Some writing I included in my application to the Chto Delat Summer School in Berlin, called “Go and Stop Progress!”

 

For the past few years I have investigated dance and choreography, more particularly, my own dance and choreography, as a node in an ecology of global forces – economic, political, military, social. I have been driven by the seemingly facetious yet entirely serious question, What’s Dance Got To Do With It? These inquiries which led me into a mire of convoluted networks between art, dance, money and power resulted in two art works; Things That Move Me, a solo performance for the theatre; and Still Looking Good, a dance film, filmed at locations in New Zealand and Germany.

Present in these works is a critique of the ideological infrastructure that greases the wheels of our growth-based economic model. An inherited protestant work ethic and the ingrained social expectations of a capitalist society are difficult to shrug off. These works shrug hard.

However, what dissatisfied me about these works is that they drew me into a pool of cynicism about what I do, and what we do as artists, activists, and citizens. Through my research I was able to see very clearly how my work and its industry is complicit in so much that I disagree with. It strikes me as too easy though to travel down the path of apocalyptic, dystopian and nihilistic fantasies. This sort of cynicism stalls the good work of getting on together, figuring out together, imagining futures together. It is this work that I want to get on with. I need to find ways, with others, of how my art and our art can participate in this sort of constructive world-building. It is not world-building based on the growth-model which we brand Progress & Development, but something more akin to the propositions in Anna Tsing’s and Donna Haraway’s latest works. They speak of “Staying With The Trouble” and “..the possibility of life in capitalist ruins”. Indeed.

As we extract ourselves from linear historical narratives and begin to grapple with the precarious and complex nature of our activity and interconnections, solid ideologies and manifestos lose their sense. That is, there is no where to get to; we are here already, and arrived a long time ago. The decades-outdated ideology of Progress & Development is ill-fitted to the contemporary moment to say the least. More accurately, it is a seriously reckless story to tell.

It occurs to me that what is wanted is not solutions per se, but to train the ability to find solutions in ever shifting circumstances and to do this together. I have made attempts at training already; in my work Things That Move Me a section I call “Practising Idleness – you can do this too” invites the audience on stage to join me in doing “not much at all” – a challenge to the expectation of productivity on stage and off and also an acknowledgement of the ability of art/choreography to practice and imagine social and political realities. I recognise the role my art and our art together needs to have in stealing the power away from colonial, capitalist and nationalistic forces. And I want to get good at this.

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