conversations with the dead.

research and development blog for dance/performance solos developed by Bagryana Popov, Helen Herbertson and Simon Ellis.

The development with Bagryana is from 13-30 October 2008, and with Helen Herbertson from 2-13 February 2009.

This is the covering website.
Feb 12
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Natural gobo, Napier St

Natural gobo, Napier St

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Feb 04
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Ocean without a shore

Viola: Ocean without a shore

In the latter part of today Helen and I went and saw Bill Viola’s Ocean without a shore at NGV. It was breathtaking. Utterly.

postedbysimon

Image of Ocean without a shore from the Bill Viola website.

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Nov 15
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Materials from “Conversations with the dead - by Bagryana Popov”, performed by Simon Ellis, shot by Dianne Reid. 30 October 2008

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Oct 30
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showing it

After two runs of the material for videographer Dianne Reid in the morning Bagryana and I invited a small group of people in to watch a run in the afternoon (this was the final day of the development): Peter Eckersal, Kath Papas, Jordan Vincent, Helen Herbertson, Michael Carmody, and Angela Campbell.

I wrote a few notes of some of the things they talked about after they’d watched (I’ve tried to be as accurate and succinct as possible here):

Peter talked of Bagryana’s voice in the work - in questioning her presence in the space both visually and aurally. He talked of the material hovering between “mimetic and affect”. Of it evoking qualities of memory. He described the “breaking down of the other”, and in noticing three distinct physicalities: shuffling, banging, and stillness. It was, to him, a “bare-life situation”.

Kath described the physical and textual layers connecting across time. In them not having a simplistic temporal relationship. She asked, “Is it Simon, is it portrayed?” … and of “confronting the difficulty of performing this person”.

Jordan wasn’t convinced by the texts, she said “I get it already”.

Michael talked of the connectedness of the “ruptures” (in which Bagryana asked me to list some things, and also when I speak at the end). He described it as a “nullification of a life’s work”, and was thinking “it’s all downhill from here” - but then was surprised that the work left him hopeful (my word really), or that it changed at the end.

Peter spoke some more about the differences between mediums - dance and theatre. He said, “you can’t really act this” (meaning, such events cannot be represented), and asked “how to apprehend the act?” He mentioned the work Nine Finger (produced by Roasas amongst others) which ‘depicts’ an african child soldier … (as an aside, this is clearly something that Peter and David Pledger’s company NYID have dealt with over a long period of time in the development of their work).

Helen talked of the balance of who is being watched - Bagryana, me …? She asked, “Is the audience present to him?”, and discussed “driving the relationships between the watcher and the watched”.

Michael also discussed not being aware of the personal connection of the project for Bagryana. Instead, he read the work as the “breaking of an anonymous life”.

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Bagryana, close.

Bagryana, close.

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Dianne Reid documenting letter

Dianne Reid documenting letter

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Oct 29
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Shannon

Choreographer/dancer Shannon Bott called in today to watch a ‘run’ of the material. Afterwards, she asked, “Who am I in this?” She described a “flattening” of the work at the moment I started describing/listing my injuries at the end of the run … a flattening “into here and now”.

She asked questions about this person gk: “Is this what happened?”, “Did that occur?”

She talked of the work/material “hovering in whom”

Bagryana asked Shannon, “When did you not want to watch?”

Later, Bagryana and I asked, when I am ‘performing’ and I recovering from what is going on, is it me that is recovering or is it him?

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Hopelessness leads to an absence of dishonesty because there is no longer anything to be gained.
— Shalamov (well, I’ve reworded it, but this is the gist)
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