warehouse warehouse

Traces of Places: My Dog is My Piano

by Antonia Baehr,  introduction by Anneliese Ostertag
transparency by Antonia Baehr

Tocki and Bettina von Arnim live together in the same house. They do not speak the same language, they are hardly alike and yet, they have assembled.

In the sonic lecture performance “My Dog is My Piano”, Antonia Baehr sketches a subjective acoustic portrait of the affinity between her mother, Bettina von Arnim, and her dog, Tocki: What kind of language emerges from this long duet of everyday comings and goings, of these choreographies of affinities? “My Dog is my Piano“ engages with a very specific companionship. Yet it examines ways of observing and recording in general. It maps traces, archival material and acoustic inscriptions and drafts a score for an interspecies togetherness. The house in which Bettina von Arnim and Tocki live becomes an archive itself, precious for archaeological examinations. Over years dogs and humans have lived there together leaving traces in the architecture and the ecosystem: scratches on the doors, dents on steps, bird’s nests built out of dog’s hair. The archive encapsulates Bettina von Arnim and Tocki. They do not only articulate every notch and trace there is; they also established a language, an acoustic archive that witnesses their companionship. In “My Dog ​​is my Piano”, the house of Bettina von Arnim becomes the score of the choreography of everyday life. The score presents the means of analysis and in the end it is the score that characterizes and transcribes the relationships. 1

“My Dog is My Piano” has three parts. In part one Antonia Baehr stands behind a table with two turntables and a mixer on it, like a DJ. Antonia Baehr spins two records each under one hand, labeling and commenting along her sound experiments. In part two Antonia Baehr manipulates transparencies and objects on an overhead projector, while a video of an interview with her mother is projected superimposing the overhead images. In the last part Antonia Baehr becomes Tocki, Bettina von Arnim, the record players and the mixer and the house altogether at the same time with her voice. Antonia Baehr stands motionless behind her music stand and performs. And here is the score of “My Dog is My Piano”, interspersed with audio excerpts of the live performance 2 images and interview sequences between Bettina von Arnim and Antonia Baehr.


Fußnoten

  1. cf. Nanna Heidenreich, My Dog is My Piano

  2. Recorded live on the 25 May 2013, at tramway, in Glasgow

  3. In 1937 their beloved Basket died, and Gertrude Stein and Alice B.Toklas got another poodle who they named Basket. “Basket, a large, unwieldy white poodle, still will get up on Gertrude’s lap and stay there. She says that listening to the rhythm of his water drinking made her recognize the difference between sentences and paragraphs, that paragraphs are emotional and sentences are not.– The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, by Gertrude Stein

I started this work upon an invitation to partake in a conference on affinities by the philosophers François Noudelmann and Avital Ronell in New York City in the Fall of 2011. Some further participants were Pierre Bayard, Judith Butler, Hélène Cixous and Yann Toma. Donna Haraway was inivited as well but she had to stay home with her dogs. She was present all the same through her book “The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People and Significant Otherness” that I was offered to read for the occasion. I was programmed in the night about musical patterns of affinity.

Six years later, this invitation by warehouse to contribute to an ethnographic online archive brought my mother’s dog to play being her piano again, since it is the perfect project for this invitation: an online archive about a live work about a kind of archive that is alive because that archive is played live everyday by its protagonists… Oh dear this sounds quite nebulous. Anyway, here it is. – Antonia Baehr

_____________________________________________PART 1, SIDE A (THE PARALLEL LIFE, LIVING SIDE BY SIDE)_____________________________________________

ANTONIA BAEHR,

standing behind a DJ table with two turntables and a mixer on it, three-quarter facing the audience. She wears red nail polish on her left hand. The speakers in the room are paned left/right.

Good evening. My name is Antonia Baehr and I will present “My Dog is My Piano”, a sonic lecture-performance in three parts.

She plays the first track, looks at the audience once it plays.

She says to the audience:

My mother, the painter and engraver Bettina von Arnim, and Tocki, her dog, live together in same house since nearly four years in the South of France. They don’t speak the same language, they are hardly alike, and yet, they have assembled. This is part one. Part one could be called “Qui se ressemble s’assemble” or “Qui ne se ressemble pas s’assemble”. It’s a french saying which means “Who resembles tends to assemble”.

¤ On this record, I have my mother, Bettina

¤ On this record, I have Tocki, her dog

You just heard: LATE MORNING, IN THE STUDIO UNDER THE ROOF, SEWING AND GROOMING.

SOME HOURS LATER, MOTHER SEWING

She plays the track.

DOG SRATCHING HIMSELF

She plays the track.

I compare.

She fades from on record to the other on the mixer.

I mix.

She mixes the two sounds on the records.

late morning, in the studio under the roof, sewing and grooming, dog scratching himself

LUNCH TIME, IN THE KITCHEN,

DOG EATING UNDER THE STOOL

She plays the track called “gamelle“ (dog’s bowl in French).

WOMAN EATING SITTING AT THE TABLE

She plays the tracks.

I juxtapose.

On the mixer she goes from one sound on the one record to the other sound on the other record, in fast back and forth motions.

I assemble.

She pans the sound to the left and then to the right. Tocki has two tracks, Knochen (bone in German) and gamelle (dog’s bowl in French)“.

lunch time, in the kitchen: dog eating under the stool, woman eating sitting at the table

EARLY AFTERNOON, AFTER THE SIESTA,

BETTINA DRINKING WATER, and: TOCKI DRINKING WATER

I phase up.

Without motor, she tries to phase both records up.

A SENTENCE ” ”

She gestures accents and holds with one hand in the air.

A PARAGRAPH ( )

She gestures stormy bubbling and emotional, with both hands, legato. 3

A WORD

She does one signle quick fade up and down.

A SONG

She starts gesturing like paragraph, then with both hands in the air, and she gets into the space with her gaze, reaching out of the theatre.

early afternoon, after the siesta: Bettina drinking water & Tocki drinking water

________________________________________PART 1, SIDE B (THE SHARED LIFE, RELATING TO EACH OTHER)________________________________________

This was side A, THE PARALLEL LIFE; LIVING SIDE BY SIDE //

She pans the sound to the middle.

And now we come to side B, THE SHARED LIFE; RELATING TO EACH OTHER #

on the stairs of the house: walking up and down the floors together

ON THE STAIRS OF THE HOUSE: WALKING UP AND DOWN THE FLORS TOGETHER

She turns the records to side B and puts the needles on.

WITH 6 LEGS ” “”

She gestures walking up the three flors of the house with four fingers on the left hand and two fingers, index and middle finger, on the right hand.

WITH 4 LEGS “”

She gestures walking up the three flors of the house with four fingers on the left hand.

WITH 2 LEGS “

She gestures walking up the flors of the house with two fingers, index and middle finger, on the right hand.

I explore rhythmic structure.

She Djs seriously. The record players motors are off.

And now we come to the INTER-SPECIES LINGUISTICS: PATOISER.

Etymologically, “patoiser“ is old French and means speaking with one’s paws, so in English it would be “pawese“ or “pawish”.

She gestures “pawish”.

To communicate, Tocki and Bettina have assembled a language that could be called a “companion species patois”.

Patois is a french word for any language that is considered non standard. But it’s also a derogative word for a local language.

The “patois” that Bettina and Tocki have assembled is an impure, not standardized, queer, crossbred, mongrel, métissée, bricollé, self-made language. Un language fait maison.

She puts the needles on both records.

It doesn’t come out of dog school. It’s a dysfunctional language, it doesn’t really work in a “proper” way, as you will see, but I must say, it works quite well in an “improper” way.

She plays the mother on the one record saying: “Mach wuf”

She says: “Say woof!”

She plays the dog on the other record barking three times.

He says: “Oui oui oui”, “Yes yes yes“, „Ja ja ja“.

I match.

She spins her mother back with motor.

I match the other way around.

I magnify.

She slows the records down, turns them extremely slowly with one finger on each record, loud and crazy, starting with Tocki, adding gain and reverb, all with players motors cut.

I make them compete.

She spins up the Tocki record very fast with one finger, then imidiately after the Mimsou record, steps back and watches the result of the competition: which record will come to a halt last.

INTERSPECIES-LINGUISTICS

And I conclude:

TOCKI ASKING:

She plays the track and taps with the fingers of one hand in the other hands lap, producing a similar sound to Tockis wagging tail.

HE WAGGS HIS TAIL

TOCKI ASKING AND WAGGING HIS TAIL. MOTHER ASKING.

MOTHER ASKING:

She plays the track and then translates it.

SHE SINGS: “Tockilein, Tockilein, dancing, dancing”, and then she says: “He goes away, it doesn’t interest him at all!”

I LISTEN AGAIN:

She plays the track again. (Part 1 is approx. 24 min. long)

She stops the records.

Now we come to part two.

She removes the Tocki record which was covering the Vivaldi record on the turntables.

Part two could be called the THE CHOREOGRAPHIE OF COHABITATION or in German HAUSMUSIK.

HAUSMUSIK is a very common practice in Germany. In the living room of middle class houses, family and friends perform classical music together for pleasure, in an amateur way.

My mother, who lives in a big middle class, bourgeois house in the Lot, in the South West of France, is nostalgic of this tradition. So she often plays records of Baroque music to make her dog dance.

She takes the record in one hand and gestures around the table.

The dog trotts nicely around the big dinner table, in rythm to the music like a little horse.

She plays Vivaldi.

_______________________________________________PART 2: THE CHOREOGRAPHY OF COHABITATION_______________________________________________

BETTINA VON ARNIM:

There are several places with traces of dogs, also from the times before we lived here. You see them on every door of the house. The dogs scratched the doors to come in. The little dogs at the bottom and the large ones there where we human beings put our hand or insert the key to open the door. The wood is all scratched.

ANTONIA BAEHR:

Is that the main entrance door?

BETTINA VON ARNIM:

Yes, that’s the big front door.

Tocki and "Bälletor", Videostil of the video projection superimposing the overhead projection

BETTINA VON ARNIM:

Outside the door, you see a large stone or ledge. The stone is all shiny. The dogs that guarded the house have polished the stone with their fur. And the soles of the humans that for the last 200 years went in and out the house have polished the stone too.

So it’s the traces of a house, a living house with animals and humans together.

BETTINA VON ARNIM:

Then there is a funny picture of the garden door with the traces of all the dogs we had: the little Kniggy, Bimbo the Wild, Berry the Beautiful, the wonderful big collie, and now Tocki. We gave the balls of the children to the dogs and played soccer with them. But after a minute you heard “pffff”.

The dog’s teeth pierced the balls, the air went out, they shook and tore them up. Later you found them somewhere in the garden again. Finally I installed the whole collection of these balls like scalps or mummies. You can see them now on the garden door.

Antonia Baehr performing "My Dog is My Piano", photo by Gaetano Cammerota

ANTONIA BAEHR:

Are there other places where dogs have left their traces in this house?

BETTINA VON ARNIM:

Yes, in the trees near the entrance. From the window of my studio up there I can see the nests of birds. When it was the collie, with his soft long hair, the birds built wonderful comfortable nests. With Bimbo the Wild, they couldn’t build lovely nests. His hair was short and black. The nests were built with a bit of plastic, ugly nests. And Tocki now, with his reddish brown hair, provides good materials for the birds.

drawing on transparency by Antonia Baehr

ANTONIA BAEHR:

Can we see a nest now?

BETTINA VON ARNIM:

Now you can see the vacuum cleaner’s content. All the dog hair and dirt in the living room, I bring it back to the garden with the vacuum cleaner so the birds can pick their materials for their nests from the emptied bag.

And if you like, you can look at that.

Do you want more traces?

drawing by Bettina von Arnim, transparency by Antonia Baehr

________________________________________________PART 3: RESONANCES IN FURRY HUMANESE________________________________________________

And now we come to Part three, the last part.

Antonia Baehr switches off the overhead projector and beamer. She drinks from a glass of water. She installs a music stand in the centre of the room, facing the audience. She opens the score, puts her glasses on, and says:

Part three is called “Resonances in Furry Humanese”.

resonances in furry humanese

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Credits

Concept, Composition, Performance: Antonia Baehr

Sound Mastering: Angela Anderson

Sound: Fred Bigot

Light Design: Sylvie Garot, Rima Ben-Brahim

Dramaturgical collaboration: Valerie Castan

Organiser: Alexandra Wellensiek

Production: make up productions

With the support of: FAR° festival des arts vivants (Nyon)

Thank you to: Bettina von Arnim, Tocki von Arnim, Donna J. Haraway, François Noudelmann, Avital Ronell, Gertrude Stein

Duration: ca. 50min.

This lecture was first presented at the French Embassy on Oct 25th 2011 in New York City, as a commission by the philosophers Avital Ronell and François Noudelmann in the frame of Villa Gillet / Walls and Bridges NYC. ‘Infinite Affinities – Chords and Discords – Musical Patterns of Affinities’

Antonia Baehr is a choreographer performer and artist. Baehr’s works explore the fiction of the everyday and of the theatre. After studying with Valie Export (1996), obtaining a DAAD-grant and a Merit Scholarship for the School of The Art Institute of Chicago Baehr completed a Master in Performance and experimental Film. Baehr has taken part in diverse group exhibitions (re.act.feminism, Center for Contemporary Arts Estonia Tallinn, Museo de Arte do Rio, MACBA Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, et al.). From 2006 to 2008 Antonia Baehr was associate artist at the Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers and in 2013 at the Beursschouwburg, Brussels. In 2008, her book “Rire / Laugh / Lachen” was published, and “Abedecarium Bestiarium – Portraits of affinities in animal metaphors” was published in 2014. Antonia Baehr is currently collaborating with Neo Hülcker, Lindy Annis, Latifa Laabissi and others. Baehr is the producer of the horse whisperer and dancer Werner Hirsch, who is also performing in Pauline Boudry & Renate Lorenz’s work, the musician and choreographer Henri Fleur, the aspirant composer and ex-husband Henry Wilde.

 

www.make-up-productions.net

http://olga0.oralsite.be/oralsite/pages/Antonia_Baehr_on_Scores/

Many thanks to Nanna Heidenreich for advising and editing.