Hello all, my name is Kat. I am a choreographer and dancer based in between Copenhagen and Berlin.
Welcome to this blog following me and my work in Copenhagen whilst being on a virtual residency at Lake Studios in Berlin. On this blog I am gonna post texts, pictures and references all related to my work and practise.
..today I am gonna share with you a text on my work that I have chosen to name ‘Hermes’. ‘Hermes’ is a container hosting and framing an ongoing engagement with my artistic practise at the moment. The text is not a conclusion to what ‘Hermes’ is or can be, but a poem and a spell that is doing its work on many layers in my work and life.
‘Hermes’ is simultaneously a performance, a drag persona and a method based artistic practise. ‘Hermes’ is mixing working with choreography, live singing, lip syncing, dragging and drawing in a search of a figure, a body and a space to live out desires and express political concerns and address the collective trauma of the genocide in Denmark and Europe during the ‘witch-trials’ especially in the seventeenth hundred. With a love for pop-culture, entertainment and for big, cathartic, high-production concert-shows, for standup, storytelling and for satire ‘Hermes’ is questioning what stageart is, can be and how it takes up space in the world. ‘Hermes’ explore how choreographic choices can be turned into containers that can embrace physical revelations and mystical epiphanies and how performances can be seen as dedications, yearnings, visualizations, political commentary and private dances. Through intimacy and flamboyancy ‘Hermes’ is trying to address human vulnerabilities as fragile material bodies, queer identities differing from an illusionary norm, bodies not fitting the structures and not living up to expectations, to efficiency. Speculating in particular upon the oppression of the body’s somatic experience of itself and the stories situated in in our collective narratives in the west on what a human body is in relation to what a non-human body is.
Conversation with ‘Hermes’ about songs, digging out knowledge and versions
Thank you so much for taking your time to try to knit some stories with me on this rainy May-day in Copenhagen
You are very welcome.. Also kind of enjoy this wet world right now <3
I actually just wanted to start by asking you if you would tell me about your collaboration with music and songs. You perform different songs and it makes me wonder about your reflections behind this engagement with pre-existing music.
Thank you for asking about this.. It does feel quite relevant to unfold this area. So first of all I can say that I have this deep emotional and spiritual relation to music and to songs. Specifically to the act of drama in songs. It is like a song is a little play in itself, where the voice or actor behind the song is going through a little journey. The notion of storytelling, of delivering a story through performing a song. I have a deep love for musicals, for cabarets, revue’s and the liking, since I was very little. Also I grew up in a house full of music, both being played live and also just a non-stop dj set curated by my dad. And even though he was waaaay too dominant in his way of always being the one choosing the atmosphere of the house, I got introduced to a lot of different music. Through my mom as well who is a musician and music teacher. I have been singing with her since I was a child.
Thanks for sharing that. I am seeing a bit of a connection between this storytelling aspect of a song and the singing with your mother. I am imagining both her and your own story are alive in this exchange.. what does it do to you right now when I entangle these two things?
It opens up a lot. It opens up many different aspects of the things that are important to me. With my mom, I have been singing songs that mean something to her and songs she has sung with her mom and songs from her youth. I see her stories in the songs, and those stories are also mine and a part of what made me. When singing with her, I feel we are dealing with a lot of collective trauma and questions that we share, but that are different for our different generations. Also I feel this connection you are making, points to my engagement with digging out information on the ‘witch hunt’ and ‘-trials’ in Denmark, mainly in the seventeenth hundred. It is something I have been deep into for a long time. I am feeling some sort of loss inside of me of an ancient spiritual knowledge. And I am thinking that this feeling is tracing itself back to this genocide and the oppression of every non-christian practise and just oppression of women* and queers in general. I mean many people are on this quest and engaged with these questions of digging out knowledge and I am very thankful for that.
Now I see something in what you say, about reclaiming.
..but maybe also speculating. Like how to re-evoke hidden, lost or oppressed knowledge and practises. Or create ‘new’ practises and traditions … trusting the body, its signals and fueling this connection. ..the connection to plants, goddesses, forces, spells, practises…. I feel I am just starting to dream a bit..
Yes all that. And actively dreaming, going into trance. Writing, singing, drawing. Trusting it, empowering it, question it. Do it together, in groups .. dance, sing together, play.. Read the stories written and hear the stories told.. question it, work with it..
You had me dropping the words a bit now…
Yeah… but there is also something else in regards to this that feels important for me to talk about. I am working with many different songs and I also have many questions about them and what it means to put them on stage, to cover them, to inhabit them. Questions of referencing, appropriating, representing, reclaiming… I mean, it is all depending on the song in question. And what I find interesting about working with all these different songs is also all the complexities.. Like how did women* for example express themselves in songs throughout time? And how did people in general? And what view and stories shaped the struggles and stories that were put into songs? And what shaped the expression of them.. of singers.. the clothing, the gender expression.. There are so many songs I love so dearly with very questionable lyrics. But what I find very interesting is how to work and enlighten that complexity in performing them. How to both celebrate the song and the singer and its emotionality while also bringing in the satire. The satire around the lyrics, the gender expression.. I mean this is of course very specific to each song. But a good example is my love for old folkloric songs for example sung by Joan Baez. Some of them with lyrics about over-romantically committed love, of war, of ‘beautiful women’ and ‘strong men’.. And I feel that I am dealing with how those stories and the culture around them have affected me, through performing them. Dealing with how they might support and strengthen me, how they might have been very toxic for me, what they say about the time they were written and so on..
Well, with all this you are entering now, you make me think about ‘drag’ as an artform. In this play between celebrating, making ‘fun of’, satire, commentary, politics, gender bending, the love for something complex in its context.. And I know you both lipsinck and also make your own wearable stuff. What does this artform means to you?
It means so very much to me. And I have also been thinking about this. That what I do is so informed by this and maybe just is this. And I love covering, mimicking, being a chameleon, interpreting, copying mannerisms of singers.. Celebrating pop culture, entertainment.. Revue, cabaret… I mean yes, this is what I do I guess… I also want to acknowledge the potential complications of referring to and identifying with the art and culture of drag since this artform has such a rich, beautiful, complex story. As well as a violent one, as so many, especially black queer people and particularly transwomen, have not been having the freedom to live out their truth safely, even though they are the mothers and founders of the artform. I don’t wanna pretend that I haven’t used the term ‘drag’ loosely in relation to what I do before and I wanna stress that I don’t find it a loose thing, taking up that space. And I wouldn’t be able to do any of the things I do in this regard, if it wasn’t for their expression and fight for liberation.
Yes.. Just this… and you also make me think about how so much of what we consume in Denmark (cause this is where we are right now) is north american.
Oh yes, I mean all the songs.. I always almost only do or perform songs that are either from a north american artist and in english or one in danish by a danish artist.. A few british, german.. Again, this is what I grew up with and was presented to. And obviously there are a lot of artists I wouldn’t lipsinck to or cover, because of the question of appropriation, but also you could have that critical gaze on some of the songs I do now. This is again a question from song to song.. I have also started to be very interested in scottish folk music and the lyrics and stories behind them. This connects itself to this engagement with going back to dealing with the very local story of ‘witch trials’ and of my ancestors here, kind of wanting to ask what I am made from and do some ecofemme haunting. And deal with this collective trauma of all the crimes of Denmark during times of colonialism (as if this was something from the past) and the local oppression of pre-christian spiritualities.. also I am thinking a lot of the oppression of the Sami population in the north. …. But yes… celebration, satire, honoring, dedicating, questioning, failing, yearning, reclaiming, loving, remembering to be quiet...
I saw your male-persona doing the Sting lipsinck .. I am thinking if this ‘character’ also helps you deal with toxic masculinity, anger..
Yeah I mean.. Just that, exactly that. I grew up with an abusive and chronically angry caregiver and yeah, that and the harassment I experienced in my life is being digested and dealt with in this male alter-ego. I think his name or one of his names is ‘little kitty johnny’ – and again, don’t get it twisted; He is a celebration too, and he is also charming and he is also fun. And of course I want to perform him in spaces made for consensually playing with these ‘characters’ in us, humans. Maybe he needs to become part of some dragnights.. I am new in Copenhagen, but would love to find out where those are happening. Once again, all my references of drag at the moment and are north american, as well as my favourite queens, kings and drag-performers … Also, I need to improve my makeup skills a lot! That is on the list.
Haha yes! I also desire to make more things myself. The homemade headpiece I am wearing right now is also connected to what we talked about related to songs. Like these dolls are also ideas and interpretations of what a ‘woman’ looks like.. with complexities, references and gender expressions as we talked about with songs. And I love them, and I want to honor and empower their femmeness! And honor their dresses, their knitting tools, their bucket for the cow milk, their emotional labor, their stories and songs.. also in this complexity of how a lot of this was also shaped by men and by oppressive forces.. You know it is all very complex and entangled, I don’t want to try to escape that.
Well, so much to say, but this feels sufficient for now.. Or I feel I need a mental break to be honest. Thank you so much for sharing with me.
Well, my pleasure. Also it is just all versions I guess… Like versions of songs and stories. A cover or a performance of a song is a version and a take on that song. And I believe – or I am supported by a belief in (or point of view) – that what is being created, being by humans, communities, plants or ecosystems, is all versions of the things being created…or the things occurring.. we could say.
Versions.. Yeah indeed… takes off some pressure also, right? (lol)
Yes..I mean.. what I do is a consequence of so many connections, a myriad of entanglements with loved ones and their stories and our collective stories and queer support.. and the knowledge of plants and the sun and my flesh and bones..of positions, a lot of resources and privilege, or limited resources and limited accesses depending on the context and frame.. And a lot of work done by others.. Work that is not credited.. Invisible work.. I am not trying to not take responsibility for what I do by saying this, but it is how I perceive it.
We will continue from there sometime.. may another version of this conversation occur 😉 ..take care for now, dear
Yes. You take care as well! <3
Digging and reading
- A small selection
With texts and images from:
Friplejehjemmet, Bedsted Thy
A letter to Jee – sent on the 11th of June 2020
My dearest Jee. Hope you arrived so well in Berlin and that you and Stefan are well landing in each other’s company and are surrounded by nurture, light and warm energy
I wanted to share with you about a project I am working on because I feel it points to many talks i have had with you and you pop up all the time when I am working on it.. I mean you are really in it somehow and I just felt I had to share it with you. The picture you will see hereunder is of three new friends. I have come to experience them even more as such after encountering you and Stefan’s relation to our non-human friends and all the things they carry within them of wisdom and care, I already had that relation especially as a kid but meeting you and Stefan’s wording and universe around this re-evoked it in me. And then when you also craft them “yourself” (I would say that I definitely feel more like they are crafting me or crafting themselves through me) the love-bond you have to them becomes very strong. I have been wanting for a long time now to start sewing these small dolls and stuff them with different dried herbs. I also wanted to make bigger ones, make bigger series and also somehow make myself a herbal doll and get in the mix! ..There are many longings, concerns and desires related to this project. One has to do with how knitting, sewing, weaving and many other practises and artforms have traditionally – in many cultures (but i feel i can only properly and appropriately speak about my own, scandinavian) – as women’s* work and as lowbrow practises made for making functional artefacts used in the domestic space. Whereas sculpture and painting for instance was highbrow, men’s work, divine artefacts to be put in the museums. I see this whole practise as “eco-feminist housework”. It is an honor of the domestic works, because I feel that in all these home-made, home-items made by homegoing people, there is woven the stories and songs of those people into it. It is culture! it is community, it is nurture, care, storytelling, mythology, legends, folklore, SONGS! Also it is deeply related to a philosophical project for me that is about questioning if function and aesthetic on some level could be the same thing or deeply interconnected at least. Like many plants have such an aesthetically, eroticly, poetically-pleasing appeal, and the forms and colors that I get so excited about often have a function as to for example guide raindrops into the middle of the leaf.. It is not to say that “everything needs to have a function” in a traditional capitalist sense but more the feeling that function, actions, (movement and dance) is a more complex and poetic matter than the neo-liberal mindset allows you to think about. And I am in love with works of art who have domestic functions. The blanket you wrap a baby or friend in, the cup you drink from, the pillow you sleep on, the basket you carry stuff in. The emotional labor stored in these pieces holds immense power to me! So I wanna reclaim that space and community around creating these magical and practical pieces of art! Especially ‘cause these communities and friend- and love-circles consisted of women and queer folks who were torn apart from each other and most of them burned or tortured to death as well in the part of the world I am from. I also think that one of the reasons white people are so excited and eager to appropiate spiritual practises of non-white cultures comes from this longing for an ancient spiritual knowledge and witchcraft, cause we fucking burned all that knowledge! But I wanna believe that it is stored in us, through our art or lovemaking and our wisdom on community, healing, magic and activism! So I am trying to re-evoke this wisdom with all the complexity that comes with it and this project is a part of that engagement. I guess I call the practise “eco-feminist housework” and the projct “small herbal dolls alive”. I see the dolls as friends, amulets and I want to fill them with all of this power and specify what this power is through how I “use” them or let myself be used by them. What I want to do is connect this practise to the art of drag and I want to make hundreds of these small dolls and make them into small “clip-buttons”. Then I want to make a dress or find an old dress and sew the matching clip onto that so that all the dolls can be attached to the dress! A huge community of magical herbal dolls! I wanted as well to make a little book, like a little card-index. In this I wanted to have pictures of all the dolls and possibly give them a name, a “function” and name what herb they are filled with. And this idea made me think so much of you as well. As you and Stefan have been working so much with the issue of naming things and the very violent aspect of this in relation to colonization of places, plants, humans, groups of people, communities, mountains, buildings etc. and how this whole practise of indexing of species and their “exotic traits” carries so many deeply violent and problematic stories with it. So it makes me very busy with this issue of naming.. Naming is so powerful, it can be so violent and it can also be an act of care.. it can be a way of honoring something… It can be meant as an honor when you for example get your great grandparent’s name but it can also be a burden… there are so many intentions in namings, it is a spell! Naming holds so much power and so many stories.. So I am still asking myself. What is this naming, indexing and also sort of fetish I have with organizing stuff? There is also a very beautiful connection back to how I was naming my stuffed toys as a kid. Everything in my room had a name, and a home and address as well, so that the different toys could send letters to each other. Again. The home! This is as well a project relating back to the power of the child and the child’s imagination. So it is very crucial how I go about this naming so that it does the “right” work and also stays with the complexity of naming.. I want to dive into what practises, meditations and so on I can step into in order to let those names arrive and in order to dive into how I should tell the stories of those names and of the small herbal doll friends and their magical work and the power of emotional and spiritual labor that they hold. Important is it that this project stays aimed at decolonizing the body. And I feel I have a lot to give back in that area, and being silent and listening to the ancestral traumas…..
OMG JEE THIS WAS THE LONGEST MESSAGE!!
So there is absolutely no pressure for you to read or comment or whatever. I just really followed my desire for sharing with you quite shamelessly… And it felt really good to have that feeling of a receiver and in general I just want to continue sharing with you both artistic projects and activist projects and knowledge of decolonization. Of bodies and institutions. And also because i want to keep stressing how everything is a consequence of a myriad of emotional and poetic entanglements with other people and destabilize the idea of the artist-genius. That is why you and so many are a part of this work as all my works are never only mine.
But omg no stress reading me, just thank you for being there in the world. Endless hugs to you and Stefan
‘Hermes’ as ‘Little Kitty Johnny’
the work after she left
‘ecofemme haunting’ in Thy, Denmark – photos by Angelina Owino
You had me dropping the words a bit now…