A collective surviving through punk
Woven into the fabric of human nature is our endless pursuit of certainty. In search for understanding, we pack ourselves into neat little boxes, each with a label to guide us towards what we come to understand as our one ‘true self’. Humans find comfort in structure, yet structure confines and imprisons. It fails to capture the complexity of the human spirit, which blossoms in intricate colours as we let go of the blinding limitations we place upon this world. Led by their insatiable curiosity about the human perception of the world, dancer/performer Lore Borremans and composer Adam Vincent Clarke embark on their own quest for freedom. Their piece contr (a/o) vers (e/u) s is an intimate bodily and audiovisual meditation on human nature, a delicate yet blunt dance on the borderlines of identity. In their radical symphony of movement and sound, Lore and Adam delve beyond the façade of singular labels to show that what lurks underneath is more than meets the eye.
Interview by Silvija Daniunaite
Photos by Koen Quintyn
We wanted a riot close to our hearts; our personal riot
How was contr (a/o) vers (e/u) s born?
L: I had an offer to create a piece for the Antwerp Queer Arts Festival (AQAF). I’ve already worked with them back in 2016, when I created erde/a. For this season, they commissioned me to create a sequel. I wanted to take this creation to the next level and do so through a collaboration with another artist. I saw Adam on stage once and I fell for his composing qualities and stage presence. I’ve wanted to work with him for quite some time, and then finally – we did. I contacted him, we sat down for a coffee and we matched really well.
A: It was true love. [laughs] The idea for this piece really came from the theme riot – a riot against all riots. Typically, when you see something that’s like this, you’d expect someone to reference police brutality or burning down a building, or something similar. That’s too obvious, I think. What I mean by ‘that’s too obvious’ is more like too obvious for what I like to create myself. Not necessarily that the directness of addressing police brutality, for instance, is not worthy – I love Rage Against the Machine and their solid in your face riot.
L: We both agreed that we didn’t want to do that. We wanted a riot close to our hearts. Our personal riot.
Your group identity seems to have become more important than who you are as an individual
So, what’s contr (a/o) vers (e/u) s all about?
A: I guess the major thing it came down to is something that plays a primary role today – identity politics. How do you refer to yourself within a group of people? Your group identity seems to have, in some cases, become more important than who you are as an individual. For some reason, the idea of gender politics has taken a direct route to the most important identifying factor as to who you are as a person, perhaps equally so, sexuality. This is an engaging topic to discuss, and indeed, everybody should have the right to choose who they are, but I think it’s a bit of a misnomer – this hierarchy of identity. I’m sort of talking a bit about my frustration insofar as it comes to the ignorance towards the plethora of other identifying factors that make up an individual, in exchange for just one or two.
L: There is, at least to me, a certain illusion of freedom in the further subdivision of identity through labels. But isn’t complete freedom to get rid of all these labels? It shouldn’t be about creating more and more. It should just be about you and being you. My answer to that, physically-speaking, is following my instincts, not necessarily defining anything. In this case, I don’t want to define, I don’t want to label. However, it’s very hard for human nature not to do so.
A: That’s how we understand our world.
Isn’t complete freedom to get rid of all the labels?
You mentioned following an instinct and this performance being somewhat animalistic; yet in another interview, you also discussed sensitivity. How do these oppositions play out in the piece, both through dance and music?
L: The piece in general is very brutal, due to the staging of plates; very delicate objects. This brutality exists through the sheer quantity of plates stacked one on top of the other. The higher the pile, the more likely they are to fall. The more likely they are to fall, the more risk there is for them to smash. A transformation from delicate to dangerous. In this work, I’m searching for balance between fragility and bluntly following my instincts, as an animal does. Abstractly, the plates might stand to represent aspects of these themes of identity, identity labels, belief systems, or our ability to have an open dialogue. I move through the city of plates, interacting with the various structures, either violently, playfully or with great care.
A: As for the music, it focuses on a mixture between acoustic instruments such as a cello or violin, with electronic instruments like a synth, and then an element of Musique Concréte which involves manipulating recorded sounds. For instance, I take the sound of stairs, reverse the waveform, and add a delay to it – the identity of an everyday object therefore becomes unrecognizable and takes on a character of its own. The plates themselves are quite loud as well. This, you could argue, is a live instrument that Lore is playing. It’s again not something you’d naturally anticipate as a performable instrument, nor would you likely think a pile of plates could come to represent anything other than, well, a pile of plates.
L: Yes, we give them an identity.
There is a significant amount of ‘tunnel-vision’ when it comes to identity
What’s the story behind the title? It’s quite unusual when you first stumble upon it.
A: contr (a/o) vers (e/u) s – controversies. For me, I think, to make a statement like ‘one should also place more weight on the other factors contributing to your personal identity, as opposed to simply recognizing yourself by your gender, or sexuality for instance. Especially when it is done so at the expense of all the parts that contribute to who you are as a person’ – I’m very well aware that we can get flak for that. However, I think it’s important to address this. There is significant value in all of these other parts that make up an individual, and I find there is a significant amount of ‘tunnel-vision’ when it comes to this theme. But Lore also has her opinions and thoughts when the title comes in. [smiles]
L: For me, the title refers to different perspectives that one could have. It’s contra, it’s also versus. It’s together and it’s apart. It’s male, it’s female, and it’s something in between. When you see the title, you can’t say there’s only one way to read it. You see different options to approach one thing. That’s why there’s brackets and slashes. [laughs] Furthermore, the title is referring to erde/a, my previous work for AQAF. That title only offered two options to interpret one word. For contr (a/o) vers (e/u) s, we got rid of the binary choice, just as society is trying to do. That is a positive thing, but it also causes a lot of confusion when you’re eager to define your self only through a very specific subset of identifiers.
His language is music and my language is physical movement, but we’re saying the same thing
How hard is it to navigate the creative process, given that you come from different backgrounds and disciplines?
A: I think what’s particularly interesting is that the process of working together is very collaborative and there’s equal respect for both sides of the creation. We communicate directly or even bluntly when it needs to be. In our case, we create simultaneously. In other words, neither the dance nor the music comes before the other. We work in bits and pieces and we’re kind of puzzling them together.
L: Yes, we’re co-creators. It’s nice to have an equal and to share everything.
Your artistic duo is a collision between two different worlds – music and dance. How do we see them connect when you work together?
L: I read people easily because I’m extremely sensitive to human behaviour and people’s emotions. This comes in handy when I work with someone else. In this creation process, the emotion for me is the link. When I hear Adam’s music, I read an emotion and through that emotion I can act in a physical way. I can almost always relate to what he’s saying. His language is music and my language is physical movement, but we’re saying the same thing. Simply put, we’re following our gut.
A: Or at least we’re having a very good conversation.
Fair compensation and creating a community is important to both of us
What does the future hold for you as an artistic duo? Any plans?
L: Hell yes! This summer, we’re going to work on a grant application because we want for this piece to take off. We want to expand our city of plates, make it much bigger than it is now. We don’t have significant financial support, so it’s harder to create that kind of universe under those circumstances. Luckily, we have a solid community of artists around and we can work here in Troubleyn Laboratorium. This residency is a major help because otherwise there would be no piece. Furthermore, we would like to tour with contr (a/o) vers (e/u) s, continue developing it. Lastly, it would be great to bring in other motivated artists to further develop the piece and share artistry.
A: This is also something I think is super important – namely, working together with other people on a professional level – those who bring their own backgrounds and aesthetics to the table. It’s great, because there is the chance you will be enlightened to an approach you might not have seen or thought of without this individual. I think if we can do something tourable, and something that starts generating money, we can really bring other artists on board to work with us and fairly compensate them. This is important to both Lore and myself – fair compensation and creating a community. I don’t have family here, so this really plays into what I want to do in the future. I want to support my community and my community is my fellow creators.
L: Exactly. I’ve had some bad experiences in the past with companies asking me to work for exposure. I don’t ever want to do that to the people I work with. I want to pay people well and fair. That’s something I want to stand for.
A: Acting honorably.
Lore Borremans & Adam Vincent Clarke
Antwerp Queer Arts Festival
9 August – De Studio, Antwerp
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