Translation and nonlinear archiving with Karin Hald

Publisher in residence Karin Hald’s (DK) artistic research deals with posthumanism and spirituality, which she seeks to connect through participatory performances. Here, language, empathy, and care are key elements. In this interview, Karin talks about her interest in post-humanism, zoegraphy, and nonlinear archiving in relation to her residency at c.off.   


Tell us a little about yourself!


My name is Karin Hald, I’m Danish and was born in 1986. I currently live in Copenhagen together with my white Shiba Inu called Baby. I started making art as a photographer, and then moved on to Malmö Art Academy, where I got my MFA in 2015. In my final years of school, I started to get into writing and worked with tactile text and language, very much based on the notions and thoughts surrounding écriture féminine. This led me to co-found Forlaget Gestus (Gesture Press), which is an artist-run exhibition concept, which works with the space between fine art and language/text. The result is often solo exhibitions together with an artist book, where the book functions as a work in itself rather than a traditional catalogue. Alongside working as a curator and an editor within Forlaget Gestus, I got more involved with my own writing, which resulted in another MFA in Literary Composition at Valand Academy.

In the fall of 2020, I will be going back to Malmö Art Academy, to do a master’s in artistic research, which will hopefully lead to a PhD in 2 years. My research deals with a link I see between post-humanism and spirituality, and I seek to look at this connection through participatory performances, where language, empathy, and care are key elements. In this research lies a critique of neoliberalism and the unhealthy division that modernity has instilled in modern humans. 


What are your current artistic interests?

In relation to this residency at c.off, I am collaborating with dancer Kat Staub, who is a part, among other things, of the dance collective Dance for Plants. Kat was supposed to have come here with me, but due to Covid-19, she had to stay in Denmark. The work has therefore changed a bit but still has its core elements intact: how to cultivate empathy and how to connect with both yourself and the other, whoever that may be, nature/animal/human.

Interestingly, these questions become even more relevant in this time of crises, where we face a pandemic. 

I am very interested in investigating how text can be seen as performance, how a text is read anew each time a person meets it, and how it can translate again and again through both people and different mediums. The old school and outdated idea of the genius is completely irrelevant here. Instead, collectivity, feedback, and re-performing/re-enactment is in focus. 

A previous project of yours is entitled How can I recognize myself? The piece is a combination of text and performance which deals with questions surrounding archiving, in relation to documentation of performance. Could you elaborate on your thoughts about archiving in relation to publishing, performance, and documentation?

Both through my work with Forlaget Gestus as well as my own practice I think that it is important to challenge the common idea of classical documentation, where a book is often used as a catalogue. I don’t believe this very often serves the previous work the best way. Instead, we need to acknowledge that a performance or an art show of any kind has to do with an experience that took place in that exact space, and think of the accompanying book as a space as well, and therefore translate the experience. This means that a linear archive is no longer valid, and that we need to include emotion, sensation, and orality into the archive, which means that the body functions as an archive in itself as well. 

How do you work with translation and non-linear archiving during your residency at c.off? Do you wish for those translations to result in a specific outcome?

The work I am making together with Kat Staub has translation at its core in every sense: I tell her a personal story of mine, which is then translated by Staub into (dance)movement, gesture and speech/mumbling, which I then again take in, process through association and interpretation, and write and talk once again…

To me, this is how a conversation actually is, and I think the question becomes: how can we stay open towards one another and be in the improvisation that is being in this life together.

I wish and hope that the translations and nonlinear archiving will result in both a performance, that will move the audience/witness and also become a site-specific book, that is able to once again somehow translate the lived experience into a book, that contains a movement within it, so the book isn’t a completely stable experience. 

In your practice you are also interested in, the post-human philosophy term zoegraphy. Could you tell us more about what it entails and how zoegraphy informs the use of language in your project? 

Loup, from the dance collective Dance for Plants, who’s practice is to dance alone for plants after an invitation from their owner, writes: ”The verb to heal has two meanings, and it is impossible to silence one when you beckon the other. To heal oneself is to heal the world, to take care of things is already taking care of oneself.”

 The etymological root of healing points towards becoming whole; oneness. It’s, therefore, no wonder that spirituality and healing have become interlinked in many instances, because spirituality is concerned with seeing all living beings, visible and invisible, as connected. In posthumanism, especially the strain of thought formulated by Rosi Braidotti, there are many links, as I view it, that could easily have been about spirituality, but are instead called zoegraphy. 

As Louis Van Den Hengel describes zoegraphy, it is a mode of writing life that is not indexed on the traditional notion of bios – the discursive, social, and political life appropriated to human beings – but which centers on the generative vitality of zoe: an inhuman, impersonal, and inorganic force which is not specific to human lifeworld’s, but cut across humans, animals, technologies, and things.

If the notion of the “posthuman” signals anything, it is that we have never been human, that life has always already been overwhelmingly posthuman, since all living beings are symbiotically related to the biological and technological worlds that sustain them, which is also the core value of spirituality. The notion of zoegraphy can make embodied encounters in which the human becomes open to qualitative change.

As I see it, posthumanism can offer a mindset to think with and spirituality can offer body and practice to the questions of healing on both a micro and macro level. 

It seems to me that zoegraphy then can be seen as a mode of writing that can translate the ungraspable, or spiritual, to an embodied encounter. Could that encounter also take place within the space of a printed matter?

I hope so, but that is a question that I am constantly trying to figure out myself and dive into. I think the (im)possibility with writing text is that it becomes fixated in a form, and that it can be difficult to change that form. To bring alterations and movement into printed matter is a big and important task, that isn’t just solved by making yet another book in an oeuvre. How we archive has to do with how we are in the world and how we view the past, so we need to sustain the ungraspable within the graspable. 

Thank you, Karin! 

Colophone
Interview questions: Izabella Borzecka
Photos: Izabella Borzecka
Interview first published at coff.se
Karin Hald’s residency is supported by the Nordic-Baltic mobility programme – Culture.
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