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ARTIST PROFILE: Interview with Mette Ingvartsen

Entering the universe of METTE INGVARTSEN

Rita Natálio: I’ve watched some of your last works and I was struck by your strong structural approach of emotional, sexual and physical contents  The structures that you create to frame your compositions create an uneasy tension between the animated psychological body and its inanimated imagery (if you think of image as a dead frame for the body, something that is always aiming for the inanimated).  I would like to propose you to comment on that: on the relation between animated and inanimated forces in your work, speacially in the one that your are creating right now: “Artificial Nature“

Mette Ingvartsen: “The Artificial Nature Project” that I am currently preparing unfolds the space between animate and inanimate , human and inhuman,  natural and constructed, maybe even dead and alive. With the project I attempt to blur these distinctions so that one could maybe stop thinking that an image would be a dead frame representing a living body. It’s not an easy task! But what interests me is how objects and things or maybe rather materials and matters can be set into motions to the point where they start to communicate as a body. Like for instance when a storm of whirling confetti suddenly starts to behave like a swarm of living animals, or when a piece of cloth magically start to float in the air. Producing ”natural” phenomenons that surprise and enchant the spectator, confronting them with their own bodily sensations, but through something uncannily non-human.


Rita Natálio: Performance work is normally defined by the physical set-up with which the artists decide, more or less consciously, to work with during the creative process of a project. This is very clear in our “lightness” performance called “Evaporated Landscapes” where bodies are vanishing projections of smoke, foam and light. But this is also visible in some of the movement principles of your body of work,  which are clearly defining a physical set up. I would even say there is a very strong interest in this space-landspace delimitation.
How do you define your working contexts? Is there a previous concept where your merge during the process of work or is it a matter of diving inside an experience that is defined by the randomness of the process? How do you set up your own curiosity towards a physical scenario, a landscape, a relation of forces?

Mette Ingvartsen: My work very often start from ideas that I would like to materialize. These ideas very often start from things that intrigue me by posing a problem. These problems very often resist to be solved and this resistance very often motivates me to work. A few times it has happened the other way around that I found myself working and dancing in a certain manner for a long time. For instance i was doing movement loops in at least 4 different pieces before I realized that maybe I should try to simply start from this physical desire instead of from an idea. 
Recently I have been working a lot on changing the usual frontal theater situation. Performing with audiences on two or four sides has been a way  to create proximity between the performers and the viewers, a characteristics I find very important in order for kinesthesia and sensation to appear in the receiver of the work. I even removed the performance space all together in “The Light Forest”, an installation where the audience is invited to walk through a forest at night following a compositions of lights, making their bodies a stage for their own sensations. 

Rita Natálio: “Evaporated Landscapes“ made us thing about natural phenomena – even natural disasters – inside an artificial context. Your new production – Artificial Nature – is a continuation of this exploration? Can you tell us more about this new project? 

Mette Ingvartsen: Yes it is indeed a continuation of this exploration. In “evaporated landscapes” I wanted to remove the performer entirely in order for the materials to take up the space of the performer, to give life to inanimate matters and visibility to flows of air. In the new work I’m starting I am more turning towards the co-operation between human and inhuman performers. How bodies move matter around but also how matter moves bodies. This sounds maybe a little abstract but it could be as simple as thinking of an object and its function. For instance a glass, is it in seeing the glass that you feel thirst and have a desire to drink or the other way around, you feel thirst and then you see the glass? But I am not interested in these concrete object representations, I am more busy with matters/materialities and how they start to communicate when being set in motion. Of course an innocent belief in animism is impossible however rather exciting to engage in right now. Why it is like that, I will have to tell you about later. 

Rita Natálio: How would you describe the nature of your research? What do you consider essential preoccupations and elements in your work?

Mette Ingvartsen: For the moment I have several different preoccupations. The engagement in making performances is my main activity. But since a year or so I have increased my focus on writing and how writing influences the processes I commit to. With this shift has come a more general questioning about the field of performance and dance. Why has dance been so little articulated and formulated by the practitioners themselves and what are the ways that  I/we from the inside of the field could start to stimulate a culture of writing. How can this writing avoid imitating academic writing but become another voice and language to speak about the practices of dance. These two parallel activities have been characteristic to my practice since 2005, but lately with an increased intensity.

Rita Natálio: What is for you the aim and importance of a network like DÉPARTS, a network devoted to young and emergent dance makers in Europe? Do you consider yourself a young and emergent choreographer?

Mette Ingvartsen: Unfortunately time only goes in one direction, that’s the bad thing about the word young, but lets say I definitely do not consider myself old! The good thing about the word emergent is that it’s connected to the appearance of something new which I think all artists at all times have the potential to produce. I think the DEPARTS network helps and has helped a lot of people in creating, performing and distributing work. For me personally it has allowed me to do things at a rate and in a scale that might have been difficult otherwise. On a more general note, I think it is important that “young” dancers and choreographers embark on larger scale projects in order to break the mono-directionality of time, that one first has to do solos and duets, before doing larger group pieces. I think that jumps in time and scale is where something can radically change and move.