Maria Gorgia, Amalgama

Posted on July 23, 2019

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Maria Gorgia interviewed by from stage to page

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Could you briefly introduce yourselves?

I am a choreographer, performer and teacher of composition and contemporary dance, making work for more than twenty years for the company I founded ‘Amalgama dance-company’. Attempting to define what I do now, I could say that my work is a hybrid, an amagalmate that contains dance, dance-theater and performance-art, equally.  This kind of work, with this hybrid quality as its most prominent characteristic, developed over the last 6 years.  I was not consciously trying to create a specific style. It emerged organically as I was following what attracted me the most.

 

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‘What are you suffering from? Existence.’

 

What do you want to question with your current project?

I will talk about ‘The castle’s jewel’ (2017) that already had 24 performances. The question behind this work is whether in western society man can be independent without creating  addictive or dependency relationships. The kind of dependency constructed in the self primarily through the relationship with the mother. In this work we draw a parallel of this need of belonging, without which one feels incomplete or identity-less, to ‘The Castle’ by Frantz Kafka. We have substituted the names and genders of characters in the book: instead of a male K. there is female M. She wishes to belong to the Tower, to be appointed to a job, assume an ‘identity’,  become part of the power system.  She feels that she does not ‘exist’ otherwise, as the notion of self-worth or self esteem is (always) hetero-determinated.

 

Why did you chose this?

Most of my work is related to questions, problems, thoughts that I have myself, through introspection or observing others close to me. Εspecially since my work became consciously more anthropocentric.

 

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‘The Castle’s Jewel’

 

Is questioning actually the process?

Questioning is part of the process and part of the product. I never give answers. I bring up questions and concerns. Sometimes I state something out loud or comment on it and maybe  positioning myself through commenting is already a statement.

 

Do you want your questions to become the audience’s questions?

Yes, I would like my questions to become the audience’s questions as well, in addition to  audiences also creating their own questions and reflections.

 

Do you think audiences are looking for a message?

I would say that I am assisting or leading towards a possible message; I certainly do not make abstract work. Despite the fact that there are double meanings and multiple readings, I create a certain path that is there available to the audience to follow. But since I don’t offer any ready-made solutions really, I prefer to play with symbolisms, leaving space for the spectator to create their own connections, readings and meanings. In fact, when I am a spectator, I don’t like to be confined to one meaning nor I enjoy illustrative, didactic or explanatory work. At the same time, my work is not a chaotic realm or an open game of symbols; there is always a narrative and an end point, a specific intention.

 

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‘Kindergarten’

 

What does it mean to produce work?

For me, making work is a necessity. Firstly because I like it a lot, I enjoy myself during rehearsals, having good time and feeling fulfilled. I also enjoy watching the piece evolve from one show to the next, the more it is performed.  It is an existential need to communicate what is sometimes in my subconscious, my reflections or concerns; it matters to me to communicate these, bring them out in the open.

 

What is your strategy?

My strategy over the last decade more or less, starts during summer time, when I try to sense the most crucial concern; what appears as most intense or urgent to me in that period of time. The core idea of the next piece is born somewhere by the sea. Based on this I compile a reading list. I also draw from different stimuli: a trip, exhibitions, personal experiences etc. so that over the summer, out of these diverse stimuli and the reading, the first ideas and images emerge. I note down disparate fragments- it can be words or interesting connections to meanings and content that for the time being  are independent and unconnected. Most importantly, in this relaxed state of being in nature, images come to me- either a bit before I go to sleep or just as I wake up. I record these images that at a later stage will develop into scenes. Then I continue with the reading list which is constantly updated since one book leads to another or excludes a subject along the way and later I start rehearsing. During the first month of rehearsals I experiment with improvisation tasks based on the images, words or meanings recorded. I propose different tasks, stimuli and information to the performers assimilating the ‘raw’ movement material. Then I start selecting and editing. After each rehearsal I go home reflect on it, selecting and throwing things away. In this manner, the piece gradually develops as if moving along a path that starts taking shape.

 

How did you start this research?

I started the dance company in 1996 in London and it was legally established in Athens in 1998. My first works were closer to abstract and contemporary dance. Then another need appeared, that of using objects. Then 3-4 years  later, the need for discussing social topics and expose my reflections on these appeared. This was around the same time that theatre elements appeared in my work. Then later the need for a dialogue between video and body images appeared. At this point, the path leading me to primarily anthropocentric topics was paved. More recently, the need for discussing gender and sexuality emerged, the time when text started becoming an important part of my work.

The hybrid style I described emerged through the work itself. My experience with performance-art comes mostly from exchanges with friends- many of which are fine artists from performance-art or video-art. When I let go of using video images in my work, I started becoming more involved with theatre and text. So the hybrid form I use now, relates to the kind of materials I needed for each work. In a way arriving to this hybrid happened on its own. Moreover, I was no longer satisfied with dance. I seemed to have grown bored of it due to what seemed to me as generic use of a specific kind of movement language- which is why I could no longer become satisfied with dance.

 

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‘What are you suffering from? Existence’

 

Are you interested in the individual?

Yes, always, from the start. Maybe it was typical of our generation at the State school of Dance. During our training there was much focus on individuality, how to create your own personal movement language, your own ‘writing’, your individual way of expression. This was my aim from the beginning. As a person I don’t like to look like anyone else either. One prefers to be unique.

 

Do you consider yourself funny?

There is humour in my choreographic work, there are humorous scenes and drama scenes.  I couldn’t say the same for myself, as I mostly tend to see the dramatic side of things through my mediterranean culture. A self with a tendency towards over-reacting, moaning or crying and work that has both the humour and the drama, as well as the reflection.

 

Are you interested in text or sound in your work?

Yes. Text, movement and objects are all there to serve my original idea and the narrative. Speech is sound and it is also music. The texts in my work are selected excerpts of works by others, written by myself or  developed during rehearsals in relation to the movements or objects used. In one of my previous productions I selected and used three scenes by S. Beckett- the ones I felt most closely connected to. I chose these because they performed or did exactly what I wanted for this work. Especially one of these excerpts was so precisely and closely related to me during that time, that some spectators assumed that I had written it myself, for my father.

In ‘The castle’s jewel’ I selected excerpts from Kafka’s ‘The Castle’- six scenes that follow the order of the book as this sequence also served my work. In-between them there are different insert-scenes. Although in the book the rhythm is kind of uniform,  the character goes from one place to the next, goes and goes but nothing much happens, in my piece  the character  is continuously facing obstacles and she finds difficulties in movement. The performer in ‘The castle’s jewel’ is undermined by speech. In every syllable she must move her feet. It is the rhythm of speech that is oppressing the body. It is not only about the meaning of what is said, but also about the dependency relationship between speech-sound-body.

 

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‘At the edge of the springboard’

 

Is text sometimes improvised?

In a previous work ‘At the edge of the springboard’, performer Sania Strimbakou is walking up and down as if on a catwalk gradually growing older. She is talking about different pleasures in life. For this section, I proposed certain themes or directions for the talking and asked the performer to improvise-  this scene was created like that. Yet then it becomes set according to different pathways in space and time, so finally the text was not at all improvised in the performance.

 

Are you an artist?

Yes, if this means that I am someone with an urgent need to express emotions, concerns, reflections to the world.

 

Are you a good artist?

I consider myself a good artist. Yes.

 

Do you like your work?

Most of the times.

 

Do others like your work?

I believe that there is an audience that likes my work, some of them like it very much.

 

Are you happy with how you do things?

Yes and no.

 

How would you be happy?

I would be happy if someone else would do the production so that I don’t have to deal with it, provided that it is well done. Even when I delegate things to others, I still feel like the need to oversee everything. When things are done well I am ok with it.

I would be happy if I didn’t have to deal with the artist’s stress of looking for funding in order to create, to survive, to exist financially and socially. To have some support so that it doesn’t feel like we are just absorbed by some hobby of ours.

I would be happy if there would be some respect by society and the state towards artists. I get very upset with the point of view that artists are just doing what they like, a favourite hobby or activity- it has gone too far. It is important to be respected because you produce work. I am offended by the prevalent position ‘you are an artist, so at least you are doing something you like…’ This is not the whole picture. We artists also give work to other people and we are also facing a market that functions on neoliberal terms in the arts too. It is a job although sometimes it is not treated like work from society and the state.

 

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‘Kindergarten’

 

Are you teaching workshops?

I used to teach at Deree College that ran a BA in Dance and at the Peloponnese University in Nafplion at the Department of fine arts and theatre studies. I used to teach choreography, contemporary dance, improvisation and then choreology. I now started teaching choreography workshops in the my new space that I found specifically for one piece but then decided to sustain it for a few years. In March I taught the first trimester and I have selected some pieces that will develop through mentoring by myself. I prefer to run workshops instead of being in a full time teaching position.

 

Is your work set or improvised?

Even when it is set material, it is not set step by step, it is like a strictly structured improvisation. In a choreological sense, the basic qualities of movement weight, time and space are set. I request specific qualities, activated through different propositions like a psychological state that is created when an object is attached onto the body, a specific condition or performers own personal experiences.

 

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

 Yes, both. I have expectations concerning the content and what is communicated to the audience, irrespectively of other connections spectators might make.

At the same time I don’t have any expectations regarding the future. When I make new work I am interested in the ‘here and now’ and what the work ‘wants’.

I set goals interested in how they become expressed and communicated. To some spectators point of view, my intentions are communicated in a negative manner; it is true, I am interested in being provocative. Even if some people are bothered, I am also interested in that, their reaction. This is the reason why lately I have been using the element of interaction, scenes with audience participation. I mean participation in a positive sense, submitting the audience to a situation where they have to follow its rules. Whether a pleasant or unpleasant situation, I am interested in how the audience experiences this.

In past works when the audience was clearly in one place and the performers on stage- long before I introduced interactivity- I was then already interested in exploring how to provoke the audience or somehow ‘bother’ it.

And I think that if the audience enters the situation I am after, yes it might be annoying for them. For example in ‘Kindergarden’ there is a scene of verbal abuse between two performers sitting on a couch and I place an audience member in between the shouting performers. Maybe this comes from my own past experiences of my parents arguing, but I believe that emotions emerge in the spectator through experiencing this scene like that. I am also interested in watching the spectator’s reactions like in ‘At the edge of the springboard’ when a spectator is asked to wash the naked female performer’s back. Most of the times they became embarrassed. For me -as an audience member- it is interesting to watch someone become embarrassed. It is a true and genuine state, it is charming and this energy passes through all of the other audience members too.

 

Do you have a daily practice?

Yes I have a few exercises I do, a mix of stretching, yoga, release and ballet. Earlier this year I started going swimming (at the pool) and enjoyed it more. I am obsessed with keeping things clean and tidy. The older I get the more intense it gets, I think because my mother is the exact opposite. I remember her making everything messy, this was when I returned to live at my family house after living in UK for five years. In my new home now, everything is in order. My ritual is organizing things in symmetries and asymmetries that I choose, otherwise I feel agitated.

 

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‘At the Seesaw’

 

What do you think about solos?

One of the first works was a solo- during the time I was still working on abstract movement but even in the group pieces I make, there is often a soloist and the ‘world’; one main character and how they see others or how others relate to them.

Later I created several solos: ‘The mattress’ 2011-2012 (part of the trilogy on the Greek state from its independence in 1830-now, based on male political figures and selected scenes from our political history), ‘Hidden in the olive grove’ 2012 (based on female public political figures, pivotal in women’s emancipation movement). The next production was ‘The seesaw’ a duet about the current crisis in both male and female identity. Then ‘At the edge of the springboard’ a solo for a woman and ‘Kindergarten’ which I also consider a solo in the sense that there is a central character and her relationship to others. ‘The castle’s jewel’ is also a solo in a way- Nikoleta is another facet of the narrator performed by myself: two facets of a woman surrounded by men (40-60 year old performers)-a performance about a woman standing alone in relation to this mass of men, in a documentary-style viewpoint.

In a way, all of the solos I create are me, how I see the world, my viewpoint, my comments, the world seen through my eyes or my translation of situations. I would like my work to be relevant for every man or woman yet and I sometimes feel a bit of guilt thinking that I always speak only about my questions, my problems or myself in my work. But it’s true. This is what I do. I often comment on gender and patriarchy in the sense of power and when I am commenting on the world, I am often referring to men.

 

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‘What if we devoured one another?’

 

Do you create scores?

I create a narrative; non-linear that is created through the composition of the different scenes we work on. This final stage is usually during the last month of rehearsals, before the premiere. I have never really collaborated with a dramaturg from the beginning of a production. I only worked once with a dramaturg, a friend. I always have a faint idea of the final narrative myself and if I would collaborate with a dramaturg it would be more in articulating the narrative I have in mind, more eloquently.

 

How do you archive your work?

I keep hand-written notes and keep an archive of all the videos.

 

Do you believe in less is more?

I started feeling that over the last five years.

 

Are you influenced by other art forms or sciences?

I have been through different phases in my work regarding influences: first it was music, then performance art and theatre; literature more recently, as well as political theory and books on psychoanalysis and psychotherapy or books that investigate the emotional states of humans. I am myself in psychotherapy. I have never done psychoanalysis although I have read a bit of Lacan and Freud.

 

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“Kindregarten’

 

Do you favour / create a technique?

There are certain techniques that interest me and that a dancer should have in order to work together: a combination of release technique, improvisation, contact improvisation and basic principles of ballet. Experience in voice work is also important, since in the past years I have been working with language- in the sense of using the whole self: body and voice. A tool I intend to developing further.

 

How do you treat the body in your work?

I don’t distinguish the body from the human being. When we speak of a body we speak of a human being. I consider the performer and myself, as human being and body.

 

Time?

It is a basic element of composition. Spectators are fixed on their seat for some time to see something; time is the basic tool with which you keep the attention and interest of spectators. And of course there is space in time and time in space.

 

Space?

I work with space in relation to the whole, composing images in space. More recently I select spaces for the presenting the performance that semiotically relate to the central idea of the performance. ‘At the edge of the springboard’ was performed at ‘Bagladesh’ a claustrophobic basement similar to the state of this woman’s soul;  trapped in a Beckettian manner with some company in this impasse. This space was like her inner world, water going through exposed pipes constantly, under the ground, we are in a way, inside of her.

In ‘The castle’s jewel’ the space we performed was previously used as public service offices. Its aesthetic was like a tax office, similar to the bureaucratic setting in Kafka’s ‘The Castle’. Spectators were asked to take the stairs, going up for five floors. The experience evoked feelings of climbing up a castle or the spite of not belonging to The Castle or the disappointment of arriving in a miserable space like most public sector offices, after all this effort.

 

Lights?

After seven years of no funding for independent dance from the Ministry of Culture, most performances are very Arte Povera! Very few lights, mostly what is already available in that place or lights that focus on features of the space. There is no stage or theatrical lighting. In the past when I was performing in theatres, the lighting design was based on each scene’s central concept and more atmosphere changes.

 

Set?

In the past when I was still using set, its design would be conceived at the beginning along with the basic concept of the work. Since ‘At the edge of the springboard’ props become central. Props with the body. This is often the first image that comes to me, as for example the particular chair of a specific period, belonging to my generation in this solo. Already in the past, when I collaborated with set designers, certain objects and props would be central to each work.

 

Costume?

The costumes are mostly everyday clothes since the lack of funding. In the latest production we used two dresses that had certain period elements-one for a girl and one for a romantic woman. Still one could wear these in everyday life, although they were chosen for their semiotic relationship to the work. In the past the costumes were tailor-made based on the concept and one could not wear these off stage.

 

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‘The Castle’s Jewel’

 

Do you feel you have sometimes failed?

Yes of course, there are moments that I consider that failed choices were made. And I try to fix or correct them.

 

How has that affected you?

It upsets me a lot when something doesn’t succeed.

 

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‘The Mattress’

 

Is your work Greek?

I don’t now what Greek means nor anything else, so I could define my work as a part of the Western world. In the past, I could speak about a certain Greek-ness referring to elements that emerged in some of my more socio-political work that was referring to the situation here. But the Greek identity is not like the memorandum memorial service scene! The Western world is an identity in itself, in 20th-21st centuries.

Regarding contemporary dance, I don’t think it is about national differences. Even when I went to Japan, I saw three different contemporary dance performances. They all seemed like choreographed contact work, just like seeing any other European dance group, really.

 

Is there a Greek dance scene? Are there characteristics you can identify?

I could differentiate between a Mediterranean dance scene and the Central-European dance scene. I can recognise the Mediterranean scene as more familiar, in greater proximity to me, from aesthetic choices, from the rhythm of the whole or how it develops and changes in time and space. If one would be looking into discrete scenes and making a drawing of dynamics, peaks would appear higher and appear more often in this diagram, if we compared it to a Central European one. I could also identify the Belgian dance scene due to a particular aesthetic and the Greek scene by its relationship to the Image. I believe that if we compared the press photos of a Central European work and a Greek one, we could identify which one is which.

 

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‘What if we devoured each other?’

 

When you started your company, were you dissatisfied with the kind of dance that was on offer at the time?

No I was not dissatisfied. When still a student in the State School of Dance, I got very excited when we were asked to create a solo. I fell in love with the rehearsal process and with exploring choreography. Later when I started my company, I was still discovering things.

 

So why does company, why do companies such as yours matter? Why does your work matter?

For me it is a need to express my inner world and expose it, a need of communicating. And I feel that it can offer to an audience a certain viewpoint, a ‘language’ whose intention is to to move questions as much as emotions. A ‘writing’ from a woman of the arts offered to countless people.

 

What do you wish for?

I wish to be able to continue what I do now, for many years to come.

 

Thank you.

 

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