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"70 trillion - A Lecture-Performance by Lou Sturm"

July 31, 2017

 

 

The piece

 

“70 trillion – A Lecture Performance by Lou Sturm” is a 50-minute performance premiered at Bühne A on March 24th of 2017. The piece consists of five parts and while the concept was developed by me, a light-designer, sound-designer, stage-designer and costume-designer were also collaborating.

 

The piece is an transdisciplinary investigation from three disciplines:

 

  • Choreography :          What is movement?

  • Anatomy :               What structures support my movement?

  • Embryology :            Where does my movement begin?

 

Different dichotomies (from Greek dichotomia "a cutting in half", from dicha "in two, asunder“ + temnein "to cut") were present during and triggered the creative process:

 

   SIMULTANEOUS     –          LINEAR

   ONENESS          –          MANYNESS

   SYMMETRY         –          ASYMMETRY

   SENSATION        –          LANGUAGE            

 

 

At Bühne A the audience was placed on three sides of the stage, around a big screen. As the audience enters they see bubble-like shapes on the big screen shaping and reshaping. They also see the projection on a plastic that covers the whole stage and is filled with air by 3 fans in the back.

 

  • Prologue

Placed behind the audience, I let fall drops of water, alcohol and oil, mixed with blue and green fluids on the glass of an overhead projector that is projecting onto the screen and the plastic. The image introduces the main theme of “cell” by showing the spherical principle, meaning the constant spherical organization of fluids. The early embryo also shows a spherical organization, and only gradually do the different axes in the body differentiate.

 

 

  • Part I: “Membrane dance”

A plastic that covers the whole stage is filled with air, and might give a sensation of space or remind a huge membrane. Together with the soundcollage by Ernesto Coba a text is spoken, that is paraphrasing the embryonic development starting at conception from an I-perspective. I lie in the middle of the plastic, I wear transparent tights, so that I am naked and yet I’m not. My movement is small in the beginning and increases as it goes along with the narrative of the text.

 

 

In the beginning

I was space

I was spherical

I was feeding on myself

Inside of me space was pushing space for me to grow

I was moving in fluid - through a long dark tunnel

Until I was swimming free – in a big ocean

Then I became flat, a disc, then 2 discs

I was not round anymore

I opened my membrane to another membrane

Since then I have a back and front side

The fluids in me were pushing out and in - and I folded

Suddenly -  I had up & down

With my new central axis I started to have right and left

At the same time fluid is thickening and forming islands of blood allover

One day they will form my heart

And by now my roundness is a far memory

 

 

 

  • Part II: Lecture 1

For this part I dress on stage in a white shirt and a black suit. My text starts with “As a movement and dance researcher I am interested in movement. How do I move? How am I moved? How do we move? How are we moved?”

I give statements about what do I do as a movement researcher, and I give examples of how I do it. At specific moments I use the “we”, implying that the knowledge about movement has an impact beyond myself, on the communities I move in, and on society. It is a moment of emancipation from my role of a “only performer” to a new self-defined role as a movement researcher. At the same time the lecture format allows me to reflect on what I do while I’m doing it.

 

I talk about strategies that I use, such as the scores. I give an example of a score that the audience acts out. I also explain how my curiosity for the anatomy of my movement developed, from discovering that I could move from the bones, organs, fluids and even from the cell. In this part I use the context and the audience to make a statement about my role as a movement researcher.

 

  • Part III: The cell rap

Together with guest-performer Dorothea Mildenberger we wrote a rap song which we perform in a yellow and blue morphsuit, thus representing the two membranes of the cell, one being hydrophile, the other lipophile. At the same time, having the cell rap be articulated by one cell that is actually two, anticipates the “two that is one” concept of the zygote as I will present it in the second lecture part.

We perform the cell rap with a beat track found on Youtube. Simultaneously a video-animation of the inner life of the cell is screened.

This part of the piece is giving voice to the cells of the body, as the basic unit of life and consciousness. The text creates analogies between elements of subcellular biology with elements of everyday life, such as comparing the Golgi apparatus with a center of logistics.

 

 

 

The Cell Rap

 

1

Life is plasmatic flow, it’s like an ocean

Try to imagine that – to get a notion

I got 2 membranes that are working as a doorman

and they decide what’s staying out and what can get in

 

2

Inside of me there is the so called Golgi apparatus

as center of logistics, has a pretty high status

it functions like Fedex – inside of my palace

and shipping the protein’s an important process

 

Yeah, I’m a body cell – does that ring a bell

without me you wouldn’t be here as far as I can tell

me and my organelles organize your whole organism

- calling me crucial would be an euphemism

I move I breathe I reproduce and I grow

eat shit communicate and some reactions I show

I can tell from your look your expectations are low

but you better watch out – I’m the survival pro!

 

 

PAUSE

 

3

Holding me together, still more flexible than gelatin

My in-tracellular cy-toskeleton

Its filaments and tubules practise steady deformation

falling constantly apart before the reconfiguration

 

4

As we move, we have a situation

that changes relation, is reorganisation

When muscles move it’s muscle contraction

the microfilaments in me do the action

 

Yeah, I’m a body cell – does that ring a bell

without me you wouldn’t be here as far as I can tell

me and my organelles organize your whole organism

- calling me crucial would be an euphemism

I move I breathe I reproduce and I grow

eat shit communicate and some reactions I show

I can tell from your look your expectations are low

but you better watch out – I’m the survival pro!

 

 

PAUSE

 

5

The power in the cell needs a special organelle

The energy factory – female lineage battery,

She’s mitochondria, a former bacteria

the source and the force and the cause of it all.

 

6

Don’t assume your intelligence is you, it’s me

I’m able to spread knowledge even wordlessly

I’m not trying to sound careless, but my cellular awareness

beats your human perspective by far.

 

Yeah, I’m a body cell – does that ring a bell

without me you wouldn’t be here as far as I can tell

YOU WOULD BE LET’S SAY ON MARS

AMONG THE STARS,  STARDUST, AN ARTIST ON VENUS

A MOLECULE GENIUS, MAYBE A BLACK HOLE

NO SOUL, NO BODY, THAT’S NOT THE GOAL, YOU SEE,

THAT’S WHY YOU NEED ME, 70 TRILLIONS OF ME

MOSTLY - COHESION REACHES FURTHER THAN WE SEE

 

Yeah, I’m a body cell – does that ring a bell

without me you wouldn’t be here as far as I can tell

me and my organelles organize your whole organism

- calling me crucial would be an euphemism

I move I breathe I reproduce and I grow

eat shit communicate and some reactions I show

I can tell from your look your expectations are low

but you better watch out – I’m the survival pro!

 

 

  • Part IV: The Embryo Score | Lecture 2

In the beginning of the scene two blackboards are brought on stage, with the words “SCORE” and “EMBRYO” on them. When I ask “Where does my movement begin?” I unroll a 5 meter long paper roll which I will attach on the blackboards. On the paper, there are the nine stages of the Embryo Score, which I present as a descriptive-prescriptive score for improvisational movement for anybody to re-enact their own body-history. Each of the nine stages carries the scientific name (when it has one), a name given by me that describes the action or movement and a diagram. For this lecture part I explain three of the stages, starting from the zygote.

 

At this point of the piece the Embryo Score gives a example of my work as a movement researcher. I am showing why movement research can be interesting and relevant for everybody.

 

The blackboards make a reference here to our traditional system of education and learning. It contrasts the implicit proposal of the lecture to rely on your own senses and perception as an authority for learning and insight.

 

 

 

  • Part V: At the same time

The beginning of the fifth part is interwoven with the end of the second lecture. Around the mantra “at the same time” I name different body sensations, movements that I perform, anatomical information, general reflections and observations of my environment, in this case the performance space and the audience. The texts suggests thereby a simultaneity that is at the same time opposed by the linearity of language itself. At a certain moment I start to unroll a plastic thread that has text written on it that is evenly organized around the mantra “at the same time”. I read out loud some parts of the text and the plastic thread gradually fills the whole floor as I unroll it. Then a recorded text of “at the same time” is played as I am still speaking, and eventually all the sounds become an ocean of sound, I step out of the plastic which is still covering the floor and the fans fill it with air again.

 

The mantra-based text was a longer experiment that I tried for different performances at ACT 2015. In these performances the audience and anything happening in the space was interwoven in the existing text on the plastic thread, with the difference that the text had a story as a narrative base, where different perceptive elements would come in using the mantra and create a sensation of suspension of time. In these previous versions I also experimented with a Gopro-camera attached to my wrist or ankle, for the cells of my body to see and record.

 

 

In this solo piece I assume different roles in each part. In the prologue I am somebody manipulating fluids on a piece of glass. In part I I re-enact my own body history, in part II I speak as a movement researcher, in part III I am a body cell singing with another cell about our functions and vital importance; in part IV I speak again as a movement researcher and in  part V  I am all at once, speaking as a performer, lecturer and person. I could have called the piece simply a performance, and assuming different roles would be part of it.

 

Instead I chose “Lecture Performance” in the title because it explicitely speaks about a relationship between art and knowledge or research. I see my performance located in this intersection of artistic and academic discourse.

While the genre has its roots in the performance and conceptual art of the 1960s with artists like Dan Graham, Joseph Beuys and Yvonne Rainer, as a dancer I relate to artists like Xavier Le Roy, whose Lecture Performance „Product of Circumstances“ from 1999 is highly autobiographical.

 

For major parts, all that is being said above about Artistic Research and the widely growing interest in it, can be evenly applied to the format of “lecture performance”. The long list of “dance your Phd” performances when looked up on Google might be one example to proove it.

 

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