Archive | August, 2010

I’m A Practitioner Of Dance and Choreography and I’m About To Die

31 Aug

Now I’m pissed. Really pissed. Holy shit, I have spent a week on this blog and I’ve had a thousand views and not a single hate comment. The worst that has happened is being accused for being “very old”. What am I doing wrong? This is not good. Either I’m writing far too nice things and people actually enjoy reading, or my texts are simply not hard enough to make you guys upset enough to start up some proper havoc. Do I have to start to expose people with names, go personal and accuse individuals for being nice and friendly?

Nope, this is not good enough. Reading those posts back I realize that I sound like an enthusiast that listens to soul whilst putting my blog together. Is all that I could accomplish another sweet talking blog that is not worthy of its name, but should be re-baptized “I’m available.” Spangbergianism is as evil as an interior decoration blog, as dangerous as if the blog was concerned with the pedigree of some common aquarium fish. If this blog would be any good I should at least have Kanye West as a follower and a million views, but no I’ve had a thousand. Did it make me famous, nope! Did I make a hundred thousand dollars, nope! Should I stop, yes probably but no fuckin’ way, I’m going on until I have exhausted every opportunity to make a mess. I refuse to fall into the abyss of cynicism, I refuse to be seduced by the tempting embrace of cultural policy.

Shit, is the situation in dance and choreography so tragic that its practitioners don’t even remember how to put up a proper fight? Is the only response we are able to produce an indifferent consent? I’m ready to think so cuz over the last years I haven’t experienced a single provocative performance, not one artistic statement that has made me raise an eyebrow, not even my own. I can’t record anything in dance that has given me reason to question my political perspectives, nothing that has made me make a comment that was concerned with issues outside the business. From time to time I have forced myself to get upset about the misuse of resources or the lame attitude in programming. But hell, that is so not good enough. Fine, this is neo-liberalism what do I expect. Something to happen… not really, but it still makes me want to get depressed when what I hear is choreographers compulsively repeating sentences including “at least”. “-At least it wasn’t that bad.” “-At least, there is something in the program that I’m curious about.” “-One performance is at least better than nothing.” Aspirations my fellow choreographers, aspirations! Is this the best we can do?

Visiting the Gothenburg Dance and Theatre Festival last week was as exiting as having dinner with a bottle of Evian. Checking out the performances of Impulstanz for an entire month was as provocative as a global climate change conference in Copenhagen. And here I am at Tanz Im August and I’m so bored that I end up listening to jazz instead of chasing co-production deals.

For a while dance was at least ontologically speaking contemporary, but nowadays programs are swarmed by reconstructions and pieces that celebrate dead choreographers. Congratulations, it’s obviously perfect to do a show featuring an ex Cunningham dancer. And I know what you will say… “-The piece was made already before Merce died.” Yeah, sure but that doesn’t mean that you have to tour it. You can also say, no! Do you need the money so badly, affirmation without any conditions? What you are doing is making our art form age faster than necessary, or turn it around you don’t make it age fast enough so we could start something else up. But here we are, art form or not, the point is that its politics are completely empty and its rhetorics more dead than that of a communist party. Think about it, how do you contribute to its transformation?
The first questions we have to ask ourselves when we set out to make something: Is this truly contemporary? If you are not 100% sure, start again. Begin from the beginning. Stop being enthusiastic, be fanatic.

I will give myself one more week. I still have hopes for myself and I still have hope about all of you. I love this art from, I sincerely do. I’m a practitioner of dance and choreography and I’m about to die.

Ps. If I die, no reconstructions, please. Por favor, no dedication pieces (“For Pina” how embarrassing). Then I’ll have to die a second time.


Black Box Life

30 Aug

The charger question has a friend, the associate question that usually arrives before the white cube issues. Yes, somehow it is the black box problem, and yes it is all a question of power and regulation. Here we go…

“- What’s the network?”

In the land of digital communication sharing network implies a multiplication of opportunities without consequences, without being obliged to form a group, having secrets or agreements. The agreement is structural not strategic, it is impersonal and inconsequential. We don’t fill up our bit-torrent client when bandwidth is going thin. It’s rather simple, when I click in I’m whoever, not a history of prominence or marginal who wants to get in – there is no hierarchy between users or engaged ones. When I close the laptop I’m history and keychain, no string attached, no lobby to maintain. The structural level of alignment, or the absence of composition is attractive. It operates on the bases of permission rather than under auspices of license. I like it cuz it offers navigation without ownership.

“-What’s the network?”

Dance festivals and season programs operate exactly the other way around. Yes, I dare say without exception, because if you are not in you don’t work whatever it is that you do. In dance networks operate strictly on strategic levels, without any concern for structural or tactical openness or deployment. Networks in the cultural sector are absolutely closed and are all about membership. You have to make yourself worthy of being part, you will have to go through a test, and you have to invest a fare amount on energy in lobby and travel-costs.
If digital networks are somehow a masochistic mechanical structure, then networks in the cultural sector can be said to be a sadistic organicity. This is interesting in relation to surveillance. Masochism is dealing with contracts and conditions and as long as the condition is fulfilled the subordinate is liberated. Sadism is the flip side, it deals with conventions and operates through ubiquitous control, and the surveillance necessarily operates dialectically. Networks have become self-perpetuating, worse and better than a panopticon. Networks in cultural businesses operate due a mode or production known as “dynamique d’enfer” or dynamics of hell, the basic ideology of which is:

Identify a reason for engagement

Convince partners to chip in

Make sure all players are involved in a manner where it becomes too expensive (actually or symbolically) to withdraw.

This is the network situation in dance, it is about fear and pressure without a face. It is: “-If you don’t do as we say…” It is the call for the rookie, the already weak, to kill his best friend, the childhood buddy who fucked up some minor drug deal, s’cuse me co-production.
It’s not about you… It’s so not about you, but you know that if you don’t do it somebody will lose face and killing will not end. And losing face is the only thing that matters. If there were a Hollywood film about dance networks the boss, the initiator, would be played by Al Pacino on a really bad day. Dignity is all that counts. So in dance networks we keep it in the family and there is no deals, no action, no transactions without the silent approval of a very old Sicilian.

No you kill for the greater good. It’s not even you who does it, it is the organization and you, you are just a… What are you responsible for?
You are responsible for the maintenance of hierarchies, the preservation of an aristocratic society that operates like a flock of vampires, like apologetic blood suckers that obediently confess there compulsive lust. “-I do my best, but after all I’m a vampire. I was made a vampire, it wasn’t my desire, and now I’m destined to destruction.” No, even a vampire can choose for a different route, it is rather simple stop being apologetic and/or enthusiastic, be fanatic and take your own life.

“-What do you mean, enthusiastic?”

Rather simple, enthusiasm is one of these contemporary gestures, which mean absolutely nothing, are completely soaked with liberal attitude and have zero consequences. Enthusiasm is the ultimate vampire, the proactive attitude of a murderer. Fuck enthusiasm, be a fanatic, allow yourself to be rich enough to be categorical. Enthusiasm is for those that have already given up the possibility of an alternative. Enthusiasm is like renting a car, it’s not yours. You have no autonomy.
How does it feel to give up your autonomy and sell out to the network just in order to obtain short-term economical breathing space? Are you aware that the network is making your program, composing your season? Al Pacino runs your business. It is not you, who kill but it is also not you who makes anything happen. You are a victim of your own life, and you know what, you will spend the rest of your life in a black box.


29 Aug

This morning it struck me: dance festivals are like apple chargers. Always around, far too many and absolutely identical.
In a working session yesterday somebody said and I’m not kidding: “-I think my charger (the white cube) is cool. It’s like so worn out.” I love it. I think that’s the only reason to be proud of a dance festival… it’s identical with every other festival, but it has patina, and the surface is a little bit scratched. Looks like it’s been around and part of the action. If you know what I mean…
“… anybody got a charger?”
“-What kind?” – oh that moment is really embarrassing, it is always only an apple charger. Same goes for dance festivals, you don’t need to ask what kind, when, where, under what circumstances, there is only one… and the compatibility is endless.
Mine is marked with a piece of tape, just in case. Precisely like dance festivals the only difference between them might be a piece of tape with a name. But just like me and my charger, the dance festival seems to be totally incapable of doing anything else than putting a little tape. In other words they are not just identical but really bad in marketing strategies.
Chargers like dance festival are always around, they always function and make nobody, except exceptionally anal people, produce a comment, but fuck me when they are not around, when my charger is lost, vanished, disappeared – at the moment the dance festival is the most important, life saving, thing in the entire world. When it’s gone, not there OMG – it’s a disaster.
But then, I changed my mind – felt really shitty about it all and Sunday morning. Seriously I prefer to spend a week with an apple charger instead of a dance festival. Why? Well, at least apple chargers have some style.

“-Do You Understand?”

27 Aug

In 1995 the first SMS was sent, in 2005 the world sent so many SMS that there isn’t enough many zeros to put after the first digit. The same year hotmail opened its doors for a new universe of communication. Google set up their webpage in 1998. Can you imagine a world without Google search? Five years later, the Estonian paradigm Skype transformed the world again. The list is getting longer, and all those technical things did was to change the way we live: Facebook, Spotify, Youtube and Myspace and so on. Sure, all kinds of things have changed the way we live, combustion engines, hamburger chains, chainsaws, plastic and cassette tapes. The difference is that I’m speaking about 15 years give or take, and there is another world out there.

When I look back at dance I wonder what happened to us? In music they have new gadgets all the time. I even own a Kaosspad, a machine I don’t even know what it is supposed to do, but chaos. What does dance have? We are still barefoot and dance studio fashion hasn’t changed significantly. Well, perhaps we don’t want to change… but if we don’t I’d be up for a battle to find out the arguments accuracy. I think it is time for dance to give up barefoot and the primacy of the body. Not because we want to get rid of it – absolutely not – but because its primacy has become representation without policy. Hysterical representation that will deny the symptom until death.

Over the last ten years the opportunities for dance and choreography have expanded. There is hardly an end to festivals and venues, off programs and late night threads, but at the same time it’s evident that programming has become subject to much tougher control, audience numbers are counted more than movements and first priority is to please politicians, not the art form. If we want to change dance and choreography, to come to terms with the revolutions that have happened in the realms of media and communication, programming is not the place to be. Programming is a priori reactive and can not change dance. We shouldn’t give up on programming but be happy if we can be an influence. Programming has another job, and an important one.

The place to change dance and choreography is education, although the issue at hand is not change but invention. Education, I believe, is the only place where invention can obtain enough out-of-focus, mediocrity, low resolution and superficiality to actually make a difference. In the ubiquitous capitalism that we live  in invention needs to be cared for, certainly not protected but cared for, so that it isn’t swallowed, at least not too fast, by corporate economies and state sell out. Paradoxical, yes at first glance but on seconds thought, the consolidation of traditions and maintenance of history, the spreading of representation, that has been one of education’s main responsibilities, are today distributed by other means. Everything is available, every dance ever made is already on video on some or other Youtube, a student on any level of education can find anything on the Internet: from dance classes to texts, anything, so why should education bother about this domain. Today education is exactly not about the patronizing gesture “-Have you understood?” which obviously will destroy the self-esteem of every student, but rather about the possibility to produce a shared platform that offers the student to produce knowledge on his or her own premise. Contemporary education has nothing to do with facilitation of knowledge, or introducing the student into some kind of socialization process (which is how almost every dance institution functions) – Educators of the world: YOU ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR STUDENTS BEHAVIOR! – except their bad behavior which you should stimulate – but with production of knowledge, i.e. our job is to make up things, to fiddle with the unknown. Contemporary education is not occupied with knowledge but with concepts, which is not conceptual. Education today can be defined as “engagement with concepts”, which implies a shift from identity – as violence or the opportunity to engage in ones own – to individuation – the expansion or diminishing of the capacity of identity as such. The arguments are pouring out of me a little bit too fast today, but let me just put an edge to the last sentence. This further implies that education has, or must, experience a shift from individual and proprietary to instead be defined as singular and universal, and that is pretty damn cool.

The disciplinary past of education had to die twice. It died first time in the 50s when art education changed from craft to art, when measure transformed from ability to creativity. Today we have to kill it again, and this time it is not about laterality or disqualifying the teacher position – that’s already over so over – but to get down to the fact that education today is not about learning, not about passing over knowledge that is already existing but instead coming in terms with a society organized around completely new modes of distribution, accountability and ownership.
Conventionally, we tend to say that an education should be a resource for the student. We rarely ask how and in what sense, to be a resource is of course also, especially when it comes to institutional culture, hierarchical. A resource is always violent. We have to reverse the positions, today the student should instead be considered a resource for the education, and the education an entity that operates through affect and affection, thus producing an open ground for an expanding ability to act. In this sense it is the student that educates education, and the education is a player in local, national and international contexts. It is in the position of the players that students and education can produce differentiation within the field, and more importantly can expand what the field is. We don’t need more dance, there is enough choreography in the world, what we need its something else, something radically different, like dance and choreography.

If dance and choreography is to have a future it is imperative that we think about it as a place where unsolicited transformation and production is stimulated. This is a tricky responsibility because it means that we have to stop thinking about education in dance and choreography in respect of modes of representation but rather as modes of production. What we can “teach” students is not what to do but how. Education finally has to transform itself from giving license and thus capital, to consider itself as a site to produce permission and agency. You know, James Bond has only license to kill, a participant in an education should be given the permission to not, and end up somewhere totally foreign. It is in those foreign places, those vacances that dance and choreography can find its futures.

Zombies Having Safe Sex

27 Aug

A few months ago I attended a show by the Swedish/Icelandic choreographer Halla Olafsdottir. The piece, a duo with Nadja Hjorton, spins on rock n’ roll as experience: it’s loud, spectacular and intensely stupid.

“-Can you hear me Stockholm?”

The material – one of those terms people use but seem to have no idea what it actually means – is in no respect elaborate and the use of space has more to do with blinking lights, smoke and leather jackets. It’s equivoque in the same sense as Axl Rose is an anagram for oral sex.
The audience is shaken, blown away and for the encore – mandatory as this is all about the spirit of rock – they stand up and wave their arms to “We Will Rock You”. The piece has zilch to do with analysis, this is pure intensity and in this sense absolutely radical. It is a piece without safety net, exactly like a decent rock show.

Next to me a colleague from Brussels, the only person in the entire space that isn’t standing up. No, she maintains her distance and keeps her analytical façade up like a scared boxer in the first round. Afterwards she comes up to me and explains that she has many things to say but that it is not the right moment. What does she think? That the piece will be better off because she has something to say? Who does she pronounce herself to be posing as some sort of authority of choreography and dance? Hello, the famous critical distance is just a means to consolidate what dance has already been. Today critical distance equals being sadly conservative, a defensive posture that with a whispery voice contains dance within a defined territory. I’m sick of the concerned face that looks for answers or even worse questions. Don’t you see, it’s the face of a person that is not part of the game. No, I’m not against critical or critique. Criticality is nauseating but that’s another story. No, the problem is the moment of critique, and its concerned-face-expression. If we want to produce something with and for dance, we must put away distance and step straight into the abyss. Critical in respect of experience concerned with representation, makes no difference, but if it is posed onto the self it can indeed move mountains. What you should ask yourself is instead how you are able to participate in the given experience. Why does the dance audience always present this stone face attitude, which most of all reminds me about how I’m myself totally unable to make it happen in a social dance situation. The skeptical distance that I put up is just a miserable reminder that I’m not brave enough to hit the floor, to go nuts to the wrong music or give in to self-expression. You know what, spectacle doesn’t become less spectacle because you put on the skeptical face, propose yourself as an observer or well-meaning critic.

A few years ago it became synonymous with good pieces if the performer looked as if he or she was thinking or where inspecting his or her own behavior on stage. That was all fine, but two weeks after the fad had set off the self-aware, sort of meta alienation, became style and however the performer had done the show so and so many times he or she still looked like it was happening for the first time. Curious, yet comfortable. No no, it didn’t matter if the show had been rehearsed for three months. Over night the thinking performer became representation and all was restored to its commonplace.

We are all aware of a discourse that proposes that critique has been incorporated by capitalism and lost its touch. So why do we still insist? Why do we sit there with our skeptical face looking like we don’t know what enjoying oneself means? Why do we sit around like as if permanently constipated after showing trying to reinstate every experience into something known?
Another few years ago the fad was about clarity. A piece was not clear enough; a proposal that wasn’t transparent was disqualified in a second. But isn’t transparent equal to have to take any risk. Transparency reinstalls the division between body and mind and makes sure nothing unexpected can happen.

The moment something is clear, and we know what it is, it’s also as dead as a Volvo and the only thing we can cherish is excellence and culpability. The thinking performer, the skeptical distance and clarity has made dance into a zombie. But in dance the zombie is not symbolizing that unknown other but has incorporated zombie-life into itself: it feeds on the few exceptions, on the few choreographers that are brave enough to be at least a little bit foolish. Dance has become exiting in the same way as zombies practicing safe sex.
The zombie in dance has ripped to pieces the last little spirit to breach traditions, in favor of a ubiquitous concern for the well-being of dance. It is time that we call in Max von Sydow to exorcise the zombie within, it is time that we put away that skeptical face, the face that seems to want to tell all those that are enjoying themselves that they are stupid, celebrate dance and cherish a sense of havoc and tumult.

The Festival Is Dead, Long Live The Festival

26 Aug

Halfway into the Gothenburg Dance and Theatre Festival I start to have doubts. What does a festival in 2010 actually do? What can a festival do when the circumstances for its existence are only discussed in respect of economy, expected subsidy that didn’t appear and how difficult it is to produce a program under the circumstances of today’s cultural policy. If it is so difficult and so much agony involved why to do a festival at all? Where did we store away our convictions?

Is festival a dead format that at best can perform some quality time for people who choose between television, children and going to the theatre? I’m not interested in serving this audience. They can stay home, because they never anyway stay around afterwards for a decent conversation. What I hear most of all in the foyers is a mixture between “-I liked it”, “-That was nice” and “-It wasn’t that uninteresting”. I had at least hoped to hear some technical critique in the style of defining what and not was bad, lousy or great, even if it is concerned with comparison it’s okay. “-It was better than…” or “-I prefer” at least implies a position. Today it seems that we are back in the 80s where everything was nice, interesting and when it came to dance “-What amazing bodies”.

The festival as we know it showed up some 30 years ago. It was conceived due certain communicational capacities and, well, not even fax machines. The festival is a child of a time when distance was an issue. When it was impossible to see shows if they didn’t come around during the two weeks festival thingy. In Stockholm the festival took place in August (obviously) and it presented stuff that was completely new to me (to most of us). Wooster Group’s “Emperor Jones” in 1991, next to Robert Lepage’s “Snake Song Trilogy” (or whatever it was called), even some idiotic new circus was there and it was fresh. But what do we experience today, a fresh conservative mixture of dance-theatre, tired – not again – oh so amazing French circus, and some unarticulated interactive whatever.

The important discussion right now is not this or that international guest appearance, but what on earth is a festival good for and how the hell does it become proactive, empowering and undeniable for dance, theatre, performance makers and doers? This year’s edition of the festival in Gothenburg has made me even more doubtful. Yet, I’m happy to be here being part of a team that dare pronounce five important words: “-No, we are not fine!” accompanied with an ambition to stop, willing to try something else independent of budget cuts, audience numbers or festival centers. It wont be a nice experience, but hey there is no way out but to start from the beginning.
The festival is dead, long live the festival.

It’s The Time Of Your Life

25 Aug

I don’t get it. I so don’t get it. Why is it always so difficult to make art? Why are people making art as if it is so difficult, so intimately connected with angst, trauma, self-denial? First of all, it’s not hard to make art. It’s fun, it’s great, wonderful and liberating, or it should be why do you otherwise continue? To make really great art might be demanding and laborious, but that doesn’t automatically connected it with fear, sleeplessness or mood-swings.

Further on, art making is not supposed to be connected with tenacity, self-contempt, psychological tension and breakdown. It should be a pleasure to go to the studio, put the key into the lock of your residency atelier, not to mention the premiere, opening or release. Why do you put yourself under the pressure of premieres if you hate them so badly? Why do you expose yourself in this way, if it makes you toss and turn through the nights for weeks, months, years? Premieres should be fantastic, exiting and the time of your life. Let’s celebrate. If nothing else they are reason enough to have another drink! If it is hard to make art, if it is trauma trauma t r a u m a, stop it! Listen carefully, I say this only once: STOP IT!

You don’t have to, you are not obliged, especially today when format, content, deconstruction, appropriation, remixing is open wide and your first task is to not do whatever somebody else has already done. Chill! So if the universe is open like a “svenska flicka” why have any problems at all. This is brilliant we are the winners in whatever we do. Art is about changing the world, so of course its gonna be scary, but you know it’s not the art that is scary it’s what the world might change into. Your angst is not there because it is hard to make art, it is you attacking yourself because you are so embarrassingly scared of not being loved.

So let’s cook this argument. Lets bring it through the Agatha Christie machine. Aha, the problem is the position of responsibility, both in respect of what and when. Stop taking it upon yourself to be responsible for the other, stop taking upon yourself the responsibility of yourself, stop taking upon yourself to be responsible for the state of art. You have only one responsibility and that is to change the world. It is a huge responsibility but it can only take place utilizing a fair amount of, exactly, irresponsibility. And most of all and finally: stop feeling responsible for what people think about you, allow yourself to be considered a fool. Engage in shame, embarrass yourself! Life doesn’t happen to kids that regard humbleness a virtue. Stop behaving, terminate career surveillance, tell you boss to fuck off, sleep with your colleagues (all of them), make art before lunch and make some more just because. Remember it was love at first sight. And I still love you, unconditionally.