ENG|Yes, I am a… is a series of interviews curated by Francesco Guazzo within the section NEW LOOKS. Their ensemble collects a sampling of the widest variety of spectators and tries to understand how professional and human identity can influence the gaze when watching performances.
Peggy Olislaegers (Netherlands, 1966) is a dance activist, working as an independent artistic ally and dramaturge for several artistic directors, choreographers and dancers in Europe.
fG: Could you tell me how your professional and human identity may or may not come to influence your gaze as a spectator?
First of all I am a professional audience member, and my work is to be aware of my specificness. My profession is to be aware of my specific gaze, to be aware that I am never neutral, to be aware that I recognise that what is familiar to me, that I recognize things in performances because it taps into learning questions that I’m having, or sensations that I’m also embodying, and that all this influences my gaze. Part of my profession is to study that, to be aware of all that and from that awareness I will embrace alternative perspectives: that is my work. So this question certainly is central to my work, to bring that question in the room every day, so to ask the people I am working with, choreographers, artistic directors, promotors, audience members: “what is influencing your gaze? In your daily life? In your work? What is the influence of your experiences, your fears, your upbringing, your culture? And in order to become aware of that we need to have a lot of conversation with people with different backgrounds and sensations because, then you become aware of the things that you even weren’t aware of because you just took them for granted, because you just were like: “No this is how everybody sees it”: NO! I think that the cool aspect of nowadays is that we more and more realize that when you bring something on stage everybody sees a different show. That’s not a problem! That’s a richness, that’s even a function of art. It invites us to share our different points of view on the work we all experienced together. It allows us to practice our ability to listen to people who say things that we don’t agree with, that we don’t recognize, but still we canstay connected because we have the same experience, we all were in the same thing. So the fact that I’m thinking about this all influences my audience gaze, because I am trained to change perspective and I will always try to do so. On the other hand, for me is very important that the moment that I feel that I am touched by something because it touches my deepest identity – for example it starts to talk about me as a woman, or a mother, or somebody of 53, or a European, or a white person – if I feel that something starts to resonate within that, I will always allow it, because that for me is beautiful, that within these moments I can feel that there is a moment of affirmation, or a moment of: “Yes! It gives me joy when a show helps me to recognize the deepest part of myself”. I will still be able to change perspective because it’s a part of my training, but I more and more understand why something deeply moved me, and I enjoy that. So, yes, in answer to your question; it influences my gaze, and, as a result, you also could say that as a professional it is my obligation to meet as much people as I can, to meet a variety of people so that they help me to deepen my gaze… and I am very privileged through my work, and through the fact that I’m travelling, and that I’m staying in other’s people houses, that I meet a lot of different people, and they give me an insight in their way of being and looking, and as a result they also change my perspective. And I think that this is beautiful and it gives me a lot of joy, but it is also important for the quality of my work.
fG: Starting from your own context and coming up to here: a sentence on power.
If I make it personal at this moment for me it’s really important to realise that I am somebody who doesn’t represent an institute but still, or perhaps even as a result of that, I have a lot of power, because my network is very big, my CV is serious, and people see me as somebody who understands things and know things. So my responsibility is also to deconstruct that power, to leave that space, to bring other people into that space. All that is crucial. It’s crucial to say: “Well, sharing this space sometimes is not enough” and perhaps it is really important to start exercising the act of disappearing, so that once in a while you’re simply not there, which doesn’t mean that you’re disconnecting, but that you make sure that other people can fully own the space and the invitations that are in there, so to become a dancer or choreographer, a facilitator etc… Part of my practice now is to reflect upon my own influence and power and to help other people in power to become more transparent about it… because there are still a lot of people in power who deny that they have power, they say: “No I’m just helping artists, I’m just writing reviews, just responding” but no, you’re writing reviews, so you have power, because you have a platform, you know how to write, you can write, you have a pen, you have words, you are seen as somebody who is important. I don’t apologise for the fact that I have influence, but I need to use it, I need to deconstruct it. I can’t say goodbye to it, it’s a result of that who I am right now, but I can be playful with it, I can share it, I can be fluid with it. I think that it’s crucial, and my job is also to help other people to do the same thing.
fG: a desire for BMotion2020.
I would love to see more people that I don’t know yet, people who are much younger, from different spaces and different places. I’m hungry for new experts, and I’m hungry for experts who are experts because they embody a different generation, a different culture… So, let’s bring a new definition of expertise.