“I want to make people feel, think and wonder - and hopefully question some of the presumptions and prejudices, with which they entered the space of the artwork.”
The following self-reflective conversation with SIMONE WIERØD, Choreographer and Founder and Artistic Director of Wired Studio, uncovers 5 unique performances produced by the art studio. We explore the Questions and the societal Agendas that inspired the works, as well as investigate the cultural, social, political context that the choreographies are Wired to.
Choreographer and Artistic Director
I am a Choreographer and the Founder and Artistic Director of Wired Studio. I have a background in contemporary dance, but find myself drawn to cross-disciplinary collaborations and new ways to explore choreographic expressions.
Simone Wierød and Wired Studio have presented their works in over 25 countries and won several awards for their choreographic works, most recently for the dance films BEYOND and SOLUS. Simone Wierød and Wired Studio are currently elected as a part of “The Young Artistic Elite” by The Danish Art Foundation for 2023 and 2024.
What are 3 values that you wish to mediate through your work?
My artistic vision is driven by a curiosity to explore and challenge what we think we know, meaning challenging our expectations and perspectives to the world around us. I do so through working with optical illusions, materiality and social relations and expectations. In my artistic work I always start from a set of core values:
Believing in the audience and their ability to interpret, appreciate and relate to abstract artwork.
A minimalist expression that values functionality over decoration, but in an aesthetic and visually enticing way.
A safe and transparent working environment with space for co-creation and sharing of voices.
What are 3 relevant problems that you wish to solve through your work?
I would not call it problems, rather observations that I want to explore through a critical lens. In general, I have a curiosity towards what happens in groups of people. I am curious about relations, flock mentality and “us-and-them”-divisions. One could say that that comes from political beliefs, but I would rather say it comes from deeply humanist interest and curiosity about relations - the relation to the people and space around us, the relation to ourselves and to our past, present and future. I don’t want my artwork to solve problems, but I want to make people feel, think and wonder - and hopefully question some of the presumptions and prejudices, with which they entered the space of the artwork. If any of those things happen, I consider the work really successful.
Is my behavior caused by my will? Can a collective of people exist without shared norms? Can individuals exist without relationships with others?
COLLECTIVE BEHAVIOUR illustrates the symmetry between individual identity and mass identification. Through a complex scenography of mirrors endless bodies appear on stage making the dancers continuously multiply and become one, while time, space and materiality is distorted. COLLECTIVE BEHAVIOUR is a dance performance that I created in collaboration with the South Korean arts duo Kimchi and Chips and we have presented the work in both Denmark and South Korea.
Distortion of time, space and materiality
Individual identity vs. mass identification
The above linked photos and video trailer show moments from the second half of the performance where 5 semi-transparent mirrors appear on the stage allowing us to create a single or endless reflections of the performers. In this scene the performers appear and disappear in a complex choreography of light and movement. We catch short glimpses of movements being mirrored in either space through the reflections or in time through repetition. Thereby, we see abstract illustrations of all actions having waves of impact - sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly or delayed - and how people and and their actions are interconnected.
The choreography in this part is made from 12 words linked to relational discrepancy and conformity. From those words I made 12 main gestures that were then abstracted and versioned into many different physical versions of each word and gesture. The whole choreography can therefore be written as one long poem, with words being repeated in different versions, shapes and tonalities, which created an interesting extra layer for the dancers and I while creating, but which definitely also shone through in the final result shared with the audience.
What choreographic systems do we partake in and what does it take for us to break them? How can we create a participatory work where the audience has full control over the turnout of the performance, while we are still being in charge of the overall dramaturgy and experience? How can we create a safe environment for participatory work, where no one feels exploited, while still challenging the participants? How can we highlight the hidden expectations and dynamics in a group? How can we create awareness of flock mentality and our trust in authorities in a light and inclusive way?
BOXED is a participatory performance installation for the urban landscape. The audience is guided through choreographic instructions in headphones and collaborate on building ever-evolving sculptures of wooden boxes in the cityscape. During the piece they are challenged on their individuality, group dynamics and flock mentality in a light and fun way, accessible for both regular theater-goers and those who rarely experience performing arts.
Group dynamics and flock mentality
In BOXED all audiences participate under the same circumstances. It is a meeting point where age, background, gender and social status no longer determine the relations in a group of strangers.Being put in an unpredictable situation while being in the public eye together with others quickly creates a sensation of “us and them” between the participants and the outside spectators. The trust and togetherness is built during the performance until the group starts to receive different instructions and are challenged on their individuality and trust in the group. Thus, a big part of the performance takes place inside of the participants’ minds, in the inner dialogues and dilemmas that occur, while still giving a calm, sculptural and aesthetic experience to the outside eyes of the passers-by.
After each performance we do a short debrief with the audience, which can sometimes last a few minutes and sometimes be up to an hour, depending on what the group needs and how much they want to talk about what happened between them. This is always a very beautiful moment, to see strangers share their thoughts, beliefs and sometimes even fears and dreams, and I am very thankful to be able to facilitate that through artwork.
What happens when we build something together? And what happens, when someone lets go?
AXIAL FIGURES is choreography on the vertical plane. 5 rope performers move in a motorized scenography of 5 ropes to create geometric figures from the ground and from the air. With a precise and minimalistic aesthetic AXIAL FIGURES explores the construction and deconstruction of systems – linear, as well as choreographic, geometric, and social. We activate the full space of the stage and create movements on all axes, with a voluminous expression but through quite minimal means. I have worked closely with the architecture company Standard Practice on the concept for this work, why the performance contains elements of choreography, contemporary circus and architecture. This is a very exciting and new format for me and I am looking very much forward to sharing this work with an audience later this year. AXIAL FIGURES will premiere in November 2023 in Aarhus and Copenhagen, Denmark, and will be ready to tour internationally after that.
3D line drawing
Dance, circus and architecture
AXIAL FIGURES is still in development, but some of the recurring questions in our rehearsals are linked to the relationship with the ropes and the many symbolic references it creates: Do we manipulate our surroundings or are they shaping us? Am I pulling the strings or am I being puppeteered? The performance contains very symbolic images of pulling, balancing, sharing weight, defying gravity and leaving the ground, crawling upwards and falling down, which all can be interpreted into everyday life and situations. That is where it becomes interesting for me as the artistic director and choreographer; when you can create big stories with relatively simple means, which is one of the reasons I am looking very much forward to the further creation and production of this work.
Another very exciting part of this project is its collaborative and cross-disciplinary nature, combining skills, knowledge and methods from dance, choreography, circus and architecture. The collaboration serves as a steep learning curve for all involved, which invites us to look for new ways of working, creating and communicating, which I find extremely refreshing, inspiring and informing for the artistic process.
Can we assimilate to different versions of ourselves in different times? And if not, why do we even strive to assimilate to others? What is my relation to my past, present and future self - are we one, or are we several selves?
SOLUS is a dance film created from a questioning of striving; the striving to achieve and the striving to create the images and stories about ourselves that we want the world to see. With a subtle and poetic approach, the choreography revolves around this theme and slowly unfolds more and more layers for the audience to interpret. All roles are performed by the same dancer, which serves as an experiment on synchronicity and being alike as well as it serves as a subtle and symbolic comment on our time.
Choreographing the eye of the audience
Dancing with several versions of ourselves
SOLUS was my very first dance film. I didn’t initially intend to work with the film media, but wanted to create an artwork, where one dancer could dance with several versions of herself. The idea and concept led me to the choice of working through the camera lens, which was an exciting extra choreographic layer to add in the creative process - to not only choreograph the body on stage, but to also be able to choreograph the eye looking at it. I believe in this process of always starting with the idea and then choosing the medium, format and presentation afterwards, to stay true to the idea and to explore different ways of expressing what you want to say as an artist before settling for a certain outcome. This process has led me to work with stage productions, dance films, choreographic installations for galleries and outdoor participatory performances, which expands my choreographic language and way of thinking, which I believe is super valuable for me as an artist.
How do we deal with reconnecting to nature, now that we fear being beaten by it? Can we learn to unlearn our civilized relationship to nature? When we cannot go outside - how do we go “inside”?
BEYOND is the aesthetic response to one of humankind’s strategies to handle a global pandemic. Exploring new truths and roads to inner peace seem to be the only way to rise above collective anxiety. BEYOND presents a number of absurd and surreal tableaus - a human beings’ awkward attempts on connecting with nature to only find herself more alienated than before.
Human’s alienation to nature
We see a woman in a pink suit, a symbol of civilized society and man made regulations for behavior and expression. Seeing her in a different context, in a non-conformed physical position and with her body rolling in the mud on a cliff, we see the absurd meeting point between two worlds - the controlled, directed and artificial and the natural, organic and odd. The awkwardness of this scene is a reflection of what we saw in the rich and privileged parts of the world during the pandemic; a desperate attempt of being in contact with something we spent the majority of our life staying away from and controlling, in a blind attempt on finding new meanings, spirituality and a sense of connectedness, while leaving the rest of the world behind.
This interview contributes to a new media format, where Creatives are in full control of their narratives. By exploring alternatives to narrative journalism, GAHSP starts unconventional conversations, emphasizing values and problems that shape our lives collectively.
Written and Edited by Julia Horvath
Image Courtesy of Simone Wierød