Kiriakos Hadjiioannou – interview by from stage to page

Posted on January 23, 2016

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‘Not My Piece – Postcapitalism for beginners’

Could you briefly introduce yourselves?

I’ve started out as a performer, and during the last four years or so, I create my own productions. I had the chance to be in Switzerland, where cultural support is actually working. I thus have the opportunity to do productions that can pay the people I work with, and I can feel like I’m doing a normal job. I studied at the Greek State School of Dance, and then did a Master’s degree in Applied Theatre Studies, Choreography and Performance in Giessen. This Master programme expanded my network, and my potential to write concepts, and develop work in a different and broader sense than just dance. These studies are an eclectic mix of philosophy, architecture, theoretical approaches of history, and different forms of performativity. It is directly connected to academia, and most students continue their academic work (by doing a PhD, or similar stuff) while others go into practice. It offers solid theoretical knowledge, and a holistic idea of what performance is today: how to use new media and language, how to work in different spaces. Before Giessen, I’ve been living in Berlin for four and a half years. For five years now, I’ve been based in Basel, and I’ve founded my work there. I work in different spaces, and I try to create one or two productions per year on my own, and participate in one production per year as a performer. Also, I’m involved in educational projects for children. I collaborate with Basel’s association „Gare des enfants“, working on experimental music. So far, there is a group of 15 kids who act as both dancers and pianists, working on sonatas and interludes for prepared piano by John Cage, and introducing notations by Merce Cunningham.

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‘Slapstück’ photo-Guillaume Musset

 

What do you want to question with your current project?

The next project is called “Mysterion”. I question what is hidden during the making of a production: the texts, notations, notes, all that is hidden from the spectator. I take all these materials, share them, and develop these ideas together with a group of local people (they can be artists or not, can be a band members or family members). Each performance will be different since each performance will have different guests, and we will perform actions relevant and according to the guests. I am currently a resident and associate artist of Kaserne theatre (“Kaserne” meaning “barracks”) working with my team towards the premiere in May 2016. I was chosen as the resident artist 2014-15 at Kaserne theater, as part of a pilot project funded by Pro Helvetia in which major theatres are to select and include one resident artist.

Why did you choose this concept?

I wanted to question esotericism in performativity in theatre. I‘ve researched into different shamanistic rituals and ceremonies. Shamanism has a lot to do with healing: but what is healing? The Shaman has a special role in the community, and is respected, but not like a doctor or a mayor is. In this project, I try to combine the ceremonial and esoteric forms in art and healing, and connect these practices with the performativity of the here and now. I started to investigate ceremonial practices in Mexico, Mongolia, and South Africa. In the two countries I’ve already visited, Mexico and Mongolia, I encountered some really interesting shamans, while this winter I will be continuing my research in South Africa: Johannesburg, Mozambique, and Cape Town. There are several different festivals there, which makes it easier to contact and approach the kind of people I am looking for. My proposal from all of this research and travelling sounded quite exotic, even to me, but fortunately institutional people embraced the concept. At the same time, I don’t want to assume the position of the privileged European artist ‘bringing back home’ or ‚adopting‘ new exotic forms of dance. It is within my intentions to exchange and blend in with the locals, and this is why within this project I will invite a group of local people in each city in order to create together – different rituals each time.

Is questioning actually the process?

Not always. I am questioning something that interests me, something I don’t know or something I’m occupied with. In our work, we start with questioning in order to develop something that can be shared with an audience.

The last project’s title was ‘Or who owns the world’. When we perform it, the first (missing) half of the title sentence seems to be the place we are performing. I play with this – for instance when we performed in Athens it read like this: “Onassis Cultural Culture, or who owns the world”. During my Master’s studies one of our professors was Bojana Kunst – who is also very much a political thinker, and I was impressed by the Weimar Cinema films she introduced us to. The film I worked with in “Or who owns the world” is called “Kuhle Wampe”, and watching it felt like a déjà-vu, since Greece was in a similar crisis. This film and the situation of Greece felt very similar to me.

{The production is driven and informed by “Kuhle Wampe”,  the German political film from 1932 which freely translates as “empty stomach” and which was released in English under the title “Kuhle Wampe”, or who owns the world“. The film, which was directed by Slatan Dudow, scripted by Bertolt Brecht, and features music by Hanns Eisler, tackles the acute social problems facing Weimar Germany (unemployment, fierce political clashes) shortly before the Nazi take-over. The production restates the film’s exploration of the concepts of solidarity, collective organization, equality and social utopia, making them relevant to our own era, and seeks an answer to an important question: to what extent is our present-day political thought and action incorporated into current artistic practice?}

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‘Or Who Owns The World’ , photo Katharina Selbt

Do you want this question to become the audience’s question?

How interested is the audience in my question, in what I am preoccupied with? Do I keep my questions authentic? Do I put forward a question in order to be liked? Do I make it open and accessible for the audience? I don’t have the answer to these questions. This is why I work together with people, with dramaturges and other colleagues. My colleagues are artists, they are not there as tools. Input from others helps the work so that it doesn’t become too personal and hence insular. And when I am alone in a project, how to deal with my personal fears and doubts? How do I see my own ideas displaced by my colleagues? I am very interested in this although it is frightening. I am trying to understand how the work happens…

Do you think audiences are looking for a message?

This depends strongly on the audience as individuals. Sensitive spectators can also get a feel of this kind of work, but when we are dealing with notations, dance scores and peculiar movement languages, is this really open to the broad audience?

 Do you have a specific method?

 I try to develop a specific methodology for each different project. It is a way of connecting to each one individually. I write a methodology, according to what the project needs and according to the performers. For example, if one project is created for elderly female performers, I use a specific method for it – and the next project could be for younger performers of both genders, and it will thus need a different method.

 Are you interested in text or sound in your work?

 I am! But my fundamental principle, and my starting point for every project, for that matter, is movement.

 What does it mean to produce work?

It means to put my inner questions and my research into practice, and to be able to share all of the above with the community of my colleagues, and then with the audience.

 

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‘Mysterion’ photo-Guillaume Musset.

Are you an artist?

I definitely think or live like an artist – if I understand the definition of what an artist is nowadays.

Are you a good artist?

What does it mean, „good“? Continuity in the work? I do work a lot, but I’ve tried to not have a production of my own last year, in order to give some more space to life, and to living it.

Do you like your work?

I love my work.

Do others like your work?

I hope so. I hope that they have questions. It is super fine for me, if people don’t like the work, or even oppose to it. I am not searching for acceptance or recognition. I can appreciate oppositions and arguments to the work. In the last piece („Or who owns the world“) some spectators didn’t like that it ended with a children’s game. Others said it was the best part, ending this way. As far as I am concerned, I have done my thesis on this work and I know why I made this choice.

 

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‘Secondskin’, photo- Donata Ettlin

Is your work set or improvised?

There is a structure and a movement material that is set, and lately I started to play with improvisational elements. I use specific structures – I never start with an open field improvisation. I like to work within a specific frame also as a performer, so I try to do this in my own projects. The last production I’m working on as a performer, is with choreographer Simone Aughterlony: In “Uni*Form” we are all dressed as policemen on stage. Simone has this liking for stretching time onstage, even without very clear directions. One of her colleagues and co-author of the project (Jorge Leon) comes from film and photography, and was more interested in the aesthetics and in the ‘deeper’ questions embedded in the work. We are on a plateau of different actions, and the whole piece is actually based on structured improvisation. For me, coming from dance, and used to working within a rigorous frame, I struggled to enter this kind of process. I found this experience fascinating, although this kind of work is never really ready on the premiere. It develops through the shows.

 Do you have a daily practice?

Sometimes… I change my practice. On the one hand I just get bored doing the same thing, and on the other hand I use different formats according to the project I am working on: put music and dance, warm up different muscles by dancing in an ecstatic form, gaga dance, yoga… I don’t do so much contemporary dance classes anymore. I enjoy the use of repetition, in different situations.

Do you believe in less is more?

 I don’t know anymore… When I began to work, I used this motto totally in the first few productions I did. I think I am changing now. Do more is more, can also be valid for me, at the moment. I am changing, and we don’t want to stick to the way we’re thinking a few years ago anyhow.

Performer or creator?

You mean, if I prefer to be a performer or to be a creator? First of all, I try to take both tasks seriously and responsibly. But when it is my own work, the responsibility is expanding, it’s taken up by the other people in the production.

 

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‘Not My Piece – Postcapitalism for beginners’

How do you use the following elements of a stage performance:

 Time?

I try to create different ‘times’, or create a different frame which places you in a different sphere. I use a lot of repetition and rewind. I am interested in bringing this element forward on stage.

 Space?

I don’t like having the same space all the time, using the same kind of dance floor, and so on. I never do that. I want to create a different space for the upcoming project, like a theatre space, not referring to anything outdoor. To accentuate the idea of a proscenium, a bit like a temple.

Lights?

In the last piece we – the performers – were dealing with the lights (actually moving them and having them visible onstage) because I worked with the Brechtian methodology, in which, very general, the actor is a technician, too. So we moved the lights around ourselves. Light will play a different, and maybe more esoteric, role in “Mysterion”. We will try to connect stage light with astrology and by creating different daylight atmospheres.

 Set?

Yes, I use it and love using set. Of course it depends on the project or what the project means.

 Costume?

For “Mysterion” I will work together with Paris fashion designer Romain Brau. We will have the team and different guests each time dressed in crazy costumes. There’s going to be a collection of different pieces from Romain onstage and everyone will be free to choose what they want to wear on stage (both the performers and the guests). There will also be a catalogue of the clothes he designs for the audience to have a look and if they want to, they can order it directly.

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‘Mysterion’ photo-Guillaume Musset

 

Do you feel you have sometimes failed?

In a way, aren’t we all failing all the time? We step forward and have the impression do step backwards.

How has that affected you?

Less time for my personal life.

 Is your work Greek?

Okay, I think I’m inspired by Greek mythology, and by the traditional dances from Greece. And I use some of the ideas I take from Greek culture history as a basis for approaches in the work, but I don’t know if this can already be identified as a “Greek way” of working.

 Is there something you can recognise as Greek dance?

I haven’t seen much since I am mostly abroad. I don’t really know what is happening, although I would like to see more Greek companies touring abroad. I am familiar with the work of Adonis Foniadakis, who also lives abroad. I think the Greek contemporary dance is much connected to the Belgium dance scene.

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‘Mysterion’ photo-Guillaume Musset

What do you wish for?

For myself and not only for myself, I wish that dance and art should be treated as a job, an occupation and not as a hobby or an activity. We should be able to live from this job. Dancers and choreographers shouldn’t have to do six other jobs in order to support themselves and their families. At the moment, I am privileged and I get paid, which is already good. I have another wish: I want to provide a platform for people to make interesting work.

Thank you.

 http://www.kiriakoshadjiioannou.com/

 

 

 

 

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