TwoFold: How to keep our friends from drowning

4 short descriptions of How to keep our friends from drowning (Eirini Kartsaki & Joe Kelleher)
photo credit: Christa Holka

Something is broken, the simultaneity is infuriating, each motion, each stutter intelligence and swindle—a martini or just water and olives. A hiccough might contain at one and the same time pathos, humour, mundanity and drama—the everyday trauma of human capacity—the beauty in a smudge and the glamour of a neck brace. This is how we got here and always with the tantalising question before us: how did they injure themselves in this way?

They are not broken, they are inflicted on us, they will not stop until they get it right: the explanation of how they came through the infuriating noise to settle down before us.

How to keep our friends from drowning takes a furious run at accelerating speeds, whiplash proof via prophylactic neck braces, wheels spin in position and we know there will be injury, the only question is how much saliva will be spent in the service of it.

It is desperate, it is vociferous, it is packed with an urgency I cannot explicate, their safety measures have made me suspicious, it is an extraordinary rendition, I am all ears.

(because they asked for it)

Tags: duet, Chisenhale Dance Space, Eirini Kartsaki, Joe Kelleher, TwoFold

Posted on Thursday, 27 April 2017 by Karen Christopher

The Things They Do

The Things They Do was a one-day symposium (29th July 2016) coinciding with the Ragnar Kjartansson exhibition that is on right now (through beginning of September) at the Barbican in the main gallery. A number of artists made responses to the invitation from Joe Kelleher, Nick Ridout and Orlagh Woods:

The Things They Do is inspired by Kjartansson’s interest in making art out of the things that other people do.
In Kjartansson’s work the appropriation of these practices – like painting seascapes or playing in a rock band – involves a complex mixture of absolute seriousness and inevitable pretence, of sincerity and the ridiculous.  Each of these practices is at once revivified, even as they are presented as somehow already used up and exhausted, by the contemporary artist’s own longing – but self-aware – investment in them.
Our plan is that during the course of the day a selection of artists, writers and academics will offer a series of performances, demonstrations, talks and other activities, in which they share their investments in the things that other people do and their experiences of learning to do these things themselves.

That invitation and the response to it has now taken place. And it was a great day. I performed a repetition of a 1min 28sec section of a lecture given by Judith Butler:

Judith Butler Gets a Sip and Drinks It
In the midst of giving a lecture (Precarious Life: the Obligations of Proximity) at the Nobel Museum in Sweden, American philosopher Judith Butler takes 1 minute and 28 seconds to open a bottle of water and take a sip. This performance repeats that performance over and over again.

A number of artists performed other acts simultaneously, durationally, at specific times, just once, and repeatedly over a couple of hours or just a couple of minutes inside the conservatory which is usually closed to the public except on Sundays and bank holidays if there isn't a private event going on.

Here below in the form of a thank you letter is a short description of my experience of it:

Dear Joe, Orlagh, and Nick,
Your symposium set up quite a few mechanisms for inspiring creative thought including: doing things in front of people; performing simultaneous actions both individually and with others in a large permeable series of subspaces; drawing disparate elements together; spending time watching and listening; experiencing space and proximity through sound; allowing one thing to bleed with others; listening, watching, and doing in order to think in alternate ways or to bring thoughts into the brain as a result of avenues other than speaking or writing or sitting alone.

Joe, I think I lied to you. It was a lie of fatigue and over-focus and a lie of confusion brought on by the chemistry of my body. Referring to Judith Butler you said: did she really take such a long drink? (*see note below) I said “yes.” and at the same time suddenly realised that I’d made a mistake. It wasn’t actually true. I think the length of the drink grew as I performed the action and this is always what happens once a performer gets hold of something and finds a resting place or a hook or a hollow spot that can be filled. This performer (I) also accidentally saw (the day before the symposium) a slow motion version of this drink before realising it was a slow motion version (both are on my phone). I had a growing thought “I didn’t realise she invested so much in the enjoyment of that break” that moment seemed so important. But it was a mistake. Just after that thought I realised I’d started the wrong clip. But somehow the long drink was not erased from my foremost conscious version of the segment. This married with the piano music of Emma in the background of my second position in the conservatory and I took a performer’s license to exaggerate (I always carry this license with me). When I answered yes to your question, Joe, I heard it and realised it as incorrect as I said it. But that was a bit difficult to explain in that moment. I was just realising for the first time that I’d seduced myself into thinking the drink was that long. But it was the most important part. Your question brought this realisation out. For me there’s a lot there. That’s why we talk about things isn’t it.

Stop exaggerating. My mother used to say. You are so histrionic. To which I responded: I have to exaggerate because you weren’t there and you don’t have the full feeling of being there (you just have me telling it) so the exaggeration brings you closer. Nonsense.

I felt very well cared for Orlagh—even if everything was a bit rushed and tumbling at the beginning when the workers who might have carried water or set up sound seemed a bit ellusive—I felt everything would go well because if someone else didn’t do it, you would see it done. I found it hilarious after watching a number of people fumbling in the Garden room with the video screen and its glare and wondering what to do about it, you breezed in and simply pushed it back a bit. Of course. It was much better.

Nick, the twist of your eyebrows and the up-turned edges of your mouth told us all we needed needed to know about the frame of mind with which we would be promenading through the day: a lark, a serious linger, a consideration, entertainment. CJ pointed out his favourite comment of the day, it was something like: “And lunch will be a classic one hour.” (everyone laughed) Your classic delivery carried it off with aplomb. The underlying message: we are looking at everything today.

Only a handful of people saw my third section over there by the pond (and the gent’s toilet), three of them were you three. It was a sudden highlight for me. I suddenly realised you had to steal a moment away but possibly this little moment (which might have felt obligatory) could open up a rest within the confines of obligation, the proximity to me meant you were still doing your “work” which for reasons we all know (some to do with repetition) was not too demanding at that moment. It isn’t going to change only “I” will. A known quantity allowing a hollow place. A break within the classic one hour lunch. Next to the carp and the pond. Only a couple of others ventured back there during my time in that position but I was conscious of the sound I was providing even from the other side of the Conservatory and this wouldn’t have occurred to me had I not had a few iterations all alone (and getting it “right” finally when no one was watching). If the sound of my voice and the rhythm it was carrying and the familiarity of its short message was still sounding in the room it was enlarging the space we were all in together. Later in the Garden room after lunch as Laure was speaking and I could hear Emma playing, the thought came back to me and I was feeling the shape of the conservatory through the sound that travelled through it to us there in the rows of seats.

OK, that’s too long already.

What I meant to say was thank you. Thanks for the invitation to participate which was, of course, an invitation to think. The freedom you allowed within the remit you set out set off a multiplicity of actions in response and this felt relaxingly fruitful in the department of thought.


*note: the length of the "drink" discussed here is the actual moment of lips to glass, water entering mouth. The preparation, glass bottle opening (with metal top opener), and water pouring into drinking glass etc took 1min 28secs. But the sip of water entering the mouth part itself was elogated by 1.5 to 2 secs in the performance of it (artistic license KC15041963).

Tags: Orlagh Woods, Nick Ridout, Joe Kelleher, Barbican

Posted on Wednesday, 3 August 2016 by Karen Christopher

Of Two Minds: Resonance, counterpoint, and confrontation, self and otherness: what does working as a duet mean?

Special note:

tickets now on sale for Of Two Minds: an afternoon on duet collaboration (Sadler's Wells/University of Roehampton) and the performance of Control Signal that evening (30 October, 2014) at Sadler's Wells' Lilian Baylis studio (London).

from Sadler's Wells' website:

Of Two Minds: an afternoon on duet collaborations

Resonance, counterpoint, and confrontation, self and otherness: what does working as a duet mean? What creative methodologies, or creations does it foster across - and among - diverse fields of practice? How is the duet different from other forms of collaboration? When does this experience of alterity become an experience of duality? And what happens then?

Join us for an exploration of these questions in an afternoon of talks, dialogues and presentations focusing on the practice of duets by scholars and artists from performance, theatre, dance, music, visual arts and creative writing. As befits the subject matter, participants will take the floor in pairs in a dynamic reimagining of the traditional symposium.

Of Two Minds will be followed by an evening performance of Control Signal, a duet by Haranczak/Navarre: Karen Christopher and Sophie Grodin. Christopher -  formerly of the renowned American collective Goat Island - and Grodin explore invisible influences and the inexplicable connections we feel but fail to acknowledge.

Keynote speakers to include:
Karen Christopher & Sophie Grodin, with Andrea Milde
Ernst Fischer & LEIBNIZ
Ewan Forster & Chris Heighes
Joe Kelleher & Eirini Kartsaki
Becka McFadden & Scheherazaad Cooper
Amaara Raheem & Tobias Sturmer
PA Skantze & Matthew Fink

Tags: Sophie Grodin, Sadlers Wells, Joe Kelleher, duet, symposium

Posted on Tuesday, 3 June 2014 by Karen Christopher

What never stops?

We've just posted Joe Kelleher's edited transcript of our post show discussion following our premiere of Control Signal 10 October 2013 at Chelsea Theatre. *Spoiler alert* There's some content information that might taint your mind. If you've never seen the show and want to go in cold some time in the future don't read it. On the other hand, it might give you the nudge you've been waiting for. We'll have some more performance dates coming up in the Autumn. It's not too soon to start dreaming.

Joe's piece is here.

Tags: Joe Kelleher, duet, Chelsea Theatre, Control Signal

Posted on Thursday, 1 May 2014 by Karen Christopher

Here, Gone & the promise of more to come

We've now received and posted written responses to So Below from two invited responders: Joe Kelleher and Mary Paterson. There are excerpts here and links to the full texts (below).

From Joe Kelleher'is piece:

‘As above, so below’ is a peculiar, two-ways-facing formula that implies at the same time a turning in to secrets and mysteries – a hermeticism in that sense – but also an involvement and opening out: from world to world, from one individual to another, from the individual to the universe, or from the place and time in which we find ourselves into spaces we have to access through memory, or sympathetic imagination, through what we are able to conjure poetically through gesture and speech, or faith. In Karen Christopher and Gerard Bell’s theatrical duet So Below other places seem to be constantly intruding into what is going on here; or at least the signs of such intrusion are there to be gathered up, tuned into, sniffed out.

full text here

From Mary Paterson's piece:

So Below is a duet that unfolds as if Karen Christopher and Gerard Bell know what’s going to happen, but they haven’t discovered it yet. It appears like a story glimpsed in a stream of words that have tumbled out of a book in the wrong order. To watch, it is surprising. To remember, it is full of sensory pleasure, like a mist of steam rising from a silver spout. 
Sometimes you can hear Karen’s footsteps before you see her: the sound is a crunch of boots on something hard, and it sounds of longing. You think: if only I could dance a ritual like Karen and Gerard and make absent bodies reappear. If only I could make the sound of Karen into something corporeal. They dance like they’re praying – swinging back and forth with the words of gravestone inscriptions falling from their lips, their tidy bodies folding and unfolding like envelopes of magic.

full text here

SO BELOW, a performance duet, is a Haranczak/Navarre Performance Project by Gerard Bell & Karen Christopher (2012).

Tags: So Below, Mary Paterson, Joe Kelleher, Chelsea Theatre

Posted on Saturday, 30 March 2013 by Karen Christopher