At the reconstruction of the “9 Evenings” festival by Josef Albers’ student Robert Rauschenberg in Sweden, the Moroccan performance artist Radouan Mriziga builds structures in the air and draws beautiful patterns on the ground. The editor-in-chief of the Swedish magazine DANS interviewed the dancer about his work for us.
Radouan Mriziga carries childhood experiences as a starting point for his splendid dance works that have made an impression on critics around the world. He showed his congenially different dance work, with its very short name “55” at the festival “HERE: 10 Evenings” in Vitlycke on the Swedish west coast where Francesco Scavetta has his Center for Performing Arts. Radouan Mriziga was among those participants of the festival who had been Scavetta’s former students at P.A.R.T.S. Other participating artists were Mette Edvardsen, Heine Avdal and Yokiko Shinozaki from Norway and Peter Uhr from Sweden.
Although the festival was held in the most scenic areas of northern Bohuslän, in places like the Koster Islands, Strömstad and Vitlycke, it was inspired from a highly urban and technologically innovative festival titled “9 Evenings” that took place in New York in 1966. Prominent avantgardistic figures like Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage and Deborah Hay where among the participants. Their works were technically advanced creations, for example, they had special permission to use military infrared technology, remote control technology that had not been used before in theaters, and interactive sound synchronizing with the performers’ moves, all thanks to the cooperation of the most advanced engineers of their time.
Some of the artists at “HERE: 10 Evenings” like Heine Avdal and Yokiko Shinozaki with their group called Field Works use very advanced and exquisit sound and light effects too, but Radouan Mriziga chose a much more basic solution for his piece “55”. He performs his solo in any light available while using small fragments of music that he has composed himself, played by a simple tape recorder. While performing his 55-minute-long piece, he lets the scenography’s fascinating pattern grow on the floor—with help of chalk and tape.
Mriziga throws himself dynamically and precisely down on the floor to use his entire body length to reach the starting point for the next line of the pattern. It bears the signature of the beautiful abstract patters of Muslim culture, while at the same time harnessing a deeply modern use of form. The ancient measurement system attributed to our own body is still existing in Anglo-Saxon culture where body length is measured in feet. In former times in Sweden we called the depth of water “embracement of depth” (famnars djup).
The day after the show, in the beautiful summer weather, Mriziga has some time to take a walk. We head for for the beautiful carvings in the forest in Vitlycke that date from the Nordic Bronze Age between 900 and 500 BC. Today, almost the same kind of modern dance culture spreads all over the world. In early childhood, Mriziga started with hiphop and aikido in his home town of Marrakech where his favorite school subject was geometry. “I didn’t discover modern dance until I was 14 years old,” he remembers, “when I realized that there where workshops to attend.”
The dance engaged a lot of things that he liked: the body, the muscles and also the brain. “I think it was then when I realized that this is maybe what I want to do. First I was just taking classes, but when I went eighteen I decided that I wanted to go and study dance for real.” He went to Tunisia and attended his first dance school in Tunis. Although this time was very important for his education, his study didn’t last for long time. There were problems with the administrative direction, but there were also many good teachers both from France and from the Arab world. “I met some people that became very important for my life and my artistic development, like Jacques Garros and John Massee.”
By this point in Radouan’s story, we have walked to the biggest stone carving in Vitlycke. He stopped to admire the mystical dramas carved into this big, smooth stone: the boats the boats, the different animals, men, soldiers, footsteps, but only very few women. Mriziga explains that his background is not only Moroccan but that he belongs to the Berber people, who call themselves Imazigh. The meaning is both the people and the land where they where living. Radouan Mriziga seems to have a constant flow of ideas. He keeps to his concepts, and even if the works have a certain resemblance, they are quite different. For example, he always uses numbers as titles: “I didn’t want to have the problem with translating titles,” he explains, and the numbers are endless.
“55”, which he showed in Vitlycke, investigates the human body in space, as he’s dancing alone and leaving traces on the ground. “55” is the first part in a trilogy. The second part that is called “3600” lasts for 3600 seconds, namely an hour. In ‘77’ the whole concept was the making of art and architecture for everyday life and the social and imaginary impact of it.” “77” was composed as seven solos that come together. It’s also his first time to perform with a musician on stage.
Creation for me is somehow a motor to learn how to do things, so I’m somehow learning lighting by myself, but of course with the help of people who knows more about this.” Mriziga is checking his watch. We are heading back to the festival location. He explains that by the way he is using fundamental cultural sources from all over the world and by his way of expressing it through his body, modern performance is in fact not new at all. “We are rather telling the old stories of humanity, about our surroundings and about being in space.”
For Mriziga the human body itself is a timeless truth. “It is important to go to the very source which is the human body with all its complexity. And all the wonders that the human being can make: That is my form of humanism.”
Even if his work is all about his body, he doesn’t like to put himself in the center of his work. His works clearly focus on going back and investigating everything by the means of movement and the complexity of the body in relationship with it’s surroundings. “It may sound romantic but that’s very important to me”, he adds. “Dance is an art that that we can call pure because it starts from the closest tool we have. Before language there comes movement.”
The way Radouan Mriziga gets inspired by nature and by human development could in fact be compared with the methods of the Black Mountain College’s students during Josef Albers’ time. Performances like “55” made the festival “HERE: 10 Evenings” a successful bow to the sources without neglecting the transformation of modern dance to a tool of contemporary art.
Mriziga isn’t protesting so much against the surrounding culture as Rauschenberg and his fellows did during “9 Evenings“. He is, like many of us today, rather embracing it.
[AW 2017; Translation: CG/NF]