These are outlines of figures taking shape.
“Therefore, these reminders of reading, or listening, have been left in the frequently uncertain, incompleted state suitable to a discourse whose occasion is indeed the memory of the sites (books, encounter) where such and such a thing has been read, spoken, heard.”
Roland Barthes, A Love r’s Discourse, (New York: Hill and Wang, 1978), page 9.
The materials from which I constructed this text stem from work that, for lack of better words, attempts to trace the invisible. Intereferencias and 8 DAYS are both meetings between contemporary dance and performance practitioners. Despite differences, they share a special function as times and locations where we, performance makers, have the opportunity to reexamine our own practices and contexts with the support of our colleagues. The following ‘outlines’ are themselves partial objects, meant to proffer not the fully formed content required in documenting a time, but rather, points of intersection – where feelings collide with thought. For simplicity’s sake, only given names appear in the text.
La BARN was special. Some feng shuior subtle force that Tedd cultivates pushes you inward like a gravity between people. Or maybe it wasn’t Tedd, maybe it was the curation of the project… the fact it was funded by 10 Gates Dancing, Public Recordings and ourselves… the weather… the lake… maybe it was that some lived in large luxurious tents or that it never rained once the entire time. Or maybe it did rain and now I have forgotten. Whatever it was, it was wonderful.
On one of the last days, we walked together but apart, in silence. Tedd lead us from site to site, each place bringing a different feeling. After walking uphill in the beating sun next to fields of tall grass for what felt quite long, we emerged into the hollows of a shaded meadow dressed softly with the decay of dried lichen and fallen leaves. Changes such as this accumulated to a choreography of emotion and sensation, a show of one for oneself, arranged by our leader who, no doubt, led us by some strange, unknown feeling. We followed in single file, five to ten metres apart, travelling a long line that, from a bird’s eye view, may have resembled ancient rituals of fidelity or sacrifice.
What force was governing the distance between bodies on that walk? Why did I stay far enough away to not see Ame in front of me, yet close enough to not fear finding myself lost? What kept me from establishing a new line?
Violence is necessary.
The question “How do we work together?” Can quickly become “How does one navigate through conflict?”. The Interferencias project is a self-organized group of roughly twenty-five performance artists founded in 2009. The group meets regularly in various residency centres around Europe and South America; the primary goal of meetings is to research methods of collaboration. Work shifts from autonomous research to group work, meaning people shift in and out of working on Interferencias. The introduction of new people, however, into this strange performance organization has proved difficult.
In hindsight, now some months after our last encounter, I think the problem was rooted in the basic rhetoric of the group – a desire to be open to possibility and potential. Despite the mandate of being open and accepting of everyone, the project turned in on itself. Tensions and conflict emerged within the group to the point where every idea was met with scrutiny. How can we simply dive into action? So much time was spent on being together and orienting bodies and histories that work stopped completely.
In August 2012, we were in Vienna, hosted in part by the ImpulsTanz festival and WUK, a municipal art centre. At first, we were twenty-four artists, all of whom were continuing from the previous full group meeting in Mexico in 2010. Since then, many of us had met in smaller groups for book editing or grant writing fiestas and other rather light, spontaneous meetings between friends and colleagues. In Vienna, we were faced with the addition of ten new ‘local’ participants to fulfil our funding agreement with WUK. As these new people began showing up, excitement grew. Who were these new voices and how would our trajectory change as a whole within what had, up until this point, been a self-motivated political structure?
Que horror. We had resisted naming ourselves as a group. This deliberate ignorance brought forth unforeseen consequences, namely, we neglected to work on establishing a group. The new participants did not share our history of togetherness. It was as though they lacked some unspoken bond that had formed between the other artists over time. Now it is time that seems most important – time together.
The wait – there was empathy everywhere.
Ame and Tedd had done most of the structural planning. Eight artists from the Canadian dance community were invited to come together and one extra showed up. The call was for peer-to-peer professional development. There was a certain openness in this proposal, professional development was a very broad term and I think all of us had different expectations or fantasies in regards to what was about to happen. Leading up to the meeting, we exchanged about potential proposals and current points of interest, but these would later mutate, contributing to a sort of focused malleability that would take over at La BARN.
We would begin the day by preparing the space. The barn was opened, the windows and doors propped inviting a gentle breeze. The black floor was swept of bat dung and then washed with water and lavender. The lavender added finality to the ritual, a signal to the air that we were ready to begin again.
After a dance party and some physical and mental preparation, a second beginning came as a silence. A pause or wait that simply arose over us from nowhere. This was an easy wait, like one in which I could take a short energizing nap or perhaps smoke a cigarette but instead, I did nothing. It was an exchange in subtler frequencies. From this silence, someone would finally pronounce the first proposal. This moment of suspension, before each day, was not instituted. It emerged from a sensation that was, for a brief instant, shared.
Deciding to do something together without agreement occurs quite frequently. In hospital emergencies, we grab for that magazine, sometimes in unison, knowing it will be a couple hours before seeing a doctor. We stand together on large platforms hoping that our train is on time. A couple lies in a hot room staring at the intricate details of shadow playing upon the ceiling, a surface seldom looked upon by choice, as they feel, together, the pull of sleep come upon them.
Days began a little later due to the living conditions in Vienna. Around noon, after some physical training we would sit together and begin discussing what to do. Amongst thirty-four people, the conversation was slow, precarious and subject to rapid change. This volatile environment for working was a fertile place for criticality and knowledge production.
One thing I have come to understand: there are things that will be done and things that will not be done, the act of doing is equally important as the act of not doing. In fact these two things, action and non-action, are two sides of the same coin wherein every act of doing is also an act of not doing and vice versa.
With this in mind, every proposal that occurred during this meeting of thirty-four performance artists, every action that took place, was enacted through the sacrifice of countless other proposals; actions were laid down in service of something unformed, unthought and unspoken.
Michael speaks often of his ambivalence towards a preciousness he witnesses in contemporary dance. At one time, he dubbed it one of many tyrannies of the form. When I was under his direction at Dancemakers, this resonated with my young cavalier attitude towards what I understood to be dance. However, I was mistaken. I isolated this preciousness as a purely aesthetic problem failing to see the precious ways in which I was making dance. During my time at Dancemakers, Michael would often quote Anne Bogart in saying, “Hold on tightly. Let go loosely.” I would hear this repeated but never actually integrate it into the methods I used to make work. Instead, it seemed to effect only the way I made choices within work. Since that time, what has revealed itself, while somehow remaining obscure, is not the precarious state established in the word “precious”, but a relationship between thinking, doing and making that entrusts death and decay as equally valuable to growth and living.
When do phenomena become visible?
For projects that have no defined edges, as those described above, we will continue to come together as long as we continue to love one another. This includes the love of being with someone in conflict or rather, a love of hate.
Lovinghate is a symbiotic sensation to loving, and necessary in polyamorous networks of love. It occurs more subtly within the dynamics of monogamous love as a feeling that is out of place. In groups however, lovinghate finds a home as a criticality promoting growth and understanding. Conflict through love is a ruthless passion for the other, symbiotically antagonistic, and almost equally important to the act of loving.
Consider for a moment the following scenario: Within a group of three, let us say that I can love one and love hating the other. Then say that the one I love loves the other and loves hating me. Furthermore if the other loves me and loves hating the one I love, then we have established a circuit of group love through which a balanced current can flow.
Imagine the complex circuitry and flow that is made possible in larger groups. A cloud of loving that allows for irregular patterns of change, a schizophrenic love, where people fall in and out of love rapidly. They slip through intimacies allowing for ulterior methods of exchange, be them nonlinguistic, telepathic or something other.