gate with our bodies and minds in relationship to the ordering
systems through which others identify us.
“Knotunknot” and “Violence: Recode” are free, open to the
public and organized in collaboration with local communities.
After each event free food and drinks are offered to promote
community building and further open discussion. These projects
are supported by a number of individuals, foundations, groups
and institutions, and I am currently developing networks of
organizational and financial partners for future incarnations.
KNOTUNKNOT: A CHOREOGRAPHIC
PUBLIC DIALOGUE ON IMMIGRATION
photo by Marion Borriss
Immigration is an issue that engenders conflict and violence in Germany, where I have lived for the last 27 years. I
have presented “Knotunknot” in four German cities with over
1200 people to date, most recently in three locations in and
The Design: “Knotunknot” began as a collaboration with the
choreographer William Forsythe, my husband and frequent
collaborator. Since its first incarnation in Frankfurt, the project, originally commissioned by the BHF Bank for its initiative
“Frankfurt Positions,” continues to develop under my direction.
Each event engages around 100 participants. I work with local
agencies, community organizations and other institutional
partners to recruit participants through networks. I also advertise the dialogues publicly. The recruiting goal is to engage a
broad spectrum of participants of differing beliefs and cultural/
national/ socio-economic backgrounds.
The most recent version of “Knotunknot” looked like this:
The Space: The room is divided into two sections: one section is filled with 25 small tables and 100 chairs, and in the other
a large (20m x 20m) triangle is marked out on the floor in red
tape. On each of the three sides of the triangle is a video monitor or a flipchart.
The Model: During the course of about 1.5 hours, the participants are led through a series of highly structured situations
where they are invited to consider and discuss their beliefs
in regards to issues around the topic of immigration, and to
reflect on their own values and experiences that helped to
shape those beliefs. I moderate the event, offering verbal and
physical instructions, and direct the overall flow of the proceedings. The interactions proposed are sometimes physical
and sometimes language-based. Throughout the event, transition from one section to another is marked with a rhythmic,
communal clap, which in Berlin was signaled by a call from my
local partner, Christoph Leucht of KURINGA Berlin.
Circle (5-10 minutes): The event begins with all participants
and myself standing in a large circle. I propose a group of set hand
gestures for the participants to use to respond non-verbally to
a series of questions about their families’ national and cultural
origins; Two palms up = yes, two palms down = no, one up/one
down = maybe/ I don’t know. After a brief explanation, I ask the
questions out loud and the participants respond to each question in turn in this non-verbal manner. This physical strategy
helps the group get a sense of itself. As each person in the room
simultaneously expresses something about their experiences
and beliefs, the group’s collective thinking becomes visible.
photo by Marvin Fuchs
Triangle/ Positions (20-25 minutes): Next, participants are
asked to move into the section that contains the large triangle.
The triangle is divided into 3 sections: A, B, and C. Each section corresponds to the monitor (or flipchart) that is set up on
that side of the triangle. A series of 27 sets of statements that
address issues related to immigration come up on the flipcharts
or monitors. The earlier statements relate to the participants’
personal histories and values and the later statements deal
with concrete immigration issues. In each set, participants
walk to the section of the triangle corresponding to the statement that most closely relates to their belief or experience.
Through this process, participants are asked to take literal
physical stances according to their beliefs and experience.
Standing here means this, standing there means that. At first
participants find themselves aligned with one group of people.
Then they are across the line from some of the same people,
or straddling the line between groups. Through simple physical
presence they are always making a choice. Everyone automatically contributes to the conversation.