What is a performance? It can contain various things. Violence, sport, eroticism, nature, comedy, thriller.
It’s really not so easy to know what people expect.
Also: Two journalists at a renowned Washington newspaper use an ancient “instrument” to record information they’ve collected from a variety of sources. This subsequently leads to the downfall of the President of The United States of America.
Black Warrior is written, choreographed and performed by
Lisa Östberg and Kim Hiorthøy
Supported by: Swedish Arts Council, Stockholms City,
Fond for Lyd og Bilde and Arts Council Norway
Black Warrior will be performed here:
1 OCT preview at MDT, Stockholm
2 OCT preview at MDT, Stockholm
2 OCT performance in collaboration with DANSISTAN
10 OCT Avant Garden, Trondheim
11 OCT Avant Garden, Trondheim
16 OCT opening of Oktoberdans, Bergen
17 OCT Oktoberdans, Bergen
3 NOV opening of DanseFestival Barents, Hammerfest
6 NOV Sweden premiere Dansens Hus, Stockholm
7 NOV Dansens Hus, Stockholm
8 NOV Dansens Hus, Stockholm
also, a presentation…here:
11 DEC pitch/presentation at MORE MORE MORE, ICE HOT, Oslo
What is Black Warrior?
K: It’s a pencil.
What kind of pencil?
K: It’s a black pencil called the Black Warrior.
L: It’s round and it has an eraser on top.
K: It has gold lettering and two gold hearts.
How come you named your performance after this pencil?
K: While we were working with our last piece YOU we were watching the film All the President’s Men. And we were talking about how it would be fun to make a performance and create a whole world where all the examples are taken from this film. And then Lisa told me that she had discovered this pencil …you should tell the story …
L: I was watching the movie in my study, on the computer, at my desk. And also on the desk I have a glass with pencils. And I noticed that the journalists in the film use this certain pencil and at the same time I saw the exact same pencil in the glass on my desk. Which was very strange. But I realized that the pencil came from my boyfriend’s stepfather. He is a lawyer in New York and he only uses Black Warrior pencils. He has been using it since the 70s.
I guess he thinks it’s cooler looking than the usual yellow pencils. And apparently a lot of lawyers use the Black Warrior to project power.
So the inspiration for Black Warrior started with the discovery of this pencil?
K: In a way. Lisa told me about this pencil, and that it was called the Black Warrior. It sounds… it doesn’t sound like it’s a pencil. And we thought it could be a nice title for a performance. And once you have a title everything becomes easier.
L: Watching All the President’s Men and thinking about it and how it was made …it has so many sub-stories. It resembles the way our performances are made where one thing leads to the next thing and so on. We … what was that word in Norwegian that I wanted to start using?
K: Digression? Doesn’t that exist in Swedish?
L: Maybe it does, but I haven’t used it.
It means that you start with one thing and it leads to something completely different?
K: It means that you talk about something else than what is actually at hand. For example: we have to do this important thing, but this morning my mother cooked a really good breakfast…
L: You lose track.
K: Which is very much what we do in our performances.
Tell me about the piece Black Warrior, how would you describe it?
K: It’s a Spanish course.
L: That has been cancelled. And instead we describe how to make a performance. Or what a performance is, rather. You can use what we say as a tool to make your own performance.
It’s like a lecture about how to make a performance?
L: Yes. But the Spanish course is the frame that we keep coming back to. The memory of the Spanish course remains through our description of how to make a performance. Because is it even possible to cancel a Spanish course? This is a question that we raise.
What does that mean?
K: If I had to explain it I would say that it’s connected with the idea of how to make a performance. Because in the performance situation, once you have said that something is something, you cannot unmake it. It’s there because you have said it. Things are also present by their absence. Both in YOU and this piece we are also playing with the idea that we are describing something but being the thing that we are describing at the same time.
So you have created a piece that explores the concept of a performance. What is your own relation to the performing arts? Growing up was this something you thought about, how a performance is made?
L: When I was a child I made a lot of performances at home, I think most children do. I did a lot of things with my sister, dancing to Madonna, making small choreographies. But when you’re a child you don’t reflect on it much it’s just a natural part of life.
K: I was obsessed with theatre when I was a kid and I was sure that I was going to be an actor, but when I was 15 it stopped, I lost interest and I didn’t do anything with it. But now when I’m working with dance and choreography I have opened that door again. I’m fascinated by the different ways of talking with an audience. There are always different kinds of agreements and expectations between the performers on stage and the audience, I find that interesting to explore.
What part of making a show do you enjoy the most?
K. I really enjoy performing, even if it’s also exhausting. Especially last time with all the traveling and touring that we did. But being on stage I find it really fun every time. It’s such a strange situation that doesn’t resemble anything else in life.
L: I agree. And I also enjoy being in a project where the two of us are making something together where the aim is total equality. As artists both Kim and I, often we are working on our own. But in this piece we do everything together, both in the work process and on stage we share the responsibility equally.
What does your work process look like?
K: So far we just sit and talk and sometimes one of us will get up and do something on the floor.
L: We wanted this piece to be less problematic to tour with than our last one where we travelled with 35 trees. So we don’t have that many props. But we have an overhead projector that we have been playing around with as a tool. So we use something that’s used in lectures.
You both are artists that work in many different fields, from music, filmmaking, dance, visual arts to acting and script writing. Do you use all of this when you make your stage performances?
L: In our pieces there are a lot of influences from film, visual arts and from dance and I would say that we curate these influences into what we are making and it can drift into either one of these fields.
K: We are not attached to a certain form, it’s not like we have worked with one specific form of theatre for 20 years. With other work I do I often find that I’ve invested too much in it to be free. When we do our performances, even if we take what we do very seriously we don’t have that much respect for it, in a way that I think it’s good; it makes us free to do what we want.
You work very much with text, what is it that makes this into a dance piece rather than theatre?
L: In our work process we are writing and doing at the same time, which makes it more related to performance and choreography. And even if we use a lot of text, the text is there because of an idea rather than being the narrative of a story.
K: My feeling is that when you’re making a theatre piece you’re performing something, you’re taking on a “role”, but when you’re making dance you’re more demonstrating something, doing something, you are doing it. It’s not pretending to do something, it’s actually doing it. And our performances are like that. In that way it resembles a lecture more than theatre. So I guess you can also say that a lecture is more like dance in that way.
The theme you explore in this piece is how to make a performance, can you tell me a little bit more about that?
L: I think that one of the most important things for a performance is to have an idea. So in Black Warrior we talk a lot about this, the concept of an idea. Between the two of us we have a lot of ideas. And we feel very free to say them even if we ourselves aren’t sure it’s actually a good idea, because it can always lead to something else.
K: And bad ideas are sometimes good ideas.
You pose the question: “when does an idea stop being an idea and become seagull art”, do you have an answer to it?
K: That’s the magical moment that no one can really describe. Once the idea goes from being an idea to becoming seagull art you can never go back and that moment can happen just in the blink of an eye.
L: I think it’s when you take the decision of making a seagull out of wood or with watercolor then maybe the idea turns more into a project. But you can also say that the idea stops being an idea and becomes seagull art when the seagull is finished for people to look at.
K: That’s true. I think what I’m talking about is not actually when an idea stops being an idea and becomes seagull art, it’s more to do with when you go from having no idea to thinking: seagull art! And that moment is extremely difficult to pinpoint. First there is no seagull art then there is seagull art. And then you make the seagull art, but that’s more a physical process.
L: So this is a question that we explore.
K: There was a moment in the world when there was no seagull art; there were only seagulls and people. But suddenly someone had the idea of creating the first piece of seagull art.
L: Maybe there is a cave in France where there are rock paintings with seagulls.
K: Maybe someone was trying to explain to someone who never seen a seagull what a seagull was, I saw this thing flying through the air, let me show you… And thus seagull art was born.
L: But then it wasn’t called seagull art, it was just explanatory art. Like what we do.
K: We do explanatory art, that’s a good term.
Interview: Emilia Mellberg