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Photo by Laura Schaeffer
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Photo by Laura Schaeffer
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Photo by Laura Schaeffer
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Photo by Laura Schaeffer
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CRAZE #6: Deva Schubert

March 31, 2021
Text by Jette Büchsenschütz
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Photo by Laura Schaeffer

»CRAZE: Questionnaire for new Choreography« showcases emerging choreographers and investigates the artistic practices of contemporary dance. DEVA SCHUBERT’s landscapes oscillate between folk traditions and futuristic speculations.

Why dance?

When I was a child the doctor told my mum there was something wrong with my feet. So in order to train my muscles he advised me to take dance classes. I started taking dance lessons in the Bavarian village where I grew up when I was 12 and have never stopped dancing since then. It turned out to be my obsession. Impossible things can happen, when people come to together and move together.

I am interested in the togetherness of body and space. And so, I got the feeling this constant transformation, interaction and reconfiguration that happens when bodies come together produces a level on which things can be thought and discussed differently.

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Photo by Laura Schaeffer

What is your personal (and maybe daily) practice?

It depends a lot on the circumstances I find myself in. These days I try to do something activating for my cells and my body every day. Often, I experiment with sound and voice, with recordings of myself or my environment. Right now I am exploring whistled languages, yodeling, and other traditional forms of long-distance sound communication. Besides that I am involved in how to implement AI programming tools to reimagine these materials. I see my daily practice more like a fieldwork by engaging myself in conversations and discussions and following my curiosity.

How do you generate material?

I tend to visualize things from above, from a birds view perspective: I notice, I listen, I zoom in. It’s as kind of dialogue with the material. This is why I prefer to work with installation formats, where it’s is easier for me to navigate through.

The search for material often starts with a thought about impossible matches. I like to design parameters which allow my collaborators and me to kickstart a certain expedition to an unknown field. This requires listening carefully to the process of creation and formation: What are the stimuli behind the movement of each element? How is that being perceived in a not evident way? I am really intrigued in what the mover senses behind his or her gestures and movements. That is far more important for me than the image that is being displayed.

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Photo by Laura Schaeffer

Synthetic and organic, Algorithms and Alphorn – your work could be described as a speculative landscape that negotiates a past that cannot leave behind and a future that is not yet to grasp. What triggers your interest in this dynamic and maybe ambivalent relationscapes?

I am interested in moments where past and future meet and dynamic moments arise. I love to combine seemingly opposed elements, like traditional folk dance gestures with algorithms and turn them into something weird and uncanny: the moment when the algorithm produces a kind of nonsense; nonsense that is resonating in the spectator and maybe then being transformed in something meaningful.

Generally I am excited in subconscious traces and patterns society left in our bodies and how they can be questioned by dance and technology. This is the idea behind my attempt to display movements. It is not about clinging to the past – but to reclaim and highlight its failed emancipatory potential.

In my graduation piece I used an Alphorn – a traditional music instrument that is highly associated with a specific alpine tradition – and combined it with algorithms in order to break and re-contextualize it.

For my new piece I will deconstruct and rethink the Bavarian tradition of Groaßschnalzen – a traditional form of Bavarian horsewhipping – by combining it with elements of Artificial Intelligence. I want to employ different technical tools to investigate the dialogue between body and tradition.

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Photo by Laura Schaeffer

What is an audience for you?

The audience is a negotiation partner. And like many negotiations it involves powers dynamics, intrigues, and expectations. But at the end of the day we are all on the same level trying to make it through the day, having a good time, and learning some insights about life in the process.

I think of it as a complex and contributing part of the infrastructure that surrounds me and that helps me mediating through my local scene. In a live performance the audience serves as a kind of resonating body. Interdependent and reciprocal effects can happen, where areas of conflict can be activated. I often think about how to invite and move the audience without forcing them to participate.

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Photo by Laura Schaeffer

Can you remember the first piece of art that really mattered to you?

I remember my father’s singing in my early childhood. Is that a real piece of art? He is not a professional musician, but it resonated and changed something in me. Music and concerts in general had a great deal of influence on the way I perceive things.

About 10 years ago I saw a piece of Keith Hennessy where the audience and the dancers where both naked. I was very moved by this situation of shared vulnerability and equality. It offered me a different perspective on what it means to share moments on stage.

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Photo by Laura Schaeffer

Your personal utopia would look like…?

A personal utopia seems like a very distant concept. I like to imagine a utopia in a shared sense and thus create a kind of supra-personal utopia. Of course I dream about proper working conditions, justice and respect for everyone in a post-gender society. Of course I dream about a world where we don’t consume meat, where we are supported and promoted in our art until the end of our lives, so that we can survive financially, but also develop ourselves further. But of course, it’s almost impossible to implement those dreams for everyone. We should start focusing on smaller, everyday actions, like reducing our time on social media, not using the phone every day, caring about friends – actions, that underline the process rather than a somewhat unattainable end goal.

Deva Schubert is a dancer and choreographer based in Berlin. She studied dance in Kassel, Copenhagen, at SEAD in Salzburg and at the HZT Berlin, as well as fine arts at the Kunsthochschule Kassel. As a dancer and performer she has worked for Christoph Winkler, Michael Portnoy, Isabelle Schaad, Costa Company and Julie Favreau at festivals such as the Venice Biennale, Documenta 14 and Steirischer Herbst, and was also artist member of the Creative Europe project Moving Digits. In Autumn 2021 her new production »ALGOLORE (Working Title)« will premiere at Radialsystem, Berlin.

»CRAZE: Questionnaire for new Choreography« is conceived by Jette Büchsenschütz and Lewon Heublein.

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Sung Tieu: »A psychological reconfiguration of histories«

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PW-Magazine is a bilingual online magazine for contemporary culture.