Niklaus Largier on Chora: Mesmerized

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Chora | Open Spaces Festival, Tanzfabrik Berlin | 9.11.2019

Conceiving of ourselves as viewers at first, we often turn into participants. What seems to be observation and abstraction becomes absorption, immersion, experience in time. Reading turns into feelings of sweetness and bitterness; looking into taste, appetite and arousal; hearing into affective pleasure and melancholic longing; touch into an abyss of desire.

I am tempted to start with a simple scene. A multipurpose room with an old hardwood floor, once used as a gym, in what is probably an ex-GDR school building in Berlin, Pankow. Sitting on a chair, I am observing a group of dancers rehearsing, working towards a future performance. A choreography, Chora. The Earth is a foreign planet. Every day it shows a different face, produced by Moritz Majce and Sandra Man. Silence reigns, except for the faint hum of a freeway in the distance, and for irregular moments of sound produced by the steps of the dancers. From time to time hints of a minimalist soundscape float in the air, mostly rhythmical echoes that don’t distract from the bodies that move. This is all there is. Bodies that move, bodies in no explicit form of interaction, bodies in space and time. Bodies that give form to space and time; involving me, while I am sitting there: attracting the gaze, holding it, redirecting it, absorbing all the senses, affects, and thoughts into the new space and time that unfolds here. It is, we might say, nothing else than a landscape of figural effects and of movements; a landscape where sensation and imagination converge in blissful play; a landscape of beauty.

I think, surprisingly, of Hume’s skepticism and his happiness in scenes of eating and conversation—and of his melancholy that came about when he engaged in philosophical matters. Looking at the movements of the dancers unfold, I don’t think of concepts. Instead, thought itself turns into movements of perception and feeling; and, starting in a critically descriptive mode, I find myself a skeptic absorbed in a dream of sensation. Looking at the dancers, sensing the movements, I think of angels. Angels, each of them singular and not bound by the hierarchies of thought, engaging each other in a form of language unknown to us. Angels, as in the drawing of Paul Klee that Walter Benjamin loved, looking back towards the ruins of history and alluding to a language that restores what is lost. Angels, as in Rilke’s vision, terrifying in their beauty and always close, too close to us in their intimate movements and presence. Angels, also, deeply immersed in the broken world, carrying all its passions, its desires, its senses in their silent voice. In Wallace Steven’s words “the necessary angel of earth, / Since, in my sight, you see the earth again.”

Or, shifting to another image, I think of bodies, just resurrected from the womb of the earth, seeking the words and the language they don’t have, yet fully alive in this tentative world of moving encounters. Bodies, encompassing all, humans and animals, flowers and stones, rivers and landscapes; hierarchies lost in the flow of the forms.
What remains, in this state of a different time and perception, is the figural play of the bodies alone, a play that takes shape both outside of and in our souls, fully material and fully spiritual. It would be wrong to speak of depth here, of meaning, or of a world. All this, even the allegory of angels or of resurrected bodies that I am happy to produce, is being undone. It is being undone, time and again, and replaced by the pull of the movements, the series of impressions, the axes of gaze and sensation, their layerings and circulation, in short, by mesmerizing effects of figures and configurations—not figures of life, but of living in the blissful multitude and beauty of silent voices.


Watching the undoing of social, racial, and discursive subjugations in these movements I think, thanks to Rahma, also of Audre Lorde when I write this. Of her “Poetry Is Not a Luxury,” and of the sentence: “The white fathers told us, I think therefore I am; and the black mothers in each of us—the poet—whispers in our dreams, I feel therefore I can be free. Poetry coins the language to express and charter this revolutionary awareness and demand, the implementation of that freedom.” In that essay, she concludes: “For there are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt, of examininng what our ideas really mean (feel like) on Sunday morning at 7 AM, after brunch, during wild love, making war, giving birth; while we suffer the old longings, battle the old warnings and fears of being silent and impotent and alone, while tasting our new possibilities and strengths.” This, the “tasting” of possibilities and strengths, in the undoing and remaking of figures, comes into view here—not in poetry this time, but in the silence of dance, nourished by the cosmic dreams it embodies in its figures and unfolds in the mesmerizing effects that so blissfully unsettle.

Niklaus Largier: Figures of Possibility, to be published in 2020

Chora: Note on Relating

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Chora | Concrete Dancers | 2019

Poetics of space, not dramaturgy of actions

The space gives the movement, the movement unveils the space.

We are working on a different relation of time and space: different from installation in which space is exhibited and visitors move; different from performance in which time moves and spectators watch.

We are interested in how spaces, various spaces move bodies – performers’ bodies as well as visitors’ bodies. We take ”space” as relational sensorium in which bodies are being moved by being here – through affections, sensations, perceptions: listening, seeing, sensing, experiences of closeness and distance.

”Being moved” is taken in all senses: the physical and somatic movement of the body as well as the affective and reflective movement of the soul and the mind – feeling and thinking.

We are interested in how such a being moved by relations is given back to a space, allowing the space to appear: The space gives the movement, the movement unveils the space.

The main difference in this approach on the side of the performers and their training is that we work on perception and opening up the sensitive antennas of bodies, their awareness for affections, their becoming ”passible” (as a very active way of being passive). We do not work on shapes, we do not intentionally produce a recognisable, readable language of movement. And we also do not work against it, it simply is not our interest.

The main difference on the side of the visitors is that we do not offer any dramaturgy and thus no implied interpretation to be discovered. We do not work on the level of meaning, we do not aim for readable, understandable and recognisable connections; and also not for the opposite. We are trying to change the register. We do not take visitors as detectives who have to find out something, be that meaning, concept, task, score. We want to go before and beyond that and invite audience to let be, let appear what is already here.

Like a landscape the space will open up to the viewer but it is not made for them.

We encourage and invite performers as well as audience to let go of looking for, recognising and identifying relations and rather let them happen, contemplate space, be surprised. We encourage to stop searching for and to forget about missing something.

We understand our work as a space in which relations and connections are not already given, already produced and understood but as a space that opens up to relations – makes them become present, lets them become the space of presence. We do not (re)present relations, we are creating conditions in which they can appear.

The beauty is in the appearing of a relation, in its becoming present, its being born out of nothing and for nothing – again and again.

That is why we do not fill up nothingness. We let it be. Out of nothing and for nothing movement originates. A movement that serves nothing.

We name it ”poetics of space” to put the light on this coming into presence of any and every movement; and to differentiate it from shaping actions and connections that might be the essence of dramaturgy.

I could also say: We work on the conditions – time and space, sensing – and not on the content (or: we take the conditions as content).

This is the reason why movement is different in, of and for all the elements we work with: Movement in and of video images, movement in and of texts, movement in and of a live performance is different from each other because it happens in different spaces. The conditions of time and space are different in the various landscapes shown in video images, different in words and imagination, different in the live environment performers and visitors inhabit and pass through.

The main focus is not on the shape of the movement – the movements of the bodies do not exist independently from where they are, from which space moves the bodies. We try to stay as close as possible to sensed and perceived space and time as themselves moving conditions for movement: the where moves bodies and the bodies’ movement lets the where as where appear. The where drives us, motivates us, moves us – in every sense.

One of the ancient mythological names for a space in movement out of which movement emerges is ”chora”. It still today echoes in the word ”choreography”. Thus, we are working on the essence of choreography as being the art of moving and being moved by time and space.

Parataxis, not syntaxis

One can connect things having a goal, a finality, a unity in mind, aiming for it.

We are looking for ways of relating, connecting, that do not close on unity, finality but that are essentially open.

Ways of relating in which one goes to the other, lets go again, goes on etc. – thus creating an open string, open to infinity. No consecutiveness, no consequence, no progression. But moments of an infinite and and and, one next to the other, in various relations of distance and closeness, of density and looseness, of lightness and heaviness etc. We are interested in intensity and extensity.

A paratactic way of relating rather than a syntactic one, shifting the focus from causality and finality to musicality, to rhythm and infinity.

In paratactic strings difference, distance, separation, pauses – spaces in-between – are not the opposite of relating but the very space for relations. Relations do not fill the gaps, they need them, they come out of them – gaps and relations let each other appear.

This is also true about the relations between different elements and spaces we work with: We do not glue videos, live performance, objects, texts together, trying to bring them closer, thus forming a whole. Our work is not immersive. The ”being-in” we are creating is not total, it is not closed, it is an open whole, a lot of nothing.

The being-in consists of in-betweens, it is an interspace.

In an interspace some elements and spaces can be very closely connected, almost becoming the same; some can be very distant and far away, almost becoming unrelated.

We work with autonomy of different spaces and elements. The autonomy of an element (text, video, performance…) is the condition for relations to happen while at the same time its autonomy can only appear in and as relation to others.

Chora – 5-9 November 2019 @ Open Spaces Festival, Tanzfabrik Berlin

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Chora, © Moritz Majce + Sandra Man, 2019

CHORA
Space Choreography

The Earth is a foreign planet. Every day it shows a different face.

5– 9 November 2019
Open Spaces Festival, Tanzfabrik Berlin, Uferstraße 23, D-13357 Berlin

There is no piece, no premiere, no stable frame. Chora will grow in time over 5 days up to 16 hours on the last. The whole space will be different every day. In varying media, constellations and rhythms 12 performers will appear in images of technonature, texts of terrestrial phantasies, on mobile objects as unsolid grounds. How to inhabit and how to visit an ever changing space? Chora is a space choreography, a liquid environment of objects, performers, images, texts and sound.

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Chora, © Moritz Majce + Sandra Man, 2019

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Chora, © Moritz Majce + Sandra Man, 2019

Tue 5 11 | 19.00 | BEFORE – A nature comes back. | Audio-visual installation

Wed 6 11 | 18.00-20.00 | BEGINNING – Choros is a life form, Chora its habitat. | Ongoing live installation

Thu 7 11 | 17.00-21.00 | MOMENT – The moment is a living germ. | Solo action for one visitor at a time

Fri 8 11 | 15.00-23.00 | HISTORY – While we circle quietly. | Film + text screening

Sat 9 11 | 09.00-01.00 | BECOMING – Time is an unknown territory. | Ongoing live environment

6.11.19 | 20:15 | Artist Talk with Marie-Luise Angerer (Uni Potsdam), Bernd Bösel (Uni Potsdam), Moritz Majce, Sandra Man and the performers. Moderated by Jacopo Lanteri (curator Tanzfabrik Berlin).

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Chora, © Moritz Majce + Sandra Man, 2019

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Chora, © Moritz Majce + Sandra Man, 2019

IDEA, SPACE CHOREOGRAPHY, VIDEOS: Moritz Majce + Sandra Man OBJECTS: Moritz Majce TEXTS: Sandra Man PERFORMANCE: Zoé Alibert, Eli Cohen, Judith Förster, Charlie Fouchier, Assi Pakkanen, Florencia Martina, Gian Mellone, Sonia Noya, Stephan B. Quinci, Laura Siegmund, Maya Weinberg, Natalia Wilk VOICE: Frank Willens PRODUCTION: Patricia Oldenhave ENGLISH TRANSLATION: Anna Galt VOICE RECORDINGS: Fernand Kenzler

A production by Moritz Majce + Sandra Man, supported by Hauptstadtkulturfonds and Wien Kultur. Coproduction: Tanzfabrik Berlin, WUK Wien.

Tanzfabrik Berlin • Uferstraße 23 • 13357 Berlin
Entry: € 15 • Tanzfabrik Berlin

Facebook-Event here

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Working on Chora

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Bergheider See, June 2019

The relation of time and space is central to Chora. How does a space move us and how does it change when we move (in) it?

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Bergheider See, June 2019

In Chora we continue working outdoors. Mountains and dunes have been our rehearsal spaces and video spots for the last years. Since Choros and even more so in Chora we are intrigued by technologically transformed environments; abandoned areas in which nature is coming back; artificial lakes waiting for the first creatures to come alive.

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Prenzlauer Promenade, May 2019

A landmark is with us in Chora, an object, a mobile piece of earth. It is called ekkyklema, in reference to an ancient Greek theatre device, a mobile platform which was used to present happenings from the invisible inside of the stage house (the skene) to the outside.

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Wölla, July 2019

The ancient Greek name chora is known to us through Plato’s dialogue Timaeus. Chora is the name of a receptive space in constant movement giving space to movement. It is a mythological concept – dating from before classical Greek philosophy and also from before classical Greek theatre –, storing archaic ritualistic dimensions. In Plato’s Timaeus chora is the space of movement as such that lets everything else – the elements and their movements – emerge; it does so by not having any shape itself and by being permanently moving. In Timaeus it is said that chora is a space which is never still and never in balance: it is shaking, trembling. Timaeus also links this mythological precosmic shaking of chora to the human body and its desire to move – in order to keep the elements in healthy relations.

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Wölla, July 2019

Through the ancient name chora the contemporary perception of space in motion, of a world and a planet in fundamental transformation is linked to the peripheries – pre-philosophy, pre-theatre –, to the deep times of Western thought and art. Chora, the name, is a channel to the ancient, the mythological and even archaic and to their symbolic and affective potentials. In a strange way it seems right and coherent that today in the most futuristic conceptions of space the most archaic image of transformation reappears. The most natural and the most artificial meet at the same time, disturbingly and convincingly in many of the most contemporary places on our planet.

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Prenzlauer Promenade, May 2019

We dedicate Chora to questions and experiences of time and space. We understand it as a process of growth that will continue and last into its time of being publicly presented. We will grow into publication, through it and out of it. We expose ourselves to a time – the growing – that is usually over when a work is presented, when it is finished. In Chora we set a frame that allows us to stay open to time, to be affected by time, to let time come to us.

Videos / pictures with Zoé Alibert, Charlie Fouchier, Judith Förster, Micaela Kühn Jara, Julia B. Laperrière, Sonia Noya, Assi Pakkanen, Katharina Wallisch

Call for Choreutic Movers (Dancers and Performers) 2019 OVER

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Chora, model view

For their new space choreography Chora Moritz Majce and Sandra Man are looking for choreutic movers. The essence of Chora will be a chorus in a growing landscape on mobile grounds. Expanding over one week in November 2019 as part of Open Spaces Festival of Tanzfabrik Berlin Chora will be dealing with expansion and excess – diving into pleasures of becoming and facing threats of too much.

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Choros VI, District, Berlin, 2018

In Chora Sandra and Moritz continue their work on space choreography and landscape, consisting of movement, objects, videos, spoken words and sound (see their recent work Choros VI), on the chorus as a life form of somatic and spatial relations and technonature as our current biosphere.

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Choros V, WUK performing arts, Vienna, 2018

They are looking for professional dancers and performers with strong interest in precise group work and intense choral practices, joy in relating to others, becoming and incorporating a collective organism by investing their strong individual presence.

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Choros I, Uferstudios, Berlin, 2016

They will give a workshop in April in Berlin.

After a tryout block in May and two video shootings in May and September main production time is from mid September until the last performance on Nov 9th.

Moritz and Sandra are looking forward to read from you on:

ms@moritzmajcesandraman.com

A New Sensualism (Extended Version)

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Choros VI | District Berlin | November 2018

In Berlin’s Schinkel Pavillon, sitting in the centre of the circular exhibition space is a humanoid robot, his face looking half-human, the cables, the metal limbs and the computer that keeps him going, are visible. He is giving a speech about the world and humanity, he opens and closes his mouth to say the words, he moves his head, his eyes, his facial expressions are convincingly human-like, he gestures with his hands to underline his statements. His audience – us – is sitting in a semi-circle around him. We listen to him. Impossible to say if this is a performance or a sculpture, the most intriguing thing about this work by Goshka Macuga – Now this, is this the end… the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end? – is the affective and sensual impression it makes. It is not some flashy showcase of technology and what it can do, there is no emphasis on the machineness and no critique of us being or becoming mere robots. It is the softness, the openness, the kindness, the calm and peaceful way this cabled man sits, speaks and moves that draws you in and that creates an intense presence. There is something new and unknown going on between you and the other, who is becoming more and more like you, or perhaps you are becoming more and more like him, and this open and mutual sameness and otherness is certainly weird and uncanny, but not in an eerie or frightening way. Instead of being spectacular, it feels quite intimate and somehow even normal, it is a present tense glimpse into a world inhabited by hybrid identities. This world of alterity can not only be looked at, but felt, sensed, lived in this performance. It is present. Its presence changes the way you watch, it affects your being a visitor. You are not outside and separate from what is going on, this undefined being – the performing sculpture, the humanoid machine, the blurred difference – is looking back at you. It is addressing you, it is speaking to you. In this encounter, a space is created in which what you look at and who you are changes. This change happens in a subtle and radical way, you feel it before you realise it. Your looking at a thing turns into your own exposure. The performance affects you and that means you enter a state in which watching and being present become the same.

Two big screens next to each other on a slightly inclined line in an empty gallery space (Carlier Gebauer Berlin), two videos projected on them, each of them showing the same place and the same people, but not exactly the same perspective and progress in time: two policemen on an empty street at night, a man and a woman in heavy uniforms, armed with machine guns. Aernout Mik’s A Swarm of Two shows the precise, slow movements of these people, their bodies, their being on this street. There is no one else, no one they would chase, there is no story and no plot. They are simply there, on this empty street that leads to nowhere and could be anywhere. There are strong signs and codes – the police uniform, weapons, trash on the street – and there is a narrative atmosphere in the images. But the work is neither about (de)signification nor about (de)narrating, nor any other kind of (de)constructing signs and codes. It is the softness, the fragility of the bodies and their movements that is touching; it is there for itself, not simply contrasting and confronting physical vulnerability with the aggressive protection of uniforms and guns. That is why this work primarily changes your affective state: it is a visual, dynamic meditation, a calm trip through this street. And while the moving images and bodies pull you in, you remain outside. This effect is intensified due to the double screens and double scenes you are watching. The strong sensuality of the images, the just-being-there of the bodies, the street, this world, unfolds a presence that is surprisingly even stronger as it is doubled and the images spatialized. This double presence in the images as well as of the images presents itself as an overabundance that you feel in the immediacy of a sudden just-being-there. This presence is striking in a piece full of signs that would usually call for interpretation and meaning. In this work they are there, they are needed. It would not work without them, but the balance shifts, and the signs are affective forces, elements of what is touching you. The work is not about the significance of signs, but creates a way of watching as being moved by bodies and images.

In Nacera Belaza’s piece Sur le fil at Tanzquartier Wien, it feels like there is no time passing. Three dancers, one after the other, in solos, are dancing in a rectangle of light on the stage, while the rest of the theatre is in almost total darkness. Repetitive music and the dancers’ moving like spinning tops create an extremely dense moment, a very strong sensation, an intensity that becomes physically nearly unbearable, and how this happens is difficult to grasp. There is nothing that forces you into it, there is not the slightest persuasion. There is not even anything interesting, in the sense that you would like explore it or find out more about it; you do not look at a specific movement, you do not actively listen to the music. Nothing here is there to be watched or listened to, you do not see a ”something” – instead you are offered a space. Through dancing, music, light, a space opens up and this space is infinite. It is an infinity that is real and concrete, paradoxically thus finite, happening in time, here and now. It is timelessness crystallizing in time, it is pure presence, inside of you as well as outside in the space. The stage, the dancing and the music are the passage to a state, a physical trip to an outer space inside of you that opens up when you truly feel you are being exposed, that is: existing. In the moments this space is opening itself you can hardly breathe, its intensity explodes in your chest. It is a strong feeling of freedom; it is precisely the state the dancers are in, which they offer and transmit to you. To be able to do so, the dancers are no doubt very present. Yet it is not sufficient to say that they are present, because it is not “their” presence. The piece itself is an open presence, in which dancing and watching merge without being or becoming the same. This open presence is able to emerge because the dancers and the piece overall are not showing anything, but serving. Sur le fil serves being there, coming into existence. The mode of watching this piece is part of this service. You are not looking at a service, but your watching serves the piece being nothing else than its own existence.

In Ismaïl Bahri’s videos in the exhibition Instruments at Jeu de Paume in Paris, you see a drop of water quivering on the bare skin of an underarm and its movement, almost like breathing, is immediately strangely beautiful; rather than being an alienation or abstraction of everyday life, it is very concrete, a living intensity. In another room on another screen, two hands are folding, unfolding and folding again a colour printed magazine page until all the letters and pictures disappear and it turns blank; when one page is finished so is one video and another one begins again showing the same procedure with another page. After about the second or the third one, something inside of you decides to stay and to continue watching. What you see is putting you into the state of watching, while it is no longer about it. What you see is there so that you can get into a watching mode. You are watching means: your whole body, your whole being is this watching. The videos allow you to not hold anything back in your desire to watch; in becoming a spectator who enjoys the movement of watching itself instead of the fixation and possession of an object.

All of Laurent Chétouane’s dance pieces offer this kind of non-possessive watching. The most intriguing and impressing being Considering Accumulations at Tanzquartier Wien and recently Invisible Piece #1 at HAU. The dancers and the musicians, who are adept at being in a special mode of letting their movements go, rather than planning and controlling, create a landscape. You are watching and listening as you would on a meadow, being inside and outside at the same time. You do not watch a meadow as you would look at an object; you are in it, but without interacting. You are there, watching and listening to what surrounds you. All of Chétouane’s pieces offer you this way of perception and ask you to be prepared and open for this. The shift from what you see (an object seen by a subject) to just being there watching and listening is something you have to allow yourself to happen. And only if this is effective, only if it is a performance in which the dancers and musicians reach a certain level of letting go and you in the audience let yourself watch freely and openly: the meadow appears.

There are more works in the last couple of years emphasising sensuality and presence. Some of them do this purely and directly, some of them are full of signs and codes. For example, the video installation What the Heart Wants by Cecil B. Evans, which deals with the topic of future, technology and mankind and all its meanings, but creates a landscape and an immediacy of affection and perception; there are the dance pieces by Margrét Sara Guðjónsdóttir in which the performers let appear an extremely pure state of intimately being there. And there is our own choral work that gradually intensifies the essence of sensual presence, my work with Moritz Majce, from Festung / Europa to Narkosis and Choros. It is from there, from the desires, longings and questions in my own artistic experience that I see the pieces I just described. I feel close to these works and that they have something in common. They all create a presence in watching, no matter if they are performances, sculptures, videos. They allow a watching that is not triggered by anything interesting on the side of what is being shown and that is not an understanding on the side of the spectator. It is rather an appearing than a showing and rather a contemplation than a rationalising. A watching as a state surpassing what you see and who you are as a spectator. Neither the artists and the performers nor the visitors can control it, but all of them are involved in exploring a state in which watching becomes being sensually present.
The works I described all express a belief in presence, in sensuality, in openness. They are not critical, not ironic, not detached, not cool; neither are they personal or emotional. They are at the same time humble and radical, because they follow a drive. After postmodernism and many subsequent posts and turns, after conceptual art and its application to all the arts, after deconstructing narratives, genres, bodies and identities, and beyond today’s political imperative, there is something else going on in the arts. It is subtle and it is strong, it is a new way of relating to being in the world.

A new sensualism is emerging in our time of globalisation, when the globe is recreating itself. It is hard to imagine anything more elementary. It is not only that something is changing while the rest stays the same, rather it is a transformation of everything, including the nature of change itself. Technology is clearly no longer an instrument but a condition, it is becoming our nature. We live in a technonature on a radically changing planet. It is characterised by a climate change we experience as natural catastrophe and a technological environment in which we have lost social bonds, while at the same time everything is connected. Apparently we cannot control and plan what is going on and that in itself is integral to what is going on. We can feel and sense this new becoming. We live it. We are not detached from the extreme planetary transformation, but we are in it and we are part of it. The planet is not changing without us. The transformation that happens cannot be looked at and studied like an object. What is changing is changing us: what we see and how we see, what we hear and how we listen, what we feel and how we feel – how the senses make sense – is transforming itself and that is why sensing as such is becoming so surprisingly new, intense, exciting, disturbing. We are listening, watching, moving, speaking, crying and loving in this emerging technonature. We are being born into the environment of a transforming planet; we are exposed to experience it, to live in it. The works I gave as examples expose this exposure, and you can feel it. These artworks are affected by the elementary change we are in. They work with presence and sensuality to let you feel, hear, see this self-transforming time and space. To do so, some of them address technology and nature explicitly, others do not. It is not important. When technology becomes natural and nature is technologically transformed, it affects our existence and our senses – always. Not only when we use devices or talk about it. The transformation goes deeper and beyond technology’s instrumental function. If a piece is about presence then it is about the elementary nature of this change.

All the pieces I mention here share – after a long period of works and humans feeling like the last ones, burdened by a certain melancholia and the heaviness of closure, of history being over – an atmosphere of something else coming into existence. Indefinite beings, ones who start living and feeling in this new world, who start being (in) technonature. That is why “mere presence” becomes so important in these pieces. What matters in them is the drive to open the senses, to approach our transforming existence as sincerely as possible, even innocently. On this planet which is giving birth to itself and so to us, we are vulnerable and fragile. We are not dominant. We are not the strongest. We are able to kill some or even many of us and a lot of life on earth, and we do so every day. But we are not life as such. There are forces pushing on without us and we can clearly feel this today in the change and transformation that is happening around us, between us, within us, exceeding and surpassing us. The works of a new sensualism open themselves to these drives and offer a space for getting in touch with them. This changes the relation to those who come to experience the work.

None of the pieces I refer to are ”interactive” but all of them engage with the audience and establish new relations, offer a different kind of participation. The being present, the pure being there, happens in and as an environment. It is an environment that includes the audience, and that appears in-between, consisting of relations – bodies, feelings, sensations, perceptions. An environment of affects and forces in which you are exposed and connected, open to what comes into presence right here and now. In this milieu a new way of being an audience is emerging. It is not about what you see – neither what nor you – but about the state a piece offers. As an audience you still have to enter that state, be open for it; being a spectator or visitor here does not mean staying outside observing. From the outside you will not see any of these works. It is only after dropping our reflex for understanding, decoding and explaining, our opinions on whether it was well or badly done, our will to categorize, our looking for the concept etc., it is only when we are not busy with any of that that something will happen. The works I take here as examples do not manipulate you. They do not force you into something, they give you space and time for being. It is an offer, not a product and not a task, and it is not always easy to let go the everyday mode of feeling and perceiving trained to consume and to perform.

The pieces outlined here ask for a certain way of watching and being in them. Yet they do not form a movement. It is not a group of artists agreeing on a shared perspective, form or method; they do not even know each other and all of the works are singular, the artistic intentions different. What links these works is a strong and intense feeling of being alive, a sensual affirmation. It is out of this affirmation that I am writing this text. In current dominant critical discourse about art, centred on the political relevance of art, I am missing the resonance of this serene ‘yes’. This yes is strong and it sounds new. It sounds new if you are used to a more melancholic tune, or to a maybe-yes, or a yes because there is no other choice. It is a yes that sounds not only new, but even shocking if you are tuned in to a no, a political no to all that is unjust and unbearable in this world, of which no doubt there is a lot. This yes is not ignorant of violence, of injustice, of exploitation; it is not an escape from the suffering. It is charged by and opening up for what is stronger than any destruction. It echoes that there is something rather than nothing. This yes sounds like it is coming from somewhere else. It is the call of an adventure.

This text owes a lot to the ongoing exchange with Marita Tatari, her thinking and writing, e.g. »Kunstwerk als Handlung. Transformationen von Ausstellung und Teilnahme«, Fink Verlag 2017

Choros VI – Talking Cure with Elisabeth Schäfer 30.11.2018

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Choros V, Afterplace

When I ask you to talk about Choros this invitation comes out of a desire to talk and to talk about desire. To talk about the desire hidden and expressed in the piece, the desire to make and create, and to talk about the desire to visit and to watch, to feel, to listen, to explore and to be touched. The desire to understand, to explain, to think, to go beyond and let go. To talk about the desire to perform, to move and be moved, to be present, to connect. The desire to be more and other than one. To talk about the desire to participate and to share the desire.

Maybe talking is taking care – of the piece and every part in it.

Let’s try.

Elisabeth Schäfer is a queer-feminist Philosopher and Extern Lecturer for Philosophy (national and international), e.g. at the Department for Philosophy at the University of Vienna, Austria. Her work crosses the borders of Art and Philosophy. Currently she is writing her habilitation thesis on: „Writing Matters: Trans-Sensible Exposures. Writing as Arts-based Research“.

Publications:

– Die offene Seite der Schrift. Jacques Derrida und Hélène Cixous Côte à Côte. Passagen Verlag: Vienna 2008.
– Anthologies/Selection: Together with Esther Hutfless (Eds.) (2017): Hélène Cixous. Gespräch mit dem Esel. Blind Schreiben. Wien: Zaglossus and together with Esther Hutfless and Gertrude Postl (Eds.) (2013/2017): Hélène Cixous: Das Lachen der Medusa. Zusammen mit aktuellen Beiträgen. Vienna: Passagen.
– Editing of Journals/Selction: Together with Arno Böhler and Eva-Maria Aigner Elisabeth Schäfer edited the first bilingual Edition of the Journal PERFORMANCE PHILOSOPHY JOURNAL. Title of the issue: „The Concept of Immanence in Performance Philosophy“, Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.https://www.performancephilosophy.org/journal/article/view/137 DOI: https://doi.org/10.21476/PP.2017.33137