TWO VIEWS ON INFINITE FUTURE: COFESTIVAL 2019 PROGRAMME
THE FUTURE BODY OF THE PRESENT
The issue of the future that has been causing a creative and imagination blockage for the global human community for a number of years is in the field of contemporary dance currently not so much related with dance or choreographic forms that would appropriately represent the present or the future time. It seems that the pertinent question of the future is what dance can actually do, how it is able to handle the bodies when they are, due to the historical moment we live in, marked by a fundamental lack of their temporalities? It seems that in the global future, one of the elemental questions of contemporary dance, of its numb and profane or ultimately athletic and lithely bodies is, how to assure their access to the real present as they constantly take out sweeping and non-redeemable (bodily and other) loans. They are moved by the fuel of an uncertain and exhausted future. How can we have access to what is always available to the bodies, to what actually always composes them, if the temporality of their activity is an endless planning, an endless anticipation of the future? How can we assure a piece of the human body, a piece of the present, a piece of human connection: a piece of (un)stable materiality to our existing, dynamic, raging and wild affects which imply our existence with their bestiality that gained independence? Perhaps the real dilemma of our future might be hidden in the fact that our weightless and disembodied present is actually the most inaccessible, non-transparent and blurred of all? The present is turned into traces, hidden messages or an archive of future experiences. How can we compose a solid self-narration if we are nothing else but a correspondence with our future selves, a body, deferred into the future for an indefinite period?
Two select film references are perhaps appropriate for consideration on the changed temporality and the inaccessible present. Two films from two diametrical periods. In the film Memento(2000) by the English director Christopher Nolan, the main character experiences a loss of short-term memory caused by a trauma, so he documents his present and at the same time manipulates the future because he knows he will not be able to discern the truth from a lie in his amnesiac time. This case seems like an appropriate metaphor for the understanding of the current moment. Almost 35 years before that, Michelangelo Antonioni ended his short British film cycle with an anthological film, Blow Up(1966), in which the central sequence shows Thomas, a photographer (David Hemmings), who first has to analytically arrange his photographic captures, shot in one of London’s parks, into an edited sequence, in order to be able to decipher what he actually shot, to be able to scrape together the subject of his photography. He does not seem to be aware of his own presence on the first impression. In both films, the central sequences show photographies of human bodies, to be more precise: of cadavers. Two traces of life that were lost in the non-transparency of time.
The CoFestival 2019 programme has certain intersections that are related to the lack of temporality while the choreographies assure their material traces: an analytical editing or choreographic procedures manifesting the cadavers, bodies or events. Nothing else as reality in choreographic blow-ups. Uncertain or transient bodily presences. Bodily traces. Apparent forms of affect in temporal vacuums. Bodily and technological failures, mistakes and disturbances as an archaeological material of disintegrated subjectivities and their past materialities. Backward self-narrations that are disintegrating into movement, sound and spatial “elementarities”. Sound, light and also human bodies that are exposing themselves to choreographic possibilities of an active, awake and responsive momentariness in which they assure a minimal level of transparency to the present. It seems, each of the works treats the lacks of temporality as its own specific form of remembrance, a remembrance of something that is not easy to recall.
FUTURES: CONSIDERATIONS ON THE POSSIBLE DANCE-CHOREOGRAPHIC WORK
The future is both uncertain and ungranted. It offers itself as an open field of infinite possibilities, countless and diverse futures. The plurality of the future is thus inscribed into every present. An actualisation is an expression of a reduction of the number of possible futures. It largely depends on the intensity and the power of forces of the implementation of the possible, from the future to the present. It is co-dependent on the projections as fictional images of the collective body and treatments in the direction of their possible actualization.
Utopian ideas are being intensively replaced by dystopian scripts of the future, while imagination and the action of collective bodies are being replaced by databases and artificial intelligence. As Franco Berardi Bifo puts it in his book Futurability: The Age Of Impotence and the Horizon of Possibility(2017): “The interplay between big data and Artificial Intelligence aims to place automatisms in the social language, so that an appalling (or reassuring?) perspective emerges: the future is no longer a range of possibilities, but a logically necessary sequence of the states of the world.”Immunisation, typification, standardisation and automation are the basic reasons for the ever more scarce, ever more obvious and expected scripts of the future. To multiply the possible forms of the future, we need imagination, restored relations of the collective body and the power to realise the created scripts.
That is why (also) the theme of the future is becoming more and more present in the delimited islands of virtual freedom of thought and action, be it in theoretical texts or in art practices. Dance art is no exception to this. Both on the level of theory as well as practice, strategies and methodologies for the development of the feeling of community are multiplying to be able to capture and create formats that would enable this, etc. With other words, creators are intensively capturing the fields and strategies and are developing methodologies that would enable a different actualisation of the future than we currently imagine. A lot of risks, trust in the emergence of unexpected effects, connections and potentialities that are hidden in the unarticulated premonition and emerge from the known play a prominent role in this process. This is a part of our approach to the curating of this edition of the festival.
We are tackling the uncertainty and the ungranted state of the future with two performances: the opening and the closing one. In spite of the fact that both performances took shape already, the accepted risk was an important factor for us. With this gesture we realised the principle of open space of Nomad Dance Academy, which is always an exciting venture. Even if we have already practised such procedurality in the past years with the premières of our co-productions, they were usually placed in the less accented segments of the festival. The opening and the closure events this year are expressively marking our programme orientation. The closing performance Glitchis also the first CoFestival’s international co-production. It is an expression of support for the dance virtuoso Samuel Lefeuvre in the continuation of his choreographic path.
This year’s edition of CoFestival opens up art forms and approaches that the curatorial team have recognised as potent forms of thinking and activity in the co-creation of our dance future.
The past, its revival, actualisation and the playing with it are also an important part of the future. Not only to recognise the past that is being inscribed in the present and the future if we are not able to fully understand it rather, the regression into the past is, as André Lepecki puts it, a chrono-political and ethical act of returning with reflection. At the same time, it is also an essential gesture of resistance against the neoliberal drive that understands the past as reactionary, infantile and an expression of a naive nostalgia. As we showed already with several past editions and also our archival activities, we are resistant to such views.
By selecting two choreographic works that draw from the past we are demonstrating the relevance of such activity. Besides performances, we are also screening several excellent film materials (two films dedicated to Deborah Hay and a newly released documentary film dedicated to Merce Cunningham), as well as organising a lecture on the historical icons of Slovenian contemporary dance. The opening performance The Matchby the outstanding American choreographer Deborah Hay is a transfer of a score from the work from 2004 with the same title, developed for four female and male dancers, to the dancers of Cullberg Ballet. The Flemish choreographer Michiel Vandevelde takes a completely different approach to tackling the past. In the starting point of the creative process for the performance Ends of Worldshe connects the issue of the past with its interpretative place in the present and the future. It takes the speculative and potential aspect of the wrong interpretation as a methodological tool that additionally opens up the past with a dislocation into a remote future, from which it speaks about the history of contemporary dance in the 20thcentury and its relations with (socio-political) ideologies.
Vandevelde’s image of a remote dystopian future is brought closer to our present time by Jefta van Dinther with Dark Field Analysis. Therefore, it can be read as a peculiar epilogue to the Ends of Worldsin which the Homo sapiens species still lives in harmony with the posthuman world.
It does not matter if the created images of the future are utopian or dystopian, they are always only projections. Both mentioned cases reveal that they are not marching into the future but are rather expressing their opinions of the present. That is why the overlaying of their imaginary is not a surprise, it is well known to all of us. It is layered in the reference materials of the literary and film sci-fi genre and emerges in numerous and diverse manifestations.
The image of the future as a posthuman world is not the only and prevalent direction of research dance-choreographic works. It is often far more bodily and human, even if it might also be infected with various machines, such as the performance Ravemachine by Doris Uhlich and Michael Turinsky.Instead of depicting a dystopian view on the future, artists focus on their positive aspects; the power and empowerment of bodily handicaps and the effect of sound vibrations on different bodies.Ravemachineoffers an interesting initial reconsideration on the morphologies of the body in a time when machines are not only the outer extensions of bodies but even their integral inner assembly. We live in times when “[b]odies and minds cannot express and relate any more without the technical support of the bio machine.”
The opposition of Bifo’s thesis, which can be accepted on the level of observation of behavioural patterns, is hard to confirm with the aspects of dance art, especially with the improvisational skills that are present in the open forms of artistic work for several decades. Open forms or open work that emerge as a form of critique of commodification remains a potent practice. Also and because it opens up the closeness and connectedness of the present and the coming-through the process of actualisation. Andreja Rauch Podrzavnik,Jurij Konjar, Jaka Šimenc and Blaž Celarec in the performance with a changeable title according to the day and hour of the event use strategies of random production and combination of different performance scripts (music, movement, light/visual image) to open up the structure of procedurality of a performative situation. And exactly this form opens up the meaning of sensitivity and responsiveness to one another. This only works in constellations of individuals with exceptional mileage and sensibility. Monday at Ninealways manages to actualise itself successfully.
Peculiar forms of open work in the production form are addressed also by the Image Snatcherstechno-burlesque with continual creation from 2013 on. A team of established Slovenian performers takes the images of social normativity and transforms them into humorous artistic acts with asperity. As they write: “Techno-burlesque is an intersection of (program/cybernetic) code and subjectivity; laying bare the physical and emotional body indivisibly bound up with the information matrix of contemporaneity.” With revealing and expanding, they offer an important methodology of liberation from the social yokes which is not only pertinent to the present but could also become the drive that shapes the future. Darío Barreto Damas and Aleksandar Georgiev in Moonlightalso play with known images and reshape them. The play of fusion of (virtual) opposites from the historical reference material of various media and genres is central to their work. They offer peculiar aesthetic queerings as a potent methodology of creation for the future.
Folding, extending and recombining references are among methodological approaches of James Batchelor who reconfigures the measuring systems of contemporary cosmology to sculpture his own body in Hyperspace. It uses a select movement language to direct our gaze to the observation of an unusual bodily presence. This creates a feeling of looking at a body through a magnifying lens. In a similar manner but with a different choreographic approach Darko Dragičević and Martin Sonderkamp create a series of transparencies of the body in relation and with the objects and the space (physical, lightscape and soundscape). They approach deconstructions of the subject that embody/constitute themselves in different ways in the performance Tonträgerby disassembling and combining its individual parts: movement, sound and corporeality. Unlike Batchelor, who is mapping the macrocosms into the microcosms to remind us of their interrelatedness and closeness, Dragičević and Sonderkamp use disassembling, isolation and peculiar blow-ups of the body to move away from the increasingly flat perception of our existence.
The resistance against the directed views, standardised and automated forms of being are being addressed by several artists through creating failure, mistakes, slips and disturbances. Creators use them in diverse ways: as the central choreographic procedures, procedures for creation of choreographic material, as content basis in displacement strategies, etc. It is hard not to see works that would not play with them and address them. Failure as Practiceby Darko Dragičević is an exemplary work as it puts failure in the centre of artistic creation. We will discover its potentiality in spatial interventions with Dragana Krtić, Nina Meško, Radharani Pernarčič, Ajda Tomazin, Katja Legin, Mateja Bučar and Maja Kalafatič. Florencia Demestri and Samuel Lefeuvre also take the disturbance as the central theme of their new dance-choreographic work, while Michiel Vandevelde depicts dance history as a form of a methodological slip. Failure, mistakes, slips and disturbances are definitely interwoven as well in other performances and are as such a locus with which creators are playing ever more consciously in their diverse works. To allow oneself to fail and to resort to risk with the unknown was and still remains the drive of contemporary dance. We need to transfer it into our everyday life as well, at least partially.
We wish you a lot of imagination in experiencing this edition!