The Age of the Contemporary: André Lepecki and the Berlin Festival In Transit
The theoretician, dramaturge and curator, André Lepecki, who was born in Brazil, grew up in Portugal and has been based in New York for many years, has been connected with this festival almost from its very beginning, first as a contributor, then as curator of the programme section “The Lab”, and from 2008 to 2009 as its artistic director.
André Lepecki, who studied anthropology before working as a dramaturge with the most important choreographers of recent years such as Meg Stuart and Vera Mantero, has given In Transit some very special focal points. He is, for instance, particularly interested in the question of the origin of that which we term contemporary performance, i.e. the border area between dance, installation, visual arts and happening. “For some years now there has been great interest in this history,” says Lepecki. “And it becomes increasingly evident that there is a kind of provenance: the developments in New York in the 1960s form the mythical origin. Everything is said to have developed from this. However, this notion disregards the (other) sources, the hidden spheres. There was performance art in Brazil, in West Africa, in Eastern Europe. We wallow in globalisation, but in so doing we lose the nuances.”
Hence the programming for In Transit is for Lepecki and his colleague Silke Bake also a politically oriented insight into these great mechanisms of historiography and programming: “The logic of a festival signifies that the performances at 8 p.m. are more important than those at 5 p.m., and that a show in the large hall carries more artistic weight than one in the foyer or in the studio. We were not willing to accept this for In Transit. All productions that we have invited are of equal value. But it is not easy to get this message across.”
“Singularity” and “Resistance”
Whereas, in 2008, the Festival focussed on the term Singularity, this year it is the objects that provide the focal point. “Singularities pointed out that not everything actually fits into the great paradigms of historiography. There are works that require their own imaginative space, that are concerned with themselves and cannot be simply pigeonholed. The theme “Resistance of the Object” revolves around the perception that things and objects can resist the logic of their function, that they may show an activity of their own,” explains Lepecki. An example of this was provided by the long-term performance untitled by Maria José Arjona. She produces soap bubbles from a blood-red liquid that burst on two long white walls. However, due to stormy weather these blood-red bubbles drifted through the entire listed building. The performance almost had to be cancelled. This “resistance of the object” could not have been demonstrated more clearly,” says Lepecki with a laugh.
Another element of this “resistance” is the decision to present works such as that of the opening performance Hibiki by the Japanese Butoh group Sankai Juku – a production from 1998. “In Transit is a format that allows breaking out of the logic that only the latest works can claim to be contemporary," according to Lepecki. "Far more important is the aspect of what a performance that is shown today reveals about itself, about its development context and about that which we are now able to see in it. The question as to the archiving of performance is for many artists a really key question. The developed work and the performative are currently very closely interwoven.”
This kind of event conception can, however, only flourish if the participants, i.e. the viewers, also follow this approach. “That remains the problem,” as Lepecki confirms. “The visitors often only have time for a few isolated performances and cannot see the interwoven complex of all that we also offer via lectures, installations and discussions with the artists. Nevertheless, I do think that In Transit works: it is a place where art leads to new possibilities of knowledge, and this is also for me and my work in the academic sphere of significance.” Contemporary dance encompasses far more than simply the performance of bodies on a stage.
is a dance researcher, journalist and critic.
He is a research project partner in the Tanzarchiv Leipzig e. V. and in the CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA DANSE, France.
Since 2006 he has been a member of the course of study “Contemporary Dance, Context, Choreography” within the framework of the Inter-University Dance Centre Berlin, and from 2007 until 2013 he is research director of the COLLÈGE INTERNATIONAL DE PHILOSOPHIE in Paris.
Translation: Heather Moers
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
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