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Dancing: conditions for moving

SNEAK PEEK of Conversation between Tanja Baudoin and Sofia Caesar, 2022-2023


For documentation of Sofias work, see: (Workation, 2019) (Superacecidas, 2022)


Stills from Workation, 2019. Video, part of the installation Workation.

Tanja Baudoin: I’d like to ask you about an aspect of your work that interests me a lot: the question of movement. It is present in the Workation videos that you presented in the exhibition Canseira at Centro Hélio Oiticica in Rio de Janeiro and at M KHA in Antwerp in 2019, and also in the more recent videos involving other performers, Superaquecidas (Overheating, 2022), presented at Galeria Cavalo and at KIOSK in Ghent.  

                 It seems to me that you are researching body movements. I believe it is a very profound investigation, but at first glance it’s not so obvious where it comes from, it’s not easy to identify its nature. I kept thinking about what kind of movement this is, what the context is of this body language. For example, in the short videos that make up your installation Workation, you are with a computer in a hammock or on the beach and you begin making a kind of sliding move, it's almost a fall, but it's not quite that. It's a directed and intentional movement. It looks like you are entering the movement deeply in a way that is rare to see in visual artworks. Saying it’s a dance or a performance doesn’t really qualify it. It's something else, which maybe has to do with your background, which started in dance, and then continued with contemporary art. 

           Maybe it is difficult to talk about this. Your practice deals with many other subjects, such as work, exhaustion, and how these forces impact the body. We can't leave this completely to the side, but I would like to see if we can talk about movement and the body without immediately going into a socio-political contextualization or an interpretation of the work. I would like to hear you talk about the relationship between the body and the object, such as the computer, for example. What movement can this relationship generate and what state of the body does it imply? 

          To start with, maybe you could talk a bit about how you entered the art field and the practices you encountered along the way. 


Sofia Caesar: This is a very interesting question because we’re talking about a place that is only of the body. What do I mean by ‘only of the body’? I mean a place that cannot be verbalized, a place that is experienced. What can be verbalized are the ways of entering this bodily state, the images, the surrounding things. The practices, exercises, and ways of approaching these bodily states that are difficult to put into words.

                My body has been conditioned since I was born. I am white, was born in England and grew up in the Glória neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro. I was raised by a family of artists, art teachers, and cultural agents. What I bring to my work is also my background in dance, which is based on somatic thought, a practice that isn’t related to the perception of the body by an external eye, seen on stage by the audience. It is the point of view of the body as it is experienced or seen from within the body itself. This is Thomas Hanna’s definition of somatic practice(1), and the term is usually attributed to him, even though the history involves many other people. I studied at the Angel Vianna School(2) in Rio de Janeiro, whose origins go back to the 1960s and ‘70s. In this period of the military dictatorship it was a place of resistance. The school was founded by Angel Vianna, a classically trained dancer, and her now deceased husband, Klauss Vianna, who worked a lot with actors and the theatre, and their son Rainer Vianna was also involved. In 2009 Suzana Saldanha published a book that tells the story and talks about the ‘Angel Vianna method’.(3) Angel doesn't like the word ‘technique’ and also doesn't like the word ‘method’, but it was the middle ground she found to refer to a certain ‘modus operandi’ that we use to get into these body states. 


(1) Thomas Hanna, "What is Somatics?". In: Bone, Breath and Gesture: Practices of Embodiment, ed. Don Henlon Johnson (Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 1995), 341 - 352.


(2) The Angel Vianna School and Faculty of Dance.

(3) Suzana Saldanha (ed.), Angel Vianna: Sistema, Método, ou Técnica? (Rio de Janeiro: Funarte, 2009).


Exhibition view of Canseira, Centro de Arte Hélio Oiticica, Rio de Janeiro, (2019). Photo: Pat Kilgore.


Tired Mobiles, 2019. Letters, threads, metal rods, 120x120x60cm. Photo: Pat Kilgore.

TB: In recent years, you have made several mobiles, which sometimes consist of words deconstructed into letters, or objects such as cell phones that are taken apart into several pieces (Mobiles Cansados or Tired Mobiles, 2019). In this way the objects or words lose their original function, but become part of a new structure that also involves movement, because they are mobiles, they are moved by air. They are constellations in motion, never fixed. It is still a movement study, but with objects as the main protagonists, and involving a kind of movement that is not mechanical, but environmental. Could you talk about this kind of movement of the object?


SC: Now I remembered something from the first question, which is perhaps a more specific answer to this question of movement in my practice. All the gestures and movements that I have been exploring in various works since Workation have to do with using the weight of the technical device. The object, such as the cell phone, is heavy in the sense that it is exhausting, but it is also heavy because it is a material, and matter has weight. The question is how to use that to go to the ground, how to deliver the weight to the ground. 

            A lot of the gestures in these works came from this idea of incorporating weight. Because the cell phone is not very heavy, it’s not a fast drop. It's about feeling the weight... feeling it... taking it... to the ground. After the Workation video I made a performance called Unrest (2019), with cell phones and computers. The cell phone started to appear not as a camera, but as a physical object.

           About the mobiles: I was very tired, exhausted, and I came across these little plastic letters. I spelled the word ‘exhausted’ and started thinking about the weight of these words, which mean so much, and if I could rewrite or re-figure them... The first mobiles I made were all of words associated with tiredness and synonyms of these words in other languages, such as ‘exaustão’, ‘crevée’, ‘uitgeput’... That’s it, the movement of the structure gives it a new structure, a new body. I always think about this: creating a new body, mobilizing, disorganizing and reorganizing the body through movement. 




TB: When you work with other people, how do you deal with these tensions that the camera introduces? What is your way of working with the movements of others in relation to the camera, also considering that a rolling camera can provoke other behaviours?

SC: That's right. I can't work with myself all the time, because the work is not about me, it never was. At some point I realized that if I use these methods that I was using with other people, together we arrive at a different state. Each body is different, but through a methodology, a way of working the body, we come to movement. In the case of the recent Superaquecidas work I used a ‘trigger’, an ignition that started the improvisation, which was the same question for everybody: what can you do with your body when your computer overheats? What other body can exist in this moment, in this state of heat, of inability to work because the machine is exhausted? This generated conversations, proposals, counter-proposals, among all of us – the three performers and Andrea Capella(4), who was also part of it, because she also dances, she dances with the camera.


The full conversation will be published soon.

(4) Artist Andrea Capella made her directorial debut with Desassossego (Filme das Maravilhas) in 2010. Before that, she was director of photography for short films and for the film A fuga, a raiva, a dança, a bunda, a boca, a calma, a vida da mulher gorila (2009) by Felipe Bragança and Marina Meliande. 


Still from Superaquecidas, 2022. Video, part of the Superaquecidas installation with four video screens, ventilators, cables, and croocked stools. Dimensions variable. Made in collaboration with Andrea Capella, Varinia Canto Vila, Laura Samy, Lara Negalara, Nyandra Fernandes, Michelle Chevrand.

@Galeria Cavalo, Rio de Janeiro.

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