Departures and Arrivals



Bára Sigfúsdóttir - a space for negotiation
Rita Natálio

What can we define as humanity or human qualities besides the cultural and social multiplicities that bind us? How can we work with a non-western perspective, considering both the dispute that takes place between Western hegemonic languages and minority standpoints, and the ability to enlarge the concept of species and multi-verse (instead of universe)? Some of these questions cross and challenge Bára Sigfúsdóttir’s work, who had the chance to visit Iran several times. In these travels, the project “Being” took shape, shortly after Vooruit's co-production for “The lover” in 2015.

Bára Sigfúsdóttir is a Panorama Artist of the [DNA] network elected by Vooruit, and the choice to support “The lover” in 2015 and “Being” in 2017 (premiere in October) was part of Vooruit’s choice to encourage and develop her work. In a broad sense, Panorama artists are young artists who are selected by the partners from their local networks, who receive small or larger opportunities to develop, create and present their work in a European context.

In this project, the challenge of the Brussels-based Icelandic artist is to work with two Iranian artists which she met in a workshop in Teheran in 2014, and to co-create with them a choreography “polarised” by aspects that extravasate the domain of specific and national culture. In a way, the project departs from the Icelandic and now Belgian inheritance of Bára Sigfúsdóttir combined with the Iranian heritage of Masoumeh Jalalieh and SeyedAlireza Mirmohammadi as anchorage points, but it seeks to generate a more open language which can surpass the clichets of dance as an oppressed art form in the Iranian context.

“The artists are constantly negotiating and renegotiating both their intellectual and physical space of expression”, wrote Bára in a text that resulted from her experience at the Arts (IETM) Beirut Satellite Meeting in 2016. The belief that a “negotiation” is constantly taking place in every artistic process inspired her to go beyond cultural codes and cultural barriers, and to deviate the most symptomatic diferences between Iran and European culture around religion and politics. “I wish to make a work that can be seen and performed in Iran and outside Iran, without changing anything. This implies to include the cultural conditions of each place not as blockers but as a triggers that can open up new directions”, she says.

The process of “Being” is thus delicate but demanding because it implies acknowledging Iranian censorship as a matter of fact, but also to move forward and create a wish for an open language of matters of fiction. At a choreographic level, the premisse of “Being” starts from a very simple and elemental negotiation of space between Masoumeh and SeyedAlireza, it involves mapping possibilities to move, to create a common language and to use limitations as a creative tool. As Masoumeh and SeyedAlireza are experts in working and detouring the limitations of Iranian censorship, this ability creates a specific way of working with bodies in space.

However, the tendency to grasp a specific and literal meaning brought by the presence of a man and a woman on stage (that additionally can’t touch) is also part of the task, as well as other given meanings and projections. In a way, Bára admits that the general feeling of “Being” is that “we all have a body and the body is naturally very emotional” while it is also codified by all sorts of influences - ie. school, family, religion, etc - that in a way “confine” bodies to very specific meaning. The aim is thus to guarantee a dialogue between the three artists, and one could risk to say a “human dialogue”, or a “more-than-cultural” dialogue, meaning that this project wishes to find and to foster a space for negotiation instead of projecting pre-conceptions (Western, European, Icelandic, Belgian, personal) of a Western white choreographer on the bodies of Iranian dancers.