response by Moritz Frischkorn
On Barricades and Dances as Laboratory Series
Research format Laboratory Series, response by Moritz Frischkorn
Research Question: The artistic research proposal On Barricades and Dances originated from an interest in the role of objects and things within civic collectives. Based on recent thinking from the fields of Science and Technology Studies (Latour 2004) and Performance Studies (Lepecki 2012, Ingvartsen 2016), my intuition was to investigate the impact of material set-ups and protocols of handling material within social choreographies (Hewitt 2005). To investigate the question in what way things participate in the performative and choreographic re-making of heterogeneous assemblages containing both human and non-human elements, I turned to one specific feature and technology of social protest, i.e. the barricade, for it allowed me to closely observe how both social protocols and protocols of handling non-human actors are being negotiated.
Choice of Objects: For the Laboratory Series On Barricades and Dances, I decided to work with only a small array of objects (wooden pallets, car tires, cobble stones, tents, and umbrellas) that, when used in social protest, could also change their function, thereby revealing new affordances. Focusing on the repurposing of objects allowed me to speculate about a double movement: While people renegotiated social and political situations, their relation to objects was put into question as well. On that level, specific moments of repurposing everyday objects spoke of a practice-based shift in the composition of a common world made of humans and non-humans (Latour 2004). Within the research, the barricade – as a strategic tool to block flow through the urban fabric, a defensive weapon against State force, but also as a heap of material devoid of function (Douglas 2007) – became the central choreographic and discursive figure for reassembling human and non-human collectives.
Try-Outs: In a series of try-outs – together with dancers Jonas Woltemate and Verena Brakonier – we started to work on constructing different structures using the materials named above. A range of scores or modes of interaction were tried. Therein, the materiality and functionality of the objects was tested performatively: Would they afford the building of shelters, how could they be weaponized, what bodily movements did they allow for in terms of (human to non-human) partnering? Finally, out of a series of experiments, one specific mode of constructing emerged: making unstable barricades. When the three human performers arranged the materials so as to form a construction that always had to remain slightly off-balance, a couple of interesting effects could be noticed. Building something that was not supposed to become stable, we had to actively negotiate with the material of the objects (the heaviness of the wooden pallets, the slight flexibility of the rubber tires, the irregularity of the surface of the stones, and so on). Secondly, because the construction could not stand on its own, some human body had to always be part of the construction, carefully balancing it. Thirdly, when working without language (an additional task that developed over the course of our Laboratory Series), different opinions and intuitions about how to continue constructing had to be negotiated between the performers via the material entity of the construction. It thus almost became a kind of Latourian ‚thing‘ – a place for choreographically negotiating how to handle material (Latour 2005).
Repetition: Repeating the score over a period of six weeks in the studio, we came to understand that what we were actually practising was a different form of attuning to the material properties of the objects involved in the construction score. A different form of building barricades had been established which did not, first of all, focus on the usual functions of this insurgent technology, such as defence, visibility, blockage, but insisted on the performative enactment and rehearsal of a careful evaluation of its materiality itself. Building barricades as unstable constructions thus allowed us to physically practise a form of meditative proximity to things without necessarily functionalising them, therefore reframing the barricade as a place of infinite human to non-human negotiations.
Choice of Further Participants: Participation in the score had to be carefully initiated. While our material partners – the objects for construction – were fairly reliable, other human participants to the Laboratory Study had to painfully relearn certain habitual patterns of relating to material. Mostly, the score would challenge their preconceptions of timing and handling: Often, they were not used to taking time to the degree that this specific score demanded, and their interactions with the objects demonstrated their strong will of subjugating them to specific subjective intentions. In these cases, the constructions that we were building together would often collapse – thereby providing the collective with a valuable experience of failure, one that was purposefully built into the study. Learning effects were not tested statistically; I can therefore only relate to my expertise as much as to that of the dancers. It seems like building fragile barricades – which within this artistic research set-up was conceived as a testing ground for unlearning certain habitual patterns of handling material – was instructive on several layers: One needed to take more time than one is used to for construction work and only extensive, yet careful testing would allow for new options of adding to existing constructions. Finally, visual preconceptions of how to continue the construction often proved wrong. In short, what we uncovered over time seemed similar to a Deleuzian ethics of craftmanship, that is, of “following the material” (Deleuze/Guattari 1987: 409).
Deleuze, Gilles/Guattari, Félix (1987): A Thousand Plateaus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. and with a foreword by Brian Massumi, Minneapolis/London: University of Minnesota Press.
Douglas, Carl (2007). “Barricades and Boulevards: Material transformations of Paris, 1795-1871”, in: Interstices: Journal of Architecture and Related Arts, Vol. 8.
Hewitt, Andrew (2005): Social Choreography. Ideology as Performance in Dance and Everyday Movement, Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Ingvartsen, Mette (2016): EXPANDED CHOREOGRAPHY: Shifting the agency of movement in The Artificial Nature Project and 69 positions, LUND University Publications: https://lup.lub.lu.se/search/publication/4ee35659-764e-48fe-92a6-f1167735ce37 (May 14, 2020)
Latour, Bruno (2004): The Politics of Nature. How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy, Cambridge/London: Harvard University Press.
Latour, Bruno/Weibel, Peter (2005): Making Things Public. Atmospheres of Democracy, Cambridge: MIT Press, pp. 14-41.
Lepecki, André (2012): “Moving as Thing: Choreographic Critiques of the Object”, in: OCTOBER, 140, pp. 75-90.