AGNIESZKA KARASCH and RAM SAMOCHA – a summery of the collaboration at Draw to Perform 3.

RAM SAMOCHA and AGNIESZKA KARASCH talk about rules and control within a drawing performance and how their collaboration influcenced each of them personally.                                                                                                                             

16.01.2017, Warsaw – Brighton

Ram Samocha: One of the things that interested me when you asked if I would be able to collaborate was the approach you bring with yourself and your work. I found it different from the way I am thinking. It was a challenge for me to say yes and to follow you. When we met in London I was very busy and stressed but we managed to do some rehearsals. You had your rules. This is one of the things that were so different. I have my points in time or sets and it’s not that I don’t like rules… The point  is that I usually don’t remember them… I have this tendency of forgetting. My mind cannot be occupied by so many things. When I wanted to learn dancing, I went to take dance lessons and then I understood there was no possibility for me to learn steps because I didn’t remember them. So that was very challenging when you introduced all these rules or the game… Basically, all your work is based on principles and I knew that was very important for you to remember and, maybe just for the beginning, to follow them. I think it was interesting to understand these principles and see where they could bring us to. I don’t think that I ever used that component in my art. One thing I do remember from our conversations that happened before the performances was that you also were not sure about these rules and how they would work. I remember you said you had an idea of those two actions but you never tried it out. So we were supposed to try them out and see what would happen.
 You know, I just saw the two videos documenting our work again and I didn’t even realize that the first action (Rotations_2) ended because the rope broke! This is really an interesting thing. This is one of the things that happen in live performances! You set yourself rules to be connected for example. Something takes place and still can be brought to an end. Then one can start something else again…
I do remember the second performance (Rotations_1) very well for some reason. We spoke about the way we would dress before it started. We decided for black and flexible clothing but never really got into details. The way we dressed for the first performance was more sports-like. You had a shirt with long sleeves and I remember that I saw it and said: “no, wait – I’m going to change myself”. The second piece happened in the evening and we were dressed more properly, more as if we went to a dinner. That’s what I felt…

Agnieszka: When you noticed that I’d put a long sleeve, you said to me “oh, I don’t want to be more masculine than you are”.

Ram: I did?!

Agnieszka: This is what I remember.

Ram: Well, I can understand that. There you are, dressed for the evening and me coming as if I was going jogging. As if I am the one with testosterone and you are in a very different mood. I didn’t want this lack of balance. I wanted us to be equal.
Some people from the audience approached us later and said that there were so many layers of relationship visible in these performances. Before we did them you introduced me with an option to choose a grey or an orange rope. We said, well we will see how it goes with a grey one and it worked! I think one chooses gray  instinctively for an introduction, for loose working and testing, as was the case in the first piece.  I don’t know if you thought about it, but we didn’t use the grey rope again for the second performance. We went for an orange colour. In my mind it represented something that was beyond the first action.

Agnieszka Karasch: It came out as if we, by choosing a stronger material and definite colour, wanted to emphasise the stronger bond or as if we wanted to come up with a structure that cannot be broken as easily as was the case in the first piece.

Ram Samocha: Yes. The introduction of colour made our action more layered and complex because you cannot ignore the colour as you can in case of grey. There’s this feel to it like when you dress up and go out. To dress up would be the word to describe our second piece as oppose the first one – to be casual.
I also found our working in one circle more complicated than two of us in two separate circles.

Agnieszka Karasch: Let’s go back to these rules you mentioned at the beginning…
When I talked to you for the first time, when I observed your actions or way you handled the symposium from the perspective of a viewer in 2015 and then as a participant in 2016 – all these observations constituted the image of you being very spontaneous and flexible. I suppose you don’t calculate too much when you handle things, which is something that I possess too depending on circumstances, but on daily basis I am much more into controlling particular processes. I think I need and search for the counterpart, who gives me the possibility of loosening up. And I’ve noticed the same goes for my work environment.  I almost bump to personalities from who I learn how to let events just go with the flow. This is like breathing and letting yourself observe how things naturally evolve here and now instead of projecting and holding on to some kind of stiff system or vision. There are of course positive sides to any controlled process but there always must be a balance. For example, when I came for our show in London in 2016, I had this clear expectation that we would meet there in the gallery and we would check things out  first. So I came as a first one and waited for a while in front of the gallery. And I realized that I should stop expecting anything, that I should really let myself go smoothly into anything that would happen there. I kept telling myself that you wouldn’t have time for that as you’d be busy organizing, which by the way was true… I looked at how you dealt with the raw and unarranged space, problems and people coming, how you floated through all situations instead of imposing anything in advance. I came there and instead of getting what I had expected, that is an extended time for rehearsing, I got Nava Waxman who suddenly grew out of nowhere and we went for coffee (laugh). So I went with this flow, tried to relax and said to myself – this is how things should go, I should not expect anything from him, if he happens to do anything with me beforehand, it’ll already be an added value. To sup up this pre-stage of our performance, I just wanted to say that I appreciate that you, both as an organizer and my performance partner, possess this flexibility and  you let things evolve.

Ram Samocha: I think it was very important for us to exercise and to experience the strategy before the performance though. It all would have been totally different if I hadn’t rehearsed with you and been able to focus on rules that were important to you…, at least at a start. Also for understanding our relation physically. We did skype and then I met you before but I’d never drawn with you, so I didn’t really know what to expect. It kind of leads me to a question of result that has occupied my mind a lot since we met. We mentioned we worked differently. After we did the performances in London you did another one in Germany with a fellow artist you usually work with and the result was beautiful. Everything was perfectly interesting. While I was watching the documentation, I saw that the final result was something I was expecting to see. Based on this I could also relate to the documentation of your solo work in the studio. So there was some kind of a process combined with rules and eventually ended up with a very impressive and very tied drawing, leftovers and marks. That was very distinguished. One could understand the circles, the movements, one could understand the progression and that there was an interaction there, a sort of decision of how to do this wonderful drawing. That made me think about my practice, as I always come from myself, but it also made me think about our collaboration. What happened in our collaboration was that at the beginning we talked about the rules we set, about the rope, about you doing a circle, me doing a circle, your counting,  my counting, you going ahead and me going ahead… There were a lot of rules set up….  When I was watching our documentation, I saw that you introduced an eraser at some point, so you knew the rules but…,  I wouldn’t call it going against rules…, but it was as if a bad boy was trying to destroy something nice or something that was expected to happen.
I’ve been really noticing how people react to fine drawing and I think what you did in Germany and earlier in your studio was a fine drawing.

If you look at people who achieve success and follow some line of thinking, you see that there is some sort of perfection that really appeals to people and it causes that people cherish it more. Sometimes I have the feeling that when I do actions some are very successful and I am very pleased with the result but sometimes there are some where I know that most of viewers won’t be that impressed. In previous stages of my life I really liked this free and spontaneous approach but at this stage I understand that it can be an obstacle. I am not saying that I’ll be more precise or finer at everything I’m doing from now on but I’ve just realized that one of the things that brings success or recognition is being able to visually impress. Well, it’s hard because I have to commit to what I’m saying here…

Agnieszka Karasch:  I understand what you mean when you say it’s important to be able to impress… I’d develop it but I guess the word impress explains a lot. I think we often try to find this equilibrium between the meaning of what we do in art for life, for ourselves, for other people and something what we call beauty. Aesthetics is something very general but the idea of beauty is there within everyone. You don’t need to be a scholar. You can just be a 3-year-old child to see the beauty and its effects in you. Beauty is indeed a connection of different factors. It’s not only order and structure but also something that is inexplicable. So I completely know what you mean. To impress. It’s hard. This is what makes us professionals. For me striving for perfection is to connect these two areas.

Ram Samocha: Is it something you thought about before? Do you think about it when you are planning an action ahead? Do you want to make it appealing? What happened in our performance, especially in the second one, was destruction in fact. As you remember I pushed the circular drawing out. It sort of destroyed the whole system of mark-making, which I find very interesting… I also find our result very different from the way you were developing the whole process of the same solo drawing. So what do you think about it?

Agnieszka Karasch: When I worked with Ola on the same strategy of binding, which was half a year before you and I met, we first tested just movement and then we added drawing to that. I found the results nice and full of potential in sense of movement, connection and tensions that were between our bodies, but the visual effect of it all did not satisfy me. That image did not appeal to me in the sense that it was trivial… We analyzed the image with Adam and he said there could be done so much more within the visual realm.

Ram Samocha: Was it too technical?

AK: No, quite in contrary. The drawing was accidental.
You know, there is a difference for me between a structure or composition if you will and so called leaving marks. To me, one can do anything with his body in fact and later call it drawing . Hmm, the very thin line between the idea of drawing and mark-making… One can attach charcoal to his feet, just walk and it’ll also be called drawing. And in case of that very first testing with Ola, it was too little for me to make it justifiable, to give this action a reason to exist as drawing at all. I didn’t feel enough tension there, which for me came from the lack of some core. I thought that a certain effect on visual level would make the collaboration more meaningful. So I put an end to that testing with her and decided to work alone on these images. Then it happened so that I introduced you into that structure. You as a visual and performance artist, not as a dancer!

In the sense of collaboration, what is important for me is the distinction between so called drawing-together and real collaboration, real being together. Drawing together can be compared to the long-gone tradition of working in a master’s studio. One invites other people, gives them ideas to solve or to depict and they draw together. It’s not fulfilling in the sense of partnership. It’s just a nice way of spending time together. Collaboration in drawing, as well as in a wider sense, is something close to what we did, I guess… It’s like living through something complex, through some kind of conflict where both of us have to compromise a lot in order to continue with their own. We learn a lot from one another but about our individual selves in fact. Collaboration is not about copying or following another, not about looking into another’s piece of paper and trying either to draw it off or to visually deny it. In collaboration we compromise own decisions and projections, own way of structuring the picture, own way of movement. And in this sense I think our action was interesting for people that there was so much friction, so many real feelings that I think we both developed ranging from aggression, to compassion, readiness to help, jealousy and so on… I suppose there could have been similar feelings in yourself. There was of course following and being followed – this is how we started, but most of the time there was fight and conflict, control and giving up and a real compromise between you and me. This is something that I really appreciated about our show.
Now, getting back to the idea of impressing viewers… I think when two people really collaborate in performance they are not fully able to impress with their respective pictures. You are ultimately not able to present your own idea of a good picture to viewers. It has to be more or less a mess. It’s good though when this mess is justified by a line of our individual thoughts and when it results from conflict between us. In this sense your destruction and my erasing were completely exciting. Mess resulting from complacent rolling on the floor is simply boring.

Ram: So how was your overall feeling after the performance you did with Ola in Germany?

Agnieszka: With Ola it was a different situation. To tell you frankly, Ola is much more submissive than you.

Ram:  I am asking because it’s obviously very different from what we did. It interests me how my ability to destroy effected you in comparison to Ola’s ability to follow and finish an assignment. You completed your action with Ola and it went on as you had planned I guess… You looked at the final drawing and how did people react to it?

Agnieszka: I didn’t care too much then… We liked it. There was symmetry in it, the strokes were contrastive. As there were many thrusting and pushing movements. People usually like symmetry. But as far as the relation is concerned, it was not explored as it should be. Instead of 20 minutes, we should have gotten at least an hour for that performance in order to develop relational problems between us. I think I should repeat the whole thing with Ola and give it more time. We did not succeed in exploring the strategy because she was constantly following me. She did not switch from the initial “ok, I am feeling you out” to the mode of self-definition there. She stayed in the first option completely. She was very attentive and did not go over to her positions although I tried to provoke her. While we worked in the studio I wanted to push her into some struggle, but I think she missed it somehow.
As you said, you and I developed a multitude of layers that are to be seen in real life situations. In London we came up with something that was grounded in a real composition, in the real image but something that was finally transformed because of differences and problems between us.

Ram: Yes, but I have to say that first of all you achieved a lot in 20 minutes in terms of the visual layer. I like the possibility of starting something without putting an emotion. The relation is there as it is, but the technical progress and achieving something that is beautiful, powerful and impressive can be equally important, especially for the viewer.

Agnieszka: You are right! That is very true. But if you go one step further and want to analyze these dependencies in terms of working with students, which is my aim, then the question is whether you really do art with people who are submissive. A lot of them are submissive by the very nature of their position. In many cases they come to learn, to find out, to be told, to follow…

Ram: Yes.

Agnieszka: It all depends who you work with, you know. If you work with an artist, there must be a place for taking positions, I think. At least what I would expect from an artist is to take a position. When you place yourself as an instructor, guru, teacher there is this danger…

Ram: …of a student.

Agnieszka: …and of particular kind of relation that ceases to be truly collaborative in a way. It is something different but it’s not collaboration for me.

Ram: There are different types of collaboration. While you are saying this the first thing that comes to my mind are the instructions that Sol Lewitt gives for his wall drawings. This is collaboration! It’s very technical but at the end this is collaboration.

Agnieszka: Drawing together is also considered collaboration by many.
 Another meaning of collaboration however is compromising your own good in order to achieve some kind of position, like for example in times of conflict. Some people collaborate in order to at least partially preserve their position. They give something up, mainly their autonomy, but also gain a lot – for example safety. Collaboration for me is a tricky and intelligent game to survive – something different than just sitting next to another person and following certain rules.



Agnieszka: Well, to sum up – I think it’s always great to talk after than before. I tried to invite other people to collaboration and we did a lot of talking before anything actually took place. That ruined a lot. I am glad that we did not discuss before anything actually happened between us.
What are your plans for the upcoming year? Are you organizing the Draw to Perform this year?

Ram: Yes. The upcoming symposium will happen in Brighton in a very nice church that was converted into a centre for contemporary art, on the 4th and 5th of March. This time it’ll all be about drawing, movement and dance. There will also be five workshops there. The performing artists will be published very soon. I hope for this project to be successful and supported.

Agnieszka: And I wish you so. 


16.01.2017, Warsaw – Brighton