In-depth description of how we work with the camera / screen.
REAL OR RECORDED, WHICH DO YOU PREFER?
In Animalarium we use the screen as a medium to challenge the threshold of how we experience live and recorded. Our aim is to explore methods that allow Animalarium to have two or more show formats happening simultaneously within the same performance. The difference between these formats is not only that one is live and the other is recorded – but that the camera is placed in such a way that what it sees, records and streams is drastically different from what the audience experiences live in the room. It drastically reshapes the space and thus also the perception of the performing subjects and the context for how “choreography” is created.
We explore how show formats, in the broadest sense, have different sets of ideas, narratives and histories that will propose or dictate “rules” around what is good or bad, right, or wrong, desired, or undesired. And want to highlight how the formats’ rules can shape the behaviour, thoughts, and emotions of the performing subject(s) and the audience. We do this by working with film cameras and live streaming. Our online streams have so far been shown in the performance room, in an adjoining room and/or online at the same time. Our interest has been to create a tension between the different formats (live and recorded) and their different rules around “To Be” or “To Show”. Exploring perceived binaries such as real / fake, authentic / artificial, wild / domesticated.
We look at our own field of contemporary dance, but also at sports, self-produced material for social media, reality TV and surveillance footage. With a particular focus on show formats where the primary performative subject / object are non-human animals, such as dressage, nature documentaries, Zoos, or den-cams.
THE CAMERA SHOW
In Animalarium the main show happens for the camera. The camera frame, our relationship to it, and how we communicate through it, is our main reference point. We carefully curate our actions, their duration, dynamics, and placements for the dramaturgy of the screen. Everything happening in the room is the dance performance, but it is for the camera we create the drama, the beauty, and pour all our effort in.
We often work with a static frontal camera, which films constantly without editing or zooming. The camera is placed close to the floor. From this angle the “close up” highlights of our shoes, feet, and shins and the “long shot” (when we have moved to the back) shows our whole body and faces. Inverting the traditional filmmaking hierarchy between which body parts get to have the most details and therefore the most emotive power.
The big screen, just like cinematic experience, makes what we do appear bigger and grander, amplifying the play between miniature and giant. There is a micro to macro drama space, and a small tremor of a shoe can create a whole narrative on its own. We constantly work with proximity and distance, playing with the real space and what our choices produce on the camera perspective. It is us, the performers directing from the inside, who create texture, depth and meaning by our actions.
The camera and the projection are placed so that we see the screen when facing the camera lens. We see ourselves, overtly look at ourselves and create with ourselves through the screen. This creative relationship with our recorded self’s is a way of externalizing the otherwise internalized gaze we as dancers (and women) often have on ourselves when performing. We create within a loop with ourselves as performing subjects (IRL) and as performing objects (on screen).
How we create for the screen is more akin to dramaturgical rules from graphic novels, 2D animation, or silent film where the basic meaning of a “scene” should be understood from the outlines or positions of the bodies. We create the more nuanced “meaning” by playing with positions, repetition, dynamics, and the expectations and associations the music and costumes creates.
Furthermore, we are also interested in the screen becoming more of a live painting, where the action can die down, we become even more object-like, extending stillness or repetition, creating a succession of atmospheric images. This is also us being un-entertaining, acting disobedient to what a camera (camera gaze wants), and like the sleepy animal in the Zoo, not at all living up to the human desire for action and drama.
OUR BODIES AND THE SCREEN
In Animalarium we do not walk, speak, pose, or behave as our human selves or intentionally “perform woman”. The feminine connotations visible in the performance are activated through the costumes, the shoes and sometimes the music. They are surface layers, but not something we are embodying or acting out. They are tool to critically examine the fragmented, zoomed in or cut up female body we see in mainstream popular culture such as in pornography, fashion photography, music videos, selfies, and such. To examine what happens when we look at certain strong imagery (bare legs, partial nudity, high heels ) but that the language and behaviour does not conform with these images. Objectifying imagery without its necessary behaviour/language? Animal behaviour performed or put-on human bodies?