Project year

2022

Industry/Media

Video

Web links
Sympoiesis: a bio-inspired dance performance
UAL Graduate Showcase
Personal website
Creative team credits

Sympoiesis: A bio-inspired dance performance

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Laurane Le Goff

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Victor Paredes

Julianna Persson

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Dancers and co-creators: Megan Eyles (Trinity Laban Conservatoire) Aske Ploug (London Contemporary Dance School) Justine Prignot (London Contemporary Dance School) Timea Szalontayova (Trinity Laban Conservatoire)

Sympoiesis: a bio-inspired dance performance

Description

What was the case study project about?

“Sympoiesis” is a bio-inspired dance performance. Coined originally by Beth Dempster, this term implied ‘multi-species making together.’ The performance emerges from the relationship between myself, a plant, a slime mould, four dancers, and a sound designer. It invites you to rethink your relationship with another living being. To make you ask yourself, "What are the stories of these other organisms around me? Why do they matter?"

The multiple crisis we are facing (ecological, social, economic and political) come down to the fact that humans are using more resources than the planet can offer and regenerate. From the overproduction and overconsumption prompted by the industrial revolution, there has been an accelerated increase in the disruption of the Earth systems. Because of a tale focussing on creating more, better, cheaper, we have cut off any narrative promoting the rest of the living beings as equals. They progressively became inanimate ressources for humans to use. This crack in our relationship towards other living beings is the 'tipping point' with which this performance concerns itself.

The dance piece has been created by studying two organisms I encountered: Sissi, an indoor plant from my appartment: Alocasia Zebrina and the Slimies, a slime mould from my school's lab: Physarum polycephalum. From my relationship with them and the information I could gather, in terms of biology, ecology, history, philosophy and anthropology, I created characters to embed their stories. As movements are our only common language, I chose to share my research with dancers to be able to bring their stories on stage.

Sympoiesis: a bio-inspired dance performance

Eco Thinking

What does ecological thinking mean to you and how do you approach it in your work?

Ecological Thinking means for me, understanding the depth, complexity, and systematicity of the problem humanity is currently facing. It means understanding the cause, not just the effects, it means questioning the human way of thinking. Because I believe it is only by being ready to understand the mindset and events that led humanity to this situation that we can begin to think ecologically. Meaning thinking not only for us but with and for other species as we rely on the to sustain us on this planet. In my work, I approach ecological thinking with humility as I quickly realised how little humanity knows compared to the wonders of beauty, ingenuity and intelligences that exist in the other-than-human worlds.

Aims and Objectives

What were the aims and objectives of the project?

The idea with Sympoiesis was to create a performance that will tell the story of other organisms. To shift the narrative on them whether than us. But I think, in the end, I told the entanglements that connected me with them. I couldn't put myself out of the narrative but realised I didn't need to, it was just a question of focus. Humans will always be the ones who told stories for and with each other, but the importance is to create something where we are not the center but only a tiny part of the whole.We can start telling stories where we take care of others' intelligence and life forms, where we understand each other necessities and question our actions.

I really wanted to tell a story that would be specific, to focus on one individual, not on 'Nature' or on an entire kingdom like 'plants' or 'animals'. And it was very challenging because we have a tendency to consider nature as a whole, and if not, to anthropomorphise its parts. But I think opening the research to different fields was a way to have a mix of truthfulness and storytelling, that ended up being the strength of the project.

There is such wonderful diversity to explore around us, and so many stories to tell, I don't think I will be able to say I achieve to share a fraction of the stories that are yet to be told. But I think, with this project, I am ' staying in the trouble' of finding ways to shift from human-centred to eco-centred and I am happy about that.

Sympoiesis: a bio-inspired dance performance

Learning Points

What did you do to challenge the status quo?

By creating a narrative, as I said previously, that focuses on specific individuals, I was trying to create a bridge between nature and culture. But I was quickly stuck with these questions: how to find a common ground with another species, and how to prevent turning them into something they are not? How to speak both objectively and sensitively? Because I think it is what is needed in the current ecological transformations we are going through: in order to find a way to reconnect with other species in a non-utilitarian way.

To find my way around this, the interdisciplinarity has been the key. To work with dancers and with a sound artist obliged me to share what I knew of these species, and to be open to new translations of these stories. The choice to use dance as the main medium was deliberate as the movement is for me one of the only communication systems we have in common with other species.

The sound was approached very creatively as well and became a new sense for the different bodies of the dancers to become one. Each dancer was wearing a captor that was producing a sound in the space. These sounds are the translations of slime mould frequencies and are autogenerated by the movements of the dancers. This implementation of technology, not as way to become more performant but only as a way to understand another species is also something that for me really question the status quo.

Reflection

What are some of the best decisions in relation to ecological motivation and action you’ve made related to this project?

Despite the work on the narrative that I previously exposed, I think the best decisions I took in relation to ecological motivation and the action I've made related to this project were in terms of the creative process.

This creative process was present in the costume's design and making. For both costumes, was lying the question of the anthropomorphism, do I just want the dancer to look like the plant? Or do I want to engage with the creation of a complex character as I would have done for a human one? I needed the costumes to have depth, not to be a work of surface and a mere reflection of attributes not made for human bodies.

So, to create the costumes of Sissi, the Alocasia Zebrina, I was inspired by every step of the process. From the biology research, I found out that this specific plan from the Philippines Island had an amazing defense mechanism. It has oxalate crystals inside its leaves to prevent insects from eating them. And it turns out the patterns of crystals are already patterns at the fitting, so I screen printed them on fabric. I used old cotton veil curtains that express the place where the plant was kept: an apartment.

Creating the costume for the second part was another challenge as Physarum polycephalum is a single cell organism that can grow indefinitely. To transmit that, I was inspired by the patterns they are making as they grown , and created these shapes in crochet up-cycling damaged tights.

Upcycling process to create the costumes

Sharing is Caring

What is your advice and best tips for other people and teams who want to bring these values into their work?

My advice would be to enjoy the messiness of the process, the discomfort, and the uncertainty, as it is all part of the making. And maybe also to trust your feelings, your intuitions, to discuss and challenge your point of view. To be open to collaboration, change, and evolution!

Sympoiesis: a bio inspired dance performance

Moving Forwards

How can you be more accountable through your actions as a creative professional?

I believe each creative needs teach themselves about the ecological crisis as they are the people who will create the culture of tomorrow, and it needs drastic change. But I would say, to be more accountable, engage with the change with joy and curiosity and realise the impact of your work has on you and other species.