• CO-CREATION LIVE FACTORY: Dissenting Bodies Marking Time (2020)
European Cultural Centre | Palazzo Mora & Palazzo Michiel, Venice
January 8-18, 2020
Open to the public on the days January 15–18, 2020
Dissenting Bodies Marking Time is for artists and poets who are eager to journey through time and to be wholly immersed into a reality that brings into focus prejudices and assumptions in order to undermine them. In this context, one should not be hesitant to tune, offer, pull sharply, lay bare, and uncover. You are invited to join the common ground of a new temporary artistic community and have yourself over a barrel, to hazard, assess, lay it on the line, hit for, strike down, ground, try out, tax to the limit, collect, edge and hive, lay down your arms, hammer away – get started, break into, scrutinize, and step forth. Eventually, participants are welcome to enjoy the present state of being, trusting that vulnerability, fragility and failure are part of our human nature and an ever-changing reality.
CO-CREATION LIVE FACTORY Dissenting Bodies Marking Time is a 12-day residential performance program consisting of:
- 8 days of intensive co-creation workshop processes for international artists in two tutor groups one led by artist duos VestAndPage (Venice/Germany) and Andrigo&Aliprandi (Italy), and one by artist Marilyn Arsem (US). The selected artists will work in one tutor group during the entire process. Places per tutor group are limited to a maximum of 20.
- Discussions on specific topics among the group participants structured in the form of roundtables and open dialogues during the morning sessions.
- Four days program of performances open to the public on January 15-16-17-18, 2020 at the ART WEEK venue Palazzo Mora, ECC, Venice (Admission free), including live performances by our guest artists and the film screening Pavlensky – Man and Might.
The culmination of the co-creation process will be open to the audience: we will transform the venue together into a dynamic performance site through a series of collective performance operas, as well as collaborative and solo performances.
Imagine Life: What does it look like?
Societal systems in which artists operate and to which they respond through their art-making are ever-changing. In the contemporary global context, opportunistic ways of thinking are continuing to claim strategies to fuel self-protective, ego-centric structures and behaviour. These are habits that contradict the very essence of art, which is to exceed bounds (often including those of tradition, norms, etiquette, and that mysterious thing called taste), shatter accepted patterns, advance into unknown territories, challenge the existing order.
Creativity is highly explosive, perhaps the most astounding human faculty and "to be worth its salt it must have in that salt a fair sprinkling of gunpowder… to make art out of desperate times" as Susan Quinn wrote in her book Furious Improvisation (2008).
The ingraining of conscientiousness, individualism, autonomy, and integration and assimilation is always moving forward, ubiquitously and intimately woven into the fabric of our collective existence. It is no coincidence that emerging generations of artists and performers are demonstrating through their work and activism a growing desire to be free from oppressive demands that accompany the evolutionary transformation of societies.
In Dissenting Bodies Marking Time, as it is titled the new chapter of CO-CREATION LIVE FACTORY, the project of the new course of the VENICE INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCE ART WEEK initiated in 2017, legendary Boston artist Marilyn Arsem together with internationally renowned artist duos VestAndPage and Andrigo&Aliprandi place at the service of emerging performance artists their performance methodologies to facilitate a co-creation climax, in order to enquire, with mutual trust, into a poetics of toleration, strengthening understanding and acknowledgment of divergent thinking and its conceptual complexity through the act of making art together.
Moving. Standing. Doing simple acts.
The body and the Self are the means that allow performance artists to express their deepest concerns to the other. They serve to highlight differences, ambiguities and diversities as antidotes to the stalling normative, both within the process of art-making and from a psycho-social perspective. Honouring concerns and differences means giving value to every life story: each one deserves to be heard and shared, particularly in our time where modern identities are no longer fixed but emerge as "unstable points of identification or suture made within the discourses of history and culture" (Stuart Hall). To transform differences and concerns into a proper artistic act, at first one should question if they are something intimate, learned, imposed, or acquired. From this perspective, Dissenting Bodies Marking Time is a path designed to embrace polarity and multiple facets through specific performance training, aiming to unfold the complication of making art in an increasingly intricate world. Thinking and reflecting multi-perspectively, as contemporary performance artists we are called to inquire into ourselves, our positions, taking viewpoints and stances to empower mutual learning and togetherness understanding that they are unavoidable, and at the same time never fully attainable. Deep empathy towards oneself and the others favour the cherishing of individuality, and honours self-actualization to work out identities that reconcile to their destiny.
In an alternation between complexity and simplicity, or construct and essence, the intermingling of different states of consciousness is possible by inquisitively coming into touch with our inner conflicts and the poetic universe through performance making. Relying on the sole artistic vocation, the Self can purely merge with the contexts through art processes without holding onto a status quo, but crucially engaging in the flow of our human existence, which is always at stake.
Time is the only real currency we can count on, and we have only a limited amount of it. Hence, we have to be caring about how to spend it, infusing our life with action. We do not have to wait passively for something to happen but make it happen in order to walk into our future with hope, and love. Inhabiting time consciously allows us to strengthen the awareness of individual and collective change that springs from the urgency of finding new modes of shaping our life stories. Out of it, performance art rises as a powerful artistic practice to fuel continuous transformation, while functioning as a form of social device to shape, communicate, confirm and honour the value of different and ever-changing identities in multiple contexts. Acting in time cycles and historical dimensions, we live our contemporaneity openly and progressively, all accepting aspects of one another, as long as we focus on how to feel, listen, sense, identify, dissent.
Dissenting Bodies Marking Time
Is identity a place we enter, or that of simply being?
We do not operate in a vacuum. Our history, environment, context and cultural background feed into the work we produce, when it is creative by nature. It is the same for our identities. They exist in our corporeality and mind structures. They consist of the same matter of our dreams, where everything coexists in the very instant of its disappearance.
We perform our identities, differences and diversities every day through how we present ourselves publicly, and how we engage with each other is often based on our assumptions about others’ potential identities. At times we shift between presentations of ourselves that we are actively constructing, to other more unconscious manifestations of ourselves. However, a fluidity emerges as we move between diverse contexts and encounter a variety of people and communities. In this way, our changing expressions of our identities also recuperate dissent for equality, which is not only a crucial political issue but a profoundly philosophical dilemma.
The value of philosophy lies in showing the fly the way out of the bottle to reach the path to truth and freedom (Wittgenstein). Notwithstanding we continue turning around the ideas of truth and freedom by defining them with more labels that only cage and box us further. Like the fly imprisoned in the bottle, we could express our identity in a thousand ways but would never be able to understand it in its essence and extension, as long as we are unable to uncage ourselves. The senses of the fly reveal the world to be all-encompassing, and yet the fly cannot access that world. Instead, it keeps hitting the walls of the glass prison, not understanding the very nature of the barriers to freedom. The senses, if left to induce purely instinctual reactions, can tell part of a truth of the world but not all of it. They cannot reveal to the fly how to get out of the bottle. So, if we just focus on the senses, it is almost impossible to grasp the idea of identity. If we imagine ourselves free of all labels, judgements and separations, we can begin to understand the core concepts on which the notion of id-entity is founded – those of sameness and oneness, the state of being the same.
Our power to recall freedom, truth and equality witnesses the existence of the whole: we would not ask ourselves with what charm or statement to dress ourselves today. The manifestations of our identities operate through time, unfolding over time. Who we were yesterday is different from who we will be tomorrow, but one is only a memory and the other is a fantasy. We can only be here in this moment. Everything else is either behind us or in front of us. Nevertheless, it is difficult to pay attention to exactly where we are now.
And yet, as artists, it is crucial that we remain fully present, and as fully aware as we can possibly be of every nuance of who and what and how we are at this very moment in time. To the degree that we are conscious of who we are – what we are feeling, to what we are paying attention, what choices we are making, our fears, our hopes, our dreams – will allow us to make use of all these elements in the creation of our art.
But we should never forget that our lives are ruled by time's inevitable, relentless passage. Always we have less of it than we had a moment ago. How do we move through time? How does time move through us? What is its effect on our actions and our bodies? What is its impact on the audience? We ask them to spend their time with us. What allows them to feel that it was worth surrendering a portion of their lives to the experience of our work?
We can think of time as a tool, and our task is to more consciously use time in performance. The element of time becomes apparent through material and physical processes. But how often do we ignore or resist its impact? What happens when we actually allow those processes to unfold over the real time that they need? What occurs when we actively apply different time frames to our actions? How might we transform our own or other people’s sense of time?
To say it with Socrates, a self-aware person must act entirely within his/her capabilities to their pinnacle, to become aware of every fact relevant to one’s existence if one wishes to attain self-knowledge. The reality, social contexts, personal experiences and cultural backgrounds all follow the traces of the mutations of a Self-striving to reconcile ethics with aesthetics and to contravene or transgress the normative.
The methodologies offered by Marilyn Arsem, VestAndPage and Andrigo&Aliprandi, will investigate ways to excavate the Self through performance practice to develop, empower and expand participants' performative languages and their artistic qualities around:
- The ever-shifting notion of Identity: from the Latin id(em): the same; and "entity": that which is;
- The concept of Dissent: to differ in sentiment, feeling, thinking and sensing;
- The notion of Time: as a measurable extension and indefinite continuous duration, of all that is, above all space and motion.
Additionally, they will inquire into the essential role of the body as the source of movement, sound and action. They will explore the senses and the perceptual capacity to maximize creativity and focus through time. Whereas time is the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole, the body and the senses are the tools to stimulate the mind and jump-start the creative process and express our particular uniqueness.
VestAndPage and Andrigo&Aliprandi contribute to Dissenting Bodies Marking Time with their co-creation method of performance-training, distinguished by a collaborative and transdisciplinary ethos. From the notion of "identity crisis" in social and philosophical systems, participants are stimulated to identify artistic-social, philosophical and finally poetic approaches through art-making, and proactive collective dialogues also aimed to favour independent relationships among the participating artists, which can lead to long-term networks growing after the conclusion of the project. Taking inspiration from Wittgenstein's philosophical intuition, which subtends that any definition due to language represents an identifying limitation, VestAndPage and Andrigo&Aliprandi will aim attention to the sensorial exploration of the Self concerning the surrounding and intuitive response, a field of investigation at the core of their artistic research since years. There is no announcement for the senses to perceive, no result prescribed on paper. Our bodies are spaces that are empty and full at the same time, as spaces of silence and sites of forgetfulness, perception and discovery through memory activation. Consequently, to perform stands out as an act of survival amid people, objects, norms, and ruins – all of which are parts of ourselves. We are immobile with only the breath, our inert bodies setting free the awareness and readiness to stand between light and dark, holding tragedy and bliss at each side. We regain the quality of presence to finally spark motions, images and words that emerge and echo from the roots of silence, like footprints in the water that still do not know how to walk. We inhabit the absence of ourselves in the rusty grain of a metal beam, a scrap of cement, the fragility of a spider web, the vanishing of air, the texture of a sound, the rapidity of a gesture.
Marilyn Arsem brings to Dissenting Bodies Marking Time her more than forty years of experience in designing interactive performances, directing group performances, as well as her extensive solo performance practice. She will work individually with participants to develop solo performances, focussing on the concept of time and the different ways in which we present ourselves depending on the context in which we are operating. Arsem facilitates performance exercises to help the artists to examine diverse ways in which we use time as an active element in our work. We will investigate how actions, sites, objects and ourselves are impacted by working with time, against time and through time. We will also delve into the effects that altering the use of time has not only on ourselves as performers, but on viewers. With her artistic wisdom and performance genius, she will also focus on the dynamic that an artist creates with an audience: which roles are constructed and manifested through the work for both the artist and the audience. The artist's use of time and space is part of creating that dynamic. Finally, it is the artist who determines the rules of engagement, and who establishes the kind of relationship that exists between oneself and the other. Experimenting with those variables within the context of the work can open up more possibilities of ways to present the performance. Arsem proposes articulating individual goals for the work, the understanding that they wish for themselves and what they want to learn from it, and the experience that they hope an audience might have in encountering the work.
Marilyn Arsem, VestAndPage and Andrigo&Aliprandi have conceived Dissenting Bodies Marking Time as an opportunity for artists to create an experiential space that extends personal knowledge and generates genuine work-in-progress to grow an individually and collectively transformative culture, valuing time and the fragile limits that constitute the artist and individual. Focusing on the human body as a primary tool of artistic creation throughout its reading, its interactions with others and within a given reality, they will explore the Self as a still unknown landscape that invites a search for its hidden and potential manifestations through time. The physical body is like a membrane that encloses the vital flowing stream that traverses it, and that protects and reflects all those creative, emotional, intellectual and spiritual tensions that constitute the being as a site from where new meanings spring. To perform through the creative use of the body the concepts of time, identity and dissent, offers the chance to level what the deceptive mind might see as troubled, diverse and different beyond the boundaries of body representation.
Dissenting Bodies Marking Time tackles issues such as existential conflicts, alienation, discomfort, the process of aging and decay, and how to react to them through specific exercises of, e.g. the aesthetic oversight of the performative space, the questioning and evaluation of imagery, body language and movements. In a context of mutual sharing, sessions are conceived to confront life experiences through art, allowing for a non-casual synthesis between a plurality of self-biographies; to facilitate different levels and modes of interaction and relationships; to build mutual trust and strengthen group dynamics, qualities of presence and self-reliance.
Marilyn Arsem, VestAndPage and Andrigo&Aliprandi intend performance art, on the one hand, as a practice resulting in actions that accompany the artists’ truth and human nature, to realise their full potential. On the other hand, they assume performance art as a relational practice through audience engagement based on the ethics of care. Respect, responsibility, altruism, dissensus and behavioural patterns are aspects that can offer a value-free approach to ethics, and an opportunity to examine reality through the actual choices made by agents in practice – the artist who generously gives and provides. The process of art-making is eventually an instrument of creative freedom: a freedom that is political, social, civil, individual, intimate, or of any other genre – ultimately poetic. It is a process that serves to gain a deeper understanding of our human nature and the scope of human knowledge, redirecting the Self to explore unknown territories.