Choreographer Jonathan Burrows and composer Matteo Fargion have been collaborators for over twenty years, the past decade of which they've spent slowly building a body of duets which straddle the line between dance, music, performance art and comedy. Often shown in tandem over a few days of performances, the work has drawn a loyal international following for its integrity, openness and independent stance, situating itself at the forefront of dance practice but resisting the currency and hierarchies of the marketplace. Watching a Burrows and Fargion performance has been described as like being invited into their living room, and this conversation with audience is central to their performance practice, equal together under the same roof.
Both artists studied classical music composition with composer Kevin Volans, which knowledge and experience informs their frequent use of written score, as a way to work with duration and as a distancing mechanism from more conventional notions of performance. They describe all their work as music, and are often engaged in acts of translation where what was heard is now seen, or what was seen becomes spoken language. This synesthesia is a common experience of the spectator at a Burrows Fargion concert, in turns disconcerting and revealing.
Above all the individual pieces of Burrows and Fargion build rhythmic relationships of materials and ideas, building a counterpoint of images which are amplified and altered by unexpected clashes and juxtapositions, so that what has been seen before is explained by what follows, and what follows is destabilised by the memory of what came before. And this play of structure is continuously undermined by an approach to performance which breaks open the formality and gives permission for virtuosic play.
The performance practice of the two artists extends also to collaborative workshops with other artists, students, writers and curators from dance and related mediums, which both share the processes and methodologies of the work and act as a staging ground for current questions around performance. Burrows also wrote A Choreographer's Handbook, drawn from his experience of leading five years of conversational workshops; the book is published by Routledge/Taylor Francis and has sold over 8,000 copies since 2010.
The two men are currently in-house artists at the Nightingale Brighton, and are co-produced by Kaaitheater Brussels, PACT Zollverein Essen, Sadler's Wells Theatre London and BIT Teatergarasjen Bergen. They perform regularly around the world and all ten current pieces have been shown within the past 6 months. Their most recent work, Body Not Fit For Purpose
, premiered at the 2014 Venice Biennale, but their philosophy is that all work is new at the point of performance, and they often refuse to announce a new piece in favour of guerrilla performances which bury the new into the body of work without further comment.
Burrows and Fargion have recently finished a collaboration with the William Forsythe Company to create part of the Motionbank website:
Current projects include 52 Portraits
, a year long online art work to run throughout 2016, which is supported by Sadler's Wells Theatre London, and a concerto for piano and gestural orchestra, commissioned by Ensemble Musikfabrik Cologne.
In 2015 they will also begin performing within a new framework called Return Of The Salon
, which will take place in living rooms and other alternative spaces from Autumn 2015 and through 2016, where the pair will present their own work alongside invited guests from other areas of performance including contemporary classical music, spoken word and stand up comedy.
There's a beguiling mix of the scholarly, the quizzical and the righteously indignant that is unique to Fargion and Burrows...the concentration of their work demonstrates how much expressive power even a small gesture, a tiny variation of tone or rhythm, can possess.
The Guardian, London, on Body Not Fit For Purpose
'...occasionally feeling gloomy during some performance or other, I’ve wished that a fed- up theater goblin would whisk away the show I’m watching and deposit Burrows and Fargion in its place.’
Deborah Jowitt on Cheap Lecture, DanceBeat, New York