Sunday, August 18, 2013

Jennifer Edwards and her ... well, wits? or Oh my Goddess, not one of those again!

This is the article in question, if they still have it circulating by the time you read this post ...
Interestingly enough a very similar argumentation that Jennifer Edwards writes in the Huffington Post has been used in the time of an appointed minister of culture in the Netherlands, who publicly boasted about his illiteracy in the arts, then cut back an already small portion of the Dutch financial governmental budget (always less than 1%, even in the 'golden' years of the 1970s) enough to effectively cripple an entire industry, called government-sponsored art, and within that, an even tinier portion reserved for government-sponsored dance. Actually that's not quite true, he didn't mention the call for kinesthetic intellectuals. This was not in the 1930s, but 2012, the culmination of an entire decade of continued devaluation of non-traditional and experimental dance-culture in the Dutch mainstream-media, who succeeded in giving contemporary dance an image only good German critics of the comparable decade above did a better defaming-job with, but unfortunately to very similar results ...

To actually reply to Edwards' argumentation:

In my perspective she is, shall I say it the Japanese way ... a little late with her call for kinesthetic intellectuals, and definitely 20 years late with her call for artistic entrepreneurs.

I seriously ask myself where has she been living all this time: The call for artists to be (more serious) enterpreneurs, (and, in a more veiled way, oh, while we're at it, perhaps please a little less annoying and weird at that, shall we?) is what people have been hurling at dance-professionals for the last five decades ...

And if you want kinestethetic intellectuals: ever at least since the work and legacy of Anna Halprin, Merce Cunningham, Elaine Summers, Judson Dance Theatre, and many others in their wake (Pauline de Groot, Mary O'Donnell, Mary Overlie) dance has been a kinesthetic, sensorial, intellectual enterprize to the max. And this is just within a single cultural zone: On the other side of the Atlantic, it may suffice to name such almost-forgotten capacities as Elsa Gindler. And so on, all over the globe (Germaine d'Acogny, Suprapto, Tatsumi Hijikata, the list is ongoing and here, so far, my education falls short and I have more homework to do - further suggestions are welcome ...)

Elaine Summers is actually an excellent example for such a kinesthetic genius who realized early on the need for dancers and dance professionals to earn a salary, and has been one those who set up and managed a not-for-profit dance company for 30 years, but also recognized the needs of administration, book-keeping and the like. She combined and at age 80+, still combines, arts development, innovation, and business. Check her out, if you like ...

Kinesthetic workers? I'm all for it. Consider asking the droves of dance-therapists who got kicked out in masses when under the influence of Big Pharma, Psychiatry decided that it would be cheaper and therefore better to put people who couldn't cope with the social standard, called 'normality' on pills, to tranquilize them and maybe even keep them 'happy'. When put against the witch-hunt against Wilhelm Reich who dared help people in their physical liberation beyond what was understood at the time, and whose legacy of love, work, and knowledge, is still waiting for fulfillment, the picture gets very austere indeed ...

To respond to her question, very easily and directly: Yes Mz. Edwards, it is very possible to be an entrepreneur and business-person in this field - if there are those who actually will pay for such research, and do not mind the consequent body-empowerment of a population, that - as a result of kinesthetically intelligent dance - will become more able to deal with their physical selves, counter-acting a good millennium or so, of merciless oppression, spiritual propaganda against, and ongoing eradication of body-knowledge, first with the local European, Mediterranean & North African, and then ah, ... overseas.

As I wrote above, in the Netherlands, anno 2012, the very same rhethoric has been used to cripple what was a small, but not entirely starving industry, always continued under the banner of being renewing, innovative, head-on, etc. To give you an even better idea of what had happened: the entire budget for dance in the Netherlands in 2010 was enough to produce ONE single kilometer of autobahn in the Netherlands, ... ONE, you do the math ... and ask yourself, what can be the true motives of someone who loudly calls for reducing an industry called over-grown, but doesn't mind spending billions of tax-euros on bailing out the national banks, to quote the most simple example. Our colleagues from the Science wing have known for years that free research, when it cannot be used on weapons, or industry, is meager.

All of this eerily made and makes me think of a quote from The Handmaid's Tale by Canadian writer Margaret Atwood -  "Our biggest mistake was teaching them to read. We won't do that again".  In this dystopia, Christian fundamentalists gun down the U.S.-American government, and install a new theocracy in which women not only are not allowed to have property, or have a 'job', but also are barred from reading and writing - (please do NOT bother with the movie by Volker Schlöndorf which essentially fails to get beyond sweaty, albeit forbidden sex and makes patiiarchally acceptable entertainment out of feminist-informed writing ...)

And if you think I am joking, or a bit on the far side, (yes I am emotional in my writing, but that must not distract from what I am presenting for evaluation) - consider reading Sally Banes' excellent article "Power & the Dancing Body", published in this anthology

thanks for reading this far down :-)Good be with us all -

Friday, August 9, 2013

20-year anniversary : Elaine Summers

Elaine Summers during "Invitation to Secret Dancers"
New York City 2005, photo ©2005 by Jeff Fox
Today it is exactly 20 years ago that I met Elaine Summers in Vienna taking her workshop in video-dance at Internationale Tanzwochen Wien. The consequences of this meeting have pretty much shaped my life, both professionally, but also privately. They provided & helped find much needed answers that I was urgently looking for, new perspectives that I hadn't considered yet, and continue to give me an example for doing things in what to me deeply seems right, both as a professional and as a human being. 

Elaine Summers has helped revolutionize dance as we know it today, by expanding its connectivity to include and exchange with many areas not traditionally thought of as dance: not just everyday movements, but also connection to the moving image of film and later video-projection, creating intermedia, drama and acting, un-trained dancers, traditional dance vocabulary, and the internet. Unlike many of her once-colleagues at the now famous collective Judson Dance Theater that continued in the years of 1962-64 after the watershed workshop started by Robert Dunn, and parallel to the groundbreaking work of Anna Halprin on the West Coast, Elaine Summers created a very technique that encompasses all of what was created at Judson (Kinetic Awareness®) and has remained true to her ever ongoing research of dance by providing a very simple and very effective framework and principal of learning. I find her instrumental in directing dance from its late-modern state to post-modernism, from form and vocabulary to awareness & perception, from where new forms can emerge that fit the human dancer more closely ...

I know that I am extremely fortunate to have met her during my formative years. Without her my life would have undoubtedly taken on a very different tangent and, I dare pose, have been a lot less fulfilled than it feels today. Thank you ☺

Friday, April 26, 2013

dance · scores · notation · tradition

"This erosion of clarity over time is an inescapable problem of dance. A symphony exists on paper, the composer’s intentions clearly noted and open for interpretation by each new performer, and for study by scholars and students." Marina Harss, The Nation, Life After Merce, 2012

As beautiful as her description of the problems around choreographic legacy may be (in this case how the interpretation of Duets by Merce Cunningham was very different in feel when re-interpreted by American Ballet Theater) I wish to counter this statement of Marina Hass, which she keeps repeating elsewhere. 

As composer Hans Zender points out in his book "Happy New Ears" (Verlag Herder im Breisgau, 1991) today's ways of reading music scores differ sometimes vastly from what the very same signs meant even 100 years ago: in a score by Ludwig van Beethoven, just barely 200 years apart, several indications have changed their meaning over the time since the 1800's. Moreover the entire practice of making music has changed: the mega-orchestras of today, say playing a euphorizing version of the 9th Symphony, didn't exist at his time, people had no iphones (not even in the 1990's when Zender wrote his book) etc. etc. etc.

I dare propose that it's the same with any language/system, words / elements on the one hand keep a sense of their becoming, on the other continue to change their meaning / context over time, even if they seem to remain the same in sound and form - and even the sounds change significantly with each epoch & period. For English, just think of such recent examples as American versus British English, itself a vast conglomerate of vocabularies from Anglo, Saxon, Latin-French and many others, or the very recent ongoing change of the uses of "gay" or "bitch". Another example would be Chinese writing and its change in the use of characters. All of these suggest a growth and death that could be compared to the becoming and decaying of plants, life-forms.

Just like in other literature that uses visual signs, or any kind of tradition, I am increasingly realizing that despite any impression or opinion, nothing is here to stay very long, because we change and the context changes from generation to generation. Words & notions come up and disappear, entire languages and styles die out and are forgotten.

In what is considered classical ballet, itself a comparatively young tradition on a global scale, but even with more settled traditions, there is still considerable space for personal interpretation, taste, opinions, fashions / interests of the day, new rulers, etc., and inevitably different with every performer, each performance.

Even with a relatively unchanging medim such as video/film, it is by now possible to become nostalgic for an era that has video / film / sound but it is becoming ever more remote, and except as currently with black & white films of the first tries, one can easily forget that, as highly evident in propaganda films, life around those films may have been rather different, especially for those who were barred from being represented. Moreover, the technical standards keep changing, even rendering computer archives inaccessible by now. 

And so any creation/record/ing we make is temporary, for the now, lives & is most meaningful NOW. ... As our societies are changing, while believing that they are having sound roots in set traditions, actually the traditions keep changing because as living beings we are changing, therefore what was then is no longer 100% valid for now, it has to be re-understood what was meant in the first place, then: what was the situation then, what was tried to be achieved etc.

As we are faced with the challenges of overcoming traditions of subjugation and careless exploitation, or else perish as a species, the very same impermanence gives not only greater responsibility and duty towards the cultural professionals of today, but also more space in what is accepted as "tried & true".

Good be with us all!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

influencing public space - a legacy from the 1970's

it seems con•sens•us is now somewhat of a common good - we've had the politial part live up during Occupy and still ongoing, the decisions about private & public space & rules and regulations for them ...

i keep finding it important to remind myself to listen openly when i am outside of my own home, let the situation and its details reach me beyond my general filter for my perception, accepting the seeming chaos, not having the entire overview, not being 100% in control of what's going on (this can be quite disconcerting yet familiar, even if on the surface it seems that we concede to a system of rules without questioning, the inner chaos remains ...)

these days I am more and more getting involved with the work & legacy of dance-legend Anna Halprin. her husband designed the Keller Fountain in the 1970s, and the aim was to enable more intrusive use by the general public / users of public space, in Portland, Oregon. today such freedom seems almost outdated, we've become so used to being ruled by cameras and police surveillance, being allowed to notice, but not to share beyond very narrow modes of being ...

in May there will be two moments on working on con•sens•us at CLOUD in Den Haag ...
tomorrow during a performance at the finissage of Halloween in the Spring by Vanita Monk in Rotterdam

we'll see :-)

watching the monkey? re-thinking racist representation in intercultural relations

print by artist Remy Jungerman
i've started developing a new project with the working title watching the monkey which still has a lot of thinking to go for ... the theme centers on racism and my own response to it as an intercultural person and artist who often is confronted with it. part of my former pieces, both realized and still in concept mode are getting entangled and I revisit & re-question them as I learn going along, searching for ways to address the situation and truly make the subject intercultural, beyond any single privilege or single interpretation. this is the address for the line of development