For many years, Siobhan Davies has gathered photographs, texts and images printed on transparent paper. Each individual image has its own agency that allows it to fulfil its own story and set of relationships. As Davies has begun to track the connections she has made to the collection, she has also identified the potential to access further fields.
As peers have joined Davies creative process, she finds herself able to navigate the collection in new ways. A Process in Company saw Davies invite choreographer Nicola Conibere, dance artist and choreographer Fernanda Munoz-Newsome and film-maker duo Webb-Ellis to see what perspectives they might bring to her intimate creative process.
Below is Nicola Conibere’s text she wrote in response to Davies’ invitation to participate at this public event (or listen to the live reading here: https://soundcloud.com/siobhandavies/nicola-conibere-at-transparencies-a-process-in-company-by-siobhan-davies ).
It was a chilly morning when I met Sue at Siobhan Davies Studios, a building that carried her name, housing an organisation that did the same.
The fresh air was held by bright sunshine – it had been unseasonably warm for the time of year. Crocuses in February.
Sue was given to wearing a lot of neon at this time. She was like a beacon for the images, words and movements around her. And, of course, for those she already carried.
So many curves of the spine, conversations with the ground, cradling of flesh, cradling of air.
The strange beasts that hover; headless torsos that flow; jackals and dodos suspended: a series of events; tributaries searching for a stem; impulses passing across a junction; a comic strip; cause and effect.
We recalled a moment some years previously when we had each forgotten the proper names of things. I was in Rio and she was in Reykjavik. In order for us to navigate our respective environments and the organisation of our diaries, we had to find strategies for identifying things to which we needed to refer. I found a repository of Latin terms in my hamstring and drew on those, but Sue reached beyond her body. She called a carrot a shivering synapse and this was its true alias.
She told me a story about Ada Lovelace she had read in a book about physical etiquette and Wildebeest. One day Ada had gone to visit an archive and, whilst waiting in the foyer prior to admittance, the archive had fainted. It simply fell all around her. Papers, specimens, digital videos, sheets of acetate, bricks, YouTube links and a great deal of yarn. Tumbling. Surrendered. Out like a light. Apparently it took Ada only a few seconds to recognise that this event was the archive’s form. The book stated that she had returned to experience many more of its moments of collapse.
These days Sue is much more into wearing ensembles of soft pastel. She told me that it offers a different kind of join. More spongy, absorbent. Less of a tractor beam.
We wandered over dirty paving stones and slid around in our socks on the smooth dance floor of a studio.
Is that it, I wondered? We whizz across planes. Cross shiny surfaces. Spirited from one world to another. Calling back to a trace of thought I left behind and urging its echo. A skull like a jellyfish; defiant cigarettes; passing for spontaneity; passing as truth; chivying multiplicity. I saw a grid that organised a body and lines of writing underneath, and then saw fauns and people dancing somewhere behind, beyond, inside.
As I left that day my shirt got caught on a corner of a table. It seemed such a cloying image to end with: the torn cotton, one end of the thread clinging to the surface, and the other reaching into air.
Dammit. Things were finally getting better for her.
She was just coming out of her shell and now this. Escaping from the weight of art history.
Do you really think it’s related to the murders?
I hope to God it isn’t.
They warned her not to poke around, making connections where they weren’t supposed to be made.
But she has a way of joining the dots. Of layering one clue over another to tell a whole new story.
Sounds like a dangerous business.
How far has she gotten?
How far she’s got depends on how far this thing goes. We know how a pelvis can sway, how much a body can give to gravity. But what if she’s found a new way to think about natural forces?
What do you mean?
What I mean, dumbass, is what if there’s energy that lifts us from underneath? What if those animals in the caves never had a ground beneath them? What if Yves Klein wasn’t falling but hovering? What if she’s found a way to connect the phenomenal life world of the body to the whole concept of the immaterial?
Hey listen, I served on the task force that investigated those questions. An FBI profile was as close as we came to apprehending a suspect. The perp’s gonna have acetate, a white board, string and drawing pins.
If we don’t find him in the next 24 hours he’s gonna walk.
Don’t I know it. He’s gonna repeatedly fall to repeatedly recover.
Let’s think about this: Buffalo, goddess, skeleton, family portrait: I know it’s a long shot but if we can work out what these images mean we can find the body’s proper name.
It doesn’t matter. If the original narrator is still around why didn’t they come forward at the time of the crime?
I am telling you there is something going on with this cave. The last people that lived there moved out in a hurry.
Why’d they leave?
I don’t know. But I think it’s time we found out. Fancy a road trip?
Ha. Knock yourself out.
You’re not coming?
No. I’ve got a murder to solve.
You believe in his crazy theories?
I do. And here’s why. Doc just called. The lab found fibres in the neck of our headless torso. It was identified as ancient tree bark and human brain matter, most likely from our killer’s metaphysical sense of self. But get this, even though they’re different types of material they take the same form.
You mean they look the same from outside?
That’s right. They form exactly the same pathways.
So we can narrow our suspects down to body people with a penchant for layering, weaving and the evolution of organic trails.
What about our gas company worker?
Well surprise, he doesn’t work for the gas company. And uniforms said there was no forensic evidence at the cave of forgotten dreams.
But what we did get from the Cunningham’s place were their copious call logs. 200 pages worth.
Looks like you and I might be ordering takeout tonight.
But whatever you find in there won’t explain Sue’s role in all this. Besides, why would she care what connects bodies that float and the gaze of a disembodied mind?
I guess we’ll never know.
The current description of Tesseract Technique is taken from the Encyclopedia of Layering Word-Body-Image-Thought. The author of this entry is not identified, however, the specificity of their references to the key concepts and requirements of the form suggest an expertise in the practice and teaching of this technique.
The key concepts of Tesseract Technique are 1. Refuse Opacity; 2. Invite multiplicity of the body as experience; 3. 4th Dimensional thought. This entry will introduce each of these three concepts and outline some of the underlying principles that cause them to vibrate with each other.
In order for the student to achieve appropriate physical alignment they must engage with their potential to look inside the structure of the skull.
From there, an ability to capture branches of thought and project their image onto the arc of the pelvis is essential.
As part of this process it is not unusual for students to encounter images of carved stone depicting figures such as: a headless goddess, a bear totem; a chariot servant; a photographic portrait.
Once appropriate alignment has been achieved the body will essentially become translucent.
Invite multiplicity of the body as experience
Tesseract Technique invites physical clarity, strength and flexibility by refusing singular form and narrative. It demands over spilling, accidental encounters and careless overlaps between a range of references extraneous to the body in its present moment and place. Through a regular practice of shuffling the spine it disrupts any singular naming and embraces fleeting images as rushes of identity that pass through and sometimes mingle in and around the body.
Students are encouraged to invite the following: buffalo to ride arteries, chairs to create flying buttresses and falling knees to propel a shivering synapse.
The way the body is held is merely a sum of how it might organise the images, words and concepts it carries on a given day.
In most cases, a given image will correspond with a given body part and so on, meaning some times the knee will adjoin a shoulder, or the wrist will extend from the ball and socket of the hip. A system of hand gestures might corrode into a staircase.
4th dimensional thought
Whilst many students find the premise and proposal of fourth dimensional thought quite obvious, even mundane, it can be the most challenging of the technique’s core principles. Whilst engaging in the repetition of formal plasticity, they must thread the shimmering lies of a given image, word or memory into a projection of old school light. At the same moment, they must shift into a commitment to inappropriate alignment, embracing sensations physical uncertainty, weakness and constriction of physical and mental thought. Consequently, most students who complete this task, generally through an attitude of frivolity, will happily carry constantly multiplying threads of connection between their acetate references.
The entry ends here.