THE DELICATE TRAINER
A CONVERSATION WITH CURATOR LYNSEY PEISINGER
Photographs by Hick Duarte
Tuesday, April 28 - 2015
The power of turning emotions into words is very important, some may call it the main form of communication. The power of turning feelings and thoughts into body movements can clearly be thought as a form of expression. Performance artist Lynsey Peisinger, who trained as a choreographer, seems to have the assertiveness to achieve both results gracefully. Kind and gentle even in her tone of voice, the curator of MAI Presents talks about a trajectory that led her to work with such great names of contemporary art and theater as Marina Abramovic and Robert Wilson.
As performance artist and choreographer, Peisinger collaborated with Marina Abramović on the work 512 Hours at the Serpentine Gallery in London in 2014. She has selected and trained performers for Abramović in Moscow, Los Angeles, and Basel, and facilitated the Abramović Method in even more cities. She is the assistant director of Zinnias: The Life of Clementine Hunter and The Old Woman, both directed by Robert Wilson. She performed at the Beyeler Foundation in Basel (Switzerland), during Performa at the Paço das Artes in São Paulo, at the 2nd Hyeres Fashion and Photography Festival, and at the Weimar Arts Festival. She holds a MFA in choreography from the Conservatory of Dance at SUNY Purchase, NY. At Terra Comunal - MAI, she performed four pieces and was a fundamental part of the curatorial team for the MAI Presents program.
It was over a cup of tea in the flat where she is living during these months she's spending in Brazil that Peisinger spoke to writer and curator Ulisses Carrilho:
As a curator myself, I'd like to start by asking you about the curatorial process of MAI Presents. I’m particularly interested in thinking about the collaboration aspect between you, Marina Abramovic, and Paula Garcia.
When we first started thinking of the exhibition and thinking of the concepts we'd like to work with, we understood that everything was about the Institute, the Marina Abramovic Institute. Of course SESC also wanted a historical part. And we understood that showing the Transitory Objects was also important, but the other performances like 512 Hours, The Artist is Present and House with the Ocean View, they also changed the way Marina interacts with the public. The engagement with the public happens in a more poignant way. The public becomes a performing body. You get a sense of where she is now. With the Transitory Objects, you have a history of Marina’s relationship with Brazil. The three of us talked a lot about what the Institute was: the Method, which is audience-participatory; education, with talks and lectures; the “In Between” space, in the Galpão, a free space, a space for things to happen, for performances to happen. Paula Garcia did the first research. She’s Brazilian, she knows a bunch of Brazilian artists and curators and got recommendations. Basically, and I know it sounds a little dumb, we were just looking for good works. Not a specific thing, but they had to be good. They had to have a specific energy. They had to have a balance also. Think about Fernando [Ribeiro] or Rubiane [Maia], requiring patience, calm, and think about the rush in Paula’s work. We thought about three spaces and what kind of spaces they'd be. Paula’s space has a specific traditional definition for performances. There's a performance and there's people watching that performance. Maurício Ianês has free space. And that freedom is the work, it has so many layers. Aesthetically, psychologically, you have so much to work with [in] that performance. Grupo EmpreZa is another way of working. They had that 70’s feel of a performance collective. They had that idea of space with an open process to work. It was very rich to have a collective working within the exhibition. For Maikon [K], Ayrson [Heraclito], and Marco [Paulo Rolla], we understood that they'd be interventional works, they also have long duration in them, but they would happen as an intervention. All the works have a sort of ritual within them.
I have asked you about collaboration in the curatorial process, but collaborating seems to be a constant aspect in your work. How was it to collaborate with big names such as Robert Wilson and Marina herself?
I was in New York and did a Masters in Choreography and that’s it. If you want to be a professor at a university, ok. But technically, it doesn’t make you necessarily any better then you were. And I went to Marina’s exhibition at the MoMA and I saw in it the lack of presence that I felt in my own work. I saw the re-performances several times, I came back many times. I had this weird premonition that this person was in my universe for some cause. So a friend of mine said Marina and Bob Wilson were doing a project together. So I tried some connections, a friend of mine knew a guy who knew a guy that worked with his manager on a Philips de Pury auction. I tried a connection. So I called them and they had no cash for me. I was living on couches at that time. This is how I started working with Bob. A background in Choreography was great because I had the experience of notating and notating all day long and then trying to translate it to the performers, making them understand that material and training them. With Marina, after that experience of working with her and Bob on his play, it all started very organically. She had a project going on and called me to cast and train some performance artists that would work on her team. Some time later we started a creative collaboration with some of her projects and then, ultimately, I performed with her. At first, I thought I was crazy. But somehow I was ready for that. There's pressure. I was working with extremely well-known people with a huge reputation. But I must say I do love to collaborate. I love being in a position of really understanding a universe: I mean “this is Bob’s universe and language, I get it” but not being swallowed by it. To find a way for things to function, being a chameleon, not leaving myself behind. But knowing how to handle people and knowing the different ways of working with people.
Marina Abramovic says that, in theater, blood is ketchup. In performance, it's real blood. What about dance? What’s blood in dance?
Blood would be more like in theater. Dance is staged. Unless it's improvisational dance, unless you’re running for 6 hours and that's dance. Depending on the context. Dancing live is what I call the ice-skating syndrome. You see it and, since the 80’s, you have that feeling that it didn’t evolve. The same sequence, the same music, the same movements. Nobody is taking it to the next level. Of course dance is another thing, there are many people doing different things. I could say the same thing about performance, but I do get the feeling that performance has more freedom. I love dance, but I think it’s almost enduring. I'd say it’s ketchup.
I’ve already personally said to you that I was particularly touched by several of your testimonials in the documentation of 512 Hours, the work you did with Marina at the Serpentine Gallery in London. How were those connections with public intended to be built?
It’s complicated because all of them are about interaction. But in this piece, you're creating a touch to build security. Providing security is being visible but, at the same time, you have to be invisible, to get away and not speak. Intimacy isn't about touching, but about the whole thing. Gallery assistants, they were doing it so well, not being hippie about it. I’d say to them: “you can be hippies in your life, that’s pretty ok, but don’t be hippie dippie about it”. They’d use their hands in a reassuring way, it wasn't about caressing, it was about caring, suggesting, guiding, without being intrusive.
Yesterday while I was watching several of your performance videos to prepare for this conversation, I found a quote that made perfect sense to me and I'd like you to comment on it if you don’t mind, it's by author Ray Bradbury: “As soon as you have an idea that changes a small part of the world, you are writing science fiction.” Is there utopia in performance art?
It's very interesting, I do agree, but I'd say that science fiction in that sentence could be changed for any term. I usually don’t have problems with titles and words, but I got stuck in one. When I was working on the title of the work I did about my psoriasis, I felt I was talking about something so much bigger than myself: Under All of this There is a River. I knew that it was the right title. Science Fiction, they sort of love Marina. They trip out on performance, on that thing you transcend. I can see science fiction in that.
Terra Comunal - MAI is free and open to the public until May 10, 2015 @SESC Pompeia, São Paulo - Brazil.