Thug Life

10 Sep

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.

10 Responses to “Thug Life”

  1. Billy-Bob Thornton September 10, 2010 at 18:11 #

    Inspired by http://www.crimethinc.com/ ?

    Theft is one thing and referencing/discussing/appropriating something (already in place) another. I am not buying your romantic dismissal there, Mårten.
    Ideas, concepts are generally open source, commonwealth Steal that? It’s like stealing at a free buffet! Engage in whatever you want – take whatever you want – as long as you engage in a proper dialogue with something.
    The worst you can do (the simple theft) is to “steal” a concept, strategy, tactic, expression and add/question nothing (just rely on a new context).

  2. Mattias September 10, 2010 at 18:25 #

    This is all fine and healthy, but in order for it not to be just hip positioning you need to go all the way and get the “Thug Life” tattoo across your stomach (with the I in shape of a bullet…). Just do it!

    • Marten Spangberg September 10, 2010 at 18:48 #

      Fuck yeah, let’s meet at Slussen and go disco at the tattoo master up at Skanstull. Nja, in fact I think the thug life tattoo is exactly to act like a programmer, i.e. to identify oneself as a thug but actually… Cooler then to work it with a tanktop version of the Italian national football team outfit and tight jeans with far too many zippers.
      Check it out, thug life is not an emblem not a noun but verb, goddamn action. So in stead of spending time with at the tacky tattoo master with a band of no-intelligence Harley dudes, let’s go out looting in Sofo.

      • Mattias September 12, 2010 at 12:22 #

        Hehe, so the Euro Trash look is the new sneak-up-on-em thug look, now that what used to be the subversive Casual sporty elegance tactic is widely understood as “mucka-gräl-kläder” (two teenage girls’ description of their boyfriends’ fashion sense overheard in the subway the other day). I’m not sure this camouflage tactic is exactly what you’re after, but if so, regarding your critique of the dance community in general, wouldn’t the proper thug life tactic be to actually camouflage as the average cliche grant-applying artist you dismiss and work it from there?

    • Marten Spangberg September 10, 2010 at 19:07 #

      Dude, discussing and referencing is hard to avoid but nothing to be proud of. People that want to discuss, send them home. People that want to fight oh yeah. Dialogue is time consuming BS forget about it. Speak up, dialogue is for self-righteous communists. Speak up, let me here your warriors roar.

      When it comes to appropriation it is my experience that zero artists have any proper reason for quoting, citing or appropriating, except if we consider “because I love that dance/choreography/film” amazing enough. I maintain my position that those forms, procedures, are basically vampiric, and thus mus be rather popular. But hey they are only acceptable when produced by HBO.
      Correct, ideas can’t be owned and yet is what capitalism tries very hard to do, but proper diaglogue no way, sounds like a programmer wanting to dizz you. The worst you can steal is ideas and tactics cuz they will simply fuck you up, we should steal as much as we can of structures, strategies, proposals and expressions. That will hurt others much more, and corrupt the scene further. But no never anything close to parody. Hate on parody and Sloterdijk.
      Further, we have to sort out what a concept is once and for all, at least in order not to mix it up with simple proposals or even a snippit of text for an application.
      Dig more canals, make more cheese, burn your boats.

      • Billy-Bob Thornton September 10, 2010 at 22:16 #

        If you are no physicist, you propably cannot do much with a certain equation, stolen from a certain physicist. On the other hand – stealing tactics / strategies and making them your own is a different matter altogether. It’s a physicist using the same equation to solve a different problem (albeit on different levels depending on the matter in question). Propably a better analogy (than the physicist one) would be the art of football. Trying to implement a tactic which one cannot pull off in any given circumstance obviously does no good and it’s up to each and everyone to know what will work for them in a certain situation. Ones own tactic or someone elses, stolen – it matters little.

        I’m sure you realize, that the art world is a fiction. Laws of general society (especially copyright ones) are much more loosely interpreted because we’re players in a highly pointed discoursive field. All you need is to explain how A differs from A. Does it make such an event (A differing from A) interesting? Not likely. But it’s still a valid argument.
        Is the art world apart of the overall society. Of course. But it’s still a field of it’s own.

        For me, any attempt to make this field into something useful, a certain instrument for improving overall society somehow – is going to fall flat into just one other, boring aesthetic or propaganda. Referencing is not for referencing’s sake, but for being pointed in a discussion about art (which is essentially what we do each time we make something, “socially engaged” or not). The biggest success (regardless of what we do) there can be is in the realm of the hyperreal. Sure there are other successes, events unfolding in surprising ways, new constellations taking place and others blown off the sky, but the hyperreal is the quintessential – before leaving for the mausoleum, and obviously equals dying, getting pinned down, solidified.

        The art world is capitalism in a pure form. There is no escape. Art is what we can discuss, primarily. (and hey, whatever happens as a consequence of art/theory has got to remain open-ended – REAL reprecussions outside the art-world tend to be in the dreams of many players but despised when they do come).

        YET, it’s different ideas concerning the fields of art, philosophy and other theory that we actually CAN discuss, not just propagate (and I mean that in every sense of what a discussion can be – ranging from big middle fingers, in any direction to using the quotes you love where appropriate), and you can do that with any guy, dead or living, at your own premises.

        Happened to read what happened to Jens, and that – to me looks like simple theft in the first degree.

        Regarding concepts/ideas, I think we must make clear cuts here, in-between a) concept for an exhibition/show b) concept as in theoretical ones, for instance.

        I suspect now that you where talking about ideas in the sense of a) mostly, in the above article?

        This makes me think of the differences between expressions and expressions. There are expressions closely associated to a) or b) and there are expressions with no clear association / widely differing associations.

        Everything is up for grabs, and it’s up to the witty and the intelligent to make each tidbit work for him- or herself. Corrupting the scene is one way to go. Aiming for something new is another, and doing both is propably good for the game. Repeating old already established patterns / going fringe is what’s least desirable. At least from my point of view.

  3. juurak September 10, 2010 at 21:49 #

    stealing is a fine matter. it would say it’s almost impossible. one has to go a long way to cross borders. everything is a free buffet when it comes to theft. Corporations, the state, the rich, the poor, the immigrants, the artists, myself, have all become immune to it. Yes, sometimes they complain, fine you, accuse you, expel you, but only for a while – it’s only melodrama. Pseudomoralism.
    so give, take, offer, borrow, steal, rob – no difference – we share the wallet anyway ( well europe is like one big contemporary dance scene in this sense).
    open source and especially that stupid – creative commons inc. whatever blbla is the most conservative and stagnant initiative right now – they still think sharing should be limited to those that agree to it. and that generoity is a virtue.
    no way. generosity and greed, robbing or offering, doesn’t make a difference.
    what we should worry about would be – to make sure we have something to steal from.

  4. Johnny Name September 11, 2010 at 09:49 #

    In my opinion every art field tend to become a closed system. From time to time some direction become canonical . These are the trends, fashions that in short time are transformed into pieces of museum. The ordinary thieves are just grave diggers, even they do that in a subtle way. My respect goes to thieves who bring a fresh air into the system, who shake, who dismantle this system.

    In our little dance world people speak the same language, use the same reference, same overused words and it is very boring. Let’s steal things from our outside , things don’t fit to our perception. Originality it is not a drug for the ego, it is more than that, it is a way to take people out from their path of thinking.

    So we must become to learn how to steal from our Ausländers and maybe we will stop to chew the same chewing gum.

  5. christopherengdahl September 13, 2010 at 17:41 #

    You mention Robin Hood. There’re quite a few modern neoliberal Robin Hoods in the dance scene. They steal in order to get themselves recognition, a few dollars, and to be able to create some more IP.
    What’s important is to steal openly, right in front of people, creating the possibility for others to steal what you’re stealing (share all your thug activity through your twitter, FB, allothersocialnetworksyou’repartof).
    And most importantly; make sure your thug mentality doesn’t end with just another profitable IP (nevertheless not so profitable in the dance scene).
    Your activity doesn’t stop at your own body. The body is an interface. Make sure whatever is stolen continues to get stolen or borrowed or used, leave traces and dynamic trajectories, make the body vibrate and put other bodies in motion.
    My choreographic open source maneuver is to steal from as many places as possible (all to embrace any notion of criticality and to avoid any original/copy dichotomy or “loyal to the author” parody), doing it openly during opening hours, make my body vibrate to a maximum, and let the forces spread in quantity in all directions!

    • Marten Spangberg September 17, 2010 at 01:02 #

      Dude, you make my day. Disguise yourself in the mainstream and use all dirty tricks to not get away with it.

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