Until the beginning of February, the New York MoMA is mounting an exhibition on Judson Dance Theater. In the sixties, this legendary collective, which used the Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village as its home base, paved the way for a postmodern dance and performance which steered clear of the formalism of modern dance. The influence of Judson Dance Theater on the development of contemporary dance in the last decades of the twentieth century is undeniable. But what can the movement mean to millennials who are trying to find their place in the world of dance today?
What do we humans have in common with wales, mushrooms, bacteria or the internet? We are all networked entities. Philosopher Bruno Latour pleads for a radically different perspective on the persistent binaries of human-thing, human-environment or local-global. Latour crosses the boundaries of the academic world and brings his insights to the stage, together with researcher-director Frédérique Aït-Touati. ‘Using horror techniques to arouse strong feelings doesn’t make a work political.’
To contextualize my work HUMAN SIMULATION, I organized a Cybernetic Conversation at the Beursschouwburg in March 2017 with Professor Francis Heylighen, head of the Evolution, Complexity and Cognition research group at the Free University of Brussels and the Global Brain Institute11His main research focus is the evolution of complexity. http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/HEYL.html. Two months later, in June 2017, we arranged the first Cybernetic, Algorithmic, Systemic Theater Symposium22Artistic participants: Annie Dorsen, Orion Maxted, Špela Petrič, Miha Turšič, Nathan Fain, Ogutu Muraya, Noah Voelker, Leila Anderson, and Thomas Dudkiewicz. Scientific participants: Prof. Hans Westerhoff (Synthetic Systems Biology, UvA, VU, Amsterdam), Stefania Astrologo (researcher in the epigenetics of cancer) and Prof. Francis Heylighen. Curated by Orion Maxted, moderated by Chris Keulemans, enabled by Frascati Productions. at Frascati Theater, Amsterdam. Both these events brought together artists, theater makers and scientists in the fields of systems biology, cognitive science and cybernetics to build a common language around complex systems through theater experiments, lectures and conversations.
The influence of the essay as a means of expression has long reached beyond the confines of literature. Just think of the visual essay and the rich history of the essay film. In his groundbreaking study Postdramatisches Theater (1999), theatre scholar Hans-Thies Lehmann devoted a very short chapter to the ‘scenic essay’. Lehmann saw it as one of the possible paths that theatre could pursue as soon as it decentralized or let go of the dramatic plot. Today, a lot of the work that dominates our stages possesses an essayistic slant. Why is that? And how do artists translate this form to the stage?
War and revolution are two terms almost interchangeable. They appeared in the titles of the double bill on the inaugural night of the 2018 edition of the Bâtard Festival at Beursschouwburg. With no hierarchy suggested, the programming flexibly allowed the audience to start their evening with either Cezary goes to war by director Cezary Tomaszewksi or Tell me about the revolution by artist Farbod Fathinejadfard. Both are totally different in moods, but they set out for the same thing: politics.
In May NTGent published the Ghent Manifesto. Inspired by the groundbreaking Dogma 95-manifesto for film, it consists of ten rules the artists who’s work is produced by the city theatre, will have to follow -or at least relate to- from now on. NTGent-director Milo Rau and doctoral researcher Joachim Ben Yakoub discuss some of the restrictions mentioned in the manifesto. ’It’s like dancing with handcuffs.’
I’ll begin by way of a harsh preamble, a critical diagnosis. What has happened, in Europe today, to artists’ imaginary? Is the authority of philosophy and critical theory in matters of art crushing artists’ conceptual or poetic imagination, despite their developed linguistic sensibilities and practices of self-reflection? My provocative claim is that instrumental reason has privileged the efficacy of images above all else, that the words and procedures favored by art institutions respond to a growing expectation that they manage the audience’s experience.