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09.07.2013 INTERVIEW

Gry Worre Hallberg, 2013. Foto: Maria Bordorff.

Roskilde 2013: Post-reflective interview with performance art curator Gry Worre Hallberg

From a garden house in Copenhagen, Gry Worre Hallberg tells about her thoughts of this years art programme in the wake of the just ended festival.

AF Maria Bordorff

"Whereas the art programme facilitates motion, the more traditional music program evokes emotion in the more or less passive and indulging audience. But what is the potential in-between 'motion' and 'emotion'?" (from Gry Worre Hallberg's curatorial statement)

As curator of the performance art programme at this year's festival, how do you look back at the just ended days of art at Roskilde Festival?
Post-velvet-state-of-mind - My current physical presence might be in a Copenhagen garden house, but I am still in another (Velvet) State (of mind). Evaluation and reflective thoughts aiming at next years performance-program at the Roskilde Festival will kick in soon, but right now I'm still absorbing what has happened over the course of the last months and more intensly during the last week at the festival - and I look back with gratitude, slight melancholy and fulfillment. 
The performance art program at this years festival held a number of curatorial experiments. The Velvet State evolved in a creative dialogue between two performance groups, Fiction Pimps (DK of which I am also part) and Collective Unconscious (UK) and the architect Simon Hjermind Jensen of SHJWorks. Whereas most other architectonic structures at the Roskilde Festival are open non-facilitated spaces, this one is designed to house over 30 performers guiding the festival participants into the poetic and sensuous experience. Furthermore The Velvet State housed a stage for other han the framesetting performance artists to display their messages, sounds and dreams.
During the daytime we had art activist panels facilitated by the Triangle Project, Jacob Fuglsang Mikkelsen, with representatives from both Occupy, the Istanbul movement and Voina. Doris Chrysler, Baby Dee and The Nielsen Sisters where, among others, other strong performance figures on stage and what happened was, that the performative presence on stage amplified and intensified the sensuous mode within The Velvet State and the other way around.
The genre of an interactive performance-installation and the exploration of its potential have proven its value within the setting of a festival and I am already thinking about how to extend and deepen this potential.

How has it been to establish such a serious and pervasive project as The Velvet State, within the frames of a music festival?
The festival is in itself a liminal space - a parentheses in the midst of everyday life. Performance art holds the potential to intensify or maybe even qualify this liminality.
In many ways the festival is about new modes of community building, being and being together, however, The Velvet State offered a more poetic and sensuous space for this experiment, which also led to different encounters and ways of thinking. It could be argued that the senses are already quite awakened at the festival – The Velvet State took this sensuousness further and connected it with reflections. As The Velvet State is exploring a vision or rather a sense that I call The Sensuous society – a potential dawning world in the post-economic and –ecological crisis that goes beyond economic rationality. It is a world where the aesthetic, and thus the sensuous, mode of being is at the center of our society and our dominating logic. It is a radical premise and a thought experiment to trigger reflections and new ways of moving in the world.

The festival participants were invited to join us in reflecting upon this through their participation. In that way I also hope for some of those who have participated over the course of the last week, to have taken some of this reflections, triggered through an embodied encounter with a radical vision, with them and maybe even think about how they can then manifest this poetry and the encountered sensuous mode in their everyday life. Not for the festival just to be a parentheses, but an actual inspiration on how to create enchantment in their everyday life.  

The Velvet State as a space demanded presence and devotion from the participating festival goers, which were your visions for their participation? 
One of the other ideas with the stage within the Velvet State was to break down the barrier between art and life, dreams and presence. The charismatic figures within the stage became one with the festival participants and the festival participants could step on to or into the stage, into the universe.
Choosing to go to the festival in itself might already point towards a longing for intensified experiences. In Fiction Pimps we often talk about different techniques to get you into the aesthetic dimension, creating a space such as this is one of them and the festival participants where guided quite gently into this space. Blindfolded and initiated.
Thus, a ritual structure is at the root of the interactive performance-installation. The entrance and the initiation ritual served the pre-liminal function of preparring the participants for the separation with, in this case not everyday life, but the everyday life of the festival. And the room of the critic was a potential post-liminal room to reflect and converse about the experience and how to integrate the values of the experience into everyday life - also beyond the festival setting.

How have you experienced the general interaction and feedback of the audience? 
Very positive, though, we had to make a radical choice the first day (Thursday of the festival). Originally our idea was that The Velvet State would be completely open, but since this is not ‘just’ an architectonic structure for the festival participants to take over and party or co-create within, but a guided one-to-one experience with performance artists, we needed to create a stronger individual initiation ritual. We needed to create a space for the participants to be able to leave the current state of mind off in order to dive into ‘the velvet state’.
Many festival participants felt extremely grateful that the festival offered a space such as this. We are not in a white cube or a black box and many of the people visiting had never encountered performance art such as this before. To some it might be quite meaningless but to many it opened a door way and I’m excited to know what will happen from here. The long queue and the constant flow of people illustrates how The Velvet State created a highly attractive space and I hope to expand this even further next year.

Are you planning future projects, based on the idea of a sensuous society? 
Yes I am. Another performance experiment exploring the school of a Sensuous Society that I am engaged in is Sisters Academy. From the beginning of 2014 I will take over the leadinshhip of a series of Nordic upper secondary schools (Odense, Reykjavik, Stockholm, Nuuk ending up as an interactive performance-installation at Inkonst, Malmö) with the performance group Sisters Hope
In this project the experiment is to explore what a school in a Sensuous Society would be like. The entire school will be transformed and we will bring a cast with us that blend with the everyday life teachers and staff at the respective schools.
It is equally a piece of art, educational development, activism and research.
Sisters Academy is not only emphasizing and amplifying the value of the creative subject fields on an upper secondary school level, but even more radical these are the fundament of all subject fields, thus, the project also seek to have an actual political impact on the educational system.

Thank you Gry!
For more information about the Sensuous Society project see www.sensuoussociety.org

The Velvet State at night, 2013. Foto: Jesper Hyuk Larsen.

The Velvet State at night, 2013. Foto: Jesper Hyuk Larsen.

The Velvet State at night, 2013. Foto: Jesper Hyuk Larsen.

The Velvet State at night, 2013. Foto: Jesper Hyuk Larsen.

The Velvet State at night, 2013. Foto: Jesper Hyuk Larsen.

Sisters Hope, 2013. Foto: Julie Johansen.

Sisters Hope, 2013. Foto: Julie Johansen.

Sisters Hope, 2013. Foto: Julie Johansen.

Sisters Hope, 2013. Foto: Julie Johansen.

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