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Visual language in today’s arts

A rapid succession of styles, tastes, and hypes

The spectator of today is subject to ideas of a society based on categorising, subdividing and labelling. The body of the present falls prey to a rapid succession of styles, tastes, and hypes. As makers, we are in danger of becoming increasingly detached from our vision of the body, and our own physicalities, through technological innovation. The bond with our body is breaking.

However, it is precisely this embodiment of craft that should form the basis of every artist. The greatest asset that the performing arts still carries is the physical presence of the performer, along with a direct communication in which the audience and performers are in the same location, within an identical time frame. We see people in the theater in their entirety. Where the media increasingly deprives man of his body and replaces or reduces it to talking heads, here we speak of a total physical presence. A claim to our senses in the broadest sense of the word. Thinking with the body. Seeing and smelling thoughts. Theater as the living memory of our body. Perhaps the moving, thinking body will be the most socially relevant asset of all the arts in the future. I am very curious to see how visual artists' view of bodies will influence my perception of myself, in the end of my first year of research. In the second research year I will place a genuinely embodied self-portrait next to the output of all those different artist's visions of me. Again, I will go from the studio of the visual artist, to the rehearsal studio and theatrical space.

Image of the presentation moment at the end of the BARRY masterclass 2019, in Zuidpool Antwerp. Photo by Joery Erna.

In recent years we have moved rapidly from discipline-bound art, to an evolution of multi-disciplinary, interdisciplinary and later even trans-disciplinary arts. How can we take a position as makers? How do we still construct our own, original images? In the early twentieth century, progressive artists attempted to change a traditional way of looking at the body. They rethought the body and found the academic approach (the technically correct mastery of so-called ‘perfection’) dull and irrelevant. The standard of the arts no longer met the necessity of the world and the personality of the artists. Which artist's body is that perfect? Why would we still want to strive for that today? Progressive artists want to be receptive to their own feelings. When they draw, look or depict, they want to learn from their unique body. The body they know best.​ They​ no longer look for the basis of their art in the image of the other body but in their own, feeling body. The urge for perfect control of an imperfect body is a resistance I feel; concerning the performing industry in which I am positioned, but also in relation to my personal performing artistry. This resistance, friction, often arises from social behaviors that can become barriers because the world still holds an ideal image before us. I was trained in drama school with the perfect, eutonic body as a benchmark. The word ‘Eutony’ is used to convey the idea of ​​a harmoniously balanced tone in the body, that continuously adapts to our situation or actions. Eutony is therefore looking for a certain degree of tension or release; bringing relaxation where there is excessive muscle tension and firmness where there is not enough. It is the practise of consciously managing and dosing your energy, and maintaining a bodily equilibrium. That which, as a performing artist and creator, I gradually learned to deviate from.

What strikes me most as a lecturer in a higher performing arts education is that for mirroring with, imagining, and portraying the human figure on stage, Renaissance thinking still applies as the standard within the various drama and movement techniques taught. Despite all-inclusive efforts, it still forms the basis of many art training courses in practice. The performative actor's body and the classical, dancer body still strive for the perfect, eutonic, balanced connection to the male source body - the Apollo - of yesteryear. As an artist, in meetings with training artists across the disciplines, I try to reveal the individuality of bodies and gain a deeper understanding of them. I do not seek to mould their presence externally in order to fit within the aesthetics of certain disciplines and techniques. When I see a body on stage, it is primarily the expressiveness of the body, within a technique - rather than the expressiveness of a technique, within a body - that speaks to me.


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