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a quiver of arrows

Reflections on Art & Civil Society Symposium 2011 Jeffrey Gormly, editor@choreograph.net

this is not an essay . its a reflexion . shards of reflection . tangents fragments pieces of shrapnel . a quiver of arrows . a loaded magazine . a memorandum . a thank you I am a writer by trade and I strive for clarity but clarity might not be possible . some of this is chaos . chaos is the truth of my experience my feelings in the two weeks since the symposium . I had to work through it to achieve the calm train of thought expressed in the final piece . I almost cut everything else, but it felt dishonest . chaos is my truth . fear confusion delirium is my truth . I cut through mists of fear to establish a level tone of voice if its all too much for you, my story, skip to the end . my thoughts on participation are sober and I hope useful, and open a solution space for our conversation to enter . Ive tried to structure the intervening material as best I can . as a professional I try to be dispassionate and sober, but sometimes as an artist I feel forced to turn myself inside out and reveal the process, the turmoil and ferment that fuels growth and revelation . sometimes thats what I need of civil space . I need it to be a place where its ok to feel awkward and exposed and confused Ive also tried to honour the wealth of material presented, which included sober selfexamination, invaluable research, polemic, and most of all the fruits of experience, hard work and dedication . I offer thanks . the words of others are presented in bold . please bear in mind that these are notes streamed and edited and hybridised to compose a highly subjective transmission . I did not make recordings it is a great resource that all the papers, links, websites, contacts, references, recommended reading can be gathered at www.create-ireland.ie . I will be happy to receive any further responses/resources/discussion at the address at the top . suggestions from social networking adepts about how best to facilitate further discussion would be most welcome in practical terms, as a project for the future, I propose we follow Anthony Downeys suggestion and develop a critical space for work that exists at intersections between art politics economics community . this is something CREATE might facilitate . it requires a new kind of space, a new language, and a new spirit of criticality . it calls for a new humility and a clear ethics of solidarity . if it is true to these ideals, it has the potential to model a participatory politics of the future all responses are most welcome . best wishes agus bail o dhia air an obair. Jeffrey

THURSDAY create the current future society in a a symposium society fits over the speakers cut-up, 19/10/11 circling circling around a void at the centre of things . lots of descriptive analysis of inertia but what about what then? its frustrating here, recreating the hierarchies . what does participation mean? must it be a doing? can we leave an empty space empty, resist the will to fill it up? restraining retraining the organs of entertainment and government: can we teach govt (can we teach ourselves) to perform an economics of flexibility? to actively distribute non-interference? does the state even know when its interfering? we need new language . new formulations metaphors analogies . ground is shifting learn to dance . openness honesty reflexive reflective . grace lightness spontaneity state of dance . a means of reception into which we can flow with our impulse our gesture our gift . lets talk to each other . civil society is community is art is a state of mind . lets swarm this is not an essay . its a reflexion . shards of reflection . tangents fragments pieces of shrapnel . a quiver of arrows . a loaded magazine . a memorandum . thank you for opening the pulsing wound that is my very frail human existence my warm-bodied subjectivity . stigmata of selfhood run with the blood of poetry as I try to keep my mind amidst the wreckage of our times What is to be done? Who is the artist? What is artistic agency? What is civil society? Whose purposes are being served by our notions of community now that theres no one else to exploit to subsidise power at the end of credit? A highly unequal society is inimical to participatory society. The critical response is inadequate and doesnt respond to the core potential of these questions and the possibility to recalibrate priorities of the political order How do we find our main objectives through what we do? Art strikes home and raises questions : how to measure magnify the difference that makes a difference ? Viral spread of ambiguity and mediation . Everything is an experiment . We can enter a discourse and represent . Community is unfixed mutable voluntarily joined intention, open to change . growing understanding . building memory

FRIDAY to trade with each other do know meet talk engage with a how might we collaborative cultural measure of our city you do it for yourself to make the world around you a better place cut-up/overheard, 20/10/11 I go home to my family . reading about Sophocles on the bus: birthplace of theatre and the republic, rhetoric, representation, the public and polis, and now again birth pangs of a new world . there are no accidents . rub out the Word and Stop Change Start again . the god of love and the god of fear are one . ripping sensation in my question my chest tearing and turmoil heaving my heart and ringing in my head I havent seen enough fighting yet How can I rest after all that? What are we fighting what how who are we fighting for? Where is the space from which divine dispassionate and objective justice can be meted? In my world everything everything everything is contested food fuel ideas air. Nothing is pure nothing uncontaminated. Thank you for difficult questions to which I propose ever more beautiful complex and unforeseen answers about how the choppy pulse of change is jagging through the human project projection forcing us to reconsider our ordering of things but I question this: reinsert human values and meaning at centre of society. Are humans at the centre? Is the centre the apex? Not once did anyone refer to flora or fauna . we are subject to greater forces than ourselves, civil society state citizen artist contained in a matrix of processes that are as implacable and fragile as our own ideologies . toothed edge of change cleaves apart all but the most freely dancing configurations. I feel change rippling through my life in horrible waves. Once I got my powers as a boy, my sex perception imagination took fire and everything was illuminated with possibilities of what could be and how peoples happiness might be unkinked. This is what made me an artist. This and love of freedom. And yet peace seems most important, to find and conduct peace I write to make it possible for me to live. My first obligation is to myself my inner life which I nurture nourish and protect that I may offer it freely and without condition to encounter with all|other|everything else. This is a time for radical experiments in subjectivity openness and generosity; to offer our gifts and ourselves to a critique of the real as both subjects and agents of that critique, selflessly humble in solidarity and compassion, as embodiments of intelligence dancing out liveliness and novelty. What do we choreograph at the end of the world? Are we ready to surrender our ideas about the future? Can art be a way of doing politics, politics a way of doing art, and both a way of doing thinking together and apart? Can we count the ways in which to perform our citizenship, our membership in a seething mass of compassion and self-interest? If we love art so much maybe we should leave it aside, abolish formal art & its institutions . Invite the people to take part in its destruction . Artists changing as citizens what sort of state do you want ? Reform must be forced, it wont come from within : The state is confused and it suits powerful vested interests (traditions and allegiances) to persist with a model thats already broken .

SATURDAY they want us to fight / they eat conflict cut-up, 1999 I break into a cold sweat while we watch a movie. I feel like a coward and a fake. Unbearable electric tension galvanises my skin. I think about being complacent compliant performing a holding pattern while I wait for tidal waves of change to sweep over and hopefully pass me by. I think about wanting to feel safe. I remember an old dream: on a flat plain ringed by low mountains, in a camp with hundreds of squatters travellers punks crusties refugees. we shoot pool and foosball in the open air as life goes on. a campsite is a way of life for many of these people Suddenly I am thinking about my father. Ive stopped trying to get through to him. I dont break away but I am resigned to no change. He didnt honour my mother, the story of our world made small and sharp and staged in my own home: a self-obsessed patriarch neglects mother (earth) and fails love. I feel my world and the world collapsing into one narrative I feel the perfect piercing pain of love fear guilt shame flesh imagination wriggling and opening this wound in my breast because the old story is falling apart and change is painful. Soldiers pour into the valley like ants to shoot kill capture. This is a war after all. Theres been a war ever since I can remember on hunger Russia the bomb terror freedom. I think only of escape. I run. I cross the ridge and from the edge fly dance tumble through treetops and I make it. I put distance between me and all that and I am free and I exult I am truly free at last I am free. All my life Ive been waiting and now that the war has finally shown itself all that matters is freedom. All the insidious crap is swept away. I think about my plans. I think about how to organise resistance. A simple comforting conclusion: find others, work together. But outside the dream its complicated how do you fight the air food school television? The trenches are dug into my thoughts. This war is subliminal. Its structural. Its loaded with sugar and fat and tasty as hell. There are many ways to carry a fight. A deep and pervasive inequality is at work in this world, and in my artists state of privilege I work hard to deserve this responsibility which manifests as a wound, sacred wound. I fail all the time to be humble quiet diligent enough, but I work to perform my freedom, alone and with others. I work to create spaces where we can decompress together. This is the truth of the life of pain striving. Thank you for all of us acting out our passion, trying to find peace in ourselves and bear truth to the beautiful pain of life For there are many ways to carry a fight Can I compose a poetry of participation? Can I grow new organs of perception? Can I trust the intelligence of process? Can I inhabit a state of dance a critical space that reflects art and politics as one and same? Fundamental Qs deconstructed in a street context who are we? Boundaries radically modified by desire to reach people as platform web forum strategic networking alliance, to share experience and integrate sustainable semi-organic authority of tradition

TODAY a great rethink society days thinkers led context of heart civil relationship - and arts can be cut-up, 20/10/11 a prayer: why do I dance? who for what for [ a free for all ]: why do I dance? its really complicated . dont expect a simple causality . listen . how vital communication is to the republic . words are a public space in their own right . listen . they join because they want to sing . rapture on the edge of context, paradigms dancing . art takes people to the edge and gives them new ways of seeing . city is a stage to process a feeling . why do I dance? everyone has a song an aspiration [breathe] to be skilled and special and negotiate flow in the space in-between . making energy flow . finding space inside strategies of what I can do from here why do I dance? because I am not immune from crisis worry concern . because I am feeling frustrated & because my bed is burning . unsure about the ground Im standing on, I am training my ability body . I know in my body knowledge-forms that make space for what wasnt possible before . why do I dance? to make my place . to make self and work visible, taking a risk . navigating a discipline built on rigor courage generosity [ commitment ] not without context. where art has a function to express the needs of cascading revolution . why do I dance? for freedom . to occupy what belongs to us, to act a gesture that establishes a public space . to conjure a process of liberation, we support each others practice . transformative power composing recognition of joyous direct and horizontal forms of self-organisation . my state of dance grows spreads from the ground upwards to reveal the physical character of immaterial work . we strengthen each other thinking through networks . What comes after the final battle? What could citizenship be. What is art. What is the real. What is necessary? Is civil space a state of mind? Embodied, is it a state of dance, an exhilarating precarity? What is next for an economics of solidarity?

Epilogue: On participation I myself have created work for theatre whose raison detre is a recalibration of the relationship between actor audience and text. But it is highly dangerous to insist that only works that directly involve physical participation by the public are participatory. To suggest that unless the public are speaking or moving they are not involved is to feed into the destructive atomisation of art as commodity and audience as consumer. In engaging imagination, art necessarily produces movement. Theatre is very clearly a collaborative form of thinking. We come into a room and make sense of a story, together. The audience offers their attention and the ensemble works with that attention to reveal. In contemporary dance, which involves improvisations and contingencies at so many levels, the attention of the audience contains and reflects the questing work of the performer. Listening, reading, witnessing are all supremely valuable participatory acts. They should form essential components of any expanded notion of citizenship. Whether in politics, work or art, it is vital that each persons offering is received. A revitalised democracy must validate the unique gift of the individual. Whether it is artistic or not, unless the creative (productive) act is allowed to flow and circulate, frustration will forever hijack the pursuit of the common good. A safe space for expression, for making private thoughts public, is the first prerequisite of a true democracy. In tandem with this must be developed a sensitive and supportive critical faculty. If work art politics religion can be seen as ways of performing thinking, then there is a possibility for us to learn to focus on the thought and not the thinker. When this thinking is understood as process, then science art and other forms of knowing can be recuperated as a rich tapestry of metaphors about process, providing a revitalised vocabulary for critical engagement with the evolving trains of thought that we carry on. Dancing between the roles of subject and critic we become artist agents of an intelligence that sculpts an evolving common sense. This process weaves the subjectivities of our private meaning making into a collaborative and multiple truth. These forms of knowledge manifest in myriad ways, but whether expressed in speech or song, as labour or love, through the body or through ideas, we can say that this poetry of participation is a movement that provokes a movement. In some basic way, we are moved by each other. If we truly aspire to a civil space which excludes no one, then we must be prepared to be moved in ways that our present configurations will struggle to accommodate. It is in this instance that we can learn from the dancer, who has made a vocation of cultivating new ways of knowing. Only through finding graceful and flexible embodiments of our high aspirations and tempering human invention by grounding our activity in the complex give-and-take reality of a systemic ecology, will human society find its proper forms. The function of civil space is to contain our modes of expressions and it must in turn be contained by a recognition of our limited ability to perceive those forces that govern our reality. The stability of the human project should be one of dynamic equilibrium, where responsive organs of government flow outward as emergent structures to negotiate freedom on behalf of the common good. Right now, we can conduct this work. If civil space is a state of mind, then we create it new in every encounter we make with each other. If participation is a flowing creativity and it is possible to get social relations dancing, then a state characterised by grace, lightness, flexibility, flow, spontaneity and change is possible. In this state of dance truth is emergent, movement is the rule, and change is synonymous with pleasure.

http://www.danceireland.ie/downloads/library/Everyone-is-Going-Solo-Together.pdf http://choreograph.net/articles/editorial-commentary-on-experiment-7


I still think the battle to be thought through and won is at the level of the imaginary: to confront how powerfully exceptional the neoliberal and democratic bubbles of the last 60 years are, how expensive individualism is, how the idea of a mortgaged future needs to be confronted in its stark realities, how entirely different models of collective dependence need to be forged in relation to the reproduction of life because there is no money and the poverty is both material and imaginary. There is just the possibility of teasing ourselves towards a reorientation in which we can sense a better accommodation of desire and pleasure, of risk and sweetness, of aversion and attachment, of incoherence and patience. Affect & the Politics of Austerity. An interview exchange with Laurent Berlant, VARIANT 39/40, Winter 2010. Gesa Helms, Marina Vishmidt, Lauren Berlant