New People: Cie. OFEN at Ekeby
Cie.OFEN has been in residency at Ekeby International Research Center for Contemporary Arts in the Netherlands where they plotted out their new creation for 2018/19. Tentatively titled "New People" will be a cross-disciplinary low-fi sci-fi piece featuring homeless aliens who come to Earth hoping for a better life. “New People“ will venture into new territory of theatrical intervention planning a broad curation of digital, spectacle and sculptural components.
Having a Voice
An interview with the artistic directors of Cie.OFEN Gala Moody (AUS/BE) and Michael Carter(AUS/DE) by Marc Wagenbach
M: Welcome both of you at Ekeby. Maybe you can introduce yourself by telling us a bit about your work.
Mi: I am Michael Carter and a dancer from Sydney. I am co-director of Cie.OFEN and dancer of Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch.
G: And I am Gala Moody also dancer and co-director of Cie.OFEN, which we’ve had for five years now.
M: And you know each other from Australia?
Mi: Yes, we know each other from 2005. We worked at a company together called Leigh Warren & Dancers in Adelaide. Since then, we both created different works for stage or film and we were both in each others creative lives. We did two and a half pieces together: One Final Evolutionary Note and Evolution/Repetition, and The Vase.
G: So, two full works really.
M: And this is basically the beginning of the research for the third one.
Rebelling from Comforts
M: How would you describe your artistic process?
G: We are very much rebelling from our own comforts. We don’t believe in having a set vocabulary in our work, that doesn’t sit well with us at all. So in that way we are mainly a research company and we create movement purely from an idea and a conceptual stand point rather then fitting the movement into a concept that is new. For example for: “One Final Evolutionary Note“, we worked with the idea of evolution from Charles Darwin. We researched movement over 4 months: from the positioning in space to the movement decision itself and the timing. It was all directly influenced from the research material.
M: Which kind of research material was it?
G: We had the book: “On the Origin of Species“ by Charles Darwin and…
Mi: … we watched lots of videos on how animals and organisms interact, fight and survive.
G: What are symbiotic relationship with animals?
Mi: ….and how planets move, and evolution in thought “I think therefor I am’.
G: In our second piece, I was going though a very hard break-up, when we started; and I was also studying Medea for a theater play. We were looking for a text to start with and we found a modern version of Medea which we both found interesting. We wanted to work more theatrically with body language. We used a lot of text in the piece also.
Mi: .. and we wrote a lot of stuff and quoted from emails.
M: So text was a very strong reference in this process?
G: Yes. We were very curious about text and the voice, and very scared also. In the piece we quote the theater play that we were looking at; “Purgatorio” by Ariel Dorfman, and Euripides “Medea”, and our own biographical texts. It had these three layers of the narrative which had all the same themes but different time periods.
Mi: We wanted the movement to be true to the idea that “Everything is valid“. We were interested in the randomness of life and we wanted to make movement that was true to that, also feeling it would work well for these volatile characters of Jason and Medea.
G: We also liked the idea that we could play with theatricality. So one minute we were Michael and Gala on stage and then next we were Medea and Jason. Therefore, we could leave the characters and retake them again throughout the piece.
Mi: Physically we had to learn how we were as well. Because as a performer you usually go into performance mode and your body changes for the role, but we had to be ourselves.
G: We found when it came to performing the clue was in each other. As long as we keyed into each other.
Mi: In that moment. In that day. How were we reacting to that movement and the text. Otherwise, it became something that was learnt and rehearsed and distant somehow and actually we weren’t in the moment.
G: It had very much the feeling for us of Performance Art. You are there and paying attention.
New People. A cross-disciplinary low-fi sci-fi
M: Now to your new production: “New People“. Could you tell us something about the idea?
G: After re-premiering The Vase last month, we had a really great response, and we weren’t expecting that. Somehow it gave us a whole new lease of life for the company..
Mi: …to trust in the work.
G: What we were trying to say got across and that was huge for us.
Mi: That was especially great because we didn’t make it easy for an audience. We wanted to challenge the audience also. For example we wanted to see how long we can wait before we did an action.
G: There was no music hardly. We weren't following anything we have seen on stage before. It was really a conglomerate of randomness. It was clear that we had to make another piece!
Mi: Somebody said on the last piece that they felt they were seeing something they haven’t seen, that was something, we worked hard to get that. We are not on the worst track we could be. So let’s make a new piece.
M: And why aliens?
Mi: When we are on stage, we are often seen as a man and a woman, people project ideas like lovers, married..
G: Married lovers. Lovers married.
Mi: We also talked a lot about gender: How people perceive you in public if you are dressed more feminine more masculine. It is a kind of a common topic what we like to talk about. So, we thought, we take all this away.
G: Those things don’t aline with our own ideas of gender. In life we are much more gender fluid.
Mi: And so we just thought, we take gender away from the audience straight away and make these two characters aliens that do not have race or gender or skin color. Actually, we will have a skin color but we not quite sure what color. So, the conversation is not about that. To have a look at the “real thing“ we are doing: not a man or a woman.
M: And what is the real thing?
Mi: Identity. Integration. Power-play. Power struggles. Finding your place in life and then learning to adapt.
G: Having a voice.
Mi: Yes, having a voice. Existing. Having some control over your life in terms of your surroundings and the people around you.
G: And therefore, what is it to be human? Can an alien try to be human?
M: Is there also a wish to fit in?
Mi: Anyone that comes from a foreign place to a new place find that the people around them want them to fit in. Everyone loves the “happy foreigner“ who makes an effort and not the angry foreigner who doesn’t want to change and adapt. We thought, these aliens would be happy and would really make an effort, who really want to be part of this society. But I think in terms of us: do we want to fit in?
G: Well, I think it is quite prominent in our lives, fitting in, putting down roots.
Mi: To be part of a group. To move to a new place. To able to fit in. To get a house. Or to learn a language. The bureaucratic side of it. It is always so complicated. You can do it with humour, or you can do it with bitterness. We would like to see if you could make a funny piece.
G: I think in life there is a need to touch subjects that are difficult with lightness, in our friendship we like to joke and in our work we use humour to get through things that are hard.
Mi: I think, Australian humour is quite sarcastic, it had a dark side.
G: It is also a new medium for us. You don’t get to explore this too much in dance.