ICK Dans Amsterdam presented a two-day online festival on the 28 and 29th of May, curated by Bogomir Doringer that looks into the rituals of dancing and masking in times of social distancing. How do these rituals happen in an online space? Doringer created a space, in which various (new media) artists, choreographers and theorists were able to share their practices, and artistic and theoretical projects in order to learn from each other’s expertise when it comes to working in an online environment. A space where dance is considered as something that can trigger social-political changes as a form of activism.
Text: Polina Fenko & Jesse Vanhoeck
When we enter the Zoom meeting on the website of bodyunmute.com, Bogomir Doringer welcomes us with female features and long black hair and make-up, using a virtual mask. Speaking of the ritual of masking in contemporary times Doringer refers to the Hong Kong protests and Pussy Riot in Russia, where a mask was used to form a collective body. Today masks are part of the current governmental regulations and part of a large-scale invasion in to people’s private lives, also affecting the body. Dancing became possible only in private, and suddenly it has a different meaning and context. The idea for this festival grew out of the idea to reclaim the rituals of dancing and masking and to reclaim the body in both private and public space. It was the first time ICK organized an online festival and it fits in the reckless idealism that ICK embraces for the future. ‘Reckless’ in the good sense of the word, from the intuition of the body. For all parties involved it was a learning process, or to put it in Doringer’s words: we are together in an experiment and might end up in a collective glitch.
DAY 1: Body Politics
‘Pronounce. Claim. Proclaim’: the first performance was a re-enactment of a manifesto To the Aching Parts! by the Polish artist Ania Nowak. She works with language as a medium that can help to reimagine and reassemble our understandings of sensuality, desire, companionship and care, and explore topics like grief and sexuality. Lying naked in a bath full of rose petals (a wink at Madonna?) Nowak recited her manifesto, sometimes standing up and flirting with the camera, while decaliming words in triads, such as “anatomy, inject, name”, “different, diverse, divided”, “lube, glutes, biceps”, “libidinal, gore, business”, “lubricate, gender, binary”. In this manifesto she speaks about body politics and tries to find a way to restructure the existing hierarchies of bodies in order to overcome imbalance. By performing it for a camera instead of a live audience and because of her nakedness, this manifesto performance became also a lot about how the media exploits and objectifies the body.
The talk by Dr. Kelina Gotman (the author of the book Choreomania and disorder) Choreographic ontologies: pandemics and freedom to move followed Nowak’s performance.
Her point of view is that bodies are shaped by culture and governmental systems. Dance, if not governmentally proposed, can shake this up. Security, according to her, is connected not only to borders and passports, but also to an animalistic human desire to move freely. Pandemics gave us a chance to release from the performative, to slow down, to breathe, finally. It makes us realise that we need another order of a social antibody, another order of care, another order of public health. Gotman concludes that these times also require us to exercise the freedom of movement. After her lecture, she entered in dialogue with ICK dancer Edward Lloyd about the choreographic principles of time and space during lockdown. Time was being so intensely experienced, while space was compressed. Gotman ended the conversation by stating that we need to reclaim public space because moving and thinking are always in relation to space.
The idea of choreomania and disorder was reflected in the next talk and excerpt from a work-in-progress piece called Blasphemy Rhapsody by ICK choreographers Emio Greco | Pieter C. Scholten. One of the inspiration sources for this new creation is the Pizzica – a dance whose origins can be found in Puglia (Greco’s homeland). Pizzica means ‘spider bite’. When someone was bitten, he had to get rid of the poison as quickly as possible by dancing wildly. The excerpt that was performed by two dancers of ICK was full of circling, repetitive movements, tapping and jumping, with a lot of accent to the legs, and free arms and upper body. The whole dance was performed in a continuous circling, thus, dancers stayed always face to face maintaining eye contact with each other.
Greco explains that the fast music, the energy, the fire of the dance are designed to reach a different state. This enables dancers to reach beyond their own awareness. Greco uses this power in creating with the dancers during lockdown. Each of them, in their own private space, is reaching for the other in different rooms and different parts of the world. They are searching for each other’s energy beyond form.
The closing performance of the first night was Emotional Porn – Exhibition of the Self by Keren Rosenberg, adapted specifically for a camera. In a complete darkness the back of a dancer appears. Sounds of bees and birds contrasted with very masculine movements of the arms and the torso. She turns to the camera and we see her, covered in gold, she is performing for us, reaching to the maximum extent of her expressive dramatic capacities. In a next phase, the body transforms itself into a shadow behind a blue screen immersing in liquid movements. It ends when the performer sits down on her knees and the camera captures her calm gaze.
DAY 2: The famous vs The Unknown
Google ‘Jeremy Bailey’ and almost every hit will describe him as a famous new media artist. With a bit of insight in technology, you can design your own virtual identity and be famous, just because you told the internet that this is the case… Believing firmly that we should use the internet and technology to destabilize normative rules and take over control over our identities, Jeremy Bailey presented his Augmented Reality Makeover Party where he shared various tools to create a digital face mask. In all those ZOOM meetings everybody is having right now, why not show up as a unicorn? For him, this is an invitation to rethink the body. People tuned in for the workshop from their homes at a.o. Mexico, Austria, Canada, The Netherlands, Italy, Sweden and The United States. Unicorns will take over the world.
The workshop was followed by an artist talk. He shared that his main inspiration lies in the practices of video artists from the 70’s and in particular the Fluxus movement that manifested- art belongs to people, not to a gallery. Art is not about walls or books, it’s about artistic action, which is at the same time a social and a political action. Bailey is inspired by artists who work with the idea that identity becomes self-reflexive, thus, an act of political protest. The internet can be used to adjust our identity and he wants to encourage everybody to take every opportunity to be different.
Next in the program was the screening of Pique Nique pour les Inconnues: The Chorus Version by glitch artist Rosa Menkman. In this work, Menkman considers the ways in which the history of image-processing has been defined by standardization, in particular through the use of color test cards. The work presents les Inconnues – unknown women whose images are used by engineers for testing new technologies and color gradings. The models for these cards remained unknown and formed a ‘normal’ standard. (A white woman, young and pretty). As such, states Menkman, the cards cultivated a gendered, race-biased standard reference, which even today continues to influence our image-processing technologies. In Menkman’s work, stock photos and others find a voice, but fail to recover their personhood. As Menkman explains, “While these women seem to be able to prolong their existence for as long as the (digital) realms will copy and reuse them, most of them have lost their name and identity.” The viewer is haunted by the familiarity of these digital ghosts, while at the same time, they experience an uncanny feeling when the historically mute images speak for the first time. Menkman also talks about the loss of authorship and poses a very important question: why do we fear technology? Her answer is: “we are afraid to lose ourselves”.
Dance away the fear
Katy Roseland from Shanghai Community Radio (SCR) was the last speaker of the festival. Bogomir Doringer refers to SCR as an example of how an online radio in 2020 should look like. In this project they combine audio and video elements. During the lockdown, Shanghai Community Radio made several online streams: musicians were playing from their kitchens and living rooms. Roseland says that it was a very inspiring and liberating practice to be together, at least in a virtual space and to bring pleasure to people. At first it seemed distasteful to party in times of a pandemic, but then, it seemed the only thing that they could do. The question arises of how partying will look in the future, now that we are constantly fed with the idea that bodies are poisonous? Doringer was clear about this: dance can break that fear and, like the Pizzica, by dancing we can get rid of the poison.
So, dancing it is… Sierra Lima of SCR took over with a DJ set to conclude the festival. Unicorns, jellyfish, plastic bags, blue wigs and other virtual creatures lingered around a bit in the Zoom to chat, dance, invent new business plans and share thoughts about the past days.