Raul Maia is a Portuguese physical performance artist. His focus as a maker is in creating frames for physical behaviour practices from which physical language can arise and be re-contextualized into an artistic object. He also dedicates himself to the creation of soundscapes in the frame of his own performances. He splits his time between his own work and his ongoing artistic collaboration with Belgium choreographer Thomas Steyaert. His work has been shown in festivals and houses such as ImpulsTanz(at), Xplore dance Festival(ro), Potsdam Tanzfabrik(de), Idans Istanbul(tur), Tanzquartier (at), WUK(at), Brut(at) andD.D.D. (pt) among others. As a performer he has collaborated with ultima vez/ Wim Vendekeybus, Tino Sehgal, Fanni Futterknecht, Alexander Gottfarb, Sofia Dias and Vitor Roriz, Paul Wenninger and Catarina Miranda amongst others.
A place in the spectrum:
Attempting to define one-self as a maker is always a fragile and perhaps ultimately flawed activity. Some would say it is perhaps better achieved by someone who actually studied performance theory and with enough academic background and distance to sustain the claims in his discourse. That being said, the validity of a more academic approach does not perhaps exclude the value of sharing a maker’s inner processes and principles. Personally I find that having access to the maker’s inner perspective can be a very fertile experience, bringing us closer to understand how they dissect and fragment the components that amount to his/her body of work and consequently new ways of formulating a particular vision of reality. It can change how we look at specific works, but also at the enormous diversity of art making processes. In this perspective, I couldn’t resist to lay bare some of the principles at the base of my work. Such a description is of course always incomplete and flawed but that is by no means a good enough reason not to do it...
Before a maker becomes a maker, he is often a spectator. What I crave for as a spectator highly informs what I want to make. So in a sense, watching can be a way “into the rabbit hole” of performance making. So let us start with that:
Even though I can enjoy all sorts of qualities in a performance, I came to realise that as a spectator nothing excites me more than the friction between understanding and not understanding. I hunger for the experience of performative universes that are simultaneously cohesive, codified, systematised and at the same time alien, obscure and uncanny. This co-existence between the known and the unknown fires my imagination, and projects me into the awoken-dream, which is where I want to be as a spectator, as a maker and as a practitioner.
As a maker:
I think the most effective way I can describe my work is as performative riddles. I am fascinated with our common need (as humans) of creating narratives in order to make sense of the world around us. This very human condition makes us pre-disposed, sometimes even dependent, on attributing sense to the multiplicities of happenings that compose our lives (even if apparently unrelated). The narratives we assemble play an important part in defining how we organise our choices, our thoughts and our actions. As a performance maker I see this pre-disposition for assembling narratives, as the raw material for my work.
Because each individual perspective of the world is always partial and incomplete, assembling coherent narratives somehow implies that we have to fill in the gaps of the missing information. Filling in the gaps, combines deductive thinking with a good dosage of imagination. And if Imagination is a key ingredient for making sense of the world around us, then the theatre is perhaps the perfect laboratory to expand it, to practice it. So in a sense all I am trying to do is to propose to an audience a perceptual problem, luring the spectator into asking the question “ what reasons could justify this reality?”.In my vision the process of asking this question can lead us to imagine/articulate what we have not before imagined while happily striding towards an often impossible resolution.
As a movement practitioner:
Even though I would instinctively not frame my work as “contemporary dance”, the activities the performers engage with on-stage are definitely coming from movement based practices. Most of these practices are aimed at approaching movement as a form of language: physical language. By physical language I do not mean a form that communicates a coherent aesthetic to an audience, but a construction of codes shared and practiced by the performers that allows them to experience meaningful dialogues with one another in real-time. The original goal of attempting to engage in physical communication was to find a valid alternative to representation as the main activity of a performer on stage. Consequently, as a common denominator in my work, the audience is invited to witnesses the particular nuances of physical communication as the main movement material.
The methodology used to create physical languages follows a simple principle: It proposes the idea that if our behaviour and our language are largely a result of the conditions we live in, then if we change the conditions we live in, we will change our behaviour and our language. Accordingly, within the context of my work I attempt to design alternative conditions for physical behaviour, which in time results in the formation of new language. The performers spend a great deal of time of the creation process operating/behaving under these alternative conditions so that the physical language can really become integrated as a natural form of their behaviour. The conditions from which the language arises, are usually related to interfering in the conventions that define the relation between thought and movement, rewiring our brain to prioritise other kinds of information other then the organic flow of functional everyday behaviour.
In my work there is constant co-existence between what is written/fixed and what is open and negotiated in real-time. In terms of movement, the codes that define the physical languages are fixed and rather concrete in nature. The content itself however is open, subjective and often unpredictable (much like in an oral conversation). The main reason for this approach is that I tend to envision the theatre room as a place for humans to observe other humans operating and interacting in real-time according to new imagined logics of existence (even if ephemeral, even if useless). I believe exposing people to this kind of experience can have an impact on how we perceive the world we live in and how we inter-act with our surroundings.