published in the review “Filigrane” nr 2, second semester 2005, French scientific review , specialized in music, aesthetics, science and society:
TREIBGUT: the creation of unvisible spaces
Impressions of an audience member
In June 2005, at the Blac in Brussels, Dietlind Bertelsmann presented Atem, the third part of her Treibgut cycle, a transdisciplinary spectacle-performance combining music, buto dance and a universe of mobile paper sculptures. On several occasions in recent years, I have had the chance to listen to the artist speak about her work, and have felt the vague need to know it and understand its reality as art, and that I would perhaps be given an opportunity to discover what my quest has drawn me to for some time now – my quest for contemporary art which is exterior to ’querelles de chapelle’ and provocations, as well as to an overabundance of images and theoretical discourse. An art in which intellect does not extinguish thought, and which would dare to unite beauty and contemplation, the sensory and meditation, whilst rising up to the demands of truly contemporary scrutiny, without complacency.
My intuition did not fail me, and with Atem, I experienced one of the most intense aesthetic emotions of my life.
The shadowy attic referred to as the Blac, which we reach after climbing a steep set of stairs, is a vast and empty space with bare brick walls, filled with the ghostly shadows of the sturdy frame and an enigmatic and dark massive shape hovering above the room. There are some benches on the floor, in unsettling proximity to the mysterious ’thing’, which appears to quiver, so close in the darkness…
The space is conducive to silence, and the audience members sense this intuitively, taking their seats without making a sound. After long minutes of waiting in the dark, a light appears at the back of the room and a bow creates the first sound, the first duration, the first breath, the first marvel…%@% From this moment, the music of Sofia Gubaidulina, admirably performed by three musicians – Friedrich Gauwerky (cello), David Nunez (violin), Christophe Delporte (bayan) – begins and envelopes the slow flow of time with its near silence. The indistinct space is still submerged in half-light. Only the slow and contemplative music arouses the mind.
In the depth of this motionless time, it appears to me that the massive undefined form has moved imperceptibly: a moment ago it was not so close to me – or at least it did not seem so close. But the music continues and I forget to watch it. Suddenly, during a lapse in my listening, I discover – and this time I am sure – that the ’thing’ has displayed itself, moved by some discreet silhouettes pulling on invisible ropes from a distance. Three ample and obscure shapes now hang distinctly from the flies, with a faint dark red tinge visible in the low lighting.
Suddenly, a dark silhouette – seated until then anonymously in the first row not far from me – gets up silently and moves very slowly towards the ’thing’. I realise that it is the buto dancer who has begun her initiatory journey. Then, during a moment prolonged by the meditative sound of the three instruments far at the back, a small ageless being, slender and solitary, begins a voiceless dialogue with the gigantic and enigmatic forms – at times immobile, at times caressing softly, and sometimes stirred brusquely by a stormy wind – which rustle over her like the skin of an ancient world. The supple and living material of the woven and crumpled paper suspensions, whose colours have now become warm with the lighting – from orange to dark brown – intrigues, sways, threatens or envelopes the dancer, who begins to explore the surrounding emptiness in their company.%@% Throughout the infinite duration of this journey, the grand art of Hisako Horikawa keeps the audience breathless and hanging, with the incredibly slow movement of the dance which exudes unbearable emotional intensity by means of a supple and dislocated body. The genderless face of the dancer – at times innocent, frightened, calm, tortured, childlike, senile – represents the universal image of impermanence with each step. We might have the impression that we have plunged into a Japanese print which immobilises the memory of actors whose faces and bodies are deformed by the suffering of the soul. Here, the viewer is hit by the intensity of the present moment without limits, in which the human being experiences the immeasurable depth of time and space. Sound, movement and form emerge from the same original quest which unites man’s uncertainty and anxiety. With the same slowness which increases the tension tenfold, the music, the human being and the organic matter blend together, harnessing the essential energy which animates the universe.
This work is a true ’theatrical composition’ which Kandinsky would not have rejected, whose different types of artistic expression are combined – despite their preserved autonomy and the constantly changing forms – to cross the boundaries of the visible and, through pure abstraction, unite being-in-the-world with the entire universe.
[/Musicology Professor/] [/Director of the Centre d’Etudes des Arts du XXe siècle, Université/] [/Charles-de-Gaulle Lille 3/] [/Editor of the second issue of Revue Filigrane/]