The artistic pathway taken by Mette Edvardsen is characterised by an extraordinary degree of versatility, in which Edvardsen often changes position and consistently seeks collaboration. The Norwegian performance maker, who lives and works in Brussels, has been developing her oeuvre since the turn of this century. However, she also worked as a dancer and performer for companies including ballets C de la B (B), Thomas Hauert / ZOO (B), Bock / Vincenzi (UK), Mårten Spångberg (S), Lynda Gaudreau (CAN), deepblue (B) and she has created pieces with, for example Lilia Mestre (P/B), Heine Avdal, Liv Hanne Haugen and Lawrence Malstaf. She choreographed and also danced a version of Thomas Lehman's Schreibstück together with Christine de Smedt and Mårten Spångberg.
Her oeuvre not only positions itself between several disciplines such as dance, performance, films and literature; her work appears to unfold between words, things, actions and intentions. Edvardsen's pieces operate in an interim time and interim space.
Edvardsen's own artistic work is also difficult to put one’s finger on. Her oeuvre not only positions itself between several disciplines such as dance, performance, films and literature; her work appears to unfold between words, things, actions and intentions. Edvardsen's pieces operate in an interim time and interim space. They play out in the interval, in the white space that exists between two words (Black (2011)), a performance and a score (Opening (2005)), a book and a listener (Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine (2010)), a live and a recorded action (Time will show (2004)), coffee & cigarette (2006 and 2008)). In the time and space that exists here the stable coordinates, which give direction to our daily lives disappear and make room for a more complex and more versatile time-space, in which things are no longer linked to their fixed places but wander, disappear, appear, multiply, transform, tumble over each other and play leapfrog. Below we discuss three performances in more detail in which Edvardsen goes in search, each time in a playful and often humoristic manner, of these instable doors between time and space: Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine, Black and No Title (2014).
“So, I am a cat by Sōseki Natsume. The book was originally written in Japanese in 1905 and I am the translation into English from 1972. So, I will start just at the beginning.” One of the 'living books' that you can borrow at the desk of the library where Edvardsen's performance - or more specifically - travelling collection Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine takes place. For this performance Edvardsen learned a book from memory, and so did a number of other performers. Once the spectator has picked out a title, the 'book' and spectator choose a quiet spot, after which the book tells his or her story. In this complex situation - a performer, who is a book, which is a translation, which is a cat that engages in dialogue, which is not dialogue, with a spectator, who is a listener, who is a reader, who is a discussion partner... - a special relationship develops between book and reader that is extremely intimate and highly contradictory at the same time. The book demands the spectator's undivided attention. The book cannot exist without this absolute dedication. However, this concentration is completely passive, the listener allows him or herself to be carried away on the rhythm of the story. His active attention does not translate into an action, but into a passive openness.
In the solo performance Black Edvardsen leads us around her room. She walks around the empty stage and places things in the space by pointing at them and repeatedly naming the object eight times in staccato. This repetition works like an alchemical spell. It brings the objects to life and they appear on stage. Edvardsen halts, points with her hands to a place and says: “table, table, table”, we understand that she is pointing to a table, “table, table, table”, the contours of the table become visible, “table, table”, the table appears. Then Edvardsen stops at another place where she successively conjures up a plant, a dog and a wet spot. Thus a narrative evolves in which Edvardsen systematically maps out the whole space. However, as soon as she focuses her attention on something else, the previous element disappears into oblivion, only to suddenly reappear seconds later as a trace and upset the order. What at first glance appears to be a systematic cartographic project, in which the entire space is mapped out, rapidly transforms into a game of shadows in which the objects that have been conjured up disappear again, transform and reappear. When Edvardsen focuses her attention on the plant in the corner of the room, we forget about the table and the latter literally and figuratively disappear from view. When she later takes a few steps backwards, the table suddenly breaks into the space again: “bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump”.
The production No Title, from which the above photos originate, begins where Black ends. Where Black plays with the dynamics of appearing and disappearing, of the words and objects, by naming the objects and conjuring them up, No Title examines the activating force of denial. Instead of naming the objects and placing them in the space, the objects are ignored here. There is no title, no thing… Through this denial Edvardsen simultaneously declares the objects to be present and absent. After all the ignored objects are still present due to their absence. They ‘virtually’ come walking into the theatre and nestle somewhere in the corner of the stage, where they enter into an alliance with the other objects that aren't there.
The story goes that the philosopher Kant, when forced to fire his assistant Lampe, of whom he had grown extremely fond, hung a note above his desk with the words 'forget Lampe'. A reminder to forget. A message that could, at its very least, be interpreted as ambiguous, given that what needed to be forgotten must be permanently present by naming it. In her production No Title Edvardsen appears to adopt a similar strategy. The more she impresses upon us that the objects are not there, the more the objects persist in our imagination.