Stop Having a Body, Stop Calling Yourself Dancer

12 Oct

Prologue: Stop talking about yourself as a dancer. You are not a dancer! Perhaps you have enjoyed an education in dance, perhaps you have taken a few dance classes or been to a disco? But you are not a dancer. Something that is, announces itself as static, as autonomous in the most uninteresting of ways, as independent in the sense of not being part of the game. The moment you announce yourself a dancer you also give yourself the romantic artist image, or even the image of a worker or laborer. Dance is something that ones does, not something one is. And as long as we announce ourselves as dancers we have to be loyal to all dancers, we are the same existence. No no no, dance is something that we do and I don’t have to confirm what you do! The moment dance becomes something we do, we can like each other and dislike each other’s dance. If dancer is what we are then the dance expresses our existence, this is a very very bad moment cuz it means there is some horrible core, nucleus or essence that you possess. Dance is something that we do, like driving a taxi, being a civil servant. We like it a lot but don’t let that make it into a calling, some internal urgency or a reason to not get paid properly.
Moreover as long as you call yourself a dancer and identify with being a dancer, other people will continue to talk about you as a lower existence, something that is less important and is something that shows you how beautiful and tough life can be. Fuck that.
Same thing with the body, stop thinking about the body as special.
This is good.

“- What are you doing?”
“-I’m thinking. What are you doing?”
“-I’m bodying.”

We should stop the stupid idea of having a body and instead consider our bodys as activity, as verbs, as movement and becoming. As long as we “have” and “possess” a body we are always gonna feel violated by language, discourse and the rest of representation. But when body is something we do, we can possibly start speaking about a body politics, or rather a politics of the body that is not essential, universal, natural and whatever, it is not “myself”. Göööööö! Your body has as little do with yourself as sex has to do with love, or the museum guard with that awfully fucked up bad exhibition, Top Gear with cars, or the body with organs.

Let’s go: We still have to learn what the body can do, writes Michel Foucault. He, the thinker of the body or the thinker laboring in thought through the body, elaborates on the body in an epoch, in a time when the body is still firmly situated in a disciplinary regime. Certainly not the subject, mental capacities or language, such simple matter had already been emancipated from feudalism and truth, but the body was still firmly buckled up in the backseat a pre-modern vehicle. The sentence “We still have to learn what the body can do”, could function as a summary, for the oeuvre of Foucault and his engagement in the liberatation of the body from its disciplinary confinement, his writing opens for a body that performs, that has been given permission not to exist.

The soul is not a prisoner of the body, it is the other way around, the body is imprisoned by the soul, is another proposition by Foucault, confirming our suspicion that western society has produced the body as an object, an object that exists. But is Foucault not simply reversing and confirming the equivocity that needs to be terminated, namely the hierarchical divisions between the body and mind, mind and soul, soul and transcendence, in favor of a univocity in which given hierarchies are terminated in favor of play and tension between intensities. Univocity implies the permission of a body performing, performing on its own premise and not in respect of, or in relation to… which it always does in a system determined by equivocity, where the soul is not the body, but its initiator, is, so to say, kept responsible for it. Hence, the saying the soul is the prisoner of the body, and equally but in reverse the fear of cyberspace stealing our bodies away: we will be bodyless brains. Univocity enables the body to form its own systematic, an order not of things or nouns but of verbs or actions, due which it can transmit eternity in a completely new manner. This body is not descriptive due eternity in respect of which it is always epitomized as failure, but instead part of an eternal process. This body is mortal, temporary, organizational yet not organized, subject to disciplines yet not defined by discipline. It is not settled, sculptural or architectural, it’s on the move, it is choreographing.

Foucault, however, don’t simply reverse, but opens for a body without organs. An institutional body without organs, an educational body without organs, a structural body without organs, a bullet proof body without organs, an expressional body without organs, a mediated body without organs. A body without organs is not a smooth body, it is and must maintain itself striated. The matter is not if or to what extent striation explicates, positions the body but instead in what respect and vis-à-vis what dynamist striation is undulating and multiplicit in respect of direction. The moment the body leaves a referential striation entirely it will obviously either collapse and detach from representation – thus disappear – or be re-inscribed in its entirety, recoded. The body without organs is not an organless body, of pure potentiality but is rather a surfing out of representation onto a complexity unfolding without reference to prior unity. Foucault’s seemingly dialectical argumentation thus empowers the body, gives it opportunity to negotiate liberty.

In a way Foucault’s entire oeuvre could be said to labor for the production of agency of the body, an agency that also resonates in relation to modes of subjectivity, i.e. is not self-referential but expansive and active in processes of coagulation of social apparatuses (dispostif). In a late interview Foucault suggests that the problem with homosexuality isn’t that boys make out or that girls roll around with each other, but rather how gay people potentially can and will reform ways of life. Disqualifying the family as the singular mode of life, performs and extensive threat vis-à-vi the dominant social apparatus of the western world.

A more complex issue is how and to what extent the departure from discipline is not simultaneously the introduction into another regime. The moment discipline moves out, control moves in, striation is little by little substituted by the soft machinery of control and the body is, so to say, sinking into a rhizomatic terrain due which it can make no resistance, especially not in respect of quasi-permanent structures. Foucault operates from a climate where citizenship is understood as given, and provided by the state, a state that in post 68’ France, and all over western Europe, is ubiquitous and in particular in respect of a left on the verge of collapse under a burden of empty political discourse. It is also possible to read Foucault’s proposal as a hesitant gesture in relation to control. He is aware of smoothness of control both in relation to expansion and a sort of self-perpetuating society void of ideological consistency, a society of unlimited opportunities, of endless potential when it comes to neo-liberalism, and of endless surveillance where liberty has become both currency and imprisonment.
Self-precarious gestures with their different expressions emerging all over the western world from the early 50s, from hippies to Burning Man, from self-employment to yoga with their initial attempt to destabilize structures (according to Foucault), and later, say from 1989, as control society has made its irreversible entry into the world on strategic levels. Yoga, tai chi and other bodily practices, also in the 90s practices in weird basements and in obscure weekend camps, becoming a matter of identity and production, i.e. liberty as something that the individual can obtain within a quasi-smooth terrain although always. The body here becomes an opportunity for relative emancipation, i.e. identity politics.

Today however also the body and its interiority has become completely swallowed by control and the body is given no what-so-ever opportunity to distance itself, liberate itself from an omnipresent capitalism. If the body, assisted by hope for the best by Foucault, at one moment could perform potentiality in respect of dominant social apparatus, potentiality has today become the centre of political life. There is only a capitalist body, the body is today cherished exactly in respect of its ability to perform, to produce pure production. The body in itself has become potentiality, it is as we have completed a full circle and are back on square one where the body as pure body is value, in other words the body has no longer “good life”, no longer political, but has become bare life, it has become arbitrary power, or economy as pure immanence.

Epilogue: “Be yourself” seems to be a suitable watchword for our present society. But what does it mean? It has certainly nothing to do with the “Express Yourself” proposed by NWA in 1983. No, there is no need for self-expression anymore, nobody bothers to market it and its possible subversive intensity has inflated. “Be Yourself” is not corporate interest in identity politics. It is, but for what reason, a call for personal decision. It is, but for what reason, an empowering gesture. It is, but for what reason, a notice on the basis that you make difference.
“Be Yourself” is the ironic, or depressing reality, of late neo-liberalism. “Be Yourself” is We making money. “Be Yourself” is the short summer of the fact that trustworthy dualism is over: life and labor, public and private, permanent and temporary, past and present, virtual and reality. Or in other words bio-politics has turned into arbitrary power (Virtanen). The human being as such has entered the political and economical reality. Bio-politics as proposed by Michel Foucault has recently turned on itself and we have entered a reality where the human being has turned into pure potentiality, or following Agamben has entered a state of bare life. Thus “Be Yourself” today equals pure economy.

Remember to never trust David Burne, and his mediocre singing about “Stop making sense” – you don’t make anybody happy through not making sense, that’s just a bad excuse. The only way out is pure tacticity. The power is no longer in becoming authentic, but indeed, in the production of simulacra as simulacra. Translated to bodily practices this means, simply, to invent somatic practices. Fake them, invent them, and perhaps we can find another body hidden away somewhere under a forgotten chair, or a vacant space next to.

Do like Jay-Z address the body like a microphone: “-Is this thing on?”
Only then can we say it, only then.
“-Is this thing on?”



One Response to “Stop Having a Body, Stop Calling Yourself Dancer”

  1. janet abbey October 13, 2010 at 00:58 #

    Wonderful essay on Foucault. Bookmarked.

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