ART IN A DAY – An interview with artist Sophie Dupont ahead of Copenhagen’s brand-new folk festival for performance artan interview by Milia Wallenius

ART IN A DAY – Copenhagen’s new annual art festival focusing on performance art is what the name suggests – 24 hours packed with art in different locations around the city. The ambitious project is organized for the first time this year on June 24 and includes performances by renowned international and Nordic artists, musicians, and designers.

With a program that, to a large extent, unfolds outside traditional art venues, the festival aims to reach new audiences, but also provides a non-traditional environment and situation for the participating artists to work in. One of the participating artists is Danish Sophie Dupont (b. 1975), a multi-talent working with a range of different media but who is undoubtedly best known for her choregraphed performances centering around her own body. Dupont often works with themes such as life, body, and spirituality, resulting in works which often are rather meditative.

For ART IN A DAY Dupont has created a new performance piece called I Breathe You Do You Breathe Me? A few weeks before the festival we had the chance to ask her about her work, inspirations, and artistic process.

What was your main inspiration for I Breathe You Do You Breathe Me?
THE BREATH! I started to develop another piece of mine which I call Marking Breath, since 2010. It’s a simple performance, where I for each breath – inhalation and exhalation – make an imprint, a notation into a material, from sunrise to sunset. I have performed this work – and still do in many different places around the world.

Marking Breath is about placing all our awareness and attention on breathing in order to communicate life in its essence. We live in a world that is so focused on doing. People are getting more and more alienated from themselves, to their surroundings and to each other. In breathing you connect to yourself, to your own nature and to the nature you are part of. Before we do anything else, before we are anything – we breathe. We already do life or life does us. It’s magic!

I Breathe You Do You Breathe Me? Has the exact same intensions as Marking Breath, but I feel I need to include people in new ways because of the way the world is changing. I feel I need to approach people more and directly invite them to breathe with me. Everything will be breathing, even the building. In I Breathe You Do You Breathe Me? there is a question in order to make us consider this breath – this life. Normally we say I Love You Do You Love Me? Or I Understand You Do You Understand Me? In the breathing there is a very concrete action that gives us, in all possible ways, a chance to connect into both oneself and to the other in respectful ways. Breathing connects all our bodies so to speak. Our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual body. The breath breathes through our many layers and facets and align us. Breathing is always now, this now that comes from the past and is on its way into the future. A bridge where everything becomes connected. It constantly changes in depths, length, sensations but it’s there as long as we are alive.

What is the main theme or subject in this work? How did you choose it?

The main theme is life. It might seem safe to say that I want to place awareness on life in order for human beings to understand that we are all the same and we are nature in nature. I know we are also very different, but no matter what we need to breathe, and if we want our planet to survive, we have to understand that everything is breathing, and we have to respect and really understand that without the plants and trees we will die. We are not above nature; we are part of nature. We have to be or develop care, love and respect for life, and breathing is the perfect inspiration and educator for this.

At the moment there are many tendencies and talks on these subjects, but I think a lot of it happens in the intellect only. We need to begin to place the knowledge into our being. Into how we live our life. To understand we do not have to do so much, we do not have to be entertained and stimulated all the time. Being human beings by tapping into the very core of this being by breathing is entertainment enough. We do not need to constantly want to improve and be better than ourselves and the other. We don’t need to be greedy, and we do not need to take distance from our true nature. I think a cow is always a cow, the water is water, a sunflower is a sunflower – it doesn’t wake up and decide to want to be a cactus. Human beings are never – or almost never – human beings. We want to be everything else.

After my 12 years of performing Marking Breath, I have for hours and hours studied my mind. The mind – like said in the yogic tradition – is a monkey mind. It wants to go everywhere all the time. The mind functions on so many levels and jumps constantly. We have one breath at a time, and to link into this can create connections immediately. But it can come with pain, because by connecting into breathing we connect into all our bodies as I said before. We can discover pain in our physical body, mental and emotional body, even our spiritual body, and as few people have no idea what to do with this pain we run away. This result in the running-away-culture that we see now. And what is better than lots of drugs, alcohol, and gaming?! We are facing a world full of people with enormous boredom and meaninglessness. People that end up in depression and different diagnoses because we have lost contact with our true nature. We know how to drive machines, to connect and fix our computers but if anything begins to shake inside ourselves, we are lost.

I try in my way to give and heal the world in a way that has helped me – nothing more nothing less.

Can you say something about the process: How did this work come to be?

I was thinking about different ways to work around the real embodiment of being connected in breathing. Being connected in breath to oneself and to the other. I was thinking of many different ways. In many of my other works I use objects and artefacts. This time there is only the body. We are bodies of breath – of life – I don’t need more to emphasize this. It’s my first work so clear and clean.

Did the process differ from how you usually work? How? Was there something that was particularly fun, difficult, or inspiring?

The process of this piece has been very different. The people I have worked together with can for sure confirm this. I have changed my mind and ideas many times. The reason is that I have been through a process of rethinking my work. Not only rethinking my work but also to reconsider the world. As an artist I work in communication and when you communicate you have to be aware of the people to whom you speak. I find that we – and I say we because even I, working with breathing, contemplation, and awareness of the nature of being – have more and more difficulties to focus and stay focused for a long time. Therefore, I felt I need to be more present in my work and actually breathe together with people. Not in any yogic way but in the presence and awareness of connecting into the breath together collectively.

Will you bring something with you from this experience to your future projects?

I’m sure. This is a completely new way of working. More simple and more direct. I think this performance is a bit like a laboratory, and I might discover things and details I need to be more aware of in my future works. I will let you know after.

What does performance mean to you?

To connect to other people in the present moment, to be aware and create consciousness, to share, to relate, to ask questions, to think, to feel, to create new spaces for new possibilities to occur, to live and to breathe.

What is important to you as an artist?

To constantly try to be one to one with my work. To work from an honest place. Not to be seduced by trends but to stay connected to my truth.
Is there anything you would like to add?

BREATHE!Sophie Dupont’s performance can be experienced at Kunsthal Charlottenborg on June 24 from 11:00 to 18:00.

Apart from Dupont’s work, highlights of the festival include designer Henrik Vibskov’s mysterious parade through the city, artist duo KASPERSHOPHIE’s interactive art experience and pop-up store at department store Magasin, Jacko Kirkegaard’s research performance in the canals of Copenhagen and Arvida Byström’s staged conversation with an A. I. sex doll. The day ends with a grand finale at Copenhagen Contemporary with performances by Tosh Basco, Peaches, Monster Chetwynd, Maja Malou Lyse and Esben Weile Kjær.

ART IN A DAY is a collaboration between the six kunsthalles in Copenhagen: Copenhagen Contemporary, Den Frie Udstillingsbygning, Kunstforeningen GL STRAND, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Nikolaj Kunsthal and O – Overgaden. The program has been curated by Creator Projects in close collaboration with the kunsthalles.