On February 20 and February 21 The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is hosting the symposium “Living Time: Art and Life After 'Art-Into-Life'. We've asked participants from three sessions to post some brief thoughts on the topic in advance of the event. This guest posting is by Bojana Cvejic (Performance Scholar, TkH Walking Theory editorial collective), who is presenting in the session Regional Check-in: Politics, Dance, Aesthetics in Eastern Europe and Beyond.
A Parallel Slalom from Southeastern Europe, or how to make haste slowly
The point of departure are a few problems – conditions and terms, as well – that surface in the accounts of the experimental praxis in performance and visual arts in former Yugoslavia. Parallelism describes a peculiarly intensive engagement of theoretical discourses and art praxis among artists, cultural workers, theorists, and “editors”, a swift sloping ride that underlines parallel connections between the conceptual imagination of artists and the critical insight into history as the agency of the political unconscious; a kind of thought that arises from within, or close to, artistic practice, yet doesn’t keep its self-referential autonomy, but in turn becomes an instrument of looking past art, learning how to look through and from art rather than learning how to create art. Non-alignment defines the position of being in-between, neither under the grip of the Soviet type of social realism nor unproblematically subsumable under postcolonial studies and other Western-centric cultaralist approaches; it is bound up with self-organized collectivity as a mode of production and a way of living within the independent scenes of Ljubljana, Zagreb, Belgrade, Skoplje.
Two concerns feature the radically critical and experimental segment of contemporary dance in this region, whose condition of possibility for institutional development emerged only recently, after the process of transition from fake socialism into wild capitalism has been completed. The first involves the temporality of production, of historicity and of (the right to) contemporaneity, which I will examine through Janes Janša’s reconstruction of the 1969 Slovene performance Pupilija, Papa Pupilo and Pupilčeks, where dance “pierced through” the site where it wasn’t expected, in order to indicate in 2006 the unconscious of Slovene democracy today. The second is the concern with the contemporary (post-Fordist) forms of labor and life, juxtaposed with the notions of laziness, radical amateurism and delay. The choreography of Changes (2007) by the Croatian collective BADco will showcase an intricate play of allegory between labor and non-labor, work and nonwork, that is life, host and parasite, message and noise.
[In a slightly polemical tone to spark off debate, I quote here an excerpt from a stream-like text from Changes:
It is said that one of our artists was lately led by his observation and knowledge of Western art to a conclusion that art cannot exist anymore in the West. This is not to say that there isn’t any. Why cannot art exist anymore in the West? The answer is simple. Artists in the West are not lazy. Artists from the East are lazy; whether they will stay lazy now when they are no longer Eastern artists, remains to be seen. That artist sees laziness as the absence of movement and thought, dumb time—total amnesia. It is also indifference, staring at nothing, non-activity, impotence. It is sheer stupidity, a time of pain, futile concentration. Those virtues of laziness are important factors in art. Knowing about laziness is not enough; it must be practiced and perfected.
A paraphrase of Mladen Stilinović’s 1993 manifesto “Praise of Laziness” (Pohvala lijenosti)]
I suggest that the performance’s discussion of these notions is through posing problems in, through and for dancing. What does it look like to grapple with bodily movement as a way of posing a problem? And how can dance instrumentalize its own medium to forward a discussion on labor in the neoliberal regime of immateriality and temporality? How does the persistence of a problem materialize within the very syntax of motion? And what is the advantage (or false luxury) of precariousness, of “making haste slowly” in the times of economic austerity?