Paula Garcia Workshop with As One’s artists
Text by INTERWEAVE for MAI
Photos by Natalia Tsoukala
Tuesday, April 5th - 2016
The first workshop with Paula Garcia, one of the collaborators of MAI, and a number of the artists participating in As One was held today. Garcia starts by asking the artists to make a brief overview of their work. The workshop starts with an extended reference to Nikolaos piece and its abrupt end. “Nikolaos did an amazing piece- the idea was to be completely focused, in a kind of prison. It was very difficult. The second day, after eight hours and a half of performance, he completely collapsed. This was the end of his piece - an incredibly beautiful performance. I remember the expression of his face when he collapsed – it was a masterpiece: all the effort, all the pain - a mixture of feelings like pain and relief, they were all there. He really dealt with his limits”.
Nikolaos, “Look at the Pain in the eyes, and the Pain Passes”
Nikolaos shares his experience with the public. “The first day was very painful”, he admits. “The next day, I was so confident of being able to do it again. But everything was worse: I was in pain during the first hours of the performance, I couldn't even breath in a normal way. But my brain was telling me that I could do it. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it. It was a great experience though, from which I learned two things: the first one is that I am my own limits; The second one is that my body needs care – and this one was something that I hadn’t realized before, although everybody here told me so. I feel really lucky for having that much support. Everyone was great, and I owe them a big thank you!”.
To continue, Garcia underlined the importance of the community that As One has created: “The beauty of this project is that it has managed to create a community: When Nikolaos collapsed, I invited Anastasia (Papatheodorou), an interventional artist that had already presented her work during the previous weeks, to replace him. She told me that she would like to know what Nikolaos was thinking about it. At this point, I’d like to say that when Anastasia performed, Nikolaos was almost always present at her performance. And she was also there when he collapsed, she was talking to him, helping him calm down.
"And then I thought that the show is really happening and it is happening in the backstage! I thought that we are all really connected and that the idea of all being As One is happening.”
Anastasia Papatheodorou, “A woman in state of truth”
After Nikolaos, Garcia made a small introduction to Anastasia Papatheodorou: “During your work, we could see elements of theater- but it was not theater at all. It was all performance.” Then, Anastasia talked about her experience in As One: “What I did was that I tried to connect with people; I tried to talk to them, to create an improvisation of poetry and singing, of crying. It was a true marathon because of the duration. An inner marathon that slowly, hour after hour, helped me realize that I'm less and less myself and more and more what I want to become: honest and connected to the truth. I think that this experience changed me in some way.”
Katerina Oikonomou, “And there was a voice”
Before Katerina Oikonomou talked, Garcia highlighted some points about her performance piece: “Katerina is an opera singer, not a performance artist. When she came to us we tried to figure out how she could perform. We gave her two days to make a work. The whole idea was her, singing whatever she wanted to sing. At the end of the first day, she lost her voice. Nevertheless, she decided to deal with that. It was a masterpiece that second day: the public was there, looking at a real opera singer that had lost her voice.”
But how did Katerina feel about this experience? “I honestly reached inside myself. The second day, I was in total pain and thought that I had destroyed my voice. But I had the great opportunity to still connect to the audience. I wasn't able to talk, so I had to just look at them. It was very strange and fantastic. It was such a deep experience. And I can still remember every single person I "talked" to, even when I was only looking at them.”
Stavros Apostolatos and Yannis Antoniou, “Portrait of the Unknown Man”
Garcia introduced to the public Stavros Apostolatos and Yannis Antoniou, As One’s second week’s interventional performance artists, as “a duo of dancers, who performed in an empty space with some clothes on the floor, a small table and a chair. Basically, they were improvising the entire time.”
Then, Stavros Apostolatos points out that “We were working with the idea of how the personality of a performance artist can really disappear by repeating and doing again and again his own work. After some days I reached a point of losing myself and hating my own movements. The most truthful moments for me, were the moments when I had nothing to do. I was talking to myself saying that I had no more dance to give you, I have nothing to do, I cannot move, I refuse. It was really intense. That's my experience”. After sharing his thoughts, Paula points out that
“In performances like yours, there is no comfort zone. You have to do something to change your mind and go further - otherwise your performance is boring and your presence is boring.”
Yiannis Pappas, “A Key”
Yiannis Pappas talked about his As One experience: “The most difficult part was dealing with time: Each day I had to get through a wall. At first, there was a clock outside the installation, so I checked it in order to manage my time. The second day, we removed the clock and things got worse. I was lost in time, I had to communicate with people in order to find out what time it was. It was then when I realized that in long durational performances, managing time is really difficult.”
Thanassis Akokkalidis, “Don’t Look Down”
Thanassis Akokkalidis shared his experience with the audience: “My first idea was to deal with my fear - but also with myself. When I started to feel better about my fear I felt worse about myself. It's not easy to face your fear in that way. You have to cope with it - I had a lot of headaches sitting on the roof; you feel like losing your body; you can’t think anything - the only thing you feel is that you are going to fall down. Fear was coming and going. To be honest, I didn’t actually get over my fear. But I looked at it in the eyes”.
Some minutes before the workshop ends, another artist wishes to share his experience in As One – one of two artists from the DJ duo “Lovesick”, that participated in one of Abramovic’s workshops: “We are Dj's and we have created a long-durational project, the Love Sick Marathon. We have started making long durational performance, by playing music in places like the middle of the desert in South Africa. We are looking for opportunities to play our music in places that are not clubs. When we heard that the MAI was going to be here, we loved the idea of doing a long-durational performance. In Abramovic’s workshop the other day, Abramovic urged us to do so. And it was really amazing”.
As the workshop came to its end, Paula Garcia points out the elements that make As One a unique project: “In each place we visit, we learn so many things – after leaving Athens, too, I'm sure that we are going to have a new perspective on a lot of things. This project is all about risk and experimenting with other "languages" – like when Marina envisioned the idea of the Institute: it was about the immaterial forms of art, like theater, video, performance – several different "languages" working together to create brand new things.