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Magazine

17 January 2016
a) Aimar Pérez Galí
When the body talks: an interview with Aimar Pérez Galí

Frederic Montornés

Aimar Pérez Galí is an artist whose work makes his body sweat, that is to say, the material he works with based on a discourse woven between performance, dance, and the visual arts. Based on references he airs with pride so as to make it understand that his is not a reinterpretation so much as an open, interminable, infinite line of investigation. As is life itself.

I read on your website that you work in the field of dance and the performing arts as a dancer, performer, creator, teacher, researcher, and writer. What impedes you from resuming all of this with the word artist?

Nothing. In fact, I understand the task of the artist as a complex one in the sense that in unfolds in very different ways in each particular case. We could say that the artist is generic and when you zoom in, in my case, this word takes on these dimensions.

When talking about your references you usually refer to the Judson Dance Theater in New York. What’s the reason for this insistence?

It’s true I am insistent about the Judson, but it’s just that they were the ones who marked a change of paradigm in dance, even though today there are many who haven’t realised this. They stated: walking is dancing. This affirmation broke all codes and all hierarchies. The question of whether this is dance or not stops being relevant, it just doesn’t matter! It’s a bit like Duchamp’s urinal. What the Judson did was to establish a totally radical way of approaching dance that obviously responded to the socio-political situation of the time. The artists who formed part of this collective, like so many other visual artists or musicians, were closely tied to the movements against the Vietnam war, the student struggles, the feminist movements, the Black Panthers, ACT-UP, etc. Dance wasn’t an elitist, bourgeois art, dance happened in the street and responded to this urgency to position the body and rethink ways to be in the world. It was a revolution. How could it not be a reference? For me, it’s just impossible.

Education plays a significant role in your artistic practice. It’s a subject moreover that you have dealt with in texts like the one you recently published in the blog of Teatron. On what do you base your educational concept

Really I’ve been interested in pedagogy since the year I graduated in 2006… And at that point I’d already developed the Pedagogic Research Project in which I proposed how to transmit knowledge in the field of dance and how we could bring it up to date, given that the higher education I trained in generated for me a lot of doubts. From this project Pandora was born, the first proposition of an alternative form of pedagogy practicing dance in the format of a game, a format that often accompanies me in the educational context. My principal idea is to make people think for themselves and to do this offer tools that they can use, or with which they can invent new ones that serve for what they want to do. I stem from the idea that we all have the capacity, I merely offer possibilities to develop this potential.

Currently I teach composition classes at the Conservatori Superior de Dansa at the Institut del Teatre in Barcelona and in this context I work with principles and tools, rather than with styles and techniques. I understand choreographical composition as the organisation of movement, playing with the variables of time, space, and limits, from this open up a range of potentialities with which to play. Something I place great emphasis on is concretion, which is the most difficult. But there is something else that I already mentioned in the text you mentioned, which is the problem of primary and secondary education, let’s leave university education aside for now as that would be quite another subject. The former has ignored and ignores the body as a place of experience and knowledge. It ignores other intelligences and ways of learning, communicating, being and knowing the world that lie beyond the mere memorizing of information. The system has been obsolete for many years now but even though there are private initiatives promoting another type of learning, the public system is so slow to update itself and transform that it always arrives late and ineffectively. To ignore the body of the person who is learning is a grave error, one that has consequences we suffer every day. And in this, dance has a lot to offer. But dance isn’t valued by society as much as it deserves and I doubt it will achieve it in education, at least in the near future. In this, I’m not an optimist, and I am for a while!

To listen to the voice of a dancer, through works such as Véronique Doisneau or Cédric Andrieux by Jérôme Bel or the retrospective of Xavier Leroy in which you collaborate with your body, is something that makes me think of those versions of Sudando el discurso (Sweating the discourse) in which forgoing the recorded text. It’s you who talks as you dance. Another exercise of simultaneity with which you also venture into with your reflections spoken out loud while playing ping pong with different opponents. What drives you to place in evidence your body, your voice or your tiredness, while doing other things?

On the one hand, there is something of a dual attention that interests me and places the body in a strong tension with the everyday. On the other, for years now I’ve been using an equation that I’m particular fond of which goes something like A+B=p, where the collision of two things leads to something else, something different comes out: post-modern dance with techno, critical theory with the practice of the dancer, ping pong with reflection, etc. I like this equation because even though A always has to do with the body or dance, it is in contact with another type of discourse, text, practice, etc. that removes it from its known place and from there it generates another corpus, which is what interests me. I’m not interested in developing a style or technique as has been done traditionally in dance and as many choreographers continue to do today. I don’t know how to conceive of ways of doing things that don’t pass through the body, even writing this my body is present in what I’m doing, conscious of its physical composition and the objects that writing requires.

b) Aimar Pérez Galí. Foto de Pedro Rosenblat @a-desk.org

You vindicate the role of the dancer as someone who thinks, who doesn’t just execute what the choreographer dictates. To understand what you are saying, you associate the figure of the dancer with that of the translator. The practice of the dancer would be like for the translator, the text. What type of text do you write when you dance?

A text which “doesn’t want to say” anything. A text that “is”, that happens. A text that operates on a different sensorial and affective level. Let me quote Chantal Maillard in La baba del caracol: To perceive a drop of water is not to think of the falling drop. It seems that we always need symbolic relations to allow us to carry out complex interpretations, as in this way we feel more intelligent. But what happens is when we think about the falling drop we are losing the drop that falls. If we believe that the drop encapsulates some mystery, if the event is something distinct from what happens, something we have to discover, we tie ourselves up in the pleasure of relations. And there is no mystery in this drop of water falling onto water, so much as an event. Or to put it another way, the mystery is the event.

I find your transposition of Foucault when you talk of the dancer’s body as a somateca as very appropriate. You say that, as for Foucault, the body is penetrated by history the body of the dancer would be something like a living archival body. But this bodily archive is not a box so much as someone traversed in turn by a history that is its own. Faced with the quantity of information that dancers hold in their body, what should the dancer end up doing?

The concept of the somateca comes from Paul B. Preciado and when I first heard it in a class of PEI (Independent Studies Programme) (MACBA) I immediately understood it from my practice as a dancer. The archive of the dancer, of everything danced, safeguarded in their flesh, in this body of which we don’t know what it is capable. But in reality, this happens in all bodies. All bodies are somatic, it’s simply that perhaps in the figure of the dancer the concept becomes more evident given that their “texts” don’t end up written in a book, or in the production of an object, so much as it is in their body that is capable of activating an archive. What to do with this archive is the decision or luck of each person because there memory plays a decisive part. What seems interesting to me is how classical choreographers have been transmitting from body to body, just as stories were passed down by the oral tradition. Today we have cameras that help us with these choreographic archives but before having this technology at our disposal another was used, and these dances have reached us thanks to these archives. But this doesn’t happen just with ballet or folk-dance, it also happens today in ways of dancing in the disco and in this sense, we can all feel interrelated. One clear, magnificent example was the work of Carolina Bonfim “The Last Dance”[[http://a-desk.org/highlights/Llegir-llenguatges-i-detectar.html]].

Your performed talk has mutated over time to come to understand dance as something that (also) is a language that generates knowledge. After this exercise of introspection, on what project are you currently working?

Yes, for me it has been revealing this work in particular because it has opened up a new way of working. It began as a project for the end of my master that didn’t intend to transcend the context of the PEI, but it did and became a performed talk that helped me to carry on writing and researching. This led me to share the text through the publication of the book and finally, perhaps tired of repeating the same over and over again and having done it quite a lot, to want to push the format that bit further. It has ended up becoming more of what I understand as a dramatic piece rather than a talk.

Months ago I began researching the imprint that the epidemic of AIDS had on dance during the eighties and nineties in the Spanish and Latin-American dance scene, obviously without omitting the United States, and relating it to the development and dissemination of Contact Improvisation (as you see, once again A+B=p). Even though initially I thought it was a relation of opposites, Contact fomented contact and confidence in the body of the other while AIDS triggered a rejection of the infected body. I’m unearthing documents and talking to dancers, and this is allowing me to discover many other relations of similarity, perhaps on a conceptual level, that seem very revealing. As the process advances, I’ll be showing this project The Touching Community, in the different places that are lending it support, but it promises to be a project that will give me a lot of work researching, which is fantastic.

You state your “work traverses research into relations between dance, movement, pedagogy and the development of new procedural methodologies towards performative practices”. To conclude, what is dance for you?

A way of understanding, knowing, and being in the world.

Frederic Montornés

Articles

17 January 2016

When the body talks: an interview with Aimar Pérez Galí

03 July 2011

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