“-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.


3 Responses to ““-Do You Understand?””

  1. leaky distinctions August 29, 2010 at 08:58 #

    It would be great to come to a point of understanding a difference between engagement with concepts and production of conceptual work… One of the things that totally disappeared from a horizon is thinking of how to make a work and not how to do something to audience. People are mostly taught how to do a service jobs, what audience likes, how to be friendly, understandable etc… This service-like care for audience blurs an object of theatre as performance-being-observed into a mystified construct of average audience represented by ideal model – curator.

    • Marten Spangberg August 29, 2010 at 12:38 #

      Dear Leaky, Nice comment. I think a comment is to small a format for this, so instead I will dedicate some thinking and articulation on the topic and make it one of the posts for the next couple of days. Thanks the extra for commenting with attitude and accurace.

      • Marten Spangberg August 29, 2010 at 13:00 #

        Aha, I see. Dude, challenge challenging. It’s on the house this time. I’m about to go medieval.

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