LILIANA RODRIGUES: Your 2011 film ‘Volution’ is loosely inspired by a scene from Charlie Chaplin’s ‘City of Lights’ (1931), while ‘Genet Piece’ (2010) freely re-enacts a scene from ‘Un Chant d’Amour’ by Jean Genet (1950). Why this interest in the re-enactment of choreographies taken from historical film footage?
ALICIA FRANKOVICH: In a way by coming so close to other works you can actually divert further from them than if you were not to look to them at all. There is a sense of a skeleton that you can build on and divert into a new language. You can kind of insert yourself into an old text and do something to it and come out of it, pushing it somewhere else. I also like the idea of making a kind of (feminist) modern day interpretation from works of the past. How do actions/ gestures from 1930 or 1950 read today? What if the actions are misused or if they are such a brittle vein in the final piece… The earlier works allow for layers of texts/ readings from the original text to the new one. There is also a politics in the way that you see the piece in terms of media, from Chaplin’s blackand white films (which I have seen on TV and on Youtube) through todays technology. Really I think that you are initially interested in a specific concept or a specific history and then it becomes entirely new … it adds context.
AF: This work involved making a structure in front of the audience where one chair hung of the other and was wrapped around the space ¬– out through the windows. I asked curator Hannah Mathews to get up onto the upper chair and I proceeded to sit on the one directly underneath her. We then played out a series of instinctual poses, negotiations, in the mode of a kind of ‘conversation’. It was about challenging the architecture of the site, but also about the power dinamics between the artist and the curator – two binaries that formed one unit. There was of course an element of danger in that the curator’s chair was completely in mid air, only hand tied around the space with no other structural support. My own body was also at risk as I sat directly underneath. The breakthrough was that together we pulled an audience into a temporary space under pretences of a normal relation between artist and curator, but then I built a situation, a construction that pulled on the site itself, the curator and me, the artist. I gave her the freedom to leave at any point. After 27 minutes, I was the first to leave, Mathews then jumped down also exiting the scene. The piece was about trust, both physically and in terms of content. Beforehand, neither party knew exactly how the performance would unfold.
LR: You also made a piece based on the human activation of a sculptural-figure in space. Why does the absence of your own body become so important here?
AF: At a certain point with performance it can be interesting to leave the scene. In many cases there is no reason for me to be there. It is merely a human giving something to an audience. That is what I was interested in here. Fiona Gueß held a kinetic sculpture for me at Salon Populaire and people stood around and underneath her and it. She was ‘live’ as was the sculpture.
LR: Can you explain more about the ‘Floor Resistance’ (2011) piece?
AF: This piece was held at the HAU3 theatre. There was a white mat which I was interested in resembling a kind of judo stage which the audience and performers sat on/ performed on. There were chairs spread off the stage, and the main bunch of seats off ground level was roped off. There were a series of acts, the main ones included a quintet playing string instruments whilst lying down and moving on the floor. They played a Béla Bartók pizzicato and then an improvisation in these positions. They read from musical scores which were on music stands hanging upside down from the ceiling. I introduced a jumping sculpture into the arena, which interacted in close proximity with the viewers. The performer made movements in relation to my kinetic sculptures which jumped maniacally, repetitively, or turned somewhat apathetically. He became more and more tired and his physical self became even more evident. I also performed ‘Bisons’, a piece where I attempted to conquer people individually in the mode of rugby scrum until one side of the party gave up.
LR: In performance practice, and as you mentioned in a recent interview, what happens is as much spatial as is social. The audience is present and experiences the staging of different situations. In what other ways does your work involve the audience?
AF: Sometimes if there is a risk at play, especially a physically one, the audience may become hooked into the situation. I think that when I present my own body or the body of others, the audience becomes very aware of themselves and of everyone in the room, how they should behave, how they are behaving. It is not the way that you are normally confronted with social presence; it is marked by a situation and for a certain amount of time.
LR: In ‘A Plane for Behavers – Performance 2’ (2009) you have presented yourself as a sculptural problem for the audience. How did the audience deal with this problem?
AF: For me as the subject and in a way as an audience member I felt like I was in a physical… some kind of living ‘pietà’. For the audience it was quite emotional, some in fact cried. People came together and held up the work (me) for the entire duration of the performance. It was great responsibility for them. A kind of taboo I suppose. People could relate to situations in the real world as funerals, processions, weddings, the carrying of children, rock concerts… sculpture that gives something back…
LR: Your choice of working with non-professional actors, friends and passerby’s seems to “help” a certain flavour of amateurism and genuine spontaneity which comes across in your work. But the technique also seems to play an important role in it. Do you care to comment?
AF: This work and perhaps I could say of all of my work, is a mid-way contradiction between control and whatever the opposite might be. The risk of shooting film or presenting a performed situation to an audience without a propper rehearsal, meets the fastidious study of movements from Chaplin’s scene from City Lights. I wanted to learn the scene pretty much inside out, and explain it very well to the participants even on site, but I did not want to fix the outcome. I think it is at this point that it gains power, that it steps into its new mode of being, a new history. I sought participants with diverse background abilities (to dance, to act), for some it was their first time on film. We relied on memories on instinctive interpretations, and reaction from our bodies and backgrounds. I was interested in this. A situation that I constructed controlled and then let loose in a way. I let it take on a new language and turned it into a new choreography. I choose to base the piece on Chaplin’s boxing scene as I was interested in the point of mediation between two parties, and how it turned into a comical dance. The implication of having my body being tussled between 3 guys suggests a kind of gender politc which was a thread throughout. Then you have the added context of the street itself and how the public might behave. In the end, we were all performers in some way.