What is radical? The trigger for consideration of this question is the Spider Festival slogan: “festival of radical bodies”. I am mainly referring to the multimedia dance show Only One of Many conceived by DD Dorvillier and Sébastien Roux.* Three performers are incorporated into its bold sonic subtext, and vice versa, while the (desired) effect is brought about by the pronounced synergy of movement and sound.
I sense radicalness in the very mathematical structure of their performing, which associates to the experimental practices of the sixties/seventies (association also with “kinetic sculptures”/mobiles, and with Duchamp’s film collages), right in the mechanical logic of movement (repetitiveness, reductiveness, “geometric” precision) and the mechanical dance of bodies (in the mechanics of staging). In this context, I see bodies rather as pure movements (beside the entities who move), as movements in transition, as shifts into movement-images.
The movement-images sensation continue to be associated with the body without organs (the costume of a uniform character contributes to this), and inevitably also with desiring-machines (which want to get rid of all “internal” body functions related to the economy of desire)—the ideas proposed by Deleuze and Guattari. Between these two configurations there is a constant smoldering apparent conflict.
The starting point is the sound itself, the almost tangible sound material in which we are immersed constantly. The theme is dissonant, radically dissonant. Therefore, the ear instinctively looks for consonances, but cannot find them. A virtual contrast dissonant/consonant is established, as a kind of non-existent reference point…
The radical is in the uncomfortable (unpleasant sounds, frequencies, vibrations). It emerges from a discomfort, it is within it. The radical is inherent in discomfort, but emerges (manifests) as its resonance.
/ Resonating, on the other hand, results in a certain declaration, utterance, inscribing—a statement (truly speaking about something), thus speaking as a dedicated gesture (to speak at all and not just to say something or wrap it up in wrappers; to have something to say at all). This gesture is counter postfactual—intended to give proof (even if it can never be “absolute”), to manifest an opinion (frustration, proposal, idea, appeal, construct)—and therefore radical. /
In the aforementioned staging collage, the sound is not only an inductor, but a material (let’s call it the necessarily exposed fact and state of the real). A set of machine sounds echoes: “civilization”; production; alarms; magnetic resonance; computer servers; routine object manipulation processes; transportation; everyday noises from the surroundings. The dancing bodies (off-personalities) try to “oppose” these sounds or somehow correlate with them: the stage situation reflects the desire of the body (without organs) to interrupt every process, to do counter production, to stop all manufacturing (all machines), all reproduction—which is, last but not least, always redundant, as it is intended to create a surplus. / Link ~ Deleuze and Guattari: capital as a body without organs of the capitalist being itself. /
Dissonant sounds in collage with mechanized movements. → Anxiety. It is radical: affirming the breaking of anxiety, somehow universalizing it (not necessarily abstracting it) in a situation-as-art.
The body sometimes (often?) does not know what to do with itself. The moment of performed indecision of the body is also present in the performance Remembrane by Sigrid Stigsdatter Mathiassen, and I sensed it in Matej Kejžar’s House as well. The first one turns a little into a fable in order to throw it away in a moving technoimage of the swirling of space in the stopped time, while the second one emphasizes more the parodic dimension of movement as a means and of the very performing with movement. The body translates and bends, stretches, contracts and shakes, to and fro, fro and to, but in “reality” it needs a break, a pause instead of dynamics. Activity is the condition of its life, but its holistic core needs a state of complete static (dynamical inactivity).
Turning off the stage lights stops the movement of bodies at the level of the visible (and staged). The pause is the hidden essence of staging, it reflects (embodies) the need to exit the theater mode (the controlled spectacle). A pause throws us out of the exclusiveness of the viewing and listening regime.
The stage is essentially empty as long as it is an exclusive (artificial, artistic, display) space that is not entered just like that (allegedly only performers can go there). That exclusiveness is a hole, a gap, a void, which is “filled” (vitalized) only by the regimes of the pause (by what occurs after the end), when sensibleness is introduced, arising primarily from encounters, from coincidences (no drama, yes LOL).
So black and white: the stage is radical only when absent, when there is no need to wait for a pause (end of performance) for communion to happen, when the possibility of redistribution of the sensible (in Rancière’s sense) is inherent in it. The inverse of the stage (that which is neither the stage nor backstage, the “white hole” of its absence) opens up this possibility, also in order to deal with its neutralizing power.
So what the radical is? Bodies as such only when they are emptied (in the Deleuzian sense), unconsumable, unproductive, and when they act on a stage that is not the stage—when inventively situated.
Knowing what festivalization is, we cannot avoid the question of conscious participation when considering the radicalness. Participation (therefore certain production, live creation) must stop (move elsewhere) in order to radicalize.
The sale of aestheticized radicalism from the shelter of cultural centers is a routine of matrix’s culture industry. But radicalness cannot be professionalized (numbed).
Glimpses of the radical (in art) are today and have always been in individual gestures. In the broader context of the Truman show (which is, yet, only a show), these otherwise rare gestures are all the more valuable if they are able to relate to the traumatic/awakening question of the material and spatial conditions of artistic creation, and to articulate this issue not necessarily during the performance itself, but certainly in the timeless time and the outta space of the pause.
Radicalness is about reduction, the life saving reductiveness, the dance saving reductiveness, relayed on decision based on the utter simplicity arising from one of Spinoza’s axioms: all bodies are either in motion or at rest.
To make the motion feels resting. This joy is what the radical is.
* All performances mentioned in this essay were presented in 2017 at Spider Festival, an annual international contemporary dance event held in Ljubljana, Slovenia.