NIKIMA JAGUDAJEV / ASAD RAZA 

Moderated and Text by Alison Karasyk

October 3, 2018

Holobio is a durational artwork that took place at Crush Amagansett from late afternoon through sundown on a September evening. The summer prior, choreographers Ezra Fieremans and Nikima Jagudajev, and artist Asad Raza were in residence on site. They observed, experimented, choreographed, and inhabited the settings and in-between spaces where their performance would soon unfold: yards of grass, shadows beneath old trees, a pool, and a potato barn, among others. Blurring the boundaries between artist, dancer, participant and viewer, Holobio cultivated a distilled sensorial experience through natural and human contact. Changes in light, threads of movement, smells and smoke passing through the air, and whispers of song were poignant conductors of activation. Building off of the concept of an intra-acting ecosystem, Holobio formed an environment of raw intimacy and reactive exchange, where slow dancing bent time and the vanishing of light made space.

Following is an excerpt of a conversation between Nikima Jagudajev, Asad Raza, Karen Hesse Flatow and Alison Karasyk. For the full transcript, please follow this link. This conversation was held in conjunction with the performance Holobio.

Alison Karasyk: In Holobio, you inhabited the Crush residency house, the barn, the surrounding terrain, and it felt both as though the physical architecture of these spaces and the ecological specificity was influential to what unfolded that evening. I’m interested in hearing you speak a little bit more about the need for occupying alternative sites with exhibitions. And the other thing that comes up, to that end, is how architecture and the elements have the ability to both affect and disorient, or reorient, the viewer or the participant, and the artist.

Asad Raza: Well, “reorient” implies that there is a piece, and then the architecture reorients it. Whereas, it’s often more like, there’s nothing, or there’s a general impulse maybe, but until there’s an architecture, I don’t really even completely get going, you know? Or let’s say that those things come together in a dialectical way. Making a piece and doing it for a particular site, or something.

When Karen and Molly asked me to come to take a look at the site in Amagansett, that triggered the beginnings of thinking about what could be done, not just at the site considered as architecture in a restricted sense. It’s the site socially, it’s the site cartographically, it’s the site geologically, it’s the site atmospherically, it’s the site in terms of its sociological meaning and anthropological meaning.

Nikima Jagudajev: a term that I like to play with a little bit is post-audience. Because I feel like, coming from dance, people know how to be audience members. People really know how to come into the theater, how to sit down, how to watch. There are varying degrees to that, of course. But when people know how to fulfill their role, that doesn’t allow for new things to come up and for things to be born. So with spaces that are kind of unknown or have less of a lineage or less of a history of how to be with, how to be in, or whatever, then people come with less expectation, less knowledge of how to be. And then the piece as a whole, which involves the architecture and the space that it’s in, can kind of guide that experience and it leaves a lot open to the person entering into that space. So they can enter without this knowledge of how to be, and then they can be how they are, basically.

Karen Hesse Flatow: Which definitely happened. There were some people who acted one way, and others another way.

NJ: Exactly, which I think is so important.

AK: At first I was very much a viewer – observing and standing against the wall, and then noticing Molly sitting on the couch, I was like, okay, I can do that too. I can get closer and hear the words. And then we slow danced, Nikima, and I was like, okay, now I feel as though I’m fully part of it. I experienced distinct levels of temporality and transformation due to different encounters that I moved through.

NJ: Yeah, totally. And I think that’s super important about the work, too, that, it’s like you said, you saw Molly on the couch, so you felt, oh, I can do that too. I think it’s a lot about that too, just offerings, a thing you could do, a possibility. You don’t have to, but it could be a way. And then to see how that’s engaged with.

AK: Again the idea of repositioning or disorientation comes up – thinking about the barn entryway being transformed into a kind of echo-labyrinth and then being outside, asked to remove my clothes, and being offered a robe. I think I’m realizing how these actions functioned as invitations, and how much of Holobio intertwined  intimacy and nostalgia with a sense of presence.   

KHF: I think there was an element of that feeling with the music.

NJ: For sure. There’s so much that just happens. My experience was really like a sentimentality, but also, a kind of a haunting thing going on. But what I was drawn to was that you said intimacy. I think that intimacy is key. I feel like it’s something that dance and performative work can offer. And also nature, like wilderness, can offer. And I think it’s something that people really lack an understanding of. There’s this expected way of being intimate with another person. And that’s behind closed doors. How can we be intimate with one another in a space that isn’t a secret? I really think that dance, as a practice, can offer that. And often doesn’t, but it can.

AR: For me, there’s something connected to trying to produce intimacy in the works, which is simplicity. There’s a certain kind of thinking about art, dance, whatever. Culture. As sophisticated, or about judgment, exercising a sophisticated form of judgment that is also about kind of proving your intellectual abilities in relationship to other people in your circle or something, that you have a very smart take on something. That kind of activity takes place in a very restricted part of a human being in the cerebral cortex. But there’s all these other types of experience that don’t necessarily happen there.

On some level, a lot of activities from the cerebral cortex perspective seem very simple, are so effective, that you can get people out of what this ratiocination game. The ruminating, thinking mind game, the rational engine game. And so something like the light slowly changing, I mean, that seems ludicrously simple from one point of view. But it’s very important to me as a way of kind of getting in tune with what’s actually going on every day. Because actually, every single metabolic process that’s happening around us and all of the other living beings around is being powered by this thing that happens every day: that the earth is exposed to this sunlight. That has a weight. That sunlight has a weight. Intimacy also relates to finding other ways to experience your own body, your own personhood. And trying to find ways to get people into that state. So much of what happens around us, to me, looks hopelessly trapped in thinking. And I feel that one of the problems with that kind of thinking is it disenchants. It empties out and disenchants experience. It’s good to be able to look at stuff and be critical, for a minute. But if you remain in that state all the time, you end up in a disenchanted state of perceiving without feeling. That’s not what is called for, somehow, at this time.

NJ: No. No. Not at all.

AR: And I think that trying to re-enchant--because the world can be super interesting and rich in all kinds of different ways that are, let’s say, not only the very narrow socially prescribed routes to having a good time, or something--is connected to being able to find intimacy in the world as it is, rather than requiring six kegs of beer or something so that you can have your emotions.