I want to become a local artist

published in The Swedish Dance History, 2011

Taking an active part in the shaping of contemporary dance and performance beyond one's own creations seems to have become a new understanding of the work of a performance maker : creating work, being the audience of other works, working in order to produce the context of work, working on other people's work, discussing what work should be made on the base of the works one knows, which are more than often works one is actively engaged with. There the engagement in the making of a work takes place as much in the rehearsal studio as in the bar or else around the dinner table with more performance makers, in the setting up of facilities, structures, festivals or other types of houses.

The site of work is then mostly a professional scene, one defined by its activity as well as the economy, social life and other ways of living that come along with it. It is trans-national, rather homogenous and disconnected from an understanding of site that would encompass other lives and interests than those of its peers. When we speak about working on our conditions of production, this seems mostly to address the money, time and space that frame our workings rather than the social and political environment in which we develop work. We could say that performance making is always context-specific and that this context seldom varies.

I would like to open my imagination about the notion of context-specificity and introduce the idea of a situated practice.

The work of performance as described above can be considered as a practice composed of many interrelated activities, to which I must add physical practices, readings, partying etc.

Can living somewhere, with neighbors, local shops and specific social-economic issues be integrated into our understanding of practice? We do have neighbors, families, friendships and other relations outside the business of course. But could these activities become integrated and become an effective component of our performance practice? Effective as in one that has an effect and that is also changed by the other parts of the practice. Can a performance project about capitalism induce a change in our daily schedule? Like Trajal Harrell invents a meeting of two communities and their practices by imagining voguing performances in Judson in the 60's, can we invent and actually produce the displacement of our various performative practices into each other's modalities?

One noticeable detail about “the scene” is that its members (inter)act with each other on many levels of practice simultaneously. We don't dance with w, talk with x, watch art with y and party with z; we do everything with many until the point where its doesn't really matter anymore whose work we feedback and which we produce as long as these activities are carried through and keep on feeding “the scene”. This description involves and connects people on very rich degrees. The people in question are all art professionals and I love them. I don't have any romantic notion about the “non-professional”, the “non-artists” or however one might describe this huge outside. But this outside is also an inside, is also the context of my life and I'm as much interested in the possibility of integrating my lives into each other as of making my contexts part of each other. I guess this will necessitate the weaving of practices in order to build relations with people on various levels, nourishing relations across life areas that could include raising children, body exercise, conceptual imagination and shopping to name a few.

A motivation and inspiration to think this integration of practices and relations comes to me from observing and working along the development of Barbara Manzetti's current project, “A Performance in the Shape of a Book”. The project is a book that is a performance that is a practice that includes writing, meeting, performing and walking across a rather small area, a set of 3 neighborhoods covering a few kilometers. The writing of the book necessitates to spend time with friends, strangers, colleagues etc; it is distributed along its development through the means of single sheets, journals, performances, cards and others. Its distribution is part of its writing and so is the reading of the texts, so that the audience of the project is also in a large part its collaborators, people who come in the project through many channels of which the pre-existing professional relationship form but a part.

(to be continued)