BENGALURU: Saturday evening saw Vienna-based Katharina Senk and London-based Tanja Erhart perform together, in both Berlin and Bengaluru at the same time. Connected via Skype, Senk played her part of the performance at 9.30 pm at The Courtyard, Shantinagar, whereas Erhart took to stage at 5 pm at the No Limits festival in Germany.
Coming from two countries, the duo decided to use technology to practise together to save time, energy and environment by reducing their carbon footprint. “Our reasons were practical at first but it turned out to be an exciting medium to work with,” Erhart told CE.But the performance wasn’t just an exploration of a digital platform forming real-world connections.
A self-defined disabled artiste, Erhart often says she has three different bodies she would like to explore: One with a wheelchair, one with crutches and one without any assistive tools. “Katharina and I connected instantly by our mutual interests and curiosity in working with tools and objects. We thought this would be a brilliant opportunity to explore working with my crutches together,” said Erhart, who gave one of her crutches to Senk for the performance. “In the Skype performance, my crutches were not only the ones who defined our movements, but also the ones who connected Katharina and I and our audiences in Bengaluru and Berlin, and sparkled ideas of what dance and disability could be or mean,” she explained.
Agreed Senk, adding that they were interested in seeing how the crutch influences their movements, considering their bodies have different physicalities. “We are overwhelmed with objects all the time, so it was nice to have a closer look at how something can influence me,” explains the artiste, who was in Kerala for a collaborative project and chose Bengaluru for this performance due to the prevalence of contemporary dance here.
Erhart also said one must not work with crutches in an artistic manner without people bringing in the lived experience with those tools and who define themselves as ‘disabled’ or ‘crip’. “The tools are integral parts of disability and crip culture, and as a minority group that still has to fight for equal rights in society, it’s important that time, space and money are given to disabled people in cultural leading positions,” she explained.
The crutch also posed unique challenges to both the artistes. For Senk, it prompted her to look at how it confronts her muscles or bends her body in specific ways, while for Erhart, it was more about staying true to the idea of how the crutch moves her. She said, “Which means, to let the crutch lead the way and have my body follow.”
Their practice thus involved a lot of exploration and though virtual, the hardest part always came at the end of a session. “When you disconnect the call, you realise how alone you are because the other person isn’t there anymore. And then, you realise you’ve actually been physically alone in the space. It’s like magic that slowly starts to dissipate,” said Senk.
It comes as no surprise then that her biggest concern was electricity or internet connection giving out. “But wouldn’t that be just like what we go through in our day-to-day life? There’s always some amount of fragility involved while building a connection.”