Dear all,
I post here the text about the contemporary dance scene in Spain, that La Mekanica comissioned recently for the Mediterranean Dance Map, project by DBM - Mediterranean Dance Network. This text will be very soon on-line at the new DBM website .
HIND, i think this text will be of your interest, considering your post some weeks ago... hope it could help you on having an idea of the contemporary dance scene in Spain for you conference.



Text by Jaime Conde-Salazar Pérez
commisioned by La Mekanica within the framework of the Mediterranean Dance Map, a project by the DBM (Mediterranean Dance Network). May 2007

1. The territory
The territory occupied by what we call nowadays Spanish State, has been traditionally seen as the Western doors of the Mediterranean Sea. The classical tradition tells the story of Hercules separating two columns and letting the waters flow into the space we know as Mediterranean Basin. That opening point would be that point we now call “Estrecho de Gibraltar”.
As a threshold, Spain, has been a territory crossed and transformed by many different cultures: Celtics, Íberos, Greeks, Cartaginensis, Romans, Visigothics, Muslims, Sefardís, Almohades, Mozárabes, Catholics, French revolutionaries etc. All these currents have shaped a space in-between, a land where everything is mixed up and where limits not always are clear. Paradoxically, this ground crossed by a constant movement is also a space that tends to isolation. The Peninsula is closed towards the continent by the stone wall of the Pyrenees; and it is separated of Africa by the actual Mediterranean sea. What we call “Spain”, has also been a place where diverse cultures have remained stuck. As a result, we can also find hybrid cultures that remained in the peninsula reifying existing traditions and developing peculiar cultural expressions. These original phenomena used to embody isolation as part of their character avoiding any interest for the rest of surrounding realities. This fact made this territory appear as a territory of the “exotic” inhabited by the Other as seen from “European” eyes. As Lynn Garafola has pointed out, the characteristics traditionally assigned to Spanish dancers are quite similar to those that helped Edward Said defining “orientalism” . A territory that escaped modern Western white hegemonic subjectivity appeared below the Pyrenees. In fact, it happened a moment of “discovery” right after the French revolutionary invasion of the Spanish Kingdom at the beginning of the 19th C. In that moment, that same modern colonialist impulse that took different European countries to expand their limits, appropriating cultures and territories perceived as peripheral, constructed an image of “Spain” that is still alive. The opening of the Spanish Painting Gallery at the Palais du Louvre the 7th of January of 1838 marks the beginning of that process . Darkness, passion, primitivism, flamenco, cruelty, darkness, bullfighting, spontaneous dancing...were put together to create a figure that invaded London and Paris venues and still nowadays can be found in any souvenir shop. If we just take a look at ballet, we will easily find the new found “Spanish Other” in company of other Others like “Chinese”, “Indian”, fairy tale characters etc.

2. Cultural landscape
If we attempt to make an objective observation of the Spanish cultural landscape, we will notice that the events that involve more people, that use more economical resources and that consume more political efforts, are those linked to catholic tradition. This does not mean that the country has a intense religious life dependent on Roman Catholic hierarchies. On the contrary, in those enormous performances in the public space, the catholic morality or religiosity appears somehow removed, silenced or even cancelled. A few examples will make clear what I am referring to: Fallas and Fogueres (Valencia and Alicante): big fires and fireworks in the nights of Sain Joseph and Saint John; Procesiones (Andalucía, Castilla-León, Castilla La-Mancha, Murcia, Aragón etc): crowded demonstrations in the streets following images of Christ’s Passion during the week before Easter; El Rocío (Huelva): multitude pilgrimage to Ayamonte to worship an image of the Virgin Mary ; El Camino de Santiago: pilgrimage route that connects the Pyrenees and the Western extreme of the country, where the tradition places the corpse of the Apostle; Corpus Christi (Toledo y Sevilla): a 2 m. gold and silver “custodia” containing the Holy Host is walked along the streets that are covered for the occasion with sheets and stepping rosemary branches and rose petals; La Asunción de la Virgen: National Feast on the 15th of August; Sant Jordi (Catalunya): everybody gives a rose or a book as a present; Los Reyes Magos: compulsive consumption period during the days before the 6th of January; San Fermín (Pamplona): freed bulls in the city streets run together with people during the first week of July. All of these cases come from very different contexts within the “Spanish State”. All of them imply an extraordinary cultural commitment happily assumed by individuals that enjoy joining this kind of public performances. Besides all those big events, every city, every small village has its Patron Saint whose celebration day brings again important cultural live performances. But none of them can strictly be considered only as spectacles of religiosity. Obviously, the catholic root is present, but it is more an excuse than a performance of faith experience.
In relation to that fundamental cultural landscape, Bourgeois Culture occupies a limited space. Theatre dance or any other theatrical performance, involves only a small part of the population and it is rarely present in the collective cultural imaginaries. Contemporary dance, as well as ballet, is still considered just as (sophisticated) “entertainment”. They don’t really play an important role in the construction of the fragmented and vague cultural identity of the country.
Focusing on contemporary dance, we could consider it a familiar but really secondary phenomenon within bourgeois culture. Flamenco, “Spanish Dance” and even ballet, receive more attention and respect than any expression that may point out to any small deviation from mainstream theatre. As an example, we could remember the astonishing scene performed by audience in the opening season of the new Royal Theatre in Madrid in 1998 when Pina Bausch’s 1982 work, Nelken, was blatantly booed.
One last image completes this picture of the Spanish cultural landscape. During the past decades and thanks to the economical support of the European Union, regional administrations have had access to an important amount of money to be spent in development and infrastructures. Due to this situation, the typical signs of bourgeois culture have been appropriated and used to build images of wealthy and progress. A big amount of opera houses, cultural centers, concert halls, modern art museums and theatres have flourished around the country. Star-architects have designed projects that have served to construct a disturbing image of modernity. But rarely this impulse has been followed by coherent cultural projects. Usually, big infrastructures remained void of content and only served to host second line mainstream programs. It is very rare to find one of these big new venues developing programs supporting contemporary dance creation . As a consequence, these infrastructures have not engaged new audiences and theatrical dance has remained as a secondary cultural manifestation.

3. What could be the meaning of “contemporary dance” in the context we call Spain?
1978 marks the beginning of a new moment in the socio-political life of Spain. After forty years of dictatorship, the Spanish people approved a democratic legal framework that established the foundations of what we know nowadays as Spanish State. As José A. Sánchez has pointed out, we can find in this fact the origins of the process of deep cultural transformation. In this new context the phenomenon we call “contemporary dance” took place.
During the following years, all possibilities of“modernity” in the field of dance arrived mixed up and at the same time to a country that was somehow thirsty of anything that sounded new. But contemporary dance in Spain cannot be understood as a project. There wasn’t a program, an ideological drive that could clearly define the limits and aims of the movement. We cannot find in that times groups of dance artists or companies producing coherent and solid discourses about dance, theatre, live representation etc. There wasn’t either a clear stylistic/ linguistic goal pursued by artists. The eighties saw how jazz dance, Graham technique, release technique, break dance, aerobic, contact improvisation, dance-theatre etc. mingled forming a sort of promise of the possibility of “being modern” after many years of repression. The aim was to dance not depending on ballet or Spanish dance systems. In that sense, any influence, no matter where it came from or its connotations, could result interesting and useful. Therefore, it is impossible to define clearly what “contemporary dance” meant exactly in terms of style. Finally, there wasn’t a clear political intention of using this kind of dancing as an image of the new times. It is true that during these years the country underwent a deep institutional transformation. For the first time, in a long time artists lived a sort of confidence in the new democratic structures. In 1978 it was created the Ministry of Culture and the CDN (National Center for Drama) ; in 1984 opened the CNNTE (National Center for New Performing Arts Trends); in 1985 appeared the INAEM (National Institute for Performing Arts and Music); and in 1990 the Ballets Nacionales de España ( Nacional Ballet Companies of Spain) where transformed into the CND (National Dance Company) under the artistic direction of Nacho Duato. Besides, the new decentralized regional institutions also had the power of developing independent cultural policies and structures. All these facts helped contemporary dance growing. Artists and companies found then, the possibility not only of existing in a regular basis but also of thinking production in a long term basis. But despite that new institutional situation, it was never achieved the goal of creating clear, stable, durable, focused and useful cultural policies and structures. When the post-Olympic Games crisis arrived, the political commitment revealed its weakness and soon state investments in culture were radically reduced producing a profound crisis in the field of dance creation.
The lack of an ideological, stylistic or political project makes difficult to think contemporary dance in Spain as a phenomenon similar to what happened in France, United Kingdoom, The Netherlands, Belgium or Germany. During the euphoric eighties, contemporary dance was a vague movement that, through repetition and absorption of exported patterns, attempted to define itself as a “new” current within dance. And indeed that goal was achieved: it can be said that a break happened. A break that left apart the 20th C. “modern” tradition in the field of dance and that focused on practicing and exploring new dance forms. But it is difficult to identify any aim of producing discourses on dance, creation or life itself.
Contemporary dance (if we accept that this expression refers to something concrete) in Spain only achieves its first maturity during the nineties. The 1993 economical crisis, the rise of the Right and the participation on the illegal invasion of Irak, draws the limits of the new situation. Artists no longer found in institutions a fruitful support and society (generally speaking) didn’t find the need of taking care of culture, education and arts. Madrid is profoundly devastated by successive ultraconservative regional governments. And the rest of regions vanished in terms of artistic creation. The case of Catalonia may appear as an exception. Despite of their successive conservative nationalistic governments, the support to arts and, especially, to dance, was maintained during the nineties. Somehow, Catalonian institutions got to understand that arts could be extremely useful in the definition of a national identity. In relation to the rest of the country, artists and companies based in Catalonia survived “easily” this period. We can also consider other exceptions in that cultural desert (Teatro Pradillo, Madrid; Teatro Central, Sevilla; La Fundición, Bilbao) but they were strictly punctual, deeply isolated in their contexts.
Surprisingly, this situation didn’t lead to the vanishing of contemporary dance. On the contrary: the crisis made some artists change their strategies and achieve certain awareness on the ideological implications of the established systems of production. It resulted urgent to question dance itself, the aesthetic values assumed and imposed in any stage performance, the patriarchal and never innocent intervention of the State, the relation with spectators, the economy of 19th C. theatres and official structures of representation, the role of festivals, programmers and market, etc. Somehow, dance moved away from official visibility and started creating alternative contexts in which artists could work in a newly defined freedom. It was the case of independent festivals and events like Desviaciones (Madrid), Situaciones (Cuenca), InMotion (Barcelona); or small theatre venues such as Sala Pradillo (Madrid), La Cuarta Pared (Madrid), La Fábrica (Bilbao), Conservas (Barcelona) or even collectives of artists like UVI. La Inesperada,(Madrid), El Bailadero (Madrid) or La Porta (Barcelona). Obviously, not all artists engaged this new critical impulse. Some of them remained stuck in conventional contemporary dance struggling to survive as small companies, remaining in a second line and usually sacrificing all their artistic interest.
While that crisis was taking place in Spain, it appeared in Europe what was called “New Dance”. That movement (if we are allowed to use that expression) also responded to a crisis situation (of a quite different nature to the Spanish one) with a critical approach to the established and traditional discourses of dance. Coming from very different cultural contexts, artists from all over Europe met in that critical aim. Very soon the presence of artists such as La Ribot, Olga Mesa, Olga de Soto, Javier de Frutos, Juan Domínguez or Cuqui Jerez in Europe was constant. And thanks to the small independent structures directed by artists, the presence in Spain of artists such as Jerome Bel, Xavier Le Roy, Marco Berretini, Vera Mantero etc. wasn’t rare. Astonishingly and despite of the catastrophic situation, Spanish artists found the way to connect directly with a movement that was proposing a new definition for Contemporary Dance. Somehow, a kind of short Golden Age took place in the first half of the nineties and artists that started their careers in the eighties reached a first and brilliant maturity. But the situation got worse with the generalization of neo-liberalist cultural policies, and artists found in exile the only possibility of surviving. By the turn of the century, the majority of these artists linked to New Dance, were based in different European countries, leaving in Spain an immense generational void.
Since 1997 exile is a big shadow over Spain. It produces no only an absence or a minimum presence of these artists in Spanish venues but also a lack of schools. Young artists based in the Spanish State have grown up without direct references and in an cultural context that avoids the development of their works. The youngest generation is used to work precariously, to follow very irregular processes of creation, to present their works in very small not properly equipped theatres, to face the constant institutional denial of their existence, etc. As a consequence and again paradoxically, “young” artists like Lengua Blanca, María Jerez, Idoia Zabaleta, Amaia Urra, Amalia Fernández, Paloma Calle, Claudia Faci, Lola Jiménez, Sergi Fäustino, Sonia Gómez, are slowly creating a new independent current that is only moved by their stubborn determination of keeping making art. Finally, it can be said that contemporary dance is being redefined once more. Nowadays, creation in the field of contemporary dance means an underground, independent and small movement that finds its sources in any kid of art or cultural discipline, and that is focused in producing visual, live discourses linked to the body.
4. Tips in a map
The following list is just an attempt to address some of the issues that are (and have been) present in the field of contemporary dance in the Spanish State. We don’t want to trap a vague phenomenon establishing a list of characteristics. These are just ideas or qualities that may be useful to keep in mind when figuring out a map of what happens in the field of Contemporary Dance in Spain.

We can understand this concept in two different ways. The first one makes reference to artists living and developing their work in other countries. In that sense we can say that Spanish contemporary dance happens mainly beyond the frontiers of the Spanish State. If we just make a quick recall, we will find La Ribot in Switzerland; Olga Mesa and Germana Civera in France; Olga de Soto, Iñaki Azpillaga, Blanca Calvo, Ion Munduate in Brussels, Juan Domínguez and Cuqui Jerez in Berlin; Paz Rojo in Amsterdam; Javier de Frutos in London; and a long etcetera that draws a disturbing image. But there is also another sophisticated kind of exile: what can be called “inner exile”. This is, artists that live in Spain and assume the deep limitations of the cultural context; or that remaining in the country, they only find the possibility of developing and presenting their works in a regular basis, overseas. It is the case of Mónica Valenciano and El Bailadero, Lengua Blanca, Elena Córdoba, María Jerez, Angels Margarit, Andrés Corchero, Sonia Gómez, Cristina Blanco, Mateo Feijóo, Las Santas, etc.


There are no official educational structures that offer the possibility of learning contemporary dance discourses and practices. The Royal Conservatory in Madrid and the Institut del Teatre in Barcelona, offer classes of Contemporary Dance understood basically as a “style”. Students learn to dance in a “contemporary dance” manner, as well as they learn “ballet”, “Spanish dance” or “castagnettes”. The main goal of the curriculum is to train “executors”, no artists. One year ago, the Institut del Teatre incoporated in its board relevant choreographers like Angels Margarit, Andrés Corchero and Lipi Hernández to develop a contemporary dance curriculum. Although it is an absolutely positive decision and it may deeply change the situation in Barcelona, it is still not clear how far is the institution going to let this team go in the actual realization of their project .
Private academies use to offer workshops and seminaries addressing methods and issues related to contemporary dance. These are the only opportunities for students to learn something beyond “steps and style”, of meeting artists and getting involved in creation processes and of getting in touch with real problems related to dance. But small academies cannot develop coherent and constant educational projects. And though they keep alive the interest of students on contemporary dance practice, their educational offer is limited. Nowadays, if anyone wants to join a deep training process, has to find his/her way overseas.
There are some projects that interrupt the situation described above. Once the student has developed a clear aim of working in an artistic project, s/he can some find small independent structures that can help reaching some kind of maturity.
It is the case of Mónica Valenciano and Elena Córdoba in Madrid. Both choreographers remained in Madrid in the late nineties and formed small companies conceived not as enterprises but as collective spaces of research. Around them students have formed a kind of “school”: young artists join their creation methods of both artists and perform in their shows, and at the same time they develop their own projects. These “schools” define the two main trends within contemporary dance in Madrid.
L’animal a l’esquena is a structure directed by the choreographers Maria Muñoz , Pep Ramis and the dramaturgist Toni Cots based in an old recovered country house in Celrà , Girona. The place serves as studio for the company but also as space for residencies, seminars, meeting point for artists.
Mugatxoan is a biannual program hosted at Arteleku ( Donosti) in the Basc Country directed by Ion Munduate and Blanca Calvo. They select a limited number of projects for a long term residency. Mugatxoan also supports (not in terms of production) the presentation of the resulting works (if that is the case).
Finally, the Centro Coreográfico de La Gomera is a small center in the small Atlantic island in the Canary Islands. It works as an actual cultural center that hosts a school of dance, a creation center, an international artists-in-residence program and an archive. It has also developed an extraordinarily active education department that participates in the educational life of the island offering to High School students the possibility of taking their Philosophy and Physical Education classes in the Center.

Due to the cultural situation in Spain, it is ludicrous to expect big productions in the field of contemporary dance. Artists are forced reduce their works to the basics: solo works or involving no more that 4-5 artists; flexible or small stage designs in order to fit in any space; use of domestic technology; low cachets, etc. But this doesn’t mean that artists work in these conditions only because of the limits imposed by the context. Nowadays artists share with artists of the past a strong attachment to the quotidian, domestic and everyday life. Brown cardboard, recycled objects, old blankets, real clothes, real food, cheap commodities found in any street market reused plastic, chalk, sarcastic use of street language, etc., create environments that elude the use of sophisticated displays and the dependence on expensive high tech appliances . It is not difficult to establish a connection with the objectual work of modern Spanish 20th C. Artists like Alberto Sánchez, Joan Miró, Joan Brossa, Antoni Tápies, Alberto Greco, Lucio Muñoz, Millares, etc. Maybe it is not too inappropriate to find in the artists of our times the heirs of that naturalistic drive present constantly since the 17th C.

Bourgeois culture and especially contemporary dance is concentrated in big cities. Territories among big cities lack that kind of cultural activity.
During the last two decades, big cities like Madrid, Bilbao, Valencia and Sevilla have invested a lot of resources in activating their cultural life. But efforts use to be focused on marketing strategies rather that in developing structures supporting local artists or the presence of foreign artists. As a result, creation in the field of contemporary dance has practically disappeared in some places or never fully developed in others. The paradigmatic example of how a region can destroy an emergent and intense current in the field of contemporary dance is Madrid. Decades of ultraconservative neo-liberal cultural policies have resulted into a sterile space that doesn’t offer an appropriate context for artists to develop their work. Creation in the field of dance is nowadays in Madrid is an underground activity that hardly grows under the shadows of big mainstream festivals that haven’t achieved, in decades of existence, a clear character or international presence.
The other side of this unbalanced landscape is Catalonia and specially Barcelona. The history of the development of this region (nowadays also called “nation”) has been linked to the development of bourgeoisie. While opera or ballet never really existed in the most part of the rest of the country, Barcelona always had an intense life linked to those artistic fields. That served as a rich background for contemporary dance that lived a fruitful period during the late seventies and eighties. The extraordinary permeability to new languages and contemporary discourses resulted in the appearance of a lot of contemporary dance companies that, very early, achieved a revealing maturity. It was the case of Anexa, Ballet Contemporani de Barcelona, Gelabert-Azzopardi, Grup Heura, L’Espantall, Accord, Angels Margarit / Cia. Mudances, Lanónima Imperial, etc.. The crisis of the nineties and the spreading out of conservative cultural policies reduced notably that intense activity. Some companies disappeared and discourses became somehow self-absorbed in their local identity. But it was also in that time when a new impulse emerged. Artists faced the lack of institutional support creating their own independent structures. This way, artistic creation turned into artistic management transforming radically the cultural landscape. Structures such as L’Animal a L’Esquena, La Caldera, La Porta and new structures like La Poderosa or La Mekanica, have gained a territory that remained closed to artists. Nowadays cultural policies in Catalonia are mostly designed following needs and advice expressed directly by artists. As a result, cultural institutions have started to respond to the actual situation of contemporary dance instead of imposing obsolete production patterns. An example of this new situation is the creation of special funds and grants for contemporary creation and research and the project of creation of an independent Arts Council that will define all cultural policies in the future. The success of these new impulses depends on the stability, independence and artistic commitment of the new structures.


Spectacular Dance from Colombia


Is there a body/mind problem? And if so, which one is it better to have?

Rui, in response to your Kunst text, I had to think of Woody Allen who remarked: 'Is there a body/mind problem? And if so, which one is it better to have?"

I am posting here another Kunst text. Here, she is taking the WesternCartesian division between body and mind further to talk about then perception of dance from the East in the West (where I think East does not need to be interpreted only geographically but as any place which is not the 'centre') and to include the gender discussion. It's lenghty but worth reading and related to our Mediterranian discussion.

Andrea B.

ps. i loved the the animal in the video ;-)

Performance Research 8(2), pp.61–68 © Taylor & Francis Ltd2003

The ideas behind this essay sparked my mind some time ago, after seeing a performance by Conrad Drzewiecki, the doyen of Polish dance, at the Inter-national Contemporary Dance Conference and Performance Festival in Bytom in 1998. It was his work Waiting for that struck me. Despite not being featured in the official programme and somewhat bashfully presented by the organizers themselves, Waiting for turned out to be one of the highlights of the festival – not due to the relief of chancing upon something ‘contemporary’. It had nothing to do with the laborious search by ‘western’ producers for ‘different’ performances which could be successfully presented in the stage market, fitting the ‘acquired taste’ of dance audiences. Nor was it a result of paternalistic approval, in the sense of ‘well done, but we have seen this already’, which whilst of course is no guarantee to sell, is at least a polite and respectful way of admitting someone’s quality.
Drzewiecki’s performance – a short solo by a dancer wearing a rich gold costume, whose movement and gestures were bent on decorating his body – clearly evoked the Central European dance of the 1930s. Nonetheless, Drzewiecki’s ‘past’ was not that of historical tradition, now only vaguely present as a recognition of the former dance articulation that remains in western scholarly knowledge and its categorizing of dance history; nor was it a past reflecting the impossibility of development – the still innocent state of the dancing body, which, because of its specific historical situation, could not become aware of all the contradictions and aesthetic deconstructions of its ‘bodiescapes’. It was somewhere in-between: a utilization of the past to stay in the present. It revealed our eternal confrontation with different ways of being present, a basic need for dystopian time. For me, the manner in which the performance disclosed our disillusioned idea of the exclusiveness of the present – of the exclusive and hegemonic ways of forming our present presence, which are often inscribed in the articulated modes of the dancing body – was most surprising. All in all, what was this ‘waiting for’? It was a display of pure autonomy: of a deep belief in the autonomy of the body, of an autonomy which was not out of time, an articulation of the past, but about time. Its content had been discreetly embroidered already in its title: fixation and openness, distance and closeness, decoration and subversion, all at the same time. It opened the possibility of disclosing a variety of simultaneous histories.


Drzewiecki’s case points to the kernel of bodily autonomy, one of the basic aesthetic utopias of early modern dance. It helps us to detect the complexity of this concept which not only obsessed dance creators, but became one of the main metaphors of the body in philosophical thought and artistic innovation throughout the 20th century. Autonomy as the main liberatory concept of the body in the early 20th century is deeply connected to the political concept of autonomy in general, where all the implications of this problematic, but still very useful concept can be observed. Paradoxically, today the notion of autonomy is again becoming a most important strategic issue – but now with an awareness of its entire ‘negative’ history.
It is well known that the ‘fleshiness’ that characterized the beginnings of modern philosophy was often connected with the dancing body. Friedrich Nietzsche, for example, associated the dancing body with a state prior to the emergence of intellect. Dance was thus given the privilege of describing thought, and thought the privilege of being like dance. A thought that is like dance does not know the spirit of weight, Nietzsche suggested, and it is crucial to relax the benumbed body by means of dance (Nietzsche 1988: 234). Consequently, dance may be defined as a ‘self-rotating wheel’, or, as Alain Badiou comments on Nietzsche’s thoughts, ‘dance is like a circumference in space, but a circumference which represents its own principle, a circumference not drawn from the outside, a circumference that is drawing itself’ (Badiou 1993: 22, my translation).
The body of dance is the original body – cleared of intellect, separated from discourse, a metaphor for existing in a Dionysian world. Its rotations and movement mirror its original existence. It is autonomous, yet never fixed, non-repetitive, never beheld in its entirety. A similar longing for the autonomous, yet evasive also pervades the poetic writings on dance by Paul Valéry and Stéphane Mallarmé. The latter stated that the body of dance could never be a body of someone, but no more than an empty emblem. A dancing body would not depict some other body or person, and was not conditioned by anything outside it: ‘The dancer is not a woman who dances for, the juxtaposed reasons that she is not a woman but a metaphor’ (Mallarmé 1992: 33). Valéry’s perspective in his Philosophie de la danse is similar. He, too, was fasci- nated by the female dancer, comparing the state of dancing to that of sleep: a state where the dancing body is preoccupied with itself, where everything moves, but there is no reason or intention to supplement anything; there is no exterior reference, nothing exists outside the system or movement.
Valéry went on to describe dancing as ‘artificially created lunacy . . ., a specific manner of inner lifethat gives this psychological term a new meaning within which physiology is dominant’ (Valéry1995: 44). These statements on different aspects of the autonomy of the dancing body clearly correspond to Isadora Duncan’s famous opening of the 20th century: ‘1900. For hours I would stand quite still, my two hands folded between my breasts, covering the solar plexus . . . I was seeking and finally discovered the central spring of all movement’ (Duncan 1927: 75). As an underlying philosophical utopia, all of these statements go along with the Körperkulturbewegung and similar dance innovations in the early 20th century, and finally with the aesthetic interventions in movement which John Martin, one of the first American dance critics, described as metakinesis in 1933. Their common denominator is a strong awareness of bodily autonomy. Autonomy thus became the key strategy employed by the body to enter the stage of modernity and disclose its own contemporary flow: it is autonomous yet evasive, self-disclosing yet artificial, an eternally wanted but never touched self-rotating wheel. Not only does this bodily departure to modernity reveal itself as a specific aesthetic strategy, but it is a philosophical, aesthetic, political and ideological utopia; a new possibility of articulating subjective embodiment. On one side a reaction to, on the other an upgrade of modern rationalization: an employment of artificial tactics and, at the same time, a return to nature. Summing up, bodily autonomy discloses a modern obsession with presence and being in the present at the same time.
Throughout the recent history of dance, different articulations of bodily autonomy came to the surface. In its return to movement and an autonomous expressive flow, in its modernist transformations of hierarchical relations in the new ideal of the democratic body and minimalist dispersion of structures, in its postmodernist flirting with narrative, the dancing body still corresponded, more or less, to the initial image of the ‘self-rotating wheel’. It might be objected that this is a too narrow perspective, but I do not understand this image in a formal and essentialist way. What is important, is the complex utopian moment which underlies the representation of modern dancing bodies and causes the focus on autonomy to return in various disguises. It is interesting, for example, to observe how in American postmodern dance’s reaction to early modern bodily autonomy the aspect of autonomy returned. A well-known debate arose when Sally Banes (later criticized by Randy
Martin) stated that modernism was not present in American modern dance before 1960 because, till then, one could not talk about absolute dance with no reference to the outside world. Thus, the real autonomy of the body lies in the modernist deconstruction and minimalist dispersion of hierarchical body relations – and not in its connection to the outside, as advocated by emotionalism and essentialism in the early days of modern dance, e.g. by Martha Graham. Interestingly, with the staging of the everyday, democratic body by Trisha Brown, The Judson Church and others, autonomy became a specific privilege. It was not viewed as a utopian tension anymore (a feature strongly present earlier, when it was still possible to observe the variety of links with the outside), but as a political, even educational strategy of the dancing body. The ‘self-rotating wheel’ enters the field of technique and, thus, that of universality.
The problem of autonomy returned as an underlying utopian moment in the contemporary dance of the 1980s and 1990s, but with a different perspective. In its reaction to the universality and disclosure of different ways of (artistic) subjectivity, bodily autonomy revealed itself as the way of performing the particular; it embodied various forms of subjectivity, individuality, personality, stories, gender, illness, constructions of contemporary identities, etc. Even then, the image of the ‘self-rotating wheel’ remains, but as if rotating in a different way: with its course shifted not only from aesthetic to political strategies, but also from a universal course to a complex and parallel geography of routes.


Numerous authors pointed to the potential of sub- version by discussing the autonomous body. Not only was bodily subversion associated with disclosing the authentic, original, natural substance of the body, but also with techniques and strategies of the artificial, especially in the first half of the 20th century. It featured in the de-hierarchization of the body, a result of minimalist dispersion (Michel Bernard), as well as in abstraction of movement.
And it is also very strongly connected with the ideal of the democratic body and its everyday movement. All these approaches might be linked to the complex utopia of autonomy, to the images of the ‘self-rotating wheel’ and ‘artificially created lunacy’. This link is somewhat contradictory: it opens the possibility of subversion and, at the same time, is located at the very border, attracted to self-rotating exclusiveness and isolation. Thus, there is something tricky in this display of bodily autonomy.
On one side, bodily autonomy serves as a philosophical metaphor that reveals the unstable relation between the object and the subject. It seems that, within this relation, the body regains its forgotten power. But the dancing body does not serve as a metaphor to philosophers and poets just because such a contact with its essence would shine through it, but because its autonomous streak reveals a different (perhaps imaginary and artificial) history, covered in hierarchical systems of the rational, of language, and other accepted webs of representation; a history of evasiveness and instability, where representation is inefficient due to a freedom lurking in stitches and cracks; a place where the body is allowed to glitter without form, freely generating a playful tension between its presence and disappearance. It is not a history of representation any longer, of taking the place of the Other - it is an artificial, playful process of performing, where different potentialities of embodiments are disclosed.
On the other side, the liberating and democratic impulse arising from the concept of an autonomous body is not so obvious as it may seem. An autonomous body is extremely fragile; the disclosure of its colourful history forever threatened by power, exclusiveness, institutionalization, organization, by privileges of style, form and the normative.
Autonomy could quickly get trapped in its own enthusiasm over self-sufficiency, which basically regards the autonomous body as transparent, predictable and exclusive. Such ‘autonomizing’ then resulted in the achievement of a perfectly manipulated, predictable and controlled body. This might be exemplified through the complex relationship between the libertarian and nationalist concepts of the body in the 1930s: the body’s autonomy was transformed into a style of authenticity, privileging presence in the name of a single history. Autonomy became a privilege of style in American dance.
With its expansion in Europe, Russia and other parts of the world, dance became an important export product of a contemporary ‘free’ American culture. Carefully planned by the NEA and the American government, (post)modern dance was presented abroad as a democratic and cultural body of capitalism (Pervots 1998: 88).
The problematic fragility of autonomy is furthermore addressed in political philosophy, which is quite aware of the paradox inherent in this concept. The oscillation between aesthetics and politics is always at work, due to an important common denominator: the issue of representation.
Autonomy is deeply intertwined with processes of representation; one might even say that autonomy is the way of performing the modern subject. Interestingly, autonomy is constructed as a constant paradox, traceable as far back as Hegel’s mediating concept of self-actualization. The subject always possesses a process or capacity to let himself go, to deliver himself to that what is not himself, to remain by himself only in relation to the Other.
Accordingly, autonomy is not a static, essentialist concept. It has nothing to do with originality, but is more of an artificial process where links of representation and necessity to the modern subject can be disclosed. The biggest problem of the representational process is that, paradoxically, autonomy is also a self-rotating process: the Other is represented only when the self is able to be autonomously performed. Otherness is thus always perceived in its negativity, so that the self is able to step into the moment. Even Adorno, the great philosopher specializing in the dismantling of modern rational concepts, could not answer this paradox. He concluded that talking about autonomy and the Other was ultimately a mere aesthetic experience, not a social, moral or political one: the self-rotating process of modern represen-
tation procedures. But in this trajectory, a hierarchical shift has been inscribed: the outside is a necessary link for the self to be represented, but when the representation does take place, Otherness will inevitably be performed as negativity (cf. Žižek 1993).
It is especially interesting to observe the issue of autonomy from a local perspective. Coming from Slovenia, where modern dance did not emerge before the middle of the 1980s, and knowing the situation in other former eastern European countries, it is particularly useful for me to observe and compare two different histories of bodily articulation. On the one side, bodily articulation has been acknowledged by institutions and academic history for quite a few decades, developing institutional, educational and production networks. On the other side, it has been forced to the margin for decades, condemned to a continuous struggle to survive, without a basic structure that would nurture its development, devoid of dialogue with institutions and criticism, rising only in the past decade to fight at least for a basic infrastructure. At first sight, the opening of the East to the West and vice versa might be understood as a somehow natural need for professionalism and institutionalization, for exchanging models and knowledge, as an urgent need for overcoming differences. It is interesting, however, to observe that this need discloses the privilege of western contemporary dance, its a priori participation in the autonomy of the body. The representation of the body of the West/East reunion reveals a variety of embodiments, but in this variety a hierarchical shift is already inscribed. On one side there is the western dancing body, completely equipped for the present; and on the other side, a body almost without contemporariness, that of the other unarticulated body with a dark, closed and incomprehensible attraction to the past. If articulated, the latter cannot communicate with the western gaze without having a strong political, or local meaning.
The development of western modern and contemporary dance has turned the autonomy of the body into a specific and exclusive privilege.
The problem is rooted in the ruthless dictation of the present: we feel uncomfortable whenever we are faced with something different, a ‘subversion of the Other’. The western gaze is still hesitant whenc bodily autonomy and potentiality should be bestowed upon the Other. It would rather perceive the Other as unarticulated, ‘still not there’, confused, clumsy, too bodily, romantic, narrative, as an attempted or a delayed physicality, always reduced to a special context: political, traditional, ethnical, local. Western dance in the 20th century institutionalized an exclusive right to universal contemporaneity, urbanity, autonomy. ‘Other’
forms of contemporary dance which are not part of this institutionalization of autonomy are not recog nized as a legitimate quest for modes in-between, for the potentiality and presence of the body.
According to André Lepecki, they are viewed as something ‘not being of the moment’, ‘doubly late’ – culturally, aesthetically, technologically (Lepecki 2000: 11). As Lepecki well observed, the West behaved as if synchronicity were the exclusive matter of western dramaturgy, and chronology the exclusive matter of geography (13). Western contemporary dance has twisted the potentiality and autonomy of the body, as well as the discovery of the body in-between – making it a specific and exclusive privilege. We could even say that, somehow perversely, the West perceived in the Other its own autonomous beginnings and articulation of the present body. Of course, this attitude might be viewed as resulting in the inability of the East to introduce an articulation other than those established and prescribed for decades: any attempt
towards a different history, autonomy, representation was ostracized in advance. Where an original democratic impulse was nipped in the bud, where there was no possibility of discovering another, hidden history, with everybody having to bear the weight of its official version, modern dance could not develop. But at this point it should not be forgotten that there could be many ways of discovering different, hidden histories. They are coexisting mostly as simultaneous marginalities, with their own performing of autonomy. All of them are trying to undermine predominant networks of representation with their autonomous strategies and positioning. So the yardstick for judging these ways should not be a hierarchical time line, or geographical ideals by the expansion of universality.
Instead, we should allow different possibilities of presence and being in the present, as this is the only way that the history of forgotten, ignored and forbidden bodies will shine through.


How can we then connect our initial image of the dancing body, the ‘self-rotating wheel’, with that ‘waiting for a different history’? What potential is there for subversion when the body enters the concept of autonomy and its entire range of evasiveness, tricks, mimicry, movements, and fluids? A well-known interview with Jacques Derrida comes to mind, one dealing with dance and various aspects of feminism. It begins with a sentence by Emma Goldmann, a 19th-century feminist castaway, with which she refused the invitation to join her fellow suffragettes: ‘If I cannot dance, I will not take part in your revolution’ (Derrida 1982: 66). This sentence, of course, echoes the democratic impulse entailed in the autonomous body of dance. Unlike the established and recognizable history of the body (as shown by the figurative-rhetorical context of ballet), the autonomous dancing body introduces a ‘history of paradoxical laws and non-dialectical discontinuities, a history of absolutely heterogeneous pockets, irreducible particularities, of unheard-of and incalculable sexual differences . . .’ (68). But even Derrida himself hastens to add that he is only speculating on what Emma Goldmann really wants to say. The initial ‘power’ of the autonomous dancing body reveals itself as fragile, oscillating between the beliefs and the actual tactics of acting and performing. To dance otherwise, said Derrida, is presented just in a form of most unforeseeable and most innocent of chances, ‘the most innocent of dances would thwart the assignation à residence, escape those residencies under surveillance; the dance changes place and above all changes places. In its wake they can no longer be recognized’ (68). It is thus important to understand that – as a result of the ‘artificially created lunacy’ (Valéry), the madness of dance (Derrida) – this is a strategy to avoid organized, patient, laborious struggles and every exclusiveness (even certain subversive feminist struggles in Goldmann’s case), and enter another impossible and necessary compromise: ‘an incessant, daily negotiation – individual or not – sometimes microscopic, sometimes punctuated by a poker-like gamble, always deprived of insurance, whether it be in private life or within institutions’.
We could add that this is not only a question of atopia, a question of non-place, as Derrida suggests, but also a dystopian proposition of time, of not being ‘in the moment’, but of connecting and disclosing different ways of presence and being in the present. At a certain point, the dilemma of the autonomous body comes close to the internal paradox governing the autonomy of the subject. If its performing has become a strategy of exclusiveness – a disintegration of authority where a different authority has been reproduced – the body loses its sensibility of time, and its autonomy becomes that of the moment. This autonomous being in the moment, then, is a privilege of decoration and style – with differences perceived through respect and polite affection. To perform in relation to the present, however, is not about being in a certain moment, but about using that moment to reveal a different history, about bringing to light the history of forgotten, overlooked and forbidden bodies. Autonomy is not about the exclusiveness of the moment, but about different possibilities of presence and being in the present. It is not about the rotation to self-sufficiency, but has been put onto the stage of modern bodies primarily as an image of disappearance, absence, negativity, hysteria, simulation, decadence, womanliness. Its course is governed by the disoriented, evasive, fragile, connected but not organized, opened and deeply dubious self.
The ‘self-rotating wheel’ has another dimension of subversion, which was beautifully described by Valéry as ‘artificially created lunacy’: it is a form of self-reflection, a tactic of performed ‘lunatic’ embodiment, opening the possibility of inbetweens. In this sense, it could also be defined as a specific strategy. Thus, the true question about the body’s potential for subversion is: how can we escape the exclusiveness of our moment, how can we risk and disclose the networks through which that moment is given to us? Are we able to accept the radical disconnecting tactic of the Other, and still allow the possibility of catching the entre-voir,
the glimpse in-between?


Doubtless, a difficult question. Of course it is hard to talk about radical disconnection tactics of the Other at a time where everything has become a spectacular commodity. This commodity container swallows and ‘refines’ (in the manner of a supreme laundry softener, of course) literally everything. As a consequence, everything viewed as ‘other’ or ‘different’ (the ethnic, the new, the radical, the political even) comes across as a commodity. Let me remind you of the popular ‘framing festivals’, where there is a strong geographical frame, which is not really about different territory, but about difference in time. Contemporary dance from the
East entered the western production market as such a spectacular commodity, and was expected to produce Otherness: it has to stay exotic and different, with no right to the universality and exclusivity of western contemporariness.
Paradoxically, this ‘other’ could not gain its visibility or even political recognizability if not displayed as spectacular commodity. So how might contemporary performance and dance – unable to avoid the fact that itself, too, is a spectacular commodity develop parallel, digressive ways of performing?
How can it develop resistance models? How can it be disclosed as a radical disconnection tactic?
The disturbances found in some of the dance performances of the 1990s, in works by Xavier Le Roy, Jérôme Bel or Vera Mantero, opened this glimpse into procedures. They unfold processes of performing where there is a possibility to stage all these contradictory and complex links of contemporary performance. Their performances no longer form a caesura between a performing situation and other social and everyday situations. At the same time, they are far from the utopian belief in the demolition of the border between the stage and the spectator, which used to characterize many modernist performing practices. With contemporary society and media taking the privilege of ‘performing’ away from performing arts, performing arts themselves no longer function in a clear oppositional way: The utopian moment of autonomy seems today to be in ruins, together with its emancipatory effects and self-rotating exclusiveness. I propose to consider these danced disturbances as a very display of autonomy, but this time with a strong awareness of our illusionary idea about the privilege of presence, as an opening of different multiple and parallel histories (which is particularly true for the work of Vera Mantero, cf. André Lepecki’s contribution to this issue), as a fragile network of relations which is very deeply conscious about time. It seems that they wanted to step out of the privilege of their own moment and connect us to different histories and different ways of being present. All this overturning and occupation, along with the alternative, tactical, sometimes nearly guerrilla usage of different per forming strategies, could be reflected in this way: as an awareness of this exclusiveness of presence, which features extensively in contemporary spectacular and economic procedures, through an
aesthetic cultivation of ‘contemporary’ taste, through political interventions and a multiculturalist logic of respect, and so forth. These strategies expose contemporary subjectivity as a process of performing, always confined within a complex network of potentiality and relations. They ‘open the question of performing operation as a continuous process of negotiations and dealing with social reactions . . . and this is what makes them an important way of addressing the audience’ (Le Roy 2002: 13).


In conclusion, I embark upon a slightly daring parallel to connect different histories presented in this essay. For Drzewiecki, Emma Goldmann and the contemporary dance choreographers, autonomy is about presence and being present at the same time. This moment of presence has nothing to do with authenticity, originality, with geography or territory, but with an always artificial construction of autonomy – which itself is nothing more than a masquerade, an artificial tactic of presence and being present at the same time, a strategy that potentially discloses a different moment. I draw here on a notion developed by Joan Riviere back in 1929.
Riviere argues in her psychoanalytical analysis that homosexual women use the mask of womanliness to cover up the imaginary intervention of manliness in order to avoid anxiety as well as the revenge they fear from men. She goes on to establish a parallel between masquerade and womanliness in general: ‘The reader may now ask how I define womanli-ness, or where I draw the line between true womanliness and masquerade. In my opinion, however, this kind of difference does not exist at all; radical or superficial, they are both the same’ (Riviere 1958: 20). Judith Butler excellently points out the equivalence which is drawn between performing (in the form of masquerade) and womanliness in Riviere’s statement (cf. Butler 1999). The most interesting point about masquerade, Butler suggests, is the problem of demonstrating, of performativity. She asks whether masquerade conceals femininity that might otherwise be understood as genuine and authentic, or whether it is rather the
means by which femininity is produced. There are many parallels between femininity, masquerade, performing arts, and strategies of subjectivity/performing. Thus, transferred to our discussion, it becomes a question whether performing strategies cover up the privilege of the performing situation (otherwise understood as authentic/genuine), or whether they are but a means to generate this privilege, along with the controversy over its autonomy. Precisely in generating and overemphasizing femininity in terms of closeness, presence and the imaginary, masquerade will come across as subversive. Due to the production of this closeness, femininity itself will paradoxically be kept at a distance. The representation is multiplied constantly, and thus the very structure of the gaze is shattered. Femininity as masquerade can then be read as a specific strategy which establishes identity as complex potentiality and relationality. The identity of the original, its authenticity and its shattered norm are continuously put into question in a way that the traces of its authenticity para-
doxically multiply. The identity of the first is constantly undermined by the negativity of the other.
This ‘game of inappropriateness’, in Trinh T. Minh-Ha’s term, is a crucial relation here:
autonomy is disclosed as an open positioning which is always shifted by its own negativity. This becomes clear in Emma Goldmann’s statement in her daily activist dancing negotiation with procedures of difference and exclusivity. This could be also said for Drzewiecki who is disclosing masquerade as the necessity for survival – this ever flowing masquerade of time, which could be presented in many guises. And it could be said for these contemporary resistances of dancing bodies which attempt to step out of the moment and disclose their fluid, masked and relational histories and ways of presence. Or, to put it differently: asking questions, such as ‘what is a woman/man before he/she changes her clothes?’ we will inevitably end up in a deadlock.
In every performing, every costume, we presuppose an Otherness that has been veiled, an authenticity and originality which are not at our disposal. This makes us even more obsessive in the fixation of our fantasmic differences. It might be more important to think about how our masquerade masks. It is thus that we can gain insight into the process, the connections, the manner of relationality – and this, I argue, is the real chance to touch the ‘in-betweens’.
Autonomy is here understood as that special positioning: it is a strategy for coming out of the exclusivity of your own moment and returning the gaze to the radical disconnection tactics of the Other.

Badiou, Alain (1993) ‘Ples kot metafora misli’, in Emil Hrvatin (ed.) Teorije sodobnega plesa, Ljubljana: Maska, pp. 25–39.
Bernard, Michel (1990) ‘Les nouveaux codes corporels de la danse contemporaine’, La danse art du XXe siècle, Lausanne: Éditions Payot.
Butler, Judith (1999) Gender Trouble, New York: Routledge.
Derrida, Jacques (1982) ‘Choreographies’, Diacritics 12: 66–76.
Duncan, Isadora (1927) My Life, New York: Liverlight.
Lepecki, André (2000) ‘The Body in Difference’, Fama 1: 7–13.
Le Roy, Xavier (2002): ‘Interview with Xavier Le Roy in Capitals’, Catalogue Encontros Acarte 2003, Lisbon.
Nietzsche, Friedrich (1988) ‘Die Geburt Der Tragödie’, in Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen I–IV: Nachgelassene Schriften 1870–1873, Munich: Berlin.
Mallarmé, Stéphane (1992) ‘Ballets’, quoted in S. Kemp, ‘Conflicting Choreographies, Derrida And Dance’,
New Formations 16 [Competing Glances]: 34–45.
Pervots, Naima (1998) Dance for Export: Cultural Diplomacy and the Cold War, Hanover and London:Wesleyan University Press.
Riviere, Joan (1991): ‘Womanliness as a Masquerade’, in Athol Hughes (ed.) The Inner World of Joan Riviere, London: Karnac.
Trinh T. Minh-Ha (2001) In Kathrin Rhomberg (ed.)
Trinh T. Minh-Ha, Vienna: Secession.
Valéry, Paul (1995) ‘Philosophie de la danse’, in Oeuvres I, Paris: Éditions Gallimard.

Žižek, Slavoj (1993) Tarrying with the Negative, Durham, NC: Duke University Press.


The Digital Body: History of Body Visibility

text by Bojana Kunst
First published in: Digitized Bodies / Virtual Spectacles, ed. Nina Czegledy, Ludwig Museum Budapest, Budapest 2001, p. 13 - 28

Keywords: history of the body, representation of the body, body - machine relationship, visibility of the body, enlightenment anatomy, physiognomy, energy, body as the motor, digital body.

When Gandhi was asked once what he thought of Western civilization, one of his complaints was about modern western medicine. It amazed him that the average Europian was so ready to "hand over the custody of his body to the experts (...) as if it were an appendage (...) for which he bore no responsibility."1 (Pareth, 1989) The mass revival of the body in the art and culture of the last two decades of 20th Century somehow reflects similar problem with the body described in Gandhi's statement; the body became a mere possesion, a condition divorced from the self, even obsolete body, characterized by fake beauty, identity and integrity; fragmentary body, defeated by the advance machinery, thought and evolution. In other words, the body is viewed as something that should be divorced, despised, dissected and finally transformed. We could say that the entire 20th century is marked by a desintegration of the bodily structure, and by the omnipresent awareness of its availability, fragility and profanity. The function of the human body is finnaly reduced to that of a container (Stelarc), a specimen for the analysis of man's evolutionary and physiological potentials (Kac, CAE), a digital matrix, to that of mere material subjected to various operative and techonological transformations (Orlan, Acker).

But we could also understood this phenomena from the historical point of view: as the result of reaching the final point of the dichotomy between the physical and the artificial, which through the history of modernity defined the modes of production of bodily images, shaping of the body visibility, predictability and transparency. The contemporary dissapearing of the borders between life and non-life, organic and technologic, natural and artificial, physical and artificial, which strongly influenced the bodily disintegration and fragmentation in contemporary art and culture, has a long history and its deeply inscribed in our understanding of the physical which was always in modernity inevitably defined and connected with the field of artificial.

From the 17th century, Descartes' definition of the machine animale represents the basic model of the body explanation and sets the basic paradigm governing the modern scientific visibility of the body - the paradigm of the body as mechanism, where the body gains status of a field of knowledge. Mechanism therefore became the demonstration of the bodily operativity and not anymore connected to the divine. In the old myths and religion stories the artificial had a special place: it was the sign for the bordeline body, which turned upside down the relationship between earth and heaven; the place where the fundamental questions on the human relationship with the divine could be placed. When Descartes argumented the analogy between human and the machine, is artificial slowly but firmly moved from the mithology into the middle of the developing scientific thought, understood not as a secret but as a basic mode of operativity, functionality and rational understanding. From this point of wiev the example of the enlightenment anatomists is especially interesting because it is disclosing to us some important seeds of contemporary visibility and understanding of the body in it's relationship to the artificial. An analytical comparison of the 18th century anatomical views with the modern obsession with the fragmentary, dissected body can help us understand the modern crave to uncover the epidermal surface and contemporary dissapearing of the borders between life and non-life.

The status of 18th century anatomists was very much the same as that of sculptors, painters and architects, with an additional, yet essential mission to mediate between science and art. Anatomists were the ones authorized to discover formae in profundis and thus differentiate between the external form and the essence hidden underneath, between the visible and the invisible. "It permitted the artist to observe more than he could conventionally see. He was thus able to represent forms concealed beneath an occluding matter more faithfully, because they were now clear to his mind."2 (Gerdy, 1829) Determined to get to the bottom of the invisible, anatomy was still not an objective science but rather a moral and aesthetic strategy; by means of cutting, dissection, »scientific« explanations of the unknown and obscure, as well as by the measuring, counting and classifying of formae in profundis, it began to introduce the absent, the Other Body. By means of differentiation of layers and visible segments, it established the definition of an ideal body, and clearly indicated the elements that differed from it. The impudent classification was candidly present in anatomical depictions and collections, meant as a visual warning – or rather, as whole museums of such warnings, showing the inexorable connection between life and death, between interior and exterior, between looks, morals and beauty. "Medical inventions can provide good examples for ethics ", wrote the French doctor Pierre Roussel and he adds: "it is impossible for philosophy to determine the moral strength of man without taking into consideration the organization of the body."3 (Roussel, 1775) The then dialectic of one's interior and exterior was that of competence, determined by the Other Body, resulting in a moral process and the establishment of aesthetic principles. The more secrets of the body we uncover, the more empty and artificial it becomes, subjected to systematization, generalization, control and universal anticipation. At this point, we can perhaps understand some of today hardly comprehensible obsessions of the anatomists of that time, who attempted to combine parts of different corpses into most unusual compositions, e.g. Giovanni Aldini., who tried to combine different limbs, heads etc. by means of galvanism. The famous collection of Frederik Ruysch (1638 – 1731), Dutch doctor and artist, is of a similar kind. With a special method of preparation he had himself invented, Ruysch managed to create a fantastic museum of curiosities, mainly consisted of children's dead bodies and their various parts (as Ruysch worked as chief obstetrician in Amsterdam), dressed and placed on silk pillows. Ruysch’s bizarre creations, as well as other images and collections (for example that of anatomical wax figures owned by the Italian doctor Felice Fontana in the 18th century) reveal that, despite the vanishing mysteries of the body, the people of that time were still further from grasping it in its entirety than they thought they were. Furthermore, the dissected body was occupied by the ideal image which subjected it to systhematizations, emptying the content under the epidermal surface in order to substitute it with a generalized image showing the people what their bodies should have been like. It constantly reminded them of the exclusiveness of the ideal, laying the foundation for the body engineering of the future. No wonder that the strong connection between anatomical views and aesthetics gave birth to another branch of « science » - physiognomy - which readily transformed the tension of the sublime into a most vulgar connection between the interior and exterior of the body – the Beautiful Soul and the physical constitution reflecting its ideals.

The metaphor of the machine was reflected in the specific kind of physical training which, by means of its mechanic psychology, allured to a dialectics between a person's internal and external features. The elaborate system of this dialectics was first shattered in the 19th century. Operativity and predictability, the modes establishing the analogy between the body and machines, were replaced by a unity of opposites, an elusiveness that blurred the boundaries between the living and the non-living, the internal and the external. Predictable causality and operative order gave way to complex, automated systems, energetic motors, immaterial devices. As opposed to the enlightenment, the romanticism and the early 19th century no longer had insight into the operation of machines. Machines no longer evoked the reassuring feeling of predictability – that of a universal order dwelling beneath a machine’s delusive surface. Artificial structure grew into an enormous system characterized by elusiveness and unpredictability, and familiar to people only by effects. Through the 19th century, the body was increasingly confronted with various mechanisms that interfered with its ways of operation, transformed its muscular mass, rhythm and energy, demanded an adaptation to a new functionality and forms, and essentially influenced the production of bodily images. The body was to face new challenges – those of energy and dynamic engines. New representation modes - like energy, electricity, kinetics- were introduced into the medical practice (which replaced morbid theatrality of the anatomy lesson) and were followed later by different devices which all were there to measure body's invisible movement, pulsations, energy, ryhtems. But the most influential techniques which shatered the borders of body's visibility were certainly X-rays, followed later in the 20th century by sofisticated digital modes of representation - CET, PET, the digital visualisation of the cell, atom, genom, etc. 4

Of course, the moral aspects of anatomy and the energetic notion of the body as the motor (which had it's own neurotic morality based on the enthropy and exhaustion) have long been substituted by objective and analitical scientific methods. But I would agree with Stafford that several inductive patterns still remain - as part of contemporary digital, scientific, technological and aesthetic views of the body.5 (Stafford, 1991) It is true of course, that with the discovery of X-rays, there have been a radical change of the depicting and decoding of the human body and of producing the moral meanings: the body is no longer approached by the intimacy (or morbidity) of direct physical contact, which disclosed us it's operativity and correspondance or non-correspondance with the universal order. The tactility of the anatomy lesson is surpassed with clean technological filters where the image of the body is created by means of computers and technology; and therefore transmuted into a dematerialised graph, matrix, shadow, combination of colors and stripes, hyper-texts.6 The weak body of the matrix and binary codes no longer succumbs to laws of physics, but primarily to administrative and social regulation, statistics, and cognitive enthusiasm. But the main problem is the same - the image of the body always remains based on a generalization, systematization and artificiality.

Despite the fact that modern medicine, science and art present the body as a mere reconstruction, with the organism transformed into codes and heaps of binary files, we can still trace a remnant of the old views originating in the age of Enlightenment, when, for the first time in history, "we gained an access to the information - through the methodic autopsy procedure"7 (Stafford, 1991) According to Stafford, modern people still believe that, by the observation of visual characteristics, they can discover something about the very essence of man, even more, we seem to believe that, by means of further combinations of these characteristics, we can compose an »ideal« human being (for example, by means of genetics), and one fit for the new challenges set to its survival by technology. The judgements of the body remain those acquired by looking into its interior; furthermore, the body turned inside out is becoming a document of identification and an insurance chip. In the future, it will probably play an important part in job interviews, family planing, the predicting of one's predisposition to disease or crime and the evaluation of one's genetic material etc. Today, high technology provides the same illusion as that of the microscope in the age of Enlightenment, providing a wonderful ability of magnification - and the illusion that we can in fact catch sight of the invisible, flawless information net, the virtual and statistical field of the ideal body.

What we see is an image, with its aesthetic qualities preserved as a decyphering system of lines, vectors, geometric shapes, and colours. The generalisation is even furthered by cybernetic worlds creating bodies of data by means of classifications, differentiations and data input. The striving towards the artificial has marked the entire modern history of the body, reaching its bizarre climax in plastic surgery and commercial genetics, a practical outcome of constant studies of physical characteristics deviating from the ideal body - and a practical transfer of artistic strategies (colour, point, line) to the body by means of scalpels. With the introduction of plastic surgery, aesthetic becomes an applicative science studying the possibilities of commercially fooling the dialectic of one's exterior and interior, in order to create the ideal and successful body by means of tactile incisions.

The recent exhibition of corpses and body parts by Gunther von Hagens in Vienna, the dissected animals in formalin by Damien Hirst, the continuous plastic operations of Orlan and Elisabeth Dyn, the biogenetic experiments of Eduardo Kac and numerous other phenomena indicate that the anatomical passion of man has again been reignited. This time, however, it is no longer a privilege of a developing branch of science, but more or less an artistic attempt to mercilessly expose and eradicate the remaining mysteries of the body. The disclosure is no longer meant as a mysterious allegory, a warning and moral classification as was the case with the anatomical artist of the Enlightement. The fragmentary and dissected body is a modern metaphore representing the most direct threat to the problematic normative depiction of the body as a whole, disclosing its fragile and paradoxical potentiality. It reveals the paradoxical, manipulative and epistemologically complicated character of modern generalizations as well as the illusion of the depiction of the body as a whole, which, unfortunately, is still considered as the aim of physical transformation. Modern man has successfully overcome the phantazmatic moral classifications created in the 18th century, but only to substitute them for a world without secrets, naked flesh, epidermal sacks, creation of doubles and clones, and genetic legitimation turned inside out.

In this sense, it is present as a scandal which, rightly advocates the profanity and disclosure of the body. It is the radicality of the strategy that most clearly reflects the problematic character of ideal images and shows that the understanding of our bodies and ourselves has entered a new dimension: especcialy with a possibility to realize a desire to destroy our current biological design and replace it with a more advanced form. The result expected from these radical strategies is a non-suffering, post-human body, we could also say a cyborg. But this is non-painfull utopia just on the first sight. Quite the contrary, there should be a strong awarennes that every body is created by painful modifications and endless fights inside the body itself (my body is my battleground, says Barbara Kruger in the famous poster from the eighties). The body turns into an elusive field of dislocation, refecting several characteristics of the cyborg as described by Haraway; it is strongly committed to "partiality, irony, intimacy and corruptness; a utopia in constant opposition, robbed of all innocence."8 (Haraway, 1991) It can no longer be grasped as a totality or be seen in the mirror to show us the reflection of Apollo (the ideal body). Instead, the totality of the body is present as a contrast, fragment, a diffused net, as the stability of the unstable which constantly challenges its boundaries, and the questions of the body's as a whole are emerging directly from the pain of the incision.

- - -

1. Pareth B. 1989. Gandhi's Political Philosophy. London: Macmillian, p. 26.

2. Gerdy P. N. 1829. Anatomie des formes extérieures du corps humains, aplliqué a la peinture, a la sculpture et a la chirugie. In Stafford B. M. 1991. Body Criticism, Imaging the Unseen in Enlightenment Art and Medicine. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, p. 54.

3. Roussel P. 1775. Système physique et moral de la femme, ou tableau philosophique de la constitution, de l'état organique, de témperament, des moeurs & des fonctions propres au sexe. Quoted in: Schiebinger L: Skeletons in the Closet: The First Illustrations of the Female Skeleton in Eighteenth-Century Anatomy. In Gallagher C. & Laqueur T., ed. 1987. The Making of Modern Body. Berkeley & Los Angeles & London: University of California Press, p. 68.

4. An important contribution to the invention of new instruments was already that of the enlightenment medicine; their instruments, however, were devised a different view upon the body. Enlightenment studies were focussed upon the relation between bodily and psychic substances - the phantasm of an invisible soul which could be read or detected by those entitled. Governing the human body were animalic vapour, mystic spirits, unpredictable gasses, electric pneuma, currents of animal magnetism which could determine the functioning of the body and soul, or result from the universal soul - a concept which, due to Messner, was widely popular among the aristocracy of the late 18th century. Medical instruments of the 19th century, however, graphically presented individual bodies (or persons), physical and life lines of their functioning, expectation and efficiency, as well as their rhythmic pulsation in relation to space and time.

5. Stafford B. M. 1991. Body Criticism, Imaging the Unseen in Enlightenment Art and Medicine. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.

6. On this problem wrote Eugene Thacker. In Thacker E. Digital Anatomy and the Hyper-Texted Body. Nettime Archive: www.factory.org./nettime/.

7. Stafford B. M. 1991. Body Criticism, Imaging the Unseen in Enlightenment Art and Medicine. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, p. 145.
With detailed anatomical depicitons of male and female bodies, the CD-ROM Visible Human Project could be viewed as a digital Fontana’s theatre, with the corporealities functioning as nets (different ftp pages), data accumulations, transfers and animations. According to E. Thacker, “digital anatomy does not represent parts of the body, but a variety of binary files.” In: Thacker E. Digital Anatomy and the Hyper-Texted Body. Nettime Archive: www.factory.org./nettime/.

8. Haraway Donna J. 1991. A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century. In Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge, pp. 148 - 249.


some help...

How are you from where you are, all around the Mediterranean?

Today I’m mostly interested by the Middle Eastern and North African countries.

I’m doing a research about contemporary art in the Arab world. I would like to have your feelings from outside, your perceptions. It can be for Art in general or for dance in particular.

My questions are about the situation of the artist in his/her specific country and in other Arab countries (space for creation, censure, subvention, religion, war, history…)how to exist as an international contemporary artist artistic preoccupations the links between Arab artistsdifference between today situation and 10 years ago the perspectives, expectation, for the next 5 years

I know that you are very busy but if you can share with me some ideas, your point of views, articles, pictures,…it could be very interesting and of a great help for me
Actually I have a public presentation about this topic in June and most of the audience will be European so it is my role as an Arab to give some realities and to correct wrong ideas that European people might have.


what do we have in common??

Hi Idoia
Thanks for your nice input... and also for the nice text ;-)
Concerning your question about mediterranean dance, if it has something to do with the circle and clapping... i really don't know... but if it has to do... here it goes a video of one 1920's London night club that shows you that this story about being in a circle and clapping would not be definetly a mediterranean dance characteristic ;-)

This is not only because UK is not really a mediterranean country, but also because being in a circle and clapping it's has to do with a more lot of other things, rather that only with dance (altought knowing and recognizing that this circle and clapping story it's in a certain way related with the origins of dance)but definetly I think that it has nothing to do literally and specifically with mediterranean dance...
So, when I put the question " can we speak about Mediterranean Dance?" on the table, it was because i was thinking on what could be, let's say like this, the caractheristics of contemporary dance from the Mediterranean countries...what do we have all in common : we all are artists, and we all come and work in mediterranean countries... that's for shore... we all share a certain kind of same culture... the mediterranean culture... so my question was also how does this have and influence in our artistic works...i'm asking this because in personally believe that the artistic works are in a certain way related with the context where they're developed.
But can we speak about a mediterranean dance or is it everything so globalized that in a certain way the indentity the cultural identity is also getting globalized???
For example, the kind of artistic works coming from north america are completly different to the kind of artistic works produced in Europe, etc...
Well... the main question is: WHAT DO WE HAVE IN COMMON? or WHAT DO OUR ARTISTIC WORKS HAVE IN COMMON??? I know that for being able to answer this question, first we need to get to know each other's work better (and this is of course is one of our aims in this project), for then trying to work together... with what we have in common or with our differences... and i think this blog should be used to open these kind of debates...and others.



opening up the space for unlimited possiblities...

Dear all:

I was trying to comunicate you thelepatically. ¿Did it work?
Mediterranean dance. ¿Do it has to do with the circle and claping?
Look a this video of three Asiatics in a 12-day Mediterranean Cruises and choreographing a dance. It has to do with an improvisation that Florent proposed us...

I brougth this text...about colaboration.

I hope you are doing very well.

I will be more serious next time.


The lecture of Bojana Kunst unedited

Collaboration, possibility and inhabitancy

“What we do not choose is what we can most easily share, or what we can’t avoid sharing” (Brian Holmes, Collective creativity, 87)

I. Common

Russian group of artists and theoreticians, named after the famous Lenin book What is to be done / Chto delat, participated in the latest exhibition in Kassel, Fridericianum, dedicated to Collective creativity with a work entitled with the same enigmatic name oriented towards the future of activity: What is to be done. In the dark room there were two screens, one beside each other, on one there was a straight succession of slides, still shots of the members of the group What is to be done, on another there were subtitles of their discussion, talking about ways of working together, ideologies of the collectivity and collaboration, oscillating between irony and dedication, individual approaches and more objective statements, it was a talk of friends and collaborators at the same time. This was the group of young people, standing with some drinks and cigarettes in some anonymous urban place in the middle of the cold night, there was a kind of the weed ridden wall to stand on or seat down, the background was dark and enlightened only with the lights necessary for the video. The group of people could not be more contingent in their nightly arrangement, almost incoherent, nothing kept them together as the anonymous place of the night and non-obligatory discussion, there was something light, almost easygoing in the dark and cold air. But then at the end of the discussion the last slide of the group standing together turned to be combined with another image on the second screen, where we can suddenly see the well-known painting of Victor Popkov, The builders of Bratsk from the sixthies. The image done in the style of socialist realism was showing the group of workers, their bodies and poses collectively dedicated to the task. The spatial arrangement of the chto delat people and the workers which heroically build the Syberian city of Bratsk was entirely the same but at the same time two images could not be more apart.

What is interesting in this project is exactly this connection between two displays of being together, the connection which is disclosing us the ways of being together, of presenting the common of the group. In the first image the common seems more as an contingent supplement of the photographic frame, the supplement of the common moment, of being together in the present. In the second image the common is the only thing which is depicted, the people are there together because of their common future, the common here is not the appendix but the core of depiction. The gap among the same displays has therefore surely something to do with the ways of depicting the common of the group, which is not only the disposition of the people in the space as on the documentary photography, but it is also a disposition of the time, an allegory of the common and community. Young artists and theoreticians are not together, because their togetherness would be subjugated to progress, teleology, finality, to the future common goal. The common here is more an appendix of the framed moment, the community framed in the still shot is more like a community as would be described by Jean Luc Nancy: “community on the contrary is ordinary being together, without any assumption of common identity, without any strong intensity, but exposed to banality, to the ‘common’ of existence.” It is therefore not the common dominated by finality, which can take different forms (total man, society without classes, liberated body, liberated subjectivity etc) (like form the images of the theatre of the sixthies). It is not the common tightly intertwined with the active transformation of the history in the 20th century, but the common reduced to the ordinary being together, deprived of all the historical tasks. If we are following Jean Luc Nancy, this would then be the common of “always already”, this what we already share in relation to our banal and daily life (like the question of our own finitude, by example), the “sacred profane” under our feats which arrange us together incoherently on the picture. This is then the common where there is no exchange, no universality, no economy, no coherence, because it is at the same time common which is unshearable, it could be then more the common of the common awakening of what already holds us together, what is already giving us the possibility to be together, but the possibility which always has to be revelaled anew, possibility of the common has to be always regained, required again, because it is “always already” there.

The reduction of the common to its everyday banality and to almost egalitarian equality of all the experiences , can be one of the reasons why the people from the group What is to be done seem to be entangled in a much lighter way into the discussion, they even seem to be together there only incoherently, contingently, they are present in the contingent surrounding of the anonymous night and autumn cold. The workers on Popkov’s image are on the opposite side not really contingently together, they are determined by finality which is in their particular case finalisation of the magnificent future socialist city of Bresk. That this finalisation can be completed with sucess the rest of their body is also needed – and they are on the picture together depicted in the common of work, even if they are actually taking the break - they can be resting only as representatives of the mass of workers still working behind them, hidden in dubious darkness from behind. Even in the moment of rest, pause, break, when being on ease with the body and mind, smoking, they cannot be reduced to contingency, incoherence, they are always in a pose, where connection between them is clearly visibile. (*the rest and neoliberalism) Both images are similar excatly in this moment of suspens, which opens up also similarities in their spatial arrangement: the empty moment of posing and doing nothing. But there is also a huge difference at work here, which can be best described with the subtitle from the last frame of "What is to be done" video: “There are thousands of workers behind the builders of Bratsk, but who is behind us?” Behind the first video there is void space, anonymus darkness, empty night in which young people seems to be drinking and talking, behind the second image we know that there is something going on all the time. First group is framed together in a void, second one in a space which is so occupied than you just cannot be apart. In the first group the common is a contingent appearance of proximity of the people talking, it is true, that they are talking about their work, but the work here is not what is common to them, the common here is the void of night, an anonymus place and time, when and where they can smoke, drink and talk and taking the positions in the void. In the second image the community is arriving from the domain of work, it is produced all the time, even in the moment of rest, of suspens of the work. That's why we have here two spatial arrangements – first one in the void, another one in the place which is already full, which is already named: the place where the common being and spatial arrangement is already pressuposed. Or as Jean Luc Nancy said: "That is why community cannot arise from domain of the work. One does not produce it, one experiences or one is constituted by it, as the experience of finitude. Community understood as a work or through its works would presupose that a common being, as such, be objectifiable and producible (in sites, persons, buildings, discourses, institutions, symbols: in short in subjects)." The common being in Popkov's case is the modern city of Bresk, which is already defining the common before being build (it is defining the places, institutions and subjectivities). Or to take more present example: the common being as a flow of global collaboration, this common of the symbolic capital, flow of money, people, signs, traveling, producing, negotiating: this the most popular global common of work which is with its simulated images deeply defining our understanding of relationality, multipliticity and the other – as the flowing sign of the global common layers of communication. That's why Nancy (among other reasons which are also interesting – especially the understanding of the community and loss, which can be also very nicely linked to traveling, but we can touch this in our discusionns in later days) is saying that what we need is an inoperative community: "community necesarrily take the place in what Blanchot has called unworking, reffering to that which, before or beyond the work withdraws from the work, and which, no longer having to do either with production or with complection, enocunters interruption, fragmentation, suspension. Or a little bit later in his text Inoperative Community: Community is given to us – or we are given and abandoned to the community: a gift to be renewed and communicated, it is not a work to be done or produced. But it is a task which is different: an infinite task at the heart of finitude." This exsistential revealing of the common is opening up the singular towards the finitude and death, towards the immanent presence of our being, which is singular yet at the same time given to community to enable the signularity itself.

I would agree with this description which opens community to the void, to the procesuallity of being together and to the impossibiltiy of the presuposed common being, but at the same time there are many questions still open, which I would like to briefly touch in this talk. Let's say these are pragmatical questions, posed from the side of activity, if I'm not linked to you throguh the common of the work, what is then the connection? How are we disclovering and communicating togehter the gift of the common? Or differently – how to talk about activity then, when we are together in a void and nobody is standing behind us, but nevertheless we know more then ever that the question about what is to be done, even if it is a much contaminated reference, is still a very important question to be asked? What is then our activity and how can we describe our collaboration, our suspens, the moment of interruption? This is a particulary vivid question for performing arts not only because we wish that the critical production of the collaboration would be in its core, but also because performing arts are through the history full of contaminated references of the common (contaminated reference in the sense that the reference can be used but at the same time it is always ambivalent, it should be always approached criticaly and with the awarennes of our own ways of using it): theatre was always thorough the history linked with a certain representation of the common, being intitutionalized in its burgeois audience or later in the more open version of participation and equality among stage and audience. This production of the common which is always in the core of theatrical representation is the reason for many myths about theatre as the space of a certain mythical experience and communication, confirmation of equality (which always happened inside a certain class – borgueois by example), as the space of equal participation and possibility of everybody can do it (in the theatrical experiments of the sixthies by example). Today, when performance is tightly linked with the contemporary processes of globalisation which can be also understood as the complex multilayered and multiple flow of constant collaboration, negotiation and communication, of the sybolic capital we can say, where the difference between simulation and real is not important anymore, one of the main references of the common is interculturality: this possibility of performing arts to open op to the other, to translation and transformation. Performance on the global cultural market is tightly linked with the production of the common contemporaneity and deeply interwined into the thinking of the processes of translation. We are all traveling, collaborating, participating, we are togehter producting constant flows of collaborations and many encounters which are becoming our own symbolic capital. This certainly open up the performing arts field for the visibility of the other, it opens up many different possibilities to work together and to talk about work and the question as in our example video "what is to be done". But at the same time we have to ask ourselves how this flow of collaboration is not already pressuposing multicultural understanding, translation and participation as some pressuposed common being, something which is defining our ways of being together in advance and not allowing the encounter to fail, to suspense itself, to fragmentarise, to disolve, to transform, to evaporate. Or differently: we cannot encounter ourselves in the void, because the world is already settled under our feets, the roads are already open, the maps are written, the buildings are already named. In the time of fetishized collaboration we have many difficulties to be given or abandoned to the communicty in the Nancy's sense - since we hardly can collaborate and alternatively spatialize our own collaboration, we can hardly locate the space of encounter in the world which is bursting with network of different encounters. The paradox is that these encounters are more and more mapped and framed, the roads seems to be open but at the same time the channels to cross them are more and more specified and controlled, you have to belong to the certain community of work to cross them (being a dancer, philosopher or dentist – as my gentle brazilian dentist from yesterday who would like to go to spain for more money). Therefore i think we cannot talk about collaboration not thinking also about the space – and this maybe seems as a little paradox, because I said that collaboration is happening in a void.

Let's help ourselves with the video What is to be done again and then go to same other examples how to link the collaboration and space, or active spatialization which is much better notion for my use. In the video What is to be done young people are framed in the series of still shots, and what is interesting here is that they are always in a different spatial positions here, their bodies are always posed in a different order (probably defined by the contingency of their talking together). We are all the time seeing only the series of still frames, with the subtitles of the talk among the people in the shots. The frames are following one after another, and on each frame the positions of the people talking are changed. This constant repositioning of the group which takes place in the anonymus night (in the dark void), these bodies changing in relaxed and at the same time engaged positions, this talking of the people to take positions (in both senses of the word: to take position in a talk and to take position in the space – which is also tightly linked with the understanding of performative – to talk and act) can be a good comparaison how can we link the collaboration and the question of the space, through which we could unweal how are we opened and abandoned to the common. The people are together, they encounter each other because at the same time they are disclosing the ways how the space is construced, they are opening up the space through the positioning of their subjcetivites, they are in a void night, but at the same time this space is constructed through their ways of talking together, defined with their desires, activites and their positioning in the space. This void becomes a political space par excellence, nevermind if this is only an anyonimous space of the night, because it is the space of constant positioning, changing through negotiation, disagreement and disput, inhabiting through encountering, a true public space, indeed. (in opposition with the Popokov's picture where politics is already pressuposed and the place is only its mimesis, representation) I don't know if you are familiar with the writing of Henri Lefebvre about the space (The Production of the Space), but it can be very helpful, especially if your work will be, as I understood, connected to a site-specificity. Lefebvre writes about the active spatialization, which is replacing a static notion of the understanding of the space. The meaning of the named space is never its designated activity or phsical properties but their interaction with far less obvious subjectivites and with the actions and signyfying practices that elicit (mask) these. (Rogoff, 23) So space cannot be understood thorugh named activity for which is intended (a tennis court in which a game of tennis is played, an important place which importancy is nowadays most commonly named through the framed wiev of the tourist) or through the titles thats its buildings or other solid entities might uphold. The space is all the time produced thorguh the active processes of spatialization which are connection between designated activites, physical properties and structures of subjectivites with their social relations, anxieties, desires etc. How the structure of subjectivity is spatial can be shown with an example from the history of the places for negotiation, collaboration and communication. Famous example from Levebre is "antechambre", antechamber, the space of negotiation between king and royal petitioners. This constant space of negotiation, where petitioners become more empowered because they were meeting the king in person, and the absolute monarh has to diminshed in power, as his space has been infiltrated with commoners is not only showing us how the space is socially defined, but also something else. This space of negotiation has to be strictily physically codified, it almost never changed and it is the most monumental of spaces today – like parliaments, corporation builidngs, institutions (theaters are slowly disappearing from this map): it has to be architectonically full of signs that the flow of subjectivites can collaborate, otherways the space is always endangered with politics, with the constant flew of opinions, disputs, masked and non-visible subjectivites etc. Why is this so important when talking about the collaboration? Because when we understand collaboration as a kind of spatial activity too then collaboration became a matter of positioning, of taking the place thorguh encounter. In this collaboration we are not taking the place for the other (which is strictily allowed and codified in the institutional places of collaboration) but with the other in a void, we demand the space, we inhabit it, we are all the time in the proces – as would Irit Rogoff said – multi-inhabitation of spaces throguh bodies, social relations and pshycic dynamics. Only then the night of "What is to be done" group can become a political night, because it is a night fully inhabited but at the same time open to the void, opening up multiple possiblities for acting and encountering each other, but at the same time still standing in a dark, the space is full of meaning but not transparent and enligtened. (This of course is in a strict contraditiction with the nation states by example, which are instisting on a singular spatial multi-inhabitation under one dominant rule with the (and it is no wonder that then the pragmatic result of a spatial multi-inhabitation within a context of a nation state is an armed conflict). The darkness which accompaying the collaboration is of outmost importance here: the common is namely never visible because the space is also not illuminated, but it is only appearing as a contingent appendix of the positioned relation. Lefebre warns us excatly on this illusion of transparency – where space appears as luminous, intelligible, as giving action free rein, it is a view of space as innocent and free of traps. The institutional space for negotiation is a prime expample of the illusion of transparency – the most immanent and present powerfull examples today are of course corporation builidings, which are with their glass and fragility pure examples of transparent freedom of corporate activity, action, collaboration and communication, innocent and abstract, designed as possibility for freedom.

When we are then thinking about the relation between collaboration and active spatialization, we are thinking about different ways of inhabiting the spaces – which are not illuminating the space, but inhabitinng and spatializing it up in the darkness, in the ambivalency, in its multiplicity, so that the multiplicity of its subjectivies can also be visible and put into action. The collaboration is here understood as an active spatialization because it opens up the space for the unlimited positibiltes, for the alternative positions which are parralel, multilayerd and simultaneous, too. In such collaboration we are not encountering each other as an invidual subjectivites, where one is a one and another is the other, and one can be for the another, and the another can be for the other – in this encounter there is still to much to cross, to pass, to get over: intercutlurality we can say still implys to much of culture to be crossed, as interdisciplinarity still implies to many disciplines to be crossed. We are living in the world where we are crossing each other all the time, but what is this contingent urgency which nevertheless holds us together? If it is not the finality, history, religion, the end of man, if it is not a loss (loss of community, history, country), if it is not the belonging since the belonging to full of ambivalences, if it is not the common of the work, what is it then that holds us together? Irit Rogoff is in one interwiev talking about this problem when thinking about what holds the young people together revolting the negative processes of globalisation, figthing against the appropriation of movement, possibility, of language from the capital? There is one image from Oliver Ressler, an austrian artistis and activits, which I unfortunately do not have with me, but which is disclosing us some contingent links which are holding this people together. He made a series of photographies of the different cities after the "wrongly called" antiglobalised protests – there were only streets on the photos, windows of the well-known global shops all protected with the simple wooden desks, which became the best plato for the unending line of grafitti against the corporative greed and neoliberal economy. What holds them together is this contingent urgency, this incoherent image of a different space, an alternative and parallel narative, an alternative territory with a alternative flow of signs, we can say, another visualised geography, spatialized action. This is not anymore about crossing and get to know, but about opening the possibilities together, constructing the fragmented and incoherent language, a different mapping of the city and its commercial quartiers, if you would like to talk with the language of the mapping, ephemeral urgency of something which we cannot share, but neverhteless we are there together. What holds us together is positionality, but positionality cannot be without the space, so there is always positionality connected with another reading of the space, with another mapping of the territory where we can rearange the void and not participate only in the already given illuminated space for acting and negotiating.

Maybe it would be good to talk about some concrete examples now, but you will see all this examples are staying open, this is only a try to tell a different narativity, it is not a judgement. It is more articulation as a participation, as a beliveing of their criticality and possibility to open up different territories. I would say today artistic actitivity is somehow becoming the field of the articulation of possibility, but it would stay like that only of this possibility would be a complicit possibility, would be resposnible for the possible which is open throgh it – would always be implemented and deeply interwiend when being critical, demanding a space and territory for its articulation and opening different possibilites of spatiality. This is not possibility appropriated by the capital and media in the sense that our subjectivity is always feeded with the fullfilment of our desire as well as with redemption (that we will get in the future what we were lost in the past), but a complicit possibility in a sense that univisible subjectivites are becoming visible, spaces are opening up to the dynamic, maps are written differently and with different language, bodies are disclosed as a complex articulation of relations and positionality, materials are reused and re-read. In this way we are not only doing the work of parralel translation and meeting the other, where translation is always needed, but a work of transformation which has its consequences, never mind if there are minor (if as in the work of the group What is to be done nobody stands behind them, neverheless it is important to ask this questions). This is a way of inhabiting the space with collaboration – to open up the risk to be implemented and complicit, not only to negotiate and change the social positions as in the king's antechamber, but also to inhabit and risk with the position, the ways how we are developing knowledge and also to risk with the encounter – we never know, maybe we would be abandoned. Brian Holmes said in one text about collaboration and community that “What we do not choose is what we can most easily share, or what we can’t avoid sharing” (Brian Holmes, Collective creativity, 87).

I will just briefly mentioned several complicit projects, which are dealing with inhabitation and possibility and are spatialy active but not in the proposed space, but in a space with a void. One is a last project from the slovenian visual art collective Irwin, which is a group of five visual artists working together already from the eighties, well-known and important group in the contemporary art. Their last project East ART Map is subtitled: history is not given, please help us to construct it. The project is basically several years long research of the eastern europian modernism which is hardly existing on the visible map of western modernism, only represented thorguh a certain frames of expositions etc... They are collaborating with artists, curators, theoreticians to research the connections, realtions, ways of collaboration, contingencies, devotions, admirations, references of the territory of artists, which were inivisible, known only fragmentary, only as invidiuals (mostly heroic individuals), never represented as a spatial territory, as a scene (as we like to say). After two years of research a complex map began to emerge revealing rich and unvisible history of collaboration, done practicaly in the void. The most interesting part is not only the research, but also a visualisation of the map, different mapping which is with its visual imaginary fully complicit, it is taking the autoritative and risky role to talk about the history, to put it together, to collectively construct it, to make mistakes also, to fail, it is fully complicit in what it is doing, since it is developing another language, another visual imagery of this non-visible territory. It is filling up the void, we can say, but with a strict and risky inhabiting – it is not mapping territories, contracts, negotiations, but subjectivites, artistic flows, but it is at the same time risky and complicit when constructing another transparency. But this is also un-mapping, re-mapping the way how knowledge about western art was organised – therefore the risk is welcomed and needed, the inhabitation is all the time implemented in the space which is becoming visible thorugh inhabiting.
When thinking about this project I would like also other maps to emerge, other visualisations which are visualisations of different encounters (produced or not, it doesn't matter if there is this awarennes of complicity), like the complex and very fragile maping of contemporary dance in slovenia and contemporary dance in portugal, two histories of the ninethies which were practical having no production contacts, but many important encounters (non visible then on the map), many very important encounters for the people working on the field of dance. There is some similarity in analsysis of the situation, some dramaturgical sinhronicity which is connected with corissing the borders and coming to the western dance markets, some connection in the ways how these two scenes were emerging and spatializing themselves. This I'm opening here only as a possibility to think – because it is still to much in the air to make some conclusions.
When encountering, i think we are always encountering also spatialy even if we come together in a void. It doesn't so much matter who opens up the possibility for us, if we are aware that excatly this opening up the possibility presents the way of how the flows of money, capital and people is going on today, and it doesn't matter if this is happening in the art or in the economy, this is the gear which is pushig the world today. But at the same time, this possibility when it is not complicit, when it is not connected to the inhabitation, remains abstract as a corporative manual about collaboration. "It is namely the question that we asked that produced the field of enquiery, and not some body of material which determines what questions need to be posed to it." (Gayatri Spivak)

We are together not because we are encountering each other as individual subjectivites but because with our opening up the possibilities to each other we are also opening certain flow of incoherence, alternatives for oursleves, we are together in a kind of ephemeral urgency, contingent urgency.

because it is opening up the space for unlimited possiblities, and this unlimitation i mean here for real

Od tu moram razložit preselitev, kaj je tu tranzicijskega in tranzicijskega:

*** kako se oblikuje teritorij: to ni samo fizični pojem – mentalne geografije, mentalni prostori, kako subjekti vizualizirajo, konceptualizirajo njihovo identiteto .. »kulturna teritorialnost« (irit rogoff): derrida meje nakazujejo meje možnosti: z mejami se omeji možnost!! Z interdisciplinarnostjo je še vedno močna meja disciplinarnosti, ki jo prehajamo! Zakaj institucionalne prakse vedno postavljajo meje moznosti? (vprašanje od irit rogoff): kaj je tako nevarnega v imeti neomejene možnosti, da vedno zahteva konstantno urejanje ki je vrsta teritorialnosti?
Pozicionalnot – ni samo lokacija ampak je tudi attiutude – odnos do stvari. Zakaj je to zdaj pomembno, ne kontekst, ne zamejitev, pač pa vedno artikuliranje nujnosti, neposrednosti...kaj naj drži skupaj je kontingentnost, efemeralnost nujnosti, kotingentna nujnost. Kakšne so alternativne prakse za nas same?
Kar je pomembno so principi inkorehence, po katerih lahko deluje skupnost, ne pa samo individualne subjektivnosti…

What we do not choose is what we can most easily share, or what we can’t avoid sharing” (Brian Holmes, Collective creativity, 87)

Posted by bojana cvejic at August 18, 2005 02:53 PM