Mette Ingvartsen
Out Of Order

This self interview was written in 2004 to prepare for the rehearsals of Out Of Order.

You chose Bonnie and Clyde, why?

I think Bonnie and Clyde were important figures just because they became legendary, idealized and romantic for being criminal and that they were made immortal through the film. There is something completely corrupt about how we are supposed to sympathize with the bad guys because they are committing crimes in the name of love. It appeals to very traditional and conventional codes, signifying the all encompassing love, the belief in the one and only, playing with one’s own life as bet and not wanting to live without the other person. We love it especially because we don’t have to do it in our own life which makes it even more attractive on screen. It is totally Romeo and Juliet romance and tragedy at the same time.

So you are investigating the conventions of love relationships?

Not at all, but as we know any good story has to have a love relation in it. No, I think I am more interested in conventions, rules and laws in general, how bodies are being directed, controlled, confined, limited and produced and this in relation to representation. And how bodies attempt to break with the rules and conventions they find themselves following.

But why then start from a film which is all about a love story?

Well, I am not interested in representing “the” love relationship. But I guess I am interested in bodies, pleasures and desires, which can be thought in relation to whatever and not specifically the frame of the conventional male/female relation which is so present in the Bonnie and Clyde story, that is why “Thelma and Louise” are also in the collection together with a bunch of other films.

What did you mean when you said representation just before?

I am not completely sure yet because once we walk on stage we are already in a clearly defined zone of representing (the relation between spectator and performer that the transmission depends on) in spite of desires to present or simply be. I think it has all to do with how we choose to define frames for the body to act and react in. And there is something about recognition and readability which is important when speaking about representation. I haven’t quite figured out what that means if it is not only about reproducing already existing culturally constructed bodies, which has been in high fashion for some time by now.

So you don’t want to reproduce?

It is not that I don’t want to but since we know that we are anyway always already reproducing, rewriting and recombining texts that already exist then maybe I don’t have to demonstrate that that is how language functions, especially because I am not dealing with questions of originality, authorship and copy-right. I want to invest in the impossibility of inventing material, knowing that the invention is rather a new mix, that gives another flavor than
the ones we already know.

Are you concerned with the relationship between language and body?

Yes, but I still haven’t been able to define what kind of relationship. The difference between physical and verbal language, speaking and moving is interesting to think about. I think they are very different semiotic systems, operating in different ways with different capacities. I want to look at this distance between how big or small it might be. Of course it is possible to have very direct one to one relationships, hands-up-get-down-one-the-floor- put-your-hands-where-I-can-see-them kind of thing, or to reproduce physical codes such as Michael Jackson which can immediately be read in a concrete manner, but………

But what?

This thing about reproduction, which is somehow to accept the rules that the body is known to be acting according to, where as it could be possible to keep moving and look for a place where the text is no longer clear, and where dramaturgy is not based on logic reasoning and revelations?

What should the dramaturgy be based on then?

I think it is interesting to think dramaturgy in relation to editing and montage. To study films and see how they are dealing with time. I am always amazed when I see how meaning changes depending on editing, when a scene is cut and what it is surrounded by. It makes it so clear that it is all about context and that meaning floats and shifts and that positions are not fixed. I also think there is something interesting in thinking about slowing down, after having seen lots of performances in Vienna this summer I understand that overload of the senses, climax-building, emotional excess and so on are still surprisingly present in the work presented. I don’t want to exclude any thing but I would like to be aware about how we use speed and time as a dramaturgical tool. What would happen if we would start with a efficient, fast cut, precise and dynamic editing but then just get slower and slower and slower and allow the focus and the experience to shift. I have no idea but I like thinking about it.

What was it that you were saying about the dissolve of discourse in relation to the dancing body?

I was trying to understand what physical discourse really is and how it can be defined. So ways of “talking” with the body which are commonly known and have a general cultural value. But then this kind of signification can dissolve into other kinds, regimes of representation and I thought about different levels of recognition

Icons
pop-appropriations
reproductions
reconstructions and it gets vaguer illustrative

allegorical metaphorical A-signification

The a-signifying body must be considered an impossibility, but perhaps one that can open up how to think about the production of movement. I think it is a construction which is somehow dealing with qualitative states, a moving body where the interpretation doesn’t depend on the signs it uses but the force of physicality it produces. The escaping body attempting to be outside form, which it will never arrive at.

This kind of representation tends to be completely incomprehensible but what I would like to do is to see it in relation to bodies that are readable in concrete ways, the bridging between bodies that can be sensed/experienced and bodies that can be read. The idea of not favoring mind over body, thinking and doing is appealing. The exchange between different approaches.

How is this relevant to the idea of the criminals?

The criminals are escaping the law, desiring to be outside the conventional system, conventional ways of living, working and functioning within a general set of rules. But the idea of being outside is of course just as the a- signification an impossibility. They are already inside the system through being an exception to the rule instead of an example. The escaping body desires to be outside the law, rules, conventions that the general functional body is supposed to follow but once it is out it cannot get back in, that is to say the desire for freedom closes itself, but the kind of body it produces is one of instability, alertness and flexibility. A body that is constantly forced to move in danger of being caught by the police. The metaphor of the criminal body on the run could be connected to a desire to escape the conventions that rules the theater or even representation in general. We are so used to seeing bodies represented in very specific ways in the media, on the streets and everyday life, and how to install a critique of these ways of bodily representation without necessarily having to reproduce them.

Am I understanding you correctly, you want to go from cinema through the theme of criminals into choreography?
Yes, simply said what I am doing is to choose scenes from different road movies with couples on the run, somehow similar stories that we anyway know (the Bonnie and Clyde paradigm) so that we don’t have to be concerned with telling a story, which of course would be completely stupid.

Why is telling a story “completely stupid”?

Of course I think using a narrative element is great, I even want to look at the relation ship between verbal and physical language – but what would be stupid is to try to tell the same story in the same manner as the film is doing. I am exactly interested in where choreography is specific to itself and that means looking at how the body “tells stories” that are different from the ones we know from cinema. It is a different kind of fiction, time and chronology than the one in films. I want to consider the film scenes as a kind of score for making choreography and that each scene somehow proposes a different kind of relation between body and text, text and image, source and production.

How have the scenes been chosen?

First I was after scenes that could be considered choreography in themselves because of how they would propose movement or even how the moment of the camera would have choreographic value. Then I was looking at how the female body was proposed as an object but also how the women in these movies are somehow returning the male objectifying gaze, that got me terribly stuck and now finally I am looking at the interrogation scenes, but all different kinds. The police questioning the criminals, the bad guys questioning the father of the criminal, the criminal couple questioning each other and desire, the criminal questioning himself and his conscience and so on, so all different kinds of questioning.

Are you speaking about the content of the movies of the choreography now?

Both of course, I like the idea of the perfect crime where the criminal has disappeared without a trace and there is nothing left except questions. The police can continue looking or give up and the same goes for the audience I guess.

But isn’t it that in crime movies it is always about finding the key to solve the mystery?

Most of the time I guess so, but maybe it is more interesting not to propose a key, but this I have to think about for a bit. Actually it is not such a bad idea to somehow give a kind of opening/key to how to read the piece without it being about explaining it. The Lynch style!

Do you want to frustrate the audience?

Perhaps, but it has more to do with the impossibility of answering the question of how a body can lose signification or escape representation, or how a conceptual approach becomes experiential or an experience conceptual.

It sounds like you are still busy with intertwining binary opposition, is that right?

Of course, except I am trying to let go of the male/female obsession. After “Manual Focus” certain questions I have been dealing with for a long time concerning gender, androgyny and identity have somehow come to a point of rest, but at the same time started a new line of thought. The questioning of the old-fashioned logics of attribution that gender bodies are often confined by, the chain of woman-body-nature-experience-sensation-emotion-intuitionvs. the male-mind-culture-intellect-reflection-thought-logic is still a point of interest, but finally I don`t think that the gender-construction is the issue, rather that we are all containing it all in different constructions and degrees all the time.

You want to be dealing with the construction of the subject independent of gender issues?

Never independent of, because I think that our biological sex generally determines how we are met by the world, language and western consciousness, girls-pink-boys-blue, and this of course constructs gendered bodies, but perhaps it is not necessary to stick to fe/male distinctions which are so NOT contemporary. I think it is about looking at subjectivity as a very complex mixture of different kinds of constructions where gender is one that installs itself from the moment we step into the world, before language and consciousness.

How do you define different kinds of constructions, since I guess they are all constructed inside language?

Maybe it is better to say different degrees or levels of construction, but I guess that gender constructions are different from how the law constructs legal bodies and that is again different from how technology now constructs virtually animated bodies and so on. It has to do with defining how a body comes into existence, which rules it follows and how this produces expression in the sense of being materialized. This also has to do with the different kinds of text that I was speaking about earlier.

But isn’t the danger that you don’t really investigate any of the kinds or degrees of subject constructions/text by wanting to deal with the difference between them?

Yes and no or both and it is clear that it is not possible to be dealing with difference if I am only dealing with one kind so that is out of the question and then of course it is clear that your question reflects a valuation of depth over surface, which again is a distinction I think we don’t have to make. Of course it is about through the working to figuring out some sort of strategy that can bring heterogeneous materials together and still remain one piece.

So what about the conceptual vs. the experiential approach?

I think that has to do with knowing how to ask the question being more important then knowing how to answer. A conceptual approach would be something like finding out how to ask a real question that continues to resist to be answered, which means you have to keep looking. I even think the idea of impossible questions is a rather cool one since you can never come to an end point, you can only attempt and probably fail to answer. The success then depends on your ability to pose a real question rather then a fake one.

Are you aware of the connection between your interest in the interrogation scenes and the idea of considering a conceptual approach the posing of questions rather than giving solutions and answers?

Yes, I want to look at the content of the scenes as metaphors for what I want to be speaking about which is the questioning of work approaches, concept becoming experience and to use the material as vehicles for expressing the limit in between or maybe rather the distinction of inside/outside of law, language, representation, aesthetic territories, subjectivity and of course of performance.

In the end I am deeply interested in how to approach the act of performing. To employ a body which is experiencing what it is doing or demonstration/showing what it is suppose to signify. How close or how distant we are to the material we are performing, and I think this poses a question which confronts objective vs. subjective approaches. I am interested in how it is possible to move in and out of the material that we are performing. Shifting between positions, from inside to outside and back again. This also has to do with how I want the audience to be involved in what we are doing. I think appealing to different systems of reception is a challenge, how to stimulate an experience which oscillates reflection and affection/pleasure/enjoyment.

How are you going to proceed with materializing these ideas?

Yesterday I thought about one specific scene in “True Romance” where the couple on the run are doing a drug deal and are in danger of being found by both the police and the mafia. They are in the middle of a room with doors on both ends of a rectangular space. What happens is that from one door the police comes and does the hands up story and only a few minutes later the mafia comes from the opposite door which shifts all the positions. From pointing to being pointed. I like this as a metaphor for how positions and power can change in a split second, through juxtaposition.

To return a bit, do you have any idea about how to create the a- signifying body, since I guess that would be one of the impossible questions you have posed so far?

We just turn off the light I guess. No, I think the idea of the imageless body is a quite good one but the question is wether one should start with something that is more about not having a fixed image of the body but to be able to shift and combine until the concrete meaning dissolves. Of course it is totally impossible but maybe the darkness is something to play with. The other thing would be to construct dysfunctional, reorganized and joint-less bodies, but of course that is representing some desire to be outside of the conventional, functional signifying use of the body.

If you should formulate (im)possible questions that you wish this work will contain, what would they be?

1) How to find the limit of signification, where does the a-signifying body begin and how impossible is it to get there, since we will always somehow be representing it.
2) how to use the criminal body, which to escape the law has to be constantly alert, flexible and ready to go as a metaphor for the desire to escape the rules of representation that the theater employs.
3) how to be dealing with subjectivity as an object of investigation, and how to combine subjective and objective approaches for the production of materials. How close or how distant the performers are to the material they are performing. What kind of performance quality we employ today.
4) how to make the in-distinction between inside and outside clear in terms of

performance / theatre

law

representation

subject/object signification