7 min read 🤓

Die Stillgestandenen
(The Stillstands / Standstills / Stillstanders)

june 13, 2021

In the many long not-so-long-ago months of corona lockdown, choreographer Mansoureh Aalaii conceived and produced an outdoors dance piece that she called (in German) Die Stillgestandenen. The lighting and space design were done in close collaboration with visual artist Onzgi. Die Stillgestandenen was performed on the stairs of the Neumünsterkirche in Zürich (Switzerland), on Wednesday September 30th 2020.

'Die Stillgestandenen' in Zürich, on 30/9/2020. Picture ©onzgi.com

Earlier that same year, on April 26th, Onzgi had joined us from his home in Zürich in the 67th unPublic, which was the second of four quite special 'corona confined cyber-sessions' that we did in April and May 2020, using Discord's VoIP (a software application not at all meant to serve the way in which we put it to work, as Discord is (or at least, it was) not a music player or equipped with other streaming audio functionalities, but a chat-tool optimised for online speech exchange, and originally mainly used for online discussion and exchange of tips, tricks and strategies by communities and groups of gamers). Mansoureh liked the splintered & shredded networked results of our recording effort, and thought this—sonically and metaphorically (because of its process)— would make for an interesting aural companion to the choreography she had in mind. It's how Mansoureh ended up using an about 30 minute extract of uP67 as a soundtrack for 'Die Stillgestandenen'.

"[The uP track's] open structure", she observes, "easily included the unpredictable noises of passing cars and people passing in the nearby street." And—as I was happy to hear in the video registration of the performance—the sound of the church bells ringing 😇 ...

Stillstanders at La Générale

With European borders tentatively opening up again, after long time no-go, Mansoureh and Onzgi came over to Paris for a couple of days, which also gave them an opportunity to come and see us at La Générale Nord-Est, where on Saturday evening June 12th we organised a small 'on invitation' viewing of Sebastien Jamain's video registration of the September performance in Zürich.

Mansoureh Aalai
Mansoureh Aalai introducing 'Die Stillgestandenen' at La Générale, June 12th 2021

Die Stillgestandenden is also the title of the short (German) text that Mansoureh wrote, and that accompanies the choreography:

« Sie rannte und rannte und rannte hinauf dachte sie, "Augen zu and durch" sagte sie und rannte und rannte und merkte vor lauter Rennen nicht, vor lauter "Augen zu und durch" wusste sie nicht, merkte sie plötzlich, ob sie hinauf oder hinunter rannte... irgendetwas war verkehrt, irgendwie verdreht... "Augen zu and durch" und sie rannte und rannte und rannte noch schneller im Wettrennen, "Augen zu und durch" sagte sie; irgendetwas aber war verkehrt, etwas verdreht... plötzlich stand sie still und wusste nicht ob sie hinauf oder hinunter rannte, und als sie stillgestanden war, bemerkte sie all die Stillgestandenen, die seit Jahrzehnten in ihr stillgestanden waren... »

This is the text in English translation:

« She ran and ran and ran, uphill it seemed, "Eyes shut and keep going" she said, and ran and ran, and what with all the running, all the "Eyes shut and keep going," she realized she didn't know if she was going up or down - something was wrong, twisted somehow - "Eyes shut and keep going" as she raced faster and faster, "Eyes shut and keep going" she said; but something was backwards, twisted around... all of a sudden she stood still and didn't know whether she was going up or down, and as she stood there at a standstill she detected all the standstills that for decades had been standing still within her... »

The German Stillgestandenden is a quite wonderful word, the semantics of which—its 'feel', its qualia—appears to be extremely hard (read: impossible) to fully capture/cover with a single word in other languages, at least in the ones that I know (as far as I know them, of course). Even in my native Dutch, so close to German, an obvious translation, 'De Stilstaanden', misses the little touch, the tiny little something that to me feels essential in the German word. (Mind you, I'm not a linguist, for from that, so this is no science, just—personal—'feeling', extremely subjective). For me that little twist is in the 'ge-', which I feel points at something external involved, something that causes or forces the standstill; there is an action implied, the word for me has a dynamic feel that is totally missing in the Dutch 'stilstaanden' (in english: 'the ones that are standing still'). The Stillgestandenden are not just standing still. They are made to stand still. Like, say, because of some plug that you pulled, or like the pendulum of an mechanical clock that you stopped with your hand. Alternative Dutch translations could be 'De Stopgezetten' or 'De Stagnerenden': but these loose the touch of 'stil(l)', which covers both a sense of 'silence' and one of immobility, of 'un-moving'. Should one then settle for 'De Stilgezetten'? But that (again, at least to me) feels sort of an 'unnatural' thing to say in Dutch; it's somewhat 'forcing your hand'... on the other hand though, 'stilgezetten' would allow you its combining in a sentence with 'stilgezeten'. That's also quite pretty... bref...

The difficulty to come up with an English translation of the title is comparable... The Standstills, an Englishman would say, I guess, or the The Stillstanders ... I actually quite like the choice that Manoureh made: The Stillstands, which doesn't appear to be English, really, but it is sort of a curious & fun germanisme.


In her introduction to the piece, before we watched the video, Mansoureh recounted how the outdoor training with five young dancers that she started when indoor dance training and performances were canceled in lockdown time, in spring 2021, lead to the piece. And how looking for a space, the idea of stairs in the Zürich city centre arose, "as a hurdle and obstacle, as a challenge to reinvent the dance and movement space, but also for it's symbolical and allegorical significance." The stairs of the Neumünsterkirche, in the midst of the city, Onzgi and Manoureh explained, was like an objet trouvé that they then transformed into a dance space, with the positioning of lights and audience as tools to change the space's perception.

Die Stillgestandenen
Mansoureh & Onzgi explaining 'Die Stillgestandenen' at La Générale, 12/6/2021
Die Stillgestandenen
Die Stillgestandenen
Die Stillgestandenen
Stills from the video registration of 'Die Stillgestandenen' Zürich, 30/9/2020

Already a few weeks ago I had the pleasure to see a few extracts of the fine video registration that Sebastien made of the Zürich performance, when Mansoureh presented the piece in the live-on Zoom-emission Quoi de 9 by the Zurich based organisation Aux Arts Etc on Sunday May 9th.

Quoi de 9

In its utter slowness, the dynamics of the as-if-time-stretched, stilled, movements of the five dancers—Ambra Peyer, Antoinette Berta, Anna Knörr, Nel Bonaventura and Mansoureh—walking back and forth, left to right to left and round in lines, curves, arcs—all broken circles—sitting, crouching, sliding down in extreme lento, rolling down, rythmically, step by step, and then rolling back up (!) again, downwards, upwards, downwards... all against the gradually changing lights illuminating the eternally static stone stairs... As a predominantly hearing-oriented person, someone who tends to see with his ears, I read the video registration as if it were a musical score written in real time on sort of the extended stave drawn by the linings of the stair's steps...

I hope at some point in time be able to show you more of it, by embedding at least an extract of the video of the performance. Or even better, invite you to come and attend a maybe future performance of the piece. There are so many more places in this world where stairs can be found. Strolling together towards the Denfert-Rochereau metro station, we already imagined the piece being performed one warm clear moon-lit summer night here in Paris on the stairs of the {BnF, the Bibliothèque Nationale, the François-Mitterand Library, also referred to as the TGB, the Très Grande Bibliothèque. Or, as Rébus suggested, on the stairs of the Sacré-Cœur, a Paris tourist-trap maybe most notable for the fact that hardly ever a Parisian will set foot there.

Let's see... One day...!

flyer Stillgestandenen

Read about unPublic on the SoundBlog:

(2023, november 3-..) - Ethereal Reverberations. A Decade of unPublic (« Dix ans qu'on fait la musique sans public ») (uP#100)
(2023, august 20) - Three days of residency at Les Ateliers Claus, Brussels (uP#65, uP#93, up #94)
(2022, september 2) - Three Musketeers Musicking Maastricht & La Générale (uP#86, up #87)
(2022, august 4) - Berlin: Zero Cohesion (3) (uP#84)
(2022, july 24) - Berlin: Zero Cohesion (2) (uP#83)
(2022, july 11) - Berlin: Zero Cohesion (1) (uP#82)
(2022, july 2) - X-unPub (uP#81)
(2022, march 13) - "Manifeste" (uP#80)
(2021, june 13) - Die Stillgestandenen (The Stillstands / Standstills / Stillstanders) (uP#67)
(2021, may 02) - Playing Apart Together: Chuncheon↯Paris (uP#73)
(2018, november 02) - "Five years stuck on my eyes" (Lustrum Non Publicum) (uP#56)
(2018, september 01) - t'Obsolete or not t'Obsolete ... [iv] (uP#54)
(2018, august 13) - Rage, rafts & refugees (uP#49, uP#50)
(2018, august 10) - t'Obsolete or not t'Obsolete ... [iii] (uP#45)
(2017, june 11) - Moving out, of, on ... [ii] (uP#42)
(2016, june 10) - unPublic #18 - 대부도 (Daebu-Do), 14 June 2015 (uP#18)
(2016, may 07) - In Praise of Slowness (uP#21)
(2015, july 15) - Bridges, troubles, water (uP#19)
(2015, april 14) - Mal-là--colisé dans l'espace et dans le temps (uP#16)
(2014, august 02) - Appearance and Reality (uP#8)
(2014, march 08) - "12 - 11 - 9 - 10 - 3 - 6 - 7 - 1 - 2 - 8 - 4 - 5" (uP#5)
(2013, december 31) - Candles, Cassettes & Champagne (uP#4)
(2013, november 23) - unPublic 1, 2 (sauf riverains) (uP#1, uP#2)

Read about unPublic on Medium:

April 16, 2022 - Playing Apart Together (uP#66-#69)
March 17, 2022 - All delusion is expansive (uP#80)
November 10, 2021 - The Future always was Yesterday

Read about unPublic in Gonzo (Circus) [Dutch]:

Gonzo #143, januari/februari 2018 - Met kop noch staart: muzhakdag! (uP#48)
Gonzo #139, mei/juni 2017 - De waan, de wil, de weg

Read about unPublic elsewhere:

Plus-X-Creative, january 2022 - Playing Apart Together
Electronic Cottage, november 2018 - unPublic - 'Five Years stuck on my eyes' -sketch as a memoire

To listen, download & support, visit unPublic @ Bandcamp.

SoundBlog entries around and about La Générale Nord-Est:

(2024, march 9) - Orlando & Artaud wed bound at La Générale, even
(2022, september 2) - Three Musketeers Musicking Maastricht & La Générale
(2022, july 2) - X-unPub
(2021, june 13) - Die Stillgestandenen (The Stillstands / Standstills / Stillstanders)
(2021, february 21) - Lento (slowly)
(2018, september 01) - t'Obsolete or not t'Obsolete ... [part iv]
(2018, august 13) - Rage, rafts & refugees
(2018, august 10) - t'Obsolete or not t'Obsolete ... [part iii]
(2018, july 21) - t'Obsolete or not t'Obsolete... [part ii]
(2018, april 10) - La Générale Nord-Est (PAMP18-1)
(2017, august 19) - t'Obsolete or not t'Obsolete ... [part i]
(2016, august 04) - Nicolas Collins - 2 April 2016, La Générale
(2015, july 15) - Bridges, troubles, water - unPublic #19
(2014, april 08) - La physicalité du son. Tome 1.
(2013, december 13) - Candles, Cassettes & Champagne - unPublic #4
(2010, december 29) - Obsolescence
(2010, august 14) - "And what about Yi Sang?" (이상 à Paris [iv])
(2010, june 29) - Ceremonies (Yi Sang 이상 à Paris [iii])
(2010, june 25) - Read me a poem, Yi Sang! (Yi Sang 이상 à Paris [ii])
(2010, june 13) - Yi Sang 이상 à Paris [i]
(2010, january 13) - Art fleas (puces de l'art)
(2009, july 20) - General Acoustics
(2006, august 14) - placard : la générale (Belleville)

tags: unPublic, Zürich, dance, Stillgestandenen

# .507.

« | »