Karen
Christopher

TwoFold: the particularities of working in pairs

This second symposium on duet work that we have been part of (see here for posts on the earlier one) was held at Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre on 3rd and 4th March 2017 and included presentations by the following:

John Kannenberg, Director and Chief Curator of the Museum of Portable Sound
Professor David Berman, Center for Research in String Theory at Queen Mary, University of London
Przymierska Morgan, a London-based performance duo

Emma Bennett, performance maker
Karen Glossop & Paul Murray, co-founders of Wishbone Theatre
Vanio Papadelli & Tania Batzoglou, performance makers

Tin Can People, The Katie & Pip Project
Marcus Orlandi, performance artist and curator

Mira Loew & Jane Frances Dunlop
Julie Brixey-Williams & Libby Worth, freelance artist and movement practitioner (respectively)

Teri & James Harper-Bailie, artist researchers and collaborative PhD candidates
Marta Zboralska, a second-year AHRC-funded research student in the History of Art department at University College London

This is the text that Sophie Grodin and I delivered as an introduction:

Introduction to Twofold symposium (click for symposium schedule pdf)

It could begin with this:
A panel where three people from different vantage points talk about something in relation to doubles or twins or a set of two somethings.

It could begin with this: two people are like two strands comprising a rope which holds together by the pressure of the twist of contradictory forces, without which, it is just fibres reduced to gossamer, easily lost to the wind.

It could continue like this:
A couple of police officers tell us all about how they work together to complement each other’s strengths. In a kind of good cop bad cop routine.

It could continue like this, comfortable with the fact that I will never truly know you.

It could end like this:
A large thunderclap is heard from the sky, and everyone rushes to the windows to watch the largest hail stones they have ever seen falling to the ground. As we look closer, we see that each of the hail stones is really two hail stones, fused together.

We welcome you to TwoFold - the particularities of working in pairs.
We have been thinking in two’s for about 6 years now and wanted to widen the dialogue.
We think this will be an opportunity to do that with all of you.

What followed (the allure of the evil twin and the dread it expresses; the non-local entangled pairs, the embrace of randomness, the thought experiment in which action here determines reality there; the sound of something meeting resistance; the deep resource of misunderstanding—conflict as a methodology; the duo in which practice comes first (in silvery outfits) in a dovetailing relationship with theory; wrapped up the next morning by a list of questions and the notion that working with another person is a struggle to articulate yourself as well as the other person and that entanglement is not about ignorance but about randomness; followed by sticky navigation, a set of relations that make an understanding: the fix is not finding an answer but in realising the problem is unsolvable; a man and his mirror; a dog and her girl and their dancing shadows; the scaffold upon which their work is made: step, feather, stitch, a game with cards; Homeworks, the interpenetration of work and home, each other; the blue masking tape at the height of 133cm from the floor turning the studio into the study transforming simultaneity from a temporal to a terrestrial state; and then all of us in a room with something to say but hardly any words to say it with) came in such a tumble it was hard to keep it in a straight line but when it was over we knew more as well as had more to know. It was not a mathematical representation of a situation in which each participant's gain or loss of utility is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the utility of the other participants. Everyone got more.

Tags: TwoFold, symposium, Sophie Grodin, duet, Birkbeck College

Posted on Monday, 6 March 2017 by Karen Christopher

without restriction to a particular way of thinking

The duet form as a topic brings us together without restriction to a particular way of thinking. It allows for disparate styles, poetics, aesthetics--as a central focus it does not dictate type in these categories.

a report on the TwoFold symposium

Mary Paterson wrote a response to the first day of the symposium, a thought-provoking list of questions and hearing it on the second day had the effect of moving from white noise to a spot on the radio dial assigned to a specific station. Reading it later I realised it developed (intentionally or not) an exchange from the end of the first day provoked by the above statement having been uttered aloud.

Someone took exception to the above statement claiming we were all pretty similar. I suggested that was not the case from my point of view, which was countered by another voice saying well, we probably all voted remain . . . (or something to that effect). Mary's writing rescues us from the reductive and not-quite-rigorous morass of half thoughts that intermingled in that late moment when a group discussion was just taking shape. It was a moment when we might take stock of what had happened during the day if there were any among us with enough focus left to find a thread through it. It was more like turning up earth in service of future growth rather than fashioning fully formed conclusions on the day. A little time and germination will no doubt pull some thoughts together. Mary's writing helps in that regard.

Mary's questions sparked by her attention to the way things proceeded through that first day reads as a rigorous questioning of method, intention, or procedure and points to a climate of attention that coheres in a room of people examining their own practices one after another, in pairs, all day long. It also makes a kind of coded message which reads one way to the people who had been present for the day and another to those readers who weren't there. And within those two categories of reader (the one from inside the symposium day and the one from outside), the open weave of it allows meaning to be constructed in collaboration with the various positions and preoccupations of readers from both audiences. It both guides and conforms, clarifies and confounds. These are questions we all benefit from answering no matter where we are and no matter what we are doing.

from Questions about Two Fold

by Mary Paterson



Who’s missing? 

How do you know?

What shape do they make with their absence?

Will you start again when they get here?

Will you feel complete?

Will you feel better?

What’s your position?



Who is your opposite?

Who is your complement?

What does your reflection say back to you from the mirror? 

Be honest: how long do you like to spend talking to yourself in the mirror?

And how long would you like to do it if no-one was watching? And how long would you like to do it if you could guarantee that people were watching, avidly, in silence, and theorising it later on in company as the performance of an alter ego?



What kind of moral licence could you achieve from dividing up your psyche into the other versus the self, the organised versus the active, the repressed versus the carnivalesque, the curator versus the artist? 

What authority do you have when you give yourself a job title?

Is ‘collaborator’ a job title? Is ‘partner’? Is ‘scientist’? Is ‘dyad’?

Is it a compliment?



What’s your word for it?


Relatively speaking: what’s your position? 

What’s your super-position?

How do you know you’re not missing any information?

How do you know you’re not drowning in misunderstanding?

What kinds of freedoms could you achieve when you know that entanglement is not to do with ignorance, but to do with randomness?



How do you know?

(read the entire piece here)

Mary Paterson's response was written for and delivered on the second day of TwoFold: the particularities of working in pairs, a symposium hosted by Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre and Camden People’s Theatre as part of TwoFold, Haranczak/Navarre’s festival of duet performance (March 2017). The symposium was followed by two weekends of duet performances at Chisenhale Dance Space (London).

Tags: symposium, Mary Paterson, duet, Birkbeck College, TwoFold

Posted on Sunday, 5 March 2017 by Karen Christopher

What isn't it? she says it isn't dance, she says it is performance art

We (people) have a compulsion to categorize. We do it for the clarity. We do it for the banishment of chaos. We do it and it sometimes clouds our ability to accept something simply because it does not fit into the accepted category, or the expected category. I suppose if there were no categories it would just be soup or sewer or jumble sale. But we spend a lot of time on the categories and then we spend a lot of time straddling them or being sliced in two by them. Those categories. But we do need limiting devices. Otherwise there is too much to look at. Too much to consider. I guess defining in order to weed out what I don't want before I even see it, is somewhat suspect to me even though I am lamentably incapable of "seeing" everything.

She wrote in her review/interview: "where does movement end and dance begin?" She is using the form of the first line in our piece, Control Signal, the one she is writing about. This is our first line: "where does one beginning begin and another ending end?"

I suppose if we can't ask these questions we can't really discuss anything. I wouldn't want to put a stop to definition or to discussion or to disputation. But I wonder how useful some of these distinctions are? My question might be: What isn't dance? And that would be annoying to quite a few people I imagine. I can tell what isn't ballet. I can tell you what made me think of ballet. This did:

One of the reasons I love going to ballet and dance is that you never quite know what you’re going to experience and Control Signal certainly was nothing like I had expected, but I had expected more dance. Control Signal is more performance art and it made me question, ‘what is dance?’ and ‘where does movement end and dance begin?’

Control Signal is interesting and entertaining, and importantly made me think, and that’s always a good thing! (link to this)

I'm worried about the exclamation point.

(photo: Andrea Milde)

Tags: symposium, Sadlers Wells, duet, Control Signal

Posted on Sunday, 2 November 2014 by Karen Christopher

Of Two Minds: Resonance, counterpoint, and confrontation, self and otherness: what does working as a duet mean?

Special note:

tickets now on sale for Of Two Minds: an afternoon on duet collaboration (Sadler's Wells/University of Roehampton) and the performance of Control Signal that evening (30 October, 2014) at Sadler's Wells' Lilian Baylis studio (London).

from Sadler's Wells' website:

Of Two Minds: an afternoon on duet collaborations

Resonance, counterpoint, and confrontation, self and otherness: what does working as a duet mean? What creative methodologies, or creations does it foster across - and among - diverse fields of practice? How is the duet different from other forms of collaboration? When does this experience of alterity become an experience of duality? And what happens then?

Join us for an exploration of these questions in an afternoon of talks, dialogues and presentations focusing on the practice of duets by scholars and artists from performance, theatre, dance, music, visual arts and creative writing. As befits the subject matter, participants will take the floor in pairs in a dynamic reimagining of the traditional symposium.

Of Two Minds will be followed by an evening performance of Control Signal, a duet by Haranczak/Navarre: Karen Christopher and Sophie Grodin. Christopher -  formerly of the renowned American collective Goat Island - and Grodin explore invisible influences and the inexplicable connections we feel but fail to acknowledge.

Keynote speakers to include:
Karen Christopher & Sophie Grodin, with Andrea Milde
Ernst Fischer & LEIBNIZ
Ewan Forster & Chris Heighes
Joe Kelleher & Eirini Kartsaki
Becka McFadden & Scheherazaad Cooper
Amaara Raheem & Tobias Sturmer
PA Skantze & Matthew Fink

Tags: Sophie Grodin, Sadlers Wells, Joe Kelleher, duet, symposium

Posted on Tuesday, 3 June 2014 by Karen Christopher