Thursday, January 2, 2014

Back to Basics: Which ones?

Currently I am in Berlin for Christmas and the New Year, visiting my partner and my family. After several years of non-committal visits I am beginning to feel very good here, like a yet un-used territory. Using German more often I find that I can tap into ways of thinking that I started at ages 19/20.  The city gives me a feel of tangibility that is very different from how I feel when I am in Rotterdam or New York. Since I was born and grew up in Germany, there is an element of familiarity and known. The patterns are still there and in some respects easier to work with than English or Dutch which both came later, since I used each of these languages in slightly different contexts.

The programming of the Sophiensaele looks particularly interesting to me, because of their political awareness of the times and resonate with my own concerns. HZT and Sasha Waltz / Radiale, still have to check out Hebbel am Ufer

Two articles caught my eyes while we were at a friend of my partner's: in Art August 2013 about Meret Oppenheim and an article in an architecture magazine titled "Back to Basics: a Call for a Return to the Good Old Ways" Both I found significant: Oppenheim's art and consequent ways of working with and despite existing conventions avant la lettre in a number of outlets, shaping her ideas into whichever medium fit them best, as well as exploring the different media, have been longtime sources of inspiration for my own work and researches into cultures and dance in general. Unfortunately I did not take the time to read the second article, but let myself get swayed by my dismay, which is a pity: it would have been good to confront the argumentation of why one would want to revert to the Tried and Proven in a time of Crisis and Change. And whose interests would be served by doing that?

While a new corporate oligarchy seems ready to emerge more visibly, using the Tried and Proven methods of ever more disastrous and rampant destruction of naturally grown habitats for an exploiting lifestyle that resembles the excesses of say 18th century French aristocracy, or Venice in its glory-days, but with much further reaching consequences, I believe it is high time to question such a statement and very seriously ask: which Basics and how far does one care/dare to go? Ancien Régime or a Revolution based on new insights, claiming to go back to the roots of human existence? Both have been discredited in the centuries afterwards as sources of mass-terror and cruelty, always empowering a different elite of people, old style or new. The one difference with Revolution was the idea of opening up a system of political and socio-economical power and make it more widely dynamic, beyond the strata of a single social class of people. But it should be clear by now that any single system will at some point lead to its own crisis, I dare say in order to come closer to fulfilling its own intentions.

One proposal I'd bring in is that any new system should imply an awareness of its own limitations and inherent need for self-renewal over time, in order to not become just the next tool of oppression too easily - plus a knowledge that at some point in its existence, if it is successful, the remnants of the system that was to be replaced and its effects will have to be faced and dealt with.

What can NOT simply be done away with is our ecological condition on this planet where we live. This is at the heart of my critique: If the Tried and Proven have in part brought us to the current catastrophe of our planetary existence, it is high time to ask what can still be done in the face of the current destructions against which the scenario of a movie like The Matrix may seem relatively harmless. Self-delusion, falsely believing that one could continue the old ways just that little longer are clearly no longer tolerable. (see this most recent understanding of our ecological situation (January 2014) Instead it is high time to search and re-orientate amid the ruins of what once was and will take many thousands of years to recover and grow into something different, with or without human presence.

Happy New Year - good be with us all!