Greater Choreography: the psychogeography of movement

by HRM on September 8, 2011

A Conversation-Interview between Cara Spooner and Lendl Barcelos

For me, everything comes from the body. I have an embodied practice. Because I have a dance background, everything I do – whether it is sending mail to people in Zürich, walking or “performing as an audience” – is all dance. Everything I do is movement-based and comes from the body.

Breathe deeply

Cara Spooner studied dance at York University. She works as a dancer, choreographer, designer and curator in various constellations and partnerships. Many of her projects are interventions, performance/installations, maps or site-specific performances.

Lendl Barcelos is an active artist, philosopher, and composer. He recently moved to Paris from Toronto in order to continue pursuing the intersections of these three fields.

Lendl and Cara first met in Toronto and this conversation happened in a rooftop garret in the 9th arrondissment of Paris after several months of corresponding though email.

Lendl: Cara.

Cara: Lendl.

L: Both…

C: Talking…

[they laugh]


L: What are you doing in Europe?

C: I’m doing research on how place affects things; on site-specific performance and on ideas (concerning performance).

L: A lot of your work is site-specific. What brings you to work within this realm as opposed to stage-based work?

C: I think that the social codes of being in a theatre have an interesting dynamic. When you walk into a theatre, there is a predetermined way of viewing, of hearing and of acting as an audience member. Especially if the work is movement-based, the way the audience understands it is primarily visual (but also aural). That’s a really great tradition but, in a way, I think there is potential for a lot more. I think that the audience’s embodiment can become more integrated into performance and that the different senses can become more integrated. That’s what motivates me to pull things out of the proscenium stage. I want to make the experience something more than just consuming with just the eyeballs and allow the affect to be integrated into the work with a lot of embodiment on the audience’s side.

L: In the piece 8037 that you are performing in Zürich next week, you are transforming the audience as a part of the piece. Can you speak of this piece in relation to your conceptions of site-specificity you just elaborated on?

C: This piece comes from the idea of “audiencing,” or performing as the audience.

The first component of 8037 is a mail-art campaign which is localized to a specific postal code region. Everyone within that region will receive an invitation in the mail signed from the River—a sort of anonymous entity, yet very integral to the lives of the people there. I’m sure they all have relationships with the river. Also, water is an interesting thing. It is outside of us, as well as inside of us. They will receive an invitation to perform on a particular day. Intentionally, what is being performed, how it is being performed, and when—to a certain degree—is left up to the recipient. So each citizen who receives the piece of mail is being questioned about “performativity” within their everyday life (about what, how, and when they’re performing). This is when the performance begins, with the reading of the the invitation. That awareness of performativity is in itself a performance.

The second component is a performance walk with patrons of the stromereien 11 festival. We take them on a walk through the postal code region where we have delivered the mail. After the patrons will be a “travelling audience” and we will prime them so that they will be ready to receive performance in any and every way. We are working with the idea that the frame and the action is actually occurring within the audience members. So if we walk past a dog pissing on a tree, we view that as the performance.

Notice what you notice

That’s the switch or the lens that we are attempting to see everything through. Or, if we see a woman gardening who threw her invitation away, or chose to ignore it, we still view her as if she is doing this “act of gardening” with intention. The way that we are framing this is: people are always performing. She is performing her gender, certain physical tasks, yet she isn’t thinking of this as performance. Her awareness isn’t on her performativity. This is why we as the audience are actually the real performers.

Of course, someone could also be on their front porch playing a song on their tuba because they have been prepped [with the invitation] and that is how they view performance: as an audience witnessing intentional performative actions.

L: So in this project you are charging the space on multiple levels: with the first step, you charge it anonymously or as the Limmat River, which creates a space for the embodiment of a “performer” in the traditional sense; in the second step, you charge the space of an “audience member”, which interestingly is the part that is signed by you and your collaborator, Sky Fairchild Waller.

C: It is this second step [the walk] that is in the festival program as our “performance” for the festival. It is this action of performing “as audience” and “as witness” that the audience participates in.

L: You have a concept of the “greater choreography”, can you explain what this means?

C: We can use the frame of a stage or gallery and say that everything that happens within this frame is the “Art”, but what if we extend this frame so that everything in the entire theatre is seen as the performative act, or everything in the building, the block or the city. It is about the ways which the city and architecture defines movement and the choices that are made.

When I was first doing movement maps and tracking all of my movement (pedestrian, dancing, otherwise), I noticed the traces that were left were a lot of straight lines because of where I live (which is an urban centre). Interestingly this is what ends up defining many of my movements.

time spending map

L: So the actual geography influences your movement?

C: Yes, of course, where I move, how quickly I move, when I move, where I stop, what is delineated as private or public space and my roles within these places, as well as the social codes that are “okay” or are “not okay” in those places.

L: So then does psychogeography play a big role in this?

C: Yes, of course! And what about you? How does psychogeography, or this idea of “greater choreography” play a role in relation to the walking you’ve been doing?


L: Ever since I moved to Paris walking has been my main mode of transportation. Paris is fairly small, it’s only about 10×10 kilometres. At first, when I wasn’t used to the city at all, everywhere I went I felt the same, exactly the same. You know, there’s a prominence of Haussmann-style buildings and streets. Everything is somewhat imposing with very large and directed spaces. It’s a type of all-paths-lead-to-Rome style of urban planning. But, slowly but surely, I noticed that there were areas that were more convoluted. Areas inviting you to get lost. Even when I was familiar with an area, I would still be able to get lost and so I did.

I took the approach fairly intuitively as far as trying to embody the psychogeographical tradition of just going for it and not necessarily theorizing about it. I agree that the environment definitely conditioned how I was moving and where I was moving to, choosing paths for me.


C: I dream of walking pure North or pure whatever.

L: Through buildings and everything? As straight as possible?

C: Yeah, as much as possible, stay true to walking in an actual straight line.

L: What would you do when you came across an obstacle?

C: Well that is precisely the game! Is it something you can climb over or is it a huge building? Do you go through it, or scale up the side of it and go over parkour-style? What would happen? That’s the invitation. That’s the question! I’d love to defy these predetermined paths which shape how we move in terms of the greater choreography.

lay down

Previous post:

Next post:

ISSN: 2116 34X