What is it about?
It is not "about" something, it "is".
What is the relationship between your artistic work and your research?
In my performances I just do whatever I feel like. Obviously, my work is informed by my research, just as my research is informed by my experience as a choreographer and photographer, but it is not an illustration of my research. Ultimately, like every other artist, I want to create something that I myself am pleased with. Since I'm very critical and hardly ever satisfied with my own work I keep on trying and experimenting.
As much as I enjoy listening to music and as much as I enjoy reading I never felt like making music or writing a novel or a short story. I also enjoy food and typography, but I never felt like becoming a chef or a typographer either. I grew up with experimental theatre and contemporary art, but it wasn't until I was at university that I became interested in dance. One day I saw a performance by William Forsythe and it was as if I saw my own thoughts materialized on stage. At some point I decided to try and put my thoughts onto stage myself.
Which artists or thinkers influenced you most?
I would have to divide this into different periods to make some kind of intellectual itinerary. Pending that: William Forsythe, Merce Cunningham, Rem Koolhaas, Georges Perec, David Foster Wallace, Gerhard Richter, Rei Kawakubo, Pina Bausch, David Carson, Frank Castorf, Jacques Derrida, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Stephen Shore, William Eggleston, Lee Friedlander, Robert Wilson and Thomas Ostermeier.
Didn't (..) already do that?
I don't claim that my work is 100% original. Of course, the whole notion of originality is one of the most contentious concepts in contemporary aesthetics. In everything I do, whether I'm creating a dance performance or taking photographs, I follow my own fascinations. There are, however, likely to be people who share the same fascinations. My way of working is constantly evolving. And yes, I know that William Forsythe has developed many improvisation techniques, that John Zorn used games in some of his work, that Pina Bausch presented the dancers with lists of questions and that countless artists in various fields have used cut and paste techniques of some kind.
How would you describe your work?
Between baroque modernism and dirty realism. I once coined the term pro-formalism to describe my approach to dance and choreography, because everything is done by the book and according to the rules, but that was a joke.
Is it all improvised?
Yes and no. The individual movements are based upon a set of choreographed phrases, everyday movements and a number of improvisation techniques. The spatial and temporal organisation and the interaction between the dancers are also based upon a set of rules or instructions. However, the dramaturgy as well as the lighting, the music, the costumes and the set design are all set. Thus, the beginning and the end may be set, even though dancer A may emerge from the left in one performance and from the right in the next. There are also different scenes or sections. The order of the scenes may again be set or interdependent (e.g. if certain phrases are performed in the third scene, this determines what happens in the fifth or sixth scene). Since the "input" as well as the rules and techniques differ from one piece to another, every piece has a distinct signature. Since the individual movements are improvised, or at least up to a point, each performance is singular.
Did you ever take dance lessons yourself?
No, I never took any dance classes. I never took a photography course either. Everything I learned, I learned by closely studying the work of artists I admire and by experimenting myself. I did have the privilege of being able to watch the creation and rehearsals of several productions by William Forsythe.
Did you ever consider working with amateur dancers?
I did, but when I'm working on a project I prefer to work with professional dancers. The reason is twofold. An amateur can do something good and surprising by chance. A professional can be consistently good and occasionally brilliant. You can watch plenty of amateur dancers on YouTube. People who pay to attend a performance or visit a gallery want to experience something they can't experience on YouTube or elsewhere. To achieve that you need to work with professionals.
What is your favourite city?
Paris, because it has so many cultural institutions; New York, because the dynamic is contagious; Hong Kong and Los Angeles because of the endless photographic opportunities and London, because I still feel at home whenever I visit.
What are your favourite travel destinations?
I haven't travelled to every corner of the earth, so the present list is preliminary. No matter which other places I visit the U.S. South West and in particular Utah will always remain in my top three. I also like the Swiss and French Alps and I would like to go back to Norway. Otherwise Italy and Spain have everything: beautiful landscapes, a rich cultural history and excellent food.
What event changed your life?
I guess that would have to be the first time I attended a dance performance or perhaps the first time I saw the Ballett Frankfurt perform. Otherwise, I remember seeing the Comme des Garçons Spring 1992 RTW collection, which came as a shock of recognition. Suddenly a lot of things that had been lingering somewhere in the back of my mind fell into place. Shirts can have sleeves of different length, buttons don’t have to be evenly spaced, fabrics can be mixed etc. In 2001 I visited some of the National Parks in California. I'd always been more of a city dweller, but since then I've become an outdoor enthusiast and an avid hiker. A few years ago I did a glacier hike, which totally blew my mind. It's the closest thing to being on another planet. Since then I try to visit at least one glacier every year.
What, if anything, do you regret most?
In general I would say I regret taking too much risk when I shouldn't have and not taking enough risk when I should have.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don't be shy. Stop wasting your time. Go out more. Invest your time and energy in projects with a large upside. Do what you can do now and what might become more difficult when you grow older.