There’s a cloud at the top of the mountain and other notes on the contemporary

I remember reading a story by Doris Lessing where she describes an alien race that can travel through time as human beings can travel through space: backwards, forwards, and sideways. Within the clearly demarcated boundaries of their lives (they, too, are born and then die), the aliens may decide when it is they spend their lives. Of course, this alien civilization experiences the same terrors as ours does: sometimes they get sick, sometimes they kill each other, sometimes they experience grief, pain, chaos, uncertainty. The aliens are aware of these times and situations but they choose not to dwell in them, they fast-forward into peace or they retreat towards their childhoods.

It is a paradox condition of our present–contemporary–era that time itself has lost its forward-moving linearity: look at the dance stages of the now and we find a multiplicity of pasts, a variety of presents, and more than a few glimpses of the future. Timeless-ness (not an aesthetic quality but a lack of being bound in time) is symptomatic of the contemporary. Imagine it as a cloud at the top of the mountain:  modernity rewrote human history as relentless upward progress, but all the while it was driving its monstersup the slope. And now we, too, have arrived in a mysterious landscape, the summit is obscured by a fog, and we move through and with rifts and valleys of traditions, beings from other worlds, we dance with ancestors and time-travellers. We are in a a state of constant re-appropriation, the emergent value of which we are too small to recognize. Many are  the fata morgana, swirling in the cloud.

Like the alien race, we now choose when and where to live. In examining the times and spaces available to me, I make contemporary performance. ‘Contemporary performance’ is a term I choose to inhabit, and in drawing the borders of a definition (although this is a cloud–I can see what is next to me but not far beyond that, and though I stake my claim the edges will always be contested, blurry) I recognize that there is indeed an agglomeration of questions, aesthetic practices, and economic principles that connects me more closely to some artists than to others.

Where are these borders? I choose to make a list, that anachronistic tool (too linear, too meticulous!), to sketch a topography:

1) In contemporary performance, reflexive and contextual practices make up a substantial part of the process and the performance.

2) Contemporary performance most often originates in conditions of precarity because  the market demands a speed of production that makes the creation process formulaic; if a process is formulaic, it is not inventing situation-specific techniques and means. If it is not questioning its own techniques and means, then reflexive and contextual practices are not a substantial part of the creation process and performance (see 1).

3) In contemporary performance, technique is a means of putting a body into a staged situation and not the end goal of a performance itself. Technical demonstration inhabits a realm of spectacle and virtuosity that certainly exists and sometimes calls itself contemporary. However, most traditional dance technique requires a completely different relation to time than contemporary performance-making: it is accumulated through repetition, it is embodied labour. It is a miraculous thing. It is not what I do: my technique is navigation, on any given day I might do yoga, sing, take a ballet class, write, discuss, improvise, make sounds with random objects, edit a video. A contemporary performer’s greatest skill is often her ability to surf the cloud, to acquire and shed techniques as necessary. Versatile performativities, hybrid bodies.

4) In contemporary performance,  presence is expanding and fading, making way for bodies remarkable for their hyper-referentiality: to pop culture, to other dance techniques and times, to gender norms, to other art disciplines, to the experience of the audience. It is a time of Wikipedia, we always refer to everything else! In this hyper-referentiality (forget Merce! The body was never just a body), contemporary performance embodies more than ever that incredibly ancient notion that the theater is a reflection of the world, that everything one can find in the microcosmos is pointing towards the macrocosmos in a way that shifts our perception, makes us see things differently. Contemporary performance reflects a society where flexibility is obligatory, where precarity is a given, where absolute truths are regarded with mistrust and where the outcome is uncertain.

I should write a conclusion–

but in contemporary performance, the endings are always temporary. They may not even be real. 🙂



I do work with an impulse or a desire which does not have a clear subject matter. I don’t start from a point of self-reflection, or a clear consciousness. I let a process of activities to grow and to select themselves. I create techniques that preserves the production and the selection of certain activities. The activities produce kinetics impulses, cycles, curves, lines of perceptions and emotions. I try to shift the clear recognition of what the emotion or perception can be. I keep the kinetic impulse going. Something continues to be produced. At one point in the process I found symbols and signs that satisfy a representation, or a narrative of the kinetic process. This is done in order to activate some trust from the audience, to not push the spectator to follow a too abstract process.

In resume: all the performers of the project (choreographer, dramaturge, dancers, light and music designer) when we get too conscious and we start to interpret what is happening with the kinetic activities, we look for a technique to keep going without reflecting too much in that way. Nevertheless we are actualizing all the time our processes. This means that we are looking for an alternative way to be conscious about what we create. We read the concrete signs and narratives that we are doing in the making, and at the same time we feel the quality of the kinetic activity. We are working with a method of “intuition”. This is how our disciplines produce something in the affective level (certain vague emotionality, certain body irritability, commotion) and how they sum up to a collective affectivity or narrative. We train to distinguish when our individual activities produce something that sums into something collective, and when we are consciously intending to be collective. The answer is always to come back to the individual production putting an ear in what is collective production. In another words: how our individual timing gets momentum with other individual timing into a collective effect. (BERGSON concept of intuition: a method to pay attention to how the space and time differentiates, with an accent on time, which includes change.)

How to listen to the time of what you do: where you are, where are you going, what are you collectively creating, what types of consciousness you are developing and how you come back to the individual making.

What I like about the three texts of Agamben, Massumi and Maning is that they all have a sense of “time” and  the “collective”. They all work with paradoxical arguments that forces thought to not link linearly. To understand consciously what they are talking about, you need to move with them through the text, you need to produce something with the text, you need to engage affectively-sympathetically with the text to find your way. If you start with a critical position and you are not ready to move your thinking around, the effect of the text does not emerge. There is no sense of experimenting with consciousness and not call for intuition.

Questions/Statements collected in the 10th day of the Academy.

Anna: How can I create a context that helps to work “contemporarily” ?  What is the stimulation between context and organization?

Inge: What are these structures (context and organization)? How to think them with an utopian thinking?

Michael: What role played the participants propositions in the afternoons during the Academy (The kind of structures of relations)?

Hyunsin Kim: What are the key words (of contemporaneity, or the Academy) like the ones proposed by Pirko?

Kareth: Do we agree with the key words Pirko proposed?

Anna Caroline: How to understand the different aspects of the mornings (of the Academy)? What can the approaches and methodologies bring? Map them.

Costas: What does Contemporary consist of? How does it originate? What are its properties? What can it do? What are the ways contemporary culture conceives and constructs its present and its notions of presentness in performative terms?

Lesley: What are some of the tasks that artists are busy with?

Stefanie: What is no contemporary? What is the border? Is everything that claims to be contemporary, contemporary? Maybe find something out from our practices? Is there something in the machines created together that is contemporary? Do we need a strong subject to be critical?

Jens: What are the similarity between the 15 practices that could indicate a contemporary quality? How to find a new definition of contemporaneity that would separate us from the term used for example with people from Steps Festival (Epochal aspect of the term).

Allison: How to perform to audience of another field than contemporary dance?

Annalisa: What can we do with the concept of contemporaneity as an ecological field ? What is its connection with the singular practices?

Eirini: Description of everyone last work in two or three sentences.

Diego: How to produce or find a desire to do something in a collective?  How to actualize desires (concerns) without only being reactionary toward what the media shows about the world? What are the strategies to deal with the precarious quality of the dance profession?

Peter: Concept/Terminology/Reflection. Economy. Aesthetic. Crisis of contemporary, something that is not more.


Anna-Carolina: what would happend if all the people, that took part in the first of May demonstration would share a physical training before?

I like this thought.

Could this be the beginning of a world wide network for critical exchange. ( and not just critical thinking)?

are we the embodiment of ideologies?IMG_9830 IMG_9833 IMG_9837 IMG_9839 IMG_9841 IMG_9846 IMG_9861

A Contemporary piece we want to see

With eyes closed we imagined and spoked about a contemporary piece we wanted to see.  Another person was beside us listening  our descriptions. We did it in slots of time of two minutes and in each slot a new listener came close to us and another left.  In each slot of time we could start to describe the vision of a new contemporary piece or to continue with the development of the one we left unfinished in the past slot. We repeated the whole procedure nine times.  Imagination and physicality became fused, time foregrounded space and fluidity prevailed over stagnation. Desires where realized in thought and sensation during the short time slots.  As a listener I experienced an instant moving theatre.



Textile, algorithm, flock of geese; Entanglement of matter and meaning.

Skein is the self-defined lens through which  Stephanie is approaching her work. This allows her to see the work from 3 sides: as a fabric, algorithm, and flocking pattern. Skein incorporates both corporeality, the material manifestation and carnality, the socially built space.

She is specifically oriented to minimalist tendencies and the emphasis on neutrality emerging from Yvonne Rainer’s study. When the dominant form is extracted, the indexical sign is revealed. Awareness of what is removed becomes the surplus product.

How do we use neutrality?

Can I give form to this neutrality?

How to queer the frame of neutrality? How to subvert he neutral?


We played a type of charades with iconic works testing out on the others if they could still guess the work after stripping it down to neutral.

What are personal observations of  what neutrality is?

Examples of what might be removed to arrive at a neutral index sign:

Attitude, angle of the look, perspective of seduction, presenting the body, constellation of the sexes, moving from the pelvis, emphasis on territory, stylized walk

The amplification of symbolic tragic dimension, intention, consciousness of gaze, removing emotional gestures,  dynamics, cultural meanings of movements

Color, make-up, costume, dynamics, gravity, control of plié

Excessive arm patterns and movements, looking at own body as expression removed but including audience focus. Walk like falling, not articulated. Hesitation removed, lifted shoulders removed because it’s emotional. Facial expression removed.


Zombies Clubbing

Well, my connection with Zombies has not been the most exciting one, I’m more a superhero person, thinking highly of Batman(!)… Horrormovies have never been my thing and the few connections I have with these lovely creatures is that I played one once in a low-budget movie and I had a tragic death because the protagonist smashed my head with a baseball bat.

(Anyways according to Costas and the Hollywood crew they usually die when you shoot them in their head, so the brain, which controls the hunger of human flesh, will be hit)

Costa’s inspiration on Zombies was based on the ideas of Romer’s films and also the notion of a generic body (Link: The question for our group was not always “What is a body?”, but “What can a body do?”.

Zombies were shown as beings which are not there for production as we are so used to in a capitalistic society, but they even represented “hope” for changes in the human condition. So maybe a Zombie revolution could be an answer to Capitalism.

Anyways we started with touch going into pairs. The person touching and the person being touched both stayed active in this process and exchange touch and were an inspiration for the other person. After a while they both parted and the person being touched started to reconstruct the sense of this kind of partnering by his own, being still open to the external, so not simply busy with oneself, but keeping the attention also on the surroundings. This task then expanded and we went to different objects or inspiring surfaces to take this further.

We tried not to produce something or make something out of what we were doing. This principle stayed also in the next tasks. In the next one we listened to music and explored a body part or a short movement phrase. Howeve, it was a fleeting moment again, because before something became “something”, we dropped it.

After that we started to listen to the music and tried to do bodysynch (like lipsynch, but with the whole body), where the body tried to show as many as different components of the music as possible. This was quite difficult to do, but quite nice to watch.

A video will follow soon and some comments



A proposal for a curatorial project on a collaborative basis


Looking at the body as a living archive (habits, gestures, language, traces, remains…)


Working with ‘ fantasmata’  (the living deposit  or the  echo of an idea  or trace of a word or resonating in a gesture stored in the body archive)




Example presented by Lisa : fantasmata of GRAVITY/ANTI GRAVITY


Classical ballet

Martha Graham

Trisha Brown

Maya Deryon  ‘The Very Eye Of Night’ 1958

Erika Janunger ‘weightless’ 2007



Lisa shared her interest in (combined) words like:







Starting from a concrete event, we built up a map/collection of memories and individually proposed existing art works reflecting/manifesting the resonance of that event in our body archive

Chosen event: