Take a walk (and talk) on the wild side

Austrian choreographer Phillipp Gehmacher has developed a new form of lecture-performance in which choreographers talk about movement while moving.

Walk+Talk 370 (photo credit: Georg Eckmayr)
Walk+Talk 370
(photo credit: Georg Eckmayr)
Walking and talking are two of the most basic actions a person can perform.
That said, the combination of these simple activities has led to many and varied forms of expression, from theater to dance to rap music. For Austrian choreographer Phillipp Gehmacher, walking and talking are the foundations of an intricate and personal practice that has been developing over the past several years.
Gehmacher is currently in Israel for the first time as a guest of Arkadi Zaides’ Moves Without Borders, an initiative that brings international artists to the country interact with the local dance community.
Zaides first saw Gehmacher’s work at a theater in Berlin about three years ago. He immediately recognized in Gehmacher a potential partner in the project he was scheming up. “Arkadi invited me shortly afterwards to come to Israel,” said Gehmacher in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post.
“He told me that he wanted to bring people that were working internationally to understand what is going on locally and for locals to understand what is going on internationally. I was curious about Israel so we started to discuss the possibility of my teaching and performing.”
Gehmacher is the second guest of Zaides’, following the visit of his collaborator Meg Stuart’s November visit. While in town, Stuart taught a three-day workshop, hosted a onehour laughter session and performed an evening of solos at Warehouse 2 in Jaffa. The engagement was a huge success and managed to engage a wide range of local artists.
Initially, Gehmacher’s visit was meant to precede that of Stuart’s, however, due to the unstable political situation in Israel last November, he was forced to postpone. “I was a little unprepared to understand what the situation was really like so I decided not to go at that specific moment,” he explained.
The extra time to plan this visit afforded both Gehmacher and Zaides the opportunity to broaden the scope of his activities while in town. Gehmacher’s time in Israel will touch on many facets of his current artistic exploration. On Tuesday and Wednesday night, Gehmacher will perform at the Tmuna Theater in Tel Aviv. For the past several days, Gehmacher has been busy teaching a workshop of his practice, called walk+talk, at the Kelim Choreography Program in Bat Yam.
In addition, an installation of his video creations entitled “From Postures to Gestures to Objects to Words” is now on display at the Halalit Gallery on Hayarkon Street.
Gehmacher was born and raised in Austria. In 1993, he traveled west to London where he studied at the Laban Center and the London Contemporary Dance School. His first choreographies were created during his time in England. In 1999, Gehmacher returned to Vienna. His works Good Enough and Mountains Are Mountains quickly won the attention of dance-lovers and critics.
Walk+talk began some five years ago as an experiment. He invited 10 of his peers to take the stage at a Vienna theater. These artists were asked to talk about their work as choreographers. On the bare stage, the participants came to life, conveying their thoughts on movement while moving around the space. The event fired Gehmacher’s imagination, setting him on a path that has resulted in the creation of a new genre of performance. Gehmacher teaches his method to professional dancers around the world.
“I’ve taken a tremendous journey from seemingly being nonverbal and reduced to more expressive.
It’s very important for me to communicate now. When you, as an artist, have a body of work you have a responsibility to that work. When the work is not easily taken or accepted or seen by an audience you have to take even more care of the work. The challenge is to continue to share, to communicate and to take a new step,” he said.
Recently, Gehmacher has become more and more taken with the notion of performing outside of the theater. His work has easily transitioned into museum halls, where the pedestrian-style movement of his performances receives new context.
He often collaborates with artists from the theater, visual arts and performance fields. In 2007, Gehmacher joined forces with Meg Stuart to create Maybe Forever, a candid duet about love lost.
“My favorite thing about performances is the live moment. I guess my favorite thing and my least favorite is that it is timed. Even if it’s durational work, it is timed. You have to deal with the attention you are demanding,” he said.
Phillipp Gehmacher will perform walk+talk/Lecture Performance at the Tmuna Theater tonightat 8 p.m. For more information, visit www.tmu-na.org.il.