‘SES LÄS GÖR’ and ‘Material som drar’ is a publication series by Köttinspektionen Dans. The publications include artistic documentation of choreographed reading groups organized by Köttinspektionen Dans in 2016 and 2017. Köttinspektionen Dans is a platform for experimental dance and choreography located in Uppsala, led by the choreographers Tove Salmgren and Kajsa Wadhia. We asked Tove and Kajsa to tell us about the concept behind the publications, which led to a conversation about how artistic documentation negotiates and experiments with the notion of documentation, and why that is interesting for choreographic and movement-based art practices.
Can you tell us more about these two publications? How did you come up with the concept for them, and what led you to initiate this project?
We had initiated a series of open workshops called choreographed reading groups, which proposed that reading together can be to dance together. The idea behind the groups is a desire to challenge our relationship to text and theory, and bring value to how we read – in other words to make visible the choreography and movement of reading. Choreographers were commissioned to choose texts, methods, and formats for the groups, according to their artistic interests.
Similarly, we wanted to investigate the choreographic and artistic possibilities of documentation, challenging the notion of documentation as objective and neutral. Again, experimenting with the how. The idea behind the artists’ documentation is to negotiate the idea of documentation from a subjective horizon, to commission artists to enter into artistic dialogue with the event rather than representing it.
You write that commissioning artistic documentation is a way for you to try out the concept of documentation from a strictly subjective horizon, the artistic horizon. What does this artistic horizon add to the understanding of documentation?
It can be seen as a comment on the impossibility of objective and truthful documentation. There are so many obstacles to giving justice to performative work through documentation, making it an art form of disappearance, too ephemeral for the archives. That tendency of disappearance makes it all the more urgent to investigate different ways of leaving traces, of contextualizing, connecting, and entering into the discourse. Opening up for very subjective artistic responses to the performative event is a way of pulling away from the original event, a way of letting the documented material give rise to a new work of art, that still, however, exists in relation to the performative event. Leaving a trace, but without the task of representing. The subjective artistic horizon emphasizes the specific perspective of one singular participant, and in doing so, points at the agency of interpretation, and the multiplicity of experiences always at work in an audience.
Can you elaborate on how these two publications relate to or question the notion of documentation as objective? Why the use and re-negotiation of documentation instead of investigating the possibility of another word?
In this experiment, the focus was on chain reactions, connections, and dialogue, how artistic materials are always already connected and moving, rather than static, fixed. The documentation here is of relation and the subjective experience of the spectator.
We could have named this commission ‘artistic dialogue’, or given it any other title highlighting the chain reaction, but that would have missed the point of questioning the idea of documentation as objective representation, and of artistic works as fixed products. By re-negotiating the concept of documentation, we attempt to join the discourse around these perceptions and ideas.
The whole project draws on commonly known terms, such as ‘reading group’, ‘choreographic methods’, ‘spectator’, and ‘documentation’ to further negotiate how these entities appear through the doing (rather than the saying). So the invitation to the artists included the possibility to negotiate the concept ‘documentation’ through their artistic practice (doing).
These two publications are related to one another; still, the format for each of them is different. How did you choose and work with the different publishing formats?
We have collaborated with graphic designer Jonas Williamsson, who designed the two publications in dialogue with us. The first publication, ‘SES LÄS GÖR’ takes the form of five posters, framing each artwork as a separate piece of work. The posters create a graphic pattern together, connecting them into a kind of wallpaper. In this way, Jonas’ graphic design is also included in the chain reaction of artistic responses.
We had applied for funding to work on this project for one year, but soon decided that it needed more time. There was so much to investigate, and plenty of interest within the field, also in other groups and settings, for example POSSE, who worked with similar ideas. During our second year, we organized a lab for artists working with dance and visual arts, spending a few days together, each proposing a format for a group reading, and workshopping the ideas together.
People who had participated in the lab were then given the opportunity to lead a public reading group. We, again, commissioned artists, both from dance and from the field of visual arts, to make artistic documentations for a second publication.
For the new publication ‘Material som drar’ we kept the idea, but we wanted to contrast the previous large format with a lighter one that was easier to comprehend as a whole, and easier to read and distribute*. We also included a longer introduction, elaborating on the ideas behind the project, which were now more clear to us, as we had been experiencing it for two years.
How has your interest in artistic documentation continued since these two publications? Are you still working with this in some way, or has it led you to move in other directions, and if so, where did it lead you?
We are still investigating ways of documenting, leaving valuable traces of processes that are hard to grasp, and that only a small group of people are witnessing live. Last year we initiated the project ‘Double Solo Mirror Residency’, which is a series of chain residencies where invited artists are asked to invite another artist to join their residency. Once again, we have decided to create a publication that will function as a document, or a trace of this process. This time, we have not commissioned the documenting part, but instead, we have organized each residency process to follow a score, which includes photographing and interviewing the invited artists. The material will be edited by us this time, working with the idea of documentation as subjective and artistic material, and finding ways to ethically navigate the intersection of interpretation and representation.
Thank you! We look forward to reading these publications as well, and including them in the Reading edge library!
*Distribution: the publications are free, and accessible to visitors during public events at Köttinspektionen. Some copies were also sent to a selection of related institutions, organizations and artists within the contemporary field of dance, as well as contributors to Köttinspektionen.
If you would like your own copy, get in touch with Köttinspektionen Dans by emailing email@example.com.
For more info about the program and current work, visit the website at Köttinspektionen Dans.