Eine bilinguale Interview-Performance mit Nayana Bhat

11 Nov

In Indien geboren und aufgewachsen, weitgereist und seit einigen Jahren in Österreich ansässig: Nayana Bhat. Die junge Tänzerin und Choreographin lädt am 18. November mit „A Duet. Ein Solo“ ihr Publikum beim Open Mind Festival 2015 zu einer Reise zwischen zwei Welten ein. In ihrem humorvollen Performance-Experiment widmet sie sich auf ihre ganz spezielle Weise Identitätskonstruktionen und kulturellen Missverständnissen. Ich habe bereits jetzt die Chance genutzt und Nayana vorab ein paar Fragen in deutscher Sprache zu Kultur, Identität und (ziemlich naheliegend) Nayana Bhat gestellt; ihre Antworten auf Englisch hier zum Nachlesen:

Veronika: In deiner Performance „A Duet. Ein Solo“ begibst du dich auf die Suche nach dir selbst. Du tauchst in zwei parallele Welten ein, die in Kontrast zueinander stehen und sich nie treffen. Handelt es sich dabei um eine autobiographische Reise, auf die dich die Besucher*innen des Open Mind Festivals begleiten dürfen?
Nayana: Identity is a complex theme, and probably the most pondered over subject ever in the history of mankind. “A Duet. Ein Solo” is a perspective, not an answer. And I have strived to keep up the complexity of the subject in this work, focusing on what an elusive thing identity is. Yes, it is partly a (re)search into who I am, but by putting it out on stage, it becomes a story of everyone who is a part of that process. In that sense, this is not at all an autobiography because I am using my life, as well as lives of others around me, as a context to tell the story of multi-dimensional identity. The piece is structured in such a way that those that are watching should have the room to connect with themselves and to their own stories while being with me. I hope that I will succeed in creating this experience.

V: Du selbst bist in Indien geboren und aufgewachsen, wohnst jetzt aber bereits seit einigen Jahren in Österreich. Was sind deines Erachtens die prägnantesten Unterschiede zwischen der indischen und der österreichischen Nayana Bhat?
N: The biggest difference between me then and now is that I am a fuller person, with rounder experiences, worldview and an expanded sense of self. On one hand, if you look at it, these parallels don’t really meet. But on the other I am the same person, no matter where I am. Whether in India or in Europe, I am the common factor in these two worlds. To me, that was a very powerful experience towards all-inclusiveness.
Also, I think I discovered my “Indian self” after I moved to Austria. I developed a profound understanding of my own roots. I find that ironic, because I had to go so far away from “home” to understand what home means. And now when I visit India, the way I experience myself and my surroundings has completely changed, probably to the better.

V: Welche indischen Eigenheiten an dir fallen dir besonders in Österreich auf und hast du bereits österreichische Merkmale angenommen, die dir vor allem im Ausland bewusst werden?
N: There are so many! But the most peculiar is, incidentally, the contradiction between what is identity for an Indian as opposed to what is identity for an Austrian/European. Indian culture has a strong focus on communal living. Without one’s community, family, surrounding, we are nothing. It is very important that we are connected with our extended families and “our” people. In a way I find that limiting, because it limits my individual identity.
But on the other hand, I do find the individual-oriented European society rather isolated. Do not mistake me, for I absolutely appreciate the individual freedom it gives me! But several times I find people around me hesitating to take what their space is in my life, in expressing their feelings or intimacy, because they are worried of “over-stepping” a limit. But to closer to one another, we must over-step certain limits. More than anything else, it is these oppositions within social systems I find extremely interesting.

V: Was bedeuten für dich als weitgereiste Künstlerin eigentlich Identität und Kultur?
N: I feel, the subject of identity and culture is a beautiful paradox for an artiste. On one hand, you are an artist and you try to create what the human spirit longs for – connection and union. You seek transcendence beyond your fragmentation, seek to connect with everyone and everything around you, experiencing that sense of oneness. On the other hand, our perception of individual identity is probably the biggest divisive factor one can ever experience. We need our identities to survive in a social sense, and yet we long to lose it to oneness. The very existence of a division makes the connection that much more meaningful. Personally, the tension in between these opposites is what I find important as an artist. I believe that we need this tension in order to create meaningful art that goes out there and touches people.

V: Der Identitätsgedanke ist in deiner Performance omnipräsent, du siehst ihn allerdings nicht nur todernst, sondern auch als „humorvolles Performance-Experiment über Identitätskonstruktionen und kulturelle Missverständnisse“. Was inspirierte dich dazu, dieses Stück zu entwickeln?
N: Whoever said existentialism is devoid of humour!? I find humour quintessential to be able to dig out answers for existential questions. It helps us deal with the occasional harshness of life. The very fact that we seek answers is ridiculous, because questions are a result of our thinking mind, which is a result of the ego, which doesn’t really exist! But we need the mind and everything it brings. I am not shying away from this hard fact. But to support myself through this exploration, naturally, I use humour to go through this journey, not only in my piece but also in general life.

V: Was war dein amüsantestes kulturelles Missverständnis?
N: I had told a few times a good friend of mine here in Salzburg, “Visit me sometime, when you are around”, expecting him to spontaneously drop by. He never did. And after sometime, when I visited him, I asked him “hey why don’t you ever come visit me? It is always me visiting you.” And he said, rather annoyed, “But you never invited me!” I was kind of confused, because in my opinion I had already invited him to come whenever he wanted, not only on formal invitations! While to me that was a big privilege to give someone, to him it meant nothing because he is used to the Austrian way: non-intrusive and formal invitations. Of course, then I formally invited him over for lunch, with fixed date and time. It was a funny insight. We all wish to be loved, cared for, and respected. But many times we are unable to understand or receive these positive expressions across cultures. So many such experiences make me realize, what a hardcore thing cultural-conditioning is, even though people are the same everywhere.

V: Du bist nicht nur Tänzerin und Choreographien, sondern hast auch mehrere Jahre als Journalistin gearbeitet und führst heute noch deinen eigenen Blog. Wie ist es für dich einfacher, sich auszudrücken: über das Medium der Schrift oder im Tanz, durch Bewegung und Gestik?
N: In the end, journalism and dance are not very far away from each other. I have an eternal journalist in me – someone who is curious, who digs out facts and answers, who is interested in what is going on around and inside of her. I am all for the absoluteness of the written word. And everything that the written word lacks – the abstractions of the ever-changing body, I seek through dance and movement. To me they are complimentary to one another, like India and Europe.

V: Hast du dich gefunden und wie beschreibst du dich selbst?
N: Hahaha. After years of processing unending questions about identity, what I do know is there is nothing called finding oneself. One’s self forms and dissolves away and forms and dissolves away. There is no holding onto it. But if one develops the skill and the strength for it, one can stay present to one’s ever-changing self.
I have changed constantly, and more importantly to me, I think have managed to sustain it. I pray that strength stays. If I should describe how I experience myself that would be rather simple. A curious, keen, relentless person.



Foto © Bernhard Müller


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