Portrait of Mette Ingvartsen
Inside, Outside and Beyond our bodies dances Questions of Society and Politics
Since arriving in Brussels in 2000, Mette Ingvartsen’s wide range of experimental work and challenging questions of society through art, has unwavering positioned her as one of the most talented artists of the performing arts stage. In relation to Ingvartsen’s performance at ICE HOT Nordic Dance CPH in December 2016 we would like to present Mette Ingvartsen.
Ingvartsen was introduced to the world of dance from a very young age, being a part of the Junior Company lead by Marie Brolin Tani in Aarhus, Denmark. From 1999 she studied in Amsterdam followed by studies at P.A.R.T.S (Anne Teresa De Keersmaekers Performing Art and Research studios) in Brussels from which she graduated in 2004.
While still being a student, Ingvartsen created her very first performance (Manual Focus, 2003) and since then she has created an extensive catalogue of research projects along with numerous performances. The performances are the result of two central artistic developments in her line of work, one being the idea of choreography as something that works beyond a dancer’s physical body, which is achieved by incorporating different kinds of “nonhuman” performers and animated materials. The Artificial Nature Series (5 works made between 2009-2012) are a product of this.
“(…) it came out of a dystopic imagination of how we are moving towards environmental disaster. In terms of dance and theatre what I tried to do was to place the human in a decentralized position to see how it would make other performative elements gain expressive force.”
As of 2013 Ingvartsen has especially been concerned with matters of the body, sexuality, nakedness, privacy and the way in which these elements are linked to the publics sphere. This change of discourse was initially founded on a personal need and interest in returning to the human body after a working process that very much focused on animate materials and on creating dehumanized choreographies. Sexuality and the naked body became a way to examine participation and the collective.
“today I am more concerned with trying to understand structures of power that today are entirely intertwined with economy, capitalism and their modes of operating on our bodies.”
The performance “69 positions” (2014) unfolds this discourse by questioning the sexual liberation of the Sixties. The initial idea for creating the performance was, with a more general aspect, by looking at earlier performances with the Sixties at its core. For example, the close intertwining of nudity, the sexual liberation movement, anti-war statements and protest actions in the U.S. Perhaps significantly, the quest for togetherness through a sexual liberation in Scandinavia, both its achievements and failures, furthered the interest to dig into this matter with a retrospective view.
The Possibilities of the Performing Arts Stage in Brussels
When Ingvartsen first arrived in Brussels, the city’s performing arts and dance environment already stood out as a blossoming environment and as an art genre that was being developed by companies, workspaces and cultural centres as well as being supported and prioritised by cultural policies and arts-funding. Today she finds herself in an environment that has been growing consistently the last 16 years, creating frames for talented artists to develop their work.
“I experience it as an environment that is diverse and has space for very different types of artistic proposals. Dance for instance has a totally different status in Brussels than it has in Copenhagen on an institutional level. There are far more theatres that value and support dance and this has contributed to its development. This structural encouragement I think nurtures the more experimental scene to dare to create works that are out of the norm and less mainstream, as well as giving audience members the possibility to develop a sensitivity as an alternative to more entertainment based theatre and dance.”
Ingvartsen further comments on the performing arts stage in Denmark, also in relation to ICE HOT with the hope of a similar process occurring in Copenhagen, developing the dance and experimental stage art as well as creating the right opportunities regarding structural and financial support. Taking ICE HOT as a point of departure, it seems suitable to look at the institution Dansehallerne as they hosted ICE HOT at which Ingvartsen performed “69 positions” December 3rd 2016. Ingvartsen has earlier performed “The Artificial Nature Project” in 2013 and “7 Pleasures” in 2016 at Dansehallerne and views this national platform as an institution that “holds a very important position for contemporary and experimental dance in Copenhagen/Denmark. It is as far as I know the only place in the city that is really dedicated to dance (besides the Royal Ballet)”. With the position it holds, Dansehallerne could be said to be a great example of a Danish institution that has dance as its main purpose, benefitting the contemporary choreographic performative art in Denmark. Ingvartsen emphasises the importance of having a platform for larger scale contemporary works that along with the Royal Ballet, owns both a “symbolic and financial importance for dance”.
A need for Performing Arts
In connection to the possibilities of a flourishing performing arts environment, one can also speak of the need for performing arts. The wave of political and social issues flushing down Europe, has inevitably lead to a concern and need of addressing the current situation that Belgium, not to say the entire Europe has experienced during recent years. Mette underlines the fact that in times as these, a city as Brussels needs both theoretical and artistic groups examining and working with these issues. Additionally, this ought to be happening both inside and outside the theatres and similarly on the streets out in the public space.
“From my perspective of living in Brussels I think that the city needs performing arts more than ever. (…) I think it is crucial that art practices and experimentation are maintained in times of crisis where a need to understand societal change is permanently growing”.
Now is not the time to cut down on arts-funding for projects that concentrate on difficult questions, instead one should support the realisation of these works and not exacerbate its conditions. Inherent in this point, lays also a very significant element of Ingvartsen’s work, namely the challenging approach towards the audience.
“I’m interested in creating challenging encounters with audiences. Sometimes these challenges are warmly welcomed by spectators and people join in without a problem, at other times they create discomfort. For me both situations are interesting as a way to reflect upon the social. Discomfort can offer a way of sensing social mechanisms in a very physical way.”
Thus, a recurring theme, value and method of Ingvartsen, are the ways in which performing arts can unfold the complexities of societal issues by asking social and political questions. Through Ingvartsen’s own words and works, the importance, the possibilities and the need for performing arts are all strongly stated.
Mette Ingvartsen is a multifaceted artist whose work is produced through her Belgium company. Keeping several balls in the air; research, workshops, writing, creating and performing, Mette Ingvartsen is significantly putting her own stamp on the performing art stage in Brussels. Her career reaches across Europe, touring as well as being involved with different long term collaborations such as being a part of the artistic team at Volksbühne in Berlin from 2017 to 2022. Ingvartsen has established herself as a successful artist that receives great recognition both in Denmark and abroad.