Interview by Guendalina Piselli

In HighWay - performance will be presented  wednesday 18 april – 7.30pm at  P420 –  a lost figure is exposed in an empty art gallery searching for grip. The work deals with the impact of outer forces on the body and the capability of this body to translate them into autonomous material. The ropes that connect the figure to the surrounding architecture provide both support and restriction. The body, becoming and colliding with the space, is shifting between states of power and surrender, effort and rest, volume and flatness. By referencing traditional artistic craftsmanship the practice of imitation is addressed, not only as an execution of tasks but also as a process of constructing subjectivity. In this transforming communal space, questions about art and live medium are raised. While architecture, interior and frames are pulled out of their comfort zone, body-parts and sounds occasionally multiply among the audience and emancipate into the shifting space.

Mercoledì 18 aprile alle 19.30 sarà presentata alla galleria P420 di Bologna HighWay: una performance in cui i corpi si trasformano nella collisione con lo spazio. Nella sua indagine sui processi di costruzione della s-oggettività, Julian Weber, che è anche scultore, salda movimento, luogo e oggetti. Le forme mutano costantemente attraversando sforzo e riposo, iniziativa e abbandono, conquista volumetrica e appiattimento. Con HighWay Julian Weber realizza una scultura animata e inquieta, evocando le figure dello sforzo fisico e finendo per saturare l’architettura che lo ospita.

Segue l’intervista con Julian Weber

ATP: In your work “HighWay” a single person wanders around space getting in contact with it and the elements surrounding him. This scenario creates a situation in which the body is suspended between power and submission, in a sort of materialization of outside forces that act on the body and its capability to transform them in autonomous material.
The objects on the scene are connected to the body by a rope working both as support and limitation. They seem to be a reference to traditional craftsmanship and to your education as sculptor. In which way does it influence your work on the body?

Julian Weber: My studies in sculpture definitely shaped my partly very formal perspective on body and space. I’m still interested in quite traditional sculptural questions around composition, form, volume, flatness, weight, color and materiality.
Often I confront this formal approach with my interest in intense physicality and the body in different emotional states. I find the friction, created through the collision between formality and physical expression very fascinating and powerful.
Especially in HighWay the concepts around traditional craftsmanship became a central topic. I’m looking at the idea of mastery through developing perfection in technique by exercising repetition and imitation. This antiquated practice of imitation is addressed but not only as an execution of tasks but also as a process of constructing subjectivity. In the beginning imitations of body parts and architectural elements are placed in space and form an exhibition. Later texts reference to ancient sculptures and finally the body of the musician becomes material itself, as he is manipulated and placed in space as the objects before. In this way, the figure sinking into the task of copying is hinting at the process to become an image themselves.

The relation between Object and subject has been an important topic and a driving force for my work from the beginning. I have been dealing with philosophical movements such as Object Oriented Ontology and Speculative Realism, which reject the privilege of human existence over the existence of non-human entities. I play with these concepts in order to blur the boundaries between object and subject and create a more horizontal and mutual exchange between human and non-human bodies.
For example in my work “Formen Formen” (2015), I asked questions such as: What is a body, where does it start and where does it end? Who is the actor? Who is capable of acting? For this purpose, five dancers spent two months at home with sculptures, which I designed as a personal response to their bodies and characters. They had to integrate these minimalist and quite bulky sculptures into their everyday lives before we started the rehearsal process. The sculptures influenced the movement through their repercussion on the physicality of the dancers. Furthermore the detour of each performer struggling in their particular way with the object indirectly revealed a lot of personal information about the dancers.

Julian Weber, FORMEN FORMEN - Credit Julian Weber

Julian Weber, FORMEN FORMEN – Credit Julian Weber

ATP: Usually the audience watches a performance sitting down as if they were in a theatre. In “HighWay” the viewer is almost forced to interact with the surrounding space following the transformations generated by your movements. It becomes an active material for you work. Do you think that dance can change the traditional art conventions?

JW: Dance has its traditional conventions as any other artistic discipline. In my work I often navigate in between different presentation formats, but I’m not against traditional formats or conventions. On the contrary I’m very happy that these conventions have been developed over all these years and are inscribed into our bodies. Conventions such as sitting down in the theatre and watching a frontal piece from the beginning to the end from one perspective or the free moving of the audience in the museum space. These agreements are material for me – material that we all share and I can play with. As the audience carries these conventions in their bodies, they become material as well. In Highway we are moving through very different formats, from exhibition to performance and from lecture to concert. Rather than destroying the conventions I’m more interested in playing with them, layering different formats on top of each other and examine their principles.
In the past years there has been a strong trend to bring dance and movement into exhibition spaces, which is beautiful. Only if it turns into copy-paste dance from the theatre stage into the museum just for the trend and there is no discussion happening, it might be a bit boring.

Julian Weber, Highway - Credit Göksu Kunak

Julian Weber, Highway – Credit Göksu Kunak

ATP: For Live Arts Week “HighWay” will be presented at P420 gallery. You already showed this project in several museums. Is there any difference between working in an institutional exhibition space and in a private one? In which kind of contexts do you like to present your work? I know you also created an independent platform to experiment in live arts and improvisation…

JW: Every space is different. But from my experience there is a special difference between institution and artist run spaces in relation to time. Institutions are usually very slow and you have to plan long time ahead. Off spaces are often less organized and therefore also more flexible in time.

ATP: In “HighWay” the interactions with the space are accompanied with piano music. Which is the role of music in your work?

JW: Traditionally music has been quite dominating the dance. The dance would follow and illustrate the music, condemned to decoration. Similar to the play with different presentation-formats I’m mostly interested to work with music in a broad spectrum. This can range from illustrating and underlining an already existing atmosphere to completely contrast it with an opposition.

Often and also in Highway we enjoyed starting from a limitation, in this case only using the sounds of the piano. Even so the musician is also working with electronics, all the sounds in the piece originate from live piano recordings. This limitation gives a clear frame, which is then explored and unfolded in all possible variations. For HighWay it was also important for me to give visibility to the body and the physicality of the musician. Therefore the musician is nearly naked, which allows the audience to observe all the small movements and shifts of muscle tone – the dance of making music.
Recently I have been working a lot with the phenomenon ASMR, in which the interactions between humans and objects are amplified by highly sensitive microphones. I use this technique for example in my work “the bony labyrinth”, which is inspired by Ballard’s novel “crash” and explores the interaction between the performers with oversized body parts made of wet clay in relation to a car, situated inside the logistics of a film set.

Julian Weber, The bony labyrinth - Credit Bea Rodriguez

Julian Weber, The bony labyrinth – Credit Bea Rodriguez

ATP: The presence of another person in this performance makes me think about other works such as “The Internet doesn’t exist” or projects as Fight Club, in which the collaboration seems to be the focus….

JW: One reason to move from visual arts to dance/choreography was for sure the wish to work more together with other people and not only by myself with the material. Still I find collaboration a very complex and demanding topic and find it problematic if this topic takes over and the entire work becomes about negotiating the notion of collaboration. Therefore, I usually prefer to work more in a setting that I would call dialog. It doesn’t matter if I’m in the position of the director or performer or stage designer, but I appreciate if there is a vision and that there is someone who takes over the role of making the final decisions after this dialog process. Then I really enjoy supporting the vision of another artist through my artistic contribution for example in dance or set design.

Beside the projects linked to institutions I also organise events in off spaces such as the Fightclub series, in which I experimented with different formats of improvisation. Here I enjoy setting frames in which I invite artists and to see them moving and positioning themselves inside this pre-set frame.

Julian Weber, The bony labyrinth - Credit Bea Rodriguez

Julian Weber, The bony labyrinth – Credit Bea Rodriguez

Julian Weber is a choreographer, dancer and visual artist based in Berlin. He studied at HBK Brunswick, Academy of Arts Vienna, HZT Berlin and the Theaterschool in Amsterdam. He works intensively on spaces of interaction involving body, material and movement. He collaborates with artists such as Meg Stuart, Boris Charmatz and Tino Sehgal and creates his own work at the intersection of visual and performance art. With his piece the tourist he won the Berlin Art Prize 2015. Since 2014 he was running an off-space in Berlin Wedding, where he started to organise the improvisation platform FightClub.