Peter Holmgård’s KDB

English text below

PETER HOLMGÅRDS KDB-HISTORIEPHmallet
Engang for længe siden var jeg med til at drive den legendariske, for længst gravlagte performancegruppe KOM DE BAGFRA(KDB).  Jeg udviklede og iscenesatte de fleste af KDB’s forestillinger. KDB standsede produktionen i 1998.
Af flere årsager giver det nu, mange år efter, mening at beskæftige sig med dette helt unikke kapitel i dansk (scene-)kunst-historie.

Noget der kendetegner fortællingen om KDB, er at der er mindst lige så mange forskellige versioner af historien som der var medvirkende.
Jeg har aldrig rigtig fået fortalt min egen historie om Kom De Bagfra. Mens vi var i gang synes jeg ikke det gav mening. Jeg lavede jo forestillingerne og de sagde lige præcis det der skulle siges. Efter vi standsede samarbejdet, var jeg mere optaget af de nye ting som skete og kunne ikke bruge krudt på det gamle. Nu vil jeg prøve at fortælle min egen KDBhistorie.

KDBs værker var kompositioner som blev bygget i billeder, lyd, bevægelse og mange andre udtryk. Forestillingerne var fyldt med referencer til kulturhistorien, popkultur, undergrunds-kult-fænomener, situationer i samtiden, egne personlige oplevelser osv. Men referencerne skulle ikke ses som nøgler til noget narrativt, de pegede ikke ud af selve forestillingen. Referencerne pegede indad. De skulle være med til at skabe mere direkte forbindelse med de af publikum som var i stand til at fange den slags subtiliteter og på den måde farve oplevelsen af værket i rigere nuancer. KDBs værker skulle ikke handle om noget, de skulle være noget i sig selv.

Ofte tog jeg udgangspunkt i og konstruerede situationer som resonerede med det specifikke rums karakteristika – arkitektur, vindforhold, historik, akustik osv.
Det at få værket til at svinge maksimalt med lige præcis denne aftens publikum, i præcis det specifikke rum var arbejdets højeste formål. Klare udsagn og fortællinger skulle konsekvent brydes, sløres og køres ud på vildspor, for ikke at blokere forestillingens frie flow.
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Jeg udviklede forestillingerne i frie associationsprocesser hvor jeg lod tankerne løbe frit. Jeg opsøgte situationer og tilstande hvor jeg kunne fortabe mig i visionerne. Jeg trak mig tilbage på en fjeldtop eller på barer i indre by og/eller i bøger, musik osv. Her fyldte jeg på med indtryk og lod indtrykkene strømme videre, forvandle sig og blande sig.

Nogle gange var der en decideret researchperiode før selve skrivearbejdet – som f eks i vores ”verdenshistoriske” værker i midten af 90’erne. Sammen med Steen Madsen og andre så vi kunst fra den periode vi havde valgt som tema – Middelalder(i den pre-Rafaelitiske tapning), Renæssance og Barok – spiste maden, læste historien, besøgte slottene osv. Alle disse indtryk tog jeg med mig ind i skriveprocessen hvor jeg slap dem løs og lod dem blive til frie elementer i kompositionen.

Jeg foretrak at bygge kompositionerne over helt simple dramaturgiske skeletter – f eks fra stille til eskalerende til klimaks og videre til stille udfadning, eller fra voldsomt, kaotisk til harmonisk og struktureret til opløsning eller…

De rent æstetiske rammer blev fra starten tegnet helt klart op for publikum; supersimple principper for forløbet, som betragteren straks kunne afkode og finde ro i. I forudsigeligheden skulle der gives et frirum for dybere oplevelse af værkets mange væsentlige detaljer – danserens muskeltegninger i lavendel lys, lyden af hammer og mejsel mod granit i solnedgangen, de øjeblikke af suspense-opbygning når man ved at den store sten snart falder og man klart sanser det punkt den skal falde på… osv.

I retrospekt kan meget af indholdet i forestillingerne sikkert læses som erotiske hallucinationer. Og det er da også et glimrende tematisk univers at boltre sig i hvis man nu absolut skal have et tematisk univers. Men det mente jeg jo som sagt ikke at jeg skulle. Billederne opstod som sagt i frie ”ekstatiske” associationsprocesser hvor jeg lod tankerne løbe frit. Og hos mig dukker der, i sådanne processer, uvægerligt en masse kvinder op i de fritløbende tanker. Og fra tankerne dansede de mange gange direkte ind på scenen. Men når vi nåede frem til selve iscenesættelsen, drejede de scener sig aldrig om sex, men om hvordan lyset spillede i svedperler der drev over spændte muskler, om kødets skælven efter springet… den slags væsentlige ting…
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Om det var mest billedkunst eller scenekunst eller noget helt tredje var og er aldeles ligegyldigt. Vi kaldte det performance – performancekunst eller performanceteater – når vi skulle kalde det noget.

Værkerne blev vist for levende publikum og de var bygget med den slags virkemidler som udfolder sig i tid – anslag, opbygning, suspense, rytme osv. – og adskilte sig derved fra de aktioner/performances der bliver vist i rent billedkunstneriske sammenhæng – så på den måde var det scenekunst.
Takket være Steen Madsens store arbejde lykkedes det at få produktionsstøtte til nogle af forestillingerne. Støtten kom mest fra de forskellige udgaver af Kulturministeriets Scenekunstudvalg, så også i den forstand var det scenekunst.

Men det var lige så meget skulptur, maleri, koncerter, poesi og meget andet. Og de tilskuere som fik mest ud af forestillingerne var da også dem som var ligeglade med den slags kategoriseringer. Til gengæld havde de for hvem kategoriseringer er vigATL-0010-D-FSTtige, det nok mange gange svært med værkerne. Det kunne være svært for en balletanmelder eller teaterkritiker at se værdien i en scene hvor den væsentlige fortælling drejede sig om hvordan hvidt lys lyder og en billedkunstanmelder havde svært ved at få øje på det væsentlige i samklangen mellem et repetitivt koreografisk forløb og flakkende bengalsk flamme…

Det var meget upraktisk ikke at forholde sig til de etablerede kategoriseringer – i forhold til bevillinger og PR og den slags – men det var her, et godt stykke udenfor de institutionelle rammer, at vi kunne skabe de helt unikke værker. Det var det værd!

I invitationen til gALLERIAs udstilling med fotografier fra KDB’s værker(2015) stod der at ”Gruppens forestillinger var båret af et stærkt billedsprog, skabt af iscenesætteren Peter Holmgård.” Det er naturligvis ikke helt rigtigt. Produktionerne var resultatet af mange begavede og viljestærke menneskers indsats. Jeg udviklede forestillingerne i tæt udveksling med de der mest entusiastisk kastede sig ind i kampen. Mine manuskripter var oplæg til samarbejde. Det færdige værk var ofte ret langt fra det jeg havde skrevet, men de overordnede bevægelser og de centrale billeder holdt som regel hele vejen.
Jeg kunne bruge den slags meget åbne manuskripter, fordi jeg i så høj grad var involveret i de mange forskellige processer hele vejen gennem produktionerne. Jeg brugte lige så meget tid og energi i smedeværkstedet som hos komponisten, i produktionsplanlægningen som i instruktionen.

Mange af KDBs medvirkende havde ligesom jeg, et romantisk og entusiastisk forhold til alle former for exces og det kunne mærkes på KDB´s værker. KDBs forestillinger var overdrevne – overdrevet larmende, overdrevet smukke, overdrevet fjollede, overdrevet store og grumme og produktionerne krævede overdreven arbejdsindsats af dem der vovede sig ind i processen. Og undervejs festede vi overdrevet.

Selv om KDB’s forestillinger var konsekvent plot-løse, tematikkerne omhyggeligt slørede og hele tilgangen dybt ”anti-rationel” så var der altid en stor enighed hos de medvirkende om hvad det var vi skulle formidle.
Alle i 30-personers-koret havde en klar fornemmelse for hvad det var de skabte, når de med staccato-dissonanser bevægede sig ud fra skyggerne og omringede publikum dengang i B&Ws enorme haller på Christianshavn. Teknikerne vidste hvorfor det var i præcis det øjeblik de skulle tænde de store vindmaskiner… Danserne forstod i ”bølge-scenen” i MALM at når deres rygge og arme brød ind i det dybrøde lys blev verden åndeløst vidunderlig.
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Vi gjorde det, sammen, for at opnå ”Suset” – den stærke ekstatiske følelse som henriver os når DET spiller. Det er nok det eneste jeg tror vi medvirkende kunne være helt enige om. Vi gik efter SUSET sammen og efter at dele det sus med de blandt publikum som var i stand til at sanse det.

Fortsættes…

PETER HOLMGÅRD’S KDB-STORY
Once, a long time ago, I was part of the legendary Danish Performance group KOM DE BAGFRA(KDB). I developed and staged most of KDB’s many performances. KDB stopped production in 1998. For various reasons, it now makes sense to take a look at this very unique chapter of Danish (performing-) art history.

The story about KDB is signified by the diversity of versions of the history, there are at least as many versions as the number of people participating. I never really got around to telling my own KDB story. While we where doing it 1986 – 1998, it didn’t make sense to talk about it. I was making the performances and they said everything that was worth saying. After we stopped the production, I was more interested in all the new things happening and could not spend energy on the old stuff.

Now I will try to tell my own KDB story. One reason is that one small part of that story is retold in a brand new work called REDUX – see more about that on LINK

KOM DE BAGFRA’s works where aesthetic compositions of images, sound, movement and many other means of expression. The performances where full of references to cultural history, pop culture, phenomenons in the dark cult-ish underground, situations in contemporary life, personal experiences etc. But the references should never be seen as keys to something narrative, they didn’t point to things outside the performance. The references pointed inward. They were meant to create more direct connection to those in the audience who where able to catch that kind of subtleties and colour the experience in richer nuances. KDB’s works should never be about anything, I wanted them to be something in themselves …

Often I would take the starting point in, and construct situations that resonated with, the characteristics of the specific space – architecture, wind conditions, history, acoustics etc. The main purpose of the work was always to make maximum connection with exactly this audience, this evening in this specific space.

Clear statements and narratives would consequently be broken up, covered and sent astray so they would not interrupt the free flow of the performance.

I developed the works in processes of association, where I let my mind run free. I put myself in situations and states of mind where I could lose myself in the vision. I retired to a mountaintop or to bars downtown or/and in books, music etc. Here I loaded myself with impressions and let the impressions flow on, change and mix. Sometimes there was a period of actual research before the writing – for example in our “History of the world” performances in the mid 90’ies. Together with Steen Madsen and others we saw the art from the period we had chosen for a theme – Middle ages(the pre-Raphaelitic version), renaissance and baroque – we ate the food, read the history, visited the castles etc. All these impression I brought into the writing process where I set them loose and let them become free elements in the composition.

I preferred to build the compositions over very simple dramaturgic frames – from calm to escalating to climax and then onwards to quiet fading, or from violently, chaotic to harmonious and structured to dissolving or…

The aesthetic framework of each performance was from the beginning made absolutely clear to the audience – super simple principles for the progress, that the viewer could instantaneously understand and find peace in. In the predictability, we wanted to create a free space for deeper experiencing of the works many essential details – the sculptural quality of the dancers muscles in lavender light, the sound of hammer and chisel on granite in the sunset, the moments of suspense building when you are aware that the large stone will fall soon and you physically and clearly can sense the point of the floor where it will fall…. Etc.

In retrospect, much of the content in the performances OHU-0003-P-FSTcan be interpreted as erotic hallucinations. Certainly that is an excellent thematic universe to work in, if you feel that you absolutely need to work inside a thematic universe. But I didn’t feel that. As mentioned the images appeared in “ecstatic” processes of association, where I let my mind run free. And for me, in processes like that, women will invariably appear in the free running mind. And from the mind they many times danced straight onto the stage. But when we came to the actual staging, these scenes were never meant to provoke erotically. They were very sensual but not really erotic… It was all about how light plays in drops of sweat on tight muscles, how the flesh shivers after the jump… essential things like that…

Whether it was more visual art or stage art or something else, was utterly unimportant. We called it performance – performance art or performance theater – when we had to call it something.

The works were presented for live audiences and were composed of the means of expression that unfolds over time – rhythm, suspense etc. – and in that sense they were different from the actions / performances that used to happen in purely visual art contexts, so in that sense it was stage art. Thanks to Steen Madsen’s colossal effort, we managed to get support for some of the productions. The support mainly came from the council for Performing Arts in the Ministry of Culture, so also in that sense it was stage art.

But it was just as much sculpture, painting, concerts, poetry and more. And the audience, who liked the work most, was clearly people who didn’t care about that kind of categorizations. On the other hand, the people who did care about categorizations would often have “problems” with the work. It was difficult for a ballet or theatre critic to see the value of a scene, where all the essential narration is about the sounds of white light and a visual arts critic would have some difficulty seeing the importance in the resonance between a repetitive choreographic sequence and flickering Bengal pyrotechnics. It was very un-practical, not to be able to relate to the established categorizations – in connection with PR and fundraising – but it was here, far from the institutional framework, that we could make these very unique works. It was worth it!

In the invitation to gALLERIAS exhibition with photographs of the works of KOM DE BAGFRA, it said that: “The group’s performances was carried by a strong visual language, created by Peter Holmgård” This is of course not completely true. The productions were the result of a great effort by many talented and strong-minded people. I developed the performances in close collaboration with those who most enthusiastically engaged them selves in the work.
The finished piece was very often quite far from what I had originally written, but the overall movements and central images would usually remain until the premiere.
I could use that kind of open manuscripts because I was so deeply involved in all the different processes in the production. I spent as much time in the metal workshop as I did with the musical composer, in production planning and in directing the performers.

Many among the KDB participants had, like me, a romantic and enthusiastic relationship to all forms of excess and that reflected in the works. KDB’s performances were excessive – excessively noisy, excessively beautiful, excessively silly, excessively large and grotesque and the productions demanded excessive work effort of those who ventured into the process. And on the way we partied excessively. Even now I realize that I love to use the word excessive excessively.

Even though KDB’s performances were consequently plot-less, themes were carefully cloaked and the entire approach was deeply anti-rational, there was always a great agreement among the participants about what it was that we tried to put out.

Everyone in the 30 person choir had a clear sense of what they where doing when they, singing sharp staccato dissonance chords, moved from the shadows and surrounded the public in the old shipyard factory halls in Copenhagen. The technicians new exactly why it was in that precise moment they should start the big wind machines… The dancers understood in the “wave scene” in MALM, that when their backs and arms broke into the dark red light the world became breathlessly wonderful.

We did it together, to get the “Rush” – the strong ecstatic feeling that fills us when IT is really playing. That is, I think, the only thing that we who participated can agree upon. We went for the RUSH together and for sharing the rush with those in the public who were able to sense it.
To be continued…