At a time when a strong need and heightened expectations for a new dance centre in Warsaw has been felt among the local dance community, there has been an acute need for fantasizing. Hence, Peter Stamer invited performing artists, directors, visual artists, urbanists, curators, as well as students of the humanities and arts to join a five-day Laboratory inspired by the idea of creating a virtual space for dance. Organized by the Fundacja Ciało/Umysł in the framework of Performing Europe 2020 and hosted by the Warsaw Dance Department, this workshop took place from July 16 to 21, 2018 in the Cultural Palace of Warsaw. The essay reflects questions and strategies of the workshop.
What if you read this text?
What if the Warsaw dance community had a home of its own? What if we started building such a home together for that matter? What if we got to it right now? What if we took the first step towards imagining that house? What if we close our eyes, place ourselves in front of its door, grab the handle, push the door open and walk through it? What if we walk around and find out what is going on in that building by the sheer power of our imaginations?
What if for once we take our dreams seriously? And what if we don’t care if people call us dreamers? What if we are done with being told how very senseless we are, how pointless our work, how needless our visions? What if dance and performance and movement and mime and once again dance, yes dance, remembers the power and potency of resistance that art is capable of producing? What if we are sick and tired of having been fucked around for decades?
What if for the first time in ages we are not being held down, not being told off, not being rendered silent, not thriving on disbelief, not being ridiculed? What if for the first time in ages dancers and choreographers refuse to condone the kind of bullshit decreed by politicians who keep pitting dance against hospitals and kindergartens and welfare programs? What if dancers state loudly that these things are not mutually exclusive for there is always enough money since budgets are not dependent on funds but on political considerations? And what if art has nothing to do with these socio-political notions at all?
What if we don’t look at art in the same way as we look at, say, the work of plumbers who are useful because they fix leaks, repair toilets, clean pipes, get rid of people’s shit? What if we don’t make art in the way of plumbers, of bakers, of insurance clerks but in the way of artists?
What if we understand art not as the art of plumbing but rather regard our shit as a kind of material? What then if we don’t set out to fix, repair, clean up after the others? What if we create shit instead, more shit that might actually block the pipes, clog the arteries, stop the clockwork? What if we think of art as something that is useless in the quotidian, everyday sense? What if we think of art as something useful in its mundane dysfunctionality?
What if the dance house becomes a place of resistance but not in a way where we merely repeat ideological claims but rather establish a place of and for exchange, of agonism and also, yes, conflict, why not conflict, yet where disagreement can be embraced WITHOUT blaming the other for being the other, for taking the position of the opposition? What if we regard such a dance house as a place that is permeated by Hannah Arendt’s understanding of politics and freedom? What if we understand freedom as both freedom from oppression AND freedom to act? What if we understand that freedom is not something that can be taken from us but something that we bestow upon ourselves and others? What if we understand that solidarity is not something we show to those of our kind, but rather extend to those unlike us?
What if this house is a place for fun, for humour, for lightness and not merely, as so often is the case, a place of labour and delivery under stress and pain? What if we say farewell to the belief that making art is an inherently strenuous process, soaked with hardship rather than happiness? What if we say goodbye to the notion that art demands pain because we don’t want to lag behind the pain of non-artists? What if art offers, proposes, suggests, lives, breathes, exhales playfulness when it comes to creating worlds we want to live, be, die, love, work, create (in)? What if we straight up start with desire? And what if we understand desire not as a lack but as abundance, fullness?
What if we get rid of our small-minded belief that art must be overly dramatic or brainy or too long or confessional or arty in order to be art? What if we happily disconnect our art production from labour ideology and renounce once and for all that art is yet another form of labour’? What if dreaming is labour enough?
What if we imagine a dance house and never stop imagining or dreaming it? What if we stop being arseholes when treating ourselves and rather start becoming lovers? And what if we don’t give a shit if people call us hippies or whatever they want to call us but instead pursue what we proclaim we do give a shit about, namely the things we think and make? What if we put ourselves back into play? What if we start with all of this today, in this very moment?
What if you get to it right now?