Theoretical framework on the practice of choreography

Igor Koruga
On a disciplinary level this artistic research sets choreography to operate doubly. On one side, pointed by Bojana Cvejić, as a social practice constituted by the social structures (discourses and institutions, customs, modes of production and relations of power) in which it operates; On another side, as a symbolic/artistic practice, stimulating new ways for disrupting existing and proposing new aesthetic and social modes of performing social existence (its values, structures, principles and procedures behind organization, interaction and communal). This dual setting avoids popular theoretical belief that art should extract itself from the “useless” domain of the aesthetic and associate only with social practice and social change. Following Claire Bishop and Jacques Ranciere, “aesthetic” carries the productive contradiction of art’s relationship to social change, characterized precisely by that tension between faith in art’s autonomy and belief in art as inextricably bound to the promise of a better world to come. Andrew Hewitt also ascribed a fundamental role to the aesthetic in formulation of the political and the social order, through the concept of socialchoreography. He based the aesthetic realm within the full specter of bodily movements and arrangements of human bodies in motion: from everyday gestures to the social and artistic (i.e., ballroom) dances.Interpreting his thesis further, Bojana Cvejić underlined the choreography becomes social only when the social order is embodied, performed, and instilled kinesthetically through conscious or unconscious physical arrangements within time and space, proposing that way new models of social order, contrary to the existing structures. Furthermore, while analyzing historical contexts fundamental for Western civilization (from democratic Athens in the 4th and 5th century BC, over the modern bourgeois public sphere in the early 18th century, to the present neo-liberal society), Ana Vujanović elaborated how artistic performance and theatre constitute/d the continuum of public life, public opinion, and political positions. This process happened because theatre performed the structural social role, providing models of acting and behaving in public and of testing social relations. In these contexts, the public behavior and politics themselves weren’t spontaneous practices, but rather, in Vujanović’s own words, institutionalized, codified, predicated on conventions, procedures, skills, and exposed to the gaze, opinions, and critiques of others[1].Described theses contextualize my view of the theatre as a public space for realizing activities of citizenship related to concerns in the public domain (e.g. public speaking, labor, politics, social collaboration, communication etc). Furthermore, they open questions on emergence of public space for our public practices, which isn't so much defined by where it exactly appears or exists, but is rather articulated by our communal bodily investments and vulnerability, both human and nonhuman. If such investments come from (our) physical articulations in motion – ranging from everyday movement to the dancing, or from the social to the aesthetic realm of performativity – I find it fruitful to use choreography and analyze, expose, subvert, and transform perpetuated procedures regulating normative patterns of organization behind them, especiallyin today’s neo-liberal and capitalist society.Choreography could then interpret the social/society as an analytical tool within theatre – through the mediation between ‘territories’ of artist, performance and spectators, as they are established in the theatre apparatus. The necessity of such approach is high today, keeping in mind the close connection between art and the flexibility of neoliberal capitalist politics, in which spectator communities get formed by moral categories rather than political subjectivization, making even radically critical practices less effective. Following the tradition of “thought practices” – which self-referentially problematize dance, choreography, and spectatorship, opening the artwork to a plurality of propositions, and not only to those of a single autonomous subject/author – this research questions how to communicate through choreography a political, socio-anthropological, and artistic examination of principles identifying, in today’s depressive conditions, what forces and apparatuses, non-metaphorically and daily, choreograph subjection, mobilization, subjugation, and arrest (Andre Lepecki). While alternatively composing the public sphere, the aesthetic form in which these principles should be expressed requires more collective imagination turned into concrete political demands (Bojana Cvejić).Through this research, I desire to continue developing choreography as a multi-layered analytical tool that I've initiated through so far practice. Firstly, to produce and structure aesthetic contents and procedures, which communicate to spectators affectively, physically, mentally, etc. Analyzing in practice the role of the aesthetic in formulating the political and social order through choreography, I’ll explore various gathering principles (not necessarily anthropocentric) behind body arrangements in “occupying” territory, in a specter from the zoocentric mobility and conquering to the phytological growth, decay, and metamorphosis from one state to another. Applied within theatre apparatus these principles will be treated as ways of sharing the discourse depression and of political unification into communities.Secondly, choreography could expose the relationship(s) and (inter) action between emplaced objects, humans, and other entities in space and time. I will explore how individual (exhausted) body triggers and reorganizes the collective body (spectators) within which it is located - through (un) structured situations; the architecture of the space; challenging one-point perspective of human perception into the multiplied views, shared views, etc. This way, choreography could stimulate negotiation between the artist – performance – spectator territories, narrowing and underlining the distance or gap among them – depending on aesthetic material, tasks, forms, and issues concerning the audience. Switching these territories continuously between aesthetic and social regimes of performing, will stimulate an antagonistic playground where everything that appears, which is to be seen and heard on the (public) stage, becomes a potential agent of the social.Thirdly, choreography could be a try-out model for the artist and the spectator to exercise together new models of the social. Based on concepts of unstructured, emerging, proto-communities; Defined by parameters of interaction that alienate the sovereignty of the familiar social order by publicly performing and experiencing unfamiliar, spontaneous, unmade, and invisible alternatives of being together to the current state of affairs in neoliberal and capitalist society. It opens a question on the democratization of organizing the social, which goes beyond socio-political matters of democracy and opens up the debate on human existential condition – which is never merely social or merely human.

[1]There also other social, anthropological, and performance theories, pointing to procedural similarities between different forms of performance – artistic performance and politics / public social practice: performance theory (John McKenzie), man as actor (Richard Sennett), technologies of the self (Michel Foucault), habitus (Pierre Bourdieu), performance of the self (Ervin Goffman), doing and performing (Richard Schechner), performing identity (Judith Butler) etc.

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