On tour in Finland

Photo: Tanwa Srisong, Luckan

I’ve been on a ten day tour in Finland with Nyxxx and the show Hör så tyst det är, directed by me and Ebba Petrén. The tour was organized by Assitej Finland through the Bravo!-festival and I’m happy we have been able to show the work in Swedish as well as Finnish. This is the second time we go to Finland on tour, last time Kulturcentrum Hanaholmen invited us to do the old best-seller Din inre röst for Swedish speaking kids. It’s always a pleasure to travel across the pond to our neighbor in the east and it will not be long until I go back again for the Nordic larp festival Solmukohta that is hosted in Tampere this year.

Grant received from The Church of Sweden

Uppsala domkyrka, December 4th 2023

We (Gabriel Widing & Áron Birtalan) are excited to announce that our project 𝑳𝒐𝒗𝒆’𝒔 𝑺𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒏 𝑵𝒂𝒎𝒆𝒔 is one of the awardees for The Church of Sweden’s cultural prize in 2023. The award consists of a grant that will help us in the initial stage of the project, studying, rehearsing, wayward dreaming.

⛓️ ✨ 🪨 🔥 🌱 ⛲ 🌀

We plan to make Love’s Seven Names a participatory piece that guides audiences through a series of collective contemplations, inspired by the poem of the same name*, by the 13th-century Beguine mystic Hadewijch. Part erotic lovesong, part theological treatise, 7 Names is a dazzling piece of poetry, whose secretive language can be seen as both a manyfold encounter with the mystical bodies of God, and as a clandestine manual for spiritual techniques that mix more accepted forms of piety with some seriously daring stuff, bordering on magical practices.

By the 1300s, the Church’s attitude towards Beguine women’s communities and their ‘DIY Catholicism’ became more and more hostile. Communities were closed, and women were forced to give up their way of life for fear of punishment. A fellow Beguine, the French Marguerite Porete was sentenced to die for refusing to renounce her book and mystical manual, The Mirror of Simple Souls.

The story of the Beguines ties into a long history of bodies and practices marginalised, silenced and killed by the religious powers that be. In the voices persecuting Beguines, one hears echoes of orthodox Christianity waging wars upon Gnostic and Cathar heresies in the centuries before Hadewijch; as well as the horrors of the witch trials at the hands of both Catholic and Protestant patriarchies in the centuries following. Collaborating on this project with a mainline church body presents a challenge that we are both yet to live through, and at once feel an urgency to take on. We thank the Church of Sweden for trusting us as autonomous artists, opening a dialogue without expecting anyone to ‘clean things up’. Looking forward to what next year brings.

In conversation with Lundahl & Seitl at IAC

Christer Lundahl, Martina Seitl, Gabriel Widing
Christer Lundahl, Martina Seitl, Gabriel Widing

Inter Arts Center “a platform for artistic research and experimentation” are very into games and play these days. Me and Nea Landin performed Mobilized there at Immersive days #3: Agents in Play. In the aftermaths i had the pleasure of giving a short improvised talk and enter a dialogue with Christer Lundahl and Martina Seitl.

Documentation

The Abyss Between Our Hands – with Áron Birtalan

The Abyss Between Our Hands

On October 20th we will host a seminar and a reading night, exploring technologies of intimacy in artistic practice and mystical theology. Artistic practice and mysticism have both been ways where the unknowable and the unreliable can be touched, felt, communed with. They denote a space where the lines between affective, sensual and intellectual collapse, a space for new kinds of understandings, confusions, joys, troubles. This whole-day event that goes from noon to the morning after brings guided sessions, discussions, music, readings from a 13th-century mystic and communal sleeping hopes to unfold the possibilities for a new theology of touch, informed by mysticism, philosophy and participatory practice. We hope you will join us in reaching out to touch the unknowable and unreliable parts not just of the world, but of ourselves.    

14:00–17:00 – PhD Seminar of Áron Birtalan   This PhD seminar explores technologies of intimacy and permeability and the possibility of a theology of touch. The research unfolds under the influence of three women mystics from the 13-14th century: the beguines Hadewijch of Brabant and Mechtild of Magdeburg and the heretic Marguerite Porete. Focusing on how language, attention and sensation are mobilised through their writings, these historical texts are put to dialogue with current voices in expanded choreography, participatory and relational practices, New Materialist philosophy and contemporary radical theology. Grounding the research in praxis, the work hopes to create space for movements in which virtual and enfleshed bodies contaminate one another, becoming compost for living-dying languages, technologies and epistemologies in art and theology.   The program for the afternoon includes a guided experience, a response from theologian and philosopher Simone Kotva, and an open conversation with the audience. The seminar is a part of artist Áron Birtalan’s PhD research project in artistic practice at Stockholm University of the Arts’ Department of Dance. Read more about the research here.   The PhD-seminar is free to attend but you need to signup via Stockholm University of the Arts.    

20:00–08:00 – Reading Night – Hadewijch   This special event invites you to spend the night at Hägerstensåsens Medborgarhus, reading, listening, falling asleep to the writings of the 13th- century Flemish mystic Hadewijch of Brabant.   Hadewijch was a Beguine, who were women in the Middle Ages living in small religious communities without being members of the Church, like nuns. Her writings, which include poems, songs, visions, letters and prose speak with a voice that cuts through the fabric of time, into the hidden depths of one’s heart. Hadewijch’s mysticism weaves together her devotion to her life as a Beguine, with the lovesick lovesongs of the troubadours, and with dazzlingly dark metaphysics that would make any contemporary philosopher blush. To her, encountering the divine rests within the mystical abyss of love – if one dares to take the leap.   This is an overnight event, where we read until the morning. Your ticket includes dinner and a small breakfast. We will spend the night in the main hall of the building and you can choose to sleep, listen or even help us read. You will be asked to bring your own sleeping gear, and we have a few beds available for guests with mobility needs or travelling in from far. For booking a bed, contact Maren Wolf: marenwolf96@gmail.com.   To participate in the overnight part please book your tickets here. Each ticket includes dinner and breakfast.

For more info about the event read this.    

Artistic Team: Áron Birtalan, Gabriel Widing, Maren Wolf

Seminar Opponent: Simone Kotva (University of Oslo, University of Cambridge)

PhD Supervisors: John-Paul Zaccarini (Stockholm University of the Arts), Erin Manning (Concordia University)

Overnight music: Extracts of the XIV, Sonja Tofik gleemaiden, Macumbista

Support from: Stockholm University of the Arts, Hägerstensåsens Medborgarhus  

Áron Birtalan is an artist, musician and student of theology, whose work explores languages of pleasure and anguish between angel, creature and computer. Simone Kotva is a philosopher of religion working at the intersection of theology, critical theory and earth ethics. Maren Wolf is a designer and artist working with participatory experiences, rituals and playfulness. Gabriel Widing is an artist and game designer, interested in performance, play and participation. Sonja Tofik is a composer and musician based in Stockholm. Her blend of samples, drones, field recordings, feedback and vocals creates a dark and emotional sonic sphere. Extracts of the XIV are ecstasy by song, ecstasy by repetition – perpetual peaks, uplifted and otherworldly. In the place where eternity stands right-angled towards time, XTC sings the XIV century. Macumbista is a little boy that lives in DH’s mouth.  

Content and Accessibility The seminar and the after-event both feature sensitive sound fields and (optional) participatory exercises in attention and sensation. The venue is fully accessible. The seminar touches on topics of religion, grief, ideas about the afterlife, sensuality, contamination, erotics, and the limits of consensual relationships.  

With support from ABF Stockholm

MOBILIZED: An essay pretending to be a game

Mobilized is a participatory performance exploring the power and potential of the smart phone. Rather than asking you to turn it off when entering the theatre, we ask you to keep it ready for use. Your phone will be the portal that takes you and other audience members into the constructed reality of the piece. The format is based on simple instructions and choices that appear on your screen through text, images and sound. The instructions shape different situations and collective movements. The piece is 45 min long and will be performed in English.

CREDITS

Made by: Nea Landin & Gabriel Widing

Sound design: Scott Cazan

Supported by: The Swedish Arts Grants Committee, DansPlats Skog, Site Sweden, Inter Arts Center, Nyxxx

2024 TOUR

  • SITE Festival, TBA
  • Riksteatern, TBA

2023 TOUR

Inferno speed date

Hands and mouths
Visuals from Inferno Speed date

Together with Nea Landin I have designed and coded a speed date web app. It was commissioned for Kulturnatten (Museums’ night) at Kulturhuset Stadsteatern. Inspiration came from Dante’s Divine Comedy, where the protagonist wander through the different circles in Hell. The participant start off by choosing what deadly sin they are under the influence of. That will assign them to a crew of sinners with the same “weakness” in common. After that they will go on four random dates and reassemble with their group a few times in between.

The gate to hell
. . .abandon all hope, you who enter here.

At Kulturhuset Stadsteatern

At Kulturhuset we run the speed date four times in an evening for 20-30 participants per showing. The dating is not just about romantic interest. It might as well be about meeting new people. We got some valuable feedback and look forward to develop the design. Photos below by Joakim Rindå.

Participants
Speed date in action
The makers of the speed date
Gabriel & Nea

If you are interested in a speed date, get in touch! It would work well as conference opener or at a festival.

The envious dog
The app follows the medieval iconography, where every sin is represented by an animal. Envy is represented by a dog.

Datenight på domens dag (Kulturnatten, Kulturhuset)

Bild från prototyp

På Kulturnatten, 22 april, 2023 blir det ny-designad, ny-kodad speeddate på Kulturhuset i Stockholm

Kom med på en infernalisk speed-date och lär känna nya vänner, älskare och småjävlar. Din mobil (detta djävulens påfund) kommer att leda dig och de andra förtappade själarna på plats genom en serie rykande möten och situationer. Speed-daten är skapad och leds av koreografen Nea Landin och regissören Gabriel Widing.

  • 19:00, 20:00, 22:00 och 23:00, Panorama
Bild: Erica Jacobson

Mer information om hur du bokar din gratisbiljett kommer inom kort. Först till kvarn! Platserna är begränsade.

Barpianist:  Panayot ”Pancho” Mihaylov

THE IMAGINING BODY: Freestanding course at SKH

Applications are open for a freestanding 7.5p course at Uniarts/SKH that I will put together and teach together with Áron Birtalan. It’s the first time I have the opportunity to create an entire course from scratch on university level and I think these five weeks will be great. If you are active in any performative context consider applying and join us.

Photo: Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė, YGRG14X: reading with the single hand, 2018. Video still. Courtesy of the Artists.

The course offers you a practical and theoretical intro to the relationships between Imagination, Embodiment, and Interface Technologies in artistic practices. You will be invited to partake in an experimental environment under influence of sci-fi, mystical visions and esoteric magic.

How does imagination shape us and the things we create? Can imagination belong to anyone at all? Is imagination limited to images? How does imagination influence us as bodies? How can imagination become a body? How does the body imagine?

In this course we will look at how these questions are explored in science fiction, media studies, religion and magical practices: From visionary medieval mystics to XX. century ritual cinema, and to techno-queer spells for the end of the Anthropocene. We will bring their ways of working into the studio to see how they can shape artistic practice and thought. Special attention is given to how “technologies of imagination” influence bodily experience in both creator and audience.

This course is open to participants from all artistic disciplines and interests. We encourage you to be open to making, discussing and experiencing art in ways that may seem unusual at first.

Our approach is hands-on and theoretical at once. We believe that on-the-floor engagement and critical thought do not exclude each other, but unfold from one another.

MORE INFO & APPLICATION DETAILS

Rest in peace Keith Johnstone

I just heard that the improvisation guru Keith Johnstone (1933 – 2023) passed away. He visited Stockholm occasionally and worked with Susan Osten and others, which also meant that his work was translated and published in Swedish. I think his work was absolutely fundamental to bridge the world of games and theater and thereby making what we now know as nordic live action roleplay possible. The book Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre (1989) helped me and many other larp organizers and participants in late 90ths to understand social status in play, masks and physical improvisation, as well as basic ideas about what kind of improvisation that enables collective storytelling in a group of participants.