Vilelmini Andrioti- interview by from stage to page

Posted on January 23, 2016



Could you briefly introduce yourselves?

 I consider myself a political choreographer. I believe that my work has been shaped by what we are experiencing in Greece, crisis, austerity, unemployment, plus personal difficulties, by how expendable we all are. I don’t think I would have been artistically motivated had it not been for the context I am experiencing, as well as having my children and my everyday life. It is due to all of the above that I have become a political choreographer, working only on subjects with a political or social content.

I studied sociology and dance at the same time. I continued with theater studies and finally did a Masters degree in London- Research in choreography and performance at Roehampton University.

I work on dreams. I have been writing down my dreams for years. I am intrigued by the fact that a dream which in reality lasts about 8 seconds,- within the dream it lasts an eternity or a whole day. I decided to work on this notion of dream time in real time. I was interested to see how long I can sustain things. My main entry points are time, reality, illusion and ‘real’ desire as is expressed in dreams. Dreams can open up one’s horizon of thought while sometimes are ‘ready made’, already directed and choreographed works. They have a structure already which can be extended or reinforced. Dreams facilitate our access to imagination. Our conscious lacks this luxury of fantasy which is dissipating in our everyday lives. All children are artists with regards to accessing their imagination, their innocence and no sense of limits. In growing up we loose most of these but we still have dreams as a gateway to this openness. In this dream state, I believe in myself, I can create without limits and my brain lets go of real time limits. ‘Reach where you can’t’ as Kazantzakis said. Dream is the unattainable. We can consciously think we don’t have the potential for something but if we follow our unconscious- there are no limits there. It is fear that places the limits, time is an illusion and in dreams time is ambiguous.

What do you want to question with your current project?

For the past three months I have been working with refugees, so I deal with conflict. I am there (at the port) everyday, for the past three months. Apart from the mobilization and sensitization to the refugee problem, I am look at their hands and their gaze which troubles me. This sense of looking at their eyes and hands is similar to a project I created at EPT (Greek national television channel, shut down by the government, occupied later by the workers). I had access to the building and I was taking pictures of parts of their bodies, observing how their bodies changed while in that work place. I am currently taking pictures of refugees, documenting incessantly over the past 3 months: their gaze, their hands reaching out- my body as a vehicle to activism. I am a vehicle continuously conveying their fears and despair. I am a vehicle for the refugees transmitting their senses, the danger they faced and still face. I hand out food and clothes, just being practical. But if I had to consolidate this experience in an image, it would be hands reaching out through barriers. This experience at the port is also connected to a project based on A. Embirikos (Greek surrealist poet) and his work ‘Plous’ last May. I initially had a dream that felt like a calling, then started working on this piece and realized eventually realized that in that dream I had seen images that became reality two years later.

In another project I was taking photographs of the ears of the workers in the national television channel. I shredded lots of newspapers and cut my hair and put all this back onto my head becoming a sort of Medusa.

Is questioning actually the process?

Not necessarily. My process involves dreams and the reflective practice which is dealing with these dreams. My intention is to dive and dig deep inside of me. I don’t set questions, I keep notes of this introspection and these notes become my research.

‘Repetition does not exist’ is a project in which I was combing my hair, continuously doing the same movement. We are living and experiencing moments and I believe that there is no repetition, only a same-ness. Each repetition is slightly different, there are different moments, different intensities. I first did the performance and then I asked the questions. I observed when I was bored, when I got tired within this durational project of three hours. More questions arose later. The spectators had different reactions and interactions.

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

 Foremost I want to experience something myself. The audience does not come into the initial intentions of my work. Also some of my work doesn’t belong to the stage and in any case requires a more informed spectator. Most audience members come already with a defensive or aggressive attitude towards the work, it is rare that they come unbiased and neutral- in any case each person has their own experiences and agendas. While performing I can sense the way the viewers perceive the work, whether they think this is something beyond limits or are looking deep into my soul trying to relate to it. Audience members from the dance field come with expectations of what they are used to with regards to the level of physical adequacy, a sense of climax and competent quality. During the project at the national television channel, a lady came to me at the end of the performance and offered me her earrings. I consider myself a performer rather than a dancer, also due to my age.

 Do you think audiences are looking for a message?

Audiences are looking for answers for their own lives and their own questions. I don’t think they are looking into my questions, yet sometimes they find and take something from what I do. I am personally really happy with ‘Cowlanding’ project, while I have a friend who was really moved by ‘Rubbish dump’. I feel that this has to do with her life, the connections she made, rather than the work. In “Rubbish dump” I am waiting dressed all smart at a rubbish dump. Both of the aforementioned projects I dreamt of and I am not convinced I would have ever performed these had I not seen these dreams.

cow landing photo 2

Are you interested in the individual/ characters /yourself?

 I like working with others, but dancers have not been responsive to my kind of projects. I primarily work on my own, now. Three years ago I was creating site specific performance projects, which were unfamiliar both to dancers and spectators. During the project at ERT-the national television channel (while public protests were being held for the closing down of the channel leaving 2500 out of work), I invited 17 dancers (students) to come at different times in order to interact with me or the spectators. The only specific task given was placing newspaper shreds on my hair. The instruction given was to interact in any way they wanted with everybody present, but their participation was minimal. It is difficult to find a budget for durational projects, to work for a month in site or to work with professional performers.

 Do you have a specific method?

 “I will dive” is a project in which I would dive into the sea leaving a cane behind me at the beach. It was inspired by an old lady which I had seen, accompanied by younger man, who left her cane close to the sea, so she could assist her self after her swimming to get out of the water. I was working on change. I was working blindfolded, going daily to the beach diving in the water with my coat on, leaving a cane on the beach. It felt like diving into the unknown. Change is unknown and this is is why it scares us. When blindfolded you can accomplish some stable steps, while accept other steps being unstable. I am interested in how all of these experiences are recorded on my body.


Do you consider yourself funny?

 In “Candy”, I really liked to be self-sarcastic, to appear both beautiful and ugly, to be open to change. Beauty is ugliness for me and I was processing what we consider ugly. I don’t like symmetry, symmetry empties me- asymmetry and difference intrigue me. The other day I saw a homeless black man, lying on the street with his trousers half down, his bottom exposed and flies sticking onto him, next to a solidarity center. What a contradiction… At first, he seemed dead to me, then I saw his unconsciousness was due to alcohol or drugs. One woman was calling the police while this man lay next to a solidarity center. I was inspired by this image, I have a photographic eye for things.

 Are you interested in text or sound in your work?

 Yes, always. Since I was five years old. Both of my parents were working and the person looking after me (when they were at work) was coming from literature studies. We would do poetry lessons and so I started writing at an early age. My texts are dense and I have never published any of them.

So if you use text, is it improvised?

I work with what I have written already and I translate it into movement. Once I followed the reverse order of performing the movement first, recording it on video and then while watching it, wrote a poem. I have not yet attempted at composing movement and poetry at the same time. It seems too difficult since it involves different parts of me, different process.

What does it mean to produce work?

 Producing – this word doesn’t connect to what I do. I create and when I create I operate in a particular state similar to a ritual, it is sacred. There is some sense of sacredness in certain moments and trusting these moments leads me. I am not sure I would use the word produce, I attest things- whether this is art or not, remains to be defined by history. This why we use the expression everlasting for some works, some art works act as harbingers.

Rubbish Dump photo

Are you an artist?

 I have no idea. I don’t know.

Are you a good artist?

 These are questions to be answered by the audience, not by the artists themselves. It is nonsensical to respond to these questions because what a good artist is has to do with what remains, what is left in history What is good art now will consolidate in due time. While the moment you perform, the work is an attestation of the present.

Do you like your work?

I like them very much and if I didn’t, I would not do it. There is something inside of me that I want to challenge- as one of my teachers suggested to me “Challenge your limits”. I want that everything that I do is experienced fully. It is not enough for me to stand on stage putting rubbish around me. I actually have to go perform at the rubbish dump itself. I am seeking for something specific and authentic.

Do others like your work?

No… I don’t know…. I am not recognized, but recognition is not a criterion for me. Some people really like the work and everybody does what they can for themselves. I don’t want to judge the audience nor be reinforced or annulled by viewer’s opinions. I believe more in time. I invest in time/history more than man because I am not convinced that man is mature enough yet. Of course when people are moved by what I do, it gives me strength to carry on…

Some spectators are intrigued by what they see, my presence, the why or what I am searching for. In my work there is some representation in the sense that I shift from the actual dream to the pen that writes it- but I always try to further. A photographer or painter could do a translation/representation of a dream too. It is the body and how it enters the process that makes this different. The body performing, building on it, experiencing, recording it.

Are you happy with how you do things?

 No, I am not happy.

How would you be happy?

 I would like to see myself in a research center, maybe a space of my own. I would like to have the funds for a center to be able to offer the possibility to other like- minded artists. A space to experiment, because I feel there isn’t enough experimentation going on in Greece (there is, but only a little). A space in which one can write on the walls and transform it any way they like. There are many studios and dance schools but no space is dedicated to experimentation. I envisage a space where you can have the freedom to dig the floors, paint on the walls, experiment and excavate- experience experimentation without limits. That would make me happy.

hair 1

Are you using the principle of improvisation?

 I always use improvisation also in speech.

Is your work set or improvised?

 Improvisation is a tool and I build on materials which come from improvisations. Some ideas come to me structured already. I might dream of a costume but since I always make everything myself improvisation is just a small part of what I do. If I dreamt of it, I will do it, like I saw it.

Do you set precise goals? Do you have specific expectations?

 Yes I do set goals even they form the last minute. I might have everything set out and organized, have the image, the beginning but I might not know the end, which usually comes during the last few days. I do have expectations-many: to be able to express what I want to say, to stick to the subject, to sustain the performance, to keep it up till the last minute. It is a fine balance to keep, needs a lot of strength to cope and deal with all that arises with yourself and your colleagues- sometimes you feel annulled or feel like giving up. For durational works, I now set a precise time of beginning and then I go on for as far as I can hold it. I used to set a specific time frame the beginning and ending time- which I could sustain if I had to. Now I prefer to follow the natural time of the activity. In “I will dive” I had no time limit, sometimes I was there only for half an hour, but I was there every day for a month (at different times of the day usually in the morning). Duration is one part of the project, while another is extensity. I try to stretch time, competing with myself and time itself or sometimes I just prolong the duration. In a dreams although I can understand that the actual duration was maybe 5 minutes, the feeling thought might be of being in that same point for three days.

Do you have a daily practice?

 Yes, my children! There are periods in my life in which I do absolutely nothing with my body, periods in which I feel like I am sinking, although there are vicissitudes. When I do have a daily practice, I jog, I swim, I play basket ball (I really like it and I used to be a basketball player when I was dancing).

What do you think about solos?

 I did a solo-a duet with a cow. Spectators are not sure when something is a solo, I mean when someone speaks to me and I respond to them is it a solo or a duet? I keep open and responsive to what is happening. I don’t want that the performer looses their authenticity and I am negating the segregation of “the performer over here and the spectators over there”. I like to allow for all the different responses and reactions. We are all participants in this kind of work, spectators are also performers in another spectators gaze. I have also noticed that when you place the audience in a particular formation in which they have a mirror image of themselves they feel uncomfortable. I sometimes feel that the spectators are scared as much or more than the performer. Like two lions, the one with more intense dynamic becomes dominant.

Do you create scores?

 I take notes and record everything, from what is happening backstage, the feelings that arise, the insecure moments, I write it all down.

Do you believe in less is more?

 Interesting line. But equally interesting is kitsch- in which everything is crammed together till there is no space for more. I find both strategies interesting, but when everything is there for sure there will be some things I like and some not.

I would say I am more biased to less is more, although I have this desire to make a piece one day with a mountain of things and see how I will cope within this chaos. Yet another challenge- but that’s what we do- we try things out. Even on an image level you are inclined to focus on one or a few things even within chaos. There is a ‘less is more’ attitude operating even in a maximalistic context. I wonder whether spectators prefer the minimalistic or pluralistic viewing, whether they just select what to keep.


A few questions on the elements of performance:


 There is a time frame in stage works. Onstage time counts on a practical sense, while in durational works, time functions on a psychological level.


 I do have a problem with spaces and I have come up with the solution of video art in order to bring to the stage the atmosphere I wish. It is this sense of atmosphere I am after when I reach out to outdoor spaces, stage spaces seem too plain.


 I am clueless when it comes to lighting, I have worked with a lighting designer in the past giving them the sole direction: “Do as you like, I am really clueless with lighting”.


 I am very interested in set design. I used to design shop windows at my fathers clothes shop. Then I started designing clothes and then designing sets. I do everything by myself.


 I make the costumes myself- I design them and make them. Sometimes I work with a seamstress. The last costume I made was a construction like a raft of cables and other materials.

How do you treat the body in your work?

 I allow for each performer to have their individual dynamic. I am interested in movement coming from the soul, in seeing the individuality of each performer. I am not interested in technique; I am moved by the movement that feels like it leaks from the hair or under the nails of the performer, the movement that disseminates from their soul. Despite the fact that I come from a ballet background I am not interested in technique.

Do you feel you have sometimes failed?

 Of course.

How has that affected you?

 It stopped me from creating for years. I danced as a performer in dance theatre groups, but shortly after I found what kind of work I wanted to do and left the company. When my mother died, I felt deeply revoked and I stopped dancing for the most important years for the body in dance (27-38). There definitely was a void with my body by then. My parents never wanted me to become a dancer. My mother was a pharmacist and my father a merchant and I had appeared like a piece of fireworks in their lives. At first I worked both as a dancer and dance teacher, but after this long absence it was difficult to find work again in dance-I had lost contact with the scene. Within this non- dance period I had 2 children and I sustained my creativity through writing.

What do you wish for?

 I wish to be well and be able to help those in need. Oh ! and the wish I aforementioned regarding the space for experimentation.

Thank you.