SCHPANDO Whispers in My Ear: The Exorcism of Andrea Spaziani
This is not a film. This is documentation of dance, sound, and text experiments. I’m going to try some of this material for my presentation in NYC (as a performance), and also choreograph the conditions of my ‘presentation’ by instituting a ‘rehearsal’.
SCHPANDO is the subtext. She sputters between the lines. She is not the sovereign other, but the insatiable inner. I’m going to write a lot. I’m going to use this blog moment to try and articulate something essential. So far, writing has been as fluid and generative as movement improvisation, so I’m dancing this text, somewhat lucidly.
Do one thing. Find what’s essential.
I spent this month trying to pare down my experiment on exhuming personal unconscious space. I decided to change the way I considered SCHPANDO. Perhaps she’s not an autonomous character that exists in representation, separate from me, but maybe she’s a force, a whisper, or a torrential influence that I can only source through the depths of meditative riffing. She’s a shadowy part of me. Maybe it’s not about costume, or narrative, but more about how she changes my actions/approaches/behaviors, and how I morph under her influence. She isn’t visible, she is pure affect. She produces the stuff of self-talk, desire, and heroic acts of vain aggrandizement. This month is less about watching myself through the camera and shooting a stylized ‘selfie’, and more about bringing consciousness to the inner demon Schpando (who, if she is so elusive to characterization, cannot be destroyed.)
I thought this was a CONFESSION, but it turned into an EXORCISM.
Bringing voice and language to the unconscious. The unknown knowns. What are my disavowed beliefs, and how are they a reflection of the spaces I’ve absorbed in my life, upbringing, and culture? What makes this an art project anyway/ how is this not just a wash of personal psychotherapy, healing, and navel gazing? What’s Rorschach got to do with it?
In Lucia Pietroiusti’s essay “Writers in the Expanded Field” she discusses the difficulty with sincerity, and confessional tones, and the interface between self and ‘self’ in our online performativity. “One can no longer believe, or make others believe, that a tone of total disclosure holds any bearing to an authentic self: it is about whether you, listener, O trusty reader, will like me or not.” (Art After the Internet, ed. Omar Kholeif, pg 101). This reaffirmed that I’m not really interested in truths, ‘authenticity’ if you can ever get away from it really, or the real psychodrama of my inner world, but the spontaneous stuff that sounds too sincerely ‘drunk’ to say in public.
AMPLIFICATION towards MUTATION: choreographing the conditions for emergence
I used two choreographic directives to contain the improvisation, and I tried to stick with them for a week. I felt like a wild horse in a panic room. Excellent. I must be onto something. THEY ARE BORING. Which means I’ve stopped entertaining myself with video editing this month, and tried to just dance the directives.
1) Build a horizon, then transform it (horizon as ‘plane’ of reference, in this video it became a horizon of swirling, repeating, and shifting rhythms). This is also worth watching without sound.
2) Up to go down, down to go up (using the floor as a reference)
For the audio score, I took inspiration from Artaud, and attempted a random, schizophrenic mode of deliverance, using movement and the space I was in to produce language. I didn’t let it tip into nonsense however, which becomes distancing at a certain point. I used the set up “she comes up to you and whispers in your ear_______” to buy time, to move in the space, and maintain a fairly regular rhythm. I never quite knew what I was going to say until it came out.
RHYTHM became a tangible force.
The horizon video is like staring at the ocean. It is constant repetition and difference. Micro shifts emerge as an internal physical logic collides with an external rhythm and conceptual frame. This video is a small example of immanent forces colliding with transcendental forces, or the inner and outer world of the dance hitting, momentarily, in a rhythmic morph. It’s all happening faster than I (the dancer) can pre-conceive in real time. It is therefore indeterminate in performance, but determinate in composition. Enter John Cage (although he used chance operations in his compositions as well). So there’s something of the inner self, the unknown known, that’s being extracted here, and put on display, and the ultimate individuality of this dance exists in the moment of its emergence: I will never do it the same way twice, and neither would another dancer.
Control and agency ping-pong: who gets to decide? Am I dancing, or is the dance happening through me? Is it possible to annihilate my subjectivity, my ambition, and my polite, Canadian, pleasantry that buys into clicktivist campaigns and succumbs to depressive tendencies?
INFLUENCE: Waiting for the space to tell me what to do.
The work space influences the content. The work space influences the personal space.
I made the audio recording for the horizon video at the National Ballet School of Canada. I can get free access there at night (8-10pm). It has a particularly intense vibe of failure and ambition. There’s this poster in the studio I was in: a woman wearing a long white tutu from Les Sylphides, whispering into the ear of a young man while in a giant yet ephemeral arabesque panché. She was perfectly angled, and I thought of the tension between this position, and the vitriolic jargon she might whisper into his ear night after night if she were Schpando. This realization, and consciously noticing this poster, happened after I finished the recording. It wasn’t hooey magic, I must have seen it while working, because it influenced me, but I was in a state of flow where it becomes hard to focus on anything other than what I’m doing.
This flow, this becoming, relates to immanence, or the intrinsic production of material via improvisation. It happens at the moment of losing yourself, momentarily removing the boundaries of the subject, and identity. Enter Schpando, the elusive smoke bomb hiding out in my animal brain, next to a fantasy and a limbic response nerve. She pops out at 3am at a club, in the throes of passion, or in a black out rage of perfect, momentary, clarity.
Deleuze on thought: “… not as the recognition of existing meanings, but as an embodied, creative process born of the encounter.” The combination of gestures as well as words (in reference to Artaud’s ‘To Have Done with the Judgement of God’) “…makes us think, and in so doing affirms the ontological force of difference in itself, which cannot be ‘understood’ but can be sensed.” (Laura Cull Ó Maoilearca, ‘Theatres of Immanence’, pg 85-86). I FEEL you Schpando.
BECOMING instantaneous PERCEPTION: following change along a stream of attention.
The body is porous. It is a filtration system that binges and purges. I am the internet. I am the National Ballet School. I am the drunk dude outside the studio. But I am most attuned when perception greets me at the moment of its unfolding. Massumi references this moment as “… a realization that comes flush with perception’s dawning. This is not a logical operation, but a life operation. It is lived as a dimension of the live event. It was not you standing back and thinking about the event. It was the event thinking itself through you.”
Merce Cunningham's 'Loops'
Inhabiting my body differently requires a small death, or an untethering from the footholds of familiarity. That’s the purpose of Schpando. She’s the wild horse. I can outsource my agency to her; she’s the temporary embodiment of permission I’ve given myself. This is not a separation, but an extension, deepening, and amplification.
Go deeper, towards limitations, aka the choreographic boundary.
The Sound and the Feel: empathy, life force, and the breath
Where did the French horn go? I realized it was a tool for amplification: a sounding chamber that could resonate at a different frequency from my own voice, or an elaborate microphone. I want to bring it back, but it’s also still there in the work, in the breath of the work, in the effort, in the aggression, in the disruption. It’s a tool to bridge the dissociation between inner and outer worlds. It helped me locate Schpando.
INTENTION: empathy for crisis. I’m suspicious that all I can ever produce is some version of what I’ve absorbed in my life. I’m trying to bypass intention, and the self, with immanent production. I want to allow intention to emerge from the process. There is a piece here; it’s coming out now. Schpando whispers on behalf of a silent voice, a cultural illness, a sacred scar, horror on the VERGE, and is also someone I totally made up. I think she’s my Kateri Tekakwitha (the fantasized version, from L. Cohen’s ‘Beautiful Losers’). She’s my genealogical body, my vacant unknown ancestor, the ghost of influence, the scattered cells of my tortured indigenous bloodline, and the dominant cells of colonial guilt.
WHAT ARE YOU ESCAPING FROM? Schpando = scapando = escaping in Italian.... This interface of existence: identity and subjectivity, which are capitalism’s most valuable commodities.
Next: Towards physical space/ choreographing the conditions with hard lines. Is there a way to produce a ‘set’ for a performance through a process that shares the same immediacy as improvised dance? Is this about bringing the outside in, or letting the attuned dance become a production machine, or a territorializing agent in an instant? So far I’ve come to understand how dance produces thought, and how dance is a mode of attunement, but how might dance produce a physical residue in the wake of its brief affective moment of existence? This is the most temporary I’ve ever been. I’m thinking about Trisha Brown dancing and drawing, or Donna Huanca, whose work I saw last summer in Berlin. That was all very nice and contained, but if my unconscious is involved, and the wildness of the dance cannot be predicted, then perhaps the result might be less tidy. What kind of space can the dance produce? Is that the performance in and of itself? Maybe.
If I’m choreographing the conditions for an exorcism, how would that manifest in the space that holds THAT dance? What’s the relational material that might change me as I change it, as we exorcise together? I tried balloons last month, but they might not be the right sentiment. Maybe this relational material is the key to ‘costume’ as well…
(Pics from a life walk/ sense walk through a cemetery. Exorcism can also include joy and humour. This ain't all bad)
Epic final thoughts:
Dance is obligatory to space. What’s usurped my imagination space? There’s no such thing as a tabula rasa.