Kinaesthetics and the Chora

Here, I give a detailed account of a collaboration with the dancer and visual artist Caroline Sabin and emphasise the kinaesthetic relationship to Julia Kristeva and the chora. When I first met Caroline there was an immediate correlation and empathy, we began discussing our time-based work where I would film Caroline and she would choreograph movement. We decided to concentrate on filming spontaneously and impromptu in Caroline's house. I was initially attracted to the dressing room which enjoyed natural daylight, that filtered through the vintage clothes that were suspended from the ceiling by the laundry racks.

Not still at home: poise, video still, Karen Heald & Caroline Sabin (2010).

As Caroline began her 'warm up' exercises, I was drawn to the slight space between the floor and the bottom section of the window that her body filled. Positioning the camera on the wooden floorboards I asked Caroline to continue whilst I filmed her using a fixed focused long take. Caroline was generally used to choreographing her dance routines over months rather than a day but was a willing collaborator. During the ten-minute continuous shoot of poise (Karen Heald & Caroline Sabin, 2010). Caroline recalls:

'The performance space created was low to the ground and quite severely restricted in all directions which immediately created a performative task for me as a mover/ choreographer.' 

Not still at home: poise, duration 11' 50", Karen Heald & Caroline Sabin (2010).

Depicting Caroline in her personal environment, this routine task was embellished by performing it in a method and space unfamiliar to her. The camera communicated a personal moment in time, capturing her movements as she moved expressively in and out of the frame. Backlit by natural light, Caroline's casual grey clothes contrasted against the suspended cream tulle of the tutu. The video incorporated both a sculptural and a painterly time-based approach and as Caroline recounts:

'Collaborating with Karen involved a slightly different configuration of skills, as the aesthetic concerns and framing of the work in both time and space via her camera were her responsibility, whilst I as a 'performer' was simultaneously responsible for generating movement material, in a responsive process of improvisation coupled with self-editing.

In Not still at home:poise, Caroline was fragmented in the video frame and the viewer might begin to imagine the things they could not see. Similar to the way that American experimental filmmaker Maya Deren used symbolism unconventionally within her cinematography and cut up images, here I rethought how we might see things through the camera lens. This process became more intertwined as we continued with the next few performances. I began to construct the shots and invited Caroline to consider the framing, she in turn responded to any suggestions I offered in relation to her figure in the space.

In relation to the female body, Adrienne Rich speaks about beginning with our own corporeality which enables the individual to: 'speak with authority as a woman. Not to transcend this body but to reclaim it'. In reconnecting our individual thinking and speaking she continues that we should begin: 'with the material, with the matter, mma, madre, mutter, moeder, modder, etc., etc.' Thus our own personal social structures, narratives and histories become amalgamated within the process.  


Not still at home: equilibrium, video still, Karen Heald & Caroline Sabin (2010).

Rich's concept of the 'politics of location' and Kristeva's 'maternal time' began to merge as I began to film in Caroline's bathroom. Located downstairs and on the exterior wall of the house, the shower was positioned at the end of the small narrow room, and the exposed brickwork was covered in a carpet of green lichen. The adjacent wall was constructed from glass bricks. In Caroline's tactile kinaesthetic space the relationship between herself and her home spoke of the slippage between reclamation and transcendence.

As Caroline moved in the confines of the space, I documented her dance routine with two cameras. Caroline notes: 'Again a movement task immediately presented itself as it was necessary to keep the body in as near a vertical plane as possible'. One camera was positioned by the door frame whilst the other was situated looking into the huge mirror on the opposing kitchen wall. When observing the film, the viewer is looking through two screens. Initially it appeared that the small camcorder's viewfinder was recording the exact movements of the performance. A closer scrutiny reveals that this framing is actually a more compact shot, playing around with time, space and the reality/fantasy of the home.

Not still at home: equilibrium, duration 10' 40", Karen Heald & Caroline Sabin (2010).

The filming reminded me of the early choreography of Maya Deren, however, the film differed from Deren's A Study in Choreography for the Camera, which celebrated the principles and power of movement through extensive editing. In the resulting collaborative film work with Caroline titled equilibrium, the cameras themselves acted as the editor through their orchestrated placement, and the open LCD screens which created a montage, synchronised in the mirror. The similarities lay with the fact that they could only exist as films, with the movement of the dancer transcending the manoeuvring the ideas of both time and space.