TANZQUARTIER WIEN: THROUGH THE CITY WITH SATU HERRALA AND DAVID BERGÉ
By Elke Krasny
The walking guide presses down the handle of the door to the playground. It cannot be opened yet. It's too early in the day. The group met in front of Mariahilfer Kirche. It set out quietly at a time when the city was waking from its sleep. Together they circle the playground. Exactly when they are crossing the street the park attendant drives up in her car and takes out the key. Did someone order her appearance, or did the choreography of chance take care of this exact timing?
Experiences unfold along the way. So far, so current. So far, so familiar. The city users write their everyday footnotes into the urban gear of transient movements. But nothing of that remains. So, without thinking about it they float through the city as if without trace. The spans of attention get lost. The senses become dull.
The photographer David Bergé and the choreographer Satu Herrala developed their "Vienna Footnotes" as an aesthetic practice of joint walking. Over several weeks of research and testing all kinds of paths in Vienna they developed precise dramaturgies for their co-walkers that do not only take into account the city's edifical manifestations but also their concrete experiencability which changes according to light incidence, season and even time of day. An ingenious play of pausing and frames creates new details of the city, lets familiar things enter the perspective of the unseen. Matter-of-fact perception becomes the art of observation. Only small groups, five to seven people are taken along on their walk by David Bergé and Satu Herrala. The group should still be able to move at the border of inconspicuousness.
The performance is its reading, too
The interplay between their own steps and the city's dynamics creates the performance for all. No path is like any other. The performance at the same time is its own reading. Chance becomes the best teammate. The intensities are tempting. The paths subtly compose in up and down, middle and side of the street, stopping and walking on, in framing outlooks and amazing insights, in raw surfaces and smooth subsurface, in transitions and overlays between private, public and half-public. Bergé and Herrala stress that it is an "exposure of the group" as much as an "exposure of the surroundings".
Wanderlust was the name of Rebecca Solnit's book about the history of walking. For the American author walking is a matter for amateurs who roam the fields of all other experts from anatomy up to religion. "Footnotes" transforms the walkers into observers. As an expert of its own doings, the city once again turns into a landscape that invites one for surreal temptations and is able to unfold in spite of the consumist entertainment paradigm. Attention gets sharper by the sequences. Thus not only one's visual power of observation is challenged but the acoustic one, too.
There were three days for walking. Each day there also were three appointments: 5:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.. Two tour guides: Bergé and Herrala. That's 3 x 3 x 2. Altogether 18 paths. But you can't calculate like that, for by walking every one creates her or his own performance of the path. A multiplication! Once along the way you cross the other group. It, too, is silent. One perceives each other. Silence intensifies the experience. Little signs of the tour guide show the way. In the lift to the right floor. In lofty heights a window is opened. The air of expectancy gets thicker along the way. Taking a seat on a bench. Everyone you pass is a potential actor/actress. Their story is never written. Their performance remains unknown.
Many years ago Peter Eisenman tried to change the relationship between architecture and text. Eisenman radicalised his gesture by also taking the text out of text. What remained was a white sheet with footnotes. The disappearance of meaning into the footnote is the academic heartbeat of references. David Bergé and Satu Herrala transplant the footnotes back into the city, and entirely unacademically allow them to translate themselves step by step into a pleasant life of their own, which fills itself with a wealth of meanings and could fill lots of empty sheets.