[dance-tech] Re: March-April Discussion forum on dance/performance and participation

  • From: Alexandre Achour <a.achour@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Johannes.Birringer@xxxxxxxxxxxx, "dance-tech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <dance-tech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 12 Apr 2015 16:58:21 +0200

Yes you are right the term "artificial hells" comes from André Breton, and here
is a short article on participation which is extremely interesting to read, one
of the most exciting texts that I read on participation actually, it’s also
from Claire Bishop, but she has more of an overview on participation to ask the
question where are we now? (which is actually the title of the essay) :
Ana Vujanovic also has very interesting texts, not directly about participation
but about politics in art and art in politics : Vita Performactiva


There is also a book by Ana Vujanovic and Bojana Cvejic , public sphere by
performance, which also talks a lot about the expanded field of choreography
and how to understand it nowadays in our scene.

I am glad that you found the concept of our performance interesting, I think
that our performance creates conditions in which audience have no choice but to
imagine the stories, in this way it is quite intrusive, but I also think that
any kind of performance participatory or not will always think of the
experience of its audience. Some would then talk about manipulation, but then
we might arrive to a dead end with this thought, concluding that all
performances are manipulative, when in fact it just is the nature of performing
arts to do work to be experienced live, and therefore to set the best
conditions for this experience. I don’t know how you discussed in your previous
conversations "democratic modes of participation" and in relation to which
works or contexts, but in the example that I studied in the research, when
dealing with democracy it always is addressing a very specific aspect, I am
thinking for example :

Democracy in America by Annie Dorsen, where she had people buying elements of
the performance before hand online, as a way to address capital in seemingly
democratic procedures.
On trial together by Sasa Asentic and Ana Vujanovic, where they wanted to
create conditions for direct democracy, I explain it in a very simple way, but
this performance is great : I recommend to watch the link :
City Council Meeting by Aaron Landsman, where he reproduced a city council
meeting based on real scripts from real city council meetings, and audience
would choose the role they want to play, and read / improvise the scripts.

I understand that when you say « democratic modes of participation », you don’t
talk about a performance, which content wise addresses democracy, but it has to
do with the social and political frame that the performance creates for its
audience, regardless of the content. I would be interested Johannes to read
more of your thoughts about this and what works do you have in mind when you
say this?


Le 10 avr. 2015 à 16:05, Johannes Birringer <Johannes.Birringer@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
a écrit :

Alexandre's most stimulating post raises a number of pertinent issues we
could discuss here, and I invite everyone warmly to respond, even if only

- First, yes, thank you for mentioning Claire Bishop's book on "Artificial
Hells" - any thoughts by those you have looked at current theores of
"relational art" or participatory performance? delegated performance,
"outsourced authenticity? "Bürgertheater"?
I think the book's width & depth, historically and conceptually, is rich;
I liked reading about Russian proletarian mass performances (Proletkult),
factory agit-prop, and so on, compared to dada, shock and insult tactics;
happenings, or thinkings wth the body ((c.f Simone Forti -- body-object
improvisations, shown recently at a great exhibit in Salzburg), etc. and
the various western avant-gardes you also mention (well, Soviet apt-art is
another matter, back in the 1980s, clandestine participation deserves more
debate of course, as it implies a more rigid state controlled/dictatorial
"art" system or culture system requiring/twisting other horizons of
expectation, unlike the neoliberal affluent first world capitalist art market
where now museums can play at performativities and invite the Tino Sehgals to
hire, persuade and delegate their "interpreters" to participate with us).....
But I looked and looked, and did not find an explanation for what these
"artifical hells" are? Then I noted a citation from André Breton, where the
term is from, where Breton speaks of going beyond dada trying to scandalize
the audience. "Scandal," he says, " for all its force...would be insufficient
to elicit the delight that one might expect from an artificial hell" [p. 70]

-- your piece about the "ghost" of participation -- ghost stories -- seems
a brilliant idea, and of course I thought of Nilüfer's commentaries here,
about Jeannette's working through her memory of apartheid (and her first
dancefilm amnd her nudity getting forbidden), about the asymmetries mentioned
here earlier, in the ostensibly "democratic" mode of audience-participatory
engagement, community activism, Schlingensief-like provocations (the
enlisting, in the so-called citizen theatre, of real workers, refugees,
illegal immigrants, rape victims, social outcasts....)....

-- you then speak of: >>Choreography is understood both in our performance
and in the performances that inspired the stories in terms of body images,
behaviour of the audience, and relations between human beings as social
subjects. In the stories inevitably comes forth the illusory, utopian and
destructive character of participation.>>

yes, this was one of my fearful doubts, about the 'democratic' principle of
participation, namely that the " illusory, utopian and destructive character
of participation" breaks through; and then what do we make of our efforts to
prepare this or that immersive and engaging and multisensorial and
cognitively challenging atmosphere (here I want to come back later to the
way in my lab group's work we are exploring architectural and wearable ideas
of what we call "kimosphere"- asking whether a space can be shared, an
environment listened to without the anthropocenic tendency to make it succumb
to be con-sumed)? when does participation become a genre, or affirmative, or
indeed destructive? when is design coopting? what/who is being aligned?

-- and what are newly evolving understandings of "choreography" --- I
believe both Jeannette and Alexandre, but also others here -- Sandra please
tell us more about your dramaturgies -- have already made strides
towards a very expanded field of choreography, would you agree? (and please
remember expanded cinema, and expanded sculpture].

Johannes Birringer

[Alexandre Achour schreibt]

There are many different topics in your last email that are for me
interesting to discuss, you asked me about examples of participatory
practices that were radical and subversive, I can for sure talk to you about
the examples that we used for our own performance « Speaking about the ghost
», but I’m also working on a documentation of the research that we made in
order to share it, so I will make sure to share it on this platform as soon
as I am done. In any cases, my recommendation is the book « Artificial hell »
by Claire Bishop.

The other question that I also find interesting to discuss is how to
understand those terms « radical » and « subversive ».

And lastly the notion of actualization also came up in your email Johannes,
which was also part of our own research process, can those past participatory
performances be still subversive nowadays? Do they still have the same
potential to move people?

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