CUBE AS A HOPE ”for what is always already there”
In its original meaning, Khôra was the territory of Ancient Greece outside the city proper. The term has been used by Plato to designate a (feminine?) receptacle, ”third kind” of virtual space (neither urban nor pastoral, neither public nor private), a material substratum, an interval. In and around this interval we desire to move – search for what we seem to be lacking: a stable territory. And if we discover that our lack can make us dance to its melody joyously rather than impel us to keep migrating across a no-man land out of a dire need to survive, then we can at least recover some hope that we are finally on our way toward a home that we do not know. Not yet.
In its indeterminacy and ambiguity, Khôra is a starting point for our new journey of exploration. We discovered it through a very particular procedure of dealing with a rope that we develop in our previous work. In order to make use of the rope in order to create rather than occupy the space, we devised a physical structure to take hold of it. This physical structure is purposefully simple. It’s an empty volume, a three-dimensional cube made of aluminum pipes measuring 3mx3m. Observed on its own, in its basic constructivist simplicity, this support structure exists as a representation of the porous boundaries between internal and external, private and public. It is an ambiguous skeleton that maintains the void, inside and around of which we can dwell. Once this skeleton materialized itself it was inevitable that its meaning and its potential will become the focus of our attention. The relationality of the rope brought us to it, but the full significance of it goes beyond it. If we are to understand what Khôra really is or could be, we need to leave the rope behind and start working on the (i)materiality of the CUBE.
Our interest in the CUBE as a performative tool will have to unfold along two complementary lines of research that will tackle its inherent paradox: concrete materiality of its skeletal construction and immaterial voidness, the emptiness of it which is only suggesting the porous reality of an internal/external space.
The materiality of the cube – (de)construction of a dwelling
The concrete construction of the cube is of interest to us both in terms of the work (construction as a verb) and physical presence (construction as a noun). By treating the cube as an ongoing work – of making it, transporting it, and inhabiting it – we are continuing the performative procedure that we developed previously in relation to the rope. The materiality of the cube which is in the ongoing process of dis-assembling through the activity of the bodies that are engaging with it generates shared choreographies of behavior and co-llaboration that affect and shape the spacetime of the performance. Beyond the basic dynamics of performing the cube, we are also interested in the pure potential of its presence on stage. Made of aluminum components usually used as an architectural scaffolding, the cube is by itself generating a range of visual, cultural, and symbolical associations which are of interest to us. Apart from suggesting “site of construction” that refer back to the modernist paradigm of artist as an agent of the emancipated, visionary work (Russian constructivism), the cube as an installation in space resonate strongly with the aesthetics and ethics of Helio’s Oiticica work and the phenomenological approach of the Neo-Concrete movement in Brazil. This reference is of particular importance to us, not only because it is coming from a cultural context to which we are vitally related, but also because it conceptualizes and thematize ideological position toward the object-hood that is strongly in line with our practice. In his Neo-Concrete Manifesto in 1959 Brazilian poet and writer Ferreira Gullar described a work of art as “something which amounts to more than the sum of its constituent elements; something which analysis may break down into various elements but which can only be understood phenomenologically.” In contrast to the European Concrete Art movement, Gullar was calling for an art that was not based upon rationalism or in pursuit of pure form. He sought works of art that became active once the viewer was involved. Neo-concrete art must disassemble the limitations of the object and “express complex human realities.” This idea of form comes very close to our notion of structure as a topos that is being enlivened by its relation to the human body and behavior. In our relation to the cube we are making a conscious choice to perceive it as such a topos, as a call to contemplate space through the activity of in-habitation: an affirmation of our eco-logical care for the world in an act of situating ourselves – dwelling in it. To a degree to which we are interested in the habitable aspect of such a dwelling, our reference is seeking to distance ourselves from the western architectural notion of solidity and permanence and move toward the Brazilian tradition of the poor architecture of “favela”- an unstable, communal notion of home whose claim on the land is forever improvised, transient and on the move. For us, what matters more than the apparent monumentality that the cube suggests, is its emptiness that acts as an immaterial invitation to move, transform and use it.
In our new stage work, we would like to use theatrical apparatus to create an environment where all these values and attitudes toward the territory, locality, ecology of habitation, and porosity between private and public, could be explored in an intricate choreography of bodies challenged, (un)framed and ultimately held by the cubic construction in the making.
The immateriality of the cube – sounding the spirit of the void
Although a concrete structure, the cube is also just an indication, an underpinning of the mobile and intangible life force that is residing in and passing through it. The nature of this life force is transitory and immaterial yet its expression is conditioned by the materiality of the embodied behavior. Its field is generated through the activities of the (human and non-human) bodies that are putting themselves in relation, simultaneously challenging and supporting one another in their mutual doing.
The life force created in-between bodies is at all times in a process of generating its own sounding while becoming a dance where subjects and objects are joyously exchanging positions. It is the mutuality of this sounding and the dance emerging along with it which is the real substance of what is holding us and the world together. Seen in such a light, apart from being a scaffolding, the cube is, more importantly, an instrument; and our existence (in relation to it) is a performative musical event. Or is it the other way around? Who is playing whom and what comes first – sound or the body given to it?
We intend to explore this conundrum and find a resting place, dwell calmly inside of its paradox. Because, for those of us whose existence is marked by displacement, home is not a territory but a spiritual event, constantly shifting ritualistic gesture that moves energies and engender new positions. How can we inhabit such a gesture without being driven to exhaustion, how can we rest inside its delocalized restlessness? How can we live our life on the move, work our way through it without labouring to it? The provisional answers to these ancient questions belong to a domain of utopian imagination. Thus our performative musical event on another level is nothing else but a techno-shamanistic play with a future we do not know yet.
Choreography, concept & performance: Anna Mesquita & Leandro Zappala
Dramaturg: Igor Dobričić
Light design: Pol Matthé
Sound advisor: Fabrizio Rossi Giordano
Production: QUARTO, Nordberg Movement
Made possible with support by the Swedish Arts Council/Kulturrådet, Stockholms Stad & Region Stockholm
Co-production QUARTO & Dansens Hus
Developed in residency at MDT Stockholm
Photo: QUARTO & Pol Matthé
For tickets visit Dansens Hus webpage