Mobilizing Dance Toward a Social Logic of the Derivative
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Dancing bodies are composite. Drawing upon varying kinaesthetic densities at multiple temporal-spatial scales, performance gives momentary embodiment to a social body whose scope and potentiality are difficult to valorize. At the same time, the choreographic process is an accomplishment of self-organization, an assemblage of the capacities needed to craft its world and occasion the encounter between those agencies that bring dance to performance and those that project beyond it. In this double trajectory through which dance is constituted is also detectable a restaging of an altogether too obdurate opposition in current political thought, that between network and organization. Surely, the efficacy of political mobilization is minimized in the gaps between open and closed, inside and outside, movement and fixity, lateral and hierarchical, participatory and command, that underpin the metaphysics of these two modalities. Recently, such concepts as organized networks, grounded in radical Internet practices have sought a productive mutuality. Insofar as dance is located within this mutuality, the conceptual and sentient resources it generates may prove vital to the ongoing elaboration of the political.
Politics today suffers a crisis of evaluation. Millions around the world have taken to the streets to depose governments, but the tendencies of those on the ground, the dispositions of those who assumed positions of authority, the conditions of the institutions have not been so easy to figure out. The political appears at once as a problem of too much and too little. No aspect of human endeavor or expression is beyond deliberate contestation and yet each spirited intervention can leave the sense that not enough was done. Movement everywhere, crescendos of volatility, vertiginous shifts in direction leave an impression of being out of time or adrift in space. The ensuing disequilibrium has proven disorienting to thought and made it difficult to discern direction amidst a thicket of practices moving this way and that.
But surely, moving through disequilibrium, divining ways through spaces made for infinite possibility is what dance knows best. Dance, at least in its Western modernist formulation, is conventionally considered as movement for itself.1 Yet such hard won autonomy has not always secured it a place in the world. Dancers too struggle to make a living; presentation venues strain against diminished support; audiences contend with escalating ticket prices. For dance to move the political beyond arrested development, its knowledge of how bodies are assembled, of how space and time are configured, of how interconnections are valued must be made legible beyond the ends of choreographic endeavor. For a politics that is abundant and undervalued, the question becomes, how can dance be mobilized to think through the present?2 No doubt the present itself is not one thing but many. Indeed politics is the pathway forged through possibility, the realization of purpose in a contentious field of movement. What moves us beyond existing conditions and constraints usually consists of finding a way between obdurate oppositions that threaten to subsume the imagination of generative socialities.
This dilemma pertains to the very language most familiar to thinking political mobilization. On the one hand stands the fluid, distributed, horizontal, decentralized figure of the network. On the other sits the structured, enclosed, vertical and centering institution known as organization.3 It can be observed that the financial crisis which has proven so disruptive to economy and disorienting to politics has positioned network and organization in a paradoxical light. Taking the case...
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This volume is dedicated to the question of how dance, both in its historical and in its contemporary manifestations, is intricately linked to conceptualisations of the political. Whereas in this context the term "policy" means the reproduction of hegemonic power relations within already existing institutional structures, politics refers to those practices which question the space of policy as such by inscribing that into its surface which has had no place before. The art of choreography consists in distributing bodies and their relations in space. It is a distribution of parts that within the field of the visible and the sayable allocates positions to specific bodies. Yet in the confrontation between bodies and their relations, a deframing and dislocating of positions may take place. The essays included in this book are aimed at the multiple connections between politics, community, dance, and globalisation from the perspective of e.g. Dance and Theatre Studies, History, Philosophy, and Sociology.