Parasitic Noisification: A Four-Part Dance Blog by André Lepecki, #4

It has taken me a decade to finally get to write about all of this, moved by piece that had truly marked me back then. The piece is Mårten Spångberg’s Powered by Emotion. It is even perhaps, in the parasitic non-communicational force of this work, the theory that is Spångberg’s consistent practice since then (which he named “Spångbergianism”) had yet to be fully unfolded, so that the full power of Powered by Emotion, could emerge, retro-actively. The solo activates how Spångbergianism functions. It goes more or less like this: 1) I (the dancer) know not how to dance; 2) I (the singer) know not how to sing; 3) I (the Nordic man) know not of “Latino” affect. Therefore: I will dance; I will sing; I will express Latino affect. I will do all of this on a stage before an audience. I will not engage in “performing failure” (the failure would be linked to a system of successful semiotic transmission, a system of judgment) but in absolute commitment to the task.

We can see this committed daring to actioning without knowing, thus insisting on noisification by sheer doing, also in several other projects by Spångberg. For instance in “SWEAT the Movie: Produced, filmed and edited during ImpulsTanz 2008, by a group of people who had no idea about film making what so ever but still made a 90 minutes film.” Or, when I saw, last year, at the School of Dance and Circus in Stockholm, where Spångberg was head of the MA in Choreography at the time, an hour-long performance by a free jazz ensemble composed by Spångberg and the MA students and where no one knew how to play an instrument – and therefore all were absolutely committed to play free jazz scores. And played they did, inexactly, yet absolutely rigorously (to use Husserl’s formulation, picked up by Deleuze), and it was great. As for Spångberg lectures, I can think of a two-day sequence, three hours each day, no breaks, no questions, just straight delivery, at the Hayward Gallery in London, on the occasion of the Move: choreographing you exhibition (2010), when Spångberg prefaced his talks by saying something like: “I am not interested in dialogue. I will not answer any questions. I will only say what I need to say” (I am paraphrasing, from my noisy memory…). The talks hovered on theory, around the theoretical constellation Spångberg prefers: Zizek, Negrestani, Badiou, Nancy, some Lacan, Parisi, some Marx, if I remember correctly. And a lot of Deleuze and Guattari, particularly commentaries on A Thousand Plateaus.  All invoked as Spångberg addressed contemporary art making, contemporary modes of subjectivization, of organizing desire, of thinking about economy, dance circuits and choreographic expansions. What was interesting was the amount of accumulation. We knew, sitting there, there would be no talking back. The proposition, watching Spångberg thinking on the edge of thought’s edge, had been made clear. So, we were transformed from being listeners, or receivers of a “message” (the proper function of the audience in a communicational set) to being hosts of a proliferation. I this proliferation, there are brilliant moments as there are infuriating ones; moments of deep resonance and of deep dissonance; moments one wants to correct a date or a wrong reference to a book’s title and moments we wish we could be taping it all, for later consultation and slower pondering. So, we are not receivers, receptors. Instead, we accumulate. And we start to produce, thanks to accumulation. And if we allow the noise to coalesce in the fibrillation of a thought which most of all dares to think, then something quite interesting happen. A stirring up, and an production of potential replies to Spångberg, potential polemics, potential agreements, potential ideas for pieces, potential ideas for essays — all start being produced not by the means of “communication” but by the means of endless, and now, indeed exo-parasitic noisification. I tell you. Both afternoons, after I left the small auditorium where Spangberg’s talks were taking place, I grabbed whomever I slightly knew and spent a few hours talking away not “on” Spångberg’s talks, but because and through the talks. The parasite becomes the host, and the host spews out more actioning. I repeat: this is not easy, and often infuriating. But the point is not to become friends anyway, right? As if loving the author, liking the artist, was the necessary affect for a productive commitment to theory and to art. Instead, noisification foregrounds not an object of thought, a subject of analysis, a subject for analysis, an object for thought, but the oddity and daring of a thing.

The then parasite is not an exploiter, just as the host is not a passive victim. Their relation is the actualization of a particular commitment to act.  Whatever one needs to act, even in the space of not-knowing: the free jazz project, or the drawing project The Force The Movie The Vague (2011), where Spångberg draws on walls without knowing how to draw. For dance, this commitment to doing without knowing (but doing really well without knowing) activates something that is much more than “pedestrian” or “amateur” aesthetics – it is a non-aesthetics fibrillating with the nervousness and urgency of the affirmation of capacities. A different kind of performativity, where iterability is not the point. Praxis, instead of citation, as necessary violation of semiotics, proposing a different theoretical imperative (we can see this also taking place in his book Spångbergianism).

I finish with a short snippet of a parasitic noisification in Spångberg’s essay for the book The Art of Making Dances (Granoff and Joy) titled “Why ‘The Art of Making Dances’ Now? Between ‘What is –‘ and Choreography”. The entire essay continues as in the snippet below. Movement, theory, as noisy thing, (instead of material for comprehension) is nothing more than this.

After Doris Humphrey: The Art of Making Dances

Consider the following image. A vast ocean, the surface black and

                                                                        After Jacques Derrida: What is Poetry?

plain, any vibration on the surface appears to be a disturbance, fright.

                        In order to respond to such a question—in two words, right?—you

It is night and yet on the beach stand a man, or Man, perhaps personi-

            are asked to renounce knowledge. And to know it well, without

fied as a young person hardly more than six or eight years old, in full

            ever forgetting it: demobilize culture, but never forget in your learned igno-

daylight. A girl. The beach slops upwards. In the background group-

            rance what you sacrifice on the road, crossing the road.

ings of summer cottages spread out in the landscape, a landscape we

            Who dares to ask me that? Even though it remains inapparent, since disappear-

know rests upon post-Fordist production, void of manufacturing, filled

            ing is its law, the answer sees itself (as) danced (dancing). I am a dancing, pro-

to the brim by organization and ubiquitous management. The black

            nounces choreography, learned through the body, guard and keep me, look

surface absolutely still now. Suddenly, the surface breaks, with an

            out for me, look at me, danced dancing, right before your eyes: soundtrack

enormous intensity and a black shiny body catapults itself out of the

wake, trail of light, photography of the feast of morning.

ice-cold water. The body, in its entirety leaves the ocean behind and…


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André Lepecki is Associate Professor in the Department of Performance Studies at NYU. He is the author and editor of many books, including Exhausting Dance (2006); Of the Presence of the Body(2004); Planes of Composition (with Jenn Joy 2010); and DANCE (forthcoming 2012). He works also as an independent curator. In 2008 he received the “Best Performance Award” from AICA for directing and co-curating the redoing of Allan Kaprow’s “18 Happening in 6 Parts”. He was the chief-curator of the festival IN TRANSIT 2008 and 2009 (Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin); and in 2010 he was co-curator with Stephanie Rosenthal of the Interactive Archive on Dance and Visual Arts since 1960 for the exhibition MOVE (Hayward Gallery, London).