Archive

Öffentlicher Raum

EYE TO EYE – Ein choreographisches Experiment
mit Yasna Schindler und Angela Guerreiro
am 30.01.2015 im Kleinen Michel, Hamburg

Foto-Eye-to-eye

Eine Kirche als Ort für experimentelle Choreographie

Bisher kannte ich weder Yasna Schindler noch Angela Guerreiro und auch im Kleinen Michel, einer katholischen Kirche in der Michaelisstraße in Hamburg, bin ich zuvor noch nicht gewesen. Sowieso gehe ich nicht oft in Kirchen. Meistens als Touristin in fremden Städten und Ländern. Ansonsten zu Beerdigungen, Taufen oder Hochzeiten, vielleicht mal zu einem Konzert. Manchmal lande ich aber auch völlig grundlos in einer Kirche. Beim Spazierengehen kann es passieren, dass ich kurz abbiege und eintrete durch die immer offene, große Eingangstür. Dieses Mal gehe ich in eine Kirche, da mich Yasna Schindler, die ich eine Woche zuvor bei einem Tanztraining kennengelernt habe, zu einem choreographischen Experiment eingeladen hat. Da ich selbst eine in Hamburg ansässige Performerin bin, war ich neugierig auf dieses mir noch unbekannte Projekt.
Der Raum des Kleinen Michels strahlt eine besondere Klarheit aus. Das Gemäuer ist weiß und glatt und kommt ganz ohne Dekorationen aus. Die Wände schwingen sich in weiten Bögen nach oben. In schlichter Präsenz steht erhöht auf ein paar Stufen ein Altar, hoch darüber an der Decke hängt eine große Sternenlampe, das einzige dekorative Gestaltungselement mit kirchlicher Note, das mir auffällt, und doch in seinem modernen Design erfrischend anders ist als das, was ich von kirchlicher Einrichtung gewohnt bin. Vor dem Altar liegt ein rechteckiger, leicht erhöhter Tanzboden. Seitlich davon sowie frontal dazu befinden sich die Kirchenbänke, auf denen die Besucher Platz nehmen. Hier treffen zwei Welten aufeinander: Kirche und Tanzstudio.
Der Tanzboden scheint nämlich weniger eine Bühne zu sein, als vielmehr ein Experimentierfeld. Auf ihm, an seinen Rändern verteilt, liegen und stehen verschiedenste Materialien, darunter etliche Bücher, verschiedene Lampen, Fotos, Mikrofone, Stifte, Papier, ein Laptop mit Boxen, ein Tablet, eine kleine Kamerakonstruktion, dessen Live-Aufnahmen auf den Altar projiziert werden, und einiges mehr. Auch die beiden Choreographinnen befinden sich schon auf dieser Tanz-Fläche, machen sich warm, dehnen sich, verlassen sie auch wieder, unterhalten sich, begrüßen Bekannte. Es erscheint mir wie eine offene Probe.
Der Beginn der Performance wird dadurch markiert, dass die beiden Frauen sich einander in die Augen schauen – „eye to eye“. In den folgenden etwa 90 Minuten passiert etwas, das ich als einen choreographischen Dialog bezeichnen würde. Die Motivation der beiden Performerinnen liegt in der Neugierde, die andere kennenzulernen, zu erforschen und gleichzeitig sich selbst dem Gegenüber, und auch dem Publikum, zu öffnen und zu zeigen. Sie stellen Fragen in den Raum, zitieren Textpassagen, zeigen Fotos, schreiben Wörter, spielen Musik, tanzen nebeneinander, miteinander, versuchen sich zu kopieren, scheitern, tanzen mit dem Publikum. Ein Inhalt führt zum nächsten, eine Form zur anderen. Wir erfahren Autobiographisches, Meinungen, Gedanken, und auch das, was die Performerinnen im Moment wahrnehmen: Den „beautiful space“, das Kleinhirn, Langeweile. Die aufkommenden Inhalte werden immer wieder durchbrochen durch Aktion und Bewegung, sowie durch tänzerische Sequenzen. Besonders spannend finde ich die Bewegungssprache der beiden Tänzerinnen, über die sie in Kommunikation treten. Es vermittelt sich deutlich die Individualität in ihrer Bewegungssprache: unterschiedliche Stile und Qualitäten, die mir Einblicke in ihre Bewegungsbiographie gewähren. Darüber hinaus nehmen sie neue Impulse auf, erlernen und integrieren die Bewegungssprache der anderen in das eigene Vokabular. So schreiben die beiden einen gemeinsamen choreographischen Dialog in den Raum, der vieles verrät und natürlich doch nur ein kleiner Anfang bleibt. Es bleibt ein erstes Kennenlernen, ein erster Austausch, ein erster Schritt.
Besonders an diesem Format finde ich, dass das Publikum auf demselben (Nicht)Wissensstand wie die Performerinnen sind und dass es sich somit im selben Verhältnis zur Situation befindet. Es kann den offenen Verlauf der Improvisation mitverfolgen, den Prozess, wie sich Fragen und Antworten gestalten, materialisieren, andeuten, verflüchtigen. Ein gewisser Austausch zwischen Publikum und Performerinnen ereignet sich in ungezwungener Weise, der hauptsächliche Dialog findet aber zwischen den beiden Choreographinnen statt. Nach Ende der Performance allerdings, das durch das allmähliche Ausschalten der verschiedenen Lichtquellen über die Dauer der Performance herbeigeführt wurde und in einem letzten „eye to eye“ mündete, wird das Publikum zu einem Gespräch eingeladen. An dieser Stelle konnte es also auch eigene Fragen an die Choreographinnen stellen.
Auf dem Heimweg habe ich darüber nachgedacht, wie sehr ChoreographInnen und PerformerInnen an Raum und Zeit gebunden sind, um ihre Arbeit zu erfahren und erfahrbar zu machen. Das ist natürlich keine neue Erkenntnis und doch nehme ich es als Performerin immer noch als eine seltene Besonderheit wahr, wenn die Faktoren Raum, Zeit und Begegnung gegeben sind, die dieser Kunstform überhaupt die Möglichkeit geben zu existieren. Gerade in Hamburg erfahren viele Performance-KünstlerInnen und ChoreographInnen, dass räumliche und zeitliche Kapazitäten nicht ausreichend für alle vorhanden sind. Die Performance EYE TO EYE entfaltet sich in einem ungewöhnlichen Raum, der ursprünglich nicht als Ort für darstellende Künste gedacht war – einer Kirche. Und in diesem Fall scheint die Kirche als Aufführungsort passend zu sein, da sie mindestens in einer ihrer Funktionen einem Theater gar nicht allzu fern liegt: als Raum für Begegnung und Dialog. Mich erfreut diese beiderseitige Offenheit und Experimentierfreude zwischen Kirche und zeitgenössischem Tanz. Eine, wie mir vorkam, harmlose, unaufgeregte Annäherung, die hoffentlich noch zu vielen weiteren interessanten Ereignissen führen wird.
EYE TO EYE fand zum ersten Mal statt und ist eine Reihe, die aus dem Projekt ‚Dance for Responsibility‘ entstanden ist. Geplant ist eine Weiterführung des Projekts im Herbst 2015. Mehr Informationen unter: http://www.kleiner-michel.de/150130-yasna-schindler-eye-to-eye.html.

Marie Werthschulte |  April 2015

Advertisements

Some very personal notes on cohabitation, performance and politics

To the ‘assembly of assemblies’ that took place at Kampnagel was given the title ‘The Art of Being Many’[1], which I found very fascinating as far as it points at some kind of opposition between the art and the many. This is of course just a personal intuition and among the diverse fascinating meanings that the title entails. Such an opposition was probably not meant – why should it be? Still, I would here like to follow up on the reflections that the unclear border between the opposition and the mere juxtaposition triggered in my mind.

I’ve to admit that my intuition cannot be explained by anything if not the latent prejudice that I cultivated in these years taking part in diverse gatherings that conjugate performance and politics. Don’t get me wrong, I think that the question regarding the relationship between the performative and the political is very urgent today, as the widely discussed aesthetisation of politics shows no less than the equally largely problematised politicisation of art. Notwithstanding this urgency that I strongly feel at a personal level, I usually don’t fit in with such events. ‘The Art of Being Many’, like ‘Truth is Concrete’ (Graz, 2012) or ‘Performative Utopias’ (Helsinki, 2013) before it, was no different in this sense: Curiosity soon gave way to irritation that transformed in surprisingly reactionary thoughts which in turn produced some kind of sense of guilt in me that regards the total acceptance of my self as not-activist and in the worst cases as ‘openly’ bourgeois.

Still, ‘The Art of Being Many’, like ‘Truth is Concrete’ before it, reminded me that these mixed feelings don’t matter because it is very important that we (the many) do not stop thinking about performance and its political potential. This is why I try here to collect some partially organised reflections that came up during the days with the many, an experience which I treasure because it indeed provided me with a renewed urgency to rethink the performative and the political and also with a tool to do it: the concept of assembly. In particular, what I’ve been reflecting on is how the performative and the political could form an assembly. In other words, how do they inhabit and share the same space?

I am very critical towards activism in the arts. Notwithstanding this but actually because of it, I decided to enter this reflection by refusing the idea according to which it is too late to take seriously art practices as agent of change, be them critical or not. Rather, I believe that it is crucial today to widen the horizon of the political in art in order to go beyond the short-sighted activism – or worse ‘artivism’ – that ends up defusing its potential. Here is where the concept of assembly emerges as a particular fertile perspective, first and foremost by being a space where very different entities come together.

If the performative and the political are tackled within artivism as different but intertwining concepts, what are the potentials of approaching them as two radically different entities? In the spirit of reconceptualising their relationship beyond activism, it could be an interesting exercise to imagine them coming together in an assembly where their radical difference is respected as such, setting aside for a moment the temptation to solve their radical differences into a new identity.

Between art and politics differences are indeed diverse, but one I would like to keep in mind here is that while the politics can provide us with more or less convincing reasons, “valid art and literature provide us with intelligent and subtle incomprehension.” (Here I’m widely borrowing from Jalal Toufic (2003) who actually distinguished art from sciences but I feel that it makes sense to extend it to politics in this context.) My imaginary assembly then starts from here and moves on to explore the potential that derives from co-presence of two concepts and entities that differ radically.

The assembly represents the place where citizens gather and discuss the conditions of their inhabiting. It is indeed their cohabitation that makes them citizens. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a citizen is “the inhabitant of a particular town or city” and citizenship regards the set of rules that these forms of co-habitation imply. However, as Tristan Garcia (2014) writes, a rule is a paradox: “In order for a rule to exist one must claim that it is impossible to do certain things that can be done. A rule is therefore the collective and individual conception of the dyadic possibility and impossibility of possibilities”. The paradox of the rule points at the core of the political potential of art that, notwithstanding neoliberal capitalism, “still cherishes the idea of that which can always also be otherwise imagined” (Pascal Gielen, 2013). In this sense, performance can unfold its transformative potential not so much in terms of impact on society but rather as carrier of the impossible possibilities within reality.

Standing in contrast to the clarity and convincing reasons of politics that legitimately looks at precise objectives, performance unfolds its political potential by virtue of its imaginative power. Mark Fisher argues that “by persuading us that there is only one liveable reality possible, neoliberalism slips into the ideology of realism”. Such ideology matches the aesthetisation of politics in the recurrence of sentences like “there are no possible alternatives.” What if the political potential of the performative flourishes by revealing that reality can suddenly appear as contingent and not necessary? This is what happened to a certain degree during the panel “Vogue and Voodoo[2]” at “The Art of Being Many”, which not by chance let performance and politics exist in the same space as two radically different subjects.

Imagining performance and politics as citizen in this assembly, if I think back to the panel “On Materiality and Decision” at Kampnagel in September, this is the contribution that performance as citizen would have brought to it. In particular, since decisions are also based on a set of rules and thus live the paradox of the “impossible possibilia” (Garcia), letting performance live as autonomous subject next to politics means indeed to ask essential political questions: How far can the inhabitant change the rules of the space it is inhabiting? In other words, how large is the margin of action of art within society? And, in a panel on decisions, could performance be envisioned as something that is able to create problems instead of solving them?

Politics is indeed much more about problem-solving than problem-creating, and this is another radical difference that in my imaginary assembly should be accepted as such. Gathering the performative and the political as autonomous subjects in the same assembly would enrich it with conflict and would force ourselves to face another fundamental question for the many: What is the political potential of sharing when what we share is a space shaped by conflicting impulses?

Here, politics as citizen could be widely informed by the conflicting coexistence with the questions, the uncomprehending and the imagination brought by performance. Keeping in mind the paradox of the impossible possibilia, it could escape the ‘no-alternative’ rhetoric to embrace imagination and thus take part in the construction of the future.

“Timing (and breaks)” is the title of another panel of “The Art of Being Many” that in my imaginary assembly would enjoy the cultivation of differences separating the performative from the political. The performative would oppose the “what if” to the political “what it should be” so that the latter could go back to think about the future. In this sense, re-establishing the category of the future as possibility is one of the most political things that performance can do just by inhabiting the same space as politics while still producing forms of incomprehension and thus imagination.

There is one last important remark to be made. The only space able to host my imaginary assembly is indeed the theatre, being it endowed by that imagination of art institutions which historically “served the purpose of being able to see the world as also always possibly otherwise” (Gielen, 2013). Moreover, institutional space is one of the only places left where it is still possible to envision the cultivation of differences. In this sense, there will be soon time to collect these initial reflections and investigate inside art institutions what the new terms of the assembly between performance and politics could be, not forgetting that maybe also politics has something to say to performance. Only then it will be possible to rethink the relationship between performance and politics but for now – instead of forcing performance into the clarity and objective-oriented modality of activism – we could maybe leave it where it works best, in the theatre (here I’m borrowing from Jill Dolan, 2005) – where it can instil the doubt on whether we’re dealing with reality or with fiction; where it can remind us that the reality outside is first and foremost a historical product and thus it is subject to transformation.

Livia Andrea Piazza  |  November 2014

____________________________________

Notes:

[1] The Art of Being Many was organised by Geheimagentur, WAV and other artists from Gängeviertel Hamburg, FREIFUNK, Showcase Beat le Mot and the Graduiertenkolleg ‘Assemblies and Participation.’ It took place at Kampnagel on September 27th and 28th 2014 (http://the-art-of-being-many.net/)

[2] The Assembly was made up by the following sections: materiality and decision; timing and breaks; blockade and panic, vogue and vodoo; sounds, system and voices; affects and documents; real fictions. Each one, organised by its own group, proposed a different way of assembling.

List of Quoted Texts:

Jill Dolan Utopia in performance: Finding hope at the theater. University of Michigan Press, 2005

Mark Fisher Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative? Winchester: Zero, 2009

Tristan Garcia Form and Object: A Treatise on Things. Edinburgh University Press, 2014.

Pascal Gielen Institutional Immagination in “Institutional Attitudes. Instituting Art in a Flat World”, Valiz, 2013

Jalal Toufic Distracted Tuumba Press, 2013

What is a Plateau? – On Immanence and Ongoing Discussion

1 What is plateau: I here write a text that is not an answer to the question because I believe this is what fits best to this web platform. Then: How can the question be kept open? Because only if we keep it open, the platform itself – plateau à-venir – can come up with its own provisional answers. Over time, and never quite ending. Plateau could be a place where texts negotiate with one-another, where practices of dealing with words produce friction among each other. I thus believe it is a strategic measure not to fix any style, genre, measure, goal, extension, vocabulary, point of view, red flag, or combat order for the platform. The following will be one possible text about plateau, an assemblage of theoretic references that attest for some associations and one line of conceptual heritage of the term.

2 Deleuze and Guattari speak of plateau to describe animated regions of interaction, negotiation and exchange in their introductory chapter on rhizomes in ‘Mille Plateaus’. There, plateau designates “continuous regions of intensity constituted in such a way that they do not allow themselves to be interrupted by any external termination, any more than they allow themselves to build toward a climax” (Deleuze/Guattari, 1987: A Thousand Plateaus). Plateau essentially is a “piece of immanence”, thus an assembled system of entities that exercise their forces in interaction with one another. As such, actions and expressions should be evaluated “on a plane of consistency on the basis of their intrinsic value” and not in relation to exterior ends. Plateaus are places that create their own logics from the interactions and negotiations they entail – they are self-generating zones of exchange and sympathy that are not finalized towards external ends.

3 But even more: plateaus do not climax only to then disappear. They work on consistency as change and subsist towards an open end. The anthropologist, psychologist and philosopher Gregory Bateson first introduced the term in his book ‘Steps to an Ecology of Mind’ when describing behavioral patterns in Balinese society. Bateson went to Bali in 1936 together with his then wife Margaret Mead – the two were actually married on the trip, in Singapore. Bateson and Mead documented Balinese culture in extensive field notes and by the use of photography and motion picture film – now a seminal early anthropological research. This research is part of Bateson’s endeavor to describe the tool of ethos, which he names as the “expression of a culturally standardized system of organization of the instincts and emotions of the individual”. Bateson is interested in describing basic theories of conflict, a field he later terms schismogenesis (Bateson, 1972: Steps to a Ecology of Mind, p. 116 ff.). Conflicts, to him, most often imply a form of cumulative action – the rising of a conflict, which he first and foremost finds in relation to erotic interactions. He concedes that complementary action between humans are all to often structured by “curves bounded by phenomena comparable to orgasm”, i.e. a built-up of intensity, a climax and a decreasing action. Now, within Balinese society, Bateson does not find these patterns at all. Rather he finds the opposite, a state of interaction he terms plateau. For this interactive state, his main example is erotic games between mother and child: The mother excites her child “pulling its penis or otherwise stimulating it to interpersonal activity” only to turn away as soon as the child is “approaching some small climax” (Bateson, 1972: Steps to a Ecology of Mind, p. 121) and urgently asks for further stimulation. But rather, the mother leaves the child alone and becomes a mere “spectator”, not reacting even to angry and physical claims of her child. Bateson concludes that thereby a basic human tendency toward “cumulative personal interaction” is muted and proposes his idea of plateau: “It is possible that some sort of continuing plateau of intensity is substituted for climax”.

4 While we think of negotiation and interaction as conflict most often, conflicts that culminate and eventually break out to then be solved and disappear, with Bateson we can point at something else: Continuous excitement, continuous interaction, continuous sympathy and shared interest that mutates in the course of its articulation. I think: Plateau is not there to primarily point at a lack (the lack of visibility and discourse around projects of performing arts in Hamburg, but also in other places), it hopefully is not a short endeavor of generating a bit of publicity for those that show or those that write about shows. No, it rather aims at generating discourse and discussion as an open and fluid form of articulating opinions, feedback, topics and questions. It finds ways of translating further what has been seen, what proposes an urgency, what commands the attention. This might be interactions between live art and written text, between city politics and theoretic discourses, between events and texts as events that hopefully in turn alter all participants involved in the meeting.

5 If plateau creates fluid structures by writing as negotiation, it becomes a lively place by the ongoing conflicts it entails. And it is not personal interests or ambitions but texts that will be the proponents of this debate. Deleuze and Guattari link the concept of plateau to the notion of vibrancy: it is “continuous, self-vibrating region of intensities“. The term of vibrancy has different meanings: it can either designate a pulsing or throbbing with energy or activity, but is also used in the sense of vigorous, lively, and vital. Now, within her materialist ecology, the political theorist Jane Bennett claims that vibrancy is closely linked to the notion of affect and a liveliness “intrinsic to (…) materiality” (Bennett, 2010: Vibrant Matter, xvi). This is part of her endeavor to claim agency for all sorts of material and nonhuman entities. I subscribe to her claim in a double sense: Virtual as this text might be, it is also made of material components and built on material work (for example the passages of neurons, the articulation of the muscles of my fingers, the movement of the eyes along the lines of the screen). And secondly, as material and discursive entity it exercises agency. Which means: It wants to be questioned, negotiated, discussed, and provoke disagreement. It does not want to end, though, in forms of conflict that stage a rising action followed by decreasing tension and release but become a specific bloc of information and affect on an open platform. What it looks for is to relate to a number of other items on this plateau by mutual continuous excitation. In the gaps, lines and overlaps with other articulations on the platform this text might become vibrant and lively. It can do so in as much as we can keep open what plateau actually is and does.

– Moritz Frischkorn I November 2014