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Anja Sauer: Solo project Soft_ography

Ihmisiä seisoo ja istuu näyttämöllä
Christopher Senn

Soft _____ography

Is _____ography the in-between between artistic freedom and institutional restrictions?

Or the answer to that question?

And who are you? Are you freedom or restriction or in between?

Or are you the _____ographic in-between?

I wonder what has been your motivation to be here – today – in this place and this event and what you are looking for?

A composition out of freedom and restrictions and in search of satisfaction with:

Four bodies. Four directions. Four corners. 

One black box. One instant. One movement.

A sound piece by Anja Sauer (24. – 28. November 2015, Teak)

Thanks to the people that joined in my thoughts and process and helped me with the realization!

Soft _____ography consists of two independent parts that follow each other. The first is a quadraphonic sound installation on stage and the second, a solo performance that happens throughout the black box theatre space. In the beginning, I was interested in developing only a choreographic sound installation and as the project grew, I adapted the installation into the existing situation (black box) and the conditions of presentation (institutional restrictions/requirements). Here are some individual notes about the work.

Is _____ography the in-between between artistic freedom and institutional restrictions? Or the answer to that question?

As the process of developing the sound installation grew, the more I became aware and had to adapt to the given conditions of presentation (black box, space arrangement, technical setup and equipment availability). In addition to the decision to adapt the installation to the given conditions, I also wanted to include the problematic situation related to my proposition. This was for me the actual point where the question what is choreography rose up and inhabited the situation. It became a continuous motive in my process. The choreography was happening throughout the whole process – in-between and not only in the composition that I chose to present.

First Part – A quadraphonic sound installation

The sound installation consists of four large loudspeakers on stage facing each other in the centre of the “performing space” of the black box theatre space and the standard working illumination of that space. The audience is invited to enter the bright room and the centre of the quadraphonic installation. On the one hand, this spatial setup gives more importance to the loudspeakers, the actual bodies I worked with while on the other hand it defines a new space for the “audience”. They are not sitting in their usual place. In addition, I want to make both the working and presentation space visible: The four loudspeakers placed in the space which is normally used for the performance itself; the audience seats; the complete technical equipment; and the available entrances and exits of the black box.

In the sound composition, which was constructed out of various self-recorded sounds, I let appear and disappear noise in the speakers so it can inhabit the space. Therefore I use the element of fading in and out the volume (each speaker could be individually controlled) and different effects that had an impact on the sound material/texture. The sound is travelling through the speakers.

I focused my research on how to integrate and adapt the installation in a black box theatre space as well as how to deal with the existing conditions. I responded to what would be considered as restrictions for my proposition and searched for how to involve these in my artistic approach. This back and forth between the production modes was a process of testing the possibilities, adaption and ____ography.

Second Part – What is choreography in a black box theatre space?

The second part starts with an additional but almost imperceptible illumination of the audience seats that are empty form the beginning. The audience is still on stage in the middle of the sound installation with a view of where they would normally sit. I enter the audience seats in order to introduce relevant questions: What is my own (performing) body? Who is the “audience” (body)? Where are the limits of the theatre space? At what kind of event do I present my work? How does the institutional gaze affect my thinking? Can a sound installation stand on its own in this kind of frame?

As I enter the tier, the focus shifts to my body and I play with the visibility that I did not have as a sound technician/artist (behind the sound mixer) during the first part. From there, I contemplate the space in front of me. In each case I linger for a couple of minutes and change my body position once. Each shift is there to enlarge the perspective. After that, I cross the space through the audience, I lean on the wall and linger again. I have a view of both audience spaces. Before walking out to end the second part, I join the audience to share the “space” and “situation” with them in the centre. To exit I open the door that leads to the back stage, turn off the loudspeaker system and walk away to come back through the “proper” entrance of the black box theatre space. The movements from the audience happening at that time, (in-) between the two doors, are intended but not pre-planned or choreographed. The open ending causes confusion, curiosity and reorganization in between the audience.

And who are you? Are you freedom or restriction or in-between?

Or are you the ___ography in-between?

While developing the idea to choreograph sound for four loudspeakers, I had to think about how to position the audience for the listening without directing them. I wanted to give them enough choice to move freely on their own and react to their needs. On the one hand it was technical necessity that I had to displace the audience into the “performative” space, standing in between the speakers and on the other hand I did not want to limit their movement. With this setup, the audience seats stayed empty but available. At any time and in any case, the audience could have used them. Up to each audience member the image of empty seats could evoke a memory of the, until now, experienced evening.

As I mentioned out of technical necessity I relocated the audience, but I did not want to let this occur uncommented. Instead I wanted to point out, that the situation was necessary for the sound installation as choreographic work. In the moment I involved my body, in the second part, to point out the situation, I felt that I needed to comment as well on myself, now, a “performing” body. The audience seats became the performative space and the “listening” audience became the “watching” audience. The neon working lights illuminated the whole space, creating no differentiation of performative and non- performative space. The audience bodies were as equal as the “performing” body (my body), as they were performing as well. At the same time it is one body versus many bodies. And as they do nothing but watch, I do nothing but watch. I was wondering, who is deciding now what is possible to do. How do I behave, knowing that I am watched and how do they behave knowing that they are watching and being watched simultaneously? At the same time, I was with them in the room, in-between them in the space and detached from them because of our roles that we create in this context. Soft ____ography!

I wonder what has been your motivation to be here – in that place and that event – today and what you are looking for?

A composition out of freedom and restrictions and in search of satisfaction.

During the process I decided not to perform any “movement” material but move the “choreography”. I had to negotiate between fulfilling my own desires and that of others’ expectations as well as being exposed on stage. ‘We’ keep on coming and ‘we’ keep on performing but what are we looking for? Both sides (audience and performer) want to be challenged and satisfied in a way. I felt I was selling my body to the gaze of the institution in the moment of changing place and position from the “technical” artist, running the sound installation to the “performing” artist, commenting on the situation. In both parts I simplified my actions to a minimum. Maybe in a non-satisfying way for both roles. Filling a choreographic gap that was created throughout the working process. A composition around freedom, restriction and satisfaction in a shared black box theatre space.

Anja Sauer (DE/F) is an exchange student from the MA program Choreography and Performance at the Institute for Applied Theatre Studies at Justus-Liebig University Gießen, Germany. At the same Institute she completed 2013 her BA in Applied Theatre Studies. In her last choreographic sound piece Ich.Stehe.Hier.imRaum (Mousonturm, Frankfurt; 2015) she researched how a body locates itself through its own language and only exist as long as the language obtains the space.


Koreografian koulutusohjelman blogi on keskustelun ja jakamisen paikka. Täällä koulutusohjelman opiskelijat, henkilökunta ja vierailijat kirjoittavat koreografiasta, opiskelusta, meneillään olevista projekteista, (tanssi)taiteesta ja sen ympäriltä.

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