Matter of Act is a context based and process orientated project initiated by Lenio Kaklea for the Athens & Epidaurus Festival in 2009 and rearticulated for the residency Summer Intensive at Les Ballets C de la B in 2010 in Ghent.

Matter of Act investigates the relation between a stage work, its frame of presentation and the audience. Αudience members are brought together in a group, which elaborates ways to appropriate the works they assist to and create pieces out of it.

The participants train themselves to become forgers, skilled enough to perform live copies of the artists’ works. The appropriation process is open to the public thus affirming that all moments of the reconstitution share equal representative value.

Concept, direction: Lenio Kaklea
Video and sound: Sylvia Fredriksson and Fivos Maniatakos
Accompaniment in production: Elsa Kaltsi
With: Xenia Aidonopoulou, Theodosis Isaias, Viktoria Karvouni, Ermis Malkotsis,
Yorgos Papageorgiou, Katerina Spyropoulou, Artemis Flessa, Zaira Papaligoura
Production: Athens & Epidaurus Festival, 2009

Photos: Sylvia Fredriksson and Vagelis Pantelis

Concept, direction: Lenio Kaklea
With: Susanne Bentley, Irina Biscop, Aleksandra Chmiel, Lydia Debeer,
Brecht Hermans, Lou Forster and Patricia Rau
S.I curators: Christine De Smedt and Myriam Van Imschoot
S.I artists: Pieter Ampe, Sergio Cruz, Christine De Smedt, Nicolaus Gansterer,
Lenio Kaklea, Lilia Mestre, Vladimir Miller, Dimytri Paranyushkin and Myriam Van Imschoot
Documentation: Pieter Van Bogaert
Production: Les Ballets C de la B

Photos: Sergio Cruz and Pieter Van Bogaert

Matter of Act
A study on the notion of live documentation

In April 2010, Christine de Smedt invited me to participate in Summer Intensive, a project which would bring together artists to reflect, exchange and support each other’s work in a context keen on questioning the relationship between mentor and tutor. I would take part with Matter of Act, a project that would attempt to create a live documentation of S.I‘s activities.

Matter of Act was originally conceived for the Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2009 edition where a group of audience members attended together various performances and investigated ways of making a piece what they saw.

In the context of S.I Matter of Act would have two separate functions. It would provide live feedback to people involved or interested in S.I (participated artists and visitors) and form a group of forgers, skilled enough to perform live copies of the artists’ works, whenever the authors were not available to do so.

In order to assemble this group, Christine and I decided to put forth an open call for participation. The announcement was published in the beginning of June and we finally formed a group of 8 people one month later. The Matter of Act participants and S.I’s intensive visitors were: Aleksandra Chmiel, Brecht Hermans, Irina Biscop, Lydia Debeer, Lou Forster (a French critic invited personally by me to collaborate with us), Susanne Bentley, Patricia Rau and myself, young people for the most part of the group with direct or indirect relationship to performing art’s field. They would work on voluntary bases during these two weeks in August.

Before arriving in Ghent, my main concern for the work was to develop a concrete performative process, which would allow us to equate our research with its performance.

A few days before the beginning of the project, I edited a short list of principles I wanted us to work on and sent it to the participants:

We create actions out of the artistic propositions that we see, as a way to appropriate and decompose them. We do not evaluate nor interpret artistic propositions; we try out ways to perform them. If we consider that artistic approaches wish to register in a public space, the spectator's response can eventually be considered as a live feedback for the artists involved and the frame of presentation. All moments of our reconstitution share equal representative value as they regenerate our relation to the artistic works. As we are confronted to artistic “objects”, the question is not what is it? But what can we do with it?

And so Monday 16 of August came. We soon arrived in defining an everyday schedule. We had lunch all together around 1am, Matter of Act group and Summer Intensive invited artists, and then we started working in a separate studio just next to the main one. We worked from 1am to 6am, everyday except Sunday. What did we work on?

S.I was from its very beginning a place where many “things” were happening during the day: discussions, dialogues, space shifting, work presentations, rehearsals and individual work, sharing artistic practices and tools with the group. This made necessary for us to define concretely our “objects”, what we would later call resources, and the principal factor for this was time: we could not be present during all S.I ‘s activities, thus we would never find time to perform them. We decided to dedicate each day an hour or so, to participate collectively in scheduled public presentations or invite some of the artists involved to show us their work in our studio next doors. Sergio presented a series of films, Pieter a daily practice, Christine presented a work in progress, Dimitry one of his solo and Myriam extracts of her work while she also allowed us access to her archives. What we saw was what we worked on.

Appropriating someone else’s materials without having access to the original process of making them brought two main questions in the work. How do we perform what we saw? Do we create archives or copies?
Archiving would probably allow us to de-compose some of the works, interrogate its principles, or even perform free interpretation versions. This way we could explore some possibilities of the works that weren’t originally part of them. Copies, much more bound to the original form, would be a way for us to practice our skills by performing someone else’s work and play with the impossible, repeat the unrepeatable. But how on earth would we copy an improvisational piece?

After testing different ways, we formulated some concrete tools, which allowed us to investigate different ways of approaching the works we had seen, our resources. The tools were: extraction of principles, reenactment, and plausibility.

With extraction of principles, we investigated principles of each work – all of us having different interpretations of course. Very similar to a composition class, we would argue on the choreographic strategies that constitute the work and try to perform them on our own.

In our attempts to reenact the original works, we tried to reconstitute what we saw using our memory, individually and collectively. We did reenact improvisation after all...

Plausibility had a more metaphoric dynamic in the work: formally we were allowed to do whatever we wanted. The main concern of the performer was to convince the audience that what he does could be part of the original piece even if it wasn’t by the time we saw it. Using this tool, we created our less respectful versions, where “everything” was permitted by the single fact that our performance carried the same title with the original.

In every case, feedback was an integral part of the process, even though in the beginning the group found this quite difficult to do. Since each attempt to perform what we had seen, was a live way to interrogate it, we wanted to structure a way to talk about it in real time, as a way to give feedback to the performer, examine the tools and our resources at the same time.

Four feedback strategies came up and each performer would choose the kind of feedback he wanted to receive every time he was about to perform.

Directive feedback was our traditional way of dealing with each one’s proposition. The audience assumed the place of a director and gave concrete instructions to the performer of how to evolve. La mauvaise fois, (bad faith), was a game where the audience took what the performer was working on out of context and judged it based on their own personal associations, basically comparing the work to completely irrelevant influences.

The guess what principle, was the case where the performer would not reveal his intensions and the audience had to guess what kind of resource and tools he tried to perform. And no feedback at all.

On Friday, the 26th of August, one day before the official ending of Summer Intensive’s activities, we organized a presentation of the process we had been working on. A hand-made board was left on stage, communicating to the audience the names of the performers (Matter of Act group), our resources (the works we had seen under the name of their authors), the tools we would apply and the feedback possibilities we would chose to receive from the audience. Our presentation lasted around 40min with a short introduction to the work made by myself.

Reflecting back on these two weeks in Ghent, I feel that S.I allowed us to pose very concrete questions regarding the working process of Matter of Act and to understand how this project can dialogue with a context very different from the one it had been initially created for. Experimenting the relation of the project to its context and vice-versa is an aspect that remains my main interest of how to develop future versions of it.

Lenio Kaklea, October 2010