»CRAZE: Questionnaire for new Choreography« showcases emerging choreographers and investigates the artistic practices of contemporary dance. Gloria Höckner explores in her work both: dangers and emancipation potential of technology.
I took ballet classes as a child. I can’t say it was a great experience because back then I tended to identify as a boy and that made it hard for me to fit in. I am highly critical of the way bodies are forced to bend to certain expectations, to specific gender roles in dance.
I am therefore much more interested in how the individual body and its own history of movement can be made visible in dance and how your body experience can find its own form, instead of seeking to subject all bodies to one specific or heteronormative corporality.
After my ballet experience, but still at a very young age, I started to go dancing in clubs, which also triggered my interest in contemporary dance practices. For me, dance was and still is a way to explore the body and to experience it as a social and political medium. Due to my theoretical background, with focus on gender and queer studies and the performativity of social conditions, my perspective on dance has a political dimension.
For me, contemporary choreography is a hybrid medium, and so is dance. The elements involved in dance are not all human-based but physical phenomena, such as the effects of bass or a certain frequency that makes the bones vibrate and co-creates movement impulses as well as a sense of your own body.
My last piece, Futurecore 2000, dealt a lot with this aesthetic experience of social developments, such as the increasing acceleration of our life rhythms and post-humanizing tendencies. They are incorporated in subcultural soundscapes and transferred onto the dancing body in clubs or raves. I think, alternative physicalities and a self-determined access to these social developments, and perhaps even utopian moments can arise in dance.
What is your personal (and maybe daily) practice?
My practice changes depending on the project and my interests, but the recurring theme is that I am looking for an encounter with something that is not »part of me«. So, for example, I integrate other disciplines – for my current project, Sentimental Bits, it’s computing – into my artistic practice. In this project I transfer principles like hacking or glitching (i.e. an aesthetic based on the digital error) onto the body.
After all, contemporary dance is often about arriving at something like an authentic, economic body. I, on the other hand, find it thrilling to see what happens when the body experiences a completely different logic, or when the body does not hold back but exhausts itself.
I also try to incorporate an awareness of barriers in my practice and my perception. Barriers exist in relation to the accessibility of space, of ways of working, of pieces, of language etc., which exclude some people and bodies.
It is also important to me that my work sometimes has a space-opening component, and does not just take place in the designated theater space. And that collaboration is based on mutual appreciation and empowerment. Also, exchange and discourse formats are increasingly becoming part of my artistic practice.
How do you generate material?
At the beginning, there is a relatively extensive research process. Both inside and outside the studio, where I read a lot, collect references and pictures, and I’m in exchange with others.
In the studio, I work a lot with movement principles and improvisation sessions to generate movement material. In addition, I often film during rehearsals in order to be able to view the material together with the dancers, to develop a language and perspective together.
When I am alone in the studio, at times I work with and at other times without a mirror, because I am interested to see what kind of movement material can be created once this visuality is removed.
Furthermore, sound/music is a very essential component, one I like to work with in order to produce certain physicalities or to experience my body differently.
In your choreographies, you explore what is external to the body. But at the same time, you also emphasize its porosity by regarding technology and sound as prostheses. What is your artistic response to the ambivalence of technology, it being either a tool for new visions of the future or a system of social determination by means of computerization?
The computerizing of bodies and our perception has much to do with my interest in how social structures are embodied, how they can be infiltrated and how different spaces of possibility can be created.
At the moment, I am very much concerned with the question of how the body can develop its resilient potential by becoming unreadable for surveillance systems and thus breaks with the body images inscribed in them.
Computerization and digitalization transform our bodies and the way we perceive the body, emotions, our access to the world. On the one hand, in my pieces, I consider technology(s) as a prosthesis with potential. The body is not a pure primordial being that should always remain the same, it is rather a permeable being connected to or interspersed with various reference systems, techniques, bacteria, other people or living beings, even non-living things, non-human forms of intelligence and logic. This carries potential because it expands what the body can be.
But I also don’t regard technology in a naïve way, as a neutral tool, but as something in which power relations, patriarchal and racist structures are inscribed. So, artistically, I’m more interested in techno-feminist perspectives on and appropriation strategies of technology and to jumble and play with codes.
What is an audience for you?
The audience is that part which makes me understand my work better, because the point of view of others is very revealing and makes me perceive things differently. So, I like the aspect of experiencing the piece in a different way because of the audience.
I am intrigued by this moment when you have no control over the piece anymore. There’s something so excessive about the process of developing a piece and I like the idea that, in the end, you lose control and hand it all over to the audience and their experience. After all this, all the work, the piece belongs to no one and it is always a different piece, depending on the people who are present.
In »Futurecore 2000«, for example, we used stamps instead of tickets. On the premiere night, people faked the stamp marks to get in and just took over the room, stood and sat in areas where we were also dancing. The following evening, the audience was very reserved, almost polite, which in turn generated a completely different kind of atmosphere and attention.
Can you remember the first piece of art that really mattered to you?
That’s not so easy to answer. I can remember that I was deeply impressed when my grandmother read me the poem »Der Erlkönig« by Goethe. I was totally captivated by the language, the rhythm, this gloom and haste. However, I’m not sure if it was her way of reciting it, her performance, or really the poem that impressed me so much.
Your personal utopia would look like… ?
Right now, I have this permanent feeling of apocalypse, so I find the question of utopias all the more important. And it is also important to define them. But that would make for a long list. For example, this would include issues like the fair distribution of resources, and the replacement of the principal of economic growth with principals that are based on solidarity and sustainability.
Moreover, in my personal utopia, normative conceptions of the body would be replaced by a pluralistic perception, climate protection would rank higher than slogans like “whatever it takes” and black lives would matter. No multimillionaires would exist and no patriarchy, but there would always be enough money for care work like nursing.
It might also constitute a utopian moment if this sense of doom were to lead to much more experimentation with alternative ways of life; and to get away from the idea that there are no alternatives to neoliberalizing systems.
Gloria Höckner, based in Hamburg and Berlin, works as choreographer and performer. In her work, she deals with techno-feminist perspectives on the body, the performative hacking of digital structures and the relationship between utopia and apocalypse. After completing her master’s degree in Performance Studies at the University of Hamburg in 2015, she was artist in residence at Nave in Santiago de Chile, K3 – Centre for Choreography at Kampnagel and Seoul Dance Center. In recent years, Gloria has taken part in festivals such as the Performing Arts Festival Berlin, Balance Club/Culture Festival Leipzig or Berlin Art Week, and was choreographic assistant to Laurent Chétouane.