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When audiences and performers unite: Fictional Copies at the Baltic, Gateshead

An dance-led exploration of the cultural importance of photography will have audiences at Baltic captured this week. Sam Wonfor hears from its choreographer, Björn Säfsten

Fictional Copies, choreographed by Björn Säfsten
Fictional Copies, choreographed by Björn Säfsten

If you're the type of audience member who likes to sit back and observe rather than participate, then you might want to give Fictional Copies a swerve.

The performance piece, which was created last year by acclaimed Swedish choreographer Björn Säfsten, uses movement, cameras, choreography and poetry to explore the role of the photograph in the construction of our identity – how we relate to our own image in contrast to how we see ourselves through captured imagery.

And it does all this in a space which is shared by the five performers and the audience, promising to erase the expected theatrical boundaries as every movement is copied, transformed and blended into the existing choreography.

“The process of Fictional copies was very long and came from an interest of the function of copying,” explains Björn, who has enjoyed working in the North East before. “Copying in modes of identities, in movements, gestures, representation within an economy of identity and so on.

“How does it function, what role does it play in our contemporary society and what types of philosophical questions arrives from the discourse of copying?”

In a space that documents all the actions which occur, the collective group are asked to take responsibility for the events which are created within it. A multitude of images are captured in the opening minutes and then flow into the rest of the performance with the aim of asking what there is to trust as the manipulation of the images bends our belief in what is original.

It’s not the first time Björn has created something which incorporates the audience as part of the performance, although he says it is the first time has attached a wider significance to it.

“I did a project at Magasin 3 in Stockholm in 2011 – that was the first try-out of a moving audience. But this was the first time I created a dramaturgy and political issues around it. It is for sure challenging, but also rewarding. The participants, because they are more partaking than just being an audience... it changes the performance every night,” he continues.

“It becomes more of an event rather than a performance which is what the concept needs. We worked with participants throughout the whole process and we made several choices regarding that.

“The event is built with and together with them, so quite fast it became impossible for us to rehearse without them.”

Björn says the response to the piece, which has been performed at many European festivals, has been wide and interesting and he’s looking forward to hearing what Tyneside audiences think.

“Many different things have come up,” he says. “People tend to talk about the scary fact that we follow instructions so easil–y, they ask themselves why they are so easily fooled or why they don’t intervene with the violence being displayed.

“Others talk about the experience of being inside an action or an image rather than watching it. The difference of experiencing and watching has gotten addressed in various different ways.

“(Baltic) feels like a great context for Fictional copies, a beautiful place but most importantly a place that dares to work with relevant contemporary art in a very generous way.”

Fictional copies, which is being presented by Baltic in association with Dance City will be performed at Baltic’s Level One on April 11 at 7.30pm and April 12 at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. The performance lasts 60 minutes and booking is essential www.balticmill.com

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