Making the scenography for the Spanien 19C symposium during the Aarhus festival. DK 2022
The symposium organized by Spanien 19C is situated in an area that is undergoing a huge transformation. In a corner of the construction yard of the Sydhavns Kvarteret is a space that is normally used for storage and as an outside workshop – during the festival it will function as place that is halfway between the city and the new development. I will make a scenographic intervention that is based on a flexible process and which will transform and expand during the festival. The starting point is very simple: people need to sit. For almost ten years now, when I came in a situation where I didn’t like the sitting arrangements or they were simply missing, I just made some object to sit on, stools, chairs and benches with whatever materials were available. This has slowly developed from a purely practical, hands-on approach driven by necessity into a integrated part of my practice.
With the arrival of Bananskolen, a Copenhagen based collective calling themself activist-neodadaists’, the project really started taking of. Their proposal from the Bananskolen was to use the context as a backdrop for making of a film based on the play ‘Dulcitius’ written by Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim in the tenth century. There were other collaborations, but this specific one was the most transformative. When I offered them my services their initial reply was reserved, they had everything they needed. Before they came I had already made them some furniture, but they didn’t really know what I could offer them – so I suggested that cloth hangers might be very useful for the costumes they were making, to give them an idea about how I could be useful for them. The hesitation they felt with allowing me into their practice is also understandable, they came as an actual collective under the same denominator, while I was in the symposium my own agent. The Bananskolen is for me an entity that is hard to grasp, if you search for them online you will find that it is a record label run by Goodiepal and friends – but that is definitely not all they are. What I understood from observing them was that the Bananskolen is a collective with varying composition and their method is in collective learning and experimenting – around a core of queer-feminist politics and activism.
After completing a dozen cloth hangers, I asked them if I could do more for them. With a bit of twinkle in her eyes, Nynne Roberta, one of the founders of the Bananskolen, told me they needed a wooden dick for one of the costumes. I found myself a piece of wood, flipped open my knife and started cutting in the middle of the area where they worked and a short time later the dick was finished. This was a crucial moment in our relationship, the initial hesitation from Bananskolen fell away and the next request was if I could make them wooden shoes – obviously because I am Dutch. In the same performative way I started constructing some Roman inspired sandals, since the play was situated in the third century a.d.. In the days after I made dozens of artifacts: spears, pots and pans, helmets, more shoes, a sword, a crown, a scepter, anything the Bananskolen needed and some more. It is not that I was exaggerating the acts involved in the making, but there is some drama in the noise and space it takes and that is strengthened by the sheer number of objects. The way I made them gave them a very specific aesthetic that made it easy to identify as something I made.
The Bananskolen got ready for filming by completing the costumes and asked me to make some extra props and set pieces. They also came with an interesting proposal – since they liked the work I did for them, they offered me the role of the Dulcitius, a character that played a comic role in the first half of the play and from who the play got its common name from. Even though Hrotsvitha named the play Passio Sanctarum Virginum Agapis Chioniae Et Hirenae (“The Passion of the Holy Virgins Agape, Chionia, and Irena”)* with the three girls as the main characters. The Bananskolen interpreted the story written by the nun Hrotsvitha in a contemporary secular way. In the original play Dulcitius was a pagan Roman governor who tried to corrupt three Christian virgins who where, because of their strong faith, incorruptible. In this version they were not incorruptible because of their faith in God, but because they were strong independent women, and at the same time, Dulcitius was renamed ‘Governor Pervert’.