MESHES rehearse photoshoot for Blacklisted

The rhythm and moves of ‘MESHES’

Taking a deeper look at the four-piece collective that is trying to blur the lines between beats, body, choreography and musical composition.

Words: MESHES & J.Scott Stratton
Published: August 24, 2017

I find it fascinating that music and performing arts share a fundamental core value, but beyond this fundament, they are wildly different in many aspects. The core value I speak of is that music (and by that I mean live music) is essentially performance. Just as with actors, dancers, performance artists, a musician will stand before an audience to “perform” some version of an artistic expression.

Yet, for the most part, that is where the similarities between the disciplines die. Because the fundamental processes by which those artists, musicians, dancers or choreographers come to produce the work they perform is so wildly different. And even the public’s view of the finalized work, adds to deepening chasm between the creative disciplines of “music” and “performing arts”. I would argue that the enjoyment of music is almost a fundamental human need, whereas the desire to see it performed live is not. That is more of an acquired taste, just as experiencing dance, theater or performance art is not a desire shared by everyone.

Now just like everything else in life, the difference between these disciplines are not absolute. There have been many examples of musicians adopting the process of narrative, dramaturgy, and theatricality, but it is when I find situations of performing artists that come together to adopt the processes more common in “bands” and music making, where my interest really picks up.

Last year, I interviewed a collective of choreographers that have formed a satirical musical group called John the Houseband, which do exactly this. And recently, I have come in contact with a fledgling Danish collective, made up of two choreographers and two drummers, that are also exploring the gray areas between performing arts collective and “being a band”.

I first came in contact with Meshes back in April of this year, as they debut their performance work at a group exhibition at Literaturhaus. It was by far one of the most interesting choreographic and auditory experiences I had had in some time. The combination of conceptual choreography with two hounding drum sets created this tribal atmospheric presence, which became almost shamanistic.

MESHES rehearse photoshoot for Blacklisted

Since that evening, I have been doing some dancing of my own to catch a few words with the girls in this collective. But with each of them also pursuing their own individual artistic practices and myself being an unorganised mess, it became a game of cat and mouse until recently where I was able to set it to a rehearsal space with the four talented women, snap some photos, and get some more insights into the background of their work.

So what is the concept around your new collective MESHES?

Well, actually we are not really a new collective.. We just now got a name this spring! …Which is very exciting, since we haven’t till now shared a common name together. Somehow that really shifts the perspective from where we speak and perform.

MESHES is a platform that is researching encounters between drums and dance… a kind of classical or traditional setup, practiced throughout history in all kinds of cultures; combining rhythm and movement. In our version though, it is just more the exception than the rule that the dance and drums play in the same rhythmical groove. But we do it sometimes, yes! And we are currently trying to see if and how to do that more. So this might change.

Mostly our work has been based on different concepts of translation with improvisation as our primary tool or method to play. We formulate and reformulate from dance to drums and from drums to dance – seeking ways to make visible possible movements in sound and possible sounds in movement.

Throughout the past two years, we have created different compositions or scores based on ideas of translation. Different sources of inspiration have initiated and framed these compositions. We have for example worked with memorizing patterns of shadow in the architecture of a space and we have exercised collective telepathy of transmitting solos to each other. Currently, we are working on interpreting a score by the Danish Fluxus composer Henning Christiansen.

MESHES rehearse photoshoot for Blacklisted

“We’re curious about concepts of signs and scores. For example, the body as a sign, the body as a score, the rhythm as a choreography”

MESHES rehearse photoshoot for Blacklisted

How did the group form?

The group was founded and initiated by Felia Gram-Hanssen as part of her final exams at the Art Academy in Copenhagen. Here the encounter between drum kit drummers and dancers was established. Throughout different later projects with different constellations of dancers and drummers, we are now two drummers and two dancers, which seems to be a well-balanced setup. We are currently Felia Gram-Hanssen and Jaleh Negari on drums and Lea Vendelbo and Stine Frandsen on dance.

We are interested in taking the drum kit – an instrument usually associated with bands and rock culture – and see how it interacts with a physical body of dancers. An audio experience rooted in the concrete and firmly placed drum kits together in combination with the visual, more light and ephemeral movements of the dancers. Somehow this combination creates a contrasting platform of organizing sound and movement, which in this constellation also is a way to artistically approach topics such as energy and form.

You mentioned that the moniker, or name, for this collective is new. What lead you to MESHES?

The word MESHES called our attention for several reasons. We like the idea of being a network together—a system that functions only by the sum of its parts. We like to see ourselves as an interlaced structure that is entangled or entwined with one another. From the Oxford Dictionary Meshes means (amongst others): ‘the spacing between the individual strands that form mesh’. In Danish it can be translated to: ‘masker’ (i fx. strikketøj eller fiskenet), which we really like. The choice of MESHES is also a subtle homage to Maya Deren’s experimental short film ‘Meshes of the afternoon’ from 1943.

How has it been with the dynamic of the group being so closely related to what could be considered a “band” in relation to how to formulate works?

How we have been working so far, is mostly like “getting a gig”, then we rehearse and develop a piece specifically for that gig. Last year we did actually not rehearse a lot, and that felt really rock’n’roll like! Meeting just a few times before each show and then fire it off…haha. But in fact, we have created a lot of different scores. Four at least. Which could be compared to having released four different albums for example. The only thing is that our ‘albums’ are mostly made of one song – as one continuous piece, which might be closer related to performing arts or dance/choreography. So yes, somewhere in between might be the case.

…So far we are still trying out different ways of working and creating together. This is very exciting! Not having a fixed form of how to do things, still being very curious about what this constellation can do.

MESHES rehearse photoshoot for Blacklisted

Ok, so the “band” reference is not exactly one-to-one, but what about how you compose the pieces? What is the process?

Well, the last two piece we’ve done, we have been working with two very specific scores. So we have had to take long discussions about how we wanted to work with the translation or interpretation of these. Translating or interpreting something that is quite specific, has shown itself to be quite demanding, because of the precision or ‘demand’ to stay ‘true to’ the written score. At the same time, it is also quite exciting, since this specificity can support us to develop new kinds of works and generate new material.

So to clarify, the drums or the score come first?

Always the score. The idea, the concept of the piece, plus a potential graphic formulation of this – that is our starting point. Then we meet in the studio to formulate and try out together. We are curious about concepts of signs and scores. For example, the body as a sign, the body as a score, the rhythm as a choreography, etc.

How do you plan on developing the collective?

We will keep on working together, performing, and creating different pieces. Doing what we are already doing! Till now, we have presented our works in very different contexts – both in frames of visual arts as well as at more rock or noise music venues. We are curious about how the work is seen and experienced in different ways according to the different spaces and contexts we visit.

For the future, we will try to be a bit more ahead of ourselves. Planning more time for creating and going on a tour or something like that. That would be great!

MESHES rehearse photoshoot for Blacklisted

Artist Link: MESHES
Members: Felia Gram-Hanssen, Jaleh Negari, Lea Vendelbo, Stine Frandsen

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