Dance researcher/performer Maroula Iliopoulou follows the research process of dance artist Ingrid Berger Myhre for Dancing Museums. Read her text and follow the journey!
A performative warm-up in advance of your tour, an exclusive intervention, or a treasure hunt? Curious to read more about Ingrid’s research on the 5th & 6th week of residency for Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen? This time the research took place at Stedelijk Museum Schiedam.
Attempting to shake up the way we usually walk (or are expected to walk) inside a museum, while always respecting the exhibits, Ingrid offered an experiment designed for one or two visitors at a time.
For the fifth and sixth week of her residency for Dancing Museums, Ingrid developed an interactive one-on-one guided tour of Stedelijk Museum Schiedam. She had the opportunity to share and test this with a few visitors on the last day of her residency.
The visitor experience was arranged by appointment and lasted 25 minutes. Imagine entering a museum space and moving continually from one exhibition to the other, and, rather than spending time looking at the exhibits properly, following the flow of the events unfolding in front of your eyes, one after the other.
Kristin de Groot, the Artistic Director of Dansateliers Rotterdam, participated in the test-tour. She shared her experience:
“Even though the journey felt like an energizer, it was also a journey in itself, a performative treasure hunt with things, interventions, and people performing on the way. It felt a bit like hiking in the mountains, the moment you see a trail, a forest or a mountain come to an end, you want to continue as you are curious to see what is beyond what you can see. I think that notion, to see beyond, stimulated my senses and curiosity, which made me really want to go back into the museum spaces.”
Interestingly the word ‘discover’ and the phrase ‘to see what is beyond what you can see’ used by Kristin to articulate her experience of how her gaze was taken on a journey, points towards one of the critical questions that Ingrid’s research revolves around. How could her choreographic proposal serve as an alternative platform to perceive the exhibited work? In the process of crafting the visitor’s journey, Ingrid was more interested in ‘looking for’, than ‘looking at’. This offered the visitor a different perspective and employed a dramaturgical aspect to do so.
Ingrid’s choreographic practice is often concerned with challenging the way we look at things. Departing from the components already present in the museum, architectural and environmental, she and her collaborators composed a network of coincidences, resembling a treasure hunt, with the aim of playing with modes and registers of attention.
The idea of a treasure hunt, as a playful choreographic device to craft the journey through a museum, poses some interesting questions: What do we consider a treasure? Is it something of value? Are they hidden per se? What could be the means of disclosing these little potential treasures?
The utilization of the little tokens inspired the nature of the events designed for this experiment. They also linked the in-between spaces by revealing the trajectory intended for the participant. Through their tactile exchange, they also became a symbol of consent, a contract for interactive participation.
Speaking of choreographic composition, the repetition of this exchange established a motif, a rhythm for the guided tour. The pace of moving from one room to another was ever-changing. From following the tail of one event, to stopping and discovering a hint until you continue again to witness something else, taking a break in the middle of a staircase and then hurrying to find a hidden choreography in the subsidiary spaces of the museum (basement, foyer, staircase).
In a museum, if an object is left inside an exhibition space, it will immediately be removed by the staff for security reasons. This leave-no-trace policy became a guiding principle for the choreographic apparatus. Like seeds from Hansel & Gretel’s tale, the material objects appeared and disappeared consistently around each event as if by magic. So did the performers, as they assembled into a swarm and then dissolved. This ephemerality of the guided journey resonates with the very nature of movement and dance. Likewise this itinerary manifests as a fleeting experience to be merely encountered in the present time.
The proposal invited the participant to trace alternative routes throughout the building and visit spaces that they would not traditionally go to. This ‘hidden’ itinerary made the journey an immersive experience, which went along with a sense of care and preciousness in terms of the personal and one-to-one individual experience. ‘Hidden’ precisely because the trajectory unfolded and was disclosed for one specific point of view, whilst being invisible to other visitors in the space.
Inhabiting both the exhibition spaces as well as the subsidiary spaces of the museum, the proposal created volume in terms of the kinaesthetic experience, and a sense of whole from the point of view being offered. Ingrid worked with both proximity and distance, drawing attention to the interventions taking place in front of our eyes, or far away in the courtyard outside visible through the window. Ingrid called this exploration of zooming our attention in space in and out, ‘frames & scales’. Frames used not only in their literal form but also metaphorically, utilising elements in the space, and in relation to where our body was situated/moving through in these spaces. ‘Framing’ offers an invitation to consider and embody a way of seeing. What we see or choose to see is a projection of our personal heritage and our previous experiences, but what if we adopt another perspective? In other words, by taking a perspective, we situate ourselves in relation to what we see. A frame manoeuvres our attention and stimuli both in the micro-level of what is framed and in association to the bigger scale of its surroundings and of what is not involved from that specific point of view. In that sense, the proposal facilitated the opportunity to appreciate different aspects of what we encounter.
The tour ended, and the the participant was invited to retrace the journey and explore the museum at their own pace. With all the senses now awakened after the previous adventure, the tour would surely be fascinating anew.
By Maroula Iliopoulou