Green Table

urban choreography

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SLO

 

Green table will also take place unannounced, within the everyday pulse of Ljubljana’s cafes and coffee shops

- Nedelja 11. 10. 2015 / med12 -12.30 uro –Slovenska cesta - v okolici Nebotičnika
- Ponedeljek 12. 10 2015 / ob 12h - Slovenska cesta v okolici Nebotičnika
/ ob 13.30 Gallusovo nabrežje v višini čajnice Gallus
- Torek 13. 10. 2015 /ob 12h -12.30 - Podhod Maximarket
a
- Sreda 14. 10. 2015 / ob 12. 30 - Kino Šiška

-Torek 17. 11. 2015 /ob 12.00 - Kavarna Union
-Torek 17. 11. 2015 / ob 13.00 - Slovenska cesta - v okolici Nebotičnika
-Sreda 18. 11. 2015 / ob 12.00 - Slovenska cesta - v okolici Nebotičnika
-Sreda 18. 11. 2015 / ob 13.00 – podhod Maximarketa
-Četrtek 19. 11. 2015/ ob 12.00 Kino Šiška
-Četrtek 19. 11. 2015/ ob 13.00 Kino Šiška


* V primeru dežja velja naslednja napoved

The title Green Table has been borrowed by this work from groundbreaking historical choreographer Kurt Jooss in 1932, when he choreographically put the timeless and impersonal trading of war and its profits on the great green table of diplomacy in the 20th century.

We, however, are interested in the small urban everyday, with its coffee tables at markets, on sidewalks, and in the cafes and coffee shops of today’s world

 

concept and choreography: Mateja Bučar

performers and collaborators: Nina Pertot Weis, Maja Kalafatič, Evin Hadžialjević, Radharani Pernarčič, Mateja Bučar

produced by: Sanja Kuveljić

sound, video, photography, internet: DUM

Special thanks for the contribution of ideas and visual images goes to Nataši Skušek in Mladenu Stropniku

production: DUM – association of artists

co-production: City Museum Ljubljana, Kino Šiška

supported by: Ministrstvo za kulturo RS, Mestna občina Ljubljana oddelek za kulturo

 

Rok Vevar

THE TABLE, CHAIR, AND BODIES, a short little essay on the table and chair in contemporary dance and the theatre

In various cultural histories the table has created a space for ritual forms, or more precisely: the table is a space for ritual forms. It is a place of heterochrony: an incision in time, so that time can flow in harmony with our expectations, and so that we can secure for ourselves a place within its order. It is on the table that we place food, or the word (spoken or written), or objects; needed for various games, and for work.


Within the performing arts the table is often a thing of the theatre, while the chair is a thing of choreography, or dance. The table is often a sign that there are many stories on the stage; the history of dance tells us that choreography, even when it is explicitly formal, is closer to the chair, which in many cases speaks to the absence of a table. In this there is a certain kind of logic, as the specific square surface of a chair speaks of how the human body is joined together: it speaks of the flexibility of the hip and spinal sections, as well as suggesting the movement of the knees. It speaks to us of those chapters from Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of perception, where the French phenomenologist deals with the way in which the human body is written onto space and its objects. In order to see this bodily construction in choreography, we must remove the table. In the theatre the table was most often used in order to lay out the dramatic relationships between that which happened on the table, and that which unfolded under it (perhaps the relationship between politics and real politics). We could say the that presence of the table and chair in dramatic theatre unavoidably demands the emergence of the choreographic, as otherwise, without the choreographic element, we really haven’t done anything at all.

 

The history of contemporary dance is also something we could slightly jokingly address through the perspective of the table and chair, and we would find that American contemporary dance of the 20th century, both as a rule and quite consistently, avoids the



Pia Brezavscek

Choreography behind the green table

From the division of the world to casual coffee drinking

 

In her new work entitled Green table choreographer Mateja Bučar nominally referes to Kurt Jooss's cult status choreography from the 1930s. Jooss's Green table is of course very different from Bučar's work - not necessarily in its precision of gestures, in which they are quite similar - but in its to absurdity driven mimetic mode of representation. The historic piece is grotsquely depicting the so called peace negotiations or the new division of the world. Jooss's daughter Ana Markard, who held an exclusive copyrigh for the teachings of his choreography after his death, is very illustrative in one documentary, where she is seen communicating a choreographic tip to the dancers. While repeating the steps she insists on a 100 degree shift form performing arrogant importancy to the diplomatic blandishments, where nothing that is said is meant and nothing that is meant is said. Critical stand of Jooss's choreography is therefore to use a performative medium of Tanztheater to mock performativity of politicians. It operates as a political satire (the dancers are even wearing caricature masks) which has its othervise usual place in the newspapers or other printed publicity. It is the newspapers which were at least in the 1930s without a doubt still the main voice of the so called public sphere. These are of course also times when new art forms such as cinema proliferate, which try to address the new public, the mass, with intriguing (satirical) moving pictues.

Joosss on the other hand is dealing with dispositif of more or less classical ballet, that is traditionally rooted in romantic escapism into the world of fairy and other tales or what Andrew Hewitt describes as a 'mimetic model of totality' which »misrepresents, in a palliative manner, an existing social order«. His aim is to transform it, to give this mere opiatic instance a critical value in the public sphere. Art is now seen as a force that can shape public opinion, the very practising of freedom, which encourages the »public use of one's reason«. For enlightment philosoper Immanuel Kant, this is a practice of bravely promoting the truth, whereas acting (in politics) in the sense of representing particular interests (not necessarily in one's own name) is in the domain of the »private use of one's reason«. It is of course a division established in accordance with the liberal belief and in service of the representative democracy. This enlightment's division between the private and public use of reason is dupclicated and even more entangled in the more recent thought of Hannah Arendt, for whom the real political action (or praxis) is something that puts aside any particular interest whatsoever.

Jooss's ballet experiment stays in the performative medium. In a representative manner, without too phisically virtuous means, predominantly with mere gestures, it makes transperent the very private interests that lay behind the political actions and shows how the actual political sphere is (anticipating Arendt) not political enough. Through to absurdity driven mimetic representation the choreographer shows the contemporary audience the path that could encompass them as the public - in Kantian terms - »off age«. This kind of model off course fits best an age which, with Foucault, still functions through the principle of enclosure. The discipline society closes down individual lives in the long chain of institutions. In these kinds of societies there exist special, but still closed heterotopias, where something exceptional, otherwise sanctioned, can take place. It is no coincidence that Foucault speaks of theater as heterotopia, where there is possible to establish many sinhroneous spaces that coexist at the same time. He speaks of mimetic illusion that is essential to the very dispositif of borugeous theatre.

It is exactly the borgeoise class that has invented the public sphere, as Juergen Habermas explains. The media or publicity is the most privileged (or seemingly the most »open«) form of all its manifestations. It is there where it is possible to practise the freedom of speech and by its means to intervene from bottom up in the discipline society, where there is otherwise clear pyramid/panoptic hierarchy. But as Nancy Fraser points out, public sphere has never been as open as declared, as it has for example excluded women from the start. The clubs and salons were a playground for the public use of reason only for the privileged white male men. There was never only one public sphere but a number of parallel anti-publics, that included the otherwise excluded into their small interes spheres. Public sphere is a liberal construct and is not as open as it seems. It is coherent with the discipline society. Exactly the belief in the public sphere where also traditional forms of (high) arts are included as something liberating in the societies of enclosure, seems to be the geneologic reason also for the historic success of Jooss's Green table.

After this long but neccessary historical digresion let's now focus again on Bučar's Green table, which in my oppinion adequately, through mechanisms specific to our own times addresses the problem (of the eclipse) of the public sphere today. It opens the question of something which in contrary to »public use of one's reason« I call the »public use of one's body«. In his text Postscript on the societies of control Gilles Deleuze begins where Foucault in Discipline and Punish ends. As a contrast to the discipline society he developes a term fit for the contemporary society, that describes ways in wich our bodies are now under pretence of freedom more than merely entangled in the rigid institutional domains. The so called 'society of control' now functions on the principle of modulation, as a »self deforming mould that is constantly metamorphing from one form to the other.« The control is everywhere, but it is also untangible, not easy to recognise.

Control is fluid, it is not limited to society's enclosed physical spaces but is present in its every pore; not taking into consideration the borders as are for example those between private and public. Social networks are the most obvious surrogat of the public sphere today. Owned by cooperations (all the published information are in private ownership) they are the most explicit new mechanism of control. They work on the basis of voluntarity, not repression, they control by liberating and connecting. Deleuze writes: »a disciplinary man was a discontinuous producer of energies, but the man of control is undulatory, in orbit, in a continuous network.« Relics of the enclosed institutions, though artistic and heterotopian as theater is, that still believe in the power of the public sphere, are today not able to do much more as to convince the already convinced. Resonating is limited to the self enclosed interest bubbles (as are for example Facebook posts).

In this sense the choreographic march to the streets that Bučar started already in the 2010 with the work Green light is a logical choice in her artistic occupation. With this gesture she is checking how choreography as an aesthetic praxis resonates in the so called public space. Of course as already Cvejić and Vujanović make clear, public sphere and public space are not one and the same thing – public place is not only the physical place, where public sphere is being practiced, though it is its neccessary condition. Public space might as well be a place for »tourism, entertaintment, leisure, labour, production or state monologue«. As the new Municipality of Ljubljana's decree about the use of public spaces owned by the Municipality, that limits the space and time of the so called »spontaneous street performance« makes obviosus, it is not only cooperations that privatise the public space. In the name of order and security also cities and states are given legitimacy to use mechanisms of control. Public space is thus becoming impotent: every crowd gathering, every protest must be declared in the name of safety and any spontaneity is regulated in the name of security. What is more, the estheticised forms of gatherings, such as flash mobs, are being appropriated as commercial spectacular events.

The piece Green table is not at all spectacular and is thus more than to the tradition of Jooss's work loyal to Bučar's own »green series«, which started with the forementioned piece Green light. Its aim is to cause little aesthetic errors, stumbles in the otherwise simply causal or even more often frenetic city walks, with only the finish point in mind. This task oriented movement is the very social choreography of our urban body shifts. Following The Unnoticed (2012) and Parking Packing (2013), the Green table goes even further. It addresses a specific situation of the intertwinement of the public and the private, the noticed and the unnoticed, when little aestheticised actions are placed around the (outside) tables of urban coffe shops. Local cultural specificity of socialising while drinking coffee seems as the last refuge of the leisure time and casual talks, friendly conversations, the shelter of the private sphere. It is a heterotopia, which is nevertheless paid for to the owner of the bar; it is not entrusted neither to the rough public space nor to the intimacy of our homes. It has to take place somewhere in the intersection of both, on the porous thin line, where there exists a continuously present potential possibility for someone to drop by by coincidence, for something to happen.

Neverthelesss it is still a closed situation, one can enter it only when invited and any people-watching (when not flirting) is an invasion into the leased out private situation, which has a duration of one (prolonged) esspresso. But at least from the invention of the smart phones and lap tops on, even coffee shops are no longer heterotopias, enclosures with a little ajared door, where gossip, whining and other neccessary socialization takes place. They have become spaces of business meetings of networked individuals which are always connected on their devices, with one eye awaiting the massages, submitted to the imperative of constant accessibility and on a never ending stand by for the possible call for the (underpaid/unpaid) semiotic labour.

What happens, when suddenly aestheticised sinhronous actions take place behind the table next to us? Some people are sitting upside down or are doing nothing but stirring their coffees in an extraordinarily sinhronous rhythm. This carefully planned, but almost invisible actions of almost uniformly dressed protagonists are an anomaly to a more or less coincidental gaze. Individualised casual costumes have become a norm and a signiture for the recent contemporary dance performancers and come in package with the individualisation of the movement also. Differently, in Green table a sort of post-disciplinary uniformity happens, that is almost an aesthetic error, a sign of community, but far from a massive trend. This community which was able to consent for some kind of common choreography, a common »use of one's body« to create an unexpected, almost coicidental anomalities that are unusualy regular, is itself a phenomenon for even existing in an overindividualised capitalist society. The choreography is situated on the porous boarder between the public and the private space of coffe shops and thus addresses the intangible ruins of the public sphere.

In Foucault's radio lecture Utopian body, the philosopher localises the body as the u-topia, un-placed place, ground zero, from which we enter the world. He explains that eventhough being the only real place from which we want to escape and therefore we can start to imagine utopias, it is also the only point, in which we can live particular utopias here and now. »Public use of one's body« in the urban choreography of Mateja Bučar is not utopian in thinking the potency of public sphere in today's public space. More than through the principle of visibility it operate through the principle of invisibility and coincidence. Even the public is addressed by coincidence. Not at all by means of spectacle, of representation, but through coincidental events, we run across them and stumble upon them. They operate in a way of aesthetic continuum, that is explained by Andrew Hewitt in the following way: »Because choreography takes as its material the human body and its relation to other bodies, an examination of social choregraphy is particularly suited to a presentation of the ways in which political an aesthetic moments shade into each other and delineate themselves with respect to each other.« In Bučar's piece this is done by positioning the work on the very porous tresholds and paradox places of the intertwinement of the public and the private. There, a stumble of the usual means of drinking coffee happens. Aesthetisation and sinhronicity fix the gaze (away from the iPhone?). A stumble of the gaze is made, but not by errors, but exactly by intensified aesthetisation. A small gesture of choreographic control of a few bodies around some random coffee table aestheticises the seemingly most profane, prozaic, uncoded, intimate social behaviour. It thus shows that control is something different and not necessarily seen as the »choreography« of bodies. It is today much more likely to take place in the unseen and unidentified. In Hewitt, exactly the stumbles, the breaks in the common aesthetics, which is allready the material of every ideology, are the ones that make the ideology transparent and are therefore the critical stance of social choreography. If Jooss's Green table is effective in the realm of representation, the satiric mimesis of reality, Bučar's Green table makes end with representation and rather rehearses a utopia of community in the very ruins of the public sphere.