Photo by Marie Haefner
Photo by Marie Haefner
Photo by Marie Haefner
Photo by Marie Haefner
Photo by Marie Haefner
Photo by Marie Haefner

CRAZE #9: Rafał Pierzyński

July 10, 2022
Text by Lewon Heublein

»CRAZE: Questionnaire for new Choreography« showcases emerging choreographers and investigates the artistic practices of contemporary dance. Zurich-based Rafał Pierzyński thinks about extended bodies, different abilities and the technology within us.

Photo by Marie Haefner

Why dance?

I love dancing. There is a feeling of agency and transcendence in movement, especially when dancing with others. I think about movement as the primary mode of being – and that is what we are: movers. Besides, dance gives me a way to work on my attention skills: it allows me to access different levels of awareness of my and other bodies, my environment, and see relationships between us differently. It helps me to take part in life from the perspective of an embodied being, in movement and in touch with others. It also allows for sensitivity. It makes it possible for me to approach life in a state of constant change and transition. Dance is a way to work with body and mind, intuition and intellect, physical and abstract, to close the gaps between those concepts, which I’ve always experienced very strongly. I am interested in what we can learn from our skin, from touching and dancing together. For me, choreography is an extension of that interest into navigating between different perspectives and positions: Creating dances as a means of organizing and thinking these ideas from the embodied perspective. 

Photo by Marie Haefner

What is your personal (and maybe daily) practice?

On the one hand, my daily practice is about maintaining this connection to the embodied perspective, the balancing of body and mind. It is about different modes of touching – ways of looking, listening, attention, breath, physical activity – engaging with different perspectives, body parts, senses. As I mentioned earlier, I think choreography is a lot about shifts in perspective. I am particularly drawn to those moments, to the spaces in-between, the states of transition, the negative spaces between dancing bodies, the ways that matter generates knowledge there. I take time to attune myself to what’s around me using the synthesis of my skills, my senses, my embodied approach to communication and thinking through touch. Touch could be the answer to all these questions. Everyday, I devote my time to the ways we touch. My casual, professional and intimate encounters inspire me a lot. I am into the biodynamic craniosacral therapy, and that has a big influence on me. Also, my community plays a big role in my life and I engage with practices of care and emotional and structural labor. For a significant part of my practice, I also concern myself with the stability in instability. I then have to find ways to articulate that, write it down, digest and share. It often feels like practices based on synthesis are not welcome in the current performative art system. Getting that work on stage takes a lot of work. And finally – perhaps this may sound basic – but a very important part of my development as an artist is to stay connected to my curiosity and keep learning. 

Photo by Marie Haefner

How do you generate material?

Being aware of different modes of touch and extending these ideas is the main focus of my work. Tuning in with that haptic realm gives me a lot of material to think about: the dramaturgy of events and choreographies of relations, the development of processes and shapes of affections. I often think about the process of creating a work as uncovering something that is already there, instead of generating new material. Also, there is a serial element in my performances. I reassess what touching means to me and look for people, gestures, objects that capture this new dimension. My collaborations are very personal, often intimate, and based on our realities and the ideas of others. It is important to give space to desires that emerge between us and discuss questions of authorship and respect. That is what DIVAS, a collective I co-created, is about. At the moment, I often frame our shows as scores, with a lot of space to establish a relationship with the audience. It is important to generate trust, connection and intuition between us - I regard it as generating material. It is hard to justify this way of working, one that emerges from a process and not from production-oriented strategies. Along the way, the material finds its way to me: when I am in the studio, on a night out, a hike, a swim or from watching someone scrolling on their phone on top of a mountain. I then use a combination of that environmental movement vocabulary, including movements of bodies, machines, plant life, minerals, planets, and put them together. That creates different realities, bodies and movement in one space, as a temporary universe. My realities and fictions blend in transreality (TR). I use mobile phones, I work with drones, masks and include them in choreographies of care and touch. I think about extended bodies, different abilities and the technology within us.

Photo by Marie Haefner

In your pieces you negotiate the notion of dystopia and utopia from an explicitly queer and feminist perspective. In doing so, the boundaries between technology, nature, individuals, and community are sensorially blurred. Something that stuck out to me was how you allow a drone to enter the scenery. Because whenever a drone appears, it’s like staging God’s entrance.

And the drone pilot is actually a priest, haha!

The drone, like most technology, embodies violent ideas of surveillance and the military and enters our reality with a force we are rarely ready for. The drone, for me, is the next generation of mechanical bodies. It is the embodiment of the internet, patriarchy’s moving eye, the hierarchical perspective. It is an uncanny and tragic offspring of the current idea of ‘progress’, but being that it also represents the discourse on animate and inanimate beings – somewhat undoing the division between nature, technology, human, animal. For me, it points to the question of how we engage with technology and what motivates us to conceive tools that change the world around us. I think a lot about how to hack technology by changing my approach to it, by emphasizing the intimate relationships we have with our phones, and picturing them as external body parts. By putting the drone on stage and reading or dancing for it, I am trying to uncover this intimacy that confronts us without really asking. Simultaneously, I like to imagine how one can be as intimate with a drone as with a moving performer (or, rather, one who is being moved by complicated forces of control and power). Even on stage, a drone is a really powerful performer. The sound, the wind, its eye. During the performance, I get really close to it, it touches me, I perform some kind of lap dance for it, or we dance together. I believe that the internet, mobile phones, and drones are influencing the way we live, we move, we memorize and navigate, the way we build relationships, the way we think about trust, conflicts or communication. This is not a toy and not just a camera. It confronts us with this fantasy of being god’s eye, or, rather, the male fantasy of it. In the end, nothing I can think of is outside nature. The next piece will be about the wireless connection as a way of touching. The human being as a kind of a router. 

Photo by Marie Haefner

What is an audience for you?

For me, a performance is always an event. I already mentioned earlier that I usually stage score-based performances. It’s connected to hosting, treatment performances when I choreograph. That helps me focus and think about the experience we go through together with the audience during the performance. This kind of experience can be different each time, but what matters to me is that we go through this together, speaking to our collective consciousness, thinking together. Often, it is about directions that we communicate, focusing and dispersing attention, moving between center and periphery, one and many, from touching to other modes of touch. I try to uncover what my practice is about, let people in, go for a synesthetic trip without explaining too much. 

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

Destiny’s Child’s music video »Lose my breath«. I was very impressed by the dance and their multitudes. 

Photo by Marie Haefner

Your personal utopia would look like…?

Well, I think my utopia would be a world where the paradox of presence and disappearance is experienced with a lot of awareness and respect. I can imagine some kind of sudden end to the internet and the emergence of an era based on touching. A sudden and pleasant emergence of a collective organ connected to the planet and the universe. Like uncovering other dimensions, where the knowledge of our bodies and our history and future collide and make sense beyond linear thinking, beyond language.

Rafał Pierzyński is a non-binary performer and choreographer from Poland, working and living in Zürich. Their work embodies the spaces in between and highlights interrelations to inspire sustainable, post-anthropocentric, inclusive orientations.  Pierzyński studied at the Institute of Dance Arts in Linz and have gained experience working for Daniel Hellmann, Elena Giannotti, Alexandra Pirici and most recently Ewa Dziarnowska, Ania Nowak, Alex Baczyński-Jenkins and Isabel Lewis. Pierzyński’s performances were invited to Backslash Festival (Gessnerallee Zürich), Zürich Art Weekend 2020, Tanzhaus Zürich o.a.

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PW-Magazine is a bilingual online magazine for contemporary culture run by Luca Büchler and Lewon Heublein. 

PW-Magazine is supported by the Federal Chancellery of Austria and Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia.