Perspectives on Collaboration
It is our pleasure to introduce this joint edition created by two Slovenian journals – Maska, the Slovenian performing arts journal (first founded already in 1920) and the first Slovenian scholarly journal on theatre and performing arts Amfiteater (founded in 2008) – presenting the research topic Work and Collaboration Processes within Contemporary Performing Arts.
The edition arose from a call for papers put out two years ago by the journal Amfiteater which invited authors to reflect on the various forms of artistic collaboration in relationship to the wider social, cultural and political spaces. The selection of papers from those submitted to the editorial board has thus turned into an entire edition created in connection with the journal Maska. The editorial boards of the two journals recognized a unique opportunity to jointly prepare an attractive edition while enabling both an expansion of their target reader groups in Slovenia and abroad. Both journals namely strive to establish forums for the exchange of ideas, authorial viewpoints and perspectives at an international level. Already in the first year of its existence, Amfiteater prepared an edition in collaboration with the Historiography Working Group, which works in the scope of the International Federation for Theatre Research. For Maska, however, this joint edition continues its tradition of collaborative publications such as those prepared together with the International City of Women Festival, Tanzquartier dance platform in Vienna and with the TEAM (Transdisciplinary European Art Magazines) Network as well as those created with other periodicals such as Ekran, Formart, Frakcija (FAMA) and Performance Research.
We are pleased that the collaboration, considered and planned by both our editorial boards from the very founding of Amfiteater two years ago, has been realized precisely in the form of reflection on Work and Collaboration Processes within Contemporary Performing Arts. Our wish is that these reflections might lead to further fruitful connections between artists and researchers of the Slovenian and international theatre communities.
For the editorial boards of Amfiteater and Maska,
Barbara Orel and Bojana Kunst
This joint issue of Amfiteater and Maska brings original texts and conversations about collaboration and work processes in contemporary performance. Changes in the modes of artistic work witnessed in the 20th-century history of performance reveal that all important aesthetic reforms and experiments were connected to them. Just recall how the role of the director gained its independence at the beginning of the 20th century, together with his autonomy over the dramatic text, or the collective and experimental attempts in performance of the second half of the 20th century that tried to overcome the hierarchical relations between the author and the performers and establish relations of equality between different roles in performance. In the 1970s, German choreographer Pina Bausch fundamentally changed the poetics of a dance performance when she foregrounded the dancer by “putting to him/her a question”; the dancer was no longer only a (silent) performer with a trained body, but entered Bausch’s performances as a speaking, embodied, autonomous person. In the 1990s, such reflections on the processes of work and collaboration came back to life, but were no longer part of the internal theatre and dance relations between various roles in creation, rather they addressed the broader aspects of the public nature of a performance, the production of art in general and the ways contemporary performances establish their relation to the spectator. The new processes of work and collaboration are also closely connected to the broadening of choreographic and theatre practices and the different production and organizational forms that these new formats of performance demand.
Performance is always a shared practice regardless of how the relations among its creators are distributed and regardless of how the relation between the performance and the audience is posited. Nevertheless, in the history of such a shared practice of creation, we can discover important political differences that go far beyond the dramaturgical and aesthetic aspects of a performance. Collaboration today is in itself no longer something transgressive (it no longer resists per se the hierarchical distribution of roles and functions in the creation of performance), but becomes an integral part of an artistic process, especially if we know that every contemporary performance forms its own methodology of work. This is what Gesa Ziemer reflects upon in this issue of Maska and Amfiteater, when trying to describe the social power of collaboration by the ambiguous concept of complicity. The liberation of the desiring subject and the transcending of subject’s limitations, which were the focus of experimental procedures of collaboration in the second half of the 20th century, no longer have any similar potentiality today, since it is precisely this desiring subject that is at the centre of contemporary mechanisms of control, commercialization and the ongoing marketing and economic seizure of human existence. As Martina Ruhsam notes, what connects the artists in a collaborative project is no longer a utopian projection into the future or a collective political aim, but rather access to certain networks and a common, mostly self-designed practice. The changed cultural and political circumstances, especially the disappointment with the forms of communities in the 20th century and their powerlessness in contemporary political constellations thus influences renowned reflection on the processes of work and collaboration. These reflections are especially influenced by the changes with the modes of Post-Fordist work where an artist becomes an ideal flexible worker of late capitalism. This is why one of the overriding questions of today is precisely the question that Ana Vujanović poses in her text – what do we actually do when we make art? One of the answers can be found in Bojana Cvejić’s reflection on the consequences of a deliberate stumbling and amateurism in new choreographic practices. These procedures open up the demarcation lines between pure dance and movement, pointing to the phantom constructions of the aesthetic in dance practices that are closely connected to the bodily work (labour) of the dancer. In the last two decades, collaboration has thus become the focus of interest for numerous choreographic and also theatre practices precisely because it is closely connected to the changed processes of work and also to the possibility of creating new methodologies of performance making, which do not exist independently of the broader social and cultural changes in the age of post-industrial capitalism. I myself write about this in this issue and relate the recent emergence of dramaturgy in dance to the contemporary disappearance of the differences between various manners of human experience and the changes in the modes of human labour. Beti Žerovc answers these questions with her reflection on the consequences of the authorial function of a curator and her/his positioning as an artist in contemporary art exhibitions.
I can thus conclude that one of the important aesthetic characteristics of collaboration in contemporary performances is that the “work” has become “visible”. The visibility of the “work” also importantly determines the exchange between the performance and its audience. Research formats and open forms of performances, works in progress, curatorial festivals and presentations, establishing new performance collectives, or new ways of organization, and, last but not least, the active and inventive work on the part of the audience – all this confirms that the visibility of work is at the centre of contemporary productions. This also demands further reflection about the role of collaboration in contemporary performance, with a critical focus on the broader conditions of artistic production. In Slovenia, too, especially in the last decade, we have noticed initiatives that try to think about collaboration through singularity without the need to represent the result of collaboration as totality (as was at work, for example, in Slovene art collectives established in the 1980s). In this issue, we therefore present the initiative of the Ukrep Festival, which, with its measures taken and aimed at encouraging different ways of collaboration, represents an important shift in the ways that new platforms for presenting contemporary performance can be conceived and achieved
In the end, I would like to thank my collaborators on this issue for their expert help and attentive reading. My thanks go to Barbara Orel, the editor-in-chief of Amfiteater; I am very pleased that we, in complicity, managed to get the joint issue on collaboration published. I thank also the English language editor Jana Wilcoxen and the Slovenian language editor Moni Radež, for their priceless attention to detail. My thanks also go to the authors who contributed their original texts and to the translators, and, last but not least, to Jasmina Založnik for all her final editorial assistance and to Janez Janša, director of Maska, for supporting the publication of this joint issue. I would like to conclude these editorial comments with the words of Rok Vevar, the initiator of the Ukrep Festival, which illustrate well the importance of the singular position in collaboration and at the same time the power that the invention of new modes of working together has in contemporary performance: “So, in order to establish different forms of collaboration one needs to know how to collaborate with oneself. The ways of collaboration all too often define us, only rarely do we define them ourselves.”
What do We Actually do When We ... Make Art?
Keywords: working conditions, poiesis, praxis, politicality (of art)
This essay is a critical overview of the concepts supporting the principles and procedures of work in art throughout the history of Western culture. It is established as a kind of introductory assessment of the ways of work and cooperation in contemporary performing arts, without dwelling on the particularities of performing arts and the resulting modes of collaboration. The essay deals with the ways of and changes in the ways of making (creating, performing and producing) contemporary art. As the key points in those transformations, the concepts of art as poiesis are underlined, art as aesthetical poiesis, art as practice, and art as a combination of aesthetical and technical poiesis. The causes and characteristics of those changes are searched merely initially and obliquely throughout philosophy and art theory – primarily in the conditions of production of the society bringing about a particular form of art, as well as conditions of production of art itself in the specific society. These causes are considered as the most relevant, not because they are more consequent(ial) than the others, but rather because they are the only ones ‘extorting’ a shift in the paradigms of artistic creation and action, however we – in philosophical or theoretical terms – may address it or may be prepared for it.
Ana Vujanović (1975 Belgrade); freelance worker – theorist, manager, lecturer, dramaturg – in performing arts and culture. Ph.D. in Theatre Studies. Editor of TkH, Journal for Performing Arts Theory, collaborator of TkH platform (www.tkh-generator.net); from 2010 in residence in Paris, at Les laboratories d’Aubervilliers. Lecturer at the University of Arts, Belgrade. Publishes regularly in journals and anthologies. Author of the books Destroying Performance Signifiers, An Introduction to Performance Studies (with A. Jovićević), and DOXICID.
The Exhibition as a Work of Art and the Curator as Its Author
Keywords: exhibition, event, contemporary art, curator, curator as author, exhibition as a work of art
The art exhibition, which once tended to be a nondescript vehicle or frame for displaying artworks – one that was only minimally defined by the person who made it, whether dealer or art custodian – has moved in a direction where it can now be, increasingly, also an independent display item in itself, a specific authored whole that tells its own story. As such, it can have very distinctive features. If we consider large curatorial group exhibitions, they are very ambitiously conceived total projects in which the artworks too – or even, primarily – are simply pieces of a bigger picture, the particles of a broader iconographic programme that, if it is especially successful, will then be repeated (in new adaptations, of course). Also with such events, their “eventness” is greatly intensified. From what was once a relatively static event where the thing that “happened” to the viewer was mainly the artworks, the exhibition has become a chain of actual events, which “happen” not only in the exhibition itself – with works that are interactive, with performances, cabarets, actions, whole interiors, video and audio recordings, etc. – but also in an entire palette of events accompanying the exhibition, with symposia, lectures, presentations, “club nights”, etc.
In relation to such exhibitions, the curator acts in the role of author, though he is only rarely recognized and assessed as such. For a clearer picture of what this specifically designed authorship is like and where it leads, given an event with such high potential, we will attempt to answer the questions: How, and in what ways, does the curator move into art and conceptualize himself as an artist? How does he then coordinate his role with that of the artist? How does he maintain the image of the artist’s autonomy and freedom while at the same time making the exhibition be exactly what he wants it to be? Why is his coercion so little seen, if it is seen at all? And moving toward an answer, how does he avoid the concretization of his authorship in the area of selecting, prescribing, and loudly demonstrating his power over the artist, even as he ensures that such concretization takes place more meaningfully on other levels, for example, by elevating the status of the curatorial medium and reshaping art history in suitable ways?
Beti Žerovc graduated in 1997 and received her master’s and doctoral degrees, in 2001 and 2007, respectively, from the Department of Art History at the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana. She is currently a researcher in the programme group Slovene Art and the Art of Central Europe and the Adriatic at the Faculty of Arts. She works with various institutions (the Moderna galerija/Museum of Modern Art, Ljubljana, the National Gallery of Slovenia, the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, Art Words, etc.) as a consultant, lecturer and editor, mainly in the areas of late-19th-century and contemporary art. She is the author of the books Rihard Jakopič – Artist and Strategist (cf*, 2002) and The Curator and Contemporary Art: Conversations (Maska, 2008), both in Slovenian.
The Politics of Separation and the Aesthetics of Kinship: The artistwin deufert&plischke and the Method of Reformulation
Keywords: practice, reformulation, ghosts, participation, authorship, post-consensual, relationship, deufert&plischke
Kattrin Deufert and Thomas Plischke have been working together on the development of performances, video works and texts since 2001. They have been active as the artistwin deufert&plischke for six years. Apart from the micropolitical implications of their collaboration as artistwin, their choreographic method of reformulating, which Kattrin Deufert and Thomas Plischke have developed over the last years, is especially interesting for a discourse about non-hierarchical and post-consensual working models. It is a practice of collective choreographing by way of reformulating and spinning out movements and thoughts of the participants in a project, which enables a collaboration of equal partners without defining the collective aspect of the work through parameters like common aims (going beyond the project), similar aesthetic preferences, points of view shared by all or the equality of all participants. The “commitment” of all performers/choreographers to this shared choreographical method of reformulating avoids a hierarchically segmented labelling of the participating artists as well as the ideology of “anything goes” in which freedom is (mis)understood as an act of self-realization. On the level of representation the participation of every performer in the singular choreographies of all performers makes it impossible to ascribe authorship to one subject. The passing-on of movements and thoughts replaces discursive processes of finding consensus or compromises, and the search for moments of relation shifts the focus from the performers’ self-expression to choreographing a trace of connection lines.
Martina Ruhsam works as a freelance author, choreographer and performer. She studied Movement & Performance in Linz and Theatre, Film and Media in Vienna. She is a member of the editors’ collective of Corpus – Internet Magazine for Dance Choreography Performance. From October 2008 until February 2009 she was assistant head of the Theory Centre at Tanzquartier Wien.
Lay Dances, Manifest Choreographies
Keywords: social choreography, gesture, choreography as performance, amateurism, performativity
The text starts with a thesis about social choreography which was developed by Andrew Hewitt in a series of essays about early modern dance and body cultures in pre-war USA and Germany. With the help of this thesis the author inquires about figures and gestures, characters and ideologies entertained in the notion which explicitly forwards itself as contemporary choreography. Along the idea of the aesthetic continuum of bodily articulation – where the indeterminateness of the medium meets the overdetermination of ‘everything’s choreography’ – a number of recent dance performances consider choreography as synonymous with the verb ‘to perform’. Identifying performing with learning movement as if it were prescripted, these works create figures, some of which delight in transparency and legibility, while others stumble in striving to be adequate. The article is a reflection on the ways how can choreography as a demonstration of its own specific discipline give way to choreography utilized beyond its proper meaning as a gesture of emancipation.
Bojana Cvejić is performance maker and theorist, working in contemporary dance and performance also as dramaturg and performer. She has published in performing arts, music, philosophy journals, magazines, and anthologies and is author of two books, most recently Beyond the Musical Work: Performative practice (IKZS, Belgrade, 2007). With Jan Ritsema she has developed a theatre practice in a number of performances since 1999 (a.o. TODAYulysses, 2000), and has collaborated with X. Le Roy, E. Salamon, M. Ingvartsen a.o.. Since September 2009, she has been teaching contemporary dance and performance in the Theater Studies M.A. programme at Utrecht University.
Collaboration through Proximity: Dramaturgy and Dance
Keywords: dramaturgy, contemporary dance, immaterial work, performance, collaboration
The article reflects upon the cultural and economic contexts that have influenced the emergence of dramaturgy in contemporary dance over the last two decades, especially since the 1990s. The appearance of dramaturg in dance has often rejected the notion of the dramaturg as an observer, the one who is in the know, someone who spends most of the time sitting in the darkness of the stalls with a critical perspective from a distance. Dramaturgical collaboration is therefore characterized by a demand for proximity, which not only springs from the instability of epistemological categories or the fact that dramaturgs collaborate in dance performances with bodies and not texts. A major reason for the entry of dramaturgy into dance can be found in the changing contexts of artistic practice and social labour. The entry of the dramaturg into dance could be read as a consequence of the changes in the political economy of labour, where the production of language, contexts, and human cognitive and affective abilities now dominates. These changes are not only a consequence of artistic self-reflexivity and cannot be considered as isolated events in the (supposedly autonomous) sphere of art, but instead are a reflection of the onset of cognitive capitalism and the altered modes of production associated with it.
Bojana Kunst is a philosopher, dramaturg, and performance theoretician. She works as a guest professor at the University of Hamburg (Performance studies) and teaches at the University of Primorska. She is a member of the editorial boards of the journals Maska, Amfiteater, and Performance Research. Her essays have appeared in numerous journals and publications and she has taught and lectured extensively throughout Europe.
The Association of Theatre Critics and Researchers of Slovenia (Društvo gledaliških kritikov in teatrologov Slovenije, the National Section of the International Association of Theatre Critics and the Maribor Theatre Festival (Borštnikovo srečanje) are organizing an international conference entitled
that will take place in Maribor, Slovenia, 21–24 October 2010. Its goal is to explore the issue of theatre and performing arts criticism and to discuss the notion of inter-criticism.
To provide a starting point for the discussion, and a very illustrative one for our purpose – i.e., the analysis of the position of contemporary theatre and performing arts critics – we invite you to think about Hitchcock’s film Rear Window (1954). In this film, a photographer who is forced to stay in his apartment after an accident whiles away his time sitting by the window and watching the “theatre shows” that take place in the backyard and in the neighbouring apartments. He is a privileged spectator, having not only a good view of various shows, but also time, space, the financial means, and even a nurse. He maintains his position in the darkened room until the protagonist of the main show – a murderous neighbour – discovers that he is being watched, knocks on the photographer’s door and throws him through the window. The photographer is suddenly propelled from the safe position of a voyeur having a perfect view of the performance into the picture, into the performance itself. The movie implies a change in the viewing position, when one loses the overview of the developments and one’s view becomes the situation itself. This raises a series of questions as to what happens to the analysis, description, evaluation, social and worker’s position of the observer and his/her relation to the observed object when there is no clear and guiding boundary between the performance and the observer’s position. It is the kind of turn that has occurred in contemporary performing practices – a critic no longer observes a show from a privileged, distant position because the combination of circumstances has thrown him into the picture itself.
First. Viewed from the perspective of criticism, this has to do with the aesthetic changes in the format of stage performances. The arrangement of a potential view is invariably inscribed in the format through participatory modules. However, in many cases, the spectators no longer form a homogenous group, because the arrangement enables a multitude of singular views of the observed, and consequently a multitude of various critical positions. In contemporary performing practices (hybrid, participatory, post-dramatic, etc.), we can probably no longer speak about one single kind of criticism, but about various methods of critical writing using specific methodologies, approaches and styles, all of which can be incorporated within a single critical work. What are the morphologies of critical writing in these circumstances? Does theatre criticism adequately adapt to the changes in the production of contemporary performing arts and in what way? What forms do these adjustments take in various cultural contexts? How should a critic approach his work given that practically all segments of the social spectacle, including arts, are capitalized in the process and transformed into the production of surplus value?
Second. The media reduce arts, science, culture, society and even politics to spectacle and entertainment. Since in this spectacle we are the observed beings thrown into the show itself, and since critics, as part of the modern media machinery for the production of fiction and spectacle repeatedly re-establish positions that can secure for them a good overview of the situation, in writing criticism and forming critical views they probably invent specific strategies. Theatre or performing art critics have found themselves in a situation in which “theatre criticism” or “theatre journalism” pertains to almost all segments of social life covered by the print or broadcasting media. They are thrown into a media picture where practically all segments of social life are treated as if they were more or less explicit genres of “theatre criticism”. How does performing arts criticism establish itself in this situation? What is the critic’s place and how does he/she ensure his/her critical position?
Third. The position of contemporary criticism is also related to the redistribution and reorganization of the critic’s method of work. The largely privileged distance that critics enjoyed in the past has been eliminated in the contemporary context of cultural production. Criticism (or theory) writing is more or less only one of the many roles a critic plays in addition to his work within the field of theatre production and performing arts. A description of critic’s roles and responsibilities may reveal that a “free-lance” theatre critic is also a member of various panels and boards, a dramaturg, a producer, a university teacher and a consultant in various artistic projects, that he/she selects performances for a festival or (co)creates festival programmes, moderates various round-table discussions, edits various periodicals and other publications, occasionally even performs and so on. Even in the context of the “labour market” the critic’s position is by no means one of the privileged distance, but part of the picture itself. What implications does this have for critical writing and how does a critic create a distance within the context of his/her work, if at all? What is his/her ethical position within this context? What implications does it have for the “conflict of interests”? How does the productivity of a critic’s work manifest itself in the society of today? How could the meaning of criticism writing be redefined?
We used the metaphor of Hitchcock’s film Rear Window to derive three examples of the ‘embeddedness in the picture/performance itself. We are fully aware that critics were never fully excluded from the picture/performance, as this would have been impossible, but we do think that certain aesthetic, cultural, productional, social and political circumstances have radically changed over the last decade. The critics of today are much more firmly entrenched in a certain liminal area, an interspace within the context of relationships mentioned above, where they establish their position as a delicate presence. We propose the term inter-criticism, or inter-critique, to denote this presence and invite you to discuss it together with us.
Organizing and Programme Board
Primož Jesenko, chair of the conference
Krištof Jacek Kozak
Edited by Bojana Kunst
Translation to Slovenian: Mojca Dobnikar, Maja Lovrenov, Aleksandra Rekar
Translation to English: David Ender, Rawley Grau, Maja Lovrenov, Irena Šentevska, Urška Zajec
Slovene Language Editor: Simona Ana Radež
English Language Editor: Jana Renée Wilcoxen
Proofreading: Jana Renée Wilcoxen, Simona Ana Radež
Librarian: Silva Bandelj
Photography Editor: Jasmina Založnik
Technical support: Miha Grum, Mojca Ketiš
Graphic Design: studiobotas