Most shows created nowadays don’t play for more than ten nights. You aren’t inside the network business, didn’t graduate from the Anne Teresa school, you are fucked! How much time do you spend preparing, applying for money, rehearsing, discussing with costume designers or cooling down the musician in artistic crisis? Months? All your time? You teach a little here and there but otherwise, the lot? Whenever we can get three months in the studio, out of which two weeks should take place in Essen or some other god forgotten place with a residency platform that promotes your stuff. A year’s work on the production and after the premiere that nobody really commented upon you show the work at your other three co-producers, perhaps even one or so other date. At the end of the day your three months in the studio to create an hour-long piece gave a dozen hours on stage. It’s not exactly efficient, in any respect, to work more or less a month for each hour on stage.
Btw, fire the musician and do it yourself. Musicians aren’t there for your sake but to boost their own careers. They believe they are hired to be artists, and will sooner or later complain: “-I don’t feel that there is any space for my creativity…” as if your work would become better because of their musical conviction. Pitiful, my God, these sad, melodramatic men with guitars. Or, shit, or set-designers that think they could really make installations, you know for museums. Fuck, I’m in a good mood today. Celebration.
Production value in dance has over the past fifteen years stabilized into a rather unhealthy climate. The good old six weeks rehearsal period was ten or so years ago disqualified in a favor of endless processes enabled by far too generous art councils, especially the Flemish one. The generosity of the Swedish art council during the 90s is a central reason for why Swedish dance today is completely passé and old school. Why do anything at all if we know there will 200.000€ on the bank account next year too. Hello, I have a ten years research grant, and it’s not small either.
Production value evidently sets the standards for quality. If you don’t work three months your work can’t be good. If you do work three months there are often too many people involved that the work can’t be allowed to be shit. The interest of the business is to make sure that every production by Giselle Vienne will be good from now until eternity. Every time you work for three months you also assume the hegemony of your art council and since every producer in Europe worships Brussels what you do is vote for Les Ballet C de la B. And you know what that means: financially independent and socially engaged dance theatre. And you thought you were special.
Why would you argue for the importance of the process? The relevance of practical choreographic research with half a dozen dancers? Well, obviously because if you can fool some halfwit cultural politician that just discovered the fad artistic research you get your ass covered for half a year. Bravo, but if you did research for half a year how does it happen that what came out was just as boring as last years attempt: just another show, in just the same format, in just the same venue. From where the hell do you get the energy? Admiration.
Stop working for three months at a time, stop trying to sell your piece before or after the premiere. Stop sending newsletters, stop informing programmers. Forget to reply to e-mails. It will crush you. It will destroy you. It will strip you of your dreams, cancel your ability to laugh and make you a dead-living that operates through public appreciation, revenge and holding back. You will become one of those nice vampires in Twilight that after falling in love with a normal babe desperately tries to secure humanity. I’m not telling you to be yourself, but check it out it is not your job to save festivals and season programs; it is not your job to help the art council. Your job is to destroy, to turn them down but not through simple refusal but by bypassing circumstances, by jumping over fences and creating situations due which you dictate the conditions. You know that the 25.000€ you received from the art council is not because of your art. You know that you got the money in order for us to be able to control you. As a venue director I will insist on the necessity of three months rehearsal period in the studio, obviously. But why? Because if this is how shit works I can be sure nothing will change and I can work long-term without making any extra efforts. If this is how you work then I know where to find you. Choreographers of the world disguise yourself, no that’s not enough we have to operate even deeper; this is hyper-camouflage, the purpose of which is to keep a considerable part of the enemy’s resources occupied, whilst undermining the rest of it. Be an opportunist. Be innocent with blue eyes.
The last few days I have heard half a dozen cultural managers, curators, programmers answer: “-Oh, it’s really a lot of work right now.” Don’t do this, you have chosen to work here because you say you are interested in art. Stop, saying it’s too much, it’s never too much, it’s never even enough. How can it be, you are s’posed to like what you do so enjoy yourself. Every time you allow yourself that to utter the too-much-bullshit you have also signed up to a culture that pleasures itself with being in pain, that prides itself through negativity. A colleague at the university tells me before summer holidays: “-Oh, so nice to turn off the mobile and to take a break from e-mail.” What do you want: to sit in your favorite armchair reading a novel? Is that what it is? But then why didn’t you make this your job, instead of programming dance in a venue that is continuously, as you always say, threatened by budget cuts. It’s your lucky day when the council for the so many years in a row announces that they might have to cut all your funding. You fucking masochist! Admit it, it makes you hot. And you know as much as I that the city can’t afford to close the venue not because of you, the program or anything like that but simply because its too much work, too much fuzz.
I think you pleasure yourself most of all when you sit in your armchair reading an introduction to artistic research, or an application for the upcoming network meeting. Yes, you do, because afterwards, in bed with your partner, you can whisper things like: “-I’m so happy that I finally read through those applications.” and still you did it in your favorite chair, with a blanket on your knees and with a glass of not exactly expensive Rioja. You walk with a stone in your shoe to feel alive.
Stop complaining about writing applications. It’s amazing, just the very idea of articulating your work, in whatever form, it’s amazing. To set out to produce new projects, to take another risk, it’s fab. If we don’t get the money, great, cuz then we don’t need to make economical reports and we don’t need to rent a studio somewhere half way to the suburbs where there is not even possible to have sushi for lunch. Just think about the hilarious lies you will make up to sound convincing. Or the travel grant you received without any kind of invitation but wrote just because it would be so fun to visit Tokyo. “When the hell should I have time to go there?“
A friend, an admirable one, told me the other day: “-I want to change the work, I’m sick of it. I’m getting too well fed, too comfortable. We need to come up with something that nobody wants to pay us for, start from the beginning and fuck it up.”
People that do Sudoku should die. People that defend that bullshit for being good for your mind or make you smarter, burn in hell, real slow. Fuck you, write a debate article, list all choreographers you can’t stand, make drawings of pieces you can’t remember. Write a public letter about how embarrassingly stupid it is to put Michael Clark on a residency in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern, or create some nasty gossip about a friend.
To actively break with production values is more provocative than the work it results in. What you show is always already authorized by somebody, it’s up there right, but how you organize your resources that is far more open to you. So break it break it break it.
So, you didn’t get the money you expected. What do you do? Downscale a bit, perhaps it can work with three dancers… perhaps, maybe the dancers can work half time the first rehearsal period? Don’t do this to yourself, it’s exactly what they want. Best choice, tell them to keep the money, but it is also okay to keep them as long as you change the circumstances for the production.
If you anyway will only be able to show the work seven times, why spend an eternity in the studio making choreography. Why don’t we just make a piece in two days and the rest of the time we can spend doing something amazing, like something we have no idea about. Something that won’t psyche us out. Why, if we anyway will have only 200 people for the premiere and the second day, should we get stressed out already four weeks before showtime. Look at this, your wonderful spectators will be so much happier to see a show or whatever it might be if you’ve had a great process and high fidelity time together.
Yeah, you do political pieces, so why not start working in the streets where we meet people all the time. Is it really better to stay in the studio and close the door, turn off the mobiles and etc so that we at least think we are important and do valuable work. Why not rent out the space to Woody Allen or something and hang out in a café with a bunch of books, so we can learn something else. Or why not just offer each other the pleasure of being without kids or… What we do is business so the moment you start something up you also decide in what ways resources are producing, organizing relations and independency, not least what kind of power and hierarchies do you want your resources to produce or reproduce. If we anyway don’t have any money why do we work as if we were a commercial operation that has to put something out there? Fuck that, you don’t have to anything. You’re an artist enjoy the privileges, stop acting as if you were a responsible citizen (if you want to convince me sign up to medics without borders, no worries), stop admiring Renzo Martens and act with endless ego.