Theft is a totally underrated concept in dance. If I was taken to court I would immediately plead guilty on all counts. I confess, my entire career, or should we say all my activities in dance are based on theft. I’ve been stealing from day one. To tell you the truth, I’m just about to set up yet another heist. The only problem today is that I don’t exactly know what it is that I’m s’posed to take with me. But it is serious fun and quite exciting that soon, soon, I’m going out for a nightly excursion to steal.
Ja ja ja, there’s all kinds of mumbo jumbo on appropriation, sampling, citation and palimpsest but isn’t that just another word for a postmodern relativization of responsibility. Or after smoking a joint: “-It wasn’t me!”, with a Jamaican accent.
There is something endearing with theft, perhaps similar to a gift. A respectable thief doesn’t ask for anything back, but is willing to eye the consequences. Theft requires a certain cool, similar to when you offer somebody a gift. There’s but one thing you can’t ask for and that is appreciation. Perhaps that is the dilemma of capitalism, that the thief as much as the one that offers a gift expects something in return. Capitalism steals from the poor and is still expected to be treated like Robin Hood. That equation doesn’t make a home run. Nope, a proper thug stands tall without remorse, willing to pay the price. “… thug life, from now till’ the muthafuckin’ ever” – 2Pac
Ok, I’m going romantic here, but so what? Steal more, and make sure you leave traces. Steal in front of people’s noses, steal when everyone can see you and make sure you put the loot into action AS motherfuckin AP (that’s quite embarrassing). But hey, don’t ever ask for a ransom, that’s the low life. So do ask for a ransom, but only one that is completely out of scale, too small so that it doesn’t matter shit, or outrageously over sized. Stop acting visa-vi some hideously old school notion of dignity. That old Charles Bronson should r.i.p. Revenge is so stone age not even Italians have time for it. Theft today should be a means to undermine and corrupt a field, to make a landscape completely unstable, making it shaky under your as well as others’ feet.
In a society based on discipline theft still carries with it an opportunity to operate between layers of rule, but we aren’t there any longer. In a society of control theft is as good as any other business strategy. The romantic posture would then be to propose, that the thief as any other business engagement must know what the act is producing. But fuck that, this only implies a return to known models of reason. As long as you are aware of the consequences of your act they are justifiable, but again justification is always resting on established conventions. So nothing else than theft without reason, without conditioned revenue, will contest conventions and norms. Theft in this respect complexifies or ungrounds.
After Roland Barthes we know that there is no other way to pursue the world than to thieve around, to borrow and steal from wherever, is the only way to bring the bacon. The title of the contemporary thief is DJ. With this knowledge in mind we have at least two choices, we can continue to steal as if innocent and somehow continue to ride a dead horse, i.e. although we know it’s not an option to maintain that the artistic act is operating due some calling, or to consider exactly not what we steal, but in respect of what aspirations the theft is taking place.
Initially, we can consider theft in respect of time and space. To steal ideas, like some Leonardo Di Caprio, is excellent as ideas don’t operate in the world but instead make the world operable. In other words to steal ideas is brilliant since their capacity to unfold is endless. Ideas are made of proliferation but left to the user, the entity that handles it, to choose how to cultivate it, i.e. to steal ideas undermines models of ownership, proposes a notion of open source, and must be considered to produce surplus for all involved parties.
To steal modes of production, methods or, let’s say, capacities of cultivation is also dandy, as they can not not point back to an idea, which if we are not speaking simple plagiarism, must differ. However such acts of theft are rare because they are not making life simpler for the thief, but in fact imply the same or even larger efforts. The common thief steals expression, and that is in no way cool, as such theft operates on the basis of dislocating actual value, i.e. it qualifies in respect of identity or recognition. The dude that steals expression, or representations (or perhaps set-designs), is just somebody without imagination that wants effortless admiration, belonging, and he or she will inevitably claim innocence, or simply pretend that it’s raining. Don’t worry they don’t sleep well at night, whereas you just might end up a little poorer for a moment, but pride yourself you are good enough to elaborate a new even cooler thingy in no time. Be brave, don’t lock the door and fuck backing up.
We could also consider theft in respect of capacity. Stealing structures should not be considered, that’s what we do every time we make pieces for the stage. It feels good exactly because it provides safety, yet it also makes it impossible to assume anything else than a little bit more, less, left or right and maintains systems. To steal strategies is equally uncool as it inevitably confirms the initial owner. Stealing strategies is comparable to wearing vintage fashion or stealing from a second hand shop. Theft of tactics is more complex, as it basically means to steal something that has no reason as long as it is not connected to some or other strategy and structure. To steal tactics makes life complicated as their application in a foreign territory necessitates transformation of said territory. In other words, it’s is like stealing something you have absolutely no use for and insisting on not getting rid of it. It demands individuation or unprecedented change. Tactics are digital in the sense that they don’t lose value when duplicated, and to steal them implies the necessity of producing new surfaces for their proliferation. To steal tactics is like doing a bank robbery through digging endless canals, it makes the ground to which they are inserted more and more unstable. If to steal structures and strategies equals further stabilization and conventional decision-making based on reaction, to steal tactics is the opposite, it rather implies to make yourself unable to maintain resistance, and produces action, or even better activation. When you steal a structure you’re simply afraid to get caught, when you steal tactics you fear not being noticed at all.
Why if we consider theft a productive force don’t we set up a gangster syndicate, start to work as a mob? No no no, that’s exactly the wrong way, that’s not even theft, that’s more like a theatrical form of redistribution of ownership, or in our field consensual forms of collaboration (it will always end up in a known disaster). It won’t be easy, but unfortunately you will have to put on your thug outfit and sneak around all alone. Steal without reflection, without sympathy, without discernment, steal ideas and tactics, steal for no other reason than to corrupt.
Let’s go 2Pac in choreography. Fuck, I change my mind, I’m so not guilty.