— a conversation between Pip Wallis and Adelle Mills, West Hollywood, Los Angeles, August 13th, 2015.

Do you think people understand what is happening?

No, I don’t think people ever understand what is happening, I’m often inclined to explain, and explain in a really presumptuous way that they didn’t get it already, so that’s a problem.

Do you think people understand what is happening?

No, I don’t think people ever understand what is happening, I’m often inclined to explain, and explain in a really presumptuous way that they didn’t get it already, so that’s a problem.

Is that because you feel it’s really important for them to understand the process of making it?

Yeah I think so… but I don’t think the work is flawed because it’s not obvious, because maybe it’s open for that conversation each time, it’s ready for it.

You explaining the work?


Because within the work there’s so much about this role of interpretation, not misinterpretation but differently perceiving; it occurs in the work, in the actors that are performing the work, but then also in the audience’s understanding of the work. So maybe it’s appropriate that there’s also…

These gaps? Most definitely, I mean perhaps I wouldn’t be making work about interpretation and cognition if there weren’t those questions already.

So the ambiguity is really important?

Yes, it is subject matter that is already everywhere so… is this recording?

Yeah. Yep.


When we spoke last time you mentioned Simone Forti, and it reminded me about the last time I was here in Los Angeles; I did a writing exercise with Simone where we went to the zoo and she asked us to observe the movement of the animals and then write that down, like she had done in the past to make her own work. So we made interpretation of movement into language, which becomes really important to her work. And you, like her, treat movement as a medium. Let’s talk about the relationship between language and movement. In ‘Reading, reciting’, and in the work ‘Copier, follower, reader’ there was a verbal instruction, or a verbal cue, and then a corresponding reaction or movement. You have used the words of Jackson Mac Low, and in a similar way to the way he wrote ‘The Pronouns’ series that Forti performed. So maybe you could talk about those two practitioners or the relationship with language and instruction and movement?


Okay, shall I keep talking?


So Simone talks about the relationship she sees between movement and language as syntax. That’s the thing she perceives in both. So it’s almost like a phrasing, you use the word phrase to talk about a sentence but also to talk about choreographed series of movements.

Or an instance—

Yeah, and I guess it also implies a grammar. Last time we met you talked about how language is a means of communication and so is movement. They both have a grammar that we learn and use to communicate with each other. Do you feel like these works are testing the readability of movement, and language?

I think so, in the sense that I’m setting up a choreography that is quite basic actually, in terms of its readability. Someone might be asked to copy a movement from another person that appears accessible but as they repeat or follow this gesture their movement becomes more complex because you can see how that person is thinking about it. They’re thinking about something that is very natural, say moving the arm in a certain way, but this will still be something that they need to interpret; a language communicated between two or three bodies and then sometimes a screen. So then a person becomes cognizant of the language between bodies when in a situation of following particular gestures. You know when you see someone who looks really comfortable and you kind of innately begin to mimic it, I think this is similar too.

So you’re looking at subjective interpretation of the same language or similar movements. Is subjectivity something that you’re aware of in the work?

Most definitely, so much so. In terms of the person becoming conscious of how they’re acting in a given situation that has been set up and instructed, and has detailed boundaries, there’s a great deal of room for that person to follow an instruction in a very self-knowing way. I think this is when something is communicated between separate performing bodes. So where I’ve set up a situation in which one person at a time is asked to improvise movement, for example in that work that I made with you, a person outside of the frame reads instructional poems describing a particular movement like swaying, then the person within the frame takes on this movement as their own by interpreting the words in a totally live sense. They’re not in control of what they’re listening to but they are in control of how they interpret or translate what they have heard into their movement syntax. Another component of that work is the third person directly copying that movement as it occurs, and you see how the movement expelled by the second person then becomes the third person’s own. So you have this direct comparison going on which then forms a conversation without words. So even as bodies are undertaking the same routine there is this conversation. For example you and Clare communicating through how you are moving, because you’re leading her into these movements in a way where you’re like “Okay, I’m going to reach right now and you’re going to follow me” and you’re looking at her with your eyes and she’s not submissive at all, she’s actively going along and so it is supportive but at the same time there is a tension because it’s not her movement; it’s yours, but then it does become hers too — as in conversation.

I think that this dance occurs often when we communicate, and I think women knowingly do this at times. We don’t finish one another’s sentences but we kind of guide through gesture and some level of maybe psychic knowing, but don’t record that. [LAUGHS] You know what I mean, there’s so much going on when we’re not speaking.

Yeah, well there’s a non-lingual aspect of communication where we’re either encouraging or responding to each other.

Yeah exactly, or disapproving, or whatever it may be.

There’s those constant split second interpretations of the other person’s reaction that helps you direct your own speech or action.

There’s a craft to that it seems, and you can take it too far sometimes; overstep a little bit through your own understanding, and I think that different people bring this out in one another in different ways. It can take time with particular people for you to not over do it.

What do you mean by over doing it?

In the sense of totally attempting to ‘get them’.

Which reminds me of that Irigaray quote, about loving ‘to’ someone instead of loving someone; wanting to have that strength of a relationship with someone but still maintaining the difference of two subjects.

And knowing that it’s a necessary and inherent difference. It gives me shivers, that sense of attempting to go towards but stopping because the field of the other is so separate. It’s the reason I quote Simone Weil in ‘Reading, reciting’, because she says something about why …

When a human being expresses a need for the other,–

Why does the other always,–

Step back?

Yeah, I don’t know why I can’t get it in my head right now…

Especially because your performers got it so well.

But it’s because I’m performing for the recorder. And I’ll have it in a moment.

It’s kind or ironic that we are now in the position that you have put others in.


Yeah, I’ve set it up.


Is this a set up?

You set it up, you turned it on. You turned it on Pip.

I always turn it on for the recorder.


Why is it that as soon as one … Anyway, back to why this is relevant to movement, I guess it’s about using movement as a medium, it’s a vehicle for trying to demonstrate how the way that we move applies to the way that we speak. I don’t value one over the other.

So, what about the performativity of the individual in your work, is it different to the performativity of each of us as we converse with one another? Say, looking at Lauren in ‘Reading, reciting’ and being aware that she has an awareness of her performativity in that moment. Is it useful to compare that to the way we perform everyday in conversation?

Yes, probably because I am often thinking about how training environments like school or working—say situations where we are expected to perform — would invite a person to enter into a mode of performing through learning. So I am setting up scripts or producing a kind of choreography that is necessarily self-consciously performative but relies on learning or instruction to achieve this self-consciousness or awareness.

I was looking at the work of Sue Tomkins and one of her works is a text piece that said ‘I’m here everyday’ and it made me think about your work in a couple of ways. One because you use words as you come across them everyday, so there’s a sense that you’re listening all the time, you’re here in the studio everyday, in the sense of being everywhere working, and also because there is this sense of repetition in your work and kind of this…

This sense of ‘already always’, a kind of ongoing…

Yes, also because you talked about the work in relation to conversation, which is an everyday activity, and especially this work ‘Reading, reciting’ where the performer is asked to remember a quote that they’ve just been read, relates to the way we each recall knowledge and information we’ve come across in the past and how that knowledge circulates within us.

I think with that conversation we had around how we retain information and sort of disseminate it and use it, if it’s thought of as a currency, that’s not so much interesting to me, and I don’t think we were talking about that exactly. But in terms of how we might become, in the sense of our attempt to become individual, what’s interesting to me is how we go about doing this with other people and how we might be trained to all do this in a really similar way.

Do what?

Produce a self. So there’s a conundrum. I was thinking so much about your mum, and how she has worked in early infant welfare throughout her career noticing how babies are who they are from the beginning. I can’t stop thinking about this.

I know. It’s kind of reassuring to know that you’ve always been this person. But kind of also terrifying to know that you’ve always been this person.

And yet we are working on all this stuff the whole time, how to be or how not to be perhaps, so I guess along the way we absorb so many ways of speaking, moving, acting and producing a self that is influenced by so many other bodies. I think it’s important that we are porous and malleable.

Which makes me think about editing and how we edit ourselves. I guess that relates to how you make work as a video editor, because obviously editing is such an important part of how you produce your subjects.

It occurs in the textual component of the work and I think these are linked, how writing and video editing are linked.

I’m really interested in the relationship between your video works and your poetry works. I’m thinking again about Simone Forti who talks about the relationship between movement and language as kinesthetic; the idea that there’s confusion in your senses about what you’re interpreting and how you’re interpreting it, not a confusion but a cross-over…

Yeah a cross-over, between what you’re actually producing as a person and how you might be responding to yourself.

In ‘Reading, reciting’ you’ve collected poetry by other writers but you’ve also produced poetry of your own and put these together as words to be read aloud and memorized. Both movement and poetry in your work allow for that gap that we started with earlier; the gap of interpretation which is the difference between prose and poetry — whereas prose allows a direct transmission of meaning, poetry asks for that gap.

It asks you to interpret, to do the work.

As does movement in many cases.

So it’s maybe like the difference between a small video and a film.



It’s like the film is the prose and the video is the poem.


Yes, I guess there’s a lot of interesting things to talk about in relation to movement and poetry in your work, but that’s one of the ones that I think is important: not just poetry but poiesis, that quality that exists across forms — I think that poiesis is defined as the creation of new things, so there’s a sense of potential in the gap.


What if this was how we spoke … all the time, without the recorder…

I’ve been wondering how our body language looks to the other people in the cafe, because we’ve been looking so sincere…


I’ve also been thinking about how your work can look or come across as very cool and reduced but it’s also so sensitive and has a heightened sensitivity towards emotion and atmosphere. I think that atmosphere is something that is really important to you. ‘Emotion’ made me think about our conversations in terms how we often go to an emotional place in conversation…

I know, I feel really upset [LAUGHS] in a really good way…

You feel upset? Right now, or whenever you talk to me?

Right now.

Oh wow, why?

I don’t know … because it’s just good, it produces a really healthy feeling.

I think, like you said before, you have it with certain people. You said sometimes women have it together, constantly interpreting, but it’s something to do with not necessarily the language we’re using but the kind of sub-text that we both subconsciously agree on. Maybe we just have similar interpretive frameworks.


Yeah I think so.

What’s happening, between our lines, is in sync.

That’s what’s interesting, on top of everything else. But I was just thinking about Irigaray reframing being ‘in love’ to ‘loving to’ someone; I’m not upset, I’m in-set.

[LAUGHS AND CLAPS] So good, yes… in-set. Do you ever have that thing, I have it, when you’re crying people think you’re upset but it’s neither upset nor happiness… it’s just excess emotion.

It’s a pouring up that needs to take place.


3 Day Exhibition: Adelle Mills   

August 21–23, 2015
Normal gallery hours 

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