Karen
Christopher

and sometimes the response comes a little bit later . . .

with permission from the author, this just in from the department of "I'm still thinking about it" regarding TwoFold's performance of miles & miles:

At the beginning when you were both standing on either side of a plank, you were in your places, I was comfortable with my place, then there was a moment Karen, when I saw, I believed I saw, moving across your face, a terror of precariousness, wide open, right there, child-like terror. You were standing on a precipice and there is no security. It was devastating to me. Its hard to say in words, on email, how real this was for me.  I had to stop myself looking round the audience and asking ‘did you see that??!’. This was then followed by a booming question that stayed in my head for the rest of the performance ‘IS THIS REAL???’. 

Karen, I’ve never seen your work before, I have had the absolute pleasure of meeting you a few times and each time you have struck me as a f*cking fabulous woman (im sorry, but sometimes swearing is necessary). I know you're not asking for feedback on yourself, but it was in watching this performance that I partly realised what is so magnetic about you, because I believe (though I can’t be sure as I know nothing about how performance actually works), it is the way you appear to live the life in you so unapologetically that made me ask if this was real. 

After the performance, when you opened for discussion I told Mary Paterson my question and she talked a little about how that is what live art is often about, finding a realness. I understand this but I have very rarely ever experienced live art that felt real to me or that made me ask if what I was experiencing was real in such a sincere way. It is difficult for me to explain what that question was— ‘is it real?’.  I’m not interested in trying to be smart about it. 

Hearing Sophie explain the kind of structure you both worked to, a structure of gaps or holes, explained my experience of the performance. In the ‘structured’ sections I was kind of cruising, knowing my place, the ways I could enjoy the movement and patterns created, but in the gaps I felt like I was in a game where I didn’t know what would happen next. In these moments I would search your face and movements for clues and when I saw you precarious, searching, playing, lunging, I was exhilarated. 

It’s like it wasn’t even about the performance, it was about you, what you were willing to open up and live, there and then.

I think you're like a wild child. One of those people whose fearlessness in life I just sit back and marvel at, because your fearlessness encompasses a willingness to experience fear. Its as though you don’t need to know where the boundaries or the safety net is, you’re going to fly out anyway to feel the cool breeze, and if you find yourself without ground beneath your feet that’s what you will live next. Of course I know that living ‘aliveness' doesn’t always feel anywhere as simple as that.

I loved it.

Tags: TwoFold, Sophie Grodin, duet, miles & miles

Posted on Monday, 17 July 2017 by Karen Christopher

can't find the edges of Seven Falls

from the live performance of Seven Falls, May 2017, (the boat in the background is not Harry's)
credit: Vanek Photography

It’s hard to know when the performance starts or when it stops. With some performance there is a very clear start and finish. There might be a long set up time but it is clearly defined and delineated and the start of the performance has a kind of click. When it is over perhaps there is a bit of disassembly required but there is never confusion or blur regarding the far limit of the show margins. But with Seven Falls, partly because it is made so quickly each time it is made, and because its making and its beginning are intermingled with the circumstances of its presentation to a larger degree than your average studio-based performance, it is hard to absolutely identify the moment when the performance of it has taken over and when it has finished passing.

It finally ended after an intermission of about a week when I tried for the second time to return the padlock key for the lock and chain that secure Harry's canoe to his barge. I went to see if he was around as I’d been carrying the key in my wallet since I returned the canoe that day after the show ceased to be an organised event in front of an assembled audience. He'd been so generous to let us use his canoe in performance, loanin git to me without having ever met me before I presented myself in front of his boat with the request of it. Now I wanted to be sure to be diligent about every aspect of the return of it to its rightful owner. I’d sent him a text enquiring about how to return the padlock key. I was hoping it was a spare—but I didn’t know that for sure. I never got an answer. After about a week I went to see him at his boat in person. When I got to where the barge had been moored it was gone.

Later that day as I rode a bike over a bridge in a different part of the canal system as I glanced to the right I glimpsed a familiar distinctive paint job. I went down to the tow path and texted from outside the boat. A message came back from Harry: Just leave the key somewhere inside the boat. With that I opened the door to his boat home and placed the key on the counter feeling part of a magical world free from worry. And as I left it there the notion hit me that now the show was finally over and that I had been the last audience member as well as the last performer to leave the stage. Some parts of the work are very very private.

Tags: Teresa Brayshaw, Seven Falls, duet, Chisenhale Dance Space, canoe, TwoFold

Posted on Saturday, 3 June 2017 by Karen Christopher

TwoFold: How to keep our friends from drowning

4 short descriptions of How to keep our friends from drowning (Eirini Kartsaki & Joe Kelleher)
photo credit: Christa Holka

1.
Something is broken, the simultaneity is infuriating, each motion, each stutter intelligence and swindle—a martini or just water and olives. A hiccough might contain at one and the same time pathos, humour, mundanity and drama—the everyday trauma of human capacity—the beauty in a smudge and the glamour of a neck brace. This is how we got here and always with the tantalising question before us: how did they injure themselves in this way?

2.
They are not broken, they are inflicted on us, they will not stop until they get it right: the explanation of how they came through the infuriating noise to settle down before us.

3.
How to keep our friends from drowning takes a furious run at accelerating speeds, whiplash proof via prophylactic neck braces, wheels spin in position and we know there will be injury, the only question is how much saliva will be spent in the service of it.

4.
It is desperate, it is vociferous, it is packed with an urgency I cannot explicate, their safety measures have made me suspicious, it is an extraordinary rendition, I am all ears.

(because they asked for it)

Tags: duet, Chisenhale Dance Space, Eirini Kartsaki, Joe Kelleher, TwoFold

Posted on Thursday, 27 April 2017 by Karen Christopher

Reflections after the performance, not Q & A

During the TwoFold festival we had post-show discussions after each of the studio duet double bills. The post-show discussion brings out hidden or latent significance partly because everyone has seen the work from a different point of view or set of equivalencies or preoccupations or mind climate or condition (or what have you). What one person considers obvious may not have occurred to anyone else in the room and when those present share their individual positions on the work or its effect these ideas begin to spark associations whether in concert with or in contrast to what is expressed by others.

It is important to me that people feel they can speak about their impressions because these impressions are the specific currency of the work. Sometimes they are based in intellectual ideas, sometimes they are based in emotion or sensation, sometimes they simply spark a memory and articulating this becomes a way of reading not only the piece observed but also for the observer to become more conscious of their own observations and how they might be slanted by their own filters. We come together over the ways that we agree or disagree about what happened in the room. Also about how these differences do not describe right or wrong, only difference. For this reason it is important not to think of the post-show discussion as a question and answer session.

Those of us who have made the work and shown it on a particular occasion do not hold the key to its significance. All we can do is talk about our own point of view. Our point of view is an intimate one, coming from within the making process as it does, but it is not a privileged position, it is equal to and mixed in with the views from the bodies of the audience. As makers we learn what we have done from the audience. We know what we THINK we have done but it only becomes clear when we hear back from those who can see it from the outside. And they always see something other than what we have understood about the work before showing it.

In order to protect the audience point of view I often refuse to answer a question until the questioner has spoken a bit about the subject (or object) of their question so that we (both makers and viewers) understand what is driving the question and why this particular area within the material is of interest to the questioner. This draws out the discussion and makes clear the importance of individuals' concerns and thought processes. This is a bit tricky in practice, especially if the question is challenging the work or seems to suggest a fault on the part of the performance makers. I usually attempt a friendly counter question. If the question is something like: “why are you making that line on the floor?” I say something like: “I will answer your question but first can you tell me what it makes you think of, or why you think we are doing it?” It may require a bit more back and forth but before long it always transpires that the questioner knows a lot about what the significance of the line might be and sometimes knows something that had not occurred to those of us who made the piece. It feels important to make sure that this intelligence from the mind of a viewer is protected and brought out for everyone to consider.

I suppose sometimes these thoughts are only just forming in the mind of the viewer as the question is turned back to them and this feels exciting to me. Sometimes, in my own experience, the parts I have questions about or think I don’t understand have caught my attention precisely because they are the very things that are speaking to me—it’s just that I don’t quite understand what they are saying until I put my focus there and attempt to communicate a question or simply form a sentence about the material that has caught my attention (or bothered me).

In addition to hearing from the audience, particular people with experience thinking and writing about performance have always been helpful as part of the process. The work of  articulating sensations and of drawing lines between the work presented and the world of associations it links to improves with practice and over time. For this reason we welcome hearing from people who write about performance work. We regularly invite written response from performance writers and critics.

Mary Paterson was asked to write an overview (link to come) of the TwoFold festival of duet performances and this helps us make connections that we as makers are too close to the work to see for ourselves. After the final event of the festival I was exhausted and feeling somewhat chagrined that the final event was not as well attended as I would have liked. I had quipped to the audience that it almost felt like a performance in my living room for a set of friends. The event was a pair of performance-lecture-type presentations (see here) one of which was from a private performance that Rajni Shah and I performed weekly over a period of four years. Afterwards, Mary Paterson, who had been in the audience, commented that it was an interesting inversion that took place: a public event that felt private (due to the small number of viewers) and a private performance made public. It was a simple observation but the act of speaking that observation aloud gave a meaning to what took place that I would not have seen without her being there and making that statement. This articulation clarified something for me and sparked ideas that joined with other ideas around the subject of public and private.

What I’m saying is that I learn so much from other people’s observations.

Tags: TwoFold, duet, Mary Paterson

Posted on Monday, 20 March 2017 by Karen Christopher

TwoFold: So Below

Photo: Manu Valarce Photography 2017

(in the style of a headstone text)
In loving memory of our old performance not seen for the past four years but not forgotten though some parts may have faded. Brought to us in a former time out of nothing we here this day come back to it now and see it for what it was and see the changes that a new time brings to it. Born 2011, with us for all too short a time.

It was fine to bring it back. It was a worthy task. I found that our old habits and failures with it were still intact. We can’t remember those steps or I always remember that bit wrong and as usual Gerard is better at remembering than I am. I don’t want to say that I’m lazy. But there is some part of my brain that wants to leave a space for chance and for falling but sometimes that means I’m in limbo and sometimes that means I am failing or sloppy. Sometimes it means I am heart broken.

Some of it didn’t translate through the time gap and had to be rehydrated. We found ourselves wondering why did we did it this way and whether we should hold on to that or figure it out anew.

It is as though it Fell asleep while we carried on to other works waking up this March eve to fill the room with earth and water.

We miss her smile, her cheery way,
We miss the things she used to say,
And when old times we oft recall
It’s then we miss her most of all.

Sadly missed — Never forgotten
Together forever

Tags: TwoFold, So Below, Gerard Bell, duet

Posted on Wednesday, 15 March 2017 by Karen Christopher

TwoFold: Holding

part of Holding OPEN presentation 11 March @ Chisenhale

contributions from Rajni Shah were read by Lucy Cash as Rajni was in Australia, the following is one of my contributions sat and written for delivery on the occasion of this presentation of Holding OPEN

Feb 3rd 2017, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides

the wind is fierce
 and the ticking of the clock a prominent voice

50 min stillness and silence

20 min writing

he was a catalyst, witness-less
Sometimes his enthusiasm was not matched. He was a catalyst but with a faulty ticker. Sometimes he got the chronology wrong. He toasted the “roof we are under” and lived most of his life on the same island, in the same town, on the same street, in the same house. The house he died in. The house where the wind blows hard against stone walls and the water finds a way in and a soft tapping in the eaves continues all night long. The wind is a tangler, the sun smoothes it all down, the water lends a texture and the coal gives an odour to the smoke that is irresistible. He never smelled what I smelled. His nose was for the wine and for the apple a day and for keeping the doctor at bay. His nose was for the history of it. His nose was for adding lead to the petrol because these old cars can’t run without it. We had to stop driving at all to give a counterbalance to the consumption in his corner. You don’t stop loving a person because they use their time differently, would rather smell the oil than the roses, can’t seem to see it your way, won’t turn the heat up when they are dying of the cold—you don’t stop loving someone because they went away or stopped talking to you, or died.
But the wind is a tangler and in this howling wind everything is tangling I can’t find the beginning. And me, here, the one who likes chronology, likes to fiddle with it until it wakes my own sense, the one I want it to do, my truth, in my own order. The story was predictable but some want to look back for the truth while others see it forward. I want to shift it and watch it change as the details are revealed in waves reconstruction pollutes the knowing and brings the foresight together with the hindsight and mixes the details in a three-part pot.

He was so appreciative of a hot meal, a fresh cake, a new loaf of bread, a soup on the stove top. Everyday magic. The secret handshake, the special rules, the roof we’re under. I always wanted a father, but not necessarily the one I had. It isn’t a choice though is it. He’s wrapped in a shroud, wrapped himself in it to tell me the same stories over and over again, out of the ward and into the drafty hallways of the hospital, he wanted to sit where he could speak freely. All he did from there was pretend he was famous one more time. Cast as the journalist begging for an exclusive I watched him live via hospital corridor, sheet shrouded captured on my phone, eye glinted and cuddled in three-square meals without lifting a finger. Clam happy and drunk with his own circulating fluids.
 
I’ve bent the two fathers—one should really only ever have one, they begin to confuse each other. One I know is dead nearby, the other most likely. though not definitely, alive far away. What makes either of them dear is me.

The TwoFold festival of duets was dedicated in memory of Ian Mitchell of Stornoway.

Link to other entries on or from Holding OPEN, a private duet with Karen Christopher and Rajni Shah, here

Tags: Rajni Shah, holding open, TwoFold

Posted on Sunday, 12 March 2017 by Karen Christopher

TwoFold: the particularities of working in pairs

This second symposium on duet work that we have been part of (see here for posts on the earlier one) was held at Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre on 3rd and 4th March 2017 and included presentations by the following:

John Kannenberg, Director and Chief Curator of the Museum of Portable Sound
Professor David Berman, Center for Research in String Theory at Queen Mary, University of London
Przymierska Morgan, a London-based performance duo

Emma Bennett, performance maker
Karen Glossop & Paul Murray, co-founders of Wishbone Theatre
Vanio Papadelli & Tania Batzoglou, performance makers

Tin Can People, The Katie & Pip Project
Marcus Orlandi, performance artist and curator

Mira Loew & Jane Frances Dunlop
Julie Brixey-Williams & Libby Worth, freelance artist and movement practitioner (respectively)

Teri & James Harper-Bailie, artist researchers and collaborative PhD candidates
Marta Zboralska, a second-year AHRC-funded research student in the History of Art department at University College London

This is the text that Sophie Grodin and I delivered as an introduction:

Introduction to Twofold symposium (click for symposium schedule pdf)

It could begin with this:
A panel where three people from different vantage points talk about something in relation to doubles or twins or a set of two somethings.

It could begin with this: two people are like two strands comprising a rope which holds together by the pressure of the twist of contradictory forces, without which, it is just fibres reduced to gossamer, easily lost to the wind.

It could continue like this:
A couple of police officers tell us all about how they work together to complement each other’s strengths. In a kind of good cop bad cop routine.

It could continue like this, comfortable with the fact that I will never truly know you.

It could end like this:
A large thunderclap is heard from the sky, and everyone rushes to the windows to watch the largest hail stones they have ever seen falling to the ground. As we look closer, we see that each of the hail stones is really two hail stones, fused together.

We welcome you to TwoFold - the particularities of working in pairs.
We have been thinking in two’s for about 6 years now and wanted to widen the dialogue.
We think this will be an opportunity to do that with all of you.

What followed (the allure of the evil twin and the dread it expresses; the non-local entangled pairs, the embrace of randomness, the thought experiment in which action here determines reality there; the sound of something meeting resistance; the deep resource of misunderstanding—conflict as a methodology; the duo in which practice comes first (in silvery outfits) in a dovetailing relationship with theory; wrapped up the next morning by a list of questions and the notion that working with another person is a struggle to articulate yourself as well as the other person and that entanglement is not about ignorance but about randomness; followed by sticky navigation, a set of relations that make an understanding: the fix is not finding an answer but in realising the problem is unsolvable; a man and his mirror; a dog and her girl and their dancing shadows; the scaffold upon which their work is made: step, feather, stitch, a game with cards; Homeworks, the interpenetration of work and home, each other; the blue masking tape at the height of 133cm from the floor turning the studio into the study transforming simultaneity from a temporal to a terrestrial state; and then all of us in a room with something to say but hardly any words to say it with) came in such a tumble it was hard to keep it in a straight line but when it was over we knew more as well as had more to know. It was not a mathematical representation of a situation in which each participant's gain or loss of utility is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the utility of the other participants. Everyone got more.

Tags: TwoFold, symposium, Sophie Grodin, duet, Birkbeck College

Posted on Monday, 6 March 2017 by Karen Christopher

without restriction to a particular way of thinking

The duet form as a topic brings us together without restriction to a particular way of thinking. It allows for disparate styles, poetics, aesthetics--as a central focus it does not dictate type in these categories.

a report on the TwoFold symposium

Mary Paterson wrote a response to the first day of the symposium, a thought-provoking list of questions and hearing it on the second day had the effect of moving from white noise to a spot on the radio dial assigned to a specific station. Reading it later I realised it developed (intentionally or not) an exchange from the end of the first day provoked by the above statement having been uttered aloud.

Someone took exception to the above statement claiming we were all pretty similar. I suggested that was not the case from my point of view, which was countered by another voice saying well, we probably all voted remain . . . (or something to that effect). Mary's writing rescues us from the reductive and not-quite-rigorous morass of half thoughts that intermingled in that late moment when a group discussion was just taking shape. It was a moment when we might take stock of what had happened during the day if there were any among us with enough focus left to find a thread through it. It was more like turning up earth in service of future growth rather than fashioning fully formed conclusions on the day. A little time and germination will no doubt pull some thoughts together. Mary's writing helps in that regard.

Mary's questions sparked by her attention to the way things proceeded through that first day reads as a rigorous questioning of method, intention, or procedure and points to a climate of attention that coheres in a room of people examining their own practices one after another, in pairs, all day long. It also makes a kind of coded message which reads one way to the people who had been present for the day and another to those readers who weren't there. And within those two categories of reader (the one from inside the symposium day and the one from outside), the open weave of it allows meaning to be constructed in collaboration with the various positions and preoccupations of readers from both audiences. It both guides and conforms, clarifies and confounds. These are questions we all benefit from answering no matter where we are and no matter what we are doing.

from Questions about Two Fold

by Mary Paterson



Who’s missing? 

How do you know?

What shape do they make with their absence?

Will you start again when they get here?

Will you feel complete?

Will you feel better?

What’s your position?



Who is your opposite?

Who is your complement?

What does your reflection say back to you from the mirror? 

Be honest: how long do you like to spend talking to yourself in the mirror?

And how long would you like to do it if no-one was watching? And how long would you like to do it if you could guarantee that people were watching, avidly, in silence, and theorising it later on in company as the performance of an alter ego?



What kind of moral licence could you achieve from dividing up your psyche into the other versus the self, the organised versus the active, the repressed versus the carnivalesque, the curator versus the artist? 

What authority do you have when you give yourself a job title?

Is ‘collaborator’ a job title? Is ‘partner’? Is ‘scientist’? Is ‘dyad’?

Is it a compliment?



What’s your word for it?


Relatively speaking: what’s your position? 

What’s your super-position?

How do you know you’re not missing any information?

How do you know you’re not drowning in misunderstanding?

What kinds of freedoms could you achieve when you know that entanglement is not to do with ignorance, but to do with randomness?



How do you know?

(read the entire piece here)

Mary Paterson's response was written for and delivered on the second day of TwoFold: the particularities of working in pairs, a symposium hosted by Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre and Camden People’s Theatre as part of TwoFold, Haranczak/Navarre’s festival of duet performance (March 2017). The symposium was followed by two weekends of duet performances at Chisenhale Dance Space (London).

Tags: symposium, Mary Paterson, duet, Birkbeck College, TwoFold

Posted on Sunday, 5 March 2017 by Karen Christopher