In that television series occupied by lawyers, politicians and general villains and where the mantra is a gladiator in a suit demands are huge. The moment you sign up you have no life, you are in the office 24/7, always stand by and ready to jump out the window like some corporate version of Yves Klein at any given moment. It’s crystal clear sadism as the man or woman above at any moment can change the rules of engagement. The gladiator is subject to endless power, he is in fear, he even fears happiness, pleasure or the promise of liberty.
For the werewolf life sucks once a month. Twelve times a year the woldman has no choice but to hit the road and kill some innocent chicks, for the gladiator in a suit every day is a potential killing spree as if the moon had gone manic-depressive. In order to stay on top, in order to avoid any contingent lay off the gladiator is constantly on watch, doesn’t even sleep with one eye closed, no gun under the pillow, he is ready and now.
For the performer the situation is different, his or her gladiator outfit doesn’t come with conditions of engagement. No, it comes only with conditions to the self, to the subject of the performer. The performer is certainly no masochist, he is absolutely liberated and for that matter hyper dynamic and would have no or zero reason for subordination. Nor is he a sadist, he is liberated from conventions and instigates himself. When it comes to sexuality the performer is in no way experimental or advanced, he or she only is and what that is is is by necessity always perfect. How could it be otherwise… One of the things the performer discredits is anything special. The performer is never in for being special, never that’s like ambitious and want to impress – absolutely uncool. The performer is and has no, can have no ambitions, experimentation is out of the question. The performer doesn’t need improvement, and certainly not some kinky assessor. Never special, but always specific, never particular but always generic, that’s the performer. The opposite of “I’m a performer…” in fact isn’t really the dancer or actor, they are bad, really bad, but where it really hurts, the real deal opposite, the most hated of all is the stand up comedian. Exactly, the stand up, the Tony Cliftons of the world that is for the perform the scum of the world, surviving only on being special, particular and performing a produced subject. No, “I’m a performer…” is not particularly funny, they have no real skills, they are just good at being greedy and selfish. They can’t dance, can’t act, can’t really do anything. Yes, they are greedy, the performer never comes up with an idea, doesn’t need to they are the idea. They are deeply conservative, they don’t want change since it might just mean that their lack of skill and ability is revealed. The performer wants more of the same again and again. The performer is a kind of pervert. He doesn’t want change but desire confirmation from more of the same, repeated again and again confirming the performer as the performer, the subject as the subject endlessly. The performer might appear to be open, available, project promiscuous, trans-disciplinary [I’m a performer would never ever take a workshop. Just forget about it.] but in fact the performer is the most constipated of all members in the artistic community ever.
The performer argues that the only performance there can be is solos performed by the author. Everything else is only spectacle and organization [the performer is the epitome of proprietary code]. The performer argues, a performance can at the end of the day only be about itself as itself. The performance must point back to the performer never towards an external something, hence the performer’s artistic oeuvre is a never ending succession of self-referentiality but in this case not in order to make the work be about the work like some I’m so post modern kind of attitude, but in order for the work to be about the performer, no in order to be the performer him or herself and as such.
The performer makes sure there is almost no distance between life and show, he or she is always on stage, is always performing, is always “I’m a performer…” at the same time the performer is also a kind of contemporary Bartleby who prefers not to. “I’m a performer…” don’t cherish the stage, is not an actor that needs the stage. No, he is rather reluctant and skeptical, always skeptical, to go on. But why? Because the moment he or she goes on stage an utterance is produced and an utterance can be interpretable, can give context. This is bad for the performer, who prefer not to since the production of prefer not cannot be judged but is the very definition of safety, of maintenance, of effortlessness.
At the same time as the performer is the skeptic and reluctant to go on stage he is brilliantly strategic and a superb navigator. The performer surfs the liberty of others and takes no responsibility for anything. The performer is nothing just activity, has no efficiency or not but is pure affect (in the popular sense of the word). He is not a dancer, that’s somebody who works for somebody else, that relies on others’ economies, nor is he a choreographer or director that distributes economy to others. The performer is both the employer and employed, he is both the one that makes and is made, he applies for subsidy but never for the big bucks. The performer knows the brilliance of staying in the small format, where movement is free and responsibility minimal.
Obviously the performer is the result of new policies of funding bodies of different kinds, where it is imperative to be both employable and your own entrepreneur. The “I’m a performer…” is always engaged in his or her own project, some sort of open half-idea, preferably long-term through which the performer can enjoy endless residency episodes in more or less grey cities, through which the performer can create never ending versions of the same showing. The performer is a magnificent recycler of his own material.
Today it seems like the choreographer is a dying species. Festivals and venues don’t want choreography or dance, no they want “I’m a performer…” work. Yes, even if curators are aware of it all they still want more, more of “I’m a performer…” because it’s exactly what the audience thinks they want. The argument “but I could have done that too…” has turned on itself and is rather, “if the performer can do that, what could I do?” To watch “I’m a performer…” work opens for the possibility to confirm oneself but not with or through the performer, like we do in Hollywood movies, but rather with ourselves as potentiality. The performer is not a mirror put up in front of the spectator, it’s not a simple psychoanalytical troupe, instead the clever “I’m a performer…” work is rather like a prism inside the body and/or mind of the individual spectator that creates the sensation of being enabled, being strengthened, being genuine. What one does when experiencing this kind of work – when it is well done – is not to watch and interpret the work but is rather a matter of experiencing oneself as authentic and potential.
Just because the “I’m a performer…” type character from this perspective must be considered somewhat dubious the good guy is certainly not the socially or politically engaged artist, save me from the activist artist. Under no circumstances. “I’m a performer…” is at least contemporary, in tune with the environment and in general somewhat resigned, somebody who is most of all concerned with “what can I get away with”, or simply lacy. The activist artist on the other hand is stupid enough to at least first of all for two things: first, of believing or pretending to believe that an instrumental art is something good by proxy, and second, is wkd enough to not take into account that being socially engaged in our contemporary Western world obviously also implies to capitalize on some general idea of a greater good. In that respect we celebrate the “I’m a performer…” who has come to terms with that being an artist, going on stage today, is a job as any other and certainly not a matter of being somebody special that can take down society, that can exercise truth claims, that operates besides society in general. Art, whatever kind even the most idealistic and institutionally hostile, is a market and we are all operating on those markets strategically, consciously or not, but always strategically. The questions we need to ask ourselves are what the strategies we use amounts to, to scrutinize ourselves and articulate the political reality of those strategies. To formulate an alternative is not good enough, to ask ourselves what needs to be done is not bad enough, but what is necessary is to engage in practices that undermine subjectivity, that corrupts self-performance and individuality in favor an unconditional production that annihilates the subject on stage for the possibility of the emergency of previously unimaginable existences. And art that is and does not perform.