SMRK, the Lament and its Distortion: an Interview with Mina Tomic
— May 12, 2022

Mina Tomic (Serbia, 1990) was born in the former Yugoslavia. She first studied architecture at Lund University in Sweden and completed her Fine Arts degree at the Iceland Academy of the Arts in 2016. In 2021, she graduated from the School for New Dance Development in Amsterdam. Mina combines physical and architectural practices that distort the expectation, the body and the language of everyday life. SMRK is the performative outcome of the Moving Forward Trajectory, in which Mina took up residence in the studios of ICK Artist Space, Dansateliers and Korzo, to be seen 12, 13, and 14 May 2022 in De Vlugt. SMRK is a research into the performativity of the lament and its distortion, creating both physical and musical scores, in the constitution of an event.

The work is called SMRK, what does this title represent and feel like for you?

I am a word geek. I always look into the etymology of things and I like to decompose them, split them apart, smash them. Sometimes I feel vocals are unnecessary, you can already feel the word and its essence. Just like in Hebrew, where you don’t use vocals at all – you see the letters, and you need to understand critically what it means. It is amazing when you don’t know a language, you don’t have any reference to the word, what just consonants can make. In Serbian, there are a few words that actually are built by only consonants. SMRK is not one of them – but when it is getting dark outside, you say ‘smrkava’, it’s a verb. You would never use it like this, but for me, it was just a beautiful constellation – it has a strong sound. At some point, it was just: that’s it. It works.

During the Moving Forward Trajectory, you have worked with many collaborators – how did that work, what are we going to see during SMRK of all these collaborations?

I am taking a lot of risks – this is my biggest challenge now, in work, in life, everything. To really dare to go into collaborations with people, to be in this unknown place – I feel like it really demands that we also have a vagueness about what and who and how we are. I don’t really work with people that love to perform either, there is some kind of fragility in that. The aim is not to prove yourself, but the work is a meeting place – the event is a place that we are striving for totally. I am trying to work with people that are selfish-less, in a non-possessive way of working. The performers I’ve chosen, some of them are my very close super-strong minds that I know from around but do not necessarily have a lot of experience working with. So, the working process is something of which I am striving to also understand the methodology, together with these crazy minds, many of them that are somehow very introverted. A lot of time and effort is that – building on not being possessive about what you are doing or trying to say or wanting to say, but seeing how that channels through other people. I am trying to find people that work from very different angles, and filter it through their ways of moving it, towards something that none of us knows. The work then also almost becomes something like hiking a mountain: somebody gets hungry, somebody gets pissed-off. In a way, you are creating this circumstance, rather than inviting people to execute something that I have made up. A work is a chance to create a place where we have no idea – it’s such an intricate challenge of doing, meeting.

Indeed – by bringing these people in, you also give them the space to be who they are and to share the space together, instead of you dominating what everyone is doing. Now you are just facilitating everyone, to go together to one level.

Exactly. The facilities as well – the dance studio is the scariest place to be. It’s not like you’re going to a restaurant. You are going to a blank space, every day, with people that have different rhythms. It’s so confronting – if there are mirrors in the space, some people also don’t always feel good about it. So, actually, it is another kind of proof of how scary a dance studio is. It is just bare. And you come there with your bare thoughts and bodies, and then you are just in this space that says nothing to you, it is only reflecting back: what are you doing? Where are you? And you have no idea.

It is also a super vulnerable place, you meet yourself often in the studio. Especially in such a longer trajectory, you meet yourself over and over. Throughout, there is a whole process of dealing with the space, dealing with yourself. Your life becomes the work, and the work becomes your life. Do you want to share something about the Moving Forward trajectory as a whole, what was the most interesting point for you that you learned during the past weeks and months?

For me, I knew it was coming in a difficult moment. It sounds quite idyllic, that it is just after the studies as a bridge, but also I have been through many institutions, and especially when studying choreography, you are again in a space called a studio with people of which you don’t know how they are going to react and act with the body. I wanted to have a break from that – but this trajectory was something that I did not want to turn down: I accepted it on the premise of using it as such, as to keep experimenting with how I am going to meet people and how far that can go into life. So, I would say that it was also really amazing to be able to see it as such. I felt like if I would use the studio time for creating my own work, it would just be against so many of my intrinsic beliefs – how I want to create and integrate it in life. I made it into a laboratory for the work, a laboratory of the whole methodology of meeting and working. One thing that is amazing is that this trajectory can offer this – that the studio can become that, almost like a monastery where you are alone and need to look at your faith every day and invite people to see if they are also believing in it. At the same time, you can also just suddenly start to move, play music loudly, and just sit and let something echo. And be scared by it. And come back to the same place, again. I worked in different studios – also in Korzo and in Dansateliers – to experience that same thing in different constellations, which is great as well. Also, the fact that it is spread over a longer period of time – I think that is healthy for all works, also having breaks. I went off to my family for a moment, alone for a moment, and then back again, and still needing to check it: when you’re back, you’re really back at it. And if it is all in a row, you maybe start to fool yourself or convince yourself. And having people come by: are you still there, are you still doing it, what are you doing? I felt like people believe in me more than I believe in what I am doing – also, in the worst moments, that gives a drive to just keep going, even though you are totally lost.

You’re lost but you’re still going – the process is madness.

That is the biggest triumph. Sometimes I wished that I had all the collaborators present to work on the thing – but what is the thing itself in the end? It’s a question of when and how it manifests.

The process is not just physical research as well – it is also the things you think at night, everything you write. It is constant. For you, the music is also vital. You describe how it becomes the methodology of the body – how does this work?

I want to say it is the mythology and the methodology of the body – it creates the myths that I don’t have, it really produces them. I think that is also why I am using such deep and invigorating music. The images it creates almost give me myths that I do not know of yet. The methodology, it starts to awaken places and possibilities that I cannot find by trying to radicalise or intelligize my body, when I start to make sounds and noises – actually it is a search, a very hard search. I cannot move to just anything, my body just refuses if it is not the right sound. In order to do something, I just need to find the sounds to move me and whoever else with me. That’s something I need to offer, something I need to keep producing, no matter how hard it is, because the body is even harder to start the engine on. Less than the music – sometimes you just push the wrong button and the most amazing thing comes, and you suddenly also want to move. And for the structure as well, to create challenges and endurances, the music is pushing buttons on your body. It makes you stop to think, it makes you start to act from a very animalistic or unknown or merely physical or intuitive place, that starts to wake up. It can demand from you – so in that way, it is a method. It is so nice when things demand something from you and you just need to answer, you don’t need to invent. The music invents for you and the body just needs to answer.

In SMRK, you are in a dialogue with the music and with the other performers – and then also the audience enters into this event. Is there something you would like to share with them beforehand?

I have nothing to say. That is something I would tell them. That’s sometimes all I want someone else to tell me before I embark on a journey. It’s all yours, I have nothing to say.

Cover image by Sam Lubicz

— Article written by Astrid Klein Haneveld


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