Category Archives: Politics

Cultural Compensation Won’t Sustain Anti-racism

I would like to share this podcast from a series called Convergence, an “ongoing series of critical conversations, screenings and written commissions, facilitated by the South London Gallery (SLG) and curated and hosted by invited guests.”

In Convergence: Cultural Compensation Won’t Sustain Anti-racism, Dr Clive James Nwonka, London School of Economics Fellow in Film Studies, Lanre Bakare, arts and culture correspondent at the Guardian, broadcaster journalist and filmmaker Bidisha, and Dr Francesca Sobande from Cardiff University, talk about how the arts and art institutions can go beyond tokenism to ensure longterm, structural change.

I found it very useful to hear the reflections on the current cultural and institutional responses to BLM in the UK. The speakers also propose, what needs to be done to get beyond words and beyond single interventions.

This is highly relevant for the International Journal of Screendance, as a large part – although not all! – of the published discourse has so far been white, written from white perspectives. We need structural change in order to bring on board more diverse voices, and the situation is doubly difficult in that much of this discourse is developed and sustained by people who have salaries from universities in the Anglosphere, thereby drawing on a predominantly white community of post holders who can just about afford the time and who can also benefit from this labour in terms of their academic careers.

If the journal has been a useful catalyst in the first ten years of its life, it now needs structural change in order to continue to push and pull, challenge and provoke. For more on this look out for the editorial and the 11th Volume of the IJSD, edited by Kyra Norman and Marisa Zanotti, just hot of the press!

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Humanos en sociedad (Loïe, Edicion 06)

The Buenos Aires based screendance magazine Loïe has recently published it’s 6th issue, with a variety of reflective journalistic articles and an editorial by Susana Temperley and Magdalena Casanova, in which they ponder on the impact of the pandemic on dance. As the editorial is published in Spanish I copy a few lines and paraphrase, as I very much like the sentiment of Susana and Magdalena’s words.

They begin by stating that this issue could have been blank and that the virus could have silenced us. Instead, our bodies – which are not only our way of being in the world but also our tool and means to work – double a sense of urgency. They continue “Pero, así como, a pesar de todo, el cuerpo y la danza encontraron caminos para seguir moviendo, callarnos no era una opción -no hubiera podido ser- y debimos, nosotros también, encontrar maneras de decir ese movimiento.”

The editorial team writes that despite everything, the bodies and the dance have found ways to continue moving, and that going quiet was not an option. Later they refer to the Danses Macabres, the Medieval Dance of Death, which speaks so much of our vulnerability but also asserts the body as the basis of our terrestrial existence and reminds us that dance rituals identify us as social beings, as humans that are part of a society.

“[…] las Danses Macabres aparecen como emblema de la centralidad del cuerpo, único soporte de nuestra existencia terrenal. ¿Por qué la danza? La danza, como parte constitutiva del ritual, es un instrumento que nos identifica como humanos en sociedad.”

Humanos en socieded; In the UK there have been many references recently to Margaret Thatcher’s 1987 statement, that “There is no such thing as society“. While Thatcher said this at the time to argue against the tendency to blame society for all of children’s problems, instead of people taking responsibility themselves, the categorical nature of the statement shocked many and the sentence continues to circulate and resonate today. David Cameron tried to make amends and change direction in 2010, when he launched the ‘Big Society’, but few were convinced of his new version of society, which looked mainly like a a cover up for public spending cuts.

While Covid-19 appeared to temporarily show a different side of what a conservative government could be, the most recent row over the refusal to cover school meals for the poorest of the poorest kids suggests that that was a blip by a government, that was perhaps caught of guard and out of its depth when the pandemic hit Britain. The current row over school meals has been compared to Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist, a revealing portrait of London’s poverty in the 1830s and the systemic degradation, exclusion and confinement of the poor by the political leadership. By contrast, the systemic pampering of the wealthy continues to this day, see for example the subsidies for and provision of free meals for the members of parliament, who earn between 77K and 150K! [see petition to end subsidies]

In the UK many will have taken part in the pandemic’s weekly ritual of clapping the NHS and care workers, until it transpired that they get paid a pittance for their exhausting work and that care workers sometimes have no access to sickness benefits, meaning that they have to go to work even when they fall ill (read: when they have possibly contracted Covid-19….). Covid-19 is a disease of poverty. In Start of the Week (BBC Radio 4, 25/10/200) John Micklethwait, economist and author of The Wake Up Call (2020) says that “In the American tax code, there is $1.6 trillion exemptions and virtually all of which goes to the well off.” Might there be a similar situation in the UK, and many other Western democracies? Under the veneer of a modern – compassionate? – conservative State with its super wealthy political elite there appears to be brutality and a disregard or disdain for what society could be that is relatively unchallenged, and that has possibly not changed much since the 1830s.

I am coming back to Susana and Magdalena’s words, that the dance is an “instrumento que nos identifica como humanos en sociedad”; it looks like there is still a lot of dancing to be done.

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Grounded, Screening 4 live for 24hrs

From about 6pm this eve UK time, SCREENING 4 will be live for 24hrs on coastalcurrents.org.uk/screening-4/

1+1=3 / NARRATIVES

AN EXPLORATION OF HOW OUR BODIES TRY TO MAKE SENSE AND THE STORIES WE TELL

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including:

SALLY POTTER, PLAY (UK, 1970), 16MM FILM TRANSFERRED TO VIDEO, 10.00

ANDREW KÖTTING, BECAUSE THE REST IS SILENCE (UK, 2020), SUPER 8 COLOUR/B/W, SUPER 8 APPS, 16MM ARCHIVE  AND HD VIDEO, 13.29

HAROLD OFFEH, SMILE (UK, 2001), VIDEO, 02.58

OONA DOHERTY, DAVE TYNAN, HUGH OCONNOR, CONCRETE SONG (2017), 03.00

BECKY EDMUNDS, STAND IN (2009), 05.14

LUCY CASH AND SIMONE KENYON, HOW THE EARTH MUST SEE ITSELF (2019), 13.05

EVAN IFEKOYA, CONTOURED THOUGHTS (UK/ICELAND, 2019), VIDEO, 04.42

DAVID BLANDY, HOW TO FLY (2020), VIDEO, 06.22

This is followed by a live online discussion, Saturday 8 Aug 3pm https://www.facebook.com/CoastalCurrents/

And a final Screening 5 Saturday 8 Aug from 6pm for 24hrs http://coastalcurrents.org.uk/screening-5/

 

 

 

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Grounded, Screening 3 live for 24 hrs

Today from 6pm UK time:  coastalcurrents.org.uk/screening-3/

TAKING / CARE

AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE EMBODIMENT OF LOSS, UNCERTAINTY AND THAT WHICH WE CANNOT NAME

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YVONNE RAINER, HAND MOVIE (1966), 8MM FILM TRANSFERRED TO VIDEO, B&W, SILENT, 05:00

FLORENCE PEAKE, THE KEENERS (UK, 2015), VIDEO, 10.51

PHOEBE COLLINGS-JAMES, MOTHER TONGUE, MOTHER MASTER (UK, 2018), 16MM FILM TRANSFERRED TO VIDEO, 02.28

FENIA KOTSOPOULOU, THIS DANCE HAS NO END (2018), VIDEO,10:59

ZOË MARDEN, LITTLE LO TING (UK/HONG KONG, 2017), VIDEO, 04.08

HRH & GRAY WIELEBINSKI, WATER BB (UK, 2019), VIDEO, 08.02

LISA CLIFFORD AND CHERYL WHITE, DAD’S COFFIN (UK, 2020), VIDEO, 08.00

JOHN SMITH, STATE OF GRACE (UK, 2019), VIDEO, 03.00

 

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grounded, Screening 2 live for 24hrs

Go to: http://coastalcurrents.org.uk/screening-2/

SOCIALISED

A REFLECTION ON THE CONSCIOUS AND UNCONSCIOUS MOVEMENTS THAT AFFECT HOW WE SHAPE AND FORM OUR PLACE WITHIN SOCIETY. 

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Please note there is nudity and sexual content in this screening which we would advise isn’t for under 18’s

ROSA-JOHAN UDDOH, PERFORMING WHITNESS (UK, 2019), VIDEO, 3 SEGMENTS, TOTAL RUNNING TIME: 09.32

GRAY WIELEBINSKI, HONEY DOESN’T GO BAD ON IT’S OWN (USA/UK, 2018), VIDEO, 09.58

ONYEKA IGWE, SITTING ON A MAN (UK, 2018), HD VIDEO, 06.56

ROSA-JOHAN UDDOH, PERFORMING WHITNESS: GOOD EVENING (UK, 2019), VIDEO, 00.39

EVE STAINTON & FLORENCE PEAKE, FANTASY SERIES EP01 (UK, 2018-19), ORIGINALLY LIVE STREAMED VIDEO WITH GREEN SCREEN, MOVEMENT AND LOW SPOKEN TEXT, 14.20

ROSA-JOHAN UDDOH, PERFORMING WHITNESS: PRIVATE LIFE DRAMA (UK, 2019), VIDEO, 05.13

EVAN IFEKOYA, SHE WAS A FULL BODY SPEAKER (UK, 2016), VIDEO, 17.33

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Curating Constellations

Screendance makers and scholars often lament the lack of exhibition possibilities outside the common dance film festival format, that is annual competitive screenings that rarely diverge from a discipline-based curatorial approach and focus exclusively on new works of screendance. What might an alternative model look like? Papers and events have continued to revisit the question with varying degrees of success, exploring the setting and duration of screenings, as well as thematic programming, among others. On a recent visit to Liverpool’s Tate Modern, I was inspired by the exhibition ‘Constellations’, a show that organizes works of art into nine different ‘star clusters’, distinct sections arranged conceptually around one influential work designated as the ‘trigger’ :

…the displays offer a fresh way of viewing and understanding artworks through correspondences rather than chronological narrative.

 Acting as the originating ‘trigger’ of each constellation is one artwork that has been chosen for its revolutionary effect on modern and contemporary art. Each of these trigger works is displayed among artworks that relate to it, and to each other, across time and location of origin. Chosen for their similarity to, apparent difference from or transformation of the trigger work, each grouping creates an accumulation of relationships and meaning that extends the themes and concerns of the originating work. (http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-liverpool/display/dla-piper-series-constellations).

Imagine the exciting possibilities of experiencing screendance ‘constellations’ that engage in dialogue with one another across diverse eras, styles and formats. What would your first cluster of ‘stars’ look like? The ‘Constellations’ exhibition has certainly inspired me to reflect on alternative curatorial approaches that might allow my own work in screendance programming to provide audiences with a deeper and alternative exploration of the medium and its rich ongoing histories. For anyone interested in brainstorming further on the relationship between screendance and curatorial practices, the electronic journal OnCurating is an interesting resource: http://www.oncurating-journal.org. 

–Marisa C. Hayes

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Late-capitalist, image-and information-based economies

The following quote from Brian Massumi’s essay The Autonomy of Affect succinctly describes a contemporary urban scenario and TV-driven image culture which is also seeping into and informing current screendance practices. While it may appear sexy and exciting to be cutting from one body part to another and from one body to another, could this mode of editing not  be critiqued as a replica of a late-capitalist indulgence? On the other hand, as Massumi argues, is there perhaps a quest for virtuality hidden within the fold of the media mayhem, and the edit, an emergence of possible bodies and potential movements? An emergence “not of the categorical, but of the unclassifiable, the unassimilable, the never-yet felt, the felt for less than half a second, again for the first time – the new.”(1) As Massumi writes “the mass media are massively potentializing”, and so are screendance practices…. (2), perhaps this is a “play multiplied to infinity.” (3)

What is of dire interest now, post-Reagan, is the extent to which he contracted into his person operations that might be argued to be endemic to late-capitalist, image-and information-based economies. Think of the image/expression events in which we bathe. Think interruption. Think of the fast cuts from TV programming to commercials. Think of the cuts across programming and commercials achievable through zapping. Think of the distractedness of television viewing, the constant cus from the screen to its immediate surroundings, to the viewing context where other actions are performed in fits and starts as attention flits. Think of the joyously incongruent juxtapositions of surfing on the internet. Think of our bombardment by commercial images off the screen, at every step in our daily rounds.Think of the imagistic operations of the consumer object, as turnover time increases as fast as styles can be recycled. Everywhere, the cut, suspense -incipience. Virtuality, perhaps?

(Brian Massumi, The Autonomy of Affect, in Paul Patton Ed, Deleuze, A Critical Reader, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers 1996,234)

(1) Massumi, 227.

(2) Massumi, 236.

(3) Massumi, 226.

Claudia Kappenberg
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Matthew Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy (1869)

In a new series of BBC Radio4 entitled The Value of Culture Melvyn Bragg explores the idea and evolution of culture.

The programmes reflect on Matthew Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy (1869), described as one of the most celebrated works of social criticism ever written. It forms the basis for a new discussion of what we understand as culture, and how we determine its value. It returns to the question wheather the arts ought to be valued for their own sake, for their lack of use or for whatever else they might do in the world.

For a commentary by Claudia Kappenberg read her blog post.

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Rethinking Capitalism, through dance

In this talk for The Bruce Initiative for Rethinking Capitalism Randy Martin reads dance in terms of sovereignty, rule, governance and capacity, and he reads capitalism through dance. He concludes by saying: ” Dance is straddling between two major strategies of art: the utopian which we have now brought from the distant spectacle into a kind of tactile form, and the interventionist, which is about methods, techniques and the means through which we achieve what we would like to become.”

How does this translate to screendance? It could be argued that screendance is utopian, in that it is the sphere of the imaginary, of invented space-time and mobility. But the screen can also scrutinize, mirror and confront. So perhaps it can equally be interventionist in that it looks back at us and at the everyday?

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