Update from Qudus' blog

May 9, 2010

ARTiculate – So, as I was saying…

On several occasions have I been confronted that my performance makes no sense, especially by Africans, and other young thinkers that I have had opportunity to converse with, some of them often think that I summon escapist routes when I try to lay down the complexities of what I am trying to do, and why it is not easy and almost impossible for me to use literary forms of expression to explain an art form that is in no way literary in nature. The purpose of this little piece of writing is therefore, to try as much as possible to explain my work, for the benefit of those that I have at some point or the other had an argument or simple conversation with on such subject matter.

I will begin by saying performance for what it is doesn’t really mean much to me, even though I will admit without remorse that I am a performer anytime any day. Dance should entertain, in fact it must ENTERTAIN, but only a half witted fool will want to be a feel good element, dancing merely to entertain. So why then do i dance? For whom? For the audience? For myself? For the critics? or just to be part of a larger discourse of arts and humanity, to preserve life and preserve myself in the rising madness of a world we have no control over. The feeling of interaction is very important for me, not the kind of interaction that is embedded on a conversational style though, it is in fact a revelation of words left unreconstructed and unspoken, or a ‘coming to terms’ with worlds left un-reconciled in strains of my life. My personal experience as a living thing and my development as a strong dancer all come together to manifest themselves on stage, for that is the best place I could reconcile between my beliefs, my paranoia, my deliriums, my expectations and my existence.

I strongly subscribe to an art that reaches out to the audience as an experience rather than a storyline, whose goal is not to catharsis therefore, but rather, shock and psychic wounding; attempt to confront the audience with its own horror, to immerse it in the excretions of its own prevailing brutalities, the sanious nightmare of its 'condition hamaine.' Hence you could not say what the performance was about, only what it did to your psyche and to your mind. You could not summarize it therefore; you could only experience it. Still it is kind of difficult to close oneself up on a notion of liberty and indocility that doesn't come with regulations.

I am very interested in aesthetics and forms. The abstraction and patterns that are behind the actual structures of a work of art, matter to me tremendously, whether it’s in the music, in the video, in storytelling, in the mood, in rhythms or the emotion I pass through to the audience. It seems to me that I’ve always tried as much as possible to find means of enforcing my expression through different media and find parallels for them, without necessarily reconciling between them. The idea of narrative is very important, but not such that expresses itself through straight and easily comprehensible “storyline.” I segment my narratives and try to break them up with question marks, quotation marks, brackets or semicolons. I latter place them side by side as a means of juxtaposition, which gives each phrase its own individual significance even if it makes no sense as a singular entity, but I let my audience draw the sense from the entire structure of the piece.

It is not so much about finding a logic between point A to point Z of the entire structure, that is not what I really care about, it is the relationship between A to D and how it relates to C and T and so on, that I care about, to try as much as possible to establish a logical co-existence between them, and to sustain these separate worlds and forms. This doesn’t signify that there couldn’t be some forms of antagonism between them, that’s why I said “try as much as possible” to make sure that probable co-existence happens.

At other moments however, I also feel that, that doesn’t really matter, so far there is an organic or – as a matter of fact – inorganic flow that flows between them, I’m not just a slave to perfection, that’s not my preoccupation you must know. I attack my creations with a strong need to let something out. I turn myself inside out and what could be absorbed by my audience is the self/the perceived/the influenced/and the imposed identity of the embodied body, and to be able to ignite conversations between the past and the present, the ancient and the new, the child and the man. Therefore, I trust in my intuition when in the studio, it is very impossible for me to rationalize or explain things, as to why this and why not that, I let things explain themselves to me and not me trying to attach an explanation to them, and sometimes it takes a very long time to receive that explanation.

To take for example, there is no way – that I know of – for me to reconcile between my interest in pure dance, my public space performances and my various writings, which are usually in relation to views about social relationships that involves power or authority. But I know that I have a need to be able to articulate what I’m doing in words (written or spoken) and to be able to express myself in other means, to create a common space for our collective human experience. Which in my own case, are mostly traumatizing experiences, because it has to do with tragedy and loss and dispossession and pain and alienation. The sufferings that all these brings to ones existence is precisely what I am trying to grasp with. Rather than forming an enclosure around my existence, rather than reconciling or trying to find an explanation, one just has to let them operate and diffuse through possible means of performance or writings.

My role as a creative artiste or interpreter, is to therefore allow these sinister byways continue, to see them operating together and allowing them to play off one another, and to be able to record that in some ways, so that the canon of interpretation applies in different entities, whether it’s in poetry, performance or other forms of writing. All these at the end have to do with memory, with notions of co-existence. Realizing that our experiences are not exclusive, that we all live in a world where different things happen at the same time. The effort for me lies in my ability to hold them up together, rather than pretending to be a solver of problems.

I have sat in my father's balcony as a kid; watch the vendor pass every morning with new set of news papers, at least ten different brands, all with a minimum of fifty pages of "news" and "information" to be consumed and wallowed in. Now I muse over the utilitarian purpose of further news in art, of what realm or quality of information do we intend or pretend to pass through our art, and where will it last? In the same garbage can those ‘news’ papers end each day after few headlines read? Does that vendor really pretend to be an authentic information career or just another man seeking his daily bread? What about an art that spans from a school of dance philosophy, that seek to explore the body vocabulary, through physical and mental discipline, to traverse its spiritual and poetic universe which makes it possible to stage this transformed body as a place of resurgence, a place for the repossession of lost ancient memories, of new habits and as a place of refuge for the construction of a conscious thinking, capable of attaining liberation from the material world, and able create worlds, which is what fiction is all about.