REPORT ON RESEARCHES OF DANCE, CHOREOGRAPHY, VANGUARD STRATEGIES/TACTICS IN THE CONTEXT OF THE INTERMEDIAL OPEN LABORATORY AT TQW
By Miško Šuvaković
Introduction: who moves when and where on the theoretical platform?
In the open laboratory connected with the East-West Project "What to affirm? What to perform?" and the Tanzquartier's theoretical work 6+1, working meetings dedicated to interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary dance and choreography studies were held. Possibilities for researching a variety of current and potential topics and problematic tasks connected with annotation, interpretation, and mapping were pointed out:
- the status of dance and choreography studies in contemporary art theories/sciences;
- phenomenologies of movement and motion in ranging from the abstract concept of "motion" to concrete prefiguration of the bodily or visual, i.e., acoustic motion in different arts, cultures, and societies;
- research of movement in different arts and art theories: in dance, film, theatre, performance, visual arts, radiance art, music, audio-arts, radio art, architecture, and ambient art, in conceptual art, situationism, art history, ethnological studies, history of dance, history of choreography, culture studies, contemporary art philosophy, and political theories;
- problematization of the status of the vanguard – historical vanguards and neo-vanguards – in comparative art histories; i.e., differences between vanguards in visual arts and vanguards in dance and choreography;
- indexing and locating vanguard dance and vanguard choreography in Central and South-Eastern Europe.
Such a broad range of topics and problems were the working tasks of the laboratory defined as an open and eclectic kind of research. Established research appeared as discussion practice of traversing and marking relevant problem positions and their possible relations in fitting the "hybrid map" of the new concept of choreographic and dance work in history and actuality. Therefore, in an epistemological sense, four concepts have become relevant for the laboratory's work:
- research and art,
- hybrid mapping of intemedial and transmedial arts and cultures during the twentieth century, and
- modeling of theoretical practices and practical theories about "motion" and discourses or phenomenologies of motion, i.e., about dance and choreography studies.
- vanguard as paradigm
In the following I will try to indicate my views regarding these three problems, and to anticipate potential platforms of the mapping, annotation, and interpretation of dance and choreography in contemporary theoretical discourses.
Epistemology of research: modus and ontology of research?
Research occurs as resistance against the unquestionableness of creation in special artistic disciplines. Instead of sole and ideal "how art" developed through tradition, a question in the sense of "how in art" is posed, with the possibility of offering answers from theoretical practice as well as from practical theory of art between "how" and the relevant "why". Thereat, the concept "research" can assume complex variants of appearance and performance in practical-theoretical and theoretical-practical work:
- Research is the practice of opening and practice of motion[i] of micro or macro concepts within a defined artistic or theoretical discipline and, beyond the conventional or canonical limits of that discipline in an undefined, changeable, and hybrid space of contemporarity, that is, the narrative spaces of history.
- Research in art is analogous with scientific[ii] research. It deals with the rational and relational performance of auto-reflexive and reflexive studies of epistemological problems of art or epistemological problems in the arts.
- Research in art is the mode of investigation[iii]; an uncertain procedural similarity with police investigation, the investigation of private detectives or a journalist's investigation can be identified.
- Research in art is the act of exploration[iv]. An analogy between artistic research and the discovery of unknown places, i.e., space, far away islands, new worlds, the cosmos, unknown people, unknown animals or floral species, unknown urban situations is indicated.
- Research in art is the act of browsing and surfing similar to searching databases in computers or digital information systems.
- Research in art is a transgressive "gesture" by which canonical and "normal" art and its canonical theory are put into question, meaning submitted to fundamental redefinition.
Research in art is seen as an open and mobile activity, i.e., as the event of performing epistemology which becomes characteristic for artistic work. Relevant differences between research art and non-research art thus seem to rest upon the fact that non-research art starts from permanently established values, while research art strives towards affirming values and itself as art. Indeed, simultaneously with setting art as research, and researching itself, the first aesthetics which discuss the problem of art itself and its place among activities of the spirit come into being.[v] Artist acts, and the framework of his work are consciously marked although all the steps in his acting, i.e., research; they are not anticipated and he faces the discovery and choice of a new file of action. This is why research in art is often anticipated as a heuristic procedure. Heuristics itself is motivated by research which, because of the lack of a precise program or algorithm of research, takes place from instance to instance through the method of attempts, mistakes, and the correction of mistakes. The path of heuristic research is not founded on a system of rules but on discovering, affirming, and rejecting the achieved. Thus the art is pre-oriented from creating a work of art as an enframing work in the world towards uncertain research or searching which leads towards the unknown and unexpected – authentic and new – within both traditional and new media, but also in human relations established by art. Research indicates receding from creation of the work of art (techne+ poesis) towards the ideas of the artistic project and setting the artistic project as the artist's working platform.
The ‘Artist' does not appear as creator (craftsman, artisan, manual contractor) or, even, industrial producer[vi], but the artist becomes the author.[vii] The author in this context is the initiator and bearer of the ‘project'. The artist teaches and thus establishes strategies and tactics of designing and performing the project, i.e., the author presupposes the ‘design' of the platform and procedures for performing or producing the work of art, performing the relations in the world of art, culture, and society, and post-production investments or usages in archived products of historical or contemporary cultures.
Artistic education and acting based on ‘research' have been changed essentially during the twentieth century. This change leads to setting art in the way of scientific-technical research work in Bauhaus and Soviet art institutions (UNOVIS, GINHUK), that is, in neo-vanguard schools (New Bauhaus in Chicago, or Art school in Ulm) towards social and cultural investigation, exploration, and browsing. The contemporary ‘artist researcher' is a sort of cultural worker[viii] or artist researcher in the actuality of contemporary life between modernistic architecture and the design of everyday life.
In fact, there were four characteristic concepts of research within art during the twentieth and at the beginning of the twenty-first century:
- research in vanguards from futurism, over Dada to constructivism and surrealism projects the utopian vision of a new rational society based on progress, rapidity, and mass consumption;
- research in neo-vanguards – art after enformel, neo-constructivism, kinetic art, electronic music, computer and cyber art – realizes an utopian vision and thus proves itself to be a concrete utopia, a synthesis of science and art through the articulation of laboratory research of the artist or the group of artists, following the model of work of a scientific technocratic team;
- research in postmodernity is connected with electronic information systems (video and TV network, satellite transmissions, computer and computer networks, cybernetic regulation space, holographic shows) rather than research, or more precisely, browsing within the databases of mass culture and information consumption; and
- research in the epoch of globalization is connected with artivistic, i.e., activistic intervention and interactive investigations, discoveries, and researches of relevant limits of art, culture, and society, whereby the artist faces the nature – ontology – of the new kind of human work itself.
The artist of the vanguard[ix] is a sort of techno-messiah who predicts and anticipates what is still unutterable, unknowable, and absent in current society. The artist of the neo-vanguard[x] takes over functions of the scientist and technician, she/he restores art from aesthetical to technical, media, or instrumental researching of the object, ambient, text, sound. The artist of postmodernism is a consumer[xi] who does not differ much from the hacker or producer. He does not create, but organizes a media order which enables production, exchange, and consumption, i.e., browsing, recycling, and re-combining of artistic or aesthetical effects. The artist in the epoch of globalization transforms into a cultural worker, i.e., an activist/artivist[xii] who redefines human practice in relation to the daily shaping of life.
Epistemology of hybrid mapping of intermedia and transmedia practices
The term hybrid[xiii] originates from biological discourse. It indicates the creation of a new biological species by mixing different floral or animal types. The term appears with negative meanings during nineteenth-century discourses of racism, where it most often signifies the unwanted mixing of human races, and later also the mixing of individuals and groups of different ethnical background. The term is later positively applied to various interdisciplinary developments of humanistic and social sciences, that is, theoretical activities during the twentieth century. For example, high Western modernism was based as the critique and elimination of hybridity in art and culture through aspiration towards the relevant and fundamental, e.g., the uniqueness of artistic media and work. Absolute music was to be music itself offered to concentrated listening, that is, establishing the Western concept of absolute music was based on the reduction of ‘bodily' reception of music to the reception of music by one specialized sense: auricular – by the ear. Abstract or, more elaborated, modernistic painters of the late 1950s and early 1960s aspired to non-referential picturality situated according to the rules of surface composition, i.e., abstract painting was to be offered to the view itself, a specialized view which is not part of bodily articulation, etc. Contrary to developed and autonomous modernism, vanguards from Dada of the late 1910s to fluxus intermedia productions of the early 1960s and Telquelian intertextual practices of the second half of the 1960s aspired to non-consistency, non-integrity, and certainly, hybridity in the aesthetical, artistic, cultural, and political sense.
The term hybridity appears towards and with concurrent terms, such as: syncretism, plurality, heterogeneity, eclecticism, etc. Thereat, syncretism signifies the lowest degree of eclecticism, i.e., it signifies the wholeness which emerges through fusion or merging of two opposite, sometimes even confronted, sides, parties, possibilities, appearances or givens. Plurality signifies existing plurality/multiplicity which overcomes ‘one' or ‘two', thus showing itself as a relation of multiple differences or incomparabilities which are here and now (there and then) in some non-conflict or conflict relation of unresolvedness. Plurality indicates the ideal of heterogeneity. Heterogeneity signifies ‘something', one or whole, which consists, collaged and installed, of differential constituent or relations which are in a tolerable or subsisting relation. Eclecticism, however is a strategy with numerous tactics which enable the existence, appearance, realization, or representation of the hybrid, syncretic, plural, or heterogeneous, above all, in the historical and geographical sense. Eclectic means taken over from the other, based on taking, displacing, and taking over from memory, traces, or the archives.
If the previously indicated terminological differences are accepted, we can say that hybrid is by all means the presupposition, performance, or recognition of any relation (structure, text, appearance, event) as syncretic, plural, or heterogeneous with an indication of differences (différence) and differances (différance) in social, cultural, or artistic practices. The syntagms ‘hybrid practices' and ‘hybrid theories' tell about the arts and theories which emerge:
- in cultural, anarchical, or, not until now, chaotic mixings or displacements of discourses and criteria of annotations and interpretations without respect to traditional limits;
- by means of transgressions by which it passes over from one normal, canonic or dominant discourse to the other, but also vice versa, and
- by the critique or auto-critique of valid, that is, own hegemonies and influences offered as self-understandable and as complete horizons of expectations.
When the ideal of hybrid platform and hybrid theory, that is, theoretical practice and practical theory in art, is introduced, one thinks of a situation in which the artist and the theoretician do not see their own starting points respectively as disciplinary uniquely situated, for example, in philosophy, aesthetics, or culture studies. Rather, he recognizes his starting points in an undefined, open, and changeable space/time of motion and reaction to incoherent stimuli of current theories, studies of art and cultures. Hybrid theories and practice are outer-disciplinary theories and practices which in the fields external in relation to valid, stable, and closed disciplines establish a critical platform of exchange, production, and annotation of what is neglected, approximated, idealized, or even censured in the name of essential particularity in constituting the disciplines, i.e., the foundation of a basic discipline. One speaks about hybrid theories and practices in different theoretical and study disciplines, for example, one can speak about: performance studies[xiv], dance and choreography studies, photography studies[xv], feminism studies[xvi], identity representation or identity relation studies[xvii], art and culture of post-socialism studies, or transitional culture studies, that is, art and culture in the epoch of globalization studies[xviii], politics of new media[xix], new digital media studies[xx], bodily extension (prosthesis) studies[xxi], etc. One important example of hybrid material work – much discussed in the course of the laboratory – was the indication of situational practices of decollage and intervention performance destabilizing the reception situation of the featured film, architecture, and thus also of bodily performance.
Theoretical practices and practical theories about "motion" in discourses or phenomenologies of motion, i.e., about dance and choreography studies
When I speak and write about dance (dance, danse) for me there are several comparative, but also rival starting points:
- dance is an event, i.e., motion, which I watch and listen to live in a given interval of time in a theatre, para-theatre, or performance art,
- dance as motion of the body or even the motion itself, I watch and listen to by means of film, video, or digital presentation in a deferred (différAnce) moment of presentation and representation of body in motion or motion itself as motion,
- I watch dance as a photographic picture in an entirely deferred moment of freezing and isolation of the picture-body, i.e., the figure, from the motion in space and time,
- I read about dance in a verbal text mediating dance by indexing, descriptions, analysis, explanations, interpretations, deconstructions, and discussions within dance theory as art and within the philosophy of art and culture studies,
- I think about dance in a way which always metaphorically prefigures the activation of phantasm, and that means difference of the body, presentation of the body by figure and prefiguring of the figure in thoughts by figures of thought language (mediation of the mediator in the game proposition-mediation),
- I write (écriture about dance) by facing myself with the relation of two different writings – writing with the pen and writing with the body – which establish entirely synchronic and diachronic fields of sense and meaning,
- I map dance in relation to historical paradigms of relations: (a) bourgeois modernity and vanguard, (b) Cold War high modernism and neo-vanguard, (c) postmodern and post-vanguard within late consumption capitalism, and (d) trans-cultural and conceptual dance within the processes of globalization of the capital and globalization of life.
Thereat, positions 1-7 can be considered as immanent, i.e., inner problems-objects of dance and choreography studies. Dance studies indicate a general position of choreographic creation, dance performing, and observer/listener reception of bodily motion. Choreography studies enable conceptualization, then theoretization of the author's role in designing and performing dance in relation to the dance itself, in relation to the history of dance, but also in relation to all those possible interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary possibilities of exiting dance towards other arts or cultural practices, that is, from moving from other arts and cultural practices towards open concepts of dance.
In a technical sense, "interdisciplinarity" signifies moving from one discipline towards the other, for example, from dance towards music or theatre or painting, but also from painting, theatre or music towards dance. Interdisciplinarity signifies a relation between two or more disciplines. As opposed to this, trans-disciplinarity signifies the opening of disciplines and research to possible browsing (surfing, browsing) of potential maps and indexes of disciplines in motion. Interdisciplinarity means moving towards …, and trans-disciplinarity means potential open and nomadic accomplices moving "everywhere" in possible territories or maps of potential territories, and the establishment of actual and potential relations of knowledge, event, and enjoyment. This way the introduced concepts "interdisciplinarity" and "trans-disciplinarity" signify choreographically oriented theoretization of art. It is about setting art, but also art theory, as a multiplicity of concepts and phenomena in motion.
Probably the most relevant contribution to research work in the laboratory during that March week (March 3-8) was the attempt to perform an open and movable theoretical platform about the possibility of exiting dance and choreography studies into the fields of vanguard nomadism and transgressivism. However, this task was always led by the identification and indexing of remittent influences on choreography and dance in their disciplinary limits.
Detail: the case of vanguard and vanguardism in relations of visual arts and dance
Here I want to concentrate on dialectical relations of modern and vanguard dance at the passage from bourgeois class structuring of a society and culture to market/consumption mass structuring of society, culture, and art. I will look at this tense process in that social, cultural, and artistic framework which is identified as Central Europe (between Paris and Moscow, via Berlin), Middle Europe (around Austria-Hungary or later from Austria to Czechia and Hungary), and South-Eastern Europe (between Slovenia, via Croatia and Serbia to Rumania and Bulgaria) during the period between the 1910s and the late 1930s. I will consider modern and/or vanguard dance through the instances of:
- critique and subversion of white ballet – from white ballet to free non-mimetic dance,
- integration of popular culture (circus, cabaret, vulgar festivity) into new dance art,
- discovery of outer-European dances ranging from colonial appropriation to exotic empathy,
- development of physical culture or bodily culture (gymnastics, free dance, nudism),
- synthesis of the subversion of white ballet, popular culture dances, outer-European dances and physical culture in "expressionistic dance", whereby expressionistic dance appears as the core of forming canonical modern dance,
- relation of living bodily motion and new – above all mechanical – media (photography, film, mechanical theatre, marionette theatre) in futurism and constructivism,
- anti-dance or shapes of bodily actions and media productions based on breaking aesthetical and dancing-technical rules in the anarchical gestuality of Dada (Dada performances: festivals, evening-services),
- anticipation of the bodily and media mediated body in presenting, initiating, or provoking ethical, political, and psychological taboos in surrealism,
- dance as practice of performing, and representation of individual and collective gender identities, above all in bourgeois liberal societies: heterosexual, homosexual, transvestite, qeer-mechanical body,
- dance as a form of social – collective – practice within activist work in socialist oriented practices of articulation of working culture, and the transformation of activist work into the practice of socialist dance/ballet/theatre in the USSR,
- dance as a form of social – collective – practice within the articulation of aesthetization of totalitarian politics of the bodiliness and sociality in bourgeois society or Nazi, that is, Fascist society (mass parades, militarization of the body, performing of a collective mechanical and transcendent body).
Thereat, I am interested in annotations and interpretations of three models of politization of modern and/or vanguard dance:
- the relation between dance and ideological macro and micro apparatuses of the ethnical and traditional in specific cultures, above all, in Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia;
- influences and receptions of big cultures (German expressionism, Italian futurism, French vanguard from symbolism, cross cubism to dada and surrealism, and Russian cubo-futurism) in small cultures of South-Eastern Europe (expressionistic, Dadaistic, zen, constructivist, and surrealistic performances), and
- the politicization of the individual, collective, and mechanical body in dance itself, or more relevant, media (drawing, painting, photography, and also radio) performances of dance or "artistic", that is, "cultural" body.
Translated by Nada Jaćimović
[i] Mieke Bal, Traveling Concepts In the Humanities – A Rough Guide, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 2002.
[ii] Verena Andermatt Conley (ed), Rethinking Technologies, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, London, 1993; Mark B.N. Hansen, New Philosophy for New Media, The MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 2004; Eduardo Kac (ed), Signs of Life – Bio Art and Beyond, The MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 2007.
[iii] Joseph Kosuth, The Making of Meaning – Selected Writings and Documentation of Investigations on Art Since 1965, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, 1981; Stephwen Wright, Dataesthetics – Reader: How to Do Things With Data, Arkzin, Revolver, WHW, Zagreb, Frankfurt am Main, 2007.
[iv] Documenta 11_Platform 5: Exhibition – Catalogue, Cantz Publishers, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2002; Critical Art Ensemble, The Molecular Invasion, Autonomedia, Brooklyn New York, 2002; Linda Candy, Ernest Edmonds, Explorations in Art and Technology, Springer, New York, 2002; L.B. Deyo, David Leibowitz, Invisible Frontier: Exploring the Tunnels, Ruins, and Rooftops of Hidden New York, Three Rivers Press, 2003.
[v] Giulio Carlo Argan, „Umjetnost kao istraživanje" („Art as Research"), from Studije o modernoj umjetnosti, Nolit, Beograd, 1982, p. 154.
[vi] Walter Benjamin, "The Author as Producer ", from Charles Harrison, Paul Wood (eds), Art in Theory 1900-2000, An Anthology of Changing Ideas, Basil Blackwell, Oxford UK, Cambridge USA, 2003, pp 493-499; and Art&Language, "Author and Producer – Revisited", Art-Language, vol. 5 No. 1, England, 1982, pp 22-31.
[vii] Roland Barthes, "Death of the Author", from Image-Music-Text, Hill and Wang, New York, 1978, pp 142-148; Michel Foucault, "What is the Author?", in Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1984, Aesthetics, Penguin Books, London, 2000, pp 205-22.
[viii] Marcia Tucker, Karen Fiss, Russell Ferguson, William Olander (eds), Discourses: Conversation in Postmodern Art and Culture, The MIT Press, Cambridge MA, London, 1990.
[ix] Filiberto Menna, Proricanje estetskog društva – Eseji o umetničkoj avangardi i modernom arhitektonskom pokretu, SIC, Beograd, 1984; M. Friedman (ed), De Stijl: 1917-1931 / Visions of Utopia, Phaidon, Oxford, 1986; The Great Utopia. The Russian and Soviet Avant-Garde 1915-1932, Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1992.
[x] Oto Bihalji Merin, Jedinstvo sveta u viziji umetnosti, Nolit, Beograd, 1974; Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, Neo-Avantgarde and Cultural Industry. Essays on European and American Art from 1955 to 1975, The MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 2000.
[xi] Boris Groys, "The Artist as an Exemplary Art Consumer", iz Aleš Erjavec (ed), "Aesthetics as Philosophy – XIXth International Congress of Aesthetics – Proceedings I", Filozofski Vestnik št. 2, ZRC SAZU, Ljubljana, 1999, pp 87-100.
[xii] Aldo Milohnić, „Artivism", from „Performing Action, Performing Thinking" (temat), Maska št. 1-2 (90-91), Ljubljana, 2005, pp 15-25.
[xiii] „Theorizing Cultural Hybridity", from Susan Stanford Friedman, Mappings – Feminism and the Cultural Geographies of Encounter, Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ,1998, pp-82-93.
[xiv] Richard Schechner, Performance Studies – An introduction, Routledge, London, 2002; Henry Bial, The Performance Studies Reader, Routledge, London, 2004.
[xv] Victor Burgin (ed), Thinking Photography, Macmillan, London, 1987.
[xvi] Peggy Phelan, Unmarked – The Politics of Performance, Routledge, New York, 1993.
[xvii] Leo Bersani, Ulysse Dutoit, Forms of Being – Cinema, Aesthetics, Subjectivity, British Film Institute, London, 2004; Amelia Jones, Andrew Stephenson (eds.), Performing the Body – Performing the Text, Routledge, London, 1999.
[xviii] Aleš Erjavec (ed), Postmodernism and the Postsocialist Condition. Politicised Art under Late Socialism, California University Press, Berkeley, 2003.
[xix] Critical Art Ensemble, The Molecular Invasion, Autonomedia, New York, 2002.
[xx] Brian Massumi, Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation (Post-Contemporary Interventions), Duke University Press, Durham, 2002.
[xxi] Marquard Smith, Joanne Morra (eds), The Prosthetic Impulse – From a Posthuman Present to a Biocultural Future, The MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 2006.