the world rests on a tortoise

The animal that carries its home on its back. Whose spine is fixed, within a solid shell. The one who beats both Achilles and the hare; the one who paralyses himself to sleep and then wakes up to announce the spring; the one who, at will, can store sperm up to two years before she allows her eggs to be fertilized. Lonesome George, the last of his kind, apathetically fighting extinction with his Swiss girl-friend, Boncuk, whom we saved from a forest fire so that he could simultaneously eat and walk on cucumber peels, and the one from the Blade Runner humanity test “You’re in a desert, you see a tortoise, you flip it on its back…”

the world rests on a tortoise is a practice-based research project that aims to explore the tortoise as a container in which we can engage with our relationship to home, to space, to earth, to distances, to lights, to time, to age and to agelessness, to conservation, to extinction, to death, to hibernating, to burrowing, to being invisible, to reappearing, to keeping going, to staying, staying still, staying on the road, staying the same. The questions are numerous: Is an animal an archetype? Are the fables, the biology, the palaeontology its mythology, the animal kingdom its pantheon? Did we choose the tortoise or did the tortoise choose us? Is there something tortugal that wishes to be embodied, understood, today? How can one engage with the tortoise archetypally—precisely, by sticking to the details, yet blindly, by staying in the unknown? Can we befriend the tortoise, surrender to what it is rather than to reduce it to our knowing of it? Can we respond from where it’s at?

As part of the project, we have been developing training exercises, structures for improvisation, encounters with rules and restrictions, personas, walks, work with objects and masks. We have come upon a number of containers, some of which can be loosely named and described as: ‘I am where I wish not to be’ an exercise based on stepping in and out of different imagined territories alone or with/against another, ‘the walk’ a structured improvisation in developing obstacles in pursuit of one’s own slowness, ‘the meeting’ where one becomes a tortoise, person, clown, or hare face to the other, ‘I know what it is to be young’ character work with coats as shells.

performative outcomes:

the world rests on a tortoise: a durational walk and the tortoise: a video response

performed by: Katja Hilevaara, Göze Saner
resident spectators: Marissia Fragkou, Marilena Zaroulia
video: Francesca Castelbuono, Giannoula Gkioni

19 February 2009, Let’s Murder the Moonshine: 100 Years of Futurism,
Goldsmiths, University of London, London