Erik Dæhlin greets us as he unwinds his scarf and orders a coffee in the café at the Oslo Opera House. The composer and performance artist has only just managed to digest yesterday’s premiere of Her at the opera house, and there are just a few hours to go until the next performance. The show was conceived in collaboration with singer and dancer Silje Aker Johnsen and was first staged at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts a year ago. It worked better this time round, according to Dæhlin.
“When we staged Her last year it was a bit too self-centred, I thought. It’s important that the members of the audience feel there is room for them, that they’re being accommodated. The relevance that can be generated in the meeting between performers and audience worked better this time around, and I’m very happy about that.”
Her, staged in the opera house on 14 and 15 February 2018, is part of Dæhlin’s artistic research project at the Norwegian Academy of Music (NMH). He took up his fellowship in autumn 2016. The research is a continuation of Dæhlin’s past work on instrumental music and music theatre, which saw him produce hybrid works of art involving audio, visuals and text. Entitled Shared Space – Composing in the Field of a Relational, Processual and Intermedial Practice, Dæhlin’s project seeks to define and explore his role as a composer in collaboration with different performers. Using the premises of ownership, investment, searching and risk, he will investigate how the performer can influence the artistic process. The term shared space refers to the development, but also the performance, of the artistic outcome.
“Shared spaces are incredibly important. There is a risk, at least in contemporary music, that we forget about these common spaces.”
The main objective of his research is to “create better and wiser art”.
“What are the important components, and how should they be structured? That’s what I’m working on now. I’m curious about whether the role of composer and director works for me. In Her I control the sound from the side of the auditorium, so I can’t always see what’s happening on stage. When preparing for the performance I’ve been thinking a lot about how a performer or director relies heavily on one particular sense: vision. When you don’t see, you use other senses. What impact does that have on the choices you make, the language you use and how you respond to each other? It’s hugely interesting.”