Presentation
Burrow

Burrow
Chloë Janssens and Vera Sofia Mota 
11-12 June 2022
End presentations of a.pass postgraduate program

This public presentation of Vera Sofia Mota and Chloë Janssens marks the end of the researchers’ trajectory at a.pass (advanced performance and scenography studies). After following the year-long postgraduate program they will share their modes of doing, seeing and making artistic research public.


Location:
Level 5
Rue van Meyel 49, 1080 Molenbeek-Saint-Jean


Saturday 11th of June:

Vera Sofia Mota
16-22h 1 on 1  presentations. We kindly ask you to sign up on site.

Chloë Janssens
16h installation on view + individual bike rides
18h presentation in English
19h installation on view + individual bike rides
20h presentation in English

18h general welcome, drinks and food



Sunday 12th of June:

Vera Sofia Mota
16-22h 1 on 1  presentations. We kindly ask you to sign up on site.

Chloë Janssens
16h installation on view + individual bike rides
18h presentation in Dutch
19h installation on view + individual bike rides
20h presentation in English

18h general welcome, drinks and food

 

Burrow
Chloë Janssens and Vera Sofia Mota
a.pass end presentations
This public presentation of Vera Sofia Mota and Chloë Janssens marks the end of the researchers’ trajectory at a.pass (advanced performance and scenography studies). After following the year-long postgraduate program they will share their modes of doing, seeing and making artistic research public.

 

Imprints
Imprints is an installation-performance which gives access to references which populate my art practice. It comprises materials from my own archives and the archives of Nan Hoover (New York, 1931 – Berlin, 2008) and Lourdes de Castro (Funchal, 1930 – Funchal, 2022). Departing from the idea that performance practice is a process of re-appropriation of movement language of many others, this work is constructed as a transmission, reproduction and contamination of these influences. This collective archive of past and living artists is presented as a mobilised assemblage of texts, materials and body languages. The installation is built from documents which are digitally available to the public. Does this predispose them to transformation and alteration?
We have today unprecedented access to information on and documentation of artworks, and yet many of them come to us, just as Walter Benjamin has described, as reproductions void of context. By decoupling my archive from a genealogical approach, I try to re-enter the ecology of practices, positions, materials and texts which bring my performance practice about. The work of copying and alteration frames the performance as a complex weaving of its influence. Foregrounding the ecology of the artworks’ gestation while it is being performed demystifies the ghosts of originality and authorship. Can we look at performance differently if we situated it in a world of altered copies?

Vera Sofia Mota (PT)
Vera Sofia Mota is a visual, performance and dance artist. In her research, she explores how artists and artworks are constituted today in relation to the archive. Her initial practice unfolds as a series of conversations with dead and living artists. She assembles these conversations into a spatial and performative archive that explores the relationship between her own movement practice and canonised works of art. This archive is the space where the heterogeneous objects, relationships and practices intertwine around one of the many questions of authorship: how does an artist engage with the art of others? In its craftsmanship of reinterpretation and reproduction, her research awakens the ghosts of originality, ownership, status, and value.

 

Imprints


Imprints is a presentation of my research about how artists and artworks are constituted today in relation to the archive. Exploring living and past artists, I question the process of art-making and the impact of possible institutionalisation on the contemporary canon. The research raises questions about how one artist can influence and engage with the work of another.

I was curious to explore the process of appropriating and quoting the work of other artists in greater detail. I wanted to do this by looking at the way an artist’s legacy can be continued by another artist, be it through re-performance of the original work, its transformation or reinterpretation.

I focused on the works of the performance and media artist Nan Hoover (New York, 1931 – Berlin, 2008) and the archive of the Portuguese visual and multimedia artist Lourdes de Castro (Funchal, 1930 – Funchal, 2022).

This research project started in 2015, at the invitation of LIMA Media Art Institute Amsterdam, which holds the paper and digital archive of Nan Hoover. This invitation arose in the context of a wider research at LIMA on the importance of reactivating the work of pioneering artists from the past and on reinterpretation as a modus operandi for mediation, preservation and documentation for their archive.

My proposal was to enter the LIMA archive through establishing a conversation with the work of Nan Hoover. I dived into the archive of her works and activated strategies to listen and familiarise myself with them. A process emerged where I started to inhabit, recompose and embody her artworks. This process became fundamental in how I now approach the preservation and taking care of another artist's legacy.

From 2021 I started a trilogy of reinterpretations - “Movement Dissolves: Composition with Red and Shadow” & “Walking” (2021), “Silence”, “Movement in Light”; reflecting the experience of what it is like to be immersed in another artist’s archive. For me it was a process of wandering between works, getting lost and returning - each time with a different perspective - offering new possibilities for creation. A conversation with another artist, where one can lose the boundary between oneself and the other artist.

I chose Lourdes de Castro as a second case study because her work has an affinity to both the work of Nan Hoover and my own work as a choreographer: the use of light and shadows, simple compositions, her interest in simplicity and emergent compositional processes. She has a light approach, working in expanded and loose performative timeframes. She tries (as she says) to stay with the flux of life, including randomness, accidents, and situations of the everyday in her compositions.

Castro talks about her art practice as a way of living: “I always drew and painted, I don't think this is a very special thing, nor that this is art. For me this is not art, it's a way of living. I can't call it a profession... It's the most natural thing to do. I like to do these things, and I am very happy that others also like it as well, that is why I exhibit.”1

The 1970's were one of the most radical and experimental art periods. It was an era which challenged the status of art and the author, feminist movements asked radical questions of gender, body and their politics. And yet in most dance educational programs it is unusual that works from this period become repertoire or are reenacted. I feel that we are still in the process of digesting the impact of this era. Therefore I have a need to go back and insert my body into these works, to attempt to understand how they function, how they work in my body, and what they can tell us now, decades after their time.

My work on Imprints started when I tried to reproduce the installation “Metropolis” (Nan Hoover, 2006, a site-specific piece made for Museum Wiesbaden, Germany). The installation consisted of a room filled with yellowish-red light and some black towers in a white cube, which reminded visitors of skyscrapers and the city environment. The audience inhabited this space creating a play with shadows by moving around the installation space.

Having not had the opportunity to experience this installation myself, I was curious about its scenographic and choreographic possibilities. I tried to reproduce the work on a smaller scale, with paper, books and small lights. Immediately the scale of the scenographic experiment changed as light and shade started to interact with the larger space.

Looking at the giant dimensions of the little paper shadows, I became fascinated with the process of varying scale, folding and unfolding paper, constructing movable cardboard walls, and playing with the different images created by the shadows. Using research materials I already had in my studio as improvised props, I realised I was now introducing the archive itself directly into the work.

I continued this exploration by spending time in this archive: an environment of endless copies and documents, a pixelated, altered world of copies, reproductions, inscriptions and abstractions. I was orientating, and disorientating my material again, finding systems to organise it in its incomplete and messy nature, wandering through the lights, through darkness, through the shadows cast by the performers’ bodies. Folding paper, folding perception, folding our moments together, unfolding stories, impressions, memories and traces.
Imprints became an homage to the work of performative copying. This process opens up the potential of copy to be a practice of learning, preservation and care.

____
1 “Um dia com Lourdes de Castro” [“A day with Lourdes de Castro”], Luís Cunha, Manuel Amorim, João Barbosa, Pozal Domingues, Navarro de Andrade and Martinho Simões, Documentary, 1970).

 

Credits

Mentors: Adrijana Gvozdenovic, Anna Rispoli, Antye Guenther, Elke van Campenhout, Hans Andreas R., Heide Hinrich, Julien Bruneau, Kobe Matthys, Myriam van Imschoot, Rob Ritzen, Samah Hijawi, Sara Manente, Tom Engels
Curators: Adrijana Gvozdenovic, Antye Guenther, Isabel Burr Raty, Rob Ritzen, Sara Manente, Sina Seifee, Rob Ritzen, Vladimir Miller
Co-researchers: Ana Paula Camargo, Amy Pickles, Anna-Sophie Lugmeier, Asli Hatipoglu, Adriano Wilfert Jensen, Andrea Zavala Folache, Chloe Janssens, Carolina Mendonça, Federico Vladimir, Federico Protto, Gary Farely, Inga Gerner Nielsen, Jimena Pérez Salerno, Kasia Tórz, Martina Petrovic, Nada Gambier, Nathaniel Moore, Martin Sieweke, Quinsy Gario, Rui Calvo, Sarah Pletcher, Túlio Rosa
a.pass team: Joke Liberge, Kristien Van Den Brande, Kristof van Hoorde, Lilia Mestre, Steven Jouwersma
End-Communication
Performers: Jaime Llopis, Lilia Mestre, Nada Gambier, Vera Sofia Mota
Architecture: João Leite/Kale Studio
Design: Melle Hammer
Sound: Miguel Tavares / Unfixed & Broken
Acknowledgements: Anne Jespers, Cathy Calonne, Gaby Wijers, Guida Ines Maurício and Margot Otten
Support from: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (Lisbon), LIMA Media Art Institute (Amsterdam), CG De Kroon (Brussels), CG de Rinck (Brussels)

 

 

Chloë Janssens Janssens (BE)
Chloë Janssens combines cravings and knowledge from climate activism and graphic design in an artistic practice that investigates the soil as a site of place- and future making.

To dig my hands deep into the earth and listen
“The sandy soils of my birthplace ‘de Kempen’, Belgium form the dry landscape of my research. I observe my ancestors preparing the earth for agriculture by obsessively moving cow-shit from the stalls to the fields. I can smell the cattle’s breath, the farmer’s spit, my grandmother's sweat and the excrements in the soil. After the famine we begin to enrich our lands with chemical fertilisers and radio-active uranium ore. When I stick my fingers in the earth here and tune in I can hear metals nagging, minerals singing, and bones twisting and turning in the underground. My imagination is haunted by this vibrating mass of elements holding stories from elsewhere. What to do with this pulsing scoop of dirt in my hand? I hold it with disgust, I peak into it, twirl my fingers around. I try stamping on it to free its story.”
Chloe Janssens research proposes that a collective reading of this scoopful of earth becomes a basis for an urgent reflection on our entanglements with the places that we inhabit. She invites the audience as a co-researcher in need of a tool for reading the soil. Chloe Janssens offers literal and metaphorical sieves to better understand our positionality and implications in the soil’s condition. How do these polluted soils that we create and inhabit inform, shape and guide us?
For this presentation Chloe (and her alter ego Chelsea) proposes to experiment with roleplay as a tool for collective decision making on geological disposal of highly radioactive waste. She will organise a fictional council and a series of tandem bike rides for the public of her presentation. Can roleplaying in a semi-fictional reality challenge our belief systems and create openings for epistemological contamination?
 

 

To dig my hands deep into the earth and listen

Here we are. More precisely, we are standing on the banks of the canal that divides the city of Mol from the city of Dessel. These two places are located in a region called De Kempen in Flanders, Belgium. This is the place where this research sprung from underground into the open air. This is the place where the knowledge that was simmering and seeping through different sediments of the soil became visible to the eye of the researcher. The curious researcher bends down to observe this lively source. What does it have to say?

Here we are. More precisely, we are standing on the banks of the canal that divides the city of Mol from the city of Dessel. These two places are located in a region called De Kempen in Flanders, Belgium. This is the place where this research sprung from underground into the open air. This is the place where the knowledge that was simmering and seeping through different sediments of the soil became visible to the eye of the researcher. The curious researcher bends down to observe this lively source. What does it have to say?

The researcher has a tremendous interest in understanding the soil, otherwise she wouldn't make the effort of squatting down into an inappropriate position considering the mini-skirt she’s wearing and risking silent judgements of cyclists on their weekly recreational bike ride. “Tremendous interest” is an understatement: this researcher is obsessed with understanding this well-of-knowledge. She sees it as a means to better understand herself. Practically speaking, she is the offspring of this soil. There is a genealogical record tracing her family’s presence in this place back for at least 500 years. She believes it to be her material extension. This might seem self-obsessed, but the researcher allows the presence of self obsession to guide her to a better understanding of this very particular place she is so attached to.

It is hot, too hot to be lying on this dry and sandy ground. The grains of quartz sand stick to the skin in between the prickly hairs on her sweaty legs. “How to read this soil?” she wonders while she scans the surface. Looking for guidance. A tool maybe? The determined researcher needs equipment to temporarily separate clues from background information. To untangle the clod of mud, bits of stories and threads of plastic wire that crawl inside her. A tool to distinguish and create temporal stories and temporary truths.

Sieve: noun A utensil for separating the finer and coarser parts of a pulverized or granulated substance from each other. It consists of a vessel, usually shallow, with the bottom perforated, or made of hair, wire, or the like, woven in meshes. (from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.)

The researchers' gestures expand. Closeness is needed. As soon as she sticks her finger into a fluorescent chunk of muddy earth, she can hear a heavy metal screaming and shivering deep in the underground. On “ground-level” the soil is merely whispering, but somewhere deep below a cacophony is calling her! She twists her finger and the hole becomes bigger. She uses more fingers to burrow deeper into the soil and unravel the story of the metal that sings and seduces her to descend further. One hand digging, the other one sifting. To dig and sift. To dig and sift.

Wait. Where are we now?

We are here now. It's hard to be more precise because it's dark down here. It smells like chemical fertilizer, trying to nurture what once was common land. The researchers’ ears receive a polyphonic soundscape of buzzing uranium and of bars clattering. The researcher can see the soft glow of their ancestors’ bones embedded in the grey concrete. Underground, we have entered a burrow.

Though a bit uneasy, the researcher accepts this change of scenery willingly. After all, they often find surface-level-life disturbing anyway. There's a general distrust they feel while observing friendly looking faces and receiving well-intended, but inappropriate advice. This place however fits their dystopian worldview better and thus feels more genuine. We can see the walls of the burrow, they are damp and warm. When they step closer, they can feel the dirt wall breathing. Their skin exchanges warmth with another body. At times bones and other particles illuminate the little underground shelter. The sharp chemical smell burns in the researcher's nostrils, making them feel a bit dizzy.

This place is simmering with urgency, multiple possible futures are wanting to be heard. It is unsettling, not disturbing. The closeness and darkness feel caring. With the rhythm of oxygen-exchange, the researcher's body loses its boundaries. Their pores open to be contaminated with silent whispers coming from the soil. The sounds accelerate and spicy, red fluids start dripping from the low ceiling in the researcher's mouth. The researcher feels a sudden urge to untie their shoelaces and dig their toes into the mud. There's a flash, and when the eyelids open, our protagonist stares into their own familiar eyes.

“Welcome, to the council where we will decide on the procedure for the geological disposal of highly radioactive waste in the city of Mol. I am your facilitator Chelsea. As a mediator, I am interested in exploring the different perspectives within the groups that I work with. As you can hear, up above, sirens are ringing. Climate collapse has pushed us to the verge of a nuclear emergency. It is important that we make a decision on the burial of our radiating power horses now. But first, let us introduce ourselves.” Chelsea bends over with confident movements, balancing effortlessly on high heels. Looking your way with fierce eyes, while asking: “Tell me dear Child, who are you?”


Credits

A big thank you to everyone who supported me this year and in particular to:
My personal mentors: Antye Guenther, Gosie Vervloesem, Isabel Burr Raty, Jaime Llopis, Julien Bruneau, Livia Cahn, Nontsikelelo Mutiti, Rob Ritzen, Saddie Choua, Samah Hijawi, Sami Hammana, Sara Manente, Sofie Deckers, Vanja Smiljanic and Quinsy Gario.
a.pass curators: Adrijana Gvozdenovic, Elke Van Campenhout, Sina Seifee and Vladimir Miller.
a.pass team: hans van wambeke, Joke Liberge, Kristien Van Den Brande, Kristof Van Hoorde, Lilia Mestre and Steven Jouwersma.
My co-researchers: Ana Paula Camargo, Amy Pickles, Anna-Sophie Lugmeier, Asli Hatipoglu, Andrea Zavala Folache, Carolina Mendonça, Federico Vladimir, Federico Protto, Gary Farely, Inga Gerner Nielsen, Jimena Pérez Salerno, Martina Petrovic, Nada Gambier, Nathaniel Moore, Martin Sieweke, Vera Sofia Mota, Sarah Pletcher and Túlio Rosa.
Collaborators and support from: Frans ‘Sooi’ Janssens (†), Kristine Boeckx and Geert Janssens, my friends from Extinction Rebellion, Bart Swusten from Stedelijk Archief Mol, Jan Rypens from ESV EURIDICE GIE, Louis Mertens from Heemkring De Linde, Paul Bailleul from NIRAS and Ria Lux from Stedelijk Archief Geel.
And my housemates for their feedback: Bernadette Schnabel, Jutta Callebaut and Lisa Maes.
 

 

*Poster by Chloë Janssens

© Vera Sofia Mota 2018