We are sitting at a long table. The performer to my right is handing things over to me – a bunch of rocks, one after another, big ones and small ones, with rough or smooth surfaces, in which my fingers glide on their own. I am exploring, touching, smelling the rock, passing it over to my neighbor on the left as I am done: a nervous young woman sitting next to her boyfriend, excited by the scenery happening around them. With them. The scenery is “In many hands”, the newest artistic project of Kate McIntosh, dancer, performer and choreographer, born in New Zealand, who is living in Brussels since 2000. What is “In many hands”? A performance? A choreography? A work space? A laboratory? McIntoshs work is hard to define, and maybe it is the most accurate to say: it is in-between. It is in between science and performance, installation and dance; in between storytelling and experiencing, listening and interacting.
“In many hands” (2016) is a playful and yet quite serious expedition into the sensorial, an individual but also collective exploration of things – rocks, twigs, a feather, a small, facile animal scull. It is more about touching, feeling, listening to the material than about talking. And it is an intense experience as a group of individuals, everybody investigating the objects by themselves, and yet sharing them and the rhythm of the passing-down, depending on each other. In her projects, Kate McIntosh is addressing the theatre as the social space that it is. In “Worktable” (2014) for instance, an installation where one spectator at a time got the opportunity to break everyday objects – and to transform their pieces into something else. Or “All Ears” (2013), a performance where Kate McIntosh acts as a casual, yet very charming host, evaluating the audience by asking them strange questions such as „How many people can whistle?“ or “How many people do have a good sense of orientation?”. Kate McIntosh, the daughter of two molecular biologists, is always interested into the performative aspects of the experimental and into the knowledge which arises by doing and sharing, acting and interacting. Her performances are about the theatre as well, especially about the audience: Who are the people, usually sitting in the dark? What are they bringing into the theatre, and what kind of temporary collective they are forming? What is possible in this collective – and what’s not?
Kate McIntosh is often acting as a host, telling stories that are relating to the situation, but that are also leading into something that is fictional and open. Her voice is distinctive, gentle, seductive. She is inviting the audience to quite unique expeditions, exploring and sharing a knowledge which maybe only can be discovered in these very particular, still theatrical situations, including the sharing of time and space, being part of a group that was built by chance. She is very thoroughly creating situations that are allowing the audience to participate, be it by making sounds or gestures, by exploring things or destroying them. There is something actually political about her work: For her, theatre is a space where people – artists, audiences – can test our interactions, sensitivities and thought-experiments. “To me this seems like a form of rehearsal – meaning that people rehearse actions and perceptions within art that can then be carried onward into the rest of life.”, she once said during an interview. “I think this has political promise.” By testing the theatre space, Kate McIntosh is also testing other places where people are coming together, be it at work, in the street or in other public spaces. Who is meeting here? Why? And what are the possibilities of their interactions? It is certainly the right time to ask these kinds of questions.