Wednesday, May 4, 2016

2 books I'm reading

I'm reading two books: one is Jodi Dean's Crowds and Party (Verso, 2016); another is Jeroen Peeters' Through the Back--Situating Vision between Moving Bodies (Peeters and Theater Academy of the University of Arts Helsinki, Kinesis 5, 2014).

It has passed five years since I was excited about people rising up everywhere. Dean's book comes at the time of reflection. Why did it become so difficult to say "we"? In her introduction, her observation of one of the "Occupy" actions at Washington Square Park describes what kind of ethos we are in:
We knew that Washington Square Park was closing at midnight. We felt the police tightening their line, starting to deny newcomers entry to the park. After the fifteen-minute or so breakout session where we talked with those around us about talking the park, we pulled back together as one assembly. Speaker after speaker, amplified by the People's Mic (where the crowd repeats the words of a speaker so that those who are farther away know what is being said), urged us to take the park. We are many. We outnumber them. We can do it. We must do it. Upraised hands twinkled approval in waves of support round and round the circle. Then, a tall, thin, young man with curly dark hair and a revolutionary look began to speak.
We can take this park!
We can take this park!
We can take this park tonight!
We can take this park tonight!
We can also take this park another night.
We can also take this park another night.
Not everyone may be ready tonight.
Not everyone may be ready tonight.
Each person has to make their own autonomous decision.
Each person has to make their own autonomous decision.
No one can decide for you. You have to decide for yourself.
No one can decide for you. You have to decide for yourself.

Everyone is autonomous individual.
Everyone is autonomous individual.
The mood was broken. The next few speakers also affirmed their individuality, describing some of the problems they would encounter if they had to deal with security from NYU or if they got arrested. We were no longer a "we," a collective. (3)
Elsewhere in the book she states, "It sometimes seems as if people on the Left love revolution, but hate the party. We enthusiastically support transformation, especially personal transformation. Yet in the same breath we scoff at institutionalized practices strategically oriented toward the pursuit of radical political change. Many of us thus reject the organizational form that marks the difference between the chaos of revolution and the building of a new political and social order. With this rejection, we shield ourselves from a confrontation with the real of division, luxuriating instead in the fantasy of the beautiful moment.(209)" She basically argues that some kind of communist (she revives this word) party is necessary after the crowds have been dispersed. But, she is not trying to revive that Soviet style parties. I will write my thoughts when I will have finished.

Dean also criticizes the ethos behind the feminists' slogan of that the personal is political, which may still be important for many of those who make performance art. The pieces that have something to do with identity politics may work as long as the artists aim at social transformation, but not personal one. There may be many artists who start making pieces from identity politics aiming at social transformation. In February I participated in a creative workshop by San Francisco-based Mexican artist Violeta Luna. Discussing with her, I noticed that, for her, "identity" means "taking sides" rather than "who I am." She said that although she was not, for example, one of those undocumented immigrants, she could use that identity to make a piece on behalf of them. Although I don't dismiss Dean's criticism on that the personal is political, at this moment I just note that artistic practices (Dean is not writing about art, anyway) revolving around identity politics are complex.

During her workshop Luna used the word, "subversive body,' which was familiar to me. I have an experience of participating in a workshop entitled exactly "subversive body." It happened in 2001. The workshop was directed by German artists, deufert & plischke. That time my English was too bad to discuss identity politics, let alone to understand Judith Butler--Gender Trouble is still hard for me to grapple with--, but anyway, it made me start learning English. After the workshop, I briefly worked with them and then kept staying in Europe--mainly in Brussels.

It has already past ten years since I left Brussels. I have been trying to understand what I could not understand during my stay in Europe, reading some philosophical books, etc. A failed artist can make a philosopher.

When I arrived in Brussels in 2002 and was trying to know what kind of people were around, dance critic Helmut Ploebst's no wind no word (Kieser, 2001) came in handy. It introduces Meg Stuart, Vera Mantero, Xavier Le Roy, Benoît Lachambre, Raimund Hogue, Emio Greco / PC, João Fiadeiro, Boris Charmatz, and Jérôme Bel. Jeroen Peeters' Through the Back also covers some of those artists--Stuart, Mantero, Lachambre, and Charmatz--and then younger artists including deufert & plischke. It basically is a collection of his writings written between 2000 and 2013. During the second half of this period I was absent, but he describes a good number of pieces I actually saw. You cannot know a dance piece by reading about it.








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