Zodiak's sping's first premiere is Funny Things Before Panic by Liina Magnea. We asked Liina to tell a little bit about herself, as well as about the work.
- firstly, could you introduce yourself; who are you and what do you do?
I’m Liina, Finnish-Icelandic choreographer, composer and performer based in Berlin. In my work I combine music in form of songs, different dance and movement forms and current affairs to create some sort of Gesamtkunstwerk that extends the live performance on stage through online videos and daily interactions that happen during the making process.
Both my parents work in film making which has shaped my way of thinking in multiple layers of art disciplines. The music makes one emotionally travel along, the colours make one sense the atmosphere, speech makes one personally and contextually relate and so forth. What live performance brings is immediacy, the actual presence of a body goes beyond visual understanding or abilities and with that opens more possibilities to make the art more accessible.
The fact that I am showing up as my present body to communicate is the gate opener that a video can’t compete with. In a live performance situation, I can create narratives and dramaturgies that don’t need to be linear or follow traditional structures. The experience is the story. My works up until now have been inspired by real life events that have happened around me, I take them as a starting point and start collecting all the material around it, creating a collage of themes and emotions that together make up a fictive narration that comes from a very personal place.
- tell a little about the background of the upcoming performance. Why this particular topic?
Since three years, I have been working on movement material that is inspired by the physical symptoms I was experiencing regularly during panic attacks.
I was cramping, ticking and speaking to myself compulsively, swearing to myself. I work with people suffering from addiction problems, that I have suffered myself too, and learnt that talking about the symptoms as honest as possible can help. This process has trained me to distance myself or my ego from my own symptoms. So, me dealing with the symptoms of my panic attacks became a compulsive dance to me that I could be fascinated with. Even though the attacks in itself were horrible and painstaking, every-time I got out I could have the investigating eye on them without being afraid to fall into it again.
I shared this somatic practise with Reetta Nummi, who is performing with me here in Finland and she too could relate to the symptoms. We did a corona version of Funny Things Before Panic in Berlin last at Tanznacht. During the rehearsal process one day I stepped out of my house with my Chihuahua dog and found a huge pool of blood in front of my door. Two police officers stood there warning me to keep my dog away from the blood (she was already starting to lick some of it).
There had been a stabbing and one person lost so much blood that had sprayed all over the shopping window next to my front door. It hit me harder than expected and made me remember the other stabbing stories that have happened in my immediate surrounding.
My mother got stabbed nearly to death by a gang-member when she had just moved to Berlin from Iceland in the 80s, her friend was stabbed to death by her son, six years ago and I had the fantasy of stabbing my dad’s girlfriend when I was a child. Without sounding too crazy, I was interested in these connections and macabre coincidences that a knife and the act of stabbing was so involved in my personal narrative.
The stories of the stabbings work only as narrative material, we are not literally re-enacting the scenes by showing the real violence that is attached to them. The stories serve as a question, an emotional starting point that I use to collect material around. The act of stabbing is so direct and traumatic that for me it is not interesting to stage the factual act, but rather to see them as a proof for life’s tragical absurdity that sometimes is best dealt with by rather singing and dancing around the subject. This is not to understand or mock life, it’s a strategy to cope with the inexplicable and find new interesting ways to move oneself.
I had learnt to deal with stories like this because growing up my mother took me to groups where people openly talked about their addiction problems and how they had recovered. They had learnt to separate themselves from the story and saw the stories as part of a bigger picture. That’s what I am trying to do as well; taking these topics as a starting point to find a bigger picture.
- who are the other members of the working group?
We are four on the stage and several behind scenes.
On stage will be next to me Reetta Nummi (SITOI) who is a multidisciplinary artist in the field of experimental music and contemporary art. In her work she examines vulnerability, carnality and social structures by bringing together elements of poetry, electronic music, noise and performance art. She is intrigued by the dialogue between brutal and beautiful, cute and gore, and is searching for ways to find honesty and comfort through her expression when exploring the themes of mental health, sexuality and gender identity. She has released three EP’s under her alias SITOI and performed in several countries in Europe. She is collaborating with other artists in their projects as a performer and sound designer.
Next to us will be Heidi Finnberg, who is a multi-instrumentalist, musician and a songwriter based in Helsinki, she’s part of the band Muovipussi and has a background in classical music, electronic music and heavy metal.
Then we will have Gabriel Pedrosa appearing with us, who is a Basque musician based in Berlin, exploring performance-related practices at the intersection between folk tradition and tonal misanthropy. Gabriel also co-runs the conceptual Berlin-based label Ruego, releasing outsider multimedia content.
We have had Haraldur Thrastarson and Noah Kin involved with us in the process of making the music. Haraldur is an Icelandic film composer based in Berlin and Noah a music producer based in Helsinki.
Titus Torniainen is our light designer who has designed lights for prestigious houses in Finland and is based in Helsinki.
Ayako Toyama is the production manager and works at Dock 11 in Berlin.
We’ve had several people involved in the photo and film material such as Kristin V. Jam and Nathan Ceddia, both are artists based in Berlin.
- what will we see on stage, and why?
We are mixing wrestling techniques and personal somatic practises linked to our panic symptoms. There will be a lot of singing and several instruments on stage. The wrestling technique comes from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu that my brother introduced to me two years ago and I have practised since. For me it has very interesting movement qualities. The bodies are so entangled and continuously measuring each other’s body parts and strengths in order to ‘dominate’ each other.
Funny Things Before Panic shifts from sad to joyous and tries to bring the yin and yang of life to the front. During one scene where we re-enact my mother’s friends Helga’s stabbing while I sing a song I wrote to her. The content in itself is tragic but the tone is light and more funny than sad. I think art making is a great way to gain perspective on stories that will always stay inexplainable. And instead of finding reasons or logic, the emotions are used as material that can be sculpted into dance and songs.
Like the Cabaret in the 20s Berlin, we turn to fun and show making in the midst of a hopeless situation. Sometimes being the jester is the happiest place because you are the victim and the bad guy at the same time, jumping to all the sides of the stories, realizing there will never be a happy ending or any ending at all.
Funny Things Before Panic at Zodiak Stage 3.3.–15.3.2022