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september 29 th 2011

Dear … Concerning my search for foam

Why soap? What am I looking for in this cultural phenomenon named after a hygiene commodity? For a very long time, I've refrained from making art that explicitly and critically refers to an existing genre in popular culture. Perhaps the examples I've seen of such work in the performing arts, were not explicit enough on a point which I myself deem essential, namely critique as a complex life form. Critique as foam.

The desire to do one's own take on a given phenomenon of pop culture was also strange to me. Even in cases where I see it lead to a radically inventive product on stage. Performance has appropriated elements from a

cultural vision produced by its more industrial sister arts. Sometimes this appropriation leads very far into parody or political satire. I think of Atelier Van Lieshout, to name just one. But when such a strategy is aimed at a specific genre or medium, and not more systematically at the broader organization of cultural production,

I don't see the point. I was never touched by the relation they seem to talk about, between their own presence

and the medium they refer to, or represent. Some exception I've come across

David Byrne walking onto stage with a cassette tape player in the first scene of the Stop Making Sense show,

introducing the song Psycho Killer with the words “I have a tape I wanna play”. He then presses play and we hear the beat of the song. Live performance in love with Recording! Tapes made copying music very easy, so there's a statement in this little gimmick, about the distribution business. But fundamentally I think the urgency of art's voice in society comes from an even broader concern about production in general. And it should be made explicit.

So, yes my attraction to that dialogue between genres and disciplines is new! And it's growing too. But you know I'm not the most materially practical artisan. So how can I take on the challenge of soap opera, and apply those strategies that are still strange to me. I'd rather make art with air, like Klein. How could one use the available production means in performing arts, to produce an ongoing series of performative interventions, to really produce something that fits the criteria of soap?

But first, back to the doubts that I started this letter with. Sorry if you find I'm just postponing the dirty work.

What are the characteristics of soap opera? At the first front of the cultural wars, the academic opinion pleaded for a wash out of privatized television. Soap opera was portrayed as a superficial pacifier for housewives, that should be removed from the airwaves. Meanwhile the discourse of the proponents of industrial commodification of culture has become more subtle. That old academic portrait was never able to withstand the eventual poisonous effects of commodity. Commercial television extended its reach into our living rooms to include the whole family, holding its make up mirror to our daily faces. Perhaps I project my own tendency to fit culture into a hierarchy, onto critical performance. I see work that peals away all the slickness and shine of the main stream, industrial production, and I read that act as an attempt to reveal the lack that is supposed to be inherent in the industrial view on art: just an other system for exchange of goods, or in other words a critique on the shallowness of the production of cultural commodity. A label, like 'soap' could become the locus of a discussion on high an low art. This “high and low”, no matter wether its pronounced by academics or by fellow artists, begs for a more diverse geometrical vocabulary. I want to inject bundles of spacial imaginary into this culture war. Shapes and spacial puzzles which don't hesitate to contradict each other and together show the need for a radically new approach to the problem of modeling culture. My proposal is to use foam in this case. For for building a maquette of the performative sculpturing I'm bound to undertake with the situation of soap opera as raw material. A geometry that deals with skins. Pealing off layers! Yes! But taking into account that those layers might be just folds, that grew into each other, that got stuck to each other, fibers of one and the same organ. Or could you suggest other potential in the past decade's genre studies. I mean, everybody is literally going through pop's representation in online videos, to insert it into their dances or acts!

I think it's not enough anymore to only provide antitheses to critiques that have become mainstream or

obsolete, by a so called affirmation of the pop that was ignored by that critique. Commodification is a process involving offer and demand, operating on our needs – and so is critique. That's my explicit. I feel the urgency to affirm the essential nature of the functions that are handled in and by culture and by the different

agents in the field.

That's a very abstract urgency, so let me come to a point. I know, I've only delimited it from the outside up until here. And there's some more negatives to get through. I'm thinking of what all this hygiene would lead

to, together with my idea to create an artist persona for myself. I certainly do not see myself cozying up to a fictional characterization of a critic of some kind, a popular figure on stage who denounces the other arts, in

a tactical approach to seduce an audience for his own medium.

one comes to mind now:

september 29 th 2011

Is assuming I can start by first wiping out concrete references. Nurture my own fantasy, without any

supposedly solid knowledge. But in spite of assumptions, in fact, it's a hate love relation, this immaterial task

I might give myself. For instance, imagining writing a soap!

A psychological triangle between – one – the performing arts scene and my grappling with it in real life, –

two – a fantasized writer, scripting a soap opera and – three – myself, my plain old self in the drama of my life, looking for sense, applying my little theories on the world I produce around me. I don't understand how I could set my hopes on such a project. Who tricked me into it? I've always stood on stage with the question “why dance”, sometimes out loud, other times on a personal agenda. Now it seems I'm trying to do the same thing all over, in a productional setting totally foreign to me. I'm throwing all my experience over board and setting course for the froth of the seas. To be clear, I never imagined having a fast chance of fulfilling whatever ambition towards an actual soap production. Perhaps I should do the same in my fantasy: imagine a script writer in the middle of a professional breakdown, employed to write for a soap opera, a sellable product, but taking it serious. Not someone busy with his next career move!

Ah! Damned! That, I must confess, is also part of what drives me: ambition, in the blandest sense of the word. Career goals. And even if I want to face the dark side of such a drive, you can imagine it really like the drive of the bad guy in a soap, before the momentous, redemptive turn around. And I don't want to go beyond that point. I don't want to fake a rounded world that ends in harmony. A world in which in the end the bad guy is actually a good guy. In my soap the seductive reductive critic of the above mentioned satire doesnot replace the complex open-endedness of ongoing discourse.

To be honest, looking back at my question “why dance”, I must admit, also that will appear and reappear to be colored by a jealous insult thrown at successful colleagues: “why the fuck are they still dancing! don't they realize the chemical stink that fills their personal atmosphere comes from the shit they produce themselves” Use some soap!! Oh god, dear! what to do with those ambitious egos of ours, that want it all for ourselves! All together that seems to spell therapy! This confrontation with the drama of soap, this assimilation against all first feelings, is a cure of some kind, in a conflict I have with my ego.

This brings me back to the methodological argument I use to defend the choice for soap in my search. The inner research logic of the soap-for-foam-idea is a flimsy excuse as I see it now. Soap as a solid form! As an ingredient of foam! I'm hanging on to someone's opinion about art and about my research; clinging to two little slippery words that I imagine tell me what to do: “produce forms”. What am I trying to hide, by pretending to offer – 'how generous' – an answer to an imaginary demand from a colleague-researcher. What am I covering up in this supposed task that I take on. I've injected my own need into what was actually just a remark made in passing, almost carelessly. I isolated someone's comment about absence of form in the path of my search. And by isolating it I made it flat, and to this projection I attached myself, like to a map. I'm groping for affirmation. Actually I think I even choose to hold on to it, just to please the person who made the comment. And now I've even forgotten who it was, that shared his impression about my apparent disinterest toward form. “It seems like you rather make foam, than form”. Perhaps it was more than one person who noticed. Did you? Perhaps you have a better argument.

The obvious strikes me all the more hard now: the difficulty in the growing machine of cultural industrialization, is staying in touch with people. That sums up the real lack I see, in the relation between critic, producer and culture. If I could remember who advised me about that lack of form, I would just ask to continue the conversation. That would be my form. But as I said, neither of us can retrace that moment. On a poetical chance encounter, that nobody else noticed, I set my hopes for a long term engagement.

Before I diverge into the story of me and the poet's loneliness, back to a slightly more practical layer: Any critique on soap has to start with the admission that the genre has no clearly defined borders, that it holds to no consistent form. And thus I can only use this soap impulse, this flash of consciousness-ex-absurdum, as another example of how the obsession with form keeps leading us, me, astray. Form is just another imaginary ego. The ego of things that believe in their autonomous objecthood. Also we as things with an ego. The polarization of form against content sizzles into nothingness like foam, as soon as one tries to touch it. As soon as one tries to grasp whether the form is appropriate for the content. Eureka! That is exactly the story I want to tell. And the telling of it is the story.

On the other hand, I've even once eaten a bar of soap to see if I'd fart bubbles. The idea of soap, the word

'soap', the material, the everyday commodity

that I'm sucked into. The need to work in confrontation with something which one might call 'a form', namely 'the form of soap opera', is part of a systematic interest for the philosophical-narrative-productional

they all have already turned up at some point in the foam saga

september 29 th 2011

function of foam. I mean, I'm interested in these questions: is foam a metaphor? Is it a figure of speech? We have called it a 'thought figure'. I came up once with a name for the category of forms wherein I hope to find

this ungraspable X at the end of my research: 'figure vivant' – implying that it could die also. But soap opera!

What's in a name? It's scary. It really borders on hallucination

my personal search and a genre. When in fact we don't know each other, my soap and me! No contact. Even worse, on first but very frowning glance in the mirror, only in the absolute contingency of its name, does the

form labeled “serialized television drama” perhaps graze the skin of my puzzled and foamed face. No blood drawn, not a drop. Just a clean shave. Good morning!

foaM

this so called bathroom intimacy between

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