As one of the artistic duo behind local contemporary dance company MACHiNENOiSY, we caught up with Daelik to talk about his latest creation, The Open Spaces Project, and the international collaboration that will bring this piece, exploring the themes of masculinity and space, to stage of the Scotiabank Dance Centre in December.
Tell us about your latest dance creation, The Open Spaces Project. What can audiences expect?
The Open Spaces Project is a dance theatre performance in which I’ve explored the themes of masculinity and space. It’s not an original idea by any means, but I’ve tried to approach it from different perspectives. I’ve worked with the performers and asked them to develop a manifesto of masculinity from which to act. l wanted to approach the idea of the cowboy, not by creating some kind of historical documentation but to look at the motivations which drove these figures to endure hardship and live such solitary lives. I’ve looked at the the way architects codify and engender space. From these angles I wanted to create an event rather than simply a dance perfomance. Some of my reseach into architecture really informed my decision about how to use the perfomance space. Le Corbusier called architecture an event tied to movement “to enter is to see”. I loved that concept and wanted to recreate its sentiment.
I hope the audience will come into the performance with open expectations. I think anyone who knows my work or the work I’ve made as MACHiNENOiSY will be prepared to see a mixture of pathos and humor, quirky movement and evocative images. They’ll see some great performers. My cast of men is very talented and diverse.
Where did the idea for The Open Spaces Project come from?
The Open Spaces Project had quite a disjointed conceptual process. I’ve been thinking about it for about three years. In 2003, I was commissioned by a festival in Belgium to make a dance performance. At that time I got interested in architecture and the body. I created a piece called Body/Building. The research for that performance left me with the idea about relating two themes. The first being the “cowboy” who went west from the settled areas of North America and found his own space to live as he wished which opened the way for further settlers to move west. The second being the way that the gay community will move into an undesired neighbourhood, gentrify it and in turn makes others want to move there. That basic idea morphed over three years as I refined my ideas each time I requested funding until I arrived at the themes of this production.
As I understand it, the audience isn’t stationery, simply watching the piece. Can you elaborate? Why did you choose to have the audience move?
I wanted to give the audience a new perspective for watching live performance and I wanted them to not simply be passive observers but to make choices about what they wanted to see.
This is a collaboration between yourself in Vancouver, Berlin-based Australian performance artist Paul Gazzola and Calgary-based sound and new media artist Adam Tindale. How did the three of you connect to create the piece? What was your process like – did you do it separately or as a group?
I’ve known Paul for about eight years. We met working on an opera and became friends when I lived in Berlin. I knew that I wanted to do a project with Paul some day. About three years ago we started discussing the Open Spaces Project. Because the first two years I didn’t get funded to create the project, we didn’t pursue the research in any great depth. Then in January of this year I met Adam in Banff at a residency that explored new media and performance. My eyes were opened to the world of new media art and its possibiity for creating and affecting space and I also connected with Adam on a personal level. It’s important for me to work with people whose personalities will mesh well. When I applied for my funding this year I included Adam in the package.
Once the funding was secured we talked mostly via email. I shared my research with Paul and Adam and they did the same. I was in Berlin this summer with Paul and we had several skype conferences with Adam to talk over ideas. But it wasn’t until we were all together here in the studio that the work could really coalecse.
How has the international nature of the collaboration in putting this together translated to the actual piece?
Paul’s reference points for creating live performance are very broad compared to mine. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to work with him. I wanted him to question me, to offer different perspectives for looking at my own process of creation. We originally talked about creating the piece collaboratively, but later decided that his input as a scenographer and dramaturge would better serve me and the process. One of the things we considered when making the set was how to make it tourable. We decided to make the set from materials we knew would be readily available where ever we toured. We’re being ambitious by thinking we will be invited to tour this piece.
The previous works from MACHiNENOiSY all have elements of dance but are much more multidisciplinary in nature with theatre and song. Where does the interest in combining these various artistic disciplines come from?
Both Delia, my artistic partner, and I have a background in theatre, so we naturally draw from that. Text, spoken or sung, comes from various sources either improvised or found already existing. I don’t think we ever set out intending to sing, but it sometimes fits the scene. We’re also inspired by other art forms, visual art, film, etcetera and that can influence our creative direction.
We couldn’t help but be struck by the homoerotic nature of the photo of the three men in the washroom. Was that your intent?
Those photos were definitely intended to be evocative. But they also reflect the ideas I’ve been researching regarding the engendering of space. The idea that the gender of a space is defined by how it is used on a daily basis. The male toilet is a very clearly defined space. It’s use is specific and how men act there is specific. Male washroom ettiquette. Men should never look directly at each other. Which of coarse leads to the subversive gaze.
In the other photo, the woods, the space is undefined and so anything is possible. The two men look at each other openly because there are no rules telling them they shouldn’t.
This piece is choreographed for six men – does the fact it is only men make it easier or harder for you as a choreographer?
It’s not really harder or easier. It’s less often that I get a chance to work with only men, or even on a project where there are a large group of men. So it’s kind of refreshing. Not that I enjoy working with women less. I work with some incredibly brilliant women. The energy is different. I choose the cast based on who I think will best serve the piece.
The piece talks about the cowboy as a masculine icon, both to gays and straights. What led you to the cowboy as this masculine icon?
Pop culture. Hollywood westerns. The Village People. Especially in North America, the cowboy has always been viewed as the epitome of masculinity. John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, those are manly men.
What’s next for MACHiNENOiSY?
Hopefully we will work on a community based performance project with a group of gay and lesbian youth teaching them Contact Improvisation and working with Marc Fournel, an intstillation artist from Montreal.
MACHiNENOiSY: The Open Spaces Project
Scotiabank Dance Centre, 677 Davie Street
Vancouver 3-5 December 2009 (8pm Dec 3-4; 2pm and 8pm Dec 5)
Post-show artist talkback December 4
The relationship between architecture and gender, ideas of freedom and space, and constructs of masculinity inspire The Open Spaces Project, an ambitious and exciting new work created by MACHiNENOiSY Co-Artistic Director Daelik.
Choreographed for a cast of six men – Clinton Draper, Alex Ferguson, Shay Kuebler, Brett Owen, Chris Wright and Daelik himself – the work is an international collaboration with set design and dramaturgy by the innovative Berlin-based Australian artist Paul Gazzola, and sound and video by Calgary’s Adam Tindale.
The audience moves around the space to experience multiple layers of movement, sound and visuals in an intense and illuminating performance which explores wide-ranging concepts of people and the spaces we inhabit.
Tickets are $26/$18; matinee tickets all $15 available online at Tickets Tonight or by calling 604 684 2787.