The Dancing Museum

17 Sep

– A society develops the art it deserves.

– General modes of production, e.g. Fordism, correlates to other formations in society such as institutions, social relations, forms of exchange and notions of property, including artistic production, the artists’ identity and position in society, art institutions such a museums and theaters, needles to say to formats such as exhibitions, festivals and programs.

– In a society composed around Fordist production models the museum will correspondingly reproduce those models, understanding art through notion of objects or commodities and to those notions aligned concepts of property. The museum model we are familiar with is the fruit of a society where accumulation of material goods equaled wealth, where the museums as a public institution and it’s relation to the public and democracy were deeply embedded in widespread social-democratic governance and the belief in a society equally available for every citizen and where the museum committed to the twofold responsibility of celebrating industrial production and the education of the citizen into a productive liberal subject. And nothing wrong with that.
Such a society further produces exhibition and programs in accord to Fordist production, must poignant perhaps the art-historically correct monographic show, and in the context of dance festival formats offering a series of shows to be consumed or harvested night after night, homogenizing the experience in favor of a rigor of locating the experience or “text” in respect of a regimes of interpretation.

– In 1870 two thirds of the American workforce were engaged in commodity production. Fifty years later an equal amount of workers were engaged in the production of goods – the time of the factory. Yet half a century later, around 1970 more or less the same amount two thirds of the workforce were engaged in service industry. Following this development the two thirds will in 2020 be engaged in experience or knowledge production. A society in which abstract values through experience and knowledge will necessarily produce new forms of museums, exhibitions, festivals, educations, institutions as much as it will produce new forms of life, families, surveillance, knowledge, power and subjectivity.

– The museum as we know it, independently if it’s called Van Abbe, Moma, Pompidou, Bilbau or Tate Modern has already changed their profile – more or less successfully – to fit to todays modes of production. Not always through conscious articulation or political courage, but often, too often, through corporate relations. Great, but they are certainly not more or less innocent or political than public money.
Looking back, is it perhaps possible to retrace the curatorial turn, the tsunami of biennales, the thematic exhibition, the museum shop, the guided tour, the decline of the permanent collection and so on, taking of around 1980, as the moment when the museum turned service economy.

– A society fundamentally composed around immaterial labor, experience and knowledge will have no use for a museum that celebrates material production and certainly not a dead welfare state – anybody who believes the museum of today to be a public or democratic place is just way out wrong and seriously naïve, and further anybody who consider it important to still promote such naiveté should totally return to Marcuse or is probably friendly with Sloterdijk, seriously. To survive and have any chance in today’s economic reality the museum must reevaluate what it’s job is? The future of the museum is knowledge and experience, immaterial something, at a transition called relational aesthetics, but later known as Tino Sehgal, Tania Bruguera, Raimundas Malasauskas, Bifo Berardi, Hans Ulrich and the catalogue can be made endless, or packaged into formats such as participatory, performance, event, socially engaged, the Berlin Biennale, educational turn so on and forth, all organized through the new agency called “program”.

– The reason why the museum today is interested in dance and choreography is not because curators suddenly turned dance lovers but because they have no choice. Art dealing with objects is so last Friday, the new cool is dance, the next cool is movement and any kind of ticket selling activity that can fill the museum with something else than tourists and scultures. It’s great that the museum is upgrading and it’s great that ArtForum has engaged a dance writer, but check it out it’s also what sells and what correlates to today, so hey dance kids let’s not consider the art-worlds to suddenly have turned generous or like interested in inter-disciplinary.

– Exhibitions such as “Move, Choreographing You”, whatever the show was called in Pompidou, that mistake in Karlsruhe featuring old ladies, Performa [a brilliant initiative by a curator with an excellent sense of timing], and a documenta with seven billion [and I like it, mostly] entries on the list of the public program, is not an accident, something passing, a little fad, no way. Tate Moderns did good prediction getting their new performance house ready this year, but unfortunately they should have gotten rid of the other house when they were anyway at it. However dis-encouraging the Tate performance room is, it’s totally a sign of the times, and mind you the museum audience is not about to be in one location in the near future.

– In a society where my most important properties were my car, house, summer cottage and other material things it was of course no problem to go to the museum to look at more of the same, never mind the exhibition understanding knowledge as an object to be facilitated – as a material something. And I always thought like whatever Karl André was cool but hey he just called the factory, he was perfect.
In a society emphasizing immateriality, activity, knowledge and experience your most important property is no more the car, but your subjectivity. You don’t go to the museum to look at objects, no way – you visit the museum to invest in your most important property, your subject. And I always thought Tino Sehgal was cool but hey he just read the experience economy before everybody else, perfect.
At some point the museum was as place you went to to admire others’ creativity and ability to make ideas, today you hang out in the museum to enhance your subjectivity, it’s value, in a world where creativity is not admirable but a currency.

– A visit to the museum is no longer a matter of consuming a number of original or what not artifacts, it’s not a matter of gathering information nor a proclamation of ones leftist democratic values [like I went with my parents to the library every two weeks through out the 70s], it’s a matter of announcing oneself as an available, active and engaged subject that knows how to go along with the code and most of all expresses a certain “care of the self”. Certain in a sense that would make Foucault go ballistic, but in the sense that it performs itself as benevolent to endlessly overlapping dispositives [in Agamben’s rather tacky tacky take of the concept].

– To the same extend as dance people and it’s curators knows nothing or past tense about visual art, and the guy at the delivery service isn’t necessarily a specialist on pick-up lines, visual art and it’s folks isn’t exactly Einstein when it comes to dance. In fact, since they never needed to defends themselves against other art-forms they had no reason to bother, whereas dance people actually could gain some cred by knowing a bit of the visual art lingua [if for no other reason than to get an invitation to the party]. So when the museum today wish for dance that’s all good, it’s just that what they consider to be contemporary dance is not at all. Visual art and their curators, who are excellently educated in both the history of visual art and the management of visual art but so not in the same concerning dance, are often making dance a negative favor because they are sending dance back to the middle ages not just because what dance they want in the museum but more so through how the hell they talk about it and further who from dance they talk to. Dancers and choreographers united, the future is immaterial, the future is dancing and so will the museum so let’s take this serious and back these folks from the museum up. However they have curly hair [metaphor], they mean well – promise.

– And when we are anyway at it, let’s make sure not to offer ourselves for a bargain deal. Visual art people can support the museum with lousy deals because it makes them sell, get boosts in the gallery market and increase their value in the collectors consciousness, dance and choreography doesn’t have those markets so we have to charge at the door, straight there at the museum, in a curators office [OMG you are right it’s an office landscape], and by the way we also need to rehearse [at least sometimes] and those our costs a little bit more than just to rent the studio.

– And when we are anyways at it, let’s make sure not to fuck up our dancers and performers wages and lives. Museum people deals with objects that stand still and need no or little maintenance. To work as a dancer is a work as much as being a guard, a painter, a dude in the archive or the assistant curator, so let’s make sure dancers get paid for their work, and not in accord to some assumed passion for dance.

– And when we are anyways at it, let’s make sure dance is not made part of the archive department of anything similar. Dance in the archive is fine ok but the moment when you are in the archive you are nowhere else. If a museum is interested in acquiring a dance or choreography it’s as a dance or choreography not as a document. They may say whatever they want, that it isn’t an object and can’t be put in the storage – but look that’s not our fault – dance and choreography – no it’s the problem of the storage, the notion of collecting, of memory, presence [however much those words make us vomit. Memory, omg. Trace, double omg]. So, sorry archive people – or good day – you are not to be stuck with dance, dance isn’t something else, so how can it not have it’s own department. Simple.

– And when we are anyways at it. Just because the museum is suddenly interested in dance we shouldn’t allow them to think that dance has been one nice thing from 1962 to today – like for fifty damn years. Check it out, however Yvonne Rainer is or not a genius, her stuff has as little to do with contemporary choreography, as Bob Morris has with Pierre Huyghe’s pink legged dog. However Bill Forsythe is nice guy or not, his stuff has as little do with contemporary dance as Joy Division has with Swedish House Maffia.
Historical exhibitions are great – if I’m like I’ll probably be in some – but not if they happen on the costs of the next cool thing not happening at all. Let’s seriously kick contemporary choreography into the museum – and let Valie Export out finally – and let it be contemporary all the way. Also when you curate dance you are curing artists and pieces not content, style and what it looks like. If you wanna make dances too go ahead but don’t do others. And this is fundamental, dance is not something you look at. You know when Rainer states “dance is hard to see” she doesn’t mean that we should turn up the light or open our eyes, but perhaps more probably that dance requires or asks for another kind of seeing, and that seeing is not starting with recognition. This is in fact the real reason for why the museum is so occupied with dance of the past, it’s because they need dance to look like dance because in a museum dance could, and that would be disaster, be confused with something else, like a real installation or some real socially engaged art. For the museum dance must look like dance and be understandable as dance and nothing else. This is sad.

– Dance has entered the museum not as a fad or a whim, nor because some museum directors niece, it’s there to stay and it to grow stronger. The reason isn’t because dance is so cool – in fact it rarely is at all – but because dance correlates to contemporary modes of production, to a society based on immaterial values and the exchange of knowledge and experience. So dance, dancers and choreographers let’s take the invitation serious and make a dance that is made only for the museum, not to stay in the theatre, because as much as the museum needs to transform to our current modes of production so does dance and if the museum is slow, goddamn dance is backwards. Remember, dance never was more contemporary than today so let’s make ourselves contemporary plus and a bit more straight into the future.


One Response to “The Dancing Museum”

  1. e September 18, 2012 at 01:39 #

    Pretty clear, Marten.

    It´s extremely weird when you talk about dance or performance with museum and visual arts curators. Sounds a little bit as “who´s the stupid here?” “Am i having the wrong conversation with the wrong person?” or “Where have you been all this 70 years, man?”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: