Conceptual is not enough. In fact it’s not even enough to accuse somebody for – in twentyten I mean seriously and fuck me in the mid nineties same shit. “-You conceptual…”
But I remember a worldwide choreographer dissing one French so called conceptual choreographer for making dance with only three centimeters of the body: the three centimeters just above a human being’s eyebrows. Probably the only time that that choreographer, or rather, theatre-maker with dance routines, said something funny. And – – I think it is funny for two reasons, the obvious one that it’s quite funny as an accusation – Precise if you know what I mean – and second because exactly that accusation is so embarrassingly obvious.
If we lay aside the notion that all artworks retroactively gained a conceptual level from some moment in the early seventies, what does it mean conceptual? Uhaa, for most it means nothing at all, but is a term that shows up oscillating from being genuinely negative to something one says, that feels nice. You know, not that I know what it means, or want to know, but it feels good. “-It’s kind of conceptual…” or “-Yes, my work is a little bit conceptual…”, feels good but doesn’t matter. Next time you end up having to talk to a choreographer, listen to how often he or she says “kind of”, “a little bit”, “…I don’t know” or “something like that” – and you’ll see that there are more works constructed to be connecting some “something like that” with a fair bit of “… I don’t know” topped with a French cuisine sort of nouvelle “kind of” and “you know what I mean.” No way, I totally don’t want to defend articulation, reason, coherence, inner logic OMG no no no, but “kind of” and reason is not dialectical, nor distinctly separated, they are, in dance and choreography, the same BS.
Conceptual is not enough. Nope, and what does it mean in the first place and what is it’s relation to “concept”. Conceptual in dance, ehhh – means absolutely nothing at all. At one moment somebody told me Hooman Sharifi did conceptual work – tadam -, but he has a dramaturge – – which obviously is the first thing the conceptual choreographer gets rid off – – Yes, of course in dance conceptual could also be interpreted as over protective, paranoid (in the bad sense of the word), hyper proprietary – – but you knew this – – so I guess in that sense whatever his name that Norwegian choreographer is indeed a strongly conceptual choreographer – – “-Why overprotective, what do you mean?” – Isn’t it rather funny that so called conceptual choreography in the nineties was totally obsessed with authorship and it’s relation to dance, movement and perhaps the body but oh no no – identity politics came later – when what conceptual’s first dictum was to rid itself of the influence of production, process, performativity and performer. Conceptual is stupidly male, totally defensive and the first sign of malign control obsession. Conceptual, obviously the result of a childhood trauma (spit on Woody Allen, spit on him), is the little boy screaming “-I can, I can myself” – conceptual is the residue of the child’s failed emancipation. It is also possible that that sentence wasn’t entirely serious, but who knows? It is also possible that conceptual dance never existed? It did and it didn’t, exactly depending on what conceptual would mean. Conceptual, in either meaning has nothing and nada to do with concept or concepts. Considering that a dance could be conceptual in the sense of representing an engagement with a conceptual framework, protocol or procedure, then conceptual dance never existed, it couldn’t – as such representation necessarily must disqualify time, at least initially or on the level of illusion, and cannot depend on climate, circumstances and the performers’ feelings. Conceptual in this sense is about remaining the same, indeed it is about consolidating the same, the self, norm and leaning steadily on discourse or even worse linguistics. But if conceptual means to think a bit before going to the studio and perhaps not just to think scribbling in the notebook about creativity and chance operations but to apply some repeatable procedures to one’s work then conceptual dance has been there long before the name was given by the author.
Conceptual, have we forgotten, is not exactly a contemporary term. Mind you, when it first saw the light in the museum it was more or less the fault of a small handful of people that in their insecurity signed up to structuralism in order to at the same time gain stability when modernism had lost its momentum and at the same time slip out of whatever kind of political/critical work, taking to the streets or supporting the revolution. Conceptual art was already 1970 a totally conservative blunder. Especially in the case of Kosuth and Weiner conceptual had only to do with language and modes of signification, whereas Berry and LeWitt at least had some fun. No Berry had a lot of fun. We like, but whatever fun there are only two options: Kosuth showing that he is smart and that art, beauty and aesthetic criteria is the result of more or less stable conventions, or LeWitt and Berry inviting the visitor to take a look at the result of some or other procedure. Smart, oh yes, but only to the degree where it asks a question without contesting anything at all. Conceptual art is bogus in the sense that it completely confirms the modernist regime of representation.
Conceptual is all about interpretation and has nothing to do with the production of concepts. A concept is something that negates interpretation, a complex of potential connections that evades localization, stability and repetition. Of course, the art object is immer inscribed in global market economy and has no critical potentiality whatsoever, but capitalism tends to forget that an object can be more than a oneness, but can also function as a machine. As an object visual art, dance and fuckin poetry has no chance, but it’s machinic capacity has yet to be thoroughly explored, i.e. the machine as object is inscribed but the engagement it produces with the visitor is not yet commodified, or it is – engagement is certainly commodity, but consumption of one’s own subjectivity can still be charged. Concept work, which is exactly not conceptual, in other words, is an art that instead of representing an engagement or idea, produces engagement, and produces it in such a way that the visitor or spectator can not maintain his or her comfortable position, that sets the spectator out of balance and disobeys criteria and quality. It is so totally not communist, nor is it liberal but it contests the very criteria of democracy. Concept art is anti-democratic, no, it just doesn’t apply to democracy – it doesn’t vote, and it doesn’t not vote, it fucks conditions. Concept art is an art that you can’t give an answer to, that you can’t reproach nor leave behind. It’s an art that is so not smart, it’s the absolute opposite to Maurizio Cattelan. It’s an art so void of good ideas, that completely fucks the idea of “brilliant” and doesn’t give a flying fuck about its audience. “-Why?” – – Aha, because it never had one, and never relied on one, but is producing one right now. Of course concept art is very timely, it fades quick and doesn’t sell well. But it saves lives, at least mine, and yours. It doesn’t postpone the crises but proposes the apocalypse. It is exactly enough, or a bit too much. Concept art refuses the crisp “simple” of a really good piece of art, exactly because those criteria in no way make us think differently, but just sit there and like it. Concept art is irresponsible, demanding, it corrupts and makes people throw up, it betrays all sides and has only one perspective – change at any price. Pleasant, no not at all, it totally sucks, but at least it sucks, sucks like Oh My Fuckin God. It’s Axl Rose, like abstract if you know what I mean. Conceptual is not enough, propositions are worse than pickup lines, and theatre is not about changing the set, it’s about – – it’s about – – it’s about getting the fuck over it, over it to the extent where there is no, and I mean NO turning back. Are you ready, are you a warrior. Unfasten your seatbelts, disobey speed limits, ignore customs and tax numbers – – Mel Gibson my man – – , betray all sides and be a motherfuckin dragon.