SELF-INTERVIEW WITH "INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL"
By Marten Spångberg
Workshop is one of those terms used in
such a wide sense that it has lost any meaning. International Festival seems to
make it even more complicated to pin point
International Festival: Well, generally speaking one could say that a workshop can be two
things: a consolidation of knowledge already established, or an opportunity to
produce knowledge, thus introducing the possibility for something to change.
The question is just how this possibility can be articulated, how some form of
engagement can be established?
Our practice is somehow formulated around
an idea of forcing ourselves to do things we have no idea about, or things we
are unable to perform, however, of course, being able only to use skills that
we already have. An architect and a choreographer/performer working together
already introduce this inability. How can a choreographer work with an
architect? And we emphasize "together" and not next to as it normally is. You
know, the architect builds some more or less artistic structure in chipboard
and the choreographer puts some dances in front of it. No, we are interested in
how choreography can challenge architecture and at the same time be influenced
by architecture. Our practice in fact implies to insist on processes of
becoming foreign to ourselves.
One cannot sit down and produce, in the
sense of inventing, knowledge. The production of knowledge is dependent on
processes of making possible. For the workshop here in Vienna we decided to
make a film, and I mean "film" in the sense of cinema - a full-length feature
Of course it is impossible for an
architect, a choreographer and a dozen participants to create such a film,
especially if the aspiration is Hollywood, and for it to be finished after four
weeks and premiere at the end of the festival.
So what do we do ... Exactly, we better use
our imagination. No actually, if we use our imagination we will not succeed in
any sense. Imagination is already inscribed in representation and perception.
We are interested in intensities of other characteristics, something that we
call affects. Perception is not our interest but percepts. Or in other words,
stuff that is yet to gain a name.
Now, we come across a slight difficulty in
respect of novelty. If we think about gaining a name, we easily end up in
discourses referring to romantic or modernist notions of artist, inventor or
philosopher. Our practice rather has to do with deterritorializing existing
epistemes. We wish to be Jewish piano players to quote Horowitz.
So, to answer your questions: Yes, we are
interested in complexifying the notion of workshop in respect of specific modes
of knowledge production, and at the same time, if workshop means reproduction
of knowledge, International Festival doesn't do workshop.
This is the second Choreographers
Venture that you are involved in. What is your plans for this year, or is
planning something too conventional for you?
International Festival: As we
know, the path to hell is paved by good intentions, and since we have no
errands in heaven we can't operate through belief. As our interest in Artaud
ran dry last Friday - Oops, there went sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll -, our only
resort is to have both feet on the ground and the head above the clouds. We love
planning, and everybody knows that conventional is the new perverse.
What we have planned is a workshop that
takes the shape of the realization of a dance film, in which a workshop where a
dance film is being realized is taking place.
So you are
making a film?
International Festival: No, we are giving a workshop?
But the film
is a workshop?
International Festival: No, the film is a film?
And what is
International Festival: The workshop is the realization of a film?
And what is
in the film?
International Festival: A workshop?
Oh, I see?
International Festival: There
you go, now we are talking. When something's name, what it is called and its
being or existence, coincides then knowledge has stalled and become immobile.
Of course the question will be what does
this have to do with dance? And I can only respond by asking where do you want
me to start? The activity of this group of people is everything dance and
choreography, except in respect of what it, i.e. dance, is, what it is called
and what its name is. This acknowledgement implies the possibility of
potentiality, or implies that change can only take place at the moment when we
are benevolent to an asymmetry between something's or our own name and what it,
one, is called.
rather unclear and more or less incomprehensible, can you clarify?
International Festival: We are
interested in the format contemporary dance and its potential audience. Since
the mode of production that we utilize for the realization of this film (which
is fully fictional) is one of dance. Can we understand this film, whether it
contains dance or not, as a dance "performance"/production, or is dance forever
trapped in particular modes of presence and is its site always the institution
It is remarkable to recall that 50 years
ago Bob Dylan was playing his guitar unplugged in bars in Manhattan, and in
2005 the Rolling Stones performed in front of 1.2 million people in Rio, and
nobody asks questions about authenticity. At the same time - we don't mix up a
Stones concert with something else, i.e., it is still understood as autonomous.
So, if we decided that making a film through the mode of thought/production of
dance is dance; authentic and autonomous in the same respect as any other
dance, we have at least produced the possibility for an expansion of what dance
If the Rolling Stones can do it, why shouldn't
dance aspire to the same thing? You of course object and say, but Riverdance
does that? Exactly, but why should we, as individuals and groups with ethical
or political aspirations due to dance, abandon the "big" stage for Riverdance
to explore? Isn't that the same contrived BS as sticking to vinyl when the CD
was introduced, or to resign to the violence of a system? In other words, to
invalidate one's capacity to act politically.
Can you be
International Festival: How long
does it take to recognize that you are looking at cultural television? Less
than a second? And why is every portrait of an artist exactly the same? Long,
slow shots, measured inwardly talking and thoughtful choreographers sitting
deep in an armchair, or firmly concentrated in the studio. That's not my
practice. I don't want to give that impression to the world. On the other hand
why do we offer to Hollywood to make films about dance without any further
consideration than bashing the films before they arrive on the big screen? The
dance that occurs in dance films has nothing to do with contemporary dance, and
yet we allow our children to look at it? And finally, has anybody ever seen a
decent dance film, like made by a choreographer for BBC? Certainly not! Because
the choreographer is hired to represent himself and his practice, which cannot
not be conceptually incompatible with cinema.
SWEAT the movie, is an in situ attempt to
claim back dance from these three actors: cultural television, Hollywood and
"video-dance", not as a critique but rather as a proposal for something else. A
flip side to this, is to ask ourselves what do we mean with commercial? Our
film, which is a dance, aims for the same audience as Hollywood, but does that
mean that we automatically become commercial? If commercial is disconnected
from monetary value and expanded to any kind of value production, I believe
that some of the work presented during Impulstanz or in any other festival in
Europe today, is far more commercial than a large amount of Hollywood
productions, it's just that dance seems to pretend as if it's nothing? If dance
remains on stage as we know it, we believe it is doomed, and it is only by
stopping to use our imagination that dance can look forward to a lively future.
If you run a car company today, why aim for the family car version? No, go for
something specific, create a niche and avoid competition. Expand the field of
the possible. In dance basically everybody turns to the stage - 12 x 12 m -
that is the place where dance proposes that radical is happening. But hallo, to
gain a license to perform on that stage one always has to pass "the market". In
other words all work produced for the stage, aiming for the festival circuit is
by definition commercial. This is lovely, since at least then we know the rules
and we stop being precious about our artistic integrity and creative freedom.
but how will this happen?
International Festival: With
some good luck and a lot of hard work. Of course we will not make it to
Hollywood but that doesn't matter. We'd rather end up in hell than remain in
place. Yet, it is only through belief in the bad will that something might
change. The good will is always respect, which means unproductive.
We do everything ourselves. The actors in
the film are mostly dancers and some other silly people, and as much as they
are actors they function as film team. So you act one day and the next you are
operating some boom. This has economical reasons, but it is more because we are
interested in what happens if the positions we normally occupy are undermined.
It also implies that the process of filming in itself is a kind of choreography, and moreover this is thus a collective
It is imperative to not mimic film
production, then we'd be going down badly, but rather to look into how this
group can make film differently. Not a different film (that's again the
modernist artist peeking into the studio), but to make film differently, which
of course is very Godard.
In fact we are not trying to make a film in
the sense of an autonomous product, but rather we are making a film that looks
like a film. We have no idea about film making so we can only do something that
looks like a film, i.e., a process that fucks pride and engages in difference.
The starting point is a rather conventional
screenplay that we wrote together, and as long as we follow it anything can
happen. You know, doing something you have no idea
about implies that there isn't a lot to lose. Even better, if you are doing
something you have no idea about, with very strict conditions, and you know
why, you can produce a revolution.
(July 6, 2008)
International Festival has a website
See also our review of “SWEAT – The Movie”!