Floating free in space

Floating free in space

Floating free in space
It is not uncommon for the sciences to be derisive of the arts and vice versa. Very few recognise that the two go hand-in-hand and a healthy helping of creativity is never a bad thing. In a chat with ‘Metrolife’, Gilles Jobin, a Swiss choreographer who is known for his artistic visions, talks about how he brings together the two fields on a single platform in a performance piece called ‘QUANTUM’. He is set to perform on November 26 and 27 at Chowdiah Memorial Hall as part of ‘Year of Swiss Innovation’ by the Embassy of Switzerland.

How did a dance choreographer turn into a science junkie?

Well, I think science is what got me fascinated with science! As a dancer, you don’t have a scientific formation and in Europe, you don’t have universities for dance. So you learn with each performance and focus on it. This had made me science-disabled. I thought it wasn’t something for me. But when I got the opportunity to work at CERN as part of their art residency programme, I realised that you don’t have to be a physicist and know math to understand science. Like in contemporary dance, which seems abstract at first, you just need someone to help you open the door and you’ll get it. Once a few questions are cleared, it seems easier. You don’t have to be a specialist to understand or be fascinated by science.

How did you end up at CERN?

CERN established a residency for artists called ‘Art@CERN’. It was started by Ariane Koek as a guideline for scientists to understand art and artists in a scientific context. It’s important because a lot of scientists are interested in art but they don’t look at it enough. It’s necessary that they know what is going on with artists and their work, especially ones that are inspired by science. It is a fruitful exchange of practices.

Was it difficult to place performance art and quantum physics on the same platform?

Contemporary dance is an abstract field where our body is the most concrete thing. But it is easy to distinguish between a man and a woman, unlike in quantum physics. It wasn’t easy to balance the two but it was possible.

People naturally assume that creativity is a separate and additional package. So, how important is creativity, whether in science or art?

Creative thought is essential to everything human. We are creative thinking bodies so scientists should look at artists and what kind of trigger we use to create art.

In your opinion, what is being ‘human’?

That is a huge question that I can’t answer. It probably is having a short time to spend in the universe. Maybe there is something like reincarnation but what’s the point if you don’t remember any of it? For me, it’s about being here and now and trying to live in peace and with creativity. What was interesting in CERN was that particle physics looks beyond being human; when they talk about fundamental matter, it’s very different from what we know. What’s amazing is that it’s all totally disconnected. We are space dust, our bodies were created at the start of the universe and everything is recycled. Being human is able to think about such abstract things and understand our world better. Observing the unobservable.

What is the one question that nags you but remains unanswered?

Lately, I’m overthinking on what is ‘inside’ and what is ‘outside’. Questions like ‘is the universe finite or infinite’... And the answers depend on how you look at it.

Do you believe in destiny?

No. I belive in randomness and evolution.

What should one expect from the performance?

I find rules in particle physics, make them into algorithms and apply them to the dancers. They can create their own personal score of movements after that. It is an experience to watch it and not understand. Don’t try to find meaning it except for what you, as the spectator, see. We have also used real data from the Large Hadron Collider to make a powerful sound score.  

Is gravity a dancer’s friend?

Gravity is a friend to everyone! Before CERN, I thought gravity was a weight thing, something that holds you down. I thought if the gravity was weaker I could fly or jump higher. But this is not true — we’d be floating endlessly in space without the opportunity to move.  

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