They dance on buildings – artists from ‘Se Byen Vertikalt’ turn gravity and time upside down

"You can scan multiple pictures in a second, but you have to be in the sound to get the full experience. You have to give yourself to it.”

The artist group ‘Se Byen Vertikalt’ (In English: See the city vertically) experiments with dance, choreography and sound. They have made a spectacular performance specifically for Struer Tracks in which artists will be walking, dancing, and flying on buildings. The aim is to make us experience our surroundings anew.

Se byen vertikalt’ is an artist group consisting of dancer and choreographer Mette Møller Overgaard, verticaldancer and choreographer Esther Wrobel, and sound artist David Navndrup Black. For Struer Tracks they will present a site-specific work with a physical soundwalk as the main element.

Challenging gravity

What is vertical dance? David Navndrup Black explains:

“Basically, it’s a dance on the side of buildings. The dancers use different techniques and movements, their physics and ropes. You can do the same things as you do on the ground, but the movements have a different quality to them: If you spin on the ground gravity takes you down, if you spin on a wall it’s almost like you’re on the moon.”

In this way Se Byen Vertikalt turns our usual perspective on the city upside down and encourages us to look up and see artists who walk, dance and fly on walls and buildings. Se Byen Vertikalt is not only working with vertical dance, they also have emphasis on sound and participatory art. Black explains:

“It’s not just vertical dance, it’s not just a sound walk, it’s not just choreography and dance, or an interactive piece, it’s all of them combined.”

Sounds of wind, water, boats, ship masts, and rope

The artist’s performance for Struer Tracks #3 is site-specific, and they have carefully selected the place for their show: on Vrald Odde, a small peninsula next to the old silos at Struer Harbour. “We’ve chosen an ex-industrial site”, says Black, “a place that represents the meeting of nature and architecture, of the past and the present. It’s a very interesting place if you stop, look and listen.”

Black’s artistic work has been to investigate, record and manipulate the sounds from Vrald Odde. For him it’s a place with a special sound: “I’ve made similar projects in other cities, and no matter where you are there is always the background noise of tires on asphalt. On Vrald Odde the predominant sounds come from the wind and the water, from boats, ship masts and rope. It’s an incredible soundscape.”

To establish empathy with a place

“ What has happened here? And what is happening now? The audience will be taken into this unreal space of now and then. And that’s where the concept of sound is exceptional. "

When the audience arrive at the performance, they will be handed a set of headphones. Wearing these, they will be guided on a walk in the area. Black has been interested in making a sound universe that enables the audience to focus physically and sensorially on the space they’re situated in:

“You are immersed in the sound and the space, and you move around in it. If we can make people move differently in a familiar space, they’ll also reflect differently. Maybe they’ll even gain empathy with the space they’re in... if they take time to immerse themselves in the moment, rather than just passing through.”

Between now and then

During the performance the audience will hear Black’s pre recorded sounds blending in with the sounds from the current surroundings. In that way the performance plays with our perception of time and temporality:

“What has happened here? And what is happening now? The audience will be taken into this unreal space of now and then. And that’s where the concept of sound is exceptional. You can scan multiple pictures in a second, but you have to be in the sound to get the full experience. You have to give yourself to it.”

Giving something back

It has been crucial for Se Byen Vertikalt to work with participatory art that everyone can be a part of. Without revealing too much Black says that the guests will be given simple instructions like: Stand, sit and walk. And the audience should prepare for a special experience:

“When the audience turn up and puts headphones on, they give a part of themselves, and we want to give them something in return. They give us their trust and we will give them the best experience we can.”

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Mette Møller Overgaard, David Navndrup Black and Esther Wrobel are the artistic team behind Se Byen Vertikalt. The artists have worked together as workshop leaders, creators, and performers. They have been collaborating on projects that combine sound, movement and architecture since 2014, and created the first Se Byen Vertikalt in 2017.

Struer Tracks is an international biennial of sound art that takes place in the urban space of the Danish town, Struer. The biennial will take place for the third time from August 20 to September 5th 2021 - The theme is "Landscapes of Sound" and is curated by Charlotte Bagger Brandt