»CRAZE: Questionnaire for new Choreography« showcases emerging choreographers and investigates the artistic practices of contemporary dance. In its first episode, the series focuses on the survivor, supporter, sex worker and performance artist caner teker. An interview by Jette Büchsenschütz with photos by Marie Haefner.
Practically, I have a visual arts background with finishing my studies at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf under John Morgan, Johannes Paul Raether, and Trisha Donelly. We talked a lot about the production of images and their circulations. Performance for me is a relatively simple, but radical solution to avoid the production of pictures, but rather to put the ephemeral in place.
Why dance, though? Due to proximity, vulnerability, and the initiation of rituals. For me, dance is not the expression of oneself, but a practice of saying »No«, of surviving and of a form of support and care. Especially, as i regained access to my own biography, ephemeral experiences and the body became so much more present. My work is very much rooted in my own body, being queer, brown, non-binary, a supporter and a survivor — terms that i found expressions for way later. But in the beginning, i hardly dared to perform myself, there is and was a lot of shame in me. There still is. i had to put a lot of effort into bodywork due to my experienced traumas.
i was under the impression that i had to perform myself due to representational reasons in identity politics, since the subjects of my interest — the making-of the queer self, the body as experimental field, Turkish Halay dance, queer (sex)parties, — had to be presented through my own body, hence my experiences, and not any more through other bodies.
Nowadays, i’m much more convinced that choreography is about shifting representation and movement research between other bodies.
What is your personal (and maybe daily) practice?
Meditation helps me a lot to achieve a sense of clarity and sensitivity. When working in the studio, i write a lot. i find mind-mapping extremely helpful to discover links that are not running linear and that create diverse connections.
Reading is an important part of my practice, i really don’t know how many books i bought since March, but i try taking 1 hour a day for reading.
Another daily practice that amplified through attending Joy Mariama Smith’s workshop on consent at color block at Ponderosa was processing guilt and harm. i’ve harmed, and i’ve been harmed.
Doing awareness shifts in nightlife with TS Raver and Lecken helped to re-connect with my community and become a healthy member of it. i am still processing, though: Every day. Compassion and Acceptance are nowadays a key to everyday life for me.
How do you generate material?
Regarding migrant histories and as both of my grandparents have passed away, i try to connect with my family for ensuring information about our shared histories.
Otherwise, i work relatively conceptual. i usually start out with certain materials that i mindmap, followed by a practical examination and then the connection of these two. i often practice eyes-closed-work (Authentic Movement) to generate material. But also working in front of a mirror helps me to find specific movements. i often work visually, i guess it’s due to my background. i am careful not to be too expressionistic on stage as i don’t allow myself to »perform my feelings«. Theater is not therapy and not a space for me to heal.
What is an audience for you?
Witnesses. Rituals became increasingly important in my work and therefore also the presence of the audience. Performers and witnesses both play crucial roles in establishing co-presence.
During my first performance i had great discomfort performing in front of an audience as i had doubts concerning whether this particular solo »IBNE | GÖTVEREN« needs an audience. But at some point i realized the necessity and urgency of the discourses of my work and this necessity became my drive and my motivation. Another remark is the question of who do i perform for? Who has access to seeing my work? How do i make it more accessible? i also make these performances for the Turkish community in Germany. Therefore, translation is always necessary in the announcement of my works.
The perspective i’m speaking from is that of classical ritual theory — that new, temporal communities are formed during rituals. i truly want that for my performances, i want it to be inclusive, accessible, open, transparent and vulnerable.
Can you remember the first piece of art that really mattered to you?
When i was five or six years old, i attended one of many weddings in Turkey. To pass time i followed LED-spotlights on the floor. Turkish weddings are always well documented on video and when i saw myself two days after the wedding on videotape it was the first time i saw myself performing. When i think of it now, it makes me gag. That, and the theatricality of Turkish weddings: there is a ritual, a live-video with real time transmission, a live band, catering, dance and drinking alcohol under the table. It is the time for the community for celebration.
Traditional Turkish rituals are central to your previous work Kırkpınar as well as to your upcoming performance, that is planned to be presented next year. What is it that fascinates you about those rituals in specific and rituals in general?
In rituals — and performances as rituals — i am fascinated by the transformative power. Collaborative processes can also have ritualistic, liminal and tender touches that dissolve the idea of »checking boxes« and essentialism in identity politics. Moreover, i always have had a problem with the Western idea of black boxes, frontal theaters and a passive-receptive audience. i want a theater that does not separate but creates community.
For me as a performer, rituals provide a way to enter a performance. It is important for me to undergo such a process myself, by putting off my shoes, by letting the audience in, and so on. It is important for me to make the threshold and the rules visible, which are trespassed in order to witness a performance. i also always keep a critical attitude towards institutions and their temporalities and structures — that i haven’t had access to these normative spaces, and now the same institutions want to access me with their supremacy. i reject this idea a lot.
For my upcoming piece, I will deepen the research around these aspects of the theatricality of Turkish Weddings, along with the figure of Köçekler, gay male Turkish belly dancers and the agricultural production around Rize (the birthplace of my parents). The underlying question will be: How can we be parasites in the institution or embrace this status?
Your personal utopia would look like… ?
Being queer, anti-capitalist, intersectional, transformative, accountable and parasitic. Solidarity as practice and a world without violence. No police. Sustainable and intersectional Environmentalism. Active listening. Consent. Unlearning and Learning being transparent. Being complicit. Giving good apologies.
caner teker is a survivor, supporter, sex worker and a performance artist. They grew up in Duisburg-Marxloh and studied visual arts at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. caner’s performances were presented at Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Ringlokschuppen Ruhr, Tanztage at Sophiensaele and at Favoriten Festival in Dortmund. Since 2019 caner is studying at SNDO in Amsterdam.