Marco: The first thing I’d like to say that still stays with me a few days after the Atelier ended is something that came out on the second day of work, but was also there on the first day, And which I felt was problematic but still very common in the discourse. It was the use of very defined and distinct poles in the rhetoric, in the dialectic. On the second day there was a long discussion about how artists are not really able to connect the theoretical dimension of their work to the practical part. I felt a lot of difficulty trying to survive in that conversation because, though I understand that it is necessary to have defined terms to be able to orientate ourselves in such a complex conversation, for me it was really difficult and really symptomatic, the fact that we were still after two hours talking about the difference between theory and practice in artistic practice, in dance practice. I think that one good starting point to begin really changing as institutions and artists, and also a good starting point for this conversation with you Roser, could be to try to avoid dualisms in conversation. And the first dualism I would like to avoid is exactly this, the one that divides theory from practice. Because actually I really think and believe that many, many artists nowadays when they theorise, when they write, when they think, when they read, they are of course already practicing what they are doing. And vice versa, when they are embodying something, they are at the same time producing theory about what they’re researching. And I’m saying something that might seem really banal but actually, after two days of conversation, I found out that it was not so banal and it was necessary to start from here. And I would like to play a little bit with you this game and to have a conversation of trying to never use dualisms. This game reminds me a little bit of something I read many years ago by David Foster Wallace, who had an extraordinary way of writing. He was suggesting as an exercise to test if you’re a good writer or not, to try to write without using any common rhetorical figure or any expression that’s usually used to describe things by people and if you try to do it, it’s really difficult actually. And I would like to put this difficulty in our conversation to see if it can lead us somewhere.
Roser: Hi Marco, thanks for starting this conversation. Yeah, actually, the round table we had that day when we were together talking about this duality between theory and practice, that was quite an intense table. And I remember we went on and on talking about it during the break, so it means it’s something that moved us and I guess that a lot of us felt that there were many things to be said still, or that we didn’t come to a conclusion. When considering the duality thing, actually I think the Atelier already in itself proposed a question that contained a duality, because it was a meeting between institutions and artists and how we relate to each other. So already the basic question, or the basic proposal, from the Atelier itself already included this duality. I don’t know why but it seems like we’re pretty used to thinking in opposites, but we can also think it’s complementary. Actually, I wonder if this dichotomy we understand when we talk about theory and practice, maybe it’s because we think of theory as academia. I guess theory is how we formalise our practice, how you make it understandable, how you realise the principles you are working with and how you find a way you can transmit it to other people. Maybe that’s what theory is. I remember when I was studying at university, I felt so trapped in a way that I could never express my thoughts and my ideas. I always had to find authors I could quote, authors I could speak through, so I had to find discourses that made me think, reflect, that I could agree with or feel opposition to, and use those words to express my thoughts. Maybe that’s what I would consider an overrated academic discourse, how we sometimes feel forced, or we feel the need for, important thinkers to express what we feel. But that’s very different to theory. I remember when I was in the dance school and I was asked to submit my final paper, how I told the teacher that I would give myself the permission to finally express what my thoughts were. And of course I could quote thinkers, philosophers, practitioners, dancers, choreographers, any kind of artist I loved and whose work I felt a complicity with to give examples of what I was in love with, but that I could find the freedom, give myself the freedom, to write down on paper, ‘I think…’, ‘I believe…’ or ‘I’ve come to the conclusion that…’ So Marco I don’t know if I managed to talk without using the words that are normally used to describe… it’s a nice exercise that you gave, actually I think This Is Water by David Foster Wallace is really nice, and it’s really nice to think of what we take for granted, so probably I’m taking for granted words that we constantly use to describe and I probably don’t even pay attention to the fact that I’m using them. Maybe we should make a list of words we should not use in our conversation.
< what if we are not seeing that there is a great potential in these misunderstandings >
Marco: I like this conversation so, the structure in time, because it’s like as if there are different Marcos and different Rosers that are speaking to each other, some coming from the past and there is always the one of the present, that is having a dialogue with the ones from the past. And what you said… yeah, I’m surprised that I didn’t notice while I was there that actually the dichotomy was already inside the title and the objective of the Atelier. And what you said makes me think something that was brought up a few times during the two days of discussions, that many of the problems lay in misunderstandings. And to come back to the topic, it seems to me that we were misunderstanding each other in our work table which was supposed to be made by people who had a certain degree of capacity to understand and talk through those topics, so let’s imagine how many more misunderstandings there are in the conversation between people that have different capacities and different accesses to the matter. And this brings me back to the idea that, using once again the dichotomy that I was at the beginning proposing not to use any more, but when artists and institutions talk, my question is: how often is there an ongoing misunderstanding about terms and how many times, to make a connection with the example that you Roser gave about your experience in the university, how many times do we feel that we need to prove what we do and what we think and what we believe through the experience and the history of other people and other projects and other realities. And all of this, I see it as a major effort to overcome the misunderstandings. Once again, it’s a problem of language, it’s a problem of not only sharing vocabulary, and having and building a common vocabulary, but how each of us personally uses language when he talks about his work. For sometimes we use it as a weapon, sometimes we use it as a defence, sometimes we use it as a practice, there are so many ways that we don’t share many times with the people we’re talking to so there’s no common ground on the level of the function that we’re actually giving to language. And going on into this challenge, inspired initially by David Foster Wallace, I would like to provoke you, asking you and also asking myself, what if we are not seeing that there is a great potential in these misunderstandings, and what if the one possible way of building a dialogue would be not to overcome misunderstandings, but to play into and to be and to find a way to survive and exist into the problematic of not understanding each other and how can we do that. This would be very interesting for me to understand.
Roser: I think we live in a society that gives too much value to discourse. That’s a personal impression I have of course. I have the impression that more and more, as a society, we give less value to practice. That’s why such important professions that have to do with practice directly, like carpenters, people working with metals, anything that has to do with craftsmanship, except for jewellery maybe and watchmaking, a lot of professions that deal directly with things, like mechanics, we give less social value to them than any PhD about any decision (?), and I don’t want to mean that one practice or one profession has more or less value than another, but I have the impression that society tends more and more to give this credit to anything that is around discourse, and that’s why politicians I think, they put more and more effort into discourses, how their discourses are built. And not about what they’re saying, because more and more political discourses are totally empty. It’s just like a word puzzle and putting things beautifully, but they are totally content empty. So maybe because we are so overwhelmed with discourse, because we have information all the time, because more and more publicity is also built on how you make a discourse, how you communicate, but not about what you are selling, because maybe you are selling fantastically well a product that is totally rubbish. Also in practices like ours, or disciplines like ours, which are in the core of practice, we work with the body, we feel also like all this, not theoretical, but the academic discourse has become so important as well. Which again I think is very different from creating theory, completely nailed to the practice we do. During the Atelier, I thought about martial arts because lately I’m practicing martial arts. Imagine a kung-fu master having to justify a practice he or she is teaching to the students. With any move a martial arts teacher proposes, you can feel immediately there are thousands of years of experience behind those movements, behind those movement sequences, and there are patterns that have been applied or evolved in a certain way because they were efficient. So I don’t think we would assume that masters in martial arts, all these military disciplines, would have to justify, not in an academic discourse. So my question again is why do as a people working with artistic disciplines, do we need to feel this urgency or this need… So again I’m bringing in I think the atelier made me probably, formalise a bit better, that theory is not academic discourse, these are two differnet hings. And I really like theory because we need to formalise things, to create a thought I need to formalise something. And that’s different to academic discourse and quoting other people. And also, how important it is to bring back the importance of what we do and what we do. Why a society I think, or maybe me, but I have this impression when I look around, we so very often feel the need to bring information and value from outside of what we do, as if the value of things we do is always far away from what we do. We need influences, we need beautiful contamination, we learn everywhere, from what we read, what we experience, what we look at, what we hear, from what others do, so we’re constantly learning and our learning probably is very social throughout our whole life, with our practice and anything we do in life, so that’s very important. And people that are curious we really really like to learn constantly, like to get new skills and have different thoughts, and formulate and put different thoughts in conflict and see what happens. And that’s nice to feel like how you can conjugate, to practice your thoughts with other people’s thoughts, so you can go further and become more refined in what you think. Or you broaden your horizons. Or you get in conflict and then you need to, you move some steps forward after resolving the conflict or going through it, but that’s for me very differnet and that’s creating new discourses which is really nice because we create new discourses in our minds, in how we communicate and in the physical practice, in movement, in how we work with dance. Marco: I’m not sure that I’m exactly following you, but I like this. Because before I was trying to propose a new way of staying with the misunderstanding, I have to say that I like this idea that I follow what you say not on the level of pure understanding but more on the level of the associations that what you say give me and then maybe this is another way to be listening to someone that is talking to us but has a very different background and a very different position. The other day I was reading about this theory called the sapir worf hypothesis, which is a linguistic theory, according to which when you learn a new language, you begin to dream in this language, and you begin also to think in it, and the process of learning a new language changes your way of thinking. I’m saying it in very simple words, but it’s more or less this. And I can connect totally this theory, that for me is very fascinating, to what you’re saying and to what I was saying and I was wondering, as a provocation, as a goal, if it would be possible to teach ourselves again our own langauge, when we talk about dance for example, so to learn a new language, even if we use the same vocabulary and the same grammar and the same structures, but a new order of things according to which we organise our discourse around dance or what we do or how we create, and I was wondering whether if we do it and we do it together with people that come from different disciplines, what if, in doing it, in the process of doing it, we then begin to change again and then this immediately affects our practice just because we are changing the way we are talking about what we do.
< I was trying to propose a new way of staying with the misunderstanding >
Roser: I hope yes that you can more or less follow me. Yes, I guess we have a quite different way of structuring thoughts, and the way we put them on the table. So that’s how even speaking the same language, I wouldn’t say misunderstnadings, but diff meanings arise,a dn then we always inteprret the message. I studied two years of philology and I’m a lang lover so I really like linguistics and literature, but I love languages. And one of the basic, most basic theories, is the message is what ahppens more or less halfway between the messenger and the person that receives the message. So in that kind of middle term area is where the neaning arises, because we use our language, the langauge, which is like putting labels or little boxes, and then we send those boxes into the air or in any format we use, onto the white page, into digital media, and somebody recieves it and filters it again through your personal competence with the language, the meanings you know of those words, the way you feel that day, your personal history and how you interpret life in general and also that soecial day, so that combination between the messenger and the person that receives it is where the emsage is really formulated. That is what I believe happens also with performing arts, what we create, the message we create, is something that happens between us and the audience, that’s why audience is so extremelt important for us and for performing arts. Because the message is created live, while we are perfrming and while the audience is present. This theory you mention about how learning a new lang, really changes a person’s brain, or the way you understand the world, it’s fasincationg, it’s really beautiful, and that’s most likely why saying that language are not only a communication vehicle, but they are a way of conceiving the world. That’s why it’s soimportant to keep differnet langauges alive, that we don’t lose more languages, because each language creates a special and specific way of conceiving the world. It’s so beautiful the first time you dream in a different language, I still rememebr the first time I dreamt in englihs because I was studying english when I was a teenager, and I was privileged enough to be sent to the UK for a summer exchange and I rememeber the first day I dreamt in english how shocked I was. I come from a community, a society, where we are already bilingula from a young age. I’m Catalan, catalan is my mother tongue, that’s the languiage I speak at home. But we all learn spanish, some families speak Spanish at home, some don’t. we all learn spanish and we all learn catalan. So from a very young age, you start realising how different it sounds to call everything you label in the world, any small thing you ahndle every day, how things are called differently and the effect those differences create in how you perceive things because the sound of words creates a reality also and then when I studied englihs, it was one step forward, and now that I more or less speak 5 languages, not all in super advanced level, now that I more or less can defend and read in diff langauges, I can also realise the different reality one word gives to another one, and you’re still thinking of the same little cupboard or pot or plant or chair, but the reality, the way the thought is informed, the qualities you give to that object, are different, because they sound different. That’s my experience of course. In relation to what I said previously about discourse, well, my way of agitating (?) ideas which have formulate a bit before the thinking on how we could deal with misunderstanding, well, I think that it become quite obv that I really have a need to give value to the practice and how we formulate the thoughts, the thoughts or the thinking around it. But I got very impressed about that book by richard seneet called ‘the craftman’ (?). I was advised that book once because people got quite surprised that I write so much by hand. I have all my notebooks from the processes and I write a lot, haivng siad that I love language. So that’s my way to keep dealing with language even if I spend many hours in the studio. And I always said that, for me, anyting that was really important, I needed to handwrite it. Though I use the computer a lot of course, but anything that’s really importatnt o me, I need to write it by hand. And I was thinking maybe I’m crazy or really old fashioned, but I feel it has a diff effect on me. When I write on paoer with a pen, than when I press the keyboard. After having said that many times, and people taking it in a funny way, I was advised this book which basically says what I’d felt so strongly. How doing things by hand, even the act of writing, creates a different process in the brain. The way the neurons work is diff, not better, but diff, than when you press a keyboard. That’s why it’s important for me to reinforce the value, the importance of all the manual activities, these manual professions, bodily, I would say, yeah, that’s a better word, the bodily professions, carpenters, mechanics, anybody that works with the body being involved. And also circus artists, dancers, musicians, that play with their body, all the sportspeople, what the thinking process is. They are there in that practice, because we’re constantly thinking and learning and coming to conclusions or coming to questions and trying to formulate answers to them. And we don’t only have neurons in the brain, we have them all through the body and now scientists, it’s becoming so popular to bring back this issue, that there are neurons in the heart and in the stomach, so actually yhe body is full of intelligence everywhere, so that’s a very important way to formulate thought and knowledge too. And that’s how we theorise as well. So we put it into a discourse so other people can understand as well, without doing the practice. Though you only understand really things when you go through the practice, I think. Actually, I’m thinking that this conversation is helping me to come to a new way of thinking of theory. Because I always realte to theories to books and books that I take from a shelf, books I’m given, books I’m recommended, so it’s always information that comes from outside. But after talking and realising all the knkowlesge that comes from the practice, maybe I would dare to say that theory is all this knowledge that comes from practice, once you put it in a structured way so you can communicate it, and so others can understand it. What do you think about it? Do you agree with something like that, that it’s an appealing way to describe it that you can feel some connection with? And about your proposal, about creating a different way to talk about our practice, to see if that informs a different way for us to practice. This week, I have a lot of studio time with people… I will think if I will come to new ways of approching it without me getting confused this moment. But I really think how we name things, how we name what we do, how we name actions, the labels, again, the little labels we use for describing it really makes a diff to anything we do. Actually probably that’s why one of the ways NLP works, how we refer to things with lang, it’s the reality we create for ourselves, so I’m pretty sure that when we make changes, and we name things differently, even when you name things in a different order, you already create a different effect. That I see very much when I teach owrkshops, sometimes I try what happens if I give instructions in diff orders and I can see immediately there are some differences and sometimes it’s very nice to play in different orders and then I can see ok tomorrow it’s better I give the instructions in a diff order so we get closer to what I was looking for. How we formualte the discourse, I very much went through an exp when I came back from amsterdam, because my first lessons in dance were in English, the first theory I learned was in English, when I was really given mechanical principles and when I was explained why that way of moving was more efficient than that other way, the anatomy, a lot of movement princniples, I learned them in English and when I went back to BCN, I didn’t know how to name those principles, or those exercises, or those mechanics, because I didn’t know the words, in Catalan or Spanish. Actually, if ind it funny, for many people who have studied abroad and then are back in Catalonia or in Spain, we talk about ‘physicalitat’ or ‘physicalidad’, which is a very strong, direct transaltion from ‘physiclity’ in English, but honestly I’m not sure that word exists in our language. So that’s how we approach it to create something that recreates that perception we learned in foreign countries about what we were working on. And there are some people creating new words, like ‘incorpar’ for instance, in Spanis, which probably would be ‘incorporar’, which means bringing something inside your body, which is I guess what we do when we embody something, but dance to stress the importance of the body, people are starting to say sometimes ‘incorpar’. I also think that if we talk about the pelvis or the hip and the hips, the differences we create, so I wonder which kind of new code we can create together to see how that informs our practice in a different way. I’m curious to see what you propose.