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

  • From: "Johannes Birringer" <Johannes.Birringer@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <MEDIA-ARTS-AND-DANCE@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 14 Jun 2008 20:58:42 +0100

dear all:

i haven't had an opportunity to respond to Claudia Kappenberg's question in her 
posting (5/31/2008), regarding the notion of the "informe." 
I think you make a good point in comparing my reference to Buergel's curatorial 
theses on "migration of forms" (and of course the actual installations and 
hangings & justapositionings at documenta XII), which indeed implied that I do 
believe  -- and assumedly most curators and institutions and academies would do 
so -- in a history of forms and a continuity and necessity of form in 
artmaking.    My reference to the "informe" was an attempt to draw attention to 
impurity  and derangement, which is part of the history of  western art 
collected or installed as modernism and its high avenues, albeit a part that 
was often suppressed or deemed less significant.

i also think this implies a politico-economic context issue. Which art was 
collected and shown/exhibited, under what conditions and under what regimes of 
dissemination and critical championing.

I tried to find my copy of FORMLESS: A USER"s GUIDE  (by Krauss and Bois), but 
it's in a box in Houston. So instead, i reviewed the DVD which Brisa  MP gave 
me when she came to Monaco to present the "Electrochoreographic Exercises" 
produced by Caida Libre Co,.  in Santiago.  There is a terrific video 
introduction in which Brisa speaks about local production contexts in Chile 
since emergence of democracy after the years of military rule (and culturak 
suppression). She mentions the particular challenges to be met by creators 
working with lack of funding or insurance, and also with a lack of historical 
cultural continuities.

the broken continuities in European militant, dictatorial/fascist/stalinist, 
and democratic eras perhaps also could be address through such a lens,  yet I 
remember that Krauss and Bois apply an art historical counter narrative 
(picking up Bataille, yes, and  his philosophical development of the term 

Indeed,   in recent years the notion of the "formless"  has been deployed in  
theorizing and reconfiguring twentieth-century art, especially looking at the 
dirty side, so to speak,  nmely the persistence of what i wanted to rephrase as 
the "hybrid" (within a history of modernism ,  always repressed in the interest 
of privileging formal mastery). I see the informe today less as an issue of 
formal mastery or purity of medium/medium-specificity, and more or a challenge 
to ponder the multiplicities of formal and informal deformations or 
transvestisms.  i suggested, more or less, that videodance does not exist.

By that I mean to say it is hard to conceive a "form"   (in this era of dance 
or theatre or video in their "post-medium" conditions)  that is presented at 
festivals and in curatorial contexts which acclaims to itself a singurality (of 
combined choreography on film or on digital video as "screen-based? ?tape? 
projection?) or a history of emergence / evolution that would not at the same 
time have to be considered utterly contaminated.

i need to rush off,  but want to share a citation from Cuban critic Andrés 
Isaac with you "(Danzando en la superficie...."), whichj was written for art.es 
 64, on the subject of  Peter Welz and his video projection installations 
created with Forsythe. 

"Las prácticas artisticas contemporáneas se hayan fuertemente atravesadas por 
un espíritu de contaminaciôn absoluta. La puridad de los lenguajes es casi ya 
una utopia en medio de un escenario estético transido por los re-juegos y ls 
mezclas, las yuxtaposiciones y los préstamos.  El paradigma de lo 
inter-disciplinar se asiente como criterio estético rector, y el travestismo de 
las formas y maneras de decir ha redundado en una estrategia discursiva 
aceptada por una gran mayoría de los artistas que buscan no sólo estructurar un 
discurso ideo-estético de implicaciones sociales, sino también advertir sobre 
ciertos fenómenos que atañen a la ontogía misma del fenómeno estético. 

No pocas poétics trazam mapas, en apariencia tautólogicos, desde los que logran 
escrutar en la naturaleza de los discursos artisticos abriendo infinitos 
interrogantes sobre la propria pertinencia, legitimidad o limites fronterizos 
de los mismos lenguajes que están siendo objeto de uso. El rendimiento de 
ciertas nomenclaturas de designación y la autoridad de algunas taxonomias 
provenientes de la critica historicista se someten a juicio todo el tiempo. De 
este modo visto, la entronización de las identidades biculturales, ls 
re-estructuraciones gep-politics del territorio, la crisis del occidentalismo, 
l decadencia de la falacia poscolonial, la sospecha acerada sobre el fenómeno 
de la globalización y el descrédito absoluto respecto a todo modelo de 
identidad monocorde y esencialista son algunos de los ejes operacionales del 
pensamiento contemporáneo.  

La cultura actual se debate en el terreno movedizo de las indefiniciones, las 
genealogías montadas y los cruces y tensiones de los aspectos y contradicciones 
fronterizas.  La subjectividad contemporánea es, en consecuencia, más 
tránsfuga, más escurridiza, más resistente a la definición y a las 
clasificaciones estandarizadas y rentables."

with regards

Johannes Birringer

<<<<<Claudia wrote>>>>

Hi all, hi Johannes
You bring Bataille's 'informe' into this discussion on curation, and I think it 
might be useful if you elaborated on how you envisage this is this context. The 
informe is brought in more and more within contemporary art debates, often as 
some sort of guarantor for a possibly wilderness, for something raw, which cuts 
across categories and hierarchies. In his definition on 'formless' Bataille 
does effectively attack academics for wanting the world to exist in forms. On 
the other hand the Documenta theme you refer to, The Migration of Forms, 
suggests that forms do change or shift, but not that we can do without them.

You talk about the assumptions and aesthetics that are part of public 
collecting and selecting; is it not realistic that they will always be 
subjective and to some extend classifying, and re-classifying? Do lineages not 
have to be biased simply because we can only work with the history we come 

Considering that many of us are part of a Western state and system I think it 
is fair that we refer to and build on our own heritage. Indeed I cannot speak 
for an Asian filmmaker-artist, but that does not mean that I throw overboard my 
own past. What concerns me is that the current screen-dance history appears to 
start with Maya Deren on one hand and Hollywood on the other and generally 
ignores the extensive and exciting work for movement on screen that came 
before. I have to admit here that DADA is my personal hobbyhorse when it comes 
to screen history.

As an examples also of 'talking back' I could list the recent show on Duchamp, 
Picabia and Man Ray at Tate Modern, admittedly a mainstream monumental 
institution, which created however an exciting dialogue between the works of 
these three artists and their time. Very interesting was the focus on the 
element of movement across their work and very relevant for us movement-based 
practitioners. Did anyone else see the exhibition?

With regards to the Documenta curatorship I could refer you to a talk at Tate 
Britain recently by the ex- Artistic Director of Documenta 11. I was at the 
talk for the purpose of webcasting and the event is available online at the 
Tate website: 
This talk is a good example of the curators looking at and working with their 
own heritage: It was introduced by Nicolas Bourriaud, the 'Relational 
Aesthetics' man, who proposed a new term for curatorial practice and art 
criticism: The Altermodern. Although the term is supposed to describe a current 
art practice of a globalised world it highlights also how much we are still 
under the spell of modernism; even though the categorisations of modernism are 
outdated, they are what we work against and what we work from.  

I'd be interested to hear from the list of other well curated shows/ events, 
that could be recommended in terms of 'talking back'.


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: Fri 5/30/2008 14:29
To: MEDIA-ARTS-AND-DANCE@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: Re: Opening up screendance / dance tech / curatorial practices
*** This email has been sent from the MEDIA ARTS AND DANCE email forum. To 
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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 
respond to all subscribers email MEDIA-ARTS-AND-DANCE@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx ***

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


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