A few years ago a not so close friend told me that myself and my at the time already ex or something girlfriend really fit so good together. Like as it was an absolute impossibility that we’d terminate our relation, that we should have stayed together to show that life isn’t that bad after all. But what is that person saying actually? Were I s’posed to apologize for being unable to maintain a relation even with somebody I fit so well together? Feel guilty for stealing an excellent compatibility from the world that must have served as an example or something for I don’t know what?
I hear myself say, “Yeah, that’s exactly why we broke up…” I mean why spend your life with something that fits well, work, is uncomplicated, suitable and confirms the excellence and sustainability of a heterosexual couple relation. Suddenly I struck me, if I’m a fitting girlfriend kind of guy what kind of choreographer am I then? Shit, I don’t even dare to mention any names, it’s too embarrassing. It’s beyond dance theatre (that’s at least drama and an occasional pained negligee dance with erect nipples), it must be something British… not Wayne MacGregor – that’s at least in it for the money (MacGregor’s collaborations with composers, video and set is like “I know she is ugly but at least she is from a totally wealthy family) – more like Michael Clark in Tate Modern or in fact anything British.
From that moment on I decided that anything girlfriend like that fits is an instant no no. Anything that’s like hand in glove or “it feels so natural” is an absolute CUL8ER. The argumentation is simple, a partner that makes things easy, soft, linear, friendly, and we share so much – stabilize me, her, us and the rest of the freakin world – is that what I’m interested in? It’s not that I’m looking for trouble – well maybe I am – but I hope my ambitions due love and partnership is a bit more advanced than my choice of food processor, e-mail software or – - – OMG, think about the idea of a girlfriend that’s like that house music they play in advertisement bureaus. You know what I mean – - – music you don’t hear but that, metaphorically speaking, makes you lose your peripheral vision.
Give it one more second. How does it feel? Think about it, a partner that isn’t an excessive effort and constant renegotiation is a waste of time or something that just offers comfort. Is that what you want? A girl/boyfriend that says “You’re okay…” that wants you to be just like you are? Why would I need a girlfriend if I was okay, and whey would I like to continue to be this myself? Or, another of those tacky Western utterances: “-You are the first girlfriend that hasn’t tried to change who I am, that allow me to be myself.” If you want to be yourself be single! Hello, relations, whatever kind is not about making you more of the same. No, it’s about producing change, it’s about making life fuckin difficult. And you know what? The contemporary dance, art and cultural landscape is more and more resembling one of those girl or boyfriends that makes no noise what so ever, that supports your petty little ego, boosts your average personality, is comfortable, gives you just a little bit bad-consciousness when you accidentally end up between the legs of another, and use floss.
Lately I feel invaded by girlfriend dance. Not my girlfriend’s dances but indeed dance pieces and choreographies, fuck yeah exhibitions, festival programs and what not, that is designed to be exactly like the worst kind of girlfriend. I can’t stand those pieces – a significant part of which is produced in Belgium – works that present a little, fairly well articulated idea, or proposition, although nothing that would make you do anything more radical then raise your eyebrow ever so little. Propositions that makes you utter an inner “wow” but not because of a set awesome hooters, a seriously advanced this or that but exactly because its so well formulated, so medium rare, so exquisitely harmless and totally comfortable.
Those disgusting performances, always understood as dance pieces but never with outspoken choreographic ambitions, are soaked in well contained modesty, political well-meaning without propagating nothing at all, are conceptually accurate without being conceptual, dressed in a kind of almost quotidian but not quite and they are more – yes – way more predictable than any boyfriend. They are in one word transparent, crystal clear and without even a trace of trouble, trickery or truth. They are trustworthy without demand. They ask for nothing and are condescending when you make an effort.
After the little well articulated idea is presented. Remember, with my eyebrow elevated an inkling, a series of more or less precise perspectives or reflections upon the idea is presented. Or should we say approaches are beings “played” with, although not in a very playful way. This goes on, for far too long – consistency is of utmost importance – until the idea is exposed in all it’s, or lack of, complexity. We are not speaking of over production, of going over the top, some production of lack, incompatibility or weird, but exactly about perspectives and proportion. Stuff that consolidate the already available (asks no questions about format or programming strategies) and fulfills the estimations of production value, touring opportunities, collaboration, participation and social engagement imposed by art councils, residency programs, production houses and education.
So far so good, there is in neo-liberalism nothing good per se in biting the hand that feed you (the opportunist is obviously more than ever the “winner”), but what makes this kind of work unbearable is that it undermines any kind of political critique or even conversation. They are so elegantly put together that the only thing that I can say is “well done”, “very…”, “good” – “sympathetic” is an expression that comes to mind, but really it’s fulfillment without content, engagement without differentiation, or even better they are self-fulfilling prophecies although the prophesies aren’t exactly all encompassing revolutions, the end of the world or something else groovy but rather a some delicate matter that fits perfectly well in a notebook and can be explained to programmers with ADHD or other attention deficit issue. These piece are like perfect girlfriends, they fit so well and the day you stop seeing her it’s like nothing happened. Great whilst it lasted and no loss when ended. No further comments. In one word self-explanatory. Like Kirsten Dunst before “Melancholia”, you know when she was so Mary Jane Watson.
There was indeed a time when dance and choreography needed to distance itself from being and art-form spoken about as “oh how interesting” or “what beautiful bodies…”. But the urge for transparence, clarity, conceptual display and the body as sign totally resonates of Butler, language theory, the 90s, millennial anxiety (We are all gonna die…) and somebody misreading Roland Barthes, and that time is totally passé. What we need today, in the midst of ubiquitous capitalism with know way out, is so not a nice girlfriend but an overwhelming mismatch, a deep conflict, an absolutely impossible situation, an unsolvable mystery all in order to disqualify any and every solution, any and every imagination, any and every family therapy.
Dance and performance of today that is not absolutely and totally impossible to form a relationship with is simply a waste of time. Choreographies to which there are reliable interpretational tools must be abolished. What we need is things that withdraw, so hopelessly complicated that they refuse to be named, so dark that only speculation can grasp them.
What art is good for is not probability, transparency, reliability or media specificity. Fuck no after decades of mistrust it is time to forgive Bruce Nauman for saying: “You know… what an artists does is to uncover mystic truths.” Goddamn if he wasn’t right.