PRAXIS exercises in realisticism

 

We are exploring the use of practices as an artistic form, introducing them to the audience as daily-life tools. PRAXIS springs from the need to get in contact with something beyond ourselves, starting with the others.

We propose two practices, which are designed to re-think the concept of community, through body and movement. The first one is a performance, the second one an exhibition.

The performance

You enter an empty space that looks like a dance hall after the party. There’s a man buried under a mountain of golden confetti and plastic glasses. Projected on the wall, you read a phrase like this:

 

If you know what you have to do to get better and you don’t do it, then you are worse.

 

After a while the man comes to life and declares that he will bring you to an amazing collective catharsis. With an overwhelming charm and very few words, he starts to prepare you for this unforgettable experience. Meanwhile, the sentences on the wall go changing. They are more like presentiments[1], between ideas and feelings, opening spaces to question preconceived ideas and introducing new ones such as the actual tension between the welfare society’s immunity and the idea of community[2].

Finally, after asking ourselves dirty and embarrassing questions, provoked by the inner associations produced by the combination of the projected messages and the actions and images the man keeps on doing, he invites us to dance all together the entire Bolero of Ravel (17 min.) as a cleaning ritual, not to wash away our responsibility, but to see it more clearly.

A synchronic lightning design, and some pyrotechnical surprises will emphasise the ecstatic crescendo of the music. This, together with the collective movements and actions will finally lead all of us to the long expected collective catharsis.

Dance

 

Dances have been since immemorial times a form of community outreach, a meeting place where bodies overcome discourses and people feel closer. Even today, in some tribal societies it is used as an effective way to solve conflicts, both internal and with other tribes.

The fact that we are not choreographers, nor dancers has a significant importance. We are just people who move, and follow the music, like everyone else. Our approach to movement is basic and organic, and that makes it easier for the audience to follow and join in a natural way. We never force anybody to dance. People can sit and watch if they want, but from previous experiences we know that most of them (often everybody) ends up, at least, shaking one leg.

Why the bolero

 

Ravel’s Bolero is undoubtedly one of the greatest musical creations of the twentieth century and is the most performed piece in the world. Until 1993 it remained at the top of the world rankings of copyrights. We could say that this is the first pop piece in music history. Curiously, it was inspired by a Spanish dance. But that’s just a curiosity. It is also a curiosity that it is called the “grave of choreographers” because apparently many have failed in the attempt. Luckily we are not choreographers. What seduces us is its hypnotic and obsessive capacity. Almost tantric and tribal, but profoundly European. Of course there’s electronic music, trance and many others but these are bound to the nightlife party-scene. In any case, nothing to do with the conscious experience that we want to accomplish.

In particular, we will use the version directed by Pierre Boulez leading the Berlin Philharmonic in the 1993 critically acclaimed recording.

The exhibition

 

Inspired by the book “Les autonautes de la cosmoroute” de Julio Cortázar and Carol Dunlop, we will travel from Antwerp (Belgium) to Barcelona along the highway with our “restless culture caravan”, dancing the bolero of Ravel in the rest areas with truck drivers and families on vacation. We propose them to stop for a while and do something together in the temple of the transitory before they go back to their moving fortresses.

On our way we will meet architects, artists, thinkers and sailors, who will bring us fresh fruit and vegetables as well as intellectual food. We will cook for them and in return they will make us a proposal concerning the idea of community.

This experience will be documented in an exhibition and a publication.

We imagine the exhibition more as an artistic installation where the visitors can enter the van (where some videos are projected), listen to recorded sounds and seat and read the publication on the same chairs we used for writing it during the trip.

The publication will look more as a fanzine than as a book, with drawings, pictures, short tales, fragments of the diary and the transcription of the conversations with visitors and already made friends. All this along with short essays and articles in depth about the theme of community practices.

The route

We chose Antwerpen and Barcelona for several reasons. The first one is obvious: they are our hometowns (Barbara is from Antwerpen and Ernesto is from Barcelona). We already drove along that route many times, going up and down. We already know it. It’s called the “Sun’s Highway” by the northern welfare state countries that use it to reach the long dreamed sunny landscapes of the south (Spain, Portugal and Italy). But at the same time is the very same route people from Morocco, and Northern Africa (and not to long ago also Spain, Portugal and Italy) use to reach “their dreams”. In fact this is the fundamental reason. We could start in Berlin, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and end up in Oporto, Madrid or Valencia and the meaning of it will remain the same. Geographically speaking we will cross France from one extreme to the other. No way to avoid that.

 

Why the highway

 

We like to bring practices to unexpected places, provoking an interruption of the usual, shaking consciousness. Using the guerrilla method (since we will arrive and leave as we never where there), we want to provoke a little short circuit in the unstoppable flow of the welfare society, strongly represented by the millions of people scrolling in their motorized armours. A rest area is indeed the last place where you would imagine dancing together with a group of foreigners, breaking your waybill to stop for a while and taking time to think. We love that.

 

Inner rules

 

As in the book by Julio Cortazar and Carol Dunlop, we impose ourselves some rules.

The first and most important one is to make the trip, that normally takes 14 hours, in 23 days, without leaving the highway. We will never drive more than 45 km a day. That means that we will stop in every rest area on our way, dancing the bolero twice: before lunch, and before dinner. This stretching of the usual timing will surely place us in a particular point of view, allowing us to take the distance needed for reflection and resistance.

We have always found it intriguing, the fact that this sculptures in public spaces -everyone passes by but few people really contemplate- keep being so anonymous (and for most of the people, so ugly) being as they are so important in breaking the road’s monotony. How much do they cost? Who pays for them? Who chooses them? Who likes them?

The writing of a logbook, a collection of objects that the people forget in rest-areas, the visit, every four days, of a friend and collaborator, the obligation to have at least one conversation with a stranger every day (and the exact report of it), a daily short tale about a found object and detailed inventory of the art pieces along the highway. All this little rituals will help us to get a grip on reality and to keep our senses alert to the new and unexpected experiences that surely will come along

 

Philosophical framework

 

Aristotle describes praxis as the set of actions which are not serving any particular goal, but whose end goal is the action in itself.

Hannah Arendt sees praxis (she talks about vita activa) as the true realization of freedom.

Peter Sloterdijk , in his book You have to change your life, analyses the history of mankind as a continuum of practices, or antropotechnical exercises, that helped to improve as human beings living together on what he calls the “planet of the practicing”.

For us, practice is defined by repetition and repetition is the base for a ritual. Rituals are spaces where people meet to celebrate life. We think we need new rituals. We want to propound the performance as a ritual. The audience takes it with them and it can be repeated at any time and at any place.

To develop the conceptual background of PRAXIS, we are collaborating with Marina Garcés, a Catalonian philosopher who works as an academic at the University of Zaragoza and is at the same time practicing philosophical activism in various platforms such as espai en blanc. Her writings about commitment and community (El compromís, CCCB Editions, 2013 and Un mundo común, Bellaterra Editions, 2013) inspired us from the beginning. She is helping us to define our intuitions and build them into a more solid web of ideas.

We are actually working on the following concepts:

 

Community

As Roberto Esposito says, community is a very popular word these days, but, at the same time, we still don’t know anything about it. He counterposes the immunity of the actual welfare society with the elusive idea of community. This two concepts share the same Latin root, munus witch could be translated by bond. So as we see it we are evolving in the direction of an immunized society (without munus), in which the individuals don’t get contaminated by affective or physical bounds. Everything has to be hygienical, impermeable, clear and secure. In this conjuncture, the complex idea of community becomes more and more disturbing. Therefore, we propose to sweat together, to laugh, to get embarrassed, to feel flesh and bones and experience the sensation of muscles getting tired. Moving together for 17 minutes to affect and let ourselves be affected.

 

Commitment

Marina Garcés has a very interesting view on this point. She relates individuals with the common, which is always there, inescapable and undenyingly there. Every commitment entails an experience of vulnerability and creates a bound with the others. It creates a mutual debt. Not only with people, but also with the things we create and the nature that surrounds us. You are already committed, without doing anything. The question is how you deal with it.

This is a very uncomfortable idea, but it can be liberating, because it takes away the preoccupation and invites you to get into action.

 

To put the body

There’s another idea from Marina Garcés that called our attention

“In the crisis of words in which we find ourselves, deafened by the incessant rumour of communication, to put the body becomes the indispensable and first condition, to start thinking. So the bodies dislodge from the speeches and begin to do what their words don’t know how to say”[3]

But how to do that? What does really mean to put the body? There’s no answer to this question, and that makes it more interesting and necessary. Letting ourselves to get affected by ideas, can be one way, but again, how do you do this? When we talk about thinking emotions, and feeling ideas we don’t know exactly what it represents but we have a strong intuition that it can bring us something worthfull .

PRAXIS wants to be an attempt to understand what to put the body could mean, by putting the body in common action through dance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artistic team

Idea and creation: Barbara Van Hoestenberghe and Ernesto Collado

Interpretation: Ernesto Collado

Philosophical frame work: Marina Garcés

Director assistant: David Pérez

Movement assistant: Pere Faura

Plastic conception: Kati Heck

Lightning design: Cube bz.

Space: Fundación CVH and Cube bz

Executive production: Montse Prat

[1] Presentiments. We boorow this idea from Marina Garcés and Espai en blanc

[2] Roberto Esposito Communitas: origen y destino de la comunidad Amorrortu, ed.2007.

 

[3] From Un mundo común, Edicions Bellaterra,2013