Sacha Osaka
© Sacha Osaka
Field Projects: 2014

Karine LaBel & Angela Vadori

Vodou Goes East

Challenging European Contemporary Dance

The first association with the word Vodou is the doll with the pins, maybe blood and zombies. Few know it as a living system of embodied knowledge, a dance and belief system. The scope of this Field Project is to understand in which ways Haitian Vodou Dance (mis)translates into the context of European contemporary dance / performances, in which ways it challenges its (unreflected) assumptions and how it can change the understanding of the body as a site of knowledge and as a means of resistance.

Haitian Vodou Dance is strongly interlinked with the African Holocaust during which millions of Africans died or were enslaved and eradicated from their continent. The aesthetic system of Vodou Dance, as connective tissue of African-Haitian culture, cross-cuts through the belief system, the economic system, the political system and the social system. It cannot be simply understood as a performance or system of representation. Through its role in the preservation of knowledge and cultural identity, the body became a site of resistance for the African Diaspora people.

Delving into what may seem to the average European as an "exotic" aesthetic system, opens a space for a critical engagement with oneself's situatedness. Not only does non-European art barely have a place in socially/politically engaged European contemporary performance, it is sometimes even discriminated in the countries of origin as a "lowly practice".

So what position could it possibly have in a contemporary art practice? The mediation between operating in a field where Vodou Dance is not culturally embedded and providing a place of reflection (rather than only teaching pre-fixed codes) has led us to highlight certain aspects of one cultural practice in relationship with another. It is a mediation that must necessarily result in mis-translations, mis-placements and mis-understandings, if only due to the uprooting of a dance form that forms part of a larger system. But exactly these failures open the way to a creative engagement, to new meanings and to critical reflection. How can we deal with these mis-placements in the practice and how does that affect the practice?  We question how a living practice may become, condense, create meaning, when the given cultural/religious structure is not given? How can it thus affect the dancing body as a social and political field?

ArtistBio: Karine LaBel
ArtistBio: Angela Vadori


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