Bojana  Cvejic

About  a  year  ago  when  Emil  Hrvatin  and  I  proposed  a  performance  project  addressing collectivity,  I  couldn't anticipate  the  resistance  and  confusion  the  term  alone  would  bring.
A  dozen  responses  from  programmers,  critics,  and  theorists  from  the  experimental  field  of European  dance  and performance,  whom  we  asked  for  a  critical  reflection  on  the  project proposal,  resonated  in  a  consensus  of questions:
"Aren't  you  aware  of  how  ideologised  and  outmoded  the  term  is?  Do  you  mean  collectivity  as a  modus  operandi or  as  a  topic  of  research?  In  other  words,  are  you  working  collectively  or  on collectivity?  We  would  be  happier  if you  substituted  'collectivity'  with  a  term  more  suitable  to contemporary  practices  -­  collaboration,  namely  -­  as collaboration  involves  a  space  of  negotiation of  individual  differences."

If  collaboration  is  a  buzzword  for  a  working  habitus  in  performance  today,  collectivism  is abandoned,  or  even repressed  and  repulsive  in  its  very  idea.  The  uneasiness  with  collectivity  is more  than  a  symptom  of  the  politics of  liberal  individualism  in  performing  arts.
It  entangles  intersecting  interests  in  a  few  "c-­terms":  collectivity  and  community,  criticality  and conceptualization. Here  I  will  resume  a  number  of  questions  and  points  I  discussed  in  a  speech held  at  Context  #1,  Berlin,  Hebbel-­ am-­Ufer,  January  2004.
Collectivity:  the  libertarian  heritage

What  does  an  investigation  of  a  concept,  more  social  and  historical  than  artistic  and contemporary  as  we  were told,  reveal  about  the  current  state  of  experimental  performance  in Europe?  Is  authorship  always  already assigned  to  the  one  who  initiates  a  project?  How  can  an initiative  to  invite  authors  for  research  reassure  an egalitarian  basis  of  collaboration,  a  frame  of collectivity  without  central  leadership?
Does  collectivity  in  Western  societies  today  only  conjure  images  of  collective  political  action  in  a strong ideological  vein  abolished  after  1989?  Is  collectivism  necessarily  understood  –  and therefore,  dismissed  -­  as  the tool  for  emancipatory  politics  by  an  obsolete  model  of  the  theatre and  performance  practices  in  the  60s?
"When  we  feel,  we  feel  the  emergency:  when  we  feel  the  emergency,  we  will  act:  when  we act,  we  will  change  the world."  (Julian  Beck,  Living  Theatre)

It  is  the  collectives  founded  upon  the  essentialist  premises  of  humanity  being  at  work  or  the mythology  of merging  life  and  art  in  the  60s,  that  are  all  the  more  responsible  for  concluding an  end  to  the  interest  in collectivism.  The  dramaturgy  of  the  ascending  ritualist  voyage  of  an individual  within  a  collective,  be  it  in  the  life of  a  tribal  commune  or  in  stage  representation  – as  the  theatre  collectives  in  the  60s  pursued  –  dissolved  its  own project  of  social  and  political change,  because  in  the  final  stage  of  the  process,  it  narrows  it  down  to  the  abstract idea  of individual  freedom.  What  I'm  saying  here  is  that  we  should  thank  historical  collectives  from  the 60s  for providing  food  for  liberal  individualism  today.  They  handed  down  a  legacy  of  libertarian depoliticizing  thought: practice  freedom  as  the  exercise  of  free  will.  Take  one  of  those imperatives  of  Living  Theatre,  like  "Change  is  the natural  state  of  being",  strip  it  from  its 1960s-­anarchist  vogue,  and  what  you  get  is  a  slogan  "free,  different, ?creative",  who?  The sovereign  individual  chooser  nowadays:  the  author,  the  programmer,  the  spectator.

Collectivity  in  the  models  we  chose  to  remember  is  relegated  to  ideological  disasters  or  social breakdowns,  as  if doomed  to  always  fall  into  fascist  regimes  of  collaboration.  What  should  be more  important  is  to  examine  the present-­day  situation  why  collectivism  isn't  just  abandoned but  repressed  or,  why  the  very  idea  of  collectivity  is repulsive  or,  are  we  allowed  to  rethink  it in  new  terms  which  would  serve  the  critical  needs  of  the  present?
Such  scenes  from  the  performances  of  Living  Theatre,  Performance  Group,  even  from  some  of Judson  Dance Theatre  performances,  have  also  transfigured  into  a  hidden  matrix  of  self-­expression,  appearing  in  the  format  of solo  work  or  communal  improvisation  set-­ups  today.
Individualist  self-­expression  makes  a  fetishist  aura  of  dance  in  Western  society:  "And  what  was your  experience, what  did  you  feel,  what  did  you  learn  from  it,  what  kind  of  openings  did  it create  for  you?"  The  interrogations  we so  often  hear  reflect  both  the  spectator's  and  the performer's  New-­Age-­like  occupation  with  the  individual  self.

The  individualism  of  artistic  or  cultural  producers,  especially  in  the  corporeal  outfit  of  the  dancer is,  moreover,  the admirable  capital  of  the  values  such  as  creativity,  complexity,  mobility, flexibility,  or  innovation.
It  is  the  individual  and  not  the  collective  enterprise  of  performance  which  inspires  the  figure  of the  contemporary worker  in  the  context  of  neo-­liberalism.  Does  s-­/he  belong  to  the  frame  of collectivity  or  community  today?
Inoperative  community:  the  networking
The  political  history  of  community,  a  word  forgotten  or  reserved  for  the  European community  more  than  twenty years  ago,  shows  that  "community"  emerges  as  a  term  more appropriate  than  "communism"  was  fifteen  years after  May  68  when  the  French  leftist intellectuals  brought  forth  the  subject  of  collectivity  again.
In  1983,  the  editor  of  the  magazine  Ale?a,  Jean-­Christophe  Bailly,  proposes  the  topic  of community  "la communaute?,  le  nombre":
The  collapse  of  communism  was  met  with  a  liberal  response  that  involves  an  eager  repression of  the  very question  being-­in-­common  (which  so-­called  real  communism  repressed  under  a common  Being)  (Nancy ,  2000, 43).
But  in  neo-­liberalism  we  do  enjoy  a  "being-­together,"  if  you  like.  What  we  have  in  common  is commerce  and communication  –  in  one  word:  the  network.

Networking  provides  the  illusion  of  surpassing  the  boundaries  of  local  professional  community and  breaking  into the  international  field  of  the  discipline  contemporary  performance.  Such  a mechanism  can  be  illustrated  by  the well-­known  cartoon  and  metaphor,  Willy  the  Coyote  and the  Roadrunner,  as  I  discussed  with  a  group  of  makers  at the  Tanzquartier's  lab  on  research  in April  2003.
The  Coyote  tirelessly  chases  the  bird  over  the  flat  boundless  surface  of  the  desert,  keeping always  the  same never-­to-­be-­bridged  distance  from  the  bird,  until  he  flips  over  a  cliff,  the  end of  the  road.  He  never  dies,  just leaves  the  full  imprint  of  his  body  at  the  bottom  of  the abyss.
The  desert  expands  in  a  movement  of  deterritorialization,  each  action  generating  a  fresh  re-­departure,  and  a  line of  flight  only  measured  by  the  inventiveness  and  speed  of  movement. According  to  this  see-­saw  model,  research happens  when  it  breaks  a  new  ground  that  can potentially  develop  into  a  field.

?And  the  sudden  break  of  the  chase  marking  the  fall  from  the  cliff,  the  inevitable  pull-­force  of the  community,  the localization  -­  drags  the  fleeting  individual  down  into  personal  history  and cultural  and  political  contexts  of regulation.
The  field  is  not  just  a  plane  of  consistency,  as  the  popular  Deleuzian  discourse  would  have  it. In  effect,  it  is represented  by  networks  of  venues,  festivals,  research  labs,  flying  programmers, showcase  platforms,  online criticism  platforms  etc.:  in  one  word,  the  institutional  market  on which  makers  are  invited  to  seek  a  niche  for  a desirable  commodity.
The  only  tactic  of  resisting  the  institutional  market  for  the  freelance  artist  is  to  become  the mediating  machine him/herself,  producing  productivity  and  a  self-­governed  networking.  His/her work  shifts  to  a  multiplication  of activities,  contacts,  formats  of  work,  collaboration  and presentation,  allowing  for  the  work-­in-­progress  character  to take  on  almost  his/her  entire  opus, a working  without  work.

The  kind  of  immaterial  labor  the  artist  undertakes  is  to:  either  operate  in  self-­organized conditions  of  working together  with  other  self-­organizing  artists  –  independently  of  the  supply demands  and  opportunities  artistic venues  provide  –  or  produce  the  production  of  one-­individual-­self  as  the  spectacular  commodity  in  the institutional  market.  The  latter  shapes  the immaterial  production  as  information  in  the  form  of  a  performative promise:  "I  am  a  project  of myself,"  where  the  works  of  performances  are  taken  as  temporary,  unfinished 'previews'  of  a project  in  process.  The  freelance  artist,  in  order  to  pursue  a  so-­called  independent  position  in the institutional  market,  is  forced  to  commune  with  the  programmer,  his/her  material  producer on  the  grounds  of  this promise.  But  if  s-­/he  steps  out  of  this  relationship,  as  I  propose  in  the former  tactic,  s-­/he  is  to  organize  her/his own  field  in  cooperation  with  other  artists  and cultural producers,  which  necessarily  involves  transforming  and mobilizing  a  community  into  something based  more  on  the  need  to  collaborate,  a  frame  of  collectivity.
Whether  operated  by  state-­  or  private-­funded  apparatuses  or  hacked  by  a  free  entrepreneurial self  of  the  author, the  artistic  community  likens  a  community  without  project  and  end-­product, communaute?  desœuvre?e,  where desœuvrement  (inoperativess  and  idleness)  should  be understood  in  politico-­ethical  terms.

Community  is  a  given  fact,  rather  than  an  agency  of  mobilization,  for  there  is  nothing  to mobilize  for  collectively. The  demands  which  brought  performance  artists  to  new  experimental frames  of  working  in  the  60s  are  now fulfilled:  there  are  networks  supporting  experimental work;?  the  urge  to  experiment  and  go  cross-­disciplinary  is  no longer  transgressive.  The  then pressing  concern  for  collaboration  arose  from  the  climate  of  political  and  social movements calling for  cooperation.
However,  for  the  artist  to  act  as  her/his  own  producer  rather  than  the  self-­produced commodity of  the programmation,  s-­/he  is  to  redefine  and  reconstitute  collaboration  and  production  beyond the  needs  for  individual self-­affirmation.
Self-­determination  and  the  question  of  art  labour
In  the  types  of  collectivity  and  collaboration  practiced  today  dominates  an  instrumental logic:  artistic  affinity  plus instrumentally  rational  needs  to  collaborate.  A  saturating  number  of theatre  groups,  actors'  collectives  without directors,  such  as  Tg  Stan,  Dood  Paard,  De  Roovers,  't Barreland,  sprung  in  the  Low  Countries  under  the influences  of  the  then  innovatory  practices  of Maatschappij  Discordia,  organized  a  system  of  circulation independent  of  city  theatre  repertory houses.
They  represent  a  sustainable  model  for  continuous  collaboration  that  does  not  question  its foundation  and ?methodology  or  seek  political  or  social  action.  On  the  other  hand,  contemporary programmation  favors  a  star-­ system  matching  of  authors  like  Meg  Stuart  and  Gary  Hill,  Jan Ritsema  and  Jonathan  Burrows,  Je?ro?me  Bel  and Forced  Entertainment,  whereby  the phenomenon  of  temporary  productive  contact  is  motivated  by  an  exchange  of different specialities so  as  to  hopefully  arrive  at  something  new,  unknown,  ''third''  to  the  respective  disciplines  of collaborators.

However  the  encounters  between  established  authors  can  be  intriguing  in  themselves,  they  are primarily stimulated  by  taste  and  box-­office  measurement  of  the  programmer.
The  more  collaboration  is  spoken  of,  the  more  it  is  lacking,  symptomatic  of  crisis,  says  Myriam Van  Imschoot: "We  shouldn't  forget  that  collaboration  doesn't  undermine  the  aura  of  the  Artist, but  it  multiplies  it"(Van  Imschoot, 17-­18).  Collectivity  and  collaboration,  thus,  no  longer  appear as  viable  models  of  experimentation  and  critique  as they  are  already  subsumed  under  the institutional  order  and  a  cultural  policy  trend.
However,  it  is  criticality  as  an  antiessentialist  stand  that  has  formed  a  new  common  and shared  perspective  in the  choreography  of  the  90s.  Je?ro?me  Bel,  Xavier  Le  Roy,  Tino  Sehgal, Mårten  Spångberg  have  developed  a  non-­ affirmative  focus  on  strategies  and  tactics  in  which the  spectator  is  confronted  with  the  displacement  of  dance  as an  aesthetic  and  modernist phenomenon  and  object.

The  spectator  is  forced  to  deal  with  his/her  own  disposition  to  receive  choreography  as  a writing of  a  performative text.  These  choreographers  have  contributed  to  a  distinct  type  of  authorship based  on  discursive  intervention,  or the  effect  of  disturbing  the  spectacle  of  performance.  One thing  is  certain:  they  are  doing  it  alone.
I  want  to  stress:  this  work  can  only  be  done  by  the  author  of  concept  alone.  At  most,  these authors  share  a community  of  discourse,  out  of  which  collaborations  can  spring  occasionally, even  conceptualize  the contractual  basis  of  authorship  such  as  the  performance  Xavier  Le  Roy, commissioned  and  signed  by  Bel  and realized  by  Le  Roy.
But  there  is  no  need  for  collectiveness  as  such  to  help  establish  the  sovereignty  of  these authorial  interventions.
Confined  to  the  object  ''dance''  and  ''theatre  spectacle,''  these  critical  practices  target  the  19th century  theatre-­goer by  producing  the  ''meaning''  of  a  work  in  self-­reference  and  self-­determination.
The  power  of  self-­determination  in  the  concept  of  dance  could  be  potentially  transformative  if  it also  applied  to  the frame  of  working,  production  and  presentation.  At  this  moment,  it  is  capable of  articulating  something  like  a speech-­act:  "This  is  performance,  this  is  choreography," assuming the  role  of  analytical  or  critical  self-­ interpretation,  similar  to  the  conceptualism  in  visual  art.

So  far  it  produces  open,  flexible  and  contingent  definitions  of  dance  and  critique  in  how  we  are habituated  to perceive  it,  but  it  remains  dependent  on  internal,  medium-­specific  matters  of dance  because  operating  in  the institutional  context  of  theatre  makes  its  critique  bound  to  the theatre  dispositif.
Would  the  circularity  of  conceptual  methodology  be  broken  through  if  authors  collaborated  on the  exchange  and confrontation  of  concepts,  risking  their  constructions?  Such  a  framework would allow  but  not  force  production  of contacts,  not  in  terms  of  progressive  searching  for  new phenomena  like  contact-­improvisation  but  as  an opportunity  for  singular  connections,  frictions, mutations  between  independent  agents,  experimentation  which demands  readiness  to  disown one's  intentions  or  materials,  because  one  isn't  primarily  concerned  with establishing  his/her authorship?
What  could  be  the  conditions  for  such  a  collectivity  of  authors,  as  well  as  its  specific  difference to  the  frames  of collaboration  we  know  of  today?  I'll  conclude  this  text  with  four  points redefining  such  collectivity  in  its  potential.

There  is  a  growing  number  of  performance  practitioners  engaged  in  experiments  and  new concepts  of performance,  theatre,  and  choreography.  As  usual,  there  are  always  a  number  of participants  gathering  around  a project.
What  is  the  importance  of  the  number?  Increasing  the  number  of  people  involved  in interaction,  even  if  only  from two  to  three  qualitatively  alters  the  situation.  What  are  the qualities  of  interaction  that  could  result  from  working outside  labor  market  requirements  and cultural  policy  orientation?
There  is  no  pre-­given  sense,  essence,  identity  or  meaning  for  which  to  collect  or  mobilize  with ideological confidence.  Fair  enough.  "Decisive  here  is  the  idea  of  an  inessential  commonality,  a solidarity  that  in  no  way concerns  an  essence."
We  can  exemplify  solidarity  when  our  differences  are  the  commonality  we  trust.  Nancy  says: "We  do  not  "have" meaning  anymore,  because  we  ourselves  are  meaning..."  (Nancy  2000,  1). "We"  could  only  stand  for  the circulation  of  possibilities,  resistances  and  experiences  of  limits when  differences  between  one  another  are constitutive  for  collaboration.
So,  for  "us"  or  to  be  able  to  say  "we,"  there  is  only  something  like  this  phenomenon  taking-­place.  The  "taking-­ place",  in  other  words,  signifies  a  contact  of  singularities  and  the  law  of touching  in  this  contact  is  not  fusion,  but separation.
It  is  the  heterogeneity  of  surfaces  that  touch  each  other;?  heterogeneity  that  stimulates further heterogenesis,  and not  homogenization  under  the  responsibility  of  one  or  the  attraction  to  one author.

But  the  virtual  taking-­place  needs  a  space  that  would  allow  production  and  experimentation without  the  theatre dispositif  hovering  above  it.  Should  we  transform  institutions  (studios, performing  spaces)  into  resource  centers or  platforms  for  working  rather  than  presenting?
The  fourth  term.  To  rethink  collaboration  in  terms  of  undesired  contacts;?  that  "we"  isn't unison,  but  taking responsibility  for  relations  "with"  in  working  with  one  another,  with  no compromise  of  tolerance,  but  sustaining  the differential  in  contact.
"We"  as  "with"  wants  to  push  for  a  bit  of  violence.  For  the  desire  in  persisting  in  a  process whereby  irreducible and  not  desirable  and  manageable  differences  are  productive  for  new configurations  of  working,  a  process whereby  no  overarching  conception  should  provide  safety  to a  prior  self-­regulation.
Perhaps,  redefining  the  "working-­with"  frame,  taking  this  condition  rather  than  the  autonomous self-­validating concepts  by  individual  author,  has  the  power  of  becoming  a  starting  point  for experimental  collaboration  –  a collaboration  between  authors.
One  thinks  that  such  collectivity  would  better  be  called  collection,  if  it  is  defined  by  a  "number of  working-­with-­ one-­another  ones  without  an  essence."  A  question  would  be  how  a  collection of authors-­performers  without  one author  initiator  comes  together.  It's  not  merely  a  technical question  as  it  puts  forward  a  more  important  concern. What  might  be  worth  doing  together  in dance  and  performance  vis-­a-­vis  society  today?