PERFORMING EXPERIENCE - AS IT IS
If I try to define the aim of my work, or at least the guiding principles of it, I should start with the need to create conditions making it possible for me to strengthen personal autonomy within the set social structures and standards. More accurately, I ask myself how we can create conditions for a free examination and establishment of our own values. What preconditions and conditions should be made to dismiss and forget the present and established values and views? How do we create room for alternative individual systems for which there is currently no room?
Lead by these questions, I started the research with questioning my personal experiences with my own body and movement, exploring which vocabulary, physicality, articulation, technique and movements I am limited by. During one part of this process I fully removed myself from dance and even minimised movement as such, only later to reintroduce them as elements into the exploration of what they actually are for me. Often aware of pre-learned movement patterns, I stop the movements before they actually happen, letting them occur on another level (in my mind, imagination, idea), simultaneously observing what is happening along the wish-intention-non/event line.
To me, creating and embracing the working conditions takes priority over the processes of forming aesthetically processed representations of certain ideas or ideologies. The common problem and necessity take precedence over an individual goal. Creating new conditions instead of assuming predefined norms, codes and limitations. Since these are the values I hold privately and artistically, I am aware that I produce within a given code, but the code’s core value is to “be with the process” created by my fellow artists, those who work. At the same time, the process demands continuous performance and practice of principles, re-evaluation and negotiation of directions and decisions in relation to the principle and issue, and finally an intention, in order to create and experience conditions different from established ideologies and its representations.
Creating new, different conditions entails process-oriented content with the help of criteria of self-critical comprehensiveness without unconditional haphazardness. More accurately, with the help of criteria of adopting the nature and dynamics of the working process formed by both the individual (private) and the common (shared). This process requires alternative realisation methods and trajectories, which at the same time build work and space for it, but it also experiences obstacles, failures, slowdowns and terminations that would never happen if this work grew inside an established system, method, ideology or artistic aesthetics.
Speaking about a broader social context and the context of the dominant cultural policy, such approaches to work could be easily dismissed as feeble, uncertain, rejected, marginalised, questioned, uninteresting, incomplete, insufficient, untrustworthy. However, it is this that gives them importance because they are a means of resistance to the dominant mechanisms of cultural production and a uniform system of evaluation. Sometimes one needs to keep reminding of the values, which increases the needs and strengthens actions out of responsibility for oneself and for others. For example, when I perform with The Best1, consciously and deliberately, together with others, putting myself into the shoes of an anonymous associate, one out of – “three, in fact four, and there should have been only her” – in a system which forces us to accept one thing, the identification and perpetuation of the one thing, The Best becomes a collective identity which at the same time ironically comments on the mechanisms it uses.
In the performative, methodological and political sense, I find it important to think and perform what it is, and what it is is experience, an experiential condition, a part, a principle, a wish and a goal. Knowing that this is momentary and fragile, to me it becomes sustainable as a parameter for the future, strengthened in the quality of the shareable and shared. This is why, very often, creating and implementing these conditions depends on the active participation of the broader community, or in case of a work of art – the audience. For instance, in the performance The Love Piece (2006)2 whose only performance intention is to love a person, an audience member, sitting opposite the performer, at a distance many wider and even professional audience members are not accustomed to sharing in the theatre context, which creates new spaces for dance performance experience. With every new performance, the many ways of loving accumulated and expanded – as a mother, a child, an enemy, a martyr… Strategies, tools and techniques of performing this love without repeating patterns expanded, which in my case resulted in the impossibility to create content and representation of love or the act of loving to be relearned, rehearsed and demonstrated.
Generating from the current position of an active participant in predefined conditions was also the premise of Title Unknown (Naslov nepoznat, 2011)3, a social play in which the performance material grows from the process of active participation in the trade with Croatia’s cultural property. Generated performance actions were performed in the places of trade.
Analysing the answers to the question with whom our dance scene members would like to collaborate in the exploratory and performance work Star Tracking (2014)4, I examined the issue of responsibility of individuals and individual decisions in creating common spaces of action. The work also leaves a physical trace of a self-reflexive document on the value hierarchy of the Croatian dance scene.
I believe such principle of work is extremely valuable and quite persistent on our scene, but in a different form, and that it happens in place other than those occupied by the principles and work of more frequently canonised colleagues. If there is a need to locate and name this place, I would be glad to simply find it in the general and call it a place of inaction. In holistic approaches to physical work there are moments when the body responds by systematically resetting itself and releasing the traumatic experience. These are the moments when bodily actions are unconscious or reduced to an absolute minimum, or the bodily motion only begins, stopping with the support of someone else or when it has fulfilled its own purpose. Although we are used to thinking that trauma is an experience that comes suddenly, creates an injury, destroys and disappears, we seem to be forgetting that trauma can also be a lasting exposure to systematic impediments of one’s actions or to a purposeful destruction of freedom and autonomy of values different from the ones imposed by the dominant system. Places of inaction are places of change and progress, and the bodies located there, in relation to the general, are to me powerfully dubious, i.e. responsive, changeable, impressionable, needing, empathetic, shareable, altruistic, sensitive, delicate, moveable, vulnerable, reactive, progressive, irreducible, equal. The choice of detachment is a conscious and political decision of non-agreement.
The formats I work with are different, and the decision on the type and medium can be reactive, sometimes intuitive and sometimes structures at the very beginning as a response to the social situation or a public call. However, it is always based on predefined values and needs. More specifically, in the very artistic work, my interests manifest and materialise themselves in the choice of different media and formats. The Chair (Stolica) is a work in progress I develop in association with visual artist Tara Ivanišević, and relates to a series of videos made at removed, at least from sight, locations across the city, location intervened in, with signs of wear and tear, with the absence of responsible authorities. Placing a chair in these spaces, which has a certain associative role in the matters of power, presiding and management, I am simultaneously trying to open a space of visibility with the use of potential mechanisms that can occupy these spaces temporarily (and symbolically) by imagining absent bodies.
An important quality if my work is the experience of working in somatic practices and by somatic principles. It stimulates additional analyses of the autonomy of an individual and how to create conditions for it. Dance art includes many techniques, tools and technologies which, from my point of view, inevitably assume understanding and someone else’s direct and indirect experience. Knowledge and methodologies mostly come from the other and are transposed and inscribed into the other. Such an exchange results in the embodiment of authorities, ideas and ideologies, and the question inevitably arises: whom have I embodied? With whom do I share it? Is there an order or hierarchy among these embodiments? Are the memories of these embodiments real? What imprint have these others made on my physicality and identity, on my performativity? What, how and who do I perform and what is my view of it?
Approaching these issues from the somatic principle aspect leads me to thinking about the answers in the form of a score which at the same time aims to accumulate knowledge, authorities, identities and values we follow on a personal and collective level. A score consists of three steps, the first of which is to arrive into the body by drawing attention to certain body parts, head, arm, spine, and then on the entire body, connecting it with breathing, space, objects and other people in the space and the space beyond the space. The next step is to enhance images, ideas and sensations (embodied history) by allowing others and other appear in the attention, and to strengthen and allow the memories of others and otherness in the current body. The third step is to identify and name the embodied others and thus bring them into the shared space.
How quiet and calm does a movement, motion, entire body become as it is resetting, emptying, discovering and learning something else or different? By sharing our practice with others, we come to the question of what happens when we are introduced into our own conscience of our bodies, connected with breathing, the space and the space beyond the space, and when every external instruction stops, what happens – what mechanisms do we use, what systems do we create, why are they the way they are, what decisions guide us, and why are not able to do it, why is it frustrating, tiring and discouraging, even blocking, to remain without instructions? Why is it uneasy to be in the space beyond the space, in a space of freedom of decision making and forming an environment which we find interesting and necessary?
My work continues, expands and deepens with dramaturge Nina Gojić – together we observe, define and build it as a dialogue between a choreographer and a dramaturge; which is co-authored and unpredictable.
Our starting point is the exploration of movement whose principles are based on somatic practices which we see as prefigurative in a simultaneous presence and absence of pre-learned and new knowledge and principles of creating new and dissolving old knowledge and experiences. Exploring movement based on these principles brings us to performative questions: what is it that we decide not to perceive and not to do? What is it that does not happen? In what condition does it not happen? When an event (an idea or movement) becomes illegible, unfinished, unspectacular and hence invisible? How and under what conditions is the right to perspective distributed? Whose and what perspectives create the public sphere and whose and what perspectives remain hidden and excluded? How to replace the logic of the fear of the unknown, strange and foreign with the logic of friendship? Is that an expression of hope or accustoming to drastically changed landscapes by new lifestyles and new articulations of daily life? How to make the idea of minimalism and reduction operative in the environmental and performative sense?
In the final stage, when we presented and shared our research with our colleagues, we wondered whether the places of inaction resulting from the set score can make us susceptible to new, different contents?
For us, the next thing we have planned are working strolls.