author: Diethild Meier

Of Gestures and Other Utterances

Dear A.PART 2020 artists!

Check out this beautiful work by my friend and colleague Sophie Arstall, that she made in collaboration with the filmmaker Inbar Jeffrey.

The solo is an evolving work that is still in process and the film captures the work at a particular moment. I’m sharing it with you because I feel it’s related to some of your projects on a conceptual level, but also regarding the question of how to translate the sensuous aspect of dancing into the screen, which concerns almost all of you at the moment. I recommend you to endure the full 16 minutes (Yes, it’s long, and therefore it’s also a good example of how we can dare to challenge the 20-seconds-attention-span of our online-audience). .. Just meditate into it!

Sophie says:

This solo exploration around notions of resilience focuses in particular on the hands in relationship to one’s self, as channels or portals into an intimate psychophysical world in which vulnerability, strength, fragility and femininity are addressed and questioned. Exploring these qualities, the hands shape and mould the sculptural clay of the body from the outside in and inside out, creating a pliable, receptive and at times destructive self. A physical language manifests: hands, mouth, periphery, zooming in, slowing, fists, gut, torsion, wind, unwind, rewind, pulling, hanging, rope, toil, anchors, elasticity, these images and gestures carefully crafted as the work unfolds.

The work is perhaps particularly resonant now as our relationship of hands to the self, face, body takes on new consequences as these gestures and behaviours become risky and we mourn a loss of tactility and expression towards ourselves and others.


Choreography and Performance: Sophie Arstall

Filmmaker: Inbar Jeffery

Music: No copy infringement of music intended.

For Voice: Sarah Davachi

23:17: Olafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm

Shrinking and Expanding Space

Since mid-March 2020, the space in which I physically move around has shrunk to an area of about 6 square kilometers. It stretches from Hasenheide in the North, along Hermannstraße to the East, down to the end of Oderstraße in the South, crossing Tempelhofer Feld towards Columbiadamm and up to into Lilienthalstraße in the North-West.

For a month now, I’ve been roaming and exploring this territory. And surprisingly – or maybe not surprisingly – even though I’ve lived here for eight years, I’m discovering it now anew. I walk along paths I’ve never walked before. I sit on spots I’ve never sat on before. I look at things I’ve never looked at before. Every now and then, I circle my territory by running around its outline, in competition with myself and with time.

This morning, while roaming and exploring my flat, I looked at the spaces between the grooves of the radiator in my kitchen, and I discovered that they were dirty. Sticky dust has accumulated there over the past years because the vacuum cleaner doesn’t fit into the narrow gaps.

Anyway, now it’s clean.

The sky in the window above the radiator looks clean, too.

Surprisingly – or maybe not surprisingly – since the territory which I occupy as a moving body has shrunk, my inner space has expanded. I’m roaming and exploring myself, and I’m discovering movements of body, thought, and emotion that I’ve never looked at before. I wonder if my inner space is actually endless. I mean, actually endless. This is where I experience the boundaries of my imagination. I’ve also experienced my inner space as being narrow, at times. Many times.

The best location to expand space is the cemetery Lilienthalstraße in the North-West corner of my territory. It was built between 1938 and 1941. Initially, it was meant to bury and honor the soldiers of the German Wehrmacht, but then it became the grave for thousands of people that died in the bombings in 1945. So many bodies. So many lives. Again, the boundaries of my imagination. I wonder if I’m supposed to feel that this is a sad place. I don’t feel that. At this moment in time, it is a peaceful place. It’s where the noises of the city, like construction sites roaring, sirenes howling, cars growling, children screaming, church bells ringing, dogs barking, people chatting, music playing, train doors beeping, mute into a distant murmur. It’s where I hear a woodpecker pecking, crows crowing, a squirrel rummaging in the bush, birds singing, wind passing through the trees. It’s where I hear sounds. It’s where I have space. Sometimes, I walk along the long rows of gravestones, and I read all the names. Reaching out into these past lives makes me feel I’m expanding in time. I mean, actually expanding.

I wonder what kind of space is the internet. Is it a space that we inhabit or a space that inhabits us? The Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan thought of technology as a means to extend human body parts. In the 1960s, he predicted that humankind would eventually invent a technology to connect us all globally, and that would thus function as our collective nervous system. Damn, Marshall!! Not even Jesus or Mohamed topped that prophecy.

If the internet is a tool that extends our internal individual nervous systems into an external collective one, I wonder if we have already learned how to use that tool. I mean, if you don’t know how to use a hammer, that’s bad, right? But in fact, we also don’t know how to ‘use’ our internal nervous system the way we know how to use our hands. It just operates on its own agenda, sending and receiving and uploading and archiving and erasing data. It’s a highly complex system and highly sensitive as well. Nervous, indeed.

I wonder what kind of space we have created with this blog—one for sharing and communicating, for sure. But I cannot quite grasp yet what this is, how it works, what it means.

As a dance artist, I know well that the blog cannot replace dancing and performing in front of a three-dimensional, physically present audience. We are experts of sensation, experts of listening into our bodies and the ones present, experts in understanding the space, experts in making something happen with the information we receive at the moment.

As a curator of this festival, I’ve reacted to a given situation – ‘no public events allowed’ – with a merely practical decision: A decision that enables us to carry forward with what we’ve started, a decision that justifies paying fees, a decision that keeps us all occupied.

And now, as a human being thrown into this experiment, I feel the decision is more extensive than I was aware of at first. I feel that I actually feel the people involved. I feel care, responsibility, and love. I feel a space for reflection opening, both individual and collective. I feel timid; I feel proud.