[dance-tech] Re: Opening up screendance / dance tech / curatorial practices

  • From: "Johannes Birringer" <Johannes.Birringer@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <MEDIA-ARTS-AND-DANCE@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 30 May 2008 14:29:51 +0100

hello all:

yes, Claudia,  you are right in proposing to dwell not on issues of control, 
ideology and canons   (and my comment was only meant as an ironic feedback to 
Doug's elaborate paradigm of a kind of formalist modernism (the "painting" 
analogy) -- i think the paradigm is correct for the history of mainstream 
institutional curating, but bears less relevance of the kind of "talking back" 
you all seem to advocate, and the kind of hybrid medium / informe  I sought to 
speak about.  where does the talking back take place?  at  what festivals, and 
academic conferences? through what independent organisations, and "social 
networks" --   has co-curating ("co-editing") had any sliver of success, 

I was also ironic in my use of examples (from structuralist northamerican 
film), as in Doug's narrative on formalist modern canon formation and 
curatorial practice of iteration (sending a curated show around the museum / 
festival circuit just as dance festivals select their companies and acts and 
send /spread them, or as video dance festivals make program and clusters that 
go on tour )   there are in-built assumptions about the form, the properties 
and aesthetics of form, the influences and traces and precursors.......and in 
the publications coming from the US, for exmple,  as in Judy Mitoma's 
"Envisioning Dance", and perhaps in much other writing on "screen dance" / 
video dance,  these traces are distinct and clearly lined  (who does not refer 
to Maya Deren, and A Study in Choreography for Camera (1945) ,  to Merce 
Cunningham,  or to The Hollywood Musical ?    [and what of Hip Hop?]  .......   
and yes it strikes me these lineages are profoundly biased, Euro-American 
form-canons, and might have not the slighest relevance for young video makers 
and video dance makers in Beijing or in Belo Horizonte or Santiago or 

On the other hand,  the discussion about curating here has been terrific, 
bringing out the discrepancies (and ideological pressures/blindnesses), and the 
alternative pushes (by practitioners/curators like Jeannette or Brisa in larger 
global contexts / the southern hemisphere, by Janine and her efforts).....

in terms of curating and programming,  i do think it is exciting to pair or 
juxtapose performances, installations, and screenings.  It takes time, and 
resilience and stamina to attend a festival or days on end looking at all;  

I remember we had scheduled something like that during Digital Cultures (2005) 
in Nottingham (http://www.digitalcultures.org/exhibits.html), and I felt 
audiences were tired after day-long workshops, evening dance concerts, 
symposia, and then screenings at 11:oo pm,  but a good number went to lie on 
the stage floor and stayed on, dreaming and wacthing , when we showcased Nuria 
Font's cluster (which she brought to us from Barcelona), and Anna Douglas's 
program "Motion at the Edge".  The third cluster was curtailed, as our Chinese 
guest was denied visa entry, I had hoped to showcase some of the latest 
underground video-performance-videos from Factory 798 in Beijing.  Instead I 
showed an over the top Chinese camp goth ballet shot with 8 cameras which i 
couldn't easily trace to anything outside of Marilyn Manson...

so, again I agree with Claudia and Doug, that more intermedia curating and more 
mixed media programs will be exciting and helpful to stimulate thought and 
responsiveness 9also amongst those who publish, and those who write on these 
matters to get it published)

as to strategies of talking back to or setting up works towards other works in 
particular kind of room with particular 'colors" .......,  and picking up 
Doug's "painting" analogy,  it might be of interest to reflect critically on 
the curatorial tactics deployed by Mr Buergel & his co-curator of Documenta XII 
last summer,  a rather significant art exhibition taking place every five years 
with massive influence on the art world and curatorial ideologies, as can be 
seen from the many publications (since World War II) released about the 
exhibits and their curatorial choices.......

Last year's theme for Documenta XII was "the migration of forms"..........

Johannes Birringer

>>> Claudia wrote

Dear all
I'd like to respond to a few points that have been raised recently;

Firstly to Pascale's comment: "It is in my eyes illusory to completely 
rationalise the curation process."
We need to acknowledge that there is always an intuitive aspect and taste 
involved when we deal with art and its processes, no matter what aspect we are 
exploring. On the other hand I think that we can - and ought to - work towards 
a clearer articulation of what motivates this or that kind of program or 
curation. This is not only to make things transparent, but indeed to develop 
the artform, as Doug said in his excellent statement on curating.
Which brings me to the proposition of  'control' (Johannes) versus 'speaking 
back' (Doug); The notion of control might not take us very far as any form of 
presentation/ selection/ programming or showing 'controls' to some extend. I 
believe the debate on curating aims above all at diversifying the current 
international scenario and practice and in this respect a notion of 'talking 
back' or dialogue seems helpful.
A film/ video/ installation work is generally conceived as a complete thing in 
itself, as a discrete object, even though it always sits in a wider context and 
will be informed by that context. Through the process of curation, through 
placing a work in the direct context and proximity of other work, a new level 
of meaning can be added to a work, meaning can be shifted significantly and 
even lost and new aspects can be drawn out that the individual maker/ producer 
may not have intended. In curating films cease to be the discrete object and 
enter a wider stream of issues and ideas.
From an artist's point if view I think it is exciting to see what happens to a 
work when it is put into a curatorial context.
As Doug indicated curating can raise issues and challenge individual practices. 
An 'interdisciplinary' screening/ exhibition may contribute ideas, that 
screendance at large has not explored and not explored enough. We also have 
barely begun to look at bodies of work from individual screendance 
practitioners, or set up an encounter between the work of two or three 
screendance/ film/ video/ dance technology practictioners. As has been pointed 
out already in the process of this email conversation selections focus often on 
what is considered to be the Best. Has there ever been a sculpture exhibition 
under the title "The best of sculpture'"? Most people would think this an 
absurd proposition.
In response to Jeannette's suggestion of a 'conundrum' to me curation is an 

I also would like to pick up on the debate around the notion of academia; 
interestingly one area of public life that is hanging on to this division is 
the publishing world. Publishers like to think that academics and artists do 
not mix and that they do not read the same books or magazines. Is it not our 
task to challenge this view? As was pointed out this division appears to rest 
on a hierarchical division between those who 'think' over and above above those 
who 'make'..Surely we would all argue that making is also a form of thinking.
We ought to prove the publishers wrong and make them realise that we do indeed 
read the same literature and share the same discourse.

Claudia Kappenberg
Senior Lecturer
Dance and Visual Art
School of Arts and Communication
Faculty of Arts and Architecture
University of Brighton
Grand Parade 
Brighton BN2 0JY 

Tel: 0044 1273 643020

-----Original Message-----
From: Media Arts and Dance on behalf of Johannes Birringer
Sent: Wed 5/28/2008 19:26
To: MEDIA-ARTS-AND-DANCE@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: Re: Opening up screendance and reply to dance tech idea
*** This email has been sent from the MEDIA ARTS AND DANCE email forum. To 
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hello Doug, Janine, Jeannette, Brisa, and all:

rather fascinating and eloquent reponse from Doug, I should think, i really 
liked your attempt to address the curatorial practices / discourses as an 
iterative practice that builds (often of course also dominates or controls, if 
you think of MOMA, or the attempts at the Whitney) the "movement" of a form   
(and the ideas and content approached via the form).

I take your criticism of the babblefish discorses on mocap and max/msp/jitter 
as somewhat grounded but also biased; yes, there have been discussions on 
technologies, new stuff, and workshops on such technologies which are also 
techniques (and extended practices of choreography, interaction design, visual 
form,  improvisation, expression, and sensorial experience) which are being 
developed and in need of  further development (in their materiality), sharing, 
exchange, and curatorship (as far as labs, workshops residencies are concerned 
or as far as courses are concerrned in universities , institutes (ZKM) or 
independent media arts organisations, such as STEIM, V2,  Harvest Works, 
Lemur., etc..........

But I strongly agree that discussion and exchange, in such international forum 
as this     (and Brisa, your comments about your work and the local contexts in 
Chile and in Latin America are very interesting and immensely helpful, and 
please why not write in spanish we should be able to use many languges here)  
perhaps might dwell more on content and form of the movement, the kinds of new 
ideas (or "classical" manifestations) that shape and re-shape the understanding 
of the form.   This may very well be an academic or formalist  (avant-garde) 
take how one wishes to frame a history  , if you think of structuralist 
filmmaking and would you say La Jetée or  Stan Brakhage are important for the 
form today?  for the expanded media culture?  And if Moholy-Nagy and Brakhage 
were important for your understanding of the movement of the form, how does 
this impact a curatorial choice for work,say, like Skoltz-Kolgen's ?  Isaac 
Julien's?  Nicole Seiler's ? or the incredibly beautiful animations of Anouk De 

For audiovisual or interactive installations or for 3D animations, how would 
you constrain the "movement" of the forms and under what category do you look 
(film:?  animation? photography?  music,?  sound painting?   visual music (Nam 
June Paik),  kinetic art?   installation art doesn't have a long history yet, 
and interactive installations, such as the group of works you can see at ZKM, 
have been around for 2 decades, some may not even function anymore 
today........), dance-interactive installations have not been "collected"  or 
sold yet and not so iterable, unfortunately. 

Doug asks:    what is the kind of  >>work that comes out   of a dance-tech 
milieu..., what does it mean?  What is it ultimately   about? >>

We did have some longer and drawn out discussions on "Glow," for example  (a 
work by Chunky Move), or on Forsythe's "Atmospheric Studies," , we did discuss 
ideas on the changing understanding of the formal compositional methods we were 
trained in (some of us), on choreography, on interactional flow  and real time 
adaptation that marks some of the works under discussion (meaning is not just 
one thing but can of course be constituted also experientially and sensorially 
and thus resides in synesthetic and affective modalities that are being 
philosophically examined now through newer phenomenologies (Hansen, Sher 
Doruff; Susan Kozel's book, CLOSER, just having come out).........  etc etc.
and in the performance context we are looking at hybrid works. 

and i think , reading Janine, Jeannette, Brisa,  -- this is precisely where the 
curatorial cover does not always work since the experimental cross media 
practices now  -- short and mixed up videos/short films deriving their forms 
and their "informes"  (to use the title of Yve-Alain Bois/Rosalind Krauss' 
book) from other traditions than screendance/dance on film , music films, Dj 
/VJ work, audio-visual installations, reverse engineered games & machinima --  
are continuously tearing away at that cover. 

Well, more needs to be said, but I stop with a brief response to Janine's idea 
of a questionnaire regarding "curator practices' ---  

i think this is a very good idea,  (and one could also think of other current 
discussions and efforts to "frame" a phenomenon, such as the practice-based 
research on the postgraduate levels  --- interesting here that Doug thinks the 
difference between artists and academics no longer matter- -- and how knowledge 
about a form or methods of knowing about hybrid forms (in cross disipline 
contexts such as media arts in which many of us work) are constituted, 
institutionalized and then deployed for evaluations. of art / research, 
re-deployed by juries and panels on festivals, etc...

I remember that in the fall of 2006, prior to Monaco's last MDF festival and 
the entries invited to what used to be called the "digital dance" section,   -- 
 Philippe Baudelot sent out a questionnaire to all those who participated.   
Since the results of the questionnaire  were evaluated and analysed to help us 
draw conclusions from it..... it would perhaps be of interest to some of you 
here ....  (it might also be interesting, regarding Doug's preparations for ADF 
2008, to ask oneself how quickly such a set of questions might become 
[historically] dated?  What do you think, Janine?        

The questions from 2006 were actually meant to sort out whether choreographers 
or digital art makers (who submit to festivals of this kind or any kind) still 
think of their "dance making"  or artmaking as something that needs to be 
"qualified" as "digital" or whether the form such as choreography had already 
subsumed the digital........, and how they think about the form and the 
practice...........and the tools. 


Johannes Birringer
School of Arts 
Brunel University
West London 
UB8 3PH   UK


Sent: Sun 5/25/2008 6:18 AM   Douglas Rosenberg wrote:

Dear Pascale, Johannes, et al,

Happy to see you are all engaged in this important dialog.  I would  
like to offer some thoughts on questions raised in this strand. I  
hope this is not too pedantic, but I am also thinking about these  
issues for the upcoming ADF conference on curating.

Pascale says, "On the curation aspect, I must say I am still not sure  
what the debate is. Is the core underlying question 'how do curators  
select work?', 'why a focus on a theme rather than another one', etc.

It is in my eyes illusory to completely rationalise the curation  

Curating is quite different than arranging or programming.  It relies  
on a set of strategies that are intended to speak back to the form  
very directly and in many cases attempts to move the form in a  
particular direction.  It is also about using works of art to make a  
definitive statement that sometime lies outside the form, such as  
disability, gender, etc.  Programming seems to be a cross between the  
way film festivals are often created and the way dance events are  
conceived.  In both cases it follows an entertainment model, a model  
which is contingent on ticket sales and therefore has an agenda that  
is perhaps colored by audience expectations.  Programming may be done  
around a theme but is still a different undertaking than curation,  
with a different outcome to be sure.  Curation as it is practiced in  
the gallery and museum world is in the first iteration, free of  
certain encumberances such as ticket sales, (galleries can be entered  
without admission fee as can most museums at least once a week).  In  
subsequent iterations, the curator functions as an interface between  
public and artists as well as assuming the responsibility for the  
gestalt of the exhibition.  The exhibition itself is often intended  
to further iterate a particular point of view using the art objects  
as a kind of text in order to do so. Some of the concerns that  
Pascale raises have more to do with the jurying process, one in which  
the artist does often feel "in the dark" about criteria, etc.  I  
think that is a different but connected issue.  In a sense, we are  
holding little competitions each time we jury a group of films and as  
such our process should be transparent.  Who are the jurors, what is  
the mission, etc?

The term "screendance" is roughly the equivalent to the term  
"painting".  In other words, it describes a practice by its formal  
characteristics in the broadest terms. The articulation of a practice  
beyond those terms requires a subset of language that begins to speak  
about the work in more particular terminology.  That is, terminology  
that begins to allude to style, content, affiliations, histories,  
provenance and lineage as well as movements whether art historical,  
dance historical or otherwise.  To have a show of "painting" without  
naming the frame of the specific works in the exhibition would be  
rather rare in the art world at large.  It is in that scenario, the  
job of the curator to choose the paintings for inclusion and to  
subsequently create a statement in the form of a catalog essay or  
some other text that lays out a rationale and a frame or lens for the  
show.  In that essay, the curator would address why the group of  
paintings was gathered and arranged in a particular way, what is the  
connective tissue between the works, what are the intertexts, (in  
other words, what do these works have to say to each other and to the  
form?) and perhaps speak about the form itself.  What is the state of  
affairs in painting, does this work indicate a change in course for  
the practice, does it restate an existing course, etc?  While  
curation per se is rare in the dance world, it has existed from time  
to time as artist led practice, (Judson Church anyone?) and in the  
gravitational pull of downtown dance in New York for instance as well  
as the self-organizing  nature of post-modern dance as it established  
itself as an alternative to Modern dance.  Dance was also articulated  
through the modern era by writers/critics like John Martin and later  
Sally Banes and others.  This model is one that screendance would do  
well to consider if only as a starting point.

Pascale says, "I feel that the community needs some fresh new blood  
and inspiration and that just dance and film is a bit too narrow. We  
end up seeing the variation of the same pieces over and over again."

Again, in the painting analogy, this would be recognized as a  
movement and named, (abstract expressionist, realism, etc).  We need  
to begin to name the trends in screendance in order to talk about  
them and encourage other visons as well.  In another frame, "the same  
pieces" might be referred to as "classical".  As makers, and  
curators, we have the ability to create the kinds of discourse  
through curating and exhibiting as well as through writing that can  
illuminate these ideas to the field.  By curating an alternative to  
the strand of work that seems too ubiquitous, and by creating an  
essay that frames it, one can illuminate another set of possibilities  
and move the field forward.

To speak a bit to Johannes, the "dance-tech" community (in my opinion  
and with respect of course) is also guilty of a bit of obfuscation in  
the use of terminology that alludes to materiality without  
articulating much in the way of meaning. So we get workshops in  
motion capture technologies and pieces made with same, a plethora of  
discourse on the technical specifications of software/hardware/ 
digital spaces, second life, etc, but not much in the way of how this  
all may congeal as content.  Meaning is an accretion that must be  
teased out of the overlaps between one media and another and given  
the possibilities that abound in this technological era, the question  
I often ask myself upon seeing or reading about work that comes out  
of a dance-tech milieu is, what does it mean?  What is it ultimately  
about?  Again, I would say these are questions that can be addressed  
by curation and certainly by writing.  And certainly screendance is  
more than a subset of dance and technology differing in numerous  
ways.  By vocalizing this difference it may be possible to elevate  
the form beyond its current state.

This summer's ADF conference focuses on the practice of curating  
(curating as practice).  It is a shame that more of you can not  
attend to engage in this important dialog.  The current scenario in  
the screendance environment, in which festival models prevail and in  
which films are often referred to as "the best" of a given year or  
"the best" festival choices and subsequently tour the country creates  
a model that is self perpetuating.  If these are the best film then  
as a viewer and maker, wouldn't it be logical that I would emulate  
the style of work that is being granted such status?  If instead,  
touring programs were curated to make a number of statements that  
move beyond the films and engage broader dialogs about the culture at  
large, about media, about humanism, then perhaps we could move away  
from the current state of the practice.

One more note about "elitism".  The term "academic" has come to be  
almost pejorative it seems. It is often used to differentiate between  
those who make art and those who theorize or teach.  The difference  
is more often than not without merit.  Practice and theory have  
become fluid demarcations, (in my opinion they always were) which  
makes the idea that only those with university affiliations can be  
"academics" moot.  I would offer the term intellectual in its place.   
Intellectual rigor is what allows us to debate critical issue in our  
field and I would hope that more of us will take part in these  
conversations about the future and past of the genres we are engaged  
in articulating.

Very best,

 From:   Media Arts and Dance on behalf of Janine Dijkmeijer     Sent:   Mon 
5/26/2008 12:33 AM
 To:     MEDIA-ARTS-AND-DANCE@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
 Subject:        Opening up screendance
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Dear Doug, Johannes, Pascale and others


Very interesting points ....

I like to first introduce myself before I jump  for the first time in this list 

My name is Janine Dijkmeijer, programmer ( and curator) Cinedans Amsterdam.  

See www.cinedans.nl for more information.


If cinedans and adf were not running at the same time ( beginning July)  I 
would love come over to have an active role in this discussion. Is it possible 
to see the adf filmprogramme for the upcoming event? 


Maybe I am running a head of things but I think to prepare the discussion for 
adf,  it would be nice if a good questionnaire is made and curators and 
programmers can answer how they operate and work. A nice and easy readable 

I believe we have around 50 dancefilmfestivals  (for now I use the term 
dancefilm, but can be screendance or films about movement, or cameramovement). 
We haven for sure more curators than 50. (can be anyone actually)

I think indeed we ( curators , programmers) are not that active on this list 
due to many things ( question 1 maybe?)

In this way we can get a better insight.

Hopefully there will be a 'publication' made about the discussion held at ADF. 


I am mostly 'programming' for the festival ( Cinedans) because we want to 
present a wide range of films so we can actually make a festival! So what 
happens is, we offer around 18 programmes and then the audience chooses what 
they want to see. (makes a choice , a selection according to their taste and 

We mainly choose from our entrees. Each year around 300. I also approach 
filmmakers to enter to the festival. 

Next to this I visit other film festivals, ( and follow the contemporary dance 

During the year I ( co) curate work for other venues and happenings, which I 
enjoy because I do not need to turn people down because their film was not 
selected but actually CHOSEN!

One example is the middle east festival 
http://dancingontheedge.nl/index.php?id=19 ,  


For the festival this year we have a couple of guest curators:

Nederlands Instituut voor Mediakunst and CAPTURE 

Carte blanche given to Anne Teresa de Keersemaeker, William Fosythe  


We have screenings in China, Russia, Poland, South Africa. Beautiful to see how 
the response is different in other cultures. Maybe something to discus too.


Best wishes


Janine Dijkmeijer
Keizersgracht 174
Kamer 201
1016 DW Amsterdam

+31(0) 642273388

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