Júlia Rúbies Subirós in conversation with Gianna Virginia Prein
Gianna Virginia Prein: Lying down, feeling the abdomen and sensing what movement might come next: The rehearsals of Ecto-Fictions were initially shaped by a strong somatic approach before ‘going into the field’. How did this approach become part of your practice?
Júlia Rúbies Subirós: I am very familiar with working somatically. Different (self-proclaimed) somatic techniques entered my training vocabulary around eight years ago, and I haven’t done without them since. I find it a very insightful place from which to start.
GVP: Some of the exercises in the studio were performed with eyes closed. I found these moments exciting because they emphasised the heterogeneous backgrounds and differences in the approaches of the individual performers. Can you tell me a little more about your practice?
JRS: I’m in-between multiple practices: performing for others, developing my own work, collaborating, my personal life practices… What is most apparent right now is my performance practice. Maybe I can talk about this. The works I take part in at the moment reach into or collaborate with different contexts. For this piece with PARASOL, for example, we went to stables and learnt about horses, observed their behaviour, their movement, how they inhabit the space. We even studied some of the gestures the horses’ caretakers perform daily at the stable… As long as there is a political awareness and it doesn’t become extractionist, it’s a real gift to be able to go into a different context and soak it all in, create bodily imprints and experiences that you can bring back to the studio and work with. I really enjoy bringing worlds together that don’t usually go together.
GVP: Let’s try a very general question and see where it leads us: How much research is needed for dance?
JRS: I think research is always happening. As an artist, you don’t separate. You never stop learning, and you always bring your experience into the room, even accidentally. Research can happen on many levels: the second you start building something, you have questions, you start going in one direction and not in the other – so you make choices. Building a framework implies research because you’re building around a feeling, a certain logic (not necessarily an intellectual one), you’re proposing a world with some specificity. With Ian, we did many improvisations – the act of doing this every day accumulates information. Accumulation is also a form of research.
GVP: I fully agree with the idea of experiences as a pool of knowledge. The term ‘research’ can be slippery. Sometimes it seems to be overused in order to justify the critical and methodological approaches we build on in various art fields.
JRS: This is interesting. I think sometimes the word ‘research’ is used to justify funding applications or proposals for institutions. It sometimes functions as a form of capital that can be used to legitimise artistic work. This can make it hard for artists to follow through on what they really want to work on. Also, what do we mean by ‘research’ here? Is it discourse-formation, conceptualisation? Extraction, translation? Practice-based research? It’s a word we need to unpack in order to be able to continue talking. I would say that each artist has their own research methodology and timing; it’s very personal. To give different examples: some artists have a separate ‘research phase’ before entering a production, while others have a more ‘practice-based research process’ where research and production go hand in hand. It’s much more nuanced than this, of course. It’s also more interesting for me to ask what one does with the research: how it lends itself to materials and how these are then constructed and shared. But this could, of course, be another kind of research.
GVP: From what I was able to observe, at some point, the research work of PARASOL resembled a process of collecting. Much of what was recorded found its way into the studio in a different, a translated form. Such as, for example, the act of touching the horses when approaching them from behind so as not to startle them. This became a presence-tracking exercise and later a movement sequence in the final piece. The word ‘research’ came up in a variety of activities (e. g. ’research trips’ to the museum and the stables) but also as an ideal in my mind: Interlinking scientific research practices with artistic production holds exciting potential to shake up long-established belief systems, categories and norms that shape our interpretation of dates and their underlying measurements. Couldn’t we equally ask: How much dance is required for research?
JRS: I think it’s about the fact that we need to broaden our perspective and become more inclusive in terms of what knowledge is. I think the gesture is quite clear, and political. We are interested in the plurality of experiences of this world, and we invite unique subjectivities to speak up with as much force to challenge those things that are already known and common.
Júlia Rúbies Subirós is a dancer from Barcelona, living in Barcelona and Brussels. She is interested in practising expanded choreographic approaches as spaces of transformation with particular emphasis on spaces of practice as catalysers of affective community-building. A graduate of P.A.R.T.S., Julia collaborates with Nathaniel Moore, Michiel Vandevelde, Marco d’Agostin, and Lili M. Rampre, among others, and presented her work at Mercat de les Flors, Barcelona, among others.