperstition is our shared imagination of money or Donald Trump being elected – he said it would happen and it happened.
You mention you were inspired by Tristan Garcia’s book Form and Object – a Treatise on Things.
Yes, he is a French philosopher – he is a speculative realist. His system was my first experience with philosophy. I attended a three day lecture that he gave at PAF where I was plunged into the world of Speculative Realism. In the solo I’m working on, I am trying to embody his philosophy which blew my mind.
He’ s looking at creating a different model for the distribution of things. Things as in: a whole thing, part of a thing, a religion, a finger, anything. His questions are: What is everything composed of? What do all things compose?
I am choreographing this second question, in a solo that i am calling Anything Whatsoever. Its an infinity dance. As the title of the solo suggests, I am creating a slice of the totality of form. I am trying to compose that with which that slice is composed of.
There are strict rules on how to dance this. I am working with Efrosini Protopappa on writing the score (as well as on score writing, and thinking about why I want to work with scores, how to construct a score, and how to get what I want from a score).
In the studio with my mentor Ame Henderson – we are working to train my thinking and my dancing so I can access as many things as possible in my own archive. The score is: Try to do something that can be anything and is everything. That has consistency and duration. We decided to reverse engineer the instructions by developing a long list of tools to help me achieve this task. Developing this work is training me to do the work.
Why did you decide to do a solo?
For two reasons: first because of the conditions of doing this Master’s program in Holland- I have only myself to work with, also because I realized that to in order go further as a choreographer I needed to go further in my own physical exploration. For the last decade I have been the outside eye, I was choreographing by watching – now I am doing the dancing. I am watching from the inside as I dance.
In past works I focused on effort, my dances were composed of different kinds of energies, consistencies and textures. Now I am interested in the dancing body and the totality of all dancing.
You mentioned that you are trying to access as many forms as possible by
1) Doing the opposite
3) Following my body
The first two (doing the opposite, contrasting) presuppose a movement existing before. How do you do the first movement?
‘I start before I am ready’. This is a task of Deborah Hay’s.
How did you find this task? How do you work with it?
I recently took a workshop with Christopher House who worked with Deborah Hay. I found this task very useful for my research. I start by pressing play on my computer, I notice what my body is doing that moment, from this I do the first contrast movement and continue from there.
What are you playing when you press that button?
A soundtrack that starts with silence, then there is some bass guitar music and then more silence. The music is from an 80s song called ‘Solid’ I asked a friend who is bass player to play that bass line and Michael Feuerstack recorded it in his home recording studio.
What kinds of pieces are you making?
I make pieces about reality, and about processing the real, both in my previous work and in this solo. I used to work from the perspective that we don’t know what reality is so we stupidly navigate it. Navigating with our senses and sensory channels was a way to explore reality systems. Now I am indexing reality and breaking it apart so that our relationship to it may be re-imagined.
If this re-imagining were absolutely successful, what would happen then?
People would have new perceptions, new insights, intuitions, new feelings about things that they know. Presently I am less interested in directing this re-imagining. I am curious to see what this kind of dance- that produces infinite things- produces in people. I am no longer trying to ‘force’ people to have ‘a-ha’ moments. I am just trying to make an artwork and see what it does. It is still an ambitious project but I don’t have a specific intention or requirement for the spectator.
Did you have ‘a-ha’ moments while working on this?
I had a complete ontological meltdown last week. I could not distinguish one thing from another. I was being very specific with following the score: looking at duration, not allowing development and I found myself in a state in which I couldn’t distinguish anything from anything else- maybe that is what I am looking for. It was a strange feeling. I am trying to be clear with differentiating and it is easy to get lost.
What kinds of people are you working with?
I am working with scholar Efrosini Protopappa on the score and with choreographer Ame Henderson in the studio. In my mind, I have been in a dialogue with Ame for a few years now: she creates works that focus on one thing only. I was curious about how one can do this. How one thing can sustain its vitality, how it escapes becoming repetition, how there can be differences yet within this one-ness, how to keep the presence and the content alive – and finally which principles form the content.
Did you discover things?
First of all, I made a new friend by working with someone new. As I am focusing on one thing only, attentive to when it becomes unclear, I find myself zooming in and I realize how complex the work of the choreographer and the performer in this kind of choreography really is. The challenge is in the thinking and the clarifying of points of awareness for the dancer – and also in managing rhythm and time. In dancing this solo I work on sometimes following my body, other times creating contrasts. Its not only about creating oppositions, but about allowing relationships to emerge.
Is this image of one thing, and the image of the slice of totality contradicting?
By a slice of totality I am referring to this solo as an algorithm. This piece could last two seconds or two hours but the same devices are used all the time. When you are looking at it you see a slice of the totality of form. I am doing one thing that produces infinite variety.
When you engage in this operation, is there some gradient developing in you as a performer within its duration?
Over time I get more tired and more unknown things come up. I work hard to imagine. At first I skim through my first contrasts and oppositions and then with time more surprising things emerge. Some days it really works some days it is not as imaginative, this solo relies on me as a performer. I feel like this work is a method that I am developing – one day I would really like to see more performers doing it at the same time. I am really excited to be a dancer again.
Its challenging for me to commit to one thing only and of course sometimes I wonder how long I can do this for or if it is interesting and to whom.
Looking at some of the aspects of choreographic works separately: how do you treat the body in this solo?
I see this as my flesh archive: it contains everything I can conceive of. Its a vital archive – not a patriarchal archive stored in some mausoleum – I am a woman dancing my live archive.
I was looking for something comfortable and I decided I am going to wear all blue with white sneakers. I did a showing of my solo a few days ago and everyone said they liked my outfit and I decided to go with that, to trust other people’s point of view. I am learning how to do this, in this new way of working.
Only one setting: warm, pleasant light so you can see everything in the room.
Set or props?
The audience is seated on chairs placed in a circle, ideally with some space between the chairs so I can go out of this circle, to the edges of the space. In a way the people are part of the set design.
So far it has been presented in a different space every time. In June it will be in a theatre and I will seat everyone in chairs in a circle in the space. I am not sure how I will deal with the other theatre chairs that are on risers.
I use a soundtrack that starts with silence then music, then silence again. The music gives me a sense of how much time has gone by and then I continue until I don’t feel imaginative anymore. I have so far managed to sustain the algorithm for 20 minutes consistently. I am trying to push that boundary of duration, I’m curious to see how long I can keep on coming up with distinct things.
You are also creating a score?
I am interested in scores. I have enjoyed working on their potential … I like to enter new territories of practice without too much information. I am reading what scores can do and how they can function. At the same time I like to stupidly go into new territories so I can do things in my way without knowing what they are. In that way I can find what they might be to me.
Do you intend to offer this score to others?
I am interested in giving the score to someone else, but I am also very interested in the challenge of working on it for myself. In past works, I used to give scores to the dancers. It was like a notation, for the dancers to understand the choreography and how to generate movement – I used to call them recipes. In these works the movement was not set, and the recipe was a specific combination of things for specific moments in a specific order. I believe in trying things that you don’t understand fully, not from the position of an expert but as a way to make something your own.
What were these recipes like?
My last piece was called Infinity Doughnut- here is an example of a recipe:
1 Audience entrance – Gentle Philosophical web –
*** Crystallise ***
it can dissolve and also become solid
relationship between self and other
relationship between self and the room
It moves from subtle to more energy
With tension + listen
Sound text – allow everything to permeate – let it influence you
focus = peripheral
We are all together doing something in the room – we are all present – no one is more important
Moving to the floor – more energetic!!
Audrée says 4-5 things, then Dany, Pat and Peter.
At the end farting shirt up to shoulders helps?
The shapes that you choose or make should require some negative space or full body investment. Bend knees – separate legs
Samourai , Taichi, Ninja!!
Be alert – aware of your whole body. Keep it lifted and alert as you move to the next shape. You are never left without energy!
You are channeling the space and the audience and each other.
Dany text – when I do this its because …
2-3 stops for the audience then they are placed in their seats
How did you create this score?
I made it with my collaborators who danced the piece. It is a description of how to dance this part. I also use text in this piece.
Will you use text in this piece?
In the solo I am not using text at all. The movements are the words. This is a big change for me.
Do you fantasize about ways of working that are different from the ways you are working? If so what’s stopping you?
I constantly imagine other possibilities to add to this way of working. Then I remind myself that I said that I wanted to do one thing only. I want to make sure that any form can exist within this new framework.
How do you intend to develop this research?
I am really a maximalist. I am looking for serious, refined, wild, sexy things etc… and I am looking for how can I make one container for everything. This solo is a minimalist- maximalist piece.
I will also travel to work on this research with Alice Chauchat. The way I create is through dialogue and friendship.