Hola a tod*s,
Os dejo una larga entrevista que inicialmente me hicieron por skype y que después hemos ido re-elaborando y editando. Inicialmente la entrevista será/es parte de un archivo, un libro y una investigación que está llevando a cabo la coreógrafa y filósofa Petra Sabisch de Berlin.
Se trata de un estudio sobre la danza en Europa (Título: Topología de prácticas) para los que Petra ha elegido concentrarse en proyectos que son: 1- Iniciados y dirigidos por artistas / autoorganizadas; 2- “Estructurales” (más allá de una sola producción artística); 3- internacionales; 4- experimentales; 5- Orientados hacia el desarrollo de discurso y contexto de los artistas y sus obras; 6- Contemporáneos.
A pesar de la extensión (sorry), creo que es interesante compartir la entrevista por sí sola en Teatron ya que se trata de un documento que reflexiona sobre arte, política y prácticas culturales, partiendo del contexto de Inpresentable (2002-2012) hasta ¿Y si dejamos de ser (artistas)? (2013).
Está en inglés. Lo siento mucho, es demasiado larga para traducirla…
La entrevista contiene pequeñas dosis reflexivas sobre máquinas de resistencia, precariedad, producción de subjetividad, además de informar sobre ¿Y si dejamos de ser (artistas)? no tanto en sus resultados, sino en cuanto a las decisiones que se tomaron respecto a su producción.
Supongo que esta entrevista abre un debate, que espero, podamos mantener fértil en Teatron, en nuestras propias prácticas y l*s amig*s con l*s que compartimos dichas prácticas, así como con las instituciones y los marcos en las que tienen lugar o en aquellos que nos inventamos para que así sea.
Al final de la entrevista PKMN nos deja un regalito…podéis también empezar por ahí…
Let’s start with InPresentable, the festival organised by Juan Dominguez in Madrid for the last ten years. Could you describe that project as someone who participated in that festival? What’s your personal history with that festival? Did you present your work there regularly?
It’s very interesting for me tot hink about that, because when InPresentable started, I was living in Amsterdam. I lived there for about ten years. So at that time I didn’t really experience the festival directly till six years after this festival was taking place. I never got invited to present my work there.
So I found myself living and working in the context Juan brought to Madrid.
Of course, it was necessary to open that kind of context in Madrid, because there was nothing like such a proposal for a long time. And Juan did it in a specific way …
In the last festival’s edition he invited many people and I took part .
In a context such Madrid’s, was quite remarkable that an artistic proposal like his, could last for such a long time. I must admit that this never happen before.
Inpresentable supported local artists, especially in the first years. It introduced the relationship between theory and practice and the understanding of critical artistic practices and discourse. I think one of the most relevant things Inpresentable generated was discursive artistic and research development and experimentation.
I met Juan when they offered me the opportunity to take over the space InPresentable left. One of the problems we shared was how we could clearly perceive that after 10 years, the festival couldn’t just continue like that.
At the institution where InPresentable took place –La Casa Encendida- there are a lot of protocols applied to any kind of activity you may want to do. I also have got through them this year. One of the consequences of this is that, communication hardly takes place directly as there is so much mediation in between, a lot of explanation has to be handled. You get this feeling of senselessness because you main interlocutor or listener trusts you, cares about what you are trying to do and fights it in within the institution he/she works, but happens that her or his work is ruled by the concern, interests and little affairs of somebody else -the boss- who, at the same time deals with someone above, very above…-you’ve never got to see his or her face of course- and at the end, you realise that your work deals with people that do not have the slightest interest or concern on what you are doing, and that their interests are policing your little utopia (to say it a bit ironically).
Very often you could only work for a short time, time that (in the long run, if you are not attentive enough) becomes time specific to ‘result oriented work’ and so ‘production and reproduction of the same old model’ rather than ‘processing and sustainable oriented work’ meaning ‘reproduction in terms of attentiveness’ with all the implications, fragilities and invisibility that this last one aspect in terms of ‘care politics’ means in the long run…
I think this is an ‘structural problem that we face when working for or with institutions. Not only for/in Madrid but everywhere else. An structural problem that is not often addressed even when working amongst ourselves either.
After Juan decided to let it go, I’ve got asked to continue and I say yes, keeping in mind the problematics and concerns Juan and I shared. The challenge for me was how could I answer these problematics properly or at least how to work through them. From which position? I started to think these problematics according to the questions they opened, at the same time that I’d try to provide the conditions to embody them as such, as problems and not as a found-solution event, even at the cost of risking the continuation of ‘the festival’s project’ at the institution the year after.
What was the importance of InPresentable for the cultural scene in Madrid? Do you think that because it was going on for 10 years in a row, it established some sort of continuity?
Yes, I think so. Throughout these 10 years it really built up an audience, and a kind of community of practitioners, performance artists and people from various disciplines I would say. It addressed questions about artistic modes of production. It also facilitated a framework that supported local artists, creating exchanges with contexts from abroad as well as engaging experimental practices of various sorts, learning out of specific tools, methodologies which were unknown till then by the local scene.
I guess that if you really want to go for continuity and sustainability considering the decisions you made upon the ways you do and make things and the procedures you decide to go for or try for a certain distribution, you are facing the consequences of how very easily it may end up resulting your full time job in decrease of the so call ‘artistic work’ as opposed to that of the ‘festival producer’, if we follow the usual logics of its figures, you know, programmer, curator and so on.
Did you just make a distinction between organising a festival and being an artist? Do you see making a festival as non-artistic work?
No, it’s fully artistic insofar it enables the means for potential ways of doing and making. The issue here is which is the position you undertake when making it. Let’s say that artistic practice is embedded in the social and political context you live. If you consider this be a condition and potential for withdrawal for instance, a condition of resistance, a condition that is in fact a common problem on how to make actually, you realise that there are lots of potential in the methodologies and formats we could invent, and I guess the attempt to make a festival, or rather a broader context that embraces questions you are concerned by with others, regardless being artistic work, it is perhaps a kind of displacement that may be embodied.
I’m interested in festivals that are a practice on how to actually. There is this festival in Sevilla call ZEMOS98 (its founders members were 18 years old when they started it). One of the instances they produce is the festival, but in fact the whole thing behaves more as a sustainable methodology and practice through out the year. The organisers are people that mostly come from arts or the cultural field but that before and beyond this fact, what they do is to engage and tackle problems and issues that are not very different than the ones any other person with a different occupation or expertise could have.
You also mentioned that Juan was able to create an audience in Madrid for his festival. How would you define that audience? Is that an audience that is very internal to the artistic scene in Madrid or did it have the capacity to spread?
Everything was always pretty booked (at least when I was there), but honestly the audience was very specific to the artistic scene in Madrid. It’s normal, because of the choices behind the festival. It was very much based on artistic processes, modes of production and problems that performance artists encounter.
Although it was limited to a specific audience it makes sense historically. It makes sense that there was such an audience, because there was not such an audience before anyway. People in Madrid would study at the conservatory or the drama school, where all of these issues were not treated. This context had to be created and in that sense InPresentable was necessary, relevant and positioned in its goals and the questions about them.
Do you have any idea why this was completely lacking in Madrid? Were there specific circumstances that didn’t allow for discursive development?
There was a generation in the 90s of choreographers and artists, that really did develop a lot of discourse and experimental frames. Back in those days there was a lot of movement in the scene. These choreographers, which as far as I know, had most of its dance education developed in France, NY or Amsterdam, created a lab that initially called LA U.V.I and that later become ‘La Inesperada’. I remember we were auditioned to take part in it. The lab consisted on workshops, public gatherings and presentations where we would do improvisation sessions, experiments…etc. Soon, this frame transformed when some of the participants become ‘performers’ of the organiser’s frame. This let them with little time and space to keep on researching and developing their stuff, as they were fully engaged working with these choreographers and getting a guaranteed paid job under which they could make their living. On the other hand, part of this generation (like me) left Madrid in order to study abroad. So, the scenario in Madrid at that time appeared with most of the people of my generation working as performers for the former generation of choreographers (I guess in the long run, this become their learning, experimental context) and the rest of us studying and working abroad for a long time. At the end of the 90s beginning of 2000s, whereas most of these choreographers kept on working with the same people, others left Spain. Also it occurred that the ones that had been performing for these choreographers started to make their work, but with little productional, artistic, financial infrastructure to do it in a sustainable manner, so that implied lost of precareity and struggle. I mean there were initiatives such Ana Buitrago’s (one of the founder members of La U.V.I who after collaborated a lot with LA PORTA in Barcelona) called ‘piezas hechas y deshechas’ and ‘Desviaciones’ a festival organised by some of the former choreographers that initiated LA U.V.I, that run for 5 years (kind of the antecedent to in-presentable), but still they didn’t get enough financial support to make it sustainable. Then La Casa Encendida opened by 2002 I think, and Inpresentable started and had the fortune to last for 10 years.
Do you think that an initiative like InPresentable and the discursive field that comes with it changed something in terms of support of experimentation?
I don’t think so. I mean financially. We are talking about a very minoritarian scene. The festival itself enabled local artists to be seen and they got a little bit pushed, inspired or challenged to write proposals and ask for financial support. Surely they were challenged to do within the new perspectives Inpresentable opened. But financial support was still pretty precarious for this kind of institutionally labelled ‘alternative work’ (perceived as ‘marginal and minoritarian’). What Inpresentable did was to gather and give visibility to artists that would otherwise be unknown, invisible and isolated from each other, which is more than enough actually.
It’s very interesting to think about the fact that InPresentable and your project Y si dejamos de ser (artistas)? are both initiated by artists themselves. What do you think the importance is of discourse generative projects that are initiated by artists that try to create their own frame and working conditions?
I read some days ago a proposal from fellow practitioners in the so call ‘scene’ in which they proposed that today every artist should become a curator. I find this statement very, very problematic, because am I more autonomous or emancipated if I curate?!. …moreover…is it about being autonomous?! I don’t think that addressing it from such an instance will bring anything different than labeled-self-interested artistic work. So my concern is that since we are up to reveal certain problems by working through them, which in the long extend, could mean producing a festival for instance, could we do it detaching from the exercise of branding or being branded?. So in regard to your question, I would ask: Are discursive generative projects initiated by artists a trend or a necessity?. Because despite a festival, context creation, research frameworks or artistic work, we need to approach the issue from inside-out…I just wonder if we consider enough that they are shared questions and problems implementing the very context in which they take place. To realise that, you don’t need to be an artist, just someone attentive to the working and living conditions your subjectivity is put at work from. So, besides the phenomenon of artists producing festivals, we must consider what actually are the conditions that makes us displace or broaden up the sphere of our practice since ‘before’ doing a festival or artistic framework or context there are topics, problems and issues way beyond the artistic signatures that implement them…so I guess there is a lot to think. It is interesting to analyse how you then deal with the embodiment of those problems, concerns or questions in the contexts you create. Sometimes this is not happening yet it is labelled and communicated as such.
In which sense do you think that InPresentable differentiates itself from other festivals? What is the specificity or the more experimental format of this festival?
Compared to other festivals in Europe? For me it belongs to the scheme of other festivals or initiatives in Europe. But in the context of Madrid, of course, it got different resonances such the impact that certain methodologies that were unknown then had, or how the crossings between disciplines, theory, practice, visual arts, choreography and performance were engaged. Juan also stayed in close relationship with his own artistic processes, for example by inviting fellow participants of 6Months1Location to join him in the curatorial team. Though in my sense, I think that besides, no doubt this proposal came out of shared and common problems, perhaps it lacked a bit of a more specific translation in the context of Madrid then. Anyhow I found it a relevant gesture, as Juan shared his own reality but also a shared, collective reality.
You mentioned already that organising a festival is heavy on its production side. Do you think the production model also influences the aesthetic model?
Totally. Of course.
What does that imply?
How you produce, brings the aesthetic. They are both entangled. You are already making politics…though it seems a job not as easy as it sounds…
What would that mean concretely?
I sometimes wonder if we keep on supporting and reproducing the neo-liberalist scenario and its needs. We are really in an interesting game. And the game is not outside of us. There is a game as much as we are the game.
Neo-liberalism needs us and so we behave accordingly in order to be needed and so productive and so workable in its most efficient and functional ways. My concern about this is not a question about creation of new models of artistic production that supposedly are political. Together with creating spaces which in the long take, may blur the boundaries in between curatorship, artistic work, research or self-learning contexts, my main concern at the moment is that before thinking so productively about new productional models of those spaces, we may consider them according to the very game that is at play.
If we say that we belong to the same game (or the same body) we are also necessary for its reproduction, and there is were the fun starts because, are we sure that we want to keep being necessary for its reproduction? to what extend are we obedient to its model so we are necessary? Could we start to take care for the conditions that entails the reproductive model in order to interrupt certain dynamics? I guess that, here aspects such use-value are something to think about, because… useful for whom? I mean… to whom to what are we working for anyway?
I think that the last edition of Inpresentable was very challenging and made a move. My sense is that more than a closure it timidly open some issues in regard to the question around use-value . It turned out to be almost a festival without agenda, self organised and co-created in situ…
I only have an idea of the sort of work that was presented there last year. But if you would define the work maybe in broader terms that was presented there. What would that be?
Low budgeted, works with few technical neccesities. Things that people wanted to try out. Many solos. Experiments. The one thing you never got to present in Inpresentable because you weren’t ever invited to do so. Actions that decided to have little preparation before presented. Works specifically dealing with the conditions of the year’s festival. Don’t know…Besides, because all the presentations were happening at the same time in this single building, generally I sensed that presentations were perceived more as drafts rather than the one piece, ultimate work of this or this artist…in this way, the tonality of it was kind of a shared tonality, an intensity displaced towards what continued to be the actual event before and beyond the one presentation-author-festival kind of thing…
Could you outline the project -Y si dejamos de ser (artistas)?- (What if we let go of being (artists)?)? Maybe we can about the continuity in relation to InPresentable.
…Uff, I’m gonna light a cigarette….
Regarding continuity from Inpresentable, there were different approaches applied that turned out to be modes of discontinuing actually. If Inpresentable was centred in the one artist figure curating a context, Y si dejamos de ser (artistas)? (YSDDSA) created the conditions that would implement a curatorial frame inclusive of many, difuminating authorship. Secondly and, due to the previous one, its methodology and actual outcome dealt straight forwardly with the question of how to make and do considering it as a common problem that engaged let’s say pre-productional questions as practice and methodology, such working and living conditions, conditions subjected to modes of production and reproduction, the conditions of representation subjected to power relations and precarety and so on. Thirdly, whereas Inpresentable was a project that almost grew together with the project of La Casa Encendida, the scenario under which YSDDSA took place, was very different: up till last year, LCE used to be the cultural initiative of a bank (Caja Madrid), this bank has caused a lot of harm in peoples economy and savings…it is a long story, but let’s say that people’s perception of LCE is today very problematic. So YSDDSA was contaminated by this context in relation to the interest the project could have risen in the scene if it would had happened previous to this context. Why a project with such an intentions would need and want to be done at LCE? Well, after struggling a lot with the question, we decided that it was best to deal with the problem at the problem’s situ with all the complications we would encounter (‘to eat the beast’s guts through’ we used to say) because we knew that if we would have done the same in another ‘precarious, artistic frame’ would have been perceived as another alternative proposal.
Currently, LCE has become a private foundation detached from the bank’s financial support and representation. So at the moment they need private money, meaning they need competitive and innovative projects to exists. This scenario created an interesting tension in regard to reproduction and use-value. Our main premise at the beginning was ‘we don’t need LCE to do this’ (I mean, the institutional frame with all its consequences). And this little displacement in regard to whom are we doing this for, for whom and what are we useful for, engaged us in such a way, that we would create space of manoeuvre in order to hack it a little with productional means. At the same time LCE, started to make little sabotages in terms of support for publicity, diffusion and so on. So they wouldn’t need us as well! (laughs). I just want to clarify that I’m talking in terms of the ‘institutions function and interests’ and not of specific people working there such Maral Kekejian and her team. Maral was the person who invited me to do all this.
Of course, after 15 M movement, there has been an interruption of the perception’s political space of representation. At least in regard to the way we used to think about it. Our concern was not to do something so call political, nor to do it politically, but to think of the questions and problems that enabled us to politized the very conditions under which we do and make (so its politics in facts). I guess what it was at work from the start was a mode of resistance, a withdrawal from politics as are usually performed, which if we think of (as I told you before) in terms of production of subjectivity, this was a way to question and practice how to interrupt quite radically with the very game with which we (are) reproduced.
The title of the festival -¿y si dejamos de ser (artistas)?- (what if we let go being (artists)?) tries to sustain the question without answering it, it tries to embody the problem of today’s production of subjectivity as a way of resistance. I mean, which are the figures attached to the artist’s subjectivity? What those figures have in common with any other figure belonging to the so call social body such the spectator, the consumer, the politician, the producer, the citizen?. If you displace the figure of the artist, which other configurations could be embodied? Figures that don’t count for the visible and yet are inoculating our very subjectivity. Figures that are the actual characters in the nee-liberal’s scene such the freelancer, the entrepreneur, the unemployed, the exploited, the employer, the employed, the precarious one, the poor, the migrant…etc.
Methodologically I started first working for a while with my colleague Paulina Chamorro, with whom I have had work with and have shared concerns, and joined one of the labs that I initiated in Madrid entitled ‘choreography. a problem to practice’. Then we ask 3 more people to join, let’s say as a core and coordinating group of the event which were Fernando Quesada, David Pérez and Sandra Cendal (who left the core group after 3 months working) We started to think together and discuss the conditions under which we could produce the festival (we never call it like that in fact…but experimental framework, learning environment…). Then we started to interpel people (which included friends or fellow practitioners with common interests yet with different disciplines, also people we knew where thinking along the same lines as us and that we wouldn’t necessarily know personally). All of them where perceived and invited as something like ‘contributors’ (in spanish we would say ‘implicated ones’) so people was not invited under a specific work, we wouldn’t buy any products, but were interpeled to contribute by first appropriating the question and secondly returning it back with their practices and contexts at stake. The involved group was very heterogeneous, up to 30 people, from philosophers, activists, people from visual arts, mothers, architects, choreographers, unemployed people, cooks, cultural workers, dramaturges, performers, the oldest 70 something and the youngest 24 years old. Such Terrorismo de Autor, Carolina Boluda, Juan Calatayud, Vicente Arlandis, Sexo Hipster, Luis Alberto Zamorano, Rafael Tormo i Cuenca, Norberto Llopis Segarra, Amanda Piña, Daniel Zimmermann, Miguel Guzmán Pastor, David Gràcia, Esther Jordana, Emilio Tomé, Ali & Cia, Rafa SMP, Esther Blázquez, PKMN, Laura Bañuelos, Play Dramaturgia…
In the beginning I was thinking to invite people I know from Europe. And then I had a conflict, because the gap we are experiencing in between north and south Europe is huge (I can say that because I live in Madrid but I work abroad all the time). Fernando suggested for instance that it would have been interesting to open the space to discuss and share that gap in between north and south (or more expanded EE.UU , China or anywhere else), but since there was little money, and it seem relevant to first get in touch with the specifics of our own context, we ended up involving people mainly from Madrid and the rest of Spain. There were only two artists from abroad. Everybody was invited by a letter in which we wouldn’t explain our interests or what the thing should or was going to be, but we would just expose our concerns in the thinking and creating of this specific context holding the problem of what that would imply in doing-making it from a common, collective instance, inviting them to implicate in thinking together. Almost everybody invited say yes (two cancelled in the process and another one never show up).
Then, we organised from January till June both presencial meetings as well as communication via a mailing list (a google-group thing). We used tools from internet like the ‘pirated pad’ which is a doc that is in the cloud in which you can edit collectively. In that sense what, what practiced there was that everybody could hack the very space of production by proactively making proposals which would be seconded or not by the rest, without prior consensus yet attending and following the questions, circumstances and situations that were shared. After every presencial meeting, one person without previous consensus or being appointed to do so, would just publish at the pirate pad notes as a way of recapitulation of the meeting, notes that anybody could keep on editing if wanted and that anybody absent during the meeting would take responsibility for taking account on what’s going on and participate of it.
Everyone could choose or decide how to be involved. And to what extend according to its circumstances, desires or needs. Out of the 30, there was a core group of around 20 people really involved. Which it wouldn’t necessarily account for the actual week at La Casa Encendida for the ones that couldn’t be so present during the process in terms of their engagement in what they shared at La Casa Encendida. Sometimes, and for the ones leaving outside Madrid, we did collective, small groups or one to one Skype meetings.
We also considered that there would not be engaging the ‘public figure’ as such, meaning the spectator that comes expecting whatever. This for me has been very exciting. We departed from the fact that we were treating common problems for common people like us, so although still due to its broader context the event would still belong to an ‘artistic context’ we really try to displace from it. What we did was to keep on enabling the chain of interpeled and implicated ones. So at some point people will be following the project via the blog (we also open a blog) by the google groups list (we also would add them if they would ask for it) or by coming to the meetings every now and then. It really worked a a kind of viral chain…things were cooking with all its failures and potentialities and people were already implicated on that common space. This lasted even through out the week at LCE. Many of the people that ended up at el Patio of La Casa Encendida came, as they been ‘followers’ of the event to the point that some would even get fully engaged, more than contributors themselves, we encountered others that were on holidays and sensed what happened, deciding to let go of their touristic trip to be there…etc.
Finally, and in terms of methodology we treated the issue of how and under which means we would distribute the budget we had to do this, which we first discussed amongst the core group, but when we open was a problem that we dealt very intensely amongst the 30 of us. What to do with the 40.000 euro budget? How to distribute that? What kind of value system do we open? What we first did was to deduce all the productional cost from the 40000 Euro that we got. Then there was the idea that people could decide how much they would earn. It was a question of what do we give value to, but of course that was a little bit risky, we also considered to spent nothing and leave the 40.000 euros at el Patio de la casa Encendida whereby later and during the event we would decide what to do with it if anything…or go for just leaving it there as a furniture…
What was processed and experimented was the exchange value of our (in)material work. On the one hand, we wondered if economy was a cultural construction that could transform gradually dismantling the logic of monetary dependence as means to invent practices that would remove their function and think how could take up less in our lives.
We distributed it indeed, but in the most conventional and ambiguously “fair way”: the budget covered travel, accommodation and food. What was left which was 700 euros fee per person independently we would do something material or unmaterial.
In fact it was very problematic. At the end everyone was working really precariously, basically doing everything for free. The interesting thing is that if you want continuity and to provide this kind of experimental working environment, the budget for a one week festival is not useful anymore. This we had to discuss a lot with Maral Kekejian, the programmer of Casa Encendida, because she was saying “I had to fight so much for you to work professionally and with a little bit of dignity and now you become amateurs.” Partly she was right of course, but what does it mean to be a professional today according to the ways we self-produce and reproduce? So what if we would let go being professionals? And what does it mean to be amateur? Etymologically the word means something like.
Exactly! The one that loves what it does…which in terms of sustainability is an interesting figure to embody attentively and sensibly in order to engage with reproduction understood as care politics…which it also links to the needy reproductive aspect of production that I was explaining before, aspect that should be carefully considered according to what funding bodies or institutions needs and its protocols…
And was there then a specific plan made beforehand of what would happen?
We decided to occupy the patio of La Casa Encendida. Everything would happen there. One single space for one week. It was the space for work, discussions, breaks, siesta, building ups and building downs, performances, experiments, actions, conversations etc. It functioned as a kind of public square because something was always happening which wasn’t announced or presented ever. Something that was enough to make anybody that would pass by enter and stay. Doors where open. There was not ticket entrance price. Everything was for free.
That situation which was so live by the way, was implemented by a tool ‘the long take’, the plot sequence used in cinema. We made a translation of it to see what it could be transferred to the live situation and the spacial behaviour of bodies and space. The figure that transferred this concept towards the performing context was the idea of – this is difficult to translate in English – obra en obras, which would mean “a work at working”, or literally “a piece constructing itself”. A collective construction without collective. A construction of anybody and anything that would take place. Not a work in progress, but a work at work. In fact ‘being’ was put at work displacing the usual roles. Like a party, you go to a party and the party is going as much as you party, as long as you put your body. So the long take, the absence of assemblage or it continuous assembly (as the party, you know when you start but don’t know how you will end up) really opened up a very strange space, because people wouldn’t come to see this or this one artist or author at a certain time but people would just come. We wouldn’t mediate; we wouldn’t say “now we start this.” We wouldn’t introduce any guest, for example. You had to go to the space and experience it yourself. It would made vacant the space of critic, consumption or expectations. Things were going, were happening and you just needed to engage yourself or, in lack of it, leave. There wasn’t a ‘performing space’, everything was performing space (the performing space or stage as a word in spanish we also literally we say ‘scene’ which is interesting to use in english…) So there was no specific scene, nothing specific to see prior to what was actually happening. Basically this tool implemented a space and a time radically inclusive of whatever and anybody.
Indeed we consider strategically some frames because the doors where open from 11.00 a.m till 11.00 p.m (sometimes later). In the mornings there were workshops in which we would share the source code of the technologies and ideas that articulate our artistic practices and lifes. So we organised this according to what people wanted to share, who and when.Then we would go for lunch at the same place we lunched last year at Inpresentable. In the afternoons we proposed conversations with three philosophers and an economist sharing knowledge that could enable practices applicable to the fields of art and life and from there we would go to the evenings frame were the continuous plot sequence will be directly approached. There was an order of things that should happen every night (though it was not always as how it was planned as there was lots of improvised events as well) and we organised in order to make sure there was one of us each night amongst the group that would coordinate technically the plot together with technicians from LCE. Regarding this part, and in terms of the information that was delivered to the visitors, there was description of the stuff that would occurred during the evening but not attached authors to it (you could read biographies somewhere in the program).
If you think this now for yourself in terms of continuity, do you have any future perspectives with this project? Is this something you want to continue as well in the next years?
Me as well as other participants in this project we will continue on our own and with some people from the project and others because before and during this project we were already working with many of the aspects and questions I described. So indeed, the project will continue but not as such. Cannot because that would betray its intentions. It is clear for LCE, for us and I would even say for the people that was there most of the week that this is the kind of event you should do once and that’s it. The gesture to not do it, it’s a gesture of withdrawal upon itself. That’s its value.
Nevertheless and more specifically about YSDDSA we actually want in any case to do it again, but as a publication. How may a book embody the body of thought, methodologies and tools that implemented this project?
It seems that Casa Encendida is a very important partner in this project. I was wondering in terms of funding if la Casa Encendida is the main place where experimental work can happen in Madrid. Is that the main place that funds that kind of work, or do you normally also apply in the city, or are there other possibilities?
Yes, you can apply for money. And no, LCE is not the only place where this kind of work is supported. There is CA2M, an art centre which is becoming a very interesting and relevant place at the moment, sometimes they work in partnership with Maral from La Casa Encendida (they have created together a residence program for performance artists for instance). There is also Pradillo that opened one year ago. Formely a theatre, it’s now becoming a space for artistic research and they are really experimenting with frames as well as supporting local artists -artistically and productionally.- I’ve never applied in Spain, (well only for research money once because it was quite simple the procedure) but i never applied for subsidy support because the whole protocol is just a scandal. You apply and then they give you the money after you have done the project to say the least and the simplest.
Yeah…People were asking credits to the banks, but now the banks also don’t give credits anymore. I never ask money. I was living for a long time with subsidies from Holland and this lasted for years. My incomes come out of creating my own contexts for working. In different contexts: more institutional, or educational, academic, some others are self-organised. That’s how I’ve been making my living financially sustainable.
If look at all your projects, it seems that there’s always a major focus on how artists organise themselves, how to create platforms for continuity, how do you organise collaboration, etc. What would be for you the red thread through all these projects?
The three contexts or projects that crossed that line were LISA (with David Weber-Krebs, Ivan Muller, Nicole Butler and Hester Van Hasselt), Vocabulaboratories (with Manuela Zechner) and a piece together? (with Cristian Duarte and many others). The project that transverses them is the kind of research context I initiated on my own called Choreography: a problem to practice which for sometime become Coreografxs producing as much as labs as choreographic collective actions, solos, conferences, and video essays during 2011-2013.
I guess that, according to the context of this interview, the other red thread was my experience in LISA. We were doing pretty well till we started to do publicly. Crossed the (red)line: everything became about self-representation.
Could you define the concrete problem of this representational issue?
Well..first we are bodies part of other bodies, bodies that continue as much are continued with and by other bodies, then we are people, we are citizens that pay taxes and exists by quantitative procedures and categories of diverse sort. Whereas we are employed or not, migrants or not, we still count for the big reproductive game. Then we are artists, we may be artists-label co belonging to this or that collective-label as well. Ultimately, we are projects and the problem is that even when we keep on reproducing our very future projection to exists successfully, we still get bored, unsecured and dependent on who knows what.
The project works as a label, an interface which is put at work in the sense that it constantly needs to be fitted, suitable, adaptable, flexible and accommodated no matter what for, if it manages to be reproductive. The problem is when perceived like that, nothing gets interrupted from the inside’s reproductive cycle. An interruption that reveals that it is our lifes, our affects, our bodies, our vulnerability what is working all the time. Everything must work (and here it is good to clarify that ‘work’ relates labour as well as functionality in its productive way) Everything turns around being competitive and self-interested (even when we lie to ourselves and we pretend to create context for sharing, or we go for the so call collaborative projects).
We (I was at some point) exhausted of “being projected”, signifying all the time and exploiting one another because everything is encapsulated and absorbed by the market’s logics meaning that our bodies, our sensitivities, our communicational and relational skills are also marketarised and isolated. We are not just tired, but we are really exhausted. To exists, to be useful and reproductive we are exploiting life’s body itself.
I am really working on how to make that problem a practice for the body’ somatic potential, though the kind of training I’m developing will be said to be more a counter-somatic training. How do we treat the capacity for self-detachment, for potential, for resistance, for withdrawal? How to exists effortlessly? Which are the paradoxical aspects of effort-less-ness and self-less-ness? How to (un)learn our capacity to sense and perceive (un)expected connections and modes of engaging by, through, with world’s materiality?
In those times in Amsterdam and still today, when I go abroad specially, I feel like we, artists don’t behave so differently from politicians. We fall sometimes into the system’s values that supposedly may make us exists properly, so we do it yet in order to be accepted, sell-able, vote-able (the worst is when we do it with our work partners that happen to be our friends as well). We should watch out carefully these dynamics.
Then there are some maybe broader questions on your experience of being a freelance choreographer. What do you think changed during the past 15 years that you have been working within the field of dance and choreography?
I remember there was a time that we were going for all sorts of residencies all around the world. Viva la mobilidad! You know…We were only travelling. I think that nowadays it’s not like that anymore. It think there is a need to go for having a base or a space. To make place. To dwell. Now it seems we are in need of a local space where we can have continuity, where we can create a context and take care for the conditions that may makes it sustainable. These residencies really disconnected you from life. Uprootedness did really produced the kind of migrant subjectivity, unattached yet holding his/her project for ever and everywhere. Uff…
I see that the notion of the laboratory is very present in your work. Vocabulaboratories, Choreography: a problem to practice and Y si dejamos de ser (artistas)? are all referred to as laboratories. The laboratory automatically refers to the experiment. Could you elaborate a bit more on that?
Yes, now that you say so. It has to do a lot with taking into account hypothesis, trial and error. Error is very important in the sense that it can be very productive. I wasn’t aware that the laboratory is so present in my work. Lately I’m thinking a lot of creating experimental environments. The most interesting aspect about these environments is the (un)learning process that is going on there. It’s not about something that you can actively teach to others, but it’s about having a hypothesis or a question that concerns you which is normally sharing other’s people’s concerns common to yours as well. This interpelation by a concern pushes me to create specific conditions in order to be able to sustaining embodying that question.
The problematics that are at the core of your work are very clear, but what would then be the problems you encounter in doing that sort of work, both on an artistic level and on a structural level?
In terms of money and support, I don’t operate anymore as the subject label Paz Rojo, a name to which we can attach some sort kind of work that tours around. In Holland, for instance, the last letter I’ve got from the committee of subsidies said: “Paz, we don’t know anymore what are you doing. We can’t have a hold on it, so we don’t know to what we are giving money.”
And so they stopped supporting you…
Indeed. And now, I haven’t talked with Maral from Casa Encendida yet, but I’m sure that she’s going to tell me “If you want to keep on going with the project, with the festival, you have to do it in this way” which would mean that I have to really stand up as a curator and to stop the complications of the collective procedure and the rest, But maybe not, because we trust each other. That’s the thing, you know, part of the institutional body are other bodies, people, personas, bodies of different sort that inoculate some kind of distribution of sensibilities. Even if that works in its most micro-nano level, it is important that that happens. And when I think about, it is almost a must that happens on its micro-nano level…
You think experimental work, if it wants to be able to function, is bound up to open up to specific socio-political dimensions and concerns?
Of course. And yet…don’t know. Because we are not activists, we are not revolutionaries, we are not warfare keepers, we are not all of that. Aren’t we? Our field of manoeuvre is so little…anyway we don’t want to get involved with such antagonistic procedures…do we?
The other day we were talking about Y si dejamos de ser (artistas)? and how we didn’t try to influence these problems. Because were and are always already affected by it. We are right in the middle of it. We are not the ones to say to the other how they should behave, because then we would be politicians. You are not fully an artist, but you are also a person with the same common problems that your neighbour has. Basically it’s a question of commitment. It’s not a commitment in the sense of believing that I have the truth and that I can add another possibility to change the world. No, you cannot change the world; we have only this world. So let’s make it tangible, touchable even if its complications are not funny. Commitment is not so much about what I can add to society as an artist, but it’s the other way around. I’m already implied in the problem. I’m the problem itself. I’m a machine (as well as the game as I said before). So in order to short circuit the machine, so that it starts at least to be dysfunctional (in a functional way I hope), you have to accept that we are the machine as well. And the machine is not only in respect to the artist, but to everybody. This is not solved just by talking about politics in your work; you have to politized your own modes of production and organisation. Your politics. That’s a completely different way to go about this issue..
Right after last Inpresentable I gave a workshop in Brussels (a.pass). It was impossible, because my workshop put people into crisis. Of course, you have to start to untie yourself from all your sets of beliefs. In terms of very basic style of movement, but it goes further in different scales, to the point that in the end the class is also put into crisis, the academic context, everything. I feel the fracture between North and South Europe is getting bigger and bigger. I had the feeling that for them I was talking Chinese. Really.
That’s remarkable since you’ve been in Amsterdam for 10 years, so you actually know very well how it functions. It’s not that you are completely alienated from…
The business up there…
What does that actually mean or produce for you, having had these two experiences of let’s say economically very dislocated places?
I’m in shock. Sad. Actually we wanted to invite different people from the European scene as I said before whose work I specially love. But things are moving so fast nowadays that I thought it was a necessary gesture not to do that. My dear colleagues up there are still in their fight for subsidies and touring and all that.
So in that sense you make another movement than Juan, who brought works to Madrid that actually never had a place in Madrid, but you decided to start from your environment and build something up with the people around you.
Exactly. It is part of the condition I find myself in. You can only use things that are at hand. We really had to deal with what is necessary right now and which gestures we can make accordingly.
Do you think it’s possible to negotiate between that and an internationally established market?
No. I don’t think so. For me it’s very difficult to speak about that, because it’s been since a very long time since I went to big festivals. I don’t work for the market, or rather I don’t need the market to work. And I don’t feel marginal. The other way around, I feel that I’m at the core. I’m really dealing with the issue and with much more freedom in fact. I create the conditions. But still I work a lot abroad all the time.
So you need that in order to sustain your life in Madrid?
Yes. When I was in Stockholm some time ago, I realised that the Swedish civilisation is the sort of civilisation we stopped being in the south of Europe. It looked like a science fiction. People were happy and healthy. I felt like I was seeing something I know that I’m not going to live again.
I think you guys should all do a trip to Greece and Spain and have a look.
We are mourning down here.
A very nice question in relation to that: what would you change if you had the means to do so?
Wow. (laughs) … a bit more radical than that. There’s nothing to change. It’s not about producing another change, because it is changing all the time anyway. That’s the condition in capitalism. The more it changes, the more productive, reproductive, adaptable, the more options and possibles and accommodated it gets.
I think we live in a time that we have to even fall more into that what is changing, without appropriating it, without strategy. We are inside the machinery, as machines we do not really separate in between the machine’s mechanisms and our bodies. My hypothesis would go around what would it happen if assuming that assumption, we do train our bodies (physical, collective, choreographic, political, artistic, institutional ones) to make that machine more tangible while making it more reciprocally touchable. We have to train our perception for the invisible, meaning the more you touch it the more you make it tangible, only then you start to do it as much as you undo it in within different configurations. There is not this world and you. We are part of this world as much as the world is taking part inside us. We should dig deeper and learn how to scratch the identitarian’s regime scab, to let go of being afraid of becoming impersonal, generic, selflessly tangible first.
In A piece together? we started to work with the movie Gerry (2002) from Gus Van Sant. You see two young men, seemingly going to some place. But suddenly they realize they are lost. They choose to be lost and that’s the only thing we can see. There’s two people going into nowhere. Interestingly enough they call each other Gerry and everything becomes a Gerry. So this is something I’m working on a lot: the word, the name (Gerry) is a verb, the place-holder of a multitude, it’s something you do, it’s a practice without subject as the subject is a doing and not a presupposed instance you should act from. So to rethink this in terms of a festival: how can a festival be a practice and escape something that has to represent itself all the time? That means that it has to be inscribed in reality as “what is”. Not “being this or that”, but as “what is” so…as potential. That means that we cannot get a hold on conclusions yet, or solutions which results in change. That’s impossible, we would still be in the same game. We have to learn how to inhabit uncertainty.
And if you zoom out a bit in Spain, do you know of any other projects or structures that are actually dealing with these same topics that are also artist initiated or create this frame from the inside out so to say?
I already mentioned CA2M (Centro de Arte 2 de Mayo) and the theatre Pradillo (Madrid), I also have to think of Medialab Prado (Madrid), which is a very interesting and very ambiguous place that belongs to Matadero and so the city council in Madrid, yet it managed to be a quite interesting place for subjectivity modes of production research and its problems within culture politics, social politics, the arts and else. Then there is Periferiès in Valencia. Colaborabora a plattform originally from Bilbao. AZALA a residence place at the country side close to Bilbao that develops projects around diverse topics concerning performing arts production and research run by Idoia Zabaleta. Zemos98 (Sevilla, which I talked before about it). ARTEA a discursive theoretical platform on performing arts very linked to Inpresentable. There is also Sección Irregular (the Irregular section) a curational project runned by Quim Pujol at El Mercat de las Flors in Barcelona. In Barcelona as well, there is also La Poderosa, which is a self-organized place. There’s also an online platform called TEATRON an online community for the performing arts in Spain and abroad. La Porta in Barcelona which could be perceived in parallel to Inpresentable and beyond it as well. And also many other initiatives coming that are being created during this time of austerity politics…
Thank you so much fort his interview.