Posts By: Katharina Joy

Process report from the independent project (II): Katharina

tripping on words to make movement – second session

In the second session, we started by making some poetry ourselves, thinking about placement of the words in space and the rhythms implied by that. We also considered the process of extracting/highlighting/choosing information, in making blackout poems. 

I handed out word cards, newspapers, black markers, and scissors, and these were some of the results – 







and a dreamy video of the blacking out that Fran and Bethany were doing –

We found especially interesting Maisie’s approach, moving into the 3 dimensional, and Fran’s idea that a piece of text, divided into sections, could be understood in different ways according to the arrangement of the sections on the page.

We then took our cues from the reading+listening experiment we had done in the first session, and chose to try the following:

One of us would read a piece of text – we chose to use another one of Caroline Bergvall’s, and the reader ended up being myself – and the others would be assigned a semi-often occurring word each (in this example, the words were ‘point’, ‘close’ and ‘face’)  and a corresponding gesture. Whenever that word was heard, the gesture would be acted out. By doing this, we were trying to make visible the act of listening, and of processing information.

Here is an extract of the video documentation.

To perform this task was more difficult than expected, but we decided to go a step further:

The gestures would stay the same, but instead of a word, the performers would listen out for sounds – we chose


‘r’ (we noticed that would be relatively easy to pick up on because I pronounce it a bit differently than the others, in American English)

and ‘p’.

We also used a different text: A page from Finnegans Wake by James Joyce, a novel well known for its close- to-complete incomprehensibility.

James Joyce, in Finnegans Wake as well as in Ulysses, plays around magnificently and irreverently with sounds, words, meanings, associations, insider jokes, and notions of counts as  intelligible and what doesn’t.

The fact that this was such an exhausting thing for listeners to act out was the crucial bit for me – I am really interested in that heightened state of paying attention and how the immersion and the struggle is made visible by embodying the process via gestures. I also consider this a live act of translation.

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Process report from the independent project: Katharina

tripping on language to make movement – starting point(s)

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 14.32.51

This was the mind map Stephanie and I ‘started’ with – having discussed, filtered, connected a lot of material before we even started the first session with Fran, Maisie, and Bethany.

We were trying to find out how our interests in gesture and body/text relations, respectively, could merge and play off each other – it was a process of figuring out how to name/ describe these inherent connections that we instinctively felt were there.

First session

Caroline Bergvall in her book of poems Fig: Goan Atom 2  plays beautifully with fragmentation, sounds, multilingualism, especially in her piece 16 Flowers.

Bergvall’s book was one of the first things the dancers became transfixed by in the examples of poetry I had brought to show them. We did a few experiments reading this piece of hers [extract]

vagrant rOse paths compressed
hover matin l’aRose in- Mers
a-glimp th ornful umineuse darKorolla
faint Fur st special irrésistible
Lansoft -goRous elovelash petals absorbed
smallred Vibrant lovegash pétales embedded
White throated flatfanned dressLash lovétale
PINkdraw -inGirls lovcrest pétalent Bedded

I was fascinated with the different ways each of us interpreted the ‘rules’ of this piece, and with the effort apparent in the reading of it. It felt to me like people were performing the task of poetry right in front of me.

I tried to further the relationship between the body and the process of comprehension in the listeners by asking the performers to tap a pen on a surface, making a sound, every time they thought they had heard and understood a word. (Bear in mind that it is harder to do when you don’t have the text in front of you.)

This required immense concentration on behalf of the listeners, and produced unexpectedly divergent results – people’s habits of understanding were not in sync at all.

The last part of this endeavor was to try and translate the text into gesture as we were listening – at which point, interestingly, performers sometimes made the same movements upon hearing a certain sound without having paid attention to what each other were doing. It looked like they were faking speaking sign language.

This is the edited recording of the readings and our reflections.

After this first session, Charlotte gave me her observations and, the points I found most useful to take on were:

To be more clear when giving instructions  – have clear in your own mind what the structure and plan is, and where there is space for deviation.
How do I make the relationship between body and text ‘readable’ (haa) to an audience?
In general, what is the audience experience? So communicating framework and context and thinking about relatability.
Since my project is so process-based, my role should be in guiding that process – so I should do more watching and responding to the performers responses – also keeping an eye out on who responds how to the exercises I propose.
Take the luxury to concentrate on one thing and investigate it deeply, rather than trying to do as much as possible in as little time as possible.

Especially for the audience related questions, the Young Artists Feedback Forum will be very useful – and the other points, about guiding a process, I think I will be still learning about for longer,  as I go and keep making work beyond this project.

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FAILURE – a performative installation

by Tatiana Delaunay and Katharina Joy Book

A set up /environment combining various elements to be activated by the performers’ presence.

A piece about –
Failure of communication, translation and interpretation.
Failure to be present, presence.
Falling, fragility, and chance.
Choices; the things we keep and those that we discard.
Documentation and memory.
Moving material between mediums.

Using –
Performative instructions. SMS-based dialogue. Skype. Translation processes. Sound and stories. Receipts, saved for your records. Sacred objects. A toilet seat. Phones. Two men.

Words → objects. text → movement. Sound → words. Movement → story.

installation detail

Tatiana – ‘receipts saved for your records’ and ‘to a screen’.

Activating the installation by our presence means that we perform movement and create moments in the environment we have set up.

We tell stories through objects – things that fell out of his pockets, the button he might have lost; objects lost and found. We recall memories in the shadows of an overhead projector, translating and interpreting them via these kept objects. We interrupt ourselves frequently, with trivial (but maybe not so trivial) text messages spoken aloud.


objects kept and catalogued.

objects kept and catalogued.

textbooks in the toilet

me installing the installation

me installing the installation

We perform a script of Facebook messages while ripping off calendar pages and slamming the toilet seat – attempting to make those words our own.

failure performance Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 13.17.47

Another episode begins with us trying to embody other people’s gestures, and continues to show a series of movements we relate to falling and failing.

There are elements in the installation that the audience/ the visitors interact with directly – in one instance, ‘instructions for webcam‘ on a laptop are to be read (and, if interpreted in that way, acted out); in another instance, visitors can search a document of archived SMS conversation for key words – and find out how often “work” or “sex” was talked about. Generally, audience members are encouraged to enter the installation to engage with the different elements.

instructions for webcam - excerpt

instructions for webcam – excerpt. Katharina Joy Book

All in all, the performance includes four movement based episodes within the installation set up. The chronology of the episodes is flexible, they can be performed in intervals or all in one go.

Tatiana and I first performed this on 26th April 2016, at Hoxton Basement, London, as part of the exhibition You Are Not A Failure, curated by UAL Curation Society. The exhibition mostly consisted of fashion objects – garments, drawings, photographs. We had envisioned the performance episodes as ‘interventions’, to happen intermittently, not as ‘shows’ to be watched at a set time in front of an ‘audience’. This didn’t work quite like that, people did gather as soon as they noticed we were performing, and it remained unclear in some cases when we wanted to be heard and seen and when it wasn’t the point to have everyone’s undivided attention.

It was wonderful for me to see visitors attempting to follow the instructions for webcam! Someone even said they hadn’t spent so much time with a piece of art in a gallery before.

The episode where we perform Facebook messages and slam the toilet seat resonated with many people and we heard interesting thoughts from them about that. We are now working on refining and expanding the movement and choreography sequences and learning more text messages by heart.

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‘instructions for the uninitiated performer in the intent of making a home’


At 26 Caledonian Road, N1 London, there was once a deli. There will be a deli again. In the meantime, there is space to be inhabited. Abandoned, to be reclaimed, a vessel for dreams, projections and plans of MAKING A HOME.  

What makes a house a home? How can we identify ourselves in a space which is not our own, only a temporary roof, yet so full of what we used to be?

A group of artists, curated by Tatiana Delaunay and myself, took over Geddes Gallery with their own notions of the passage of time, formations of memory, and the trauma of renting on November 20th, 2015.  We were questioning the relationship between a space and its inhabitants in the urban context, and more particularly in London metropolis, constantly changing.

For this exhibition, I created a choreographic/ performative piece called ‘instructions for the uninitiated performer in the intent of making a home’. It was inspired by the Happening instructions developed in the Fluxus movement of the 1960s, for example by Wolf Vostell or Allan Kaprow, and by Charlotte Spencer’s ‘Walking Stories’ and the exercise we devised on the Next Choreography programme in response to her piece (see Maria’s post below!)

'instructions for the uninitiated performer in the intent of making a home' by Katharina Joy Book, 2015

‘instructions for the uninitiated performer in the intent of making a home’ by Katharina Joy Book, 2015

Throughout the day, we gave out sheets of paper with these ‘instructions’ to the visitors of the gallery; it was intended to inspire them to go on a treasure hunt of sorts, look in places and corners of the rooms that they wouldn’t have otherwise, and discover new ideas about what it means to feel ‘at home’ in a space.

'letters to former tenants' - an installation created by Tatiana Delaunay, 2015.

‘letters to former tenants’ – an installation created by Tatiana Delaunay, 2015.

Glimpses of installations by Katy Jalilipour and Stephanie Johnston, Geddes Gallery, 2015.

Glimpses of installations by Katy Jalilipour and Stephanie Johnston, Geddes Gallery, 2015.

The Geddes gallery isn’t really a gallery. Not in the White Cube sense, anyway. It is an old house on the corner of Caledonian Road and Keystone Crescent, consisting of an eclectic collection of rooms: There is the entrance area, what used to be the storefront, lined with rows and rows of white shelves that formerly held an abundance of Italian treats; the back rooms on the ground floor, grimy, dim and somehow otherworldly, mainly used for storage in deli times; narrow, fragile staircases; a kitchen space with once-white tiles which, for some unapparent reason, has a shower crammed into one of its corners; two dilapidated bedrooms with flowery wallpaper and rock hard beds.

When the shop owner retired after more than 40 years last summer, an array of sculptures and other artwork was found in the basement of 26 Caledonian Road – they belonged to artist Jim Geddes, a neighbour who had asked for them to be kept there. It was then decided that his art should be exhibited – and then curator Cornelia Marland got in touch with the landlord to arrange a series of exhibitions that will continue until March 2016, when the house will be renovated and become a deli once more.

Currently, though, this peculiar place, five minutes from busy and booming Kings Cross station, feels like a time capsule; when stumbled upon, it is an entirely unexpected and charming surprise.

what I call an 'accidental installation': a discarded pipe in one of the upstairs bedrooms at Geddes Gallery.

what I call an ‘accidental installation’: a discarded pipe in one of the upstairs bedrooms at Geddes Gallery.

 With ‘instructions’ I wanted to recreate this sense of discovery and ambiguity for our audience. Tying into that agenda, our artists created installations and immersive spaces throughout the house, blurring the lines between fact and fiction by making it unclear what had been found and left in the rooms and what had been placed there by them. The instructions laid out for the visitor – ‘performers’ did not need to be followed step by step, or be taken literally at all – this was entirely up to them to decide. Ultimately, some of our visitors did spend many minutes going through every single of the suggested motions, understanding them as prescriptive; others seemed to think it was just a nice piece of writing, not for them to act upon; and then for some, it may have sparked one or two new ideas and helped them connect to the building.

It is worth mentioning that we also used ‘instructions’ as an input for improvisation when we devised the performances, the so-called ‘acts of inhabiting’, that took place during the evening on November 20th.

'recipe of the day' -  by Tatiana Delaunay and Katharina Joy Book, Geddes Gallery, 2015.

‘recipe of the day’ – by Tatiana Delaunay and Katharina Joy Book, Geddes Gallery, 2015.

Making this piece was part of my current choreographic research: I am interested in daily bodily habits and our ways of navigating familiar and unknown architectures; I am experimenting with ways of documenting our quotidian ways of moving, for example by tracing, drawing maps, or using strategies of intervening/ interrupting habitual movements. The question of what happens when choreographer/ artist and audience enter into co-authorship of a piece is very interesting to me as well.

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‘Paradise Lost’ by Ben Duke

Ben Duke, no doubt, is a funny man. His choreographed retelling of John Milton’s famous poem ‘Paradise Lost’ – which he has supposedly never opened, as the subtitle suggests – is a hilarious tour de force, marrying stand up comedy awkwardness and charm with precise and expressive movement.

In continuous conversation with the audience, he reenacts and impersonates God, Lucifer, Adam, Eve, the snake and armies of angels, while chickpeas (‘boulders’) rain from the ceiling (‘sky’) or he emerges in a morphsuit (‘naked’) from a fog machine’s exhaustions (‘heavenly clouds’).

In ‘Paradise Lost’, Duke simultaneously mocks and utilizes contemporary dance vocabulary and his own skill as a performer – for example, as he moves in spasms and twitches, making slurping and burping sounds as he goes (as ‘God’) through the creation process of Adam. Interlacing the epic tale with personal anecdotes of marriage and fatherhood makes both struggles, on the grand and the smaller scale, touching and engaging to the viewers.
It is quite unusual how he exhibits and deals with ‘mistakes’ on stage – for example, when he talks viewers through what the dance sequence would look like instead of actually doing it, since he (supposedly) missed his cue. It made us wonder – how much of that was improvised, how much of those ‘mistakes’ were fabricated and planned?

And in general, how did he choreograph this piece, how did he make the words connect with the movement? What came first, the way of moving or the way of telling?

Luckily, we might be able to ask him about some of that, since he will be leading a session with us at Next Choreography this week!

Watch the trailer for ‘Paradise Lost’ here:

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Of Riders and Running Horses – a moment’s impression

From down below, a siren sounds. Another. A plane makes its way across the dark night sky, leaving a trail of noise.

On the roof of a carpark in Farringdon, London, above the city streets, a woman stands alone. The woman has been running, jumping, twirling, now she is standing still. Adrift in thoughts.

A space of silence surrounds her as she slowly, surreptitiously, glides into soft movement. As if thinking aloud with her arms, legs, torso, as if piecing something together in her mind and unconsciously acting it out in her body, she tiptoes into expression. Carefully introverted, under the vast sky, on the roof in the midst of miles of city. The red lights on skyscaper tops are mirrored by the beams lighting her small scale arena in the car park.

The drumbeat reaches out again, gains intensity as it resounds through the pulse of each of the many people standing around her to watch, and the woman rejoins forces with the other women, the women that will dance with her, relentlessly, joyously, to exhaustion.

image via

Of Riders and Running Horses, by Dan Canham, was performed as part of Dance Umbrella, Oct 16th, 2015.

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Review: Ours/Give Me A Reason To Live


An astonishing combination of works was shown on Saturday evening at the Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells Theatre – Ours by Idan Sharabi & Dancers, followed by Give Me A Reason To Live by Clare Cunningham; two pieces dealing in entirely different ways with notions of ownership and strength, and ideas about what bodies can and cannot physically do.

Idan Sharabi, a young Israeli choreographer, founded his company Idan Sharabi & Dancers in 2012. With performer Dor Mamalia, he has created a piece of work in which he choreographs notions of home and belonging.
It begins with a soundscape, a man churning out words after words, as if caught in an inescapable train of thought – it is a meandering monologue in which he philosophizes on love, drugs, and truth. Dor Mamalia and Idan Sharabi move about joyously to this monologue, conversing with each other through movement, using pirouettes, adventurous jumps and splits, flying across the stage in sync, or out of sync, all this unpretentiously, as if at home in their living room. They are comical and light-hearted, playing with the pathos of traditional ballet movements and verging on camp eroticism as they show off in front of each other, rolling on the floor, limbs widespread using classic contemporary dance vocabulary. It is an entertaining mixture of a kind of showdance and slapstick, set to music by Joni Mitchell. The music is interlaced with recordings of interviews made by Sharabi, in which he asks people questions about what ‘home’ means to them. Sharabi and Mamalia reenact, recreate in their movements the home talked about in the recording – the most memorable instance being when they are on all fours, barking like a dog mentioned in the interview. It’s as if they are trying to find the truth of the different ideas of ‘home’ by acting them out, like two brothers in their own house, completely ‘at home’ with one another. They invite the audience into their search of familiarity by grimacing at the audience or seeking eye contact to communicate a joke.
Then follows a sequence of standing across from each other, approaching each other in quiet conversation, until the dancers align, in one long, fluid movement, first their heads, then nose, mouth, pelvis, outstretched arms – and then continue to move together.
“Will you take me as I am?” – The last few, intimate minutes of the performance are set to Joni Mitchell’s California, and in the feeling the two dancers evoke, the answer is, yes, they can be themselves here, they are at home. They created a capsule of familiarity together, and generously invited the audience to share it. To witness this exploration of what it means to be at home with one another, showing support and being silly, was touching as much as it was thought-provoking.


A soft clicking sound introduces the second duet of the night – before the official start of the performance, Clare Cunningham crosses the stage from left to right in darkness, using her crutches, which she will rely on for the rest of the performance as she does in her everyday life. Clare Cunningham creates solo or ensemble, multi-disciplinary performances, using her own specific physicality and rejecting traditional dance vocabularies; her work has made her one of the most renowned disabled artists in the UK.
Inspired by Hieronymous Bosch’s medieval depictions of beggars, cripples, and sinners, Cunningham has created a compelling exploration of her body, its limitations and its complex relationship to the crutches in Give Me A Reason To Live.
Over the course of Cunningham’s choreography the crutches function as support, as shackles, and as instruments of force – she rests on them as often as she rejects them. They give her freedom to lift herself up and hold herself above ground to the floating voices of the exalted church choir, heard singing to grand music as one would hear in a Catholic mass. The crutches let her hang limp upon them while drooping her head, dropping her limbs towards the floor. At some times Cunningham cradles the crutches, holding them close while curled up upon the floor – other times, she creates as much distance as possible, holding or swinging them far away from her. The tension between the crutches as shackles and, simultaneously, support, show them as as much an alien object on her body as a familiar extension of it. The choreography is dominated by slowness, stillness and focus, with some movements being repeated until they seem to become unbearable.
When Cunningham finally turns around to face the audience, she becomes even more vulnerable as she removes her shirt, her trousers, and the padding on her knees, and stands upright, her crutches next to her on the floor. As the lights go up on the audience, we share her moment of exposure – the pressure to hold her stare is overwhelming, and the rawness of her test of physical strength becomes more overpowering as the minutes pass. Cunningham shivers, all ragged breathing and rapid shaking, until she eventually reclaims her crutches’ support. The performance ends with Cunningham singing J.S. Bach’s BWV 4 Cantata: Christ lag in Todesbanden, piercing the air with her soaring voice, while climbing upon her crutches, balancing above ground in the spotlight.


The after show conversation among audience members revealed the strength of both pieces in juxtaposition – it proved rewarding to interpret them in contrast to each other, and in their shared ambitions.
While Idan Sharabi and Dor Mamalia showed lightheartedness and moved with amazing fluidity, Clare Cunningham was often still, showing the impact of gravity on her body. Both pieces allowed the audience to witness privacy, and be invited into it. Both pieces dealt with notions of ownership – in Ours, it was the ownership of space as a home, and in Clare Cunningham’s piece, she takes on ownership of her disability. Both pieces showed versions of support – supporting one another, as in Ours, or the support of the crutches for the dancer in Give Me A Reason To Live. Seeing these pieces of work together made the audience viscerally feel the different experiences people have in their respective bodies – first by feeling uplifted by the pace and energy of Ours, and then by experiencing discomfort, tension and pity in watching the isolated struggle in Give Me A Reason To Live.
Contrasting virtuosity and ‘ability’ with what is traditionally viewed as ‘the other’ body served as an important reminder of the fact that there are very different kinds of strengths we know and need to exert as human beings.


Written by Katharina Joy Book.

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